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Sunday, 26 March 2017


Author and Illustrator: Ed Vere
Publisher: Puffin Books, first published in 2007, board book featured edition 2008

My eldest child, Alf, is 7 years old and loves a spot of drama: thanks Ed Vere, I feel you contributed to this. BANANA! came into our house when Alf was a few weeks old. With a sparse collection of children's books in the freshly painted nursery, we reached for this board book, again and again. At first we didn't really get it, the book nor the baby. The baby didn't do much but we thought we should probably read to it. The book didn't say much, but we thought we'd better read it. the basic synopsis- two monkeys, one banana, two words (banana (capitalised and followed by various modes of punctuation- !,?,!!) and please (followed by - ?) So instead we 'read' the pictures. This involved describing the pictures at interest from baby. This then evolved into enacting the monkey's gestures (arms aloft, see picture below), making the blase whistling noise for monkey-not-noticing-pleading-monkey (again, see below)...sudden flicker of interest from baby.  

Okay, so there we had it, BANANA! was a book to be performed! 12 bright double page illustrations telling of the complex negotiation around the eating of one banana. Simple and effective. Sometimes my partner and I (newly doting parents might I add) took on reading roles; one of us would be monkey one (stripey red T shirt monkey) who takes to tussling for the banana with monkey two (stripey blue T shirt monkey). Except this would often end in a fight as red monkey, having the epic tantrum on page 5 (see below), was a far more interesting performance role to play compared to blue monkey, who's a bit of a goody goody, and is the first to agree to share. 

This book taught me many things. It's a masterclass in 'less is more'; short,colourful and economic with words. It taught me that a good story for young children, is about the performance and delivery as much as a narrative. BANANA! pushes the adult reader to interact with their audience; to imply, interpret, gesture, offer, initiate and model behaviours in order to tell the story (its an impossible book to simply read- too few words). Indeed BANANA! facilitates the basics of learning to read beautifully, asking that the reader interpret the pictures, recall events, and 'read the illustrations' in order to follow and impart the gist. BANANA! is funny, and engaging; it seems the bigger the read-aloud performance of this book, the more of a reaction you get from children. Having been a fan of the book for 7 years now, my version of the monkey tantrum is raucous, big movements, big facial expressions, gets lots of giggles. Its an enjoyable book and a joy to share. 

This book also has a huge amount of educational scope. It helps promote giving names to emotions, labelling and identifying different emotions even for children at a very young age. BANANA! is so simple I would suggest it's suitable for babies, toddlers even through to preschoolers, it might even have a place in a SEN library, and we certainly use this one to open discussion on emotions with regard to the children's adoption. Currently our baby of the house, George (20 months), stares in bewilderment at us, trying to fathom why we pretend cry when we read this book, why we storm off, why we smile at the end. It's a great book for being playful, role playing emotions, and as such is good for building attachment, for bonding, for showing parent-led emotions, and so I would also recommend this book as a resource for Theraplay. 

And finally, as if that doesn't pack a big enough punch for a 12 page board book, the final parting message of the book is to share, with the monkeys agreeing to disagree. This is a great way to end off a toddler board book, future proofing any sibling encounters along the way. And of course, throw a bit of maths in there for good measure too, as the monkeys and their banana halves mean "two halves make a whole"- fantastic, genius! For a book with just two words, BANANA! says so very much. 

BANANA! should also come with a warning though: my children frequently choose this title to 'read' to their youngest sibling, as it always raises a laugh: performance styles can vary and budding actors develop their own interpretation (usually the style known as 'over-the-top'. Given this, I wouldn't always choose this book at bedtime, as it has been known to 'hype' the children up. In all though, a big monkey thumbs up to Ed Vere for this humorous, clever offering. 

If you like this book, you might also like this 'performance' reliant board book: This is the Way by Charles Fuge

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