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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Blown Away

Author and Illustrator: Rob Biddulph
Publisher: First published by HarperCollins Children's Books 2014, featured board book edition HarperCollins Children's Books 2016

This book is an emerging favourite in our house. We've only had Blown Away since Christmas, but it's such a cheerful story it's a go-to. 
With character illustrations reminiscent of Oliver Jeffers, the book opens introducing protagonist Penguin Blue as he takes his 'brand new kite' on a 'maiden flight'. A series of mishaps then sees a collection of other Antarctic animals join the unplanned voyage to a 
tropical jungle island. Having found it too hot on the island, even after an ice cream,the  

penguins, polar bear, seal, and the fabulous stowaway monkey, hatch a plan to leave. Catching a breeze, in the same vein that they landed on the island, the travellers arrive home. Penguin Blue is last seen at home ( with hot water bottle and polar bear cuddly bear) -'A lesson learned, there's no denying, This penguin wasn't, built for flying.'  But the cheeky monkey escapee ends the book back on the kite and being blown away. An apt and satisfying ending. 
This is a lovely book to read aloud. The rhyme is structured in isometric quatrain with four syllables and four lines throughout. It's a catchy, lilting rhyme and easy to read from the outset. There's lots of opportunity for expressive reading, especially at the beginning with the action-adventure of the penguin train ascending into the sky unexpectantly. 

I really like the layout of this book, it's very minamilist and spacious with plenty of bright block colour, again, easy to read. The characters are quirky, with fun names, 'Clive' the polar bear, 'Wilbur' the seal for example, and there's a very humourous use of anthropomorphism,  

the seal for example, is introduced pegging out his washing. These human qualities are 
subtle though, and scattered throughout the book making Blown Away quietly witty and offering something on an adult level. 

The narrative works well by setting up the unexpected, much like Oliver Jeffers book Stuck. It's fun and imaginative, with a kite strong enough to drag creatures into the sky and plucky monkey stowaway to keep children aghast. My three year old girl,Edie, loves trying to spot the monkey and his antics and also loves trying to name all the animals. 

Themes in the book include working together, thinking outside the box, embracing the unexpected. Characters are inventive, but also 'know their limits' which is a great message to bring to preschoolers. I also like the use of pattern in the illustrations, making some pictures more symbolic in appearance, so for example, the wind with its direction lines and mini swirls. 
In terms of age recommendation, this book has a wide appeal; starting at 18months in board book edition  for instance, but is still humourous to my seven year old (ideally though, I would be using it 2-5 years predominately).  This is an amusing read, a lovable story with fun sincere characters. 

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