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Saturday, 11 March 2017


Written and Illustrated by: Catherine and Laurence Anholt
Publisher: Walker Books, Ltd, 1992

I feel truly privileged to own a copy of this book. I enjoy reading KIDS hugely, and laugh at the same parts every time (like meeting up with an old friend). The little quips in the book ('here's a kid who hid in some coal' - cue coal dusted child), feel fresh and fun, and despite being written in the 1990s, would be approved as 'PC' even today (I suppose the 'nasty' kids and 'nice' kids might get a bit of a redress in today's classrooms, but my children find these two pages of the book particularly amusing). Generally though being so in line with today's politically correct is incredible really, given that KIDS is about difference and similarity, the sort of topic where what's acceptable and how it's discussed changes rapidly and progressively (on the most part). 

Most importantly with this book, the authors were celebrating and putting diversity on the British children's literature map long before others (with the exception of Janet and Alan Ahlberg possibly, so for example, 'The Baby Catalogue'(1984)), and certainly before this became a part of a wider cultural and political 'agenda'. The differences between kids, as charted in this book, don't feel tenuous or contrived, but natural and not overplayed as those very differences are what kids have in common (nice!)

The book is structured as such, where on each page humourous observations based around a question are made, so for example, 'What do kids look like?' and then there is a reply, in this example 'freckles and badges and ink on their skirts, glasses and smiles and hanging-out shirts.' The Anholt writing and illustrating duo paint this lovely, rich anthology of childhood, showing how gaps in teeth, cuts on knees, getting in a muddle, hiding, stashing items in pockets, having fears, are universal. Alongside the Anholt's signature illustrations (ink and watercolour, detail on clothes, accessories, espousing diversity) the message created is, while kids might all look different there's plenty they do that's the same. 

KIDS is written in iambic tetrameter, so it sounds 'chugging', charging almost. I love that at the end of the book, parent characters are introduced, and they are portrayed as equally diverse, and in a hurry, and busy. On the last page of the book the rhyming verse starts with the letters to spell 'KIDS' in the vertical, and calms the charge right down with 'Kiss us when, It's nearly night: Dads and mums, Switch off the light.' Great memorable way to end and children's book and nice closure for bedtime.

In terms of age range, this book easily spans from 2-7years, and seems more appropriate as my children get older in fact. Alf (7) is all about 'adjective' collecting at school at the moment (this book is plentiful), and he's really starting to explore the concept of difference and similarity against himself - I imagine this is very age appropriate in terms of emotional development. KIDS is a great book for vocabulary building in general though, with the 'verb page' a favourite of mine (eg. 'What do kids do? mix, mess, muddle, comfort, kiss, cuddle'). (Shirley Hughes has a similar technique in her books 'Giving', 'Sharing' etc, as do The Ahlbergs in Baby Catalogue).

All in all, a fantastically educational book, ripe for using in the classroom to support all sorts of grammar exercises, perfect for sharing at home to promote discussion about 'who we are' (see also,If I Could Be),  and a book I like to reach for anytime of the day (like a guaranteed 'pick-me-up') (but preferably with a cup of coffee in hand).   

If you like this book about childhood, you might also like this: Peepo

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