From the moment I first brought Oliver Jeffers’ books into our house, he has been a favourite author. On this special occasion, we had a chance to look back at some of his books we have loved (and still do!) and thought we would share them with you.
What started me along this path was a chance discovery of a short movie called “Lost and Found” based on Oliver Jeffers’ book of the same name.
I was searching for new (and appropriate) films for our weekly Friday Night Movie Night (a weekly event I organised long ago to combat tired-mum-syndrome at week’s end). Surprised that one of his books had been made into a film and excited to see how it was translated into film, I ordered it immediately.
Seth’s Review: In this short movie, a boy finds a penguin on his doorstep. He immediately thinks the penguin is lost and tries to take him home but it turns out the penguin isn’t lost at all. I liked this film because I had read the book and in the film they did not change it at all. All they did was extend the story with extra or longer scenes. In other movies, like “How to Train Your Dragon” they completely changed the story. It’s a nice calm story and gives you the feeling you are by the sea. Because of this I would recommend it for all ages.
One of the best parts of this DVD was the documentary that accompanied it about how they made the book into a film. As Oliver Jeffers’ also illustrates all this stories, he was able to speak about how they adapted the story as well as his illustrations. As a firm member of the school “The-book-is-always-better-than-the-film-adaptation”, I don’t often find a film I enjoy more than the book, but I would say this one definitely defies the rule and it is a joy to watch. It is narrated by Jim Broadbent and runs about 25 minutes.
The first Oliver Jeffers’ book I purchased was How to Catch a Star which immediately made me a firm fan. I don’t know what it is about his books, maybe the absence of adults, or maybe just the simplicity of both story and illustration but I always want to return to these books again and again. I think as an author, Mr Jeffers has a talent of accessing that secret world of a child’s imagination where in the world of Pretend, there isn’t always an obvious separation between reality and fantasy.
Seth’s Review: In this story there is a boy who really likes stars and tries to catch one. I liked this book very much because the illustrations are amazing and because of the easy vocabulary used by Oliver Jeffers. I really like the bit when he asks the seagull if it can get the star for him. I would recommend this book for younger children aged 3-7.
If we have a favourite Oliver Jeffers’ book as a family, I think it would have to be The Incredible Book Eating Boy. From the moment it arrived in the post from a friend in Canada, it captured our imaginations and it always makes us laugh. Our version of the book even has a “bite” taken out of one of the corners. Such an inviting feature to six-year-old boys let me tell you! (Just as a little warning, it has encouraged a few other books to be sampled along the way!) The book has fuelled more than one conversation about how we “eat” books and how we learn from them and “wouldn’t it be cool if…” conversations.
Seth’s Review: In Oliver Jeffers’ third book, a boy called Henry loves books but not in the way that we like them… He likes to EAT them! I liked this book for the same reasons I liked How to Catch a Star. In this book though he shows some of his handwriting and it is extremely messy. (Seth is particularly thrilled by this, as his mother tends to harp on about how important neat handwriting is!) I just wanted to mention that the pages have words all over them from text books and other books, as well as the words from the story so it can, at first, be a bit confusing to read. I would aim this book at children of all ages.
Oliver Jeffers has written many other books, and we bring them home from the library regularly. However, after a quick visit to his website, I was surprised by how many other projects he is involved in.
When I saw that he had developed an Ipad app, I thought I’d take a closer look. As an oldie techie and a parent still trying to figure out how we are going to use all this new technology in our home, I am often attracted to things like this. But as a book lover, I am especially interested to see how the book might evolve and if, by chance, someone will actually manage to use all this technology to improve on our reading experience.
The app is based on the book The Heart in the Bottle and prior to looking at the app, I had not read the book.
I’m not really interested in selling you on the app, so don’t worry. But from a reading perspective, the app allows for a slightly different interpretation of the story due to its interactivity. To be honest, if you read lots of picture books with your children, you probably do most of the same things with them as they have built into this app using imagination and words to convey what the developers have done with animation. But I do remember thinking as I read it the first time, this would be fun for my children when I couldn’t read to them for one reason or another.
So what does it allow you to do? Well, here are a few features:
- You can select to have the story read to you by Helena Bonham Carter or you can read it yourself.
- Each page has built in animations that are activated by touching the screen. You can make flowers grow, stars sparkle, make waves in the ocean. All of which I expected from an Ipad app. But there are a few unexpected surprises. For example, there’s a little x-ray feature on one page so you can see the little girl’s skeleton and her heart inside her rib cage. On another page, they’ve used the technology to improve the illustration and create atmosphere, so when the little girl discovers her grandfather’s empty chair, the room can be changed gradually from brightly lit to shadowy and dark. Neil said “oh, she’s very sad now” after seeing that page.
- There is a drawing program where the children, like the girl in the story, can draw a picture by selecting different coloured crayons. Then the picture is saved and it appears on the next page as a framed picture on the wall. (I missed that the first time I read the book, but both the boys picked up on it as they read it.)
Most importantly, this story is a good one and leaves room for lots of discussion about sadness, losing someone, and the nature of love. I am not tempted to say it is better or worse than a paper book. It’s just different. The reviews in the App Store are varied. I expect this is because the world of books and the use of technology in that world seems to ignite great emotion in people more than any large revelations about the app itself. One comment said it was for older children and I would agree based on my children’s reaction.
Having said all that, I can say, my children both really enjoyed it, and they enjoyed it together which is an added bonus. And, unlike many of the not-so child appropriate apps or all “blowing up” apps that saturate a boy’s world these days, it is a refreshing alternative and we will continue to enjoy it, along with all of our Oliver Jeffers favourites.