Sometimes, I underestimate a book.
After Christmas break ended all too soon, I immediately set about trying to borrow a copy of each of this British author/illustrator’s picture books. The first of Ed Vere’s masterpieces to arrive at my school library was Banana!
Upon first reading, this book appeared far too simplistic for my four-year-old twin sons. Described best as “nearly wordless,” this book relies heavily on the facial expressions of its primate characters and the two words contained within its pages to tell the story of two monkeys learning how to share.
Cute story, great lesson, but it should be in board book format, right?
In short, perhaps yes, perhaps no…
Yes, this would make a fantastic board book. It meets all the criteria for a book for young toddlers: there are few words per page; the characters are familiar animals; the illustrations are brightly-colored and engaging illustrations; the author tells a simple story.
I must admit, however, that I also underestimated the power of Banana! by Ed Vere as a picture book.
Banana! is a fantastic book for preschoolers for several reasons:
Anything that causes my sons to belly-laugh is worth reading aloud over and over again in our house.
It’s perfect for non-readers to “read”.
Because this book has so few words, it is easy for preschool-aged children to memorize and “read” it aloud to themselves.
It’s a great book to teach preschoolers about punctuation.
Even though Banana! only contains the words “banana” and “please,” Ed Vere uses those words very economically. Each is used, in conjunction with varying punctuation marks and facial expressions, to demonstrate a variety of emotions: intense desire, confusion, disbelief, frustration, joy.
Leading preschoolers through a careful examination of those punctuation marks becomes a natural, rather than forced, conversation. After helping my children recognize that the word that appeared on nearly every page, “banana,” was recurring, were able to focus on the differences in punctuation marks in combination with the characters’ facial expressions, body positions, and the color of the background. nan
“Banana!” is read with an excited voice to show the strong feelings felt by the character.
“Banana?” is read with a questioning voice.
I love it when I prove myself wrong and am able to think about something in a new way. Because the illustrations and storyline in Banana! are so simplistic, preschool-aged children are able to think critically about basic conventions of the English language while still enjoying the book.
Can you think of any other simplistic picture books that are great for the dual purpose of entertaining and educating?