Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com
The Carnival of the Animals was written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc and re-published by Little Hare, an imprint of Hardie Grant Egmont (2012.) It was originally published in French, in Canada (2011), and the English translation was by Zoe Nelson.
It's time for the carnival. All the animals are getting ready for the dress-up. What will they wear? You guess!
Usually I am a champion of the "first reading purely as entertainment" school of thought in a read-aloud. But The Carnival of the Animals is not so much a linear story as a game. It's perfect for prediction, because Dubuc habitually makes the page turn just before the dressed up animal is revealed. Kids will love shouting out their suggestions! I think that sort of excitement and sense of fun is gold for classrooms, libraries and homes that want kids to love reading.
Dubuc has given us lots of giggles in this children's picture book. I love the page where the platypus doesn't dress up at all, because "He already looks funny." Kids will appreciate jokes like a snake simply wearing a horn to dress as a unicorn (guess the hooves would be too tricky?) and a ladybird being transformed into a hippo. Dubuc has been very generous with her illustrations - there are many, many pages for kids to enjoy.
The Carnival of the Animals really lends itself to follow-up activities. Here are some suggestions:
Discuss the pictures. Dubuc has kept things simple with her illustrations. Backgrounds are white and line art is simple with mostly limited colours. What effect does this have on viewers? Would kids have created pictures in a different style? Why? Why is the text upside down on the page where the butterfly dresses as a bat? The final double page spread is perfect for playing I Spy. Can kids find given animals despite their disguises?
|A hen in a hat|
Imagine. What if animals did wear clothes? What if animals could choose special clothes for a party? If you were an animal, what would you wear? Do you know any animals who really do wear clothes? Would some clothes be good for animals? Would there be problems with some clothes on animals? Use alliteration to create images and captions of animals in clothes, like "a hen in a hat" or "a cat in a cloak."
Innovate on the text. This is an excellent model for a collaborative class project. Each child could draw one animal and transform it into another by way of dressing it up, then write a sentence that contributes to the group narrative. A different idea would be for each child to bring along a soft toy animal and dress it in doll's clothes to transform it. Take photos, add captions, and collect into a class book, slideshow or movie. Take one part of the text e.g. "a fluffy white sheep". How many other animals can kids describe with only two adjectives?
Listen to music. Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals suite is really accessible to kids as an introduction to classical music. I suggest excerpts to start. I like to make it a guessing game, see if children can identify the animals they hear in the music. Here's a Youtube version. Here's Bugs and Daffy's Carnival of the Animals.
Play with images. Dubuc has given us so many wonderful models as inspiration! Can kids design their own dress-up clothes for animals of their choice? What might the problems be that a designer of animal costumes encounters? Children could use image or cartoon editors to play with the idea of making changes to animals. Have kids re-imagine themselves at Build Your Wild Self, the way I did below.
Discuss. What other guessing games do kids know?
Improvise. Have each child announce his animal, then transform himself into a different one. "I am a …… Now I'm a ……."
Investigate masks. Look at the way different cultures create masks and create some of your own. Here are some simple mask-making activities.
Compare The Carnival of the Animals with the hilarious book, Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing if you can find a copy.
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