Big Bob, Little Bob. James Howe. Illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson. Candlewick Press, Somerville, 2016.
Big Bob and Little Bob are the same in name only. The new neighbors learn how to navigate a different kind of friendship and discover that what makes us different can also bring us together.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS BOOK
In building a long relationship with reading, kids look for books they relate to. How they see themselves reflected on the pages. How they relate to the characters in the story. How the story problem can help the reader solve his own problems. This is a huge part of Print Motivation, which simply means enjoying the books we read. And there are a lot of different reasons that make a book a fun book to read.
James Howe has been writing books for decades. I fell in love with his characters: Bunnicula, Howard and Chester when I was a child. He has written early reader books and picture books as well. Howe is one of those authors who remembers what it was like to be a kid and this picture book is a reflection of his insight.
All kids feel out of place or different. There is a pressure to be like everyone else. Howe helps kids explore how to celebrate our differences instead of conforming to them. Sharing this story with a loved one will help kids feel safe as they explore this topic.
I also appreciate that he shows the complicated relationship between the neighbor boys and how conflict is handled not with action but with words. Picture books do so much more for our kids than build future readers. They help build empathy and problem solving skills that will benefit our kids as they go through school.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
Use this book as a conversation starter. Talk about a time you felt out of place. What you felt, how you acted and how you solved the problem. Sharing stories of our own emotional journeys will help our kids talk about their own feelings and allow a space for them to think about conflict with others before it happens and how they will handle the conflict. Books are always a great jumping off point for deeper talk with our kids.
I really like this activity from the Pinterested Parent blog. Take paper plates and draw different faces. Glue a popsicle/craft stick to the plate and label the emotion at the bottom of the face. It will connect the word with the picture increasing vocabulary. Read through the story again and stop and ask your child to lift up the face he thinks the character feels. For example:
Read the page and ask your child: How do you think Little Bob feels when he doesn’t catch the ball?
The faces can even be used when your child is having strong feelings. Sometimes our kids can’t verbalize the emotion, but try using the plates to help her express what she feels. Always lead by example. Say how you feel about the disagreement you are having and choose the face that best expresses that. Then ask your child to do the same. It will help build emotional literacy and allow your child a better understanding of how to express herself.
What to Read Next
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