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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Review: How to Make a Heron Happy by Lari Don, illustrated by Nicola O' Byrne

Charming wildlife-focused picture book with plenty to say about empathy and the environment

This lovely little book centres on Hamish, a boy who notices that the heron at his local park looks rather grumpy. He tries lots of things to cheer it up before realising that maybe it's hard to smile with a beak, and that the heron could always fly away somewhere else if it was truly unhappy.

I'd recommend this as a shared read - or perhaps for new readers (an often overlooked picture book audience, I think). The text and illustrations focus rather nicely on things to do in a park and how to improve your local area, and are brilliant as a focus for discussion. I could imagine reading it to a primary class and asking for their ideas on how to cheer the heron up, or leading into discussions about local wildlife. It could also be used as a stimulus for a primary lesson on body language and facial expression cues and how these help us to understand what others are feeling (and how this can sometimes be misinterpreted!).

The pictures and text are attractively arranged. Several of the spreads feature what is, essentially, the same scene of the heron in a pond, with its surroundings gradually improving (including the weather!). Other spreads have more text and smaller drawings, showing different people planting flowers for example, or the heron doing different things. This breaks it up and would help maintain a small child's attention as a bedtime read.

Overall, I'd definitely recommend this, whether as a family read or for a primary classroom.

From the Back Cover:

The heron in the local park always looks sad and grumpy, so Hamish decides to cheer it up. He brings food, tidies the heron's dirty pond, plants flowers, and has a party.

But the heron still looks grumpy.

Maybe it isn't unhappy after all?

A charming story from Edinburgh-based writer and storyteller, Lori Don.

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Published 2011 by Floris Books, and 2012 as a Picture Kelpie
Received with gratitude from the publisher in a Twitter giveaway
Check it out at Amazon UK

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