Little faces

What: Little changeable faces made from cardboard rolls, for storytelling and talking about feelings.

How: I took a couple of toilet roll centres and cut a face-shaped hole in each. I cut the other end a little, folded and spread the cut bits out onto a circle of cardboard cut from a used postpak and glued it down. When the glue was dry, I painted them with bright colours and patterns. Then I took the cardboard centre from a roll of alfoil or plastic cling wrap, which was narrow enough to go neatly inside the toilet roll centre, and cut it to length to fit inside the toilet roll. I drew faces around it with different expressions – cross, angry, happy, silly, sad, surprised – three faces to a roll. Then when it was all dry I assembled them.

little faces 2012 kid 2
“He’s a silly nutmeg!” Dotty winked. That made Wiggles laugh! But Bluey didn’t like being called a silly nutmeg. He got cross.

Kid 2 loved them. The way I used them at that stage was to have little conversations between the people, where I modelled saying things that made people feel happy, sad, cross, whatever, or that were said with that kind of emotion, and turned the faces to match. This sometimes took a bit of quick thinking! I had lots of requests to “tell a story with the faces” to the point where I ended up hiding them away for a while. I’d often be asked to repeat the exact same story, and I couldn’t remember what I’d said the first time! That child is big on conversation and oral language, so the Little Faces were popular for a good year or so. I haven’t really had them out since , they got packed up for moving cross-country and have mostly stayed buried. So I don’t know how well they would have gone with the less conversational child, or at later ages. I may have to find them, put them out on a shelf and see if the kids will model their own conversations or if they can recognise the emotions drawn.

Extras: Kid 2 really wanted to make their own set of these, but it didn’t happen. It’d be a good craft project on the holidays now that the kids are a little older and I’m more patient with their attempts at gluing. As to using the set, getting the kids to tell their own stories – or to retell things that happened – would be interesting to try. I also see a good role for these in talking about how saying different things can change the face (feelings) of other people, now that Kid 6 is beginning to negotiate schoolyard politics rather than just blundering into them by accident and Kid 4 is having to deal with the politics despite being mostly oblivious.

Review: The Princess Who Saved Herself

The Princess Who Saved Herself
by Pak, Coulton, Miyazawa, Kholline, Bowland.

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Wow, I took this photo badly. Great book though.

About: Jonathon Coulton wrote a song called The Princess Who Saved Herself, and made it freely available online for people to use to mix, fanvid, play with, rework. My kids loved the Youtube vids. One of the results was this book, somewhere on the dividing line between picture book and graphic novel. The text is a blend of the song lyrics and new words that connect the story into a more solid unit. The Princess – a pan-ethnic everygirl – is powerful in and of herself, saves herself and others too, and makes a few mistakes along the way but rebounds with resilience, learns and makes things better after.

Good things:

  • Strong independent girl protagonist
  • Conflict resolution strategies
  • Acknowledging the consequences of your mistakes and trying to fix them
  • Hilarious and silly bits
  • Great pictures
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OK, the scansion occaaaaaasionally seems a little forced. But I love the modelling of conflict between an adult and a child that happens on this page.

Book review: Four Feet, Two Sandals

About: This book is set in a refugee camp. It’s about the friendship between two girls brought together by a pair of sandals. It’s also a very human vignette into life in the camp. The artwork doesn’t stint on either colour or the sense of heat and dryness and dust, and I love it.

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Four Feet, Two Sandals, written by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Doug Chayka

Good things:

  • Two girls as lead characters, and it’s delicately shown that they have both had to shoulder some part of the family leadership in the course of their escape to the camp.
  • The lead characters are Islamic, POC and refugees.
  • The story is, at its heart, about sharing and giving even when you have almost nothing of your own.
  • The lead characters have to develop empathy for each other.
  • Humanises and makes real both refugees and life in the camps.
  • Grief is acknowledged, though given that it’s a children’s book it’s not lingered upon.
  • Good artwork.
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“As-salaam alaykum”, Lina greeted her. The girl only stared.