Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Scariest Thing of All by Debi Gliori

Debi Gliori's picture book, The Scariest Thing of All, is about a little rabbit called Pip. He is the smallest of his family but he has the biggest imagination.  Pip is scared of just about everything, from tree stumps to unusually shaped clouds and his worries begin to wear him out. When Pip is awoken from an afternoon nap by a strange growling noise, he is so frightened that he runs away. Unfortunately, he runs into the dark and forbidding woods. Finally he stops deep in the woods and sees the scary thing nearby and hears the sound again. This forces him to be brave and figure out what the scary thing is, which in turn helps him confront his fears and realise that things aren’t always quite as scary as first he thinks. 

Children in Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 will enjoy the humour and the imaginative writing in this book. Through shared reading of the story, children will enjoy exploring the fearful creatures Pip imagines the everyday objects of the wood to be: rainfall to "...the sound a vast hisster makes as it weaves its web." and a "...gobbler blowing bubbles at the bottom of the lily pond." The journey into the wood and back home again is reminiscent of that the mouse takes in Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo. Pip returns home with a new found confidence.

The language used to describe the journey usefully introduces children in Reception and Year 1 to the prepositions 'into', 'through', 'across'. Teachers could build on this vocabulary with the much loved Pat Hitchins' tale of Rosie's Walk

Year 1 and 2 will also enjoy playing with the onomatopoeia in the book as they read of the 'flippity flap' of the insects, the 'aaark, aaark' of the gulls, the 'rustle, rustle' of the caterpillars, the 'hoowit, hoowit' of the owl and of course the 'raaarrrr' of the scariest thing of all. There are other examples of onomatopoeia later on in the book which children could 'collect' for the working wall, before expanding their list of examples from other texts and their own imaginations.

It is also a lovely story to revisit at Key Stage 2 when looking at personification. Pip imagines each of the inanimate objects to be a living creature, making them hiss, blow bubbles, bite, wave, move, slide and agree. Gliori's ink and watercolour illustrations, particularly the one in the wood of the upturned tree, provide the stimulus for a discussion about personification, exploring the human qualities that can be attributed to the tree. 

The tones and colours of this particular two-page spread exemplify the devices authors often use to create suspense: cold, dark, moonlight, silhouettes. This particular composition also captures the emotion of the action via its scale ( pink-eared Pip is surrounded by large shadowy trees in midnight blue). The incredible blue moon rising above Pip gives a really haunted feeling.

It is a beautifully illustrated book, designed to be pored over. There are holes to look inside, tree rooms to investigate and scary creatures to tame. The art of this picture book is really special beginning with the sunny warmth of Pip's family and home to the dark blueness of a the woods at night returning to supper and the golden glow of home. 

 A truly stunning book which can be enjoyed on many levels.

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publish Date: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7475-9969-2


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