(This post is sponsored by Old Mate Media. The giveaway is CLOSED).
As a primary school teacher, and now a blogger, I have such a love of words and literature, particularly children’s books. In fact, I’m almost OBSESSED with them. I went through a stage of asking for them as birthday and Christmas presents. I would ask friends who travelled overseas to buy me books so I’d have a collection from around the world (I currently have books from America, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Australia, of course). I even studied Children’s Literature for my thesis as part of the Honours program for my Bachelor’s degree in teaching. So to say I love children’s books is an understatement.
Recently in Education and the field of children’s literature, digital media has become a big deal. Like a REALLY big deal. In fact, there are outcomes that teachers need to specifically teach (I’m a teacher – I KNOW) about how children can engage with digital texts. This is due to the obvious increase in technology around us – with the rise of devices, games, movies and television shows, children need to be taught the skills to decipher and understand how these texts work. So they are super popular, and in high demand.
Enter Old Mate Media
Chris Stead, author and founder of Old Mate Media, has created a series of digital stories to engage children in the magical, and electronic, world of literature. His series, The Adventures of Willy Nilly, is imaginative, outlandish, and energetic. There have even been connections made between this story and that of the classic picturebook Where the Wild Things are by Maurice Sendak (a staple in many homes and classrooms). Chris and his lovely wife, Kate, are partners in business, and as Kate describes – “Chris is the creative and she keeps him in line” (i.e. does all the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes organisation!).
So when I was asked by them if I would review the children’s book and share it on my blog, I practically jumped at the chance. I am always excited to delve into new children’s books, engaging with the characters and living their story as if it were my own.
Let me share this amazing adventure with you!
The Wild Imagination of Willy Nilly: The Little Green Boat
The best thing about media texts are their layers. Unlike physical books that are often just print, media texts can enhance visual elements, as well as incorporate audio and tactile functions (which we’ll get into a bit later).
When you open the Little Green Boat, you are welcomed into a bright, colourful world where Willy Nilly is clearly the star (as the main feature of the image). Shortly after opening the book, a theme song for the Willy Nilly series starts to play, and what I LOVE about this is that it gives you a taste of what is to come in the story. The first line of the song…
The world looks so different, through Willy Nilly’s eyes…
gives you a glimpse of the adventures he gets up to, and the “wild imagination” that he clearly has.
As you have an initial “flick” through the book, you are immediately drawn into the colourful, gorgeous cartoon images. You aren’t bombarded with any text, so you straightaway predict what the story will be about (as adults we do this almost subconsciously, however for our kids it is a process we need to teach, which I discuss a bit later). There is a clear, “logical” flow of the images and the story, which is great for helping kids to predict what they think is happening (logical in the sense that you know what is happening in each image, but not logical in that Willy Nilly has a “WILD imagination” and the story could take any twist or turn!).
Every second image has sound effects attached to the page, so after a few seconds the reader is further drawn into the world of Willy Nilly by hearing what he would hear. Not only does this further enhance the child’s “experience” of the book, but it can help with the predictions they are making, which is important for their language and cognitive development.
Lastly, while the images are clear, bold and colourful, you may be wondering ‘where are the words?’. Well, Chris Stead has cleverly included a button (in the shape of a life-saving ring to match the beach theme!) that you click on to have the story appear. This allows the children to enjoy the images and make their predictions before reading the story, which I absolutely love (especially as a teacher, see below!).
Story and Characters
The story is (obviously) about Willy Nilly, a happy, energetic boy who lives with his parents and his dog. I immediately liked Willy Nilly, from page one. His smiling face, messy boy-room (makes me think about what my own son will be like at that age!) and cute dog all point to a likeable character. He is clearly designed to endear his young audience, and I know that my year 2 students would love him if they were introduced to him! Sometimes I think we underestimate the power of a character in a story – we are unlikely to enjoy a story if we dislike the characters (unless there are intriguing reasons as to why).
Willy Nilly is also a relatable character for young children. I have found in my experience as a teacher, children enjoy stories that they can make connections with and that are familiar to their daily lives. I was teaching at a school with a high proportion of ESL (English as a Second Language) students. They actually struggled to relate to stories that had beaches in them, as this was not their general experience (so for example, The Little Green Boat would need a lot of introduction for those students, again explained in the Activities header below). However, for many other children, especially here in Australia, beach culture and life would be familiar to them, as would imaginative adventures!
Now for a brief glimpse of the story (I don’t want to give too much away)! *SPOILER ALERT?!* As I mentioned before (and as the book itself states), there are comparisons that can be made with Where the wild things are by Maurice Sendak. This is in the sense that both are about boys with wild imaginations whose minds wander to far off places and adventures, but that aren’t actually real. Another book this made me think of was There’s a sea in my bedroom by Margaret Wild, which also has a similar theme (with the added bonus of also have a parallel beach theme). I won’t give any more away, as this gives you plenty to use your imagination!
Practicality and Benefits of Multimodal Texts
The Adventures of Willy Nilly series is offered in an eBook form, so it can be read on your iPad, iPhone, Mac, Kindle, Windows, or any other eBook-friendly devices. One of the (many) benefits of an eBook is that you can transfer it across different devices anyway (that is true with the Mac/iPhone/iPad – to be honest I’m not sure about other platforms…) so I have been able to view it on my Macbook Air and iPhone as well.
I personally prefer the iPad size with kids, as they can view the images clearly (not too small, or too big) plus can bunker down somewhere comfortable like a beanbag or couch to read/view the book. We had a set of iPads across our grade at school, so they are easily accessible to students in a classroom (if they had iPads to use).
With this multimodal text (meaning it uses more than one communication mode, eg. Printed words, images and sounds), the reader actually ‘controls’ the story by physically pressing a button on each page in order to read the story. This can enhance kids’ engagement with the story, and intrigues them as to what they’ll find next (What will happen next? where will the button be?). The audio also further draws them into the story, to make them feel like they are really “living” the story – how cool is that!?
Some of the benefits of multimodal texts include:
- Enhanced overall engagement in reading for students;
- Can help children draw connections to a story by using images and/or sounds they are familiar with;
- Can support children who have difficulty with (or are to young) to read independently. Younger children can still read this story simply by discussing the pictures and sounds, and having an adult read it to them.
Activities with your kids for The Little Green Boat
This book is a perfect resource for enhancing your child’s language and cognitive skills. It can support their development of and ability to achieve some key outcomes that are taught in tne English curriculum in NSW. For example:
- Predicting a series of events and possible endings in a range of imaginative texts;
- Using comprehension strategies (of which predicting and making connections are TWO key parts) to build literal and inferred meaning;
- Understand concepts about print and screen, and knows some features of text organisation for print and screen.
In creating this book, Chris Stead consulted with some teachers to come up with activities that meet the curriculum requirements for children in Stage 1 (ages 6-8). He has included these activities as a page within the book, and they are awesome suggestions! Here are a couple of additional activities you could do with your child with The Little Green Boat:
- Before Reading: Chat with your child about the front cover. Before asking them to predict the story, ask them about what they can see – have they seen a seagull before? Have they seen a dolphin before? What about a boat? Get them to start using their prior knowledge before reading the story, as this can enhance both engagement and comprehension.
- During Reading: Discuss the character of Willy Nilly. What is he like? Have you seen/read about another character like him? Is he similar to or different to you? Why/how? Making connections with a text (both similarities and differences) also promotes comprehension, as students are making authentic connections between their lives and the text, enhancing their thinking processes and engagement.
- After Reading: Discuss with your child what might happen next if the story continued. It is left open-ended, so ask your child to draw a picture of the next scene. Predicting incorporates the previous processes of using prior knowledge and making connections to encourage students to imagine possibilities for the story. It combines thinking and creativity to promote cognitive development, which is fun and useful all at the same time!
All these skills need to be taught explicitly to children as they don’t actually know how to do it. But by modeling it to them (for example, “On the cover of this book I see a boy on the beach. I remember when I was little I went to the beach with my parents and we saw seagulls there too”), children begin to see how to do it and can practice doing it at home. The more you practice with them at home (and they will at school too), the better they’ll get and their comprehension of texts will develop and grow more complex!
GIVEAWAY – CLOSED!
After I got so super excited about The Little Green Boat book, Chris Stead and the team at Old Mate Media have very generously partnered with me to give away 5 copies of the Willy Nilly Adventures COLLECTION (3 ebooks!). Absolutely ANYONE can enter for your chance to get a copy of the eBook – I highly recommend it as both a parent and a teacher, so make sure you enter below!
To Enter the Giveaway, simply fill in the form below with your name, email address and the eBook format you would like (eg. iBooks, Kindle, etc). The giveaway will run until Sunday, 12th February , and winners will be notified by email and this post will be updated with the winners at the conclusion of the giveaway. See below the contact form for T&C’s. Good luck – you MUST enter to receive this awesome book!!
‘The Willy Nilly Adventures’ Collection Giveaway – T&C’s
- By entering our giveaway, you agree to the following terms and conditions.
- Entering this giveaway is free.
- Entry is open to everyone (internationally).
- Mumma Morrison and Old Mate Media reserve the right to verify entries and disqualify incomplete, altered, illegal or illegible entries. No responsibility will be accepted for entries lost or delayed due to technical, telecommunication or website errors.
- Only one entry per email address will be accepted for this giveaway.
- Email addresses will be collected by Mumma Morrison and Old Mate Media, but you can unsubscribe at any point (no spam, we promise!)
- Giveaway Tool randomly selects the winners.
- Mumma Morrison and Old Mate Media’s decision is final in this giveaway.
- This prize must be claimed within 3 working days or the prize is forfeited and another winner will be chosen.
- To claim the prize, photo ID may be required