There is something extraordinary about a wish. A wish can set your imagination free and open up possibilities. Sometimes those wishes even come true, though perhaps they’ve always been true. Perhaps what is happening around us is as wonderful as all the things we can imagine.
That is what I took away from Ben Clanton‘s new picture book, Something Extraordinary. I have to admit to a particular weakness for picture books that encourage readers to slow down, observe the world closely, and appreciate it, and this book certainly falls into that category.
But I also love the idea that wishes do come true, and that our world is more vivid when we take the time to notice what is happening around us.
Read more about the book:
“I don’t get it. We’re just walking on floor.” My daughter’s initial reaction to the “Walking on Air” installation at the Walker Art Center last Saturday was quite literal. I heard another little girl nearby echo the sentiment as we stood inside a hot air balloon being inflated by fans.
I looked around the room. “I don’t know. It doesn’t look like a regular room with a regular floor. What does it look like to you?” I suggested a new perspective, and a world opened up. In that moment, we were sliding on a rainbow right into a hot air balloon. We jumped and jumped to get the balloon to fly, and when we needed to land, we had to be calm and slow. We waltzed around the colorful cavern and practiced yoga poses until we landed safely. It was quite an adventure.
I have to admit, it’s the sort of adventure I don’t have very often. I believe in the importance of imaginative play, but I don’t usually want to participate. I will do almost anything else first. I will read a story, do a craft, or play a game–no matter how boring to me–with my daughter before pretending with her. Frankly, it’s one of those guilty parenting confessions that I hesitate to admit because I do feel kind of terrible about my distaste for pretending. I am probably not going to suddenly change and become the sort of parent who plays house as a first choice, but I am grateful for the reminder that it doesn’t take much for a magical worlds to appear around you. Really–the kid usually does most of the work.
Thank you to the Walker for creating a space for us to play. We also enjoyed the exploration of what art is and isn’t in “The Time Wanderers.” We were inspired to continue talking about the idea with the book Art is… by Bob Raczka. Because finding books to explore interesting ideas is something I can definitely say I am good at as a parent. ;)
It was a great day. You can see more photos from the day at the Walker on my photo blog and on the Walker’s blog.
The room was quiet as the kids waited for the show to begin, but as soon as Auntie Nannybucket, portrayed by Anne Sawyer-Aitch, appeared, things were anything but quiet. You have pretended a bucket was an elephant foot before, haven’t you? The small audience giggled. I think they were starting to get an idea of what they were in for.
The show, based on the picture book by Sawyer-Aitch, Nalah and the Pink Tiger, is a high energy romp through the imagination of a little girl named Nalah. As puppets of all sorts pop out of doors and windows, it is sometimes hard top believe that there are only two hands back there making everything happen. The thirty minute show was non-stop action with music, scene changes, and occasional projectile props to keep kids riveted.
The story reminded me a bit of Sarah Weeks’ If I Were a Lion or even Where the Wild Things Are (both of which are favorites of mine), and there are certainly plenty of young readers who will relate to the idea of one’s imagination creating a truly wild world. While I haven’t read the book completely, I did peek over my daughter’s shoulder as she paged through it, and I thought Sawyer-Aitch’s “illuminated illustration” style captured Nalah’s boundless energy well and framed it in a kid-friendly window.
You can catch the show at various libraries in the Twin Cities or at Dreamland Arts in St. Paul on July 28th & 29th. More details here.
If you like this, you might be interested in the last time we explored puppets at the library. If you get a chance to see the show in a small group like we did, maybe you’ll get a behind-the-scenes tour. It is fascinating to get an idea of how one person can make all that action happen by herself!
Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links. A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog. Thanks for your support!
My little one meeting Milly & Tillie after the show at Open Eye Figure Theatre. I blogged about the show this past spring after seeing it at the Walker. I called it a ‘tribute to a child’s imagination. You can also read Cake in 15’s take on the show from last year.
It reminded me of some fun picture books that also celebrate the imaginary life:
For more, see my list of picture books about imagination.
We arrived at the Walker Art Center just in time on Saturday afternoon. “Milly and Tillie” was just about to begin. The performance, part of the Free First Saturday program, was put on by Open Eye Figure Theater, and it was fabulous. Read: my three-year-old loved it. She clapped enthusiastically, and sometimes spontaneously in the middle of bits she really liked. As we filed out of the cinema with the rest of the crowd, we talked about our favorite parts. Hers: “when they danced silly.” For me, it was the tribute to the imagination. Not to mention, watching the kiddo enjoy herself. According to Open Eye’s web site, “Milly and Tillie” will be playing throughout July. I highly recommend it. Here’s a taste:
We also enjoyed the art activity of the day, which involved using a word wheel to find our inspiration. Ladybug spun vigorously, and she landed on “Jumping Lunchbox,” which she found quite hilarious. This is what she came up with:
Kudos to the Walker for such a great program! Sometimes the activities and shows are too complex for my preschooler, but this one was spot on. She woke up this morning asking if we could visit the Walker again, and Milly and Tillie are her favorite new friends.
We can’t wait to see what the next Free First Saturday will bring!