We’ve recently been away visiting family in the country. Can I just say there is no better family holiday entertainment than going to stay in the country and discovering there’s a real live mouse in the house! My little city kids thought that was very exciting. When Granny said she’d put out a mouse trap, Henry (my 3 year old nephew) picked up the board game Mouse Trap and gave it to Granny to catch the mouse with. Hilarious!
Every time we go away, I’m absolutely amazed at how much stuff you need to go on holidays with kids. At least Birdy packs for herself now, but she always wants to take a ridiculous amount of toys. Whereas all Molly needs to keep herself occupied is a baby doll and a copy of Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox. We did a six hour car trip from Dubbo to Darlington Point (near Griffith) and Molly was quite happy reading Where is the Green Sheep? to herself for most of that time.
Is there any child in Australia who doesn’t have a copy of that book?
When Birdy was born we were given four copies of it, and we gave two away which I’m regretting because the other copies are now so worn out. When I was a kid, I think every parent knew off by heart the words, “Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter…” Or this one: “In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf. Then one Sunday morning, the warm sun came up and – pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar.” These days I think every parent knows the words, “Here is the blue sheep, here is the red sheep, here is the bath sheep and here is the bed sheep. But where is the green sheep?” It’s almost become a developmental phase that between the ages of one and three children become obsessed with that book.
What is it about that book? Why do toddlers love it so much?
I think it’s the perfect combination of the everyday and the absurd. It’s full of things that even babies recognise – the sun, the rain, a car, a train – and yet the pictures are also portraying something outrageous, like a sheep dancing around a lamp stand with an umbrella in the rain. Yet the pictures are so simple and iconic that even Molly at eighteen months will point to the umbrella and say “ella”.
The first time I read this book, I found it very strange and I wasn’t the only one. I was a bit surprised to read Mem Fox using nouns as adjectives. Lines like ‘Here is the bath sheep’ are a little grating at first, because we’ d normally say ‘Here is a sheep having a bath’, or ‘Here’s a sheep in the bath’. And yet somehow it really is perfect for little kids. The other day I discovered that it won the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Award in 2005. I can see why. It is literally teaching my daughter to speak. She now points to the moon and says ‘moo’ and at the star and says ‘ta’. So even though we might get a little bit sick of reading the same book over and over and over again, it is actually the best way to encourage speech and literacy in little ones. Of course, once they get older, it’s good to read more widely, but for a one-year-old all you really need are three or four copies of Where is the Green Sheep?
(PS. If you’re looking for other great books to encourage your toddler’s speech development, why not check out the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year 2013 shortlist and past winners.)
Have your children enjoyed Where is the Green Sheep and made you read it over and over again? What do you think of it?