One of A’s favourite games to play is ‘Birthday’. She loves the singing, the dancing, the birthday cards, the birthday presents and the cake. The imaginary cake usually gets gobbled up really quickly and she has to make some more. Fast! Fast!
The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli has been a long-standing favorite book at bedtime. I first got it for her first birthday, but eighteen months on it remains a popular choice.
The book opens with Baby/Toddler singing happy birthday to herself. She then discovers a large parcel. A lot of space, nearly one third of the book, is taken up by the Toddler inspecting this parcel. Ripping back the paper, standing on top of the box (I’m taller than a tree!), giving it a hug or playing peeka-boo when hiding behind it. Finally the Toddler spots the holes on the sides of the box. What’s inside?
The Toddler finds a dog in the box and together they go on all sorts of adventures in the box. They fly an aeroplane, sail in a ship (I am the captain!) and slide through the snow.
Finally the box is the perfect place to sit and eat some birthday cake!
This is a funny little story. With the charming, colourful and simple drawings the book is very captivating. With no adults present it keeps the child at the centre of the story and the action – which is plentiful: I stand on top of my box, I name the dog Oscar, I am the captain. The book is as alive as the child’s imagination. The box is a plane, a boat and a place of hiding. What else could it be?
As a parent of a girl I enjoyed the gender neutral aspect of the book. It is not obvious if the Toddler is a boy or a girl so the child can identify with the story regardless of gender. At two and a half A is becoming increasingly aware of her gender identity, therefore books that encourage agency and activity are as welcome in our house as stories about caring and friendship.
Before A spoke I did baby sign language with her. We found it a wonderful means of introducing words and concepts before she was able to speak. With its simple story and vibrant illustrations this book proved perfect for reinforcing many of the words for objects and activities we would frequently come across (e.g. aeroplane, boat, eating).
The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli (2007), Walker Books Ltd, London
The Birthday Box is also available as an ebook on itunes