British author/illustrator, Emily Gravett, adds a measure of intrigue, and a dash of humor to her deliciously simple, perfectly fun picture book, Orange Pear Apple Bear. With just the four words in the title (plus one), and expressive, yet uncluttered illustrations, this read-aloud is sure to take a prominent spot in any toddler book basket.

An endearing, plump bear is the central character who conveys an entertaining look at shapes and color. Older children, as well as adults, will appreciate the understated humor and will enjoy sharing this read aloud with tots.

Follow up with fruit pairing, using objects or pictures (see our Fruits – Illustrations for Toddlers); or have a pair and taste party with whole and sectioned fruit. Oranges, apples and pears boast a variety of colors, textures, sizes and tastes to explore.

Gravett has said in interviews that a reading of Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference! by Lynne Truss sparked the idea for Orange Pear Apple Bear. The movement of the comma throughout the book presents an intriguing lesson for elementary children on the power of this little mark of punctuation to change meaning.

Monkey and Me – Gravett’s visual wit is on display in Monkey and Me, an animated read-aloud about a little girl and her expressive toy monkey who love imitating wild animals – everything from jumping like kangaroos to waddling like penguins! The rhythmic, patterned text relies heavily on the phrase “Monkey and me…” which young children will soon be chanting. Open this book and be ready for toddlers to get up and move as they act out the different animals and move in time to the rhythm of the text.

Monkey and Me makes a great picture book play, either as a classroom activity or as a performance to an audience. Use our Animals in the Wild – Illustrations for Toddlers matching cards to cue animal actions.

Dogs – “I love dogs,” states an unseen narrator. And so begins Gravett’s irresistible read-aloud about man’s (and kid’s) best friend. With her signature whimsy, Gravett delivers dogs and more dogs with distinctive personalities, easily viewed against uncluttered backgrounds and placed in spreads of opposites. Humorous, expressive illustrations of big dogs and small dogs, hairy dogs and bald dogs, shabby dogs and chic dogs, each tell a visual story; but there’s an “Aha!” moment at the end when the narrator is revealed (no spoilers here, but there will be chuckles!).

The rhyming text is minimal with the illustrations doing nearly all of the work of delivering a subtle lesson in the meaning of opposites. The big/small spread, for example, features an amiable Great Dane gazing benignly down at a tiny Chihuahua between his front paws. All of the dogs portrayed in the book are identified in the endpapers.

The minimal text and the scale of the drawings work well for preschool storytimes as well as toddler lap time. Follow up with our Dogs – Illustrations for Toddlers for a pairing game; or create a classroom book of opposites with preschoolers. (For detailed instructions and videos on the art of handmade books see makingbooks.com)

Check out other titles by the talented Emily Gravett on her website: emilygravett.com

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