Saturday was a very special day where we are: we woke up to find our world hidden under a couple of centimetres of snow, and more was falling fast. Now, this is a bit like Christmas: it happens but once a year (at most) and it's REALLY exciting! We obviously had to get out there and throw some snowballs!
I had a storytelling session later on, and had planned to tell The Ugly Duckling, sing 5 Little Ducks Went Swimming One Day and do a cute little make-a-duck craft... Quite spring-like and totally unsuitable all of a sudden! So I went into last minute planning mode, and came up with a (snowy) plan B:
Book: Any Room for Me? by Loek Koopmans (Floris Books, Edinburgh, 1992)
Craft: Make a cardboard snowman
Song: Couldn't think of anything snowy not related to Christmas :-( So we did Hickory Dickory Dock. OK, unrelated, but the planning time was shoooooooort! Here are some of the results:
Any Room for Me? by Loek Koopmans is a beautiful, magical, funny story that kids love. An old man drops his woolly mitten in the snow, and several of the wild inhabitants of the surrounding woods immediately see its great potential for a lovely warm house, much to the surprise of the old man's little dog!
The story is a tender and amusing reflection on sharing, even with the most unlikely of companions, with a fun will-he won't he? can he can't he? cliffhanger on every page that all children I've read this story with just love. I enjoy building up this sense of anticipation as we wonder if yet another, even bigger, animal will be able to snuggle into the mitten. And there is a real sense of delight and satisfaction when, time after time, he can and he does! Look how warm they are all snuggled up together!
I find the illustrations in this picture book absolutely beautiful. The winter woods dominate each page, particularly at the beginning of the story when the little mitten is just home to the tiny mouse, the tiny frog and the little rabbit. But despite their size, the woods do not intimidate, they aren't scary or dark. The tree trunks are painted a soft, almost spring green that emphasises them as living plants, and the sunlight that filters through is a soft apricot colour, in spite of the snow. Even the snow itself seems soft and rounded. The mitten itself, the refuge from the snowstorm, is a warm pinky red with a cheerful yellow pattern, and the animals' fur glows a warm orangey brown. The bigger the animals get, the more this warmth fills the pages, until the huge bear fills more than half of one side of the double spread.
This is a very simple story in which, in fact, nothing actually happens. Nothing lasts forever, and we do well to make the most of it while we have it. And why not share the good things while they last? The too-much-ness of the situation is summed up by the repetition of the names of the animals on every page:
"Any room for me?" asked the huge Bear.
"Of course," said the Mouse and the Frog and the Hare and the Fox and the Wild Boar. "Come in!"
Wonderful! And no one is more surprised to find all these animals in the mitten than the old man's little dog, but of course, he can't tell his owner about it at all!
Here's a post I found about how one family plays around Any Room for Me? including an Etsy link for a set of wooden animals complete with mitten: http://www.anartfamily.com/2011/11/any-room-for-me.html
And a source for your own little set of felt animals from the story:
As for our snowman craft, the materials I used were:
- Selection of photos of men's hats printed off the internet
- Selection of photos of woolly textures in variety of colours printed off the internet (scarves)
- Circles (heads) and ovals (bodies) drawn to size according to the hats
- Coloured pencils (for drawing arms, faces, pipes...)
- Little round stickers (for faces, buttons...)
- Glue sticks and kiddy scissors
I cut out some of the shapes so the littler children would have all the pieces ready to assemble, leaving some for the older kids to cut out themselves. I left the woolly textures whole and cut them into strips as the children chose their colour as we did the activity. I hadn't thought of providing them with arms, which Eva didn't find the slightest bit amusing, but she soon drew them in herself. Marta, however, went for a more minimalist snowman with no head, the face stuck straight onto the body. All the girls but one went for pink scarves, the odd-girl-out choosing a nice bright blue. Max insisted on three lines of 9 or 10 buttons from neck to toe and no scarf. We thought they all looked great and we didn't get wet or cold making them!