PLAY: How To, by Julie Morstad

how toSo, do you sometimes go through phases of feeling disconnected from life, like you’re observing things, but not really a part of what you see going on around you? The end of the school year often does this to me, as the summer inches closer. I’m always surprised that I don’t feel pure elation the closer the school holiday gets. Instead it’s mostly just plain exhaustion and glazed-over-ness.

The other day I was walking home in a daze in the rain after a super long day. It was really coming down and I had too many bags and a too-small umbrella and I was getting soggier and grouchier with every step. “Grumble grumble,” I thought as I squelched step by step closer to home. And then I saw her. A kid, probably six years old, wearing a pink raincoat and matching rubber boots. She was leaping around in the rainwater that was rushing down the street like a mini river in the sidewalk gutter.  She couldn’t have been more delighted – or delightful to watch.

That little moment woke me up. I may be bone tired right now, but deep down, I know I’m ready for a summer that’s full of the simple happy things life has to offer: popsicles, cool park grass, the scent of warm pine needles, dog kisses, lake sunsets, books (lots and lots), music in the kitchen, cat naps (with cat), movies, late nights hanging around with friends and family. Who knows, perhaps I’ll fit in a little puddle jumping?

In September, I’m going to be surrounded by many small puddle-jumpers as I start the process of magicking myself into a Kindergarten teacher, and I’m pretty sure that my students’ energy and curiosity and wonder will inspire me everyday. So, to get in the spirit of things, all summer long I’ll be reviewing a whole lotta picture books. These will be the books I plan to use next year during my first year in Kindergarten. In the weeks ahead, I’ll share some of the best books I can think of that explore, define, and celebrate some of the big ideas I hope will be central to daily life in my classroom. Today, I’m starting things off with the theme of PLAY, and “how to,” a simply gorgeous book by Julie Morstad.

This book has such a simple concept and is perfect proof that sometimes, simple, executed brilliantly, is better than anything. Each double-page spread presents a “how to”: how to go fast, how to go slow, how to have a good sleep, how to make some music. Some of the ideas are more whimsical, like how to be a mermaid, how to see the wind, and how to wonder. But it’s the illustrations that really bring each idea to life, infusing humour and spirit into each “how to,” opening them up to make readers think and imagine. For instance, “how to see the wind” is paired with a picture of kids in the middle of a field, flying balloons and kites high in the air. “How to make a sandwich” shows a couple of children wedged between giant cushions to make themselves into a kid sandwich. “How to watch where you’re going” is a particularly beautiful page, completely white except for a girl in the corner who is skipping and looking back over her shoulder at the funny shadow she’s made on the ground.

Morstad’s illustrations are delicate, with a soft, natural palette and fine lines. Plenty of white space invites you to pause and really look at what is there. It’s a book that invites you to try new things, to get creative, to go outside, to dream. The final pages picture all kinds of dancing kids, paired up with the last “how to”: how to be happy. I’d say that if you try out some of the ideas in how to, you’ll be well on your way to making your own happiness.

how to is published by simply read books.




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