Thursday, October 03, 2013

Book Box Thursday: The Forest Fable by Gelyn Ong

Book Box Thursday is a new bi-weekly column. Here, EV, AA and I will share books that we love, as well as the crafts and activities that we do. We may also suggest other activities that can be done.

For the first Book Box Thursday (BBT) we thought: why not start with something local? Did you kor that there are many children's titles by local authors? We will look into some of these in future BBT, but first, we will share one by a very young inspirational author.

Forest Fable cover

The Forest Fable is written by nine year old Gelyn Ong. Besides being an accomplished artist with works that have raised a whopping $500,000 for the less fortunate since 2010, she has also been an ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature since 2012. And now she has added another achievement to her list - that of an author!

This delightful book features Gelyn's very own paintings, which are whimsical in nature and understated in colours. Yet there is a sense of calm worldliness and realism to it that grabs the eye. According to the book's description of her, her artistic flair was first discovered when she was four, and after years of nurturing, it had advanced from scribbling with crayons to a more expert knowledge of acrylic and other materials. 

When I first introduced the book to EV, I went through the cover with her. I asked her to look at the picture and we discussed what the story might be about. I said the title, the author and read the author's description to her. When she realised Gelyn's age, her eyes widened in amazement. After our reading session, she actually went around with the book in her hand, telling every family member she came across about the author.

Forest Fable 3

The Forest Fable is more than just a story; it has an educational message. It teaches the importance of the world's rainforests and how protecting it will also bring protection of the various animals that depend in it for their livelihoods. And it does so through a simple tale of seven types of animals including a bear, porcupines, orang-utans and owls, and a lumberjack' quest to chop trees and endangering the animals’ homes.

The first thing that catches one's attention are the visuals, with its intricate, detailed patterns of the trees and animals. Colours are distinct yet understated, and though the lumberjack plays a crucial role, only his legs and axe are seen entering and leaving the pages. The animals also seem to watch him as he leaves. This prompts discussions on what these visuals mean, and how it affects the story. This helps to develop visual literacy, important I think in today's world as kids are so much more visual than before.

Forest Fable 4

The Forest Fable occurs over a span of seven days, and features corresponding number of animals. For example, on Monday, there is one bear and on Tuesday, there are two porcupines. It is helpful to teach the days of the week and counting.

In terms of language, this enchanting fable is extremely simple. It uses repetition, repeating how each day, the lumberjack discovers different animals, realised that if he chops down the trees, they will have no place to eat or sleep and then decides to leave. This makes it easy for young minds to follow, and even read for the older ones. There is also some rhyme, such as “Two porcupines were cowering in fright. ‘If I chop down the tree, the porcupines will be wolf food tonight.”, so this can be explained too.


Forest Fable 1

Puppet play
We have a monkey puppet at home, and it joined us during our reading session after I was done the introductory with EV. It is really apt as an orangutan is one of the characters. Monkey 'read' the fable. Along the way, he engaged in conversation with EV, talking about the characters in the fable, his ‘brother’ the orangutan, how without the trees, his ‘brother’ would have no home and that’s so sad isn’t it? Thanks to Monkey, the story became more personable and engaging, as compared to if I just read to her and discussed  about it. The story came alive for her, and I think that was important to help her appreciate the tale even more. Like the animals, she shouted ‘Whoopee!’ after the lumberjack decided not to chop down any trees any more. The Forest Fable is currently her favourite story in the Say Family Library.

Forest Fable 2

Toilet roll painting
We also did a painting activity on another day while visiting her maternal grandmother, and in the excitement of it all, I forgot to take photos. Silly me. 

Anyway, we made use of recycled toilet rolls to paint leaves in red, orange and green, according to the colours used in the story. We bent the round rolls slightly to make oval shapes, dipped them in paint, then stamped them on to the paper. Before that, I had drawn an outline of the trunk and branches, which EV painted in. This activity also let EV revise shapes, warm and cool colours, which she had learnt during last week’s art lesson at heART Studio.

Other possible activities include:
- taking a nature walk to let her experience the dense rainforest, like Rainforest Trail at Botanic Gardens
- doing a leaf sensory box
- paint on leaves, paint with leaves

We really enjoyed The Forest Fable. We hope you do too. Until next time, happy reading!

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