I am a big fan of wordless picture books so was delighted to be given the opportunity to review Caged, written and illustrated by Duncan Annand and publishers Tiny Owl. Through simple but very effective drawings it explores issues of greed, freedom, our connection to nature, and the courage shown by individuals to help others. It is a book that would be great to share, either as a group or as individual’s that then feed back their responses. I also felt it might work particular well with children aged 9+years. Not having the right group of kids myself I asked Shenaz Bagshaw to help. She shared the book with a couple of groups of year 5’s at St James CE Primary School in Northampton. The children loved the book. One of the main reasons was: “because it makes you think”. This is one of the clever things about this wordless picture book, it actively invites the reader to try and work out what is happening and to question.
The pictures are a wonderful combination of line drawings in black and white. These contrast with a single blue bird and the multi-coloured parrots. Some things the children said when Shenaz ‘read’ the first part of the story with them were:
- “Why is the bird blue, and everything else just outlined?”
- “The man’s clothes look like Willy Wonker”
From these two comments there are so many things you could explore and discuss further.
Along with spot on observations and descriptions of what they saw. There were some interesting questions raised by the kids about what they were seeing as the story unfolded:
- “Are the men knocking down the trees to make paper from the wood?”
- “The circle on the ground looks like a helipad – a helicopter is coming to collect the wood.”
What I love about these questions is how different ‘eyes’ can see different things in the same picture and also how as the story unfolded they were inspired to do try and work out both what was happening and why it was.
“At first they thought the men got rich from selling the wood, (they thought they must be rich because they were wearing posh clothes), but later they thought that they were clearing the trees to make space for the aviary and to destroy the colourful birds habit to make them easier to trap”. Shenaz Bagshaw
In the last stage of the story here are some of the comments the children made. I have omitted some comments as I don’t want to give away completely how the story ends! After reading it they commented that “one person or bird can make a big difference.”
- “They have alcohol – they are celebrating capturing the birds.”
- “The blue bird sits on the cage and it brakes – he must be heavy!”
- “One bird saves maybe 50 birds……”
There is some great information and resources, about Caged, including a free downloadable freedom poster on Tiny Owls website. Including some quotes from authors about why wordless books are so powerful:
“Wordless picture books give a starting point to create and invent a story, giving readers the confidence to embroider what they are saying. ” Elizabeth Laird