Book review: As Big as the Sky, as Tall as the Trees

September 20, 2017 No Comments »
Book review: As Big as the Sky, as Tall as the Trees

Reach up as tall as a mountain, rise and fall like the sun, throw a rock into a river, and breathe in the sweet smell of the prairie grass.

These are just some of the actions kids will do with the picture book, As Big as the Sky, as Tall as the Trees, by Leah Yardley. It’s a book that gets readers up and moving as they learn the story of Alberta as told through Indigenous stories of the land.

Starting with the introduction of Mother Earth, the book explains how Alberta is a special part of the earth that is home to many people, animals, and living things. Each page tells a story about the different environments within the province, such as the prairies and the mountains, and instructs readers to do a movement skill to illustrate each point.

Making use of Indigenous oral practices, the book acknowledges the traditional territories of all Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit people of Turtle Island. At the beginning, it also asks that the book be used by a diverse span of communities as a tool to “incorporate other teachings unique to your identity, ways of being, and oral practices and teachings.”

As Big as the Sky, as Tall as the Trees

yardley-book-cover

Author: Leah Yardley
Illustrator: Adam Blacksmith
Format: Picture book
Target Audience: 0-5 years
Publisher: Be Fit For Life Network
Price: $15+shipping & tax

The illustrations are by Adam Blacksmith, a graphic artist who is half Cree and half Dakota Sioux. His vibrant colours and dream-like drawings create vivid imagery that is compelling and dynamic. The drawings really help you feel a connection to the earth, and also make for a good first introduction to Indigenous culture for young kids who are not part of the community.

This picture book is third in a series in Be Fit for Life’s “Moving Stories.” The purpose of these books is to promote physical literacy in children aged 0-5 through physical actions in storytelling.

Author Leah Yardley, who wrote the other two movement books Reach, Twirl, Curl Up Small and Let’s Go Play on a Winter Day, is a certified exercise physiologist, and is coordinator of the Be Fit for Life Centre at the University of Calgary. She says becoming a parent has made her passionate about helping young kids develop physical literacy. And it shows in her writing.

What I liked about this book is it how it really is designed to promote movement. It’s a physically big book, about 12×12 inches, which means you could easily lay it on the floor and still read the pages while standing and moving around. It’s also a good visual tool for a teacher or caregiver to use in front a classroom or more structured setting.

The story itself is a full-on sensory experience, making use of all five senses through either action or imagination. It also covers many fundamental movement skills, such as jumping, throwing, balancing, and moving your body into different shapes and positions. So as a resource for teaching physical literacy, this is a fun and imaginative way to get little ones moving.

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