With the Jewel Box Ballerinas there are a number of opportunities for
discussion and learning, but I really think you and your child will
get the most enjoyment out of the pictures. I had so much fun going
back and examining each page, looking for more details…even the end papers are full of pictures. I know I keep mentioning how funny the two pugs look, but Ana Juan did such an excellent job of giving them hilarious facial expressions and poses. I do have a thing for pugs in real life, so perhaps I'm biased.
If you're reading with a young child, you can go through the book and point at the pictures, naming what you see. If your child is old enough, have him/her identify the objects and animals found on the page. Even if your child is too young to understand the story, some of the bright pictures will engage him/her for a little bit. When I read this to my daughter, she liked to touch the red dresses the ballerinas were wearing, and when I was tidying up her room, she kept picking up this bright yellow book from the pile of books on the floor.
Another tip for parents of young children…if you're reading traditional books to them (i.e. not board or cloth books), take off the book jackets, and save them somewhere safe until your child is old enough to properly take care of books. I unfortunately learned this the hard way with The Jewel Box Ballerinas when I heard a loud rip and then a delighted cackle emanating from my daughter's throat. I keep my books in excellent condition, so this hurt a little. The same goes for pop-up books. Luckily, I was able to save Alice's head in the Alice in Wonderland pop-up before my daughter ripped it completely off. She's violent.
Other discussion and learning opportunities:
Bibi visits Alaska and Africa, two very different places in term of climate, wildlife, and culture. Talk about each one of them and then discuss the differences. Your budding artists could even draw pictures or make a collage, showing the differences among the two places. Or they could choose a theme such as native animals and make a drawing, poster, or collage.
While you may not use the word materialism, you could talk about how Bibi realized that people and friends were much more important than any possession in the world. Ask your child if this reminds him/her of any other stories. The story of King Midas and Ebenezer Scrooge immediately come to my mind. What comes to yours?
Talk to your child about your friends and the activities you like to do together. Ask your child to do the same. When I was young, I always loved to hear my parents tell stories about their childhood and their childhood friends, but what I loved the most was to hear my grandmothers' and uncles' and aunts' stories about my parents.
Talk about the different feelings in the story. Who was happy, who was sad…what made everyone happy in the end. Talk about a time you felt happy, sad, excited, etc. Have your child tell his/her own story.
Each time I write about reading tips and learning activities, I strive to give a variety of ideas you can use to start conversations and help children make real-world connections with the books they read. I don't intend for you use them all at once or even all of them for that matter. My intent is to give you ideas for having nice dialogues and bonding experiences with your children and to give your children opportunities to think about the world around them through the literature they read. It's amazing at what some children have to say once you get a conversation going. We often forget that they are little humans, and they often have some profound things to say.
I'd also recommend that you don't always talk about books right after you read them and turn every book into a lesson. Kids just want to read sometimes for pure enjoyment. I know I do. While I love a good book discussion, sometimes I just want to read. If you make every reading session seem like school, they'll get turned off. Just let them read, but know that there are often many opportunities throughout the day or week to talk about the characters or stories in the books they're reading. For example, at dinner you could say something like, "Remember how Bibi loved spending time with Miranda and Mathilda? My friend Sara and I used to spend the whole day picking blueberries by her house. We'd eat most of them right off the bush and come home with purple hands and mouths."
Whatever you decide to do, use reading and talking about books as opportunities to bond and spend quality time with your children. You'll help them grow into thinkers and lifelong readers and give them lots of fond memories.