One of my favourite books for children is Would You Rather… by John Burningham.
This is a silly book with crazy ideas that are simply hilarious. That’s what makes it so good!
Would You Rather… is a book to delight in and be surreal. It also a wonderful book for kick-starting creativity and for sharing ideas and lots of laughs.
He’s also followed this up recently with More Would You Rather…
So what is it all about?
The book is a list of humorous and thought-provoking questions about choices such as:
- Would you rather…an elephant drank your bath water or an eagle stole your dinner
- Would you rather…a pig tried on your clothes or a hippo sleep in your bed
- Would you rather be…eaten by a crocodile or sat on by a rhinoceros
- Would you rather…your dad did a dance at school or your mum have a row in a cafe
- Would you rather live with…a gerbil in a cage, a fish in a bowl, a parrot on a perch, a rabbit in a hutch, chickens in a coop or a dog in a kennel.
- Would you rather have breakfast with bears, lunch with a lion or dinner with ducks?
- Would you like to fly with the pelicans or swim with the fish?
- Would it be worse if an elephant made a terrible smell or you fell over in a field of cows?
It is easy to just dismiss these as ‘silly’ sentences for a younger audience, read the words, admire the illustrations and just move on.
However, there are so many rich opportunities here for speaking, listening, creating and writing that ignoring them would be a tragic waste. These are prompts for all ages and every audience because you can invent your own off the wall examples and have fun doing so.
First of all this is a participation book that has to be shared, read aloud and discussed. What would children do in these situations and circumstances? What observations do they make? Would everyone do the same? Is there consensus? Is there disagreement? Can they justify their choices and support them with an explanation? Can we unpick their thinking further and extend the conversations? What would the advantages and disadvantages be?
Would you rather… encourages children to imagine other other scenarios and other possibilities and to talk about themselves as players in these worlds. They are more like challenges because the choices are far from easy and providing the reasons is not always easy either. The illustrations are really funny but it is the questions that are at the heart of this book. They are fun to think about and discuss and they deliberately set up cognitive conflict and friendly argument.
Children and adults will love inventing their own and these can be as simple or as complicated as you like. The choices don’t have to be between two things either but a selection of silliness.
Here are a few examples:
- Would you rather…
- be a dictionary or a diary?
- be a word, sentence or paragraph?
- be an eraser, a ruler or a pencil?
- be a shock, a tock or a rock?
- be a red dream or a yellow nightmare?
- be a pot of gold or a pot of joy?
- be a bark or a miaow?
- be a sneeze, a wheeze or some cheese?
- be a chair, a stare or a dare?
- be an angry pillow, a cautious kitten or a moody marshmallow?
- be a purple panda or a blue orange?
- be a naughty slipper, a fizzy goat or an active volcano?
- be a yawn, a sigh, a burp or a hiccup?
- be a baptism of fire, a tissue of lies or a murder of crows?
- be a parliament of owls, a gaggle of gossips or a quiver of arrows?
- be a smack of jellyfish, a host of angels or a shrewdness of apes?
- be a bike of bees, a family of sardines or a rhumba of rattlesnakes?
- be a nest of rumours, an army of caterpillars or a coalition of cheetahs?
- be an elephant’s memory or a flamingo’s wish?
- be Happy with a capital ‘H’ or awesome with a small ‘a’?
- be a tear or a tear?
- be a hair or a hare?
- be a myth or a moth?
- be a joke, a poke or a yolk?
- be a Mexican gherkin, a dragon fruit or an African horned cucumber?
- be a bibliophile or a biblioteque?
- be a synonym, a contronym or antonym?
- be a sand castle, a sand storm or a sandwich?
- be a wave, a handshake or a hug?
- be a mouse potato, a hot potato or mashed potato?
- be a funambulist, a noctambulist, or a camponologist?
- be a mixologist, a moonraker or a microbe?
- have a dog with a cat’s personality or a cat with a dog’s personality?
- have seven fingers on each hand or seven toes on each foot?
Sadly, John Burningham died last week at the age of 82 but what a tremendous legacy he has left us.