I was recently lucky enough to go to Glyndebourne to see a production there of Berlioz's opera Beatrice et Benedict. It's a silly story, based on Much Ado About Nothing, and I'd been warned that the production was monochrome and based around boxes. I didn't have high hopes. But the music and performers were absolutely wonderful, and those boxes were great fun. Lids opened to reveal surprises, and of course we soon learned to watch the boxes to see what might spring out of them next, and in what way.
It occurred to me that the fun of those box lids opening was very much the same fun that we get when opening flaps in picture books. It's the same fun as opening a present. Picture book stories often play with anticipation of events, letting the page turn reveal what we're waiting for ... or what we're not expecting, to dramatic effect. But that anticipation and revelation can be multiplied when flaps are added to pages.
Think of that favourite of generations now, Rod Campbell's Dear Zoo. Every spread in that lets us open doors of different kinds to reveal an animal. And of course it is the small child who has the power to open that flap door or lid to make the story happen, and to name the animal revealed. It gives children an experience in story reading before they even begin to decipher the words on a page.
Since its Halloween and I've had a suitably spooky book recently published, I'm going to show off how Little Monster and the Spooky Party enjoys that revelatory fun with flaps. The illustrations are by the great Nick Sharratt -
In schools, children have particularly loved the game of lifting lids and opening boxes to reveal foods which might be 'yum' or 'yuck'. I get them to have thumbs ready for a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down, together with a "Mmmnn" or "Eeeer!" sound effect, and then they choose which I should open in turn. Noise levels get quite high!
As do the sounds of pretend shrieks and screams when we learn who else will be at that spooky party. Would you like to join that party? Happy Halloween!