OLLIE AND THE WIND
by Ronojoy Ghosh - Random House Australia, 2016
ages toddler up to 7 or 8 years / imagination, s.t.e.m.
I like Ollie – he’s the kind of kid who keeps on trying, who is determined and still thoughtful. He’s the kind of kid who other kids will be able to relate to. And he has the kind of experiences that many kids will be able to remember from their own lives.
Ollie is trying to work out the wind. The wind takes his hat and his scarf and then, when he tries to catch it (the wind), nothing seems to work.
The images and words do a great job of building a gentle anticipation as Ollie tries to understand the wind—and when he figures out that it just wants to play, he takes a whole new approach.
There's a really fun moment that invites guessing, just as Ollie’s balloon is taken by the wind—he realises that:
“The wind wasn’t naughty. It just wanted to play.”
Right then there’s a perfect moment of excitement where we think: a kite!
But … the next page shows Ollie trying to play chess with the wind!
It’s amusing, it disrupts our little bit of certainty, it offers a fresh idea.
Obviously playing chess with the wind is doomed to failure, but Ollie simply goes on to another idea.
Until finally, he hits on a kite. It’s my favourite moment in the story—Ollie finds his kite one starry night and takes it out to play with the wind.
The key is that, instead of trying to catch or curtail the wind, Ollie plays.
Ollie models reconciliation beautifully, moving from being distressed to annoyed to hopeful to being genuinely joyful about the wind. And it’s especially nice that play is the thing that finally reconciles him with the wind.
Play is surely one of the two great forces for reconciliation available to us. (The other being mutual work of course.)
There’s also some great scientific process modelling going on throughout the book for young children—I suspect that a windy day and a reading of Ollie and the Wind would lead to all sorts of natural learning, exploring the properties of wind.
Ollie is a strong and smart kid—admirable qualities. He’s resilient and determined, and he keeps trying new ideas until he finds one that work. There’s a sweet end to the story too, when the wind ‘returns’ Ollie’s hat and scarf on the wordless last page. It brings a little smile.
(I've never flown a kite at night, but I think on the next bright and windy night I’ll gather up some children and my family and give it a go—it looks magical) ... and here's a great reader tip: "Put a couple of those glow sticks on the kite and it looks amazing!"
Also ... if you're looking for a book for the slightly older crowd on a windy day, The Kites are Flying is brilliant. Both of these books would make wonderful gifts, perhaps with a kite.