Reviews /

Can I Sit In The Middle?

Authored by Susanne Strasser
Illustrated by Susanne Strasser
Published by Gecko Press

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Can I Sit In The Middle? is a board book to share with young children telling the amusing story of a child and a group of animals coming together to experience the joy of books and reading. 

Zebra, cat, child and lion have gathered on the sofa to share a book. But first they must wait for stork to arrive, then cat needs a cushion, hamster has not turned up, someone is sitting on lion’s tail and fish really wants to sit in the middle. Just as they settle a new arrival turns everything upside down! This delightful picture book provides plenty of opportunity for extending vocabulary, encouraging observation, conversation and recognition of the familiar and the new. It also celebrates the joy of reading and book sharing with humour and understanding. 

The narrative makes great use of repetition to increase engagement. After repeated readings the child anticipates the arrival of each creature visiting adding to the involvement and excitement. The non gendered use of “child” in the text and the depiction in the illustrations ensures that all children can identify with the small person reading the book to their friends. The cumulative nature of the story is a tried and tested approach and works superbly with young children as it adds to the fun and anticipation as the book is read aloud. This is a wonderful mix of the imaginative, with wild animals in the living room, and everyday routines, such as the ‘just a moment I need one more thing’ scenario and snuggles on the sofa. The story characters are made up of a great mix of animals, including distinctive wild animals, which are easier for children to identify plus animals they may have at home as pets. The ending is beautifully executed with lost things found and the happy group enjoying their book under a blanket tent. 

This is such a cleverly constructed book visually too. The cover has an eye-catching appeal, with the child and the animals cuddled up over a book, prompting book talk before one even opens the pages. The illustrative style is clear and bold with the sofa positioned centrally in each double page spread, a standard lamp to one side and the door to the other. In this way the page is reminiscent of a stage set with the audience, or in this case the reader or listener, ready and waiting for the next arrival. Listeners to the story may get a tantalising glimpse of a visitor as they look at the illustrations or if particularly observant spot familiar objects lurking just out of sight of the characters, adding to the fun. This is a sturdy board book but larger than the typical board books produced for exploring by small hands making it even more suitable for sharing both one-to-one and in groups in an Early Years setting. Highly recommended for Foundation Stage/Nursery settings this is an absolute joy to read aloud and wonderful for encouraging the youngest children to become involved in stories and books.