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Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis

This is a wonderfully simple picture book which really can allow a child’s imagination to blossom.

It is about a pig who finds a broken branch and begins to play with it.  On each page there is a line of alternating dialogue.  The first voice is what we assume to be an adult of some kind, who we never see, only hear.  The adult voice admonishes the pig to be careful with the stick.

The following page is the pig’s response to the adult voice.  He (for it seems to be a boy pig), claims that it is not a stick.

The accompanying illustration to the pig’s dialogue shows you what the pig imagines the stick is, and how he is playing with it.

The stick becomes a fishing rod for catching shark with their mouths bristling with teeth.  It becomes a paint brush where he finishes off a famous Van Gogh painting (starry night). It becomes a sword for defeating a fire breathing dragon.

When the adult asks what the stick is, the pig’s final reply is: ‘It’s my not a stick’.

This book is perfect for discussing the power of the imagination with a child. As an educational tool you can get the children to imagine all the other things that the ‘not a stick’ can be.  You could even provide them with their own ‘not a stick’ and some dressing up clothes and let them come up with costumes and role play scenarios of their own.

It is interesting for introducing the idea of dialogue. The dialogue is clearly marked out. The adult voice is on brown pages, the pig’s voice is on blue pages.  There is interesting debate to be had in asking the children who they think the pig is talking to, and what this ‘voice’ looks like.

It is a good book for newly confident readers to try out. The dialogue is simple and repetitive and they can easily master it.  It would be good to use as a confidence builder for new readers, although the real joy of the book is in the group interaction and the imaginative discussion it can bring about.

I would recommend this for age four to six or seven.

The pig’s adventures are quite boyish, and I would recommend it for boys in particular, although girls will enjoy it too, particularly if they can engage with it imaginatively on their own terms.

There is another, similar book by Portis called Not A Box.