What’s at the End of this Piece of Rope?
Lothian Childrens. 2018
32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
When a young child discovers a piece of rope lying on the ground, she pulls it with all her might but cannot release it. Even when the monkey offers its help and they pull together, it does not reveal its end. Kangaroo and Gorilla come to help without success and it is only when Hippo adds his enormous weight that the secret is revealed as the rope finally gives and they all end up in a tangle on top of each other. But is what they find what they are expecting? Or want?
Delicately illustrated with gentle watercolours. this is a charming book for early childhood about curiosity and co-operation which opens up the world of stories to young readers. The predominant use of questions means they will have fun predicting what could be at the end of the rope, something so enormous it defies such huge effort, as well as suggesting who will be the next to say, “Would you like some help to see?” as each creature is larger than the one before. The concept of enlisting others to work together to help solve a problem is strong and no doubt the children will share instances of when they have worked with others to reach a solution beyond them as individuals, as well as the feelings of frustration and crankiness when they can’t sort it for themselves. An opportunity to talk about resilience and perseverance, perhaps.
The overhead perspective of what the rope might be attached to will encourage them to look closely at the picture, reinforcing not only the relationship between text and pictures in quality picture books, but also the need to look for cues and clues in the details. More experienced readers might even investigate the use of perspective in pictures so that a story’s message is enriched and enhanced.
And with the ending left hanging, so to speak, they might like to imagine what happens next. Engaging with texts such as this which demand the child’s involvement and encourage them to predict based on both the context and the illustrations is such a vital foundation of early reading behaviour, teaching the child they can be an active participant in the story rather than just a passive viewer and thus enhancing their enjoyment.
Seemingly simple on the surface this is rich in rewards and possibilities with comprehensive teachers’ notes available.