The story behind the book and working with children.
Pop the bird is an umbrella project about basic shapes, visual learning, character building and storytelling for children aged 3-8. The project was initiated by author – illustrator team Jenni Erkintalo and Réka Király.'
Learning material about basic shapes are often flat in content. Storytelling can make an abstract issue for children easier approachable. Twisting the basic idea of learning about basic shapes, Jenni and Réka built the character of the bird, Pop and the world around it by using basic shapes. As such the focus shifted to the character and to the playful storytelling meanwhile the building block like elements remained detectable.
“There are plenty of books that teach about basic shapes by showing them one by one. We were after a book where the main emphasis is on the story and it’s characters while the nature of basic shapes are embedded.
This is how we came up with the concept of the story around Pop the bird, and the picture book Pop Soon at Home was born. Parallel to writing the book we developed a workshop concept for very small children. By using the set of basic shape stickers we worked on creatures and stories related to them. We questioned the moods and nature of the shapes and characters. When built out of circles and half circles does it automatically mean happy and soft? Was the character built entirely of triangles, becomes a villain in the story? We did also discussed about the obvious and not so obvious associations they are linked to, and how it affects the storytelling.Working together in teams resulted in lots of laughter and wonderful stories. Soon we realized that we held already free workshops for over 2000 children in Finland, and our book and workshop concept was invited to one of the biggest design event in Finland, Helsinki Design Week, where Pop story-cubes were also introduced. We received emails from various daycares who started to use our picture book in their educational material. Pop doodles – activity book was used by families and group of children and the joy of working on the sheet together seemed to follow the principles of the workshops. At present the whole Pop-family consists of the picture book Pop Soon at Home, the activity book – poster Pop doodles, the Pop and numbers poster and our workshop materials Pop-stickers with instructions sheet and Pop story-cubes. We started this project out of personal curiosity for visual learning and enthusiasm for storytelling. Working with children meant content feedback and made it possible to develop and tailor the elements of the concept to fit exactly. With the whole Pop the bird’s package children are able to learn about basic shapes through both visual and haptic senses while developing storytelling skills.”
At present the project consists of a picture book – Pop Soon at Home, for very young readers (age 3-4), an activity book – Pop Doodles (for children aged 3 and up), a poster – Pop and numbers, a set of Pop stickers with instruction sheet, Pop story-cubes and workshops (customizable for various age groups) that are repeatedly taking place in daycares, museums and at events.
All pictures by © Aino Huovio and Etana Editions