As someone who works in early literacy, I am a huge advocate of pretend play for young children. Pretend play, also known as imaginative play or dramatic play, imparts a host of developmental benefits. Through pretend play, children develop language and vocabulary skills, cultivate their social and emotional intelligence, grow their problem-solving and other thinking skills, and work out their feelings and emotions. Also, playing pretend is a lot of fun!
The power of dramatic play is front and center in the Canadian picture book We Would Pretend. Published simultaneously in French and English, this rollicking picture book is an ode to where dramatic play can take us, if we are bold enough to follow.
It’s a lovely day outside, and a father encourages his child and their friend to go outside and play. Once outside, the children (a boy and a girl) immediately decide to play pretend in the yard and in the garden, A treehouse becomes a castle in a faraway kingdom, and a scarecrow transforms into a fearsome giant eventually vanquished by the children’s’ powers of invisibility. Their celebration is cut short by rabbits turned zombies, thus necessitating an emergency teleportation to Mars. Once on Mars, bizarre creatures (chickens and ducks) are liberated from their prison coop, because the two friends “value freedom above all else.” Their return to their home planet goes awry, however, and the resulting situation may be their most dangerous yet.
I will not spoil the ending of the book, but suffice it to say that it is one with which many a child can identify. Written by André Marois (website in French), the text is sparse yet highly narrative, with rich vocabulary (teleport, delicacies, invisibility, zombies, etc.). The illustrations by Gérard DuBois have a major retro feel. Skin tones are depicted in a crosshatched pattern, for example, and the boy and the girl wear a skirt and short pants with suspenders to play outside. The colors are bold and vibrant, even punchy. Translated from French by Nick Frost and Catherine Ostiguy, this book has plenty of drama and action that would make for loads of read aloud fun.
Published by Canada based Milky Way Picture Books, We Would Pretend is beautifully produced. The spine is bound in green cloth, and the title is embossed vertically on the green portion. The pages are thick and substantial. These sensorial touches make this a very attractive book. Books are great for inspiring imaginative play, and this one suits the brief perfectly.
Title: We Would Pretend
Written by André Marois
Illustrated by Gérard DuBois
Translated from French by Nick Frost and Catherine Ostiguy
Milky Way Picture Books, 2022
Published simultaneously as On ferait comme si 2022, Comme des géant
You can purchase this book here.*
Reviews: Kirkus, Booklist, Canadian Review of Materials
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Klem-Marí Cajigas has been with Nashville Public Library since 2012, after more than a decade of academic training in Religious Studies and Ministry. As the Family Literacy Coordinator for Bringing Books to Life!, Nashville Public Library’s award-winning early literacy outreach program, she delivers family literacy workshops to a diverse range of local communities. In recognition of her work, she was named a 2021 Library Journal “Mover and Shaker.” Born in Puerto Rico, Klem-Marí is bilingual, bicultural, and proudly Boricua.