The Little Green Boat: Children’s picture book review

A look at the first picture book in the Wild Imagination of Willy Nilly series by Chris Stead, which is out on the App Store and Amazon Kindle now.

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It must be amazing to experience life through a child’s eyes, where the rules of the real world do not apply and anything is still possible. The Wild Imagination of Willy Nilly is a new children’s picture book series by Australian author Chris Stead that explore this theme. Willy Nilly is a young boy whose everyday normal activities spiral into epic adventures as the world as it is, and the world as Willy sees it, merge into one. Willy’s unstoppable imagination soon takes control and a rollicking quest for excitement unfolds.

Book one of the series, The Little Green Boat, begins on a particularly hot day when Willy Nilly and his family decide to visit the beach. Off exploring the coastline, Willy stumbles on a curious little green boat, but upon jumping aboard a big wave appears and washes him out to sea. Alone and hungry, he enlists the help of a pair of dolphins, who guide him to a secret island where he must brave monkeys, bats, crocodiles and more to find a treasure and a way home.

With a visual style described as a mix of modern video games and Eastern anime TV shows, The Little Green Boat is bright and colourful. A great book for kids aged 2 to 8, it captures that sense of excitement and fun you might expect from Disney's Pixar films. The Little Green Boat is available now through iBooks, and through Amazon for the Kindle and the Kindle app.

Learn more about Willy Nilly here.

About the author

Chris Stead is a father of three, born and raised on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. He is best known for his contributions to the local video games industry as a multi-award winning editor, including 2013 Journalist of the Year, of magazines and websites such as Game Informer. In late 2013 he formed Old Mate Media, a publishing channel for independent digital books and magazines. Chris also consults and writes for a number of high profile brands across Australia.

How to use The Little Green Boat in a learning context

Recommended for stage 1 (years 1 and 2)

Chris Stead’s The Little Green Boat is reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are in the sense that is follows the adventures of a young boy with a wild imagination into an exciting fantasy world, albeit one derived from his everyday activities.

Picture books like The Little Green Boat and Where the Wild Things Are allow students to consider how combining visual and printed texts to tell a story can achieve a deeper understanding of a text’s allegorical and symbolic significance. Below are some activities teachers and parents can use with The Little Green Boat in the classroom or at home.

For parents and teachers: Drawing connections between similar texts:

  • Stage 1 - English - Reading and viewing 1: Discuss different texts on a similar topic, identifying similarities and differences between the texts - NSW Syllabus, Reading and Viewing 1

Read The Little Green Boat in conjunction with one of the classics below and ask your children/students to point out the similarities in theme and imagery between the two.

TitleAuthorConnecting theme
Where the Wild Things AreMaurice SendakImagination
McElligot’s PoolDr SeussImagination
All the WorldLiz Garton ScanlonBeach, family

For parents: Critical thinking skills

Research has shown that reading with your child each night has great benefits on their ongoing development of reading and comprehension skills. Below are a number of questions you can ask your child before reading, while reading and after reading to help them critically evaluate the images and words on the page. The Little Green Boat is particularly effective, as the text is not shown until tapped.

Before reading
  • Look at the cover and ask what they think the story will be about.*
  • Flip to the first page. Without revealing the text, ask your child what they think is happening on the page. Elaborate on what your child says, e.g. “What is it about the picture that makes you think that?” Once they’ve given their evaluation, reveal the text and discuss how close their analysis was to the actual story.
  • Point to a character's face (preferably showing joy or sadness) and ask your child to identify how the character is feeling.
While reading
  • What is the main idea of the story? e.g. “What do you think this story is about?”
  • Find words your child may not know on the page and ask what they think it could mean given the context of the story.
  • Ask your child if they can explain the plot (problem or obstacle, resolution etc.).
  • Before revealing the text on the screen predict and discuss* what is happening in each scene.
After reading
  • Explore the author’s intent e.g. “Why do you think the author wrote this book? Was it to entertain or inform?*
  • Ask your child to summarise the sequence events from The Little Green Boat.***

*Stage 1 - English - Thinking imaginatively and creatively: Predict and discuss ideas drawn from picture books and digital stories
** Stage 1 - English - Reading and viewing 2: Discuss possible author intent and intended audience of a range of texts
***Stage 1 - English - Reading and viewing 1: Sequence a summary of events and identify key facts or key arguments in imaginative, informative and persuasive texts.

Outcomes taken from the English K-10 NSW Syllabus

What is iBooks?

iBooks is an application for iOS devices (iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch) that can read documents submitted to Apple by authors in either the PDF or ePub formats, and then approved for sale. Downloading the iBooks app is free from the App Store if you are on the operating system iOS7 or earlier – if you bought your iOS device before September 2014 and haven’t updated it, then this is you. For those of you who have updated to iOS8 or iOS9, or bought your iOS device after October 2014, iBooks is already installed and is ready to be used.

How to find the best children’s book on iOS?

iBooks can be submitted in two main forms to Apple for approval; fixed layout or reflowable. The latter is generally reserved for longer form novels, where images aren’t important. The text simply flows from page to page, and the user is able to change the font size and type as suits their eyesight, with the text just pushing onto a new page as required. Images can be locked into place on certain pages, but the text will push past and around them, meaning the images rarely match the text.

When looking for a Children’s Book for toddlers and kids generally aged 10 and under, you are more likely to be looking for a Fixed Layout ePub. Frequently termed a picture book, these iBooks lock the text in place, and generally put the focus on the image. This allows the author to place text on an image that cannot be resized and, as such, pushed onto another page. This also allows the book’s designer to include interactive elements and rich media that suit the theme of that page.

In the Willy Nilly series, for example, a theme tune plays when you first enter the book, and buttons on each page can be pushed by the child to bring up the text or close it on each page. Other little animations help bring the experience to life.

How to buy an iBook?

If not presented with a direct link to the iBook you wish to buy, then you simply need to open the iBooks app on your iOS device, type in the name of the book or the author in the search bar, and wait for it to appear. Buying the iBook from that point follows the same procedure as most apps – enter your password and wait for it to download. However, the iBook will not appear on your desktop, but will instead appear in the virtual library that appears in the iBooks app. So to read the downloaded ibook, simply open the iBooks app, and then select the cover of the title you want to read.

What is the difference between an iBook and an App?

An iBook is not iOS code in the traditional sense. An iBook is either a PDF or an ePub (which is built from HTML and is effectively a focused mini-website). The iBooks app is the program that is capable of reading the PDF or the ePub and displaying it on your iOS device so you can interact with it and enjoy it. Think of the book as a document and iBooks as Microsoft Word. If you don’t have Word installed, the .doc file will not open and display with the correct formatting.

An app, on the other hand, is pure code and includes everything that is required to turn that code into something usable within the downloaded app. It exists like its own little island within the iOS ecosystem and is not dependent on something external to read the code and present it.

Why can’t I find an iBook when I search for it in the App Store?

Because an iBook is not an app, it does not appear in the App Store. Searching for a book by typing in things like The Little Green Boat or Willy Nilly or Chris Stead in the App Store will not reveal the book above. Instead, you need to use the search function within the iBooks app, as they exist in their own store. Thankfully, you can use your existing Apple account to purchase a book through the iBooks store – it works in much the same way as making an In-App Purchase in traditional apps.

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