How You Choose empowers children - and celebrates difference

Published on: 06 June 2018 Author: Nick Sharratt

When illustrator Nick Sharratt teamed up with Pippa Goodhart for their book You Choosehe had no idea of the impact it would have on children...

You ChooseNearly 20 years ago, when Pippa first told me about her idea for a catalogue-style picture book, I knew right away it was a wonderful concept.

I'd got so much pleasure from poring over my gran's Green Shield Stamps catalogues when I was a boy, picking out all the things I'd be needing in my fantasy future life (a garden hammock, a dartboard and cuckoo clock were always priorities).

And when You Choose was published BookTrust liked it too, and really helped put it on the map by including it in the Bookstart packs.

Now, whenever I do a book event I know for sure that at some point I'll be asked to sign a really dog-eared copy of You Choose: the cover in tatters, pages held together with sellotape and even, on occasion, actual holes worn through the book from so much handling.

The owners are sometimes a bit embarrassed by the state of their book but, truly, nothing makes me happier than to see a You Choose that's been picked up and engaged with so much that it's literally falling apart.

A much-loved copy of You Choose

A different game for every reader

From the chats that would follow I'd got an insight into how loved the book can sometimes be. But when I was asked to write this piece I put out a request on Twitter and Instagram for thoughts about the You Choose series, and the response was amazing.

Pippa's apparently simple idea has led to something wonderfully multi-faceted, with the potential to be, in a huge number of cases, so much more than an entertaining read. 'Empowering' was the word that cropped up repeatedly in the feedback.

I got lots of tweets about how different families enjoy the books. Some have rules or play games, invented mostly by the children. You can each choose three things on a page, or five things, or things beginning with the same letter as your name.

You can choose things for each other or for Grandad or an imaginary character.

You must make up a story using your choice from each spread. You must act out your choices. You can't choose the same thing as someone else (there are lots of comments on how the books are great for encouraging empathy, respect and kindness between siblings).

Starting conversations

Then again, there don't have to be any rules. More than anything the books are described as brilliant catalysts for conversation, for helping children express themselves.

I had many tweets from the parents or carers of adopted or fostered children, children with disabilities, children in socially disadvantaged situations or children going through disturbing periods of transition.

For these young people, the books had been particularly useful and reassuring, celebrating, as they do, the fact that we're all different, and showing that making your own choices can feel good, that 'life is about change'.

There was a lot of feedback too from teachers and educators, counsellors and speech therapists. Throughout schools in the UK and abroad the books are used in myriad ways to develop language skills and vocabulary, to stimulate imagination and creativity, to open up discussions on aspirations and careers, gender equality, 'philosophical issues that connect with their lives'.

They've proved invaluable with children for whom English is an additional language and with new arrivals. They've been used to help teach maths, science, geography, and read with every age level from toddlers to teens.

The next step

You Choose in Space

Now Pippa and I have created You Choose in Space, which we hope will prove just as popular as the first two books. We're taking you on an exciting, inclusive intergalactic experience!

The catalogue formula remains the same but everything - the clothes, the food, the animals, the buildings, the jobs - has been given an extra-terrestrial twist, which, we'd like to think, will stimulate imaginations even more!

A huge thank you to everyone who took the time and trouble to reply to my tweet and Instagram post.

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Our review

You Choose In Space

Author: Pippa Goodhart Illustrator: Nick Sharratt

You choose how this story unfolds, so a new adventure can be enjoyed each time of reading. A spectacular book to stimulate creative storytelling and language development, full of vibrant illustration. Not to be missed!

Read more about You Choose In Space

About Nick Sharratt

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Want to know more about Nick Sharratt? Check out his biography here and discover a selection of the other books he's worked on.


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