As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words. Having read Joanna Grace’s new story, Voyage to Arghan, the saying needs to be updated. This beautifully illustrated book is a “sensory story”, with each page suggesting a sensory experience which the reader, or “story experiencer” can take part in.
The book includes a fascinating and highly useful preface from the author which explains the concept of a sensory story. It explains the best way to share one with a child or children. It also offers a list of the resources you should prepare beforehand so that everyone gets the most from the experience. Joanna Grace emphasises that the sensory elements of the book are equal with the words and pictures. You are encouraged to settle into a rhythm as your progress through the book. Beginning by hearing the words, then enjoying the accompanying picture and finally experiencing the sensory reflection.
The story itself is about Nila, a girl who has won the “First Child in Space” competition. Nila blasts off on an adventure to the far away planet of Arghan, in search of the rare Polgrin feather. Helen Lanzrein’s illustrations are as understated as they are beautiful. She captures that essential style of early years illustration which provides enough detail for young minds to relate to, but is confident to rely on larger sections of cleverly textured colour where detail would be overbearing.
Joanna’s creativity in the sensory elements of the book is equal to the imagination of the story itself. Her use of technical sensory terms such as “proprioceptive” and “vestibular” will reassure fellow experts in children’s additional needs and ordinary parents alike that her credentials as the creator of this book are sound. Some of the suggested experiences require no resources; such as rolling back and raising our feet in the air like Nila did when her rocket took off. (The additional guidance for facilitating this experience for a child in a wheel chair is another lovely indication of the author’s passion for inclusion.) Other activities require some limited preparation, such as the sourcing of coloured cellophane with which the visual experience of Arghan’s seven suns can be recreated.
It was a delight to experience Voyage to Arghan for the first time, and I’m already looking forward to sharing it with a group of children as soon as possible!