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How to be Cooler than Cool by Sean Taylor. Illustrated by Jean Jullien

A vivid, humorous picture book which teaches us the importance of being ourselves, rather than being “cool”. Ages 4+. Review originally published on the Just Imagine website.

Four animal friends, Cat, Pig, Cockatoo and Chick, are at the playground when Cat finds a pair of sunglasses. Putting them on, Cat immediately feels “cool” and tells us that he is not just any old cat, but he is “a real cool cat” who can go backwards down the slide. However, disaster strikes, and Cat ends up falling down the slide. Similar disasters befall Pig and Cockatoo when they wear the sunglasses; both show-off on the equipment while feeling “cooler than cool” and both end up falling off.

Eventually, Chick picks up the glasses. Despite warnings from her friends that they will make her think she can do “cool” things, she puts them on. Yet, she just wears them as she plays sensibly on the equipment, and they all have a wonderful time. Chick proves that you can have the best fun by just being yourself and playing sensibly with your friends. The message at the end is that this is “cooler than cool”.

‘How to be Cooler than Cool’ is a simple story with an important, positive message about self-image, told with lots of humour and colourful, engaging illustrations. The combination of striking slapstick images and accompanying colloquial language is funny and will appeal to young readers. Yet, the book gives clear messages about being ourselves, rather than projecting an image of something we are not. Each of the animals becomes so enraptured with their “cool” persona, that they become over-excited and begin to show-off, which leads to, at best, looking silly or, at worst, hurting themselves. Only when Chick shows that she does not feel the need to change to be “cool”, do the friends have real fun.

Suggestions for use

This is a fun read-aloud for story time and provides lots of opportunity for prediction and shared reading based on the repetitive narrative structure, as well as being an intriguing discussion stimulus: what does being cool mean? Who is the coolest character in the end? Why did the sunglasses change most of the characters but not Chick? Did the sunglasses really change them? Have you ever felt like any of the characters?

This would also make a good core text for Early Years or Key Stage 1. It provides ample learning opportunities across all areas of the EYFS curriculum and would be a suitable text for Key Stage 1 English, particularly Year 1. The text is a good model for the children’s own writing and lots of fun could be had through re-telling, adapting and role-playing the story. The simplistic language is mostly a mix of high frequency and decodable words, making this an appropriate text for Key Stage 1 independent or guided reading as well.

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How to be Cooler than Cool by Sean Taylor. Illustrated by Jean Jullien

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