A Little Spark by Chris Parsons with illustrations by Mike Motz is an innovative children’s book about a courageous mouse that has to save his village of animal characters. The story is filled with many of the positive messages you want to see in a children’s book – kindness, believing in yourself, and not judging people too quickly. Some other themes, such as equality, are pleasant surprises in a kids book, especially when they are worked in subtly to the story.
A Little Spark is broken down into chapters. As a parent, I have found it is hard to find the right length of a book. Too long and you feel like you are reading forever but too short and you end up reading another book (by the way, I do love reading to my daughter). A Little Spark is a large book (159 pages) but the chapters break it down to manageable chunks.
While the story is solid (I found myself reading quickly to find out what happened), the innovation comes from its interactivity. Throughout the book there are QR codes that take you to a soundtrack of original songs that go with the story (the QR codes send you to a YouTube page). There are also some great discussion questions and activities at the end of the book. The website goes further, with more activities based on the book. The effort to expand the experience beyond the story is what sets this book apart.
So who will like A Little Spark? The chapters are mostly text, accented with whimsical pictures of its animal characters. As such, it may be enjoyed by young readers more than children accustomed to picture books with a few words. There are moments of peril as well (the bad guys catch and freeze the animal characters) and feelings of loss. The true benefits of the book’s interactivity will accrue to children who can understand and discuss the messages of the book. With that said, A Little Spark passed my 2 ½ year old bedtime reading test. While she wasn’t able to follow all of the text, she loved the pictures and the QR code soundtrack blew her mind. Using the code was as simple as pointing my phone camera at the code and clicking on the link. We ended up flipping through the book finding all the songs for her to listen to. While some of the songs were a bit hokey, my daughter really liked them. So, while she was younger than the target audience, we had a great time with the book.
This children’s’ book is an ambitious project that succeeds in pushing the boundaries of the it’s genre. I recommend checking it out for the deft way it includes positive messages without feeling forced and the interactive components that make it much more than a book. The wide variety of offerings (soundtrack, activities, website) means there is likely something everyone can enjoy.
A Little Spark is available on Amazon and at all other all major online bookstores and retail channels in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and beyond.
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