I genuinely look forward to receiving a new batch of Early Readers from this impressive publisher. We have already published several reviews on our website and remain impressed at the way in which they successfully marry eventful stories with detailed illustrations from a wide range of authors and illustrators. This latest selection is from the seventh band which is aimed at more confident young readers. All are ‘book banded for guided reading to the industry standard and edited by a leading educational consultant’.
The Barnyard Bakeoff by Katie Dale, illustrated by Chiara Florentino
Who would not be enticed to find out more about the cheery looking, apron-wearing chicken who is gazing with pleasure at the sumptuous-looking tiered cake on the front cover? We learn that this is Henrietta who works hard in her garden and kitchen. There is plenty of conversation between her various animal friends who are passing by, giving the reader opportunity to practice responding to speech marks and other relevant punctuation. Despite their curiosity, none of the creatures seem willing to help her with any chores, but they quickly return when they smell a baking cake. She is intending to enter it for a baking competition but then disaster strikes – what will the judge, Chef Ram-See say when he sees the mess? Luckily her kind friends pull together to help her out after all. This story has plenty of pace and jeopardy which is emphasised by a range of page layouts and colourful characters.
Hee-Haw! Yee-Haw! By Katie Dale, illustrated by Kristen Humphrey
Billy owns a pet donkey, Clover and together they have great fun playing at cowboy adventures. But one day, he realises that he has grown too big to ride Clover. And his dad presents him with a horse, Dash to ride instead (a very lucky boy). I liked the way that the narrative voice shifts to Clover who is increasingly desperate to find new friends now that she has been abandoned. Without spoiling the plot – let me reassure you that Billy soon realises that he still needs Clover very much.
Pet Show Disaster! By Elizabeth Dale, illustrated by Veronica Montoya
Another positive relationship between a child and her pet is the theme of this charming story. Jenny and her dog Jasper spend all their time together and so they are both keen to enter a local Pet Show. After plenty of practice and careful grooming, they are ready for the big day. Unfortunately, chasing a cat is a big distraction which means that both of them end up covered in mud and other mess. Even Jasper’s usual prowess at the obstacle course doesn’t work as planned! Despite all this, he still wins a very special prize, so there is a happy ending after all.
The Eager Beaver by Jenny Jinks, illustrated by Giusi Capizzi
Barry the Beaver is an ambitious character who clearly likes to live the good life. He lives in the forest where he decides to build the biggest dam ever, but soon realises that this isn’t the best idea. His grand plans have had consequences for the other animals in the forest because he has destroyed trees, bushes and even the river flow! He needs to have a rethink and appreciate what is really important in his life. I liked the strong environmental and community message in this one.
Any young readers who are lucky enough to use these imaginative little books will have plenty of practice with a range of sentences and interesting new vocabulary, and surely be keen to keep reading more. Comprehension is reinforced with the usual little quiz at the end of each story.