It has been such a delight over the past 3 years to see many new illustrated chapter for emerging readers. There are so many more possibilities for engaging readers early than there once was. I have especially dual-colour illustrated stories, where two colours are used for the illustrations. It makes them feel more like picture books but also gives them their own identity. Here’s a review of two great illustrated series. What’s great about both these books is that they have notices, checklists and letters, and not just continuous text. When my daughter was in year 2 (she’s now 12 so didn’t get to enjoy these books) it made such a difference when we found books that varied the type of text. For emerging readers reading even a short chapter can take a lot of effort so varying the style of text really helps.
Stick and Fetch Investigate: The Wrong End of the Stick by Phillip Ardagh and Elissa Elwick (Book 2)
This is book 2 in a fabulous series. However, thanks to the handy introduction to Sally Stick and her dog Fetch the reader doesn’t need to read book 1 first to really enjoy this.
Stick lives with her grandma. But at the start of this story her granny has gone into hospital so she has to go and stay with her uncle. I love how in one of the illustrations Phillip Ardagh has cast himself as the Uncle. Stick and her dog Fetch are detectives. In this book they try to solve 3 mysteries/crimes. What is hilarious is that each time they slightly mis-understand the task but things seem to some how work out in the end.
My favourite story in this collection is a glass half-full. Her Uncle asks if they can investigate and find his gold rimmed glasses, and the reward is sausages! So of course her dog is super keen to help!. You could ask some great question when reading this with children. For example you could ask: ‘What else could Stick’s uncle offer as a reward?’ “What would motivate you as a reward’?’
They look all over the house and discover lots of different shaped and sized drinking glasses. Some with and some with. This story would definitely encourage children to go off and do their own hide and seek.
Then Stick stumbles across an old type writers. A delightful addition to this short story is her writing a case summary on the type writer. Which as she explains unlike a computer you can’t correct the mistakes. Young kids are going to love spotting the mistakes in what she has written.
Then it turns out they were looking for a different sort of glasses entirely!
Highly recommend for 5 to 8 year olds.
Bad Panda by Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey
I was delighted to get an early copy of Bad Panda. A funny and highly illustrated new series by the duo who also wrote Dave Pigeon. A hilarious story featuring two Pandas immediately grabbed my attention. It is an entertaining and funny story about a Panda called Lin who is fed up of being cute and tries to be really bad. But, her attempts at being bad keep going wrong and the visitors at the zoo end up liking her even more! A characters that wants to be bad, who’s fed up of being called cute and ‘a-fluffy-wuffy-bear’, but who never quite managed to be bad is a great combination that I think children will really relate too.
The comic/graphic novel like strip of the conversations between Panda Lin and Panda Fu provide plenty of banter between the pair and laugh out loud humour. Whilst the pages with longer text develop Lin’s character and help you to see things from her perspective. Sheena Dempsey illustrations really bring the story to life and the expressions on the Panda’s faces help you to understand how they are feeling.
In the animal sanctuary where Lin grew up she was the cute one that visitors came to see. But, she was fed up of the pressure of always having to be well-behaved, keep clean and be on show. Swapna Haddow way of describing this (see below).
Lin loves to play with her big brother. Face-Like-A-Bag-of-Potatoes. But one day he does a massive poo in the carpark and is sent to live on the other side of the sanctuary. I love how Sheena Dempsey’s illustrations increase the scale of the poo! This is definitely a story where you need to look at the text AND the pictures.
There is an amusing meeting with two humans dressed up as Pandas. A monkey who befriends them and then hides in the zoo shop and pretends to be a cuddly monkey and the young King Cobra with a story to tell.
Towards the end when Lin the Panda thinks she has done something that will make the humans so mad she will have to be sent home. Things don’t turn out quite how she’d planned. There are some important messages about how captive animals should be treated and how zoos should be organised.
The quality of the whole book is exceptional and incredible value for money. I highly recommend this highly illustrated story for 7 to 10 year olds to read alone and as a great read aloud for 6 to 8 year olds. It’s a great book for developing readers but there is also a lot that would interest more confident readers looking for a more light-hearted read.