Autumn’s perfect for snuggling up under a duvet, with a hot chocolate and the latest good read. We were lucky enough to have been sent a few new books, which we’ll be enjoying as the nights close in.
What the Jackdaw Saw by Nick Sharratt and Julia Donaldson (Macmillan Children’s Books)
Written in partnership with deaf children, the story is about a jackdaw trying to invite people to a party. Nobody pays him any attention, but they do keep touching their heads. He learns too late (after crashing into a tree) that this means ‘danger’ in sign language. Then an owl teaches him to sign, he invites everyone to his party, and the story ends with a few more signs that the young readers can try out for themselves.
Out of my two children, my daughter (3) has enjoyed this book the most. She was drawn to the lively pictures and simple story; she’s requested it as bedtime reading several times. The book was perhaps a little too young for my son (almost 6), but he liked reading it for himself, and trying out the signs. He’s even been boasting at school about how he now knows some words in sign language. What the Jackdaw Saw sends out a positive message about disability, and different ways to communicate.
Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr (Puffin)
This has to be my favourite book of the season. Clever Polly is a re-issue of an old children’s classic, first published in 1955, which I’d never come across in my own childhood. It was written by Storr to calm her own daughter, Polly, who had developed a fear of wolves. In each chapter, a wolf tries to catch Polly through less than cunning tricks, and Polly always manages to outwit him. It’s funny and comforting in the way that books from the 1950s often manage to be.
My son (almost 6) was in fits of laughter over the wolf’s stupidity. Although my daughter (3) was able to follow the stories when I read them to her (it’s a chapter book, with an illustration every few pages), she said she was a little frightened of the wolf. But I’ll be reading it to her again in a couple of years’ time. I suspect this may well become a family favourite of ours.
Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere by Smiriti Prasadam-Halls and Lorena Alvarez (Parragon Books)
This is a bright, playful take on Hallowe’en. It follows children while they dress up, go trick-or-treating and take part in a Hallowe’en parade. The text is simple and describes the different pumpkins in the pictures, who all have different facial expressions and carvings.
The Hallowe’en described in this book is American in tone (one pumpkin is described as ‘mad’ rather than angry). Our own Hallowe’en celebrations aren’t quite on the scale of those seen across the Atlantic, but we’re swiftly catching up, and both my children recognised the traditions in Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere. The story was a little simple for my daughter (3), but she enjoyed the vibrant illustrations, and it was a good book for helping my son (5) practice his reading.
Spot-A-Lot: Vehicles Jigsaw by Steve Smallman and Nicola Slater (Parragon Books)
This would be a good book to take away as entertainment for a long weekend, as it comes in a carry case and includes a book as well as a jigsaw. The book follows a missing package as it’s transported from page to page, but the real fun lies in spotting the dog in each picture (it’s a bit like Where’s Wally, only not so difficult). Readers are also asked to find and count different objects on each page – white vans, blue planes etc, so it’s a good aid for learning to count. The jigsaw features a picture from the book, so children can use that as a guide, and the reverse side is black-and-white, for colouring in.
The spotting and counting was a bit difficult for my three-year-old, although she enjoyed the challenge. My son, on the other hand, had a great time finding the dog on each page (who even I found tricky to see sometimes). This is the sort of pack it would be fun to sit down and play with as a family.
The Giant of Jum by Elli Woollard and Benji Davies (Pan Macmillan)
In this reworking of Jack and the Beanstalk, the giant finds some children and wants to eat them. But they ask for his help – in retrieving a ball which is stuck up a fountain, rescuing a cat from a tree, and helping a tired little boy by giving him a lift. They refuse to believe he’s bad or scary, and he ends up being the kind giant they believe him to be. I thought this was a heart-warming message to send out to children.
I read The Giant of Jum with my daughter (3) and, as far as giant stories go, I thought this was the best one I’d come across for her age group. She enjoyed the plot, and the vibrant, friendly illustrations.
Which books are you reading this Autumn?
I was sent these books by the publishers, to read and review. All views are my own.