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Reviews from 4—7 years

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By Celia PowellYear 1 teacher and literacy coordinator, St Edward’s Catholic Primary School

Year 1 children from St Edward’s Primary School in South Derbyshire review the latest fairytales fluttering into the shops

Andersen's Fairy Tales

Andersen’s Fairy Tales by Friederun Reichenstetter and Silke Leffler

(North-South books, ISBN 9780735821415)

This is a sparkling collection of tales from Hans Christian Andersen (I loved the quote from him that says, ‘Life is the most wonderful fairytale’). The stories include ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, ‘The Ugly Duckling’ and ‘The Little Match Girl’ – although the less familiar ones proved just as popular. My class’ firm favourite was ‘The Princess and the Pea’. The story involves a very snooty princess, pictured balancing on a huge pile of mattresses and also on a giant pea (which provoked much laughter). The text also provided plenty of opportunities for me to speak like the Queen! Andersen’s Fairy Tales contains many engaging stories, simply told and amusingly illustrated. We also liked ‘There Is No Doubt’, a dire warning of the dangers of careless gossip; the hens are pictured as chatty ladies with glamorous handbags – much appreciated!

Far away the fairies fly

Far Away the Fairies Fly by Jane Simmons (Orchard Books, ISBN 9781846162176)

Bursting with colour and movement, Far Away the Fairies Fly is a winner! I used it in a whole-school assembly, and even the Year 6s were entranced. (Comments included ‘simple and well-illustrated’, ‘fantastic bright pictures, very easy to read’, and ‘a good bedtime story’.) The story has a cosy beginning, with Jamie and his dad reading together on a wild, windy night. The next thing, a perilous quest is launched to find a safe place with no thunder. The children and their furry friends swim in azure seas, brave a dark tunnel, find a fairy castle, run through a brilliant blue rainstorm, and create a spectacular rainbow that sends the thunder away – ’”I magicked it away!” said Jamie, “I must be a fairy after all!”’ This is an enormously satisfying and comforting book; one of my more reluctant Year 1 boy readers even asked, hopefully, if the book could live at his house now.

The Twin Giants

The Twin Giants by Dick King-Smith and Mini Grey (Walker Books, ISBN 9781406300703)

From the pen of a familiar favourite, here we have an entertaining tale of giant brothers named Normus and Lottavim (think about it!). Although they have terrible singing voices and have an important difference – one is a vegetarian and the other loves meat – the twins lead a happy life. That is until their parents die (giants don’t live very long apparently), and they are inspired to search for a bride – one each, obviously. After a hugely entertaining quest, they meet twin sisters, fall in love and live happily ever after. I found that this story was an excellent one for generating questions; the children stopped at points throughout the book for discussion. Talking points included, Why do giants grow so tall? Why do they like rolling boulders down the hill? and Do they ever argue with each other? Much food for thought here.

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The Enormous turnip

Mr Wolf and the Enormous Turnip by Jan Fearnly (Egmont Books, ISBN 9781405234368)

This story is a cautionary tale of what happens if you don’t keep your promises. With echoes of the original classic tale of ‘The Enormous Turnip’, in this version a prince has been turned into a frog. The prince promises Mr Wolf that his servants will pull up the turnip, providing Mr Wolf helps him find a willing princess to kiss. The first princess is outraged (‘Get lost… I’m not kissing a slimy frog’) but finally a spare, rather oily princess is found fixing a car in the royal garage. She obliges in return for turnip stew – her favourite – but, sadly, the prince has feet of clay. Year 1s were outraged at the prince breaking his promise, and liked the way all the friends helped Mr Wolf in the end. The illustrations made them chuckle, too. The bonus of a CD with songs and story also adds appeal; we loved this one.

The Frog Bride

The Frog Bride by Antonia Barber and Virginia Lee (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, ISBN 9781845074760)

Continuing with the frog theme here, this story is a more traditional tale of a rebellious prince. When told to fire an arrow into the air and seek his bride where it falls, the prince shoots wildly into the forest in the hope of making his own choice. The arrow lands beside a frog (female this time) and a wonderful story follows. It involves a quest for an enchanted princess who can make wine drip from her fingertips (very useful!) but has to live inside a frog costume until someone trusts her enough to marry her as a frog. The gorgeous Arabian Nights-style pictures glow mysteriously as we follow the prince on his desperate mission to find and win his princess. There are lots of potential talking points in the pictures, which could also inspire some exciting art work.

The Fairyland Olympics

The Fairyland Olympics by Meg Clibbon and Lucy Clibbon (Zero to Ten, ISBN 9781840895049)

A splendid amount of glitter and detail, and interesting fold-out pages, intrigued my Year 1s regarding this book. The spoof authors also amused them (‘Mighty Meg would be the first to admit that she lacks sporting talent, despite having several gifted relatives…’) In the story a wizard returns excitedly from the land of humans, keen to stage a ‘great big sporting party’ like the human Olympic Games. There are many difficulties – for instance, alternative toadstool homes have to be offered to grumpy fairies displaced by the extensive preparations. A final touch provides instructions on organising your own Olympic events, and concludes: ‘It is amazing how many of the competitors who started off by thinking that they were the best now realise that others were better and it doesn’t really matter because it was all so much fun taking part.’ A book suitable for a wide age range due to its subtle humour.