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Book reviews: 4-7 years

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By Sheena Hurst and Sam Ratcliffteachers and job share partners

Sheena Hurst and Sam Ratcliff, job share partners at St Paul’s School in Chippenham, get their class twittering over a selection of bird books

Miki

Miki by Stephen Mackey (Hodder Children’s Books, ISBN 9780340950647)

Miki is a beautifully crafted and atmospheric story set in an icy, dark, distant place. The language of the story has a poetic, rhythmic and expressive quality. The book introduces us to the main character Miki, in her furry winter clothes, and her companion, Penguin. We know that something special is about to take place because the first words in the book are ‘On Midwinter Eve when an icy wind blew, The Moon weaved her magic and wishes came true.’ Miki expresses her wish to Penguin, saying ‘I wish we could find just a little tree’. As she says this on Midwinter Eve, the Moon’s magic becomes apparent.

This is a story that explores several themes including adventure, friendship and courage. The author blends fantasy with wonder, and builds suspense in a subtle yet effective way. The children in our class were especially fascinated by the giant eye of the mother octopus.

Super Duck

Super Duck by Jez Alborough (HarperCollins, ISBN 9780007273263)

Super Duck is a fun, playful and action-packed picture book. The bright, clear pictures and rhythmic text encourage the reader to join the characters on their adventure. As the wind begins to blow and a kite (plus little Frog!) rises into the skies, we find that we are hoping that Frog’s friends will work together to rescue him. At this point Super Duck dons the classic garments of a super hero: the cape and the mask. He possesses the energy and confidence of a super hero, but unfortunately doesn’t quite grasp the notion that he will need his friends’ help when the wind takes more than the kite into the air!

The story gives Super Duck an opportunity to prove himself as a true super hero. Our children in Class 4 loved this idea – ‘The story is good because there is a super hero in it’, said Charley.

The Little Lost Robin

The Little Lost Robin by Elizabeth Baguley and Tina Macnaughton (Little Tiger Press, ISBN 9781845065645)

This story is about a friendship between a hare and a little robin. Hare is old and stiff, and spends his time daydreaming – until one day he hears a lovely cheerful tune being sung by a little robin. Hare visits Robin in the wood every day to listen and dance to Robin’s song, but one night there is a dreadful storm and Hare feels certain that Robin has been lost forever. Hare can’t imagine life without Robin and, despite his age and stiffness, determines to find his friend.

The story left us all with a warm, fuzzy feeling – ‘I’m so glad Hare danced again!’ said one child. We had a lovely discussion about how friends do not necessarily have to be the same age to enjoy each others’ company, and the many benefits of different age friendships.

Birdwatching

Birdwatching with Birdsongs by Susanna Davidson, Sarah Courtauld and Kate Davies (Usborne Naturetrail, ISBN 9780746095751)

This is a really informative little book which we felt would be a good introduction to bird watching. The book comes with the added bonus of a CD containing 40 birdsongs, which we had a wonderful time listening to! The book itself is packed with information and has a good mix of photographs and illustrations. The children used the book to find out about the birds that featured in the other books we had reviewed. There is also a handy hint or a fantastic fact on every page, which the children really enjoyed reading.

Our class were really enthused by the information on feeding garden birds – so much so that we used the instructions on how to make a bird feeder when looking at instruction texts.

Little Goose Goes Out of Step

Little Goose Goes Out of Step by Jean-Francois Dumont (Zero to Ten Ltd, ISBN 9781840895407)

This story is set on a farm and tells the tale of a gaggle of geese marching to the pond for their morning wash. Igor is the goose in charge and is proud of the way that the geese march in step. This particular morning, however, there is a difference. Discovering that the new goose Zita has unintentionally upset the march, Igor angrily sends her back to walk on her own.

Zita walks back to the pond making her familiar sound: One, Two, Splat; One, Two, Splat. On her way, other animals hear the ‘tune’ and all add their own accompaniments. By the time Zita gets to the pond, a parade of singing and dancing animals are following her having a great time!

The story is ideal for reading aloud, and our children loved joining in with the chorus! We used the story as an opportunity to talk about feelings and how change can often be a positive thing.

Oscar and the Bird

Oscar and the Bird: a Book about Electricity by Geoff Waring (Walker Books, ISBN 9781406308136)

This book introduces us to Oscar, who is a curious kitten, and Bird, who is able to answer all of curious Oscar’s questions about electricity. The two characters meet in a tractor in the countryside, where Oscar by mistake has switched the tractor’s windscreen wipers on. Observant Bird swoops down to help Oscar understand what he has done, and a conversation between the characters begins.

Although the book is predominately non-fiction in style, our interest in the subject matter and the characters was sustained in a similar way to our interest in a fiction text. The dialogue between the friends assists this and before we knew it, we had learned a lot about electricity! An index can be found at the end of the book along with a summary of the story and explanatory pictures.

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