The Small Five / Scapegoat

The Small Five
Ralph Johnstone and Harriet Stanes
Little Steps Publishing

The “Big Five’ of Africa are the lion, the elephant, the leopard, the rhino and the buffalo, known the world over. In this subtly humorous rhyming story Ralph Johnstone tells how these are the creatures that ruled supreme in wild life habitats until the Small Five (Buffalo weaver, Elephant Shrew, Antlion, Rhinoceros Beetle and Leopard Tortoise decide to take them on.

We learn what happens as The Battle of The Bush unfolds. With Doc the Croc as referee, there are five challenges focussing on different skills each time, with a representative of the Big and Small teams participating …

Which side will emerge as the winners?

The theme of this tale is summed up in Old Doc’s closing speech, “ And it’s time we all realise / that being big and tough isn’t ever enough’. Size alone does not equate to an animal’s (or a child’s) worth and nobody should be judged on size and stature alone – definitely something to be discussed at home or in school.

Harriet Stanes’ lively, amusing illustrations move readers, along with the action, through different parts of the African landscape adding fun details as well as zoological ones.

Part of the proceeds of sales of the book will through the purchase of produce from Nairobi’s Organic Farmers’ Market go to supporting children living in Kenya’s Children’s home.

Cleverly constructed this is an enjoyable, thought-provoking read aloud.

Scapegoat
Ava Keyes and Alexandra Szmidt
Little Steps Publishing

There are lots of picture books that deal with bullying but I’ve not come across one before that looks at bullying at home. Debut author Ava Keyes presents in her rhyming narrative a story of a family member that always gets the blame when others, young and adult feel angry or frustrated about something. So deep does this cut the young Scapegoat that sometimes even at school, which he loves on account of his friend Harry, the little character feels overwhelmed by shame.

On one such occasion, Harry notices his pal’s tearfulness and alerts their teacher thus allowing Scapegoat to share how he feels. Mr Sheep’s response is ‘Never apologise for what you feel. / It’s like saying sorry for being real’.

He goes on to explain that adults, in spite of doing their best, do get things wrong at times.

He has a talk with dad and mum who eventually see what has been happening to their son who then starts to believe in himself: ‘Inside he knew that he could cope, / Scapegoat had help now, he had found hope,’

Through the story (despite occasional clunks in the rhyme) combined with Alexandra Szmidt’s expressive, mixed media illustrations readers are shown that confiding in a trusted friend or adult, along with finding their own inner strength, are effective when it comes to dealing with bullying.

This is a useful book to have in a foundation/ KS1classroom collection.

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