Jack and the Beanstalk & Cinderella / Vocabulary Ninja Workbooks

Jack and the Beanstalk

Stephen Tucker and Nick Sharratt
Macmillan Children’s Books

When I was a KS1 class teacher these lift-the-flap fairy tales were very popular with children just taking off as readers. The fact that youngsters were in the main already familiar with the stories, their rhyming texts, and Nick’s trademark cartoon bright, bold humorous illustrations made them ideal choices for confidence building as well as entertainment and getting across the vital reading is fun message.

Now with new editions that include a QR code to scan to access audio versions read by actor Anna Chancellor, the playful, witty tellings will be sure fire winners with a new generation of learner readers and listeners in school or at home.

Vocabulary Ninja Workbooks
Andrew Jennings
Bloomsbury Education

This series of six vocabulary books is intended to support home learning. There is one for each year group from Y1 through to Y6 ie covering both KS1 and KS2 and providing the vocabulary likely to be needed in the National Curriculum topics such as geography, history and science.

With most children missing a lot of school over the past eighteen months these books are likely to be a boon for parents struggling to help their youngsters and not knowing where to turn.

Aiming to extend vocabulary and literacy skills in general in a fun, imaginative way, the activities on the pages of each book are grouped into levels: grasshopper, shin obi, warrior, samurai, assassin and grand master. In his introduction, the author (a teacher) suggests that a child should attempt to do the first two levels as independently as possible while from level three and beyond, he recommends some adult support to ensure full understanding. However those of us who are teachers or work in education will know that a great deal of differentiation may be required within a class, so parents will have to be guided by their own judgement and assuredly children will enjoy some adult interaction.

With their colourful graphics, straightforward instructions and activities that never overwhelm,

these books offer engaging and much-needed support and empowerment for learning at home, especially at present.

David Roberts’ Delightfully Different Fairy Tales / Pippi Longstocking Goes Aboard

These are two special gift editions with Christmas in mind

David Roberts’ Delightfully Different Fairy Tales
written by Lynn Roberts-Maloney
Pavilion Books

This sumptuous edition brings together three of the brother and sister team’s fairy tales previously published as separate books, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty. Lynn’s texts written with enormous verve and David’s magnificent illustrations that set each of the stories in a different era combine to re-energise tales from way back making readers experience them with fresh eyes, ears and hearts.

For Cinderella we’re transported to the art deco 1920s, age of flapper girls and glamour, where Greta’s (aka Cinderella) stepsisters, are Elvira (the wicked one) and Ermintrude (she’s exceedingly dim).

Her fairy godmother is a fashionista and her stepmother is a stone cold-hearted bullying female who immediately evicts Greta from her room giving it to her own offspring instead.

Rapunzel is set in the 1970s when platform shoes were all the rage. The beautiful miss in this version has a red-haired stunner as its star and she resides in a tower block flat, (or rather is imprisoned by her Aunt Edna who owns a ghastly pet crow).

Edna insists that safety is the reason for her niece’s current incarceration, and she uses occasional gifts of second-hand records and magazines to placate the girl, promising to show her the city sights once she’s older. Said aunt is employed as a school dinner lady, one who almost force feeds her charges with such ghastly fare as lumpy custard. Enter stage left, young Roger, lead singer of the school band. Could he be the one to rescue the red-haired damsel?

Sleeping Beauty has an entirely female cast, a 1950s vibe and a science fiction loving young lady Annabel who on her first birthday, falls under the evil spell of spiteful witch Morwenna, and wakes many more years later than the sixteen she’d first thought.

If you know somebody (or several people) who love fairy tales, then buy them this totally brilliant book: I’m going to have to invest in several copies this season. And, KS2 teachers just think of the potential this offers in the classroom.

Pippi Longstocking Goes Aboard
Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Lauren Child
Oxford University Press

This bumper book with superbly spirited, full-colour illustrations by Lauren Child (who better to illustrate this Pippi 75th anniversary edition?) is an ideal present for a lively child with an inquiring mind, and a cracking way to bring Pippi, fellow residents of Villa Villekulla, monkey, Mr Nilsson and her horse – the one she can lift with her super strength – (strictly speaking he lives on the veranda), and her next-door friends, Annika and Tommy, alive to a new generation of readers and listeners.

The episodes herein include that where Pippi gets a trifle carried away when she goes on a shopping spree with a pocketful of golden coins. The consequences are pretty unlikely (unless you’re Pippi) with a bit of bother over a false arm and whether or not the particular shop is self-service. She also gets carried away in the sweet shop buying rather an excessive amount of sugary confectionery, and uses her common sense in the pharmacy.

Another time there’s an addition to the school role, though only briefly; Pippi also livens up the school outing;

has an encounter with a rather large ’kitty’, she gets shipwrecked and almost leaves her ‘more organised’ Villa Villekulla life and sails away with her father to live a thoroughly disorganised one.

Hours of pleasure visual and verbal, lie between the two covers of this gift edition.

The Last Book Before Bedtime

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The Last Book Before Bedtime
Nicola O’Byrne
Nosy Crow
I’m a huge fan of books that play around with fairy tales and loved the author’s previous Open Very Carefully and Use Your Imagination so couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this one. It more than lives up to expectation.
The stars are three porcine siblings – a soccer enthusiast, a bibliophile and er, a cake lover and of course, where there are three little pigs, there absolutely HAS to be a BIG BAD WOLF.
Right! Intros over, it’s time to get on with the bedtime story – the most important story of the whole day no less. There go the little pigs on their house-building sortie and as we all know, Number One Pig is going to construct with straw – or maybe not for, before that “… out of straw!” utterance has left his lips he’s interrupted by a certain young miss demanding inclusion in the storybook; moreover she’s already setting her sights on a movie and associated merchandise. And with such comments as “No one’s going to want to watch a film with you pork chops in it.” miss Cinderella is something of an insult hurler too.
Despite all this, and some reluctance on the pigs’ part, the narrator seems ready to include young Cinderella and cast the three of them into HER story. At least one little pig is happy to go with the flow though.

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Oh oh! Now who’s this demanding to be part of the plot? And she’s got a BBW in tow. Time for a quick cast reshuffle.

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Here we go again … “Once upon a time there was a little girl whose cloak had a beautiful red hood … beware of the BIG BAD WOLF!” (Thought it was too good to last; but we have got to page fifteen before he puts in an appearance and even then it seems he’s about to get the brush off.) “… Cinderella, you can be Little Red’s mother, pig number two, you’re the granny. And wolf, you’re not in this bit.” (There you are.) Seemingly even those who DO have parts are not satisfied …
So, off skips LRRH and whom should she meet …

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More dissent, followed by a narratorial ticking off of the cast and can you believe it – yet more dissent; those characters really do need taking to task before something truly terrible happens.
WHAT? I cannot believe my eyes …

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With the book in tiny pieces, is that the end before the whole thing’s even really begun? Or can that motley crew possibly co-construct a plot to please them all? Perhaps, but only if it’s got romance, humour, danger – no prizes for guessing who asks for that, excitement and one more vital ingredient – cake!
On with the show … let’s hope that no matter what, it has a suitably soporific outcome …
A riotous metafictional romp if ever there was one; and a real gift to those who, like this reviewer, enjoy throwing themselves heart and soul into reading aloud.
All my audiences of 5 to 8s have demanded immediate rereads.

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The cast of characters from one group

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‘Little Pig, Little Pig …’

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The Three Little Pigs
illustrated by Ed Bryan
Nosy Crow
Ed Bryan’s funky illustrations for this somewhat truncated version of the nursery favourite are full of humour. That the third little pig uses a kit to construct his brick house is a source of amusement to young audiences as are the three day-glow colour pots of paint

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he uses to adorn the exterior and it’s good to see evidence of his use of wind power. The Big Bad Wolf is rather a hoot too, sporting red plaid shorts and a baker’s hat. Even so he manages to scare the first and second little pigs as they cower inside the house of sticks before beating a hasty retreat to the safe haven of their brother’s brick house. Soon after, said wolf is huffing and puffing outside with his intention-revealing pie van parked close by;

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however as children relish, it’s not the porcine trio who receive a roasting but …

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One thing though – what is the role of the small rabbit who introduces himself on the title page and makes just one further silent appearance. I was hoping to see this bit-part developed during the course of the book.

There is a companion story, Cinderella,

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published at the same time by Nosy Crow and also illustrated by Ed Bryan.

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The Four Little Pigs
Kimara Nye and Marcin Bruchnalski
Maverick Arts Publishing
Tom’s Granny is a witch (she’s no threat to children I hasten to add) so it’s no surprise that her story sessions have an added touch of magic and when she starts reading him The Three Little Pigs at bedtime, she knows just how to respond to his “I know that story! … It’s boring.” comment.
In a flash Tom himself is cascaded into the tale,

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cast as a fourth pig and off he dashes to warn the three traditional protagonists of their impending doom. In fact he has all manner of tricky plans up his sleeve to outsmart the big bad wolf and protect the trio.
Even when the BBW does gain entry to the brick house, he finds himself face to face with a character who has the nerve to call him a bully. Far from happy at this home truth, he beats a hasty retreat and heads off to participate in an alternative tale leaving the three little pigs to – well we all know that part. And Tom? His choice for Granny Mag’s next bedtime story will definitely be Little Red Riding Hood.
This one went down very well with my audience of fours and fives who were all familiar with the tale’s progenitor and thoroughly enjoyed this twisted version, in particular the sight of the BBW whooshing across the soap-smeared floor.

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and the idea that Tom’s gran could change fairy tales at will – that’s something I suggested they might try for themselves.
Bruchnalski’s bold, bright, broad-brush watercolour illustrations add further new perspectives to the tale.

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Don’t forget February 14th ibgdposterlarge