Welcome to my latest little book review. Two titles on offer today, both equally innovative and important.
All I said Was written by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Ross Collins.
And Wolf Man written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Chris Mould.
These are picture books yes, but they are also something much more important. Both titles have been published by Barrington Stoke. Established in 1998 they are the masters in creating books specifically designed for readers with dyslexia, visual stress, lack of confidence or just simply reluctance. We have numerous collections by Barrington Stoke in the library from teen reads (lighter books but with age appropriate content) to the fantastic Little Gems series (illustrated shorter fiction books). All of which are incredibly helpful when trying to source books for children who struggle with dyslexia or other reading issues.
However, until now, there has been a gap. Earlier this year two books dropped onto my desk at work that caught my eye, first and foremost because they were just fantastic looking books by very well known and talented authors and illustrators, but also because they filled this gap! ‘All I said Was’ and ‘Wolf Man’ are both from a new range of books by Barrington Stoke called Red Squirrel Books. These books are designed specifically for parents or carers who may struggle sharing books with their children due to dyslexia. Such a wonderful idea for a previously overlooked group of people. Of course let us not forget that their special features will also help children with or without dyslexia with their reading. These books are accessible to everyone.
We constantly talk about the importance of sharing books with children, bedtime reading etc, but even picture books can be daunting to some adult readers. I can only applaud Barrington Stoke for addressing this, and so effectively too.
So what makes Red Squirrel Books different? This is taken directly from their fantastic website – www.redsquirrelbooks.co.uk
Picture Squirrels use a number of measures to increase accessibility for individuals with dyslexia or reading issues.
• A unique dyslexia-friendly font
• A gently tinted, detail-free background behind the text to reduce glare and stress on the eye
• Slightly increased character spacing to make letters easier to read
• Clean syntax to minimise potential obstacles to comprehension
• Standard left-to-right and top-to-bottom layout for text to aid with following the story in sequence.
The great news for confident readers is that many of these features will help children to join in with the story, recognise letters and words and follow along with the text.
I thoroughly enjoy books which play around with text and typefaces, moving it around the page like it has it’s own spirit. It’s also great to see quirky type that reflects the story or sounds being made, but neither of these things are helpful at all to anyone affected by dyslexia or other reading difficulties.
In the series so far there are 6 books, all of which are brilliant. I’m just going to look at two of them. Firstly All I Said Was by Michael Morpurgo and Ross Collins.
This is the more grown up of the two books in storytelling. It’s quite a dark tale actually. It is simply about a boy and a pigeon who swap places. The boy flies out of his bedroom window into the outside world, while the pigeon sits inside and reads his book. Things don’t go as planned for the little boy, now a bird though, and he decides being a pigeon isn’t as much fun as it looked and wants to go back home, but the pigeon has other ideas.
This is a story which will appeal to various age of child and will also be great fun for parents to read, these darker picture books aren’t very common, but are very popular.
The illustrations by Ross Collins are very typical of his style and absolutely brilliant. Packed with character and great little details including the fantastic expressions of the various array of animals in the book. There is plenty of white space around the text to aid reading, but no let up of colour explosion beyond that.
Wolf Man by Michael Rosen and Chris Mould is almost the opposite in that on the surface it seems a much more ferocious story than it really is.
There’s a wolf on the loose, rampaging through the town destroying everything in his way. Is he after some human nourishment? Or maybe something else?
I love the writing in Wolf Man, simply done, but full of funny lines and a real joy to read out loud. You can ham this one up a treat and build the tension, it would be fantastic for school groups too.
I’m a big fan of Chris Mould’s illustrations and Wolf Man is a particular gem, in his recognisable sketchy style, but with the addition of bright bold colours to add interest, in fact the colour scheme is really unusual, I loved it.Again there is lots of detail and expression for families to pour over, without encroaching on the text itself. The very best part for me though, are the two final images, both completely contrasting in style and meaning just finish the story off with a mixture of laughter and relief!
The other books in the Red Squirrel Books series are equally entertaining and quirky in illustration and storytelling, they do stand out from other picture books for that reason. I often suggest books that should be in every school and library, but these I feel particularly strongly about. Accessibility in books for children and their parents or carers is so vital to nurturing a love of reading. I am thrilled that Barrington Stoke haven’t held back on this series, they are quality books by quality authors and illustrators. We need more of these, inclusive picture books to encourage and aid book sharing among all families, whatever their situation.
To find out more about the wonderful work of Barrington Stoke visit their website:
You can find out more about the Picture Squirrels series on the following website:
Thank you for reading this Book Monster review.