Illustrated fiction can frequently be the key to the discovery of reading for pleasure for young children. When stories are presented both in text and pictures children can access the narrative more easily. When the appearance is designed to be accessible to dyslexic children it widens the appeal still further. Publishers Barrington Stoke need no introduction as they have been creating award winning books that are appealing to a wide audience for many years. Brilliant Monster Books appear to be keen to follow in their footsteps. They are a new independent children’s publisher specialising in accessible books which promote empathy and inclusion.
The first in a new series Swop the Satsuma-Sized Secret is a book full of fun incorporating some reassuring messages within its pages. The lightness of touch ensures that both grief and the inclusion of a deaf character feel natural and these aspects are handled with sensitivity in this charming debut.
Ernie and his family are moving from the countryside to live nearer his grandma following the death of Ernie’s dad. Understandably Ernie is worried that he will find it difficult to settle in to his new home. However on his first night in his new bedroom Ernie makes a new friend. A tiny dog, no bigger than a satsuma! As the landlord has made it clear that no pets are allowed Ernie knows that he must keep his new friend, Swop, a secret. Initially that is just about manageable with Ernie’s careful planning but on Ernie’s first day at his new school Swop decides to make his presence known.
Children will quickly warm to Ernie and his first day contains much that young readers will recognise and find relatable. The classroom situations have an authentic feel and Ernie’s new friendships are depicted with an understanding of school life. As might be anticipated a miniature dog can quickly cause mayhem in a school and this adventure is full of muddles and misunderstandings. The use of sign language thanks to the inclusion of Ernie’s deaf sister Ivy is cleverly incorporated and is a positive aspect of the storyline. The guide to sign language included at the end of the book is a nice touch. The fact that Ernie’s dad although absent is included in the story is lovely too. There is a streak of positivity running through the story which will comfort children with concerns about moving home or school, both of which can be a source of worry for many.
At 192 pages this is a great length for newly confident readers or those who have not yet developed reading stamina and will give the reader a real sense of achievement on finishing it. There is a sequel in the pipeline and I imagine children will be keen to discover what happens to Ernie and Swop next.
Swop the Satsuma-Sized Secret was published in July and is available to purchase online at Bookshop.org I should like to thank Lucy Noguera for providing my review copy.
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