Advantages Lovely bedtime story
Disadvantages Rather expensive
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Tony Maddox wasn’t a children’s author I was familiar with but his is one of the books that B, aged 8, seems to want to read together quite frequently and, even though it’s quite a basic and straightforward story, I haven’t grown bored of it after repeated readings.
Set in a farmyard, the main character is Oliver, a particularly noisy owl. Most other familiar animals are there, including chicks, cows and ducks.
This is most definitely a book to be shared rather than read independently. The size of the book and the topic make it the perfect choice for a bedtime read, in which case it’s suitable for any age from around 4 upwards.
The story begins at nighttime, when the baby animals are all settling down for a nice snoozefest. Being an owl, Oliver is wide awake and anxious to do a bit of twit-twooing which doesn’t go down terribly well with his peers. One by one, the mummy animals tell him, ‘Shhh, not so loud Oliver!’ as their babies want to go to sleep. A bit dejected, Oliver huffs off to the nearest tree and sits in silence. But, whilst everyone else sleeps, Oliver spies a fox sneaking towards the hen house. Will he twit and twoo to warn them all, or will he decide they’re all a big bunch of meaniepants for telling him off and stand idly by as they are slaughtered? I’m sure you can probably guess which of those endings is the more likely…The children that I’ve worked with like joining in with the repetition of ‘Shhh, not so loud Oliver!’ and they also like making the various animal noises. Although this isn’t really a book for independent readers there are still plenty of high frequency words used which will encourage youngsters to spot and join in with the words they know. I think this story appealed to B so much because he is a particularly noisy little boy who is wont to make all manner of strange squeaks and sounds; it was nice for him to read about a character whose boisterousness ended up being a good thing (even though I’ve told him that this will not be the case when he decides to sing ‘The Fart Song’ during religious services).
The pictures are lovely – warm tones and friendly farmyard characters which will encourage children to recognise and point them out. There is pleasing attention to detail – tiny spiders and a web, a pair of mice that appear in many of the pictures – which will encourage children’s visual discrimination.Educationally, this is a nice book to use as a ‘settling down’ read for when the children come in from playtime; the fact that the refrain is whispered automatically brings children’s obstreperousness down a notch or two. There are nice talking points around what various baby animals are known as and the kind of animals that are nocturnal or diurnal. For writing tasks, I’ve photocopied the pictures and used them to make zig-zag books with the children writing short sentences to describe the pictures or sounding out the animal noises. It also lends itself well to short dramas as all the characters have something to say. If reading with just one or two children it’s nice to look at the changes of font size and talk about what it means when the writing is bigger or bold. Pleasingly, this in the ‘right’ font for small children – no funny a’s or g’s.
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