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As a book addict myself I'm always on the lookout for good quality children's books for my two boys, especially as they seem to be as interested in books as I am.
Usborne are an established name in children's publishing having been around for the last 30 years and their range is suitable for the youngest baby with board books that are chew proof up to internet linked factual reference books for those in their early teens. You'd be hard pushed not to find something suitable for any child.
My favourite books in the baby range are the "That's not my…" books. They all follow the same basic format. For example in "That's not my lion", the child is told "That's not my lion. It's paws are too rough" or "It's tail is too fluffy" until at the last page "That's my lion. His mane is so shaggy." There are currently 16 titles in this series and each one of them is a touchy feely book with lots for a young child to interact with and encourages the child to associate the adjective with its feel. Simple pictures and short sentences hold the attention of most toddlers with some titles aimed at girls (dolly, fairy), some at the boys (tractor, truck) and some for both sexes (bear, bunny).
For babies and toddlers there are chunky board books and cloth books with flaps to lift and textures to explore and more overtly educational books with 100 First Words, First Picture ABC and Easy Words to Read books which tell stories with lots of short rhyming words such as "Ted In A Red Bed".
Another popular range by Usborne is the Farmyard Tales series which follow the lives of Poppy and Sam as they help look after the animals on Apple Tree Farm. We've got a lovely Christmas Farmyard Tales book which is a perfect bedtime read on Christmas Eve as it shows the excitement of Christmas through the eyes of two young children as they get ready for Santa's arrival. The stories are well written and well illustrated. Usborne have introduced a whole range of extra items such as jigsaws, lotto games and first words in French, German or Spanish all based on the Farmyard Tales books.
As well as learning foreign languages, Usborne also publish books which teach easy piano or recorder skills, football skills, parents guides to teach their child to swim. The range really is extensive.
For those children more reluctant to read, there are jigsaw books where each page is also a jigsaw, sticker books and art and craft activity books. And if your child is more into fact than fiction, they have an impressive array of encyclopedias and reference books aimed at younger and older children, some of which contain links to the internet to find out more.
One of Jacob's favourite factual books is the Usborne Beginners selection which includes everything from How Flowers Grow to The Egyptians to Living In Space. They are aimed at children who are just confident enough to read on their own and although the subject matter may be quite complicated the text is short and easy-to-read and separated by lots of illustrations which include photographs and diagrams to help support the text.
This is not a book club in the normal way. There is no pressure to buy, no "editors choice" books sent that you have to return at your own cost and no minimum spend per year. The organisation is called Usborne Books At Home because the majority of their sales are done through "parties" at home or through organisers who are given the catalogues and a selection of books and sell to friends and family.
Nowadays a lot of Usborne books are relatively easy to get hold of. Their baby ranges for example can often be found in local libraries and can be bought from larger supermarkets or bookstores as well as ordering through an organiser if you know one. Using an organiser gives the added benefit of being able to see a lot of the other products such as the games and activity books which may not be so readily available on the high street. Usborne also accept postal orders but these incur an extra £3 charge for postage whereas ordering through an organiser is free. Payment can be made by cheque payable to your organiser or by credit or debit card on the order form and is expected when you place the order. Delivery time relies entirely on your particular organiser but I usually have to wait about 2 weeks. Alternatively most of the items can be ordered through Amazon but there is the delivery charge on top if you don't order over £15 worth of goods.
The most negative aspect for me is the cost of the books. There are cheaper children's books out there and it is hard to find the Usborne ones discounted. Even those ordered through an organiser are full price with no discount for ordering over a certain amount. Most of the books range from £3.99 for the smaller paperback books up to £14 or £15 for a hardback reference book. Just as an example, a book aimed at children 1+ is selling at £8.99. Personally I wouldn't spend that much on a book for a child so young as it is not known to be the most careful of ages. However, keep a lookout and there are bargains to be had. I've just ordered 10 Usborne Little Encyclopedias retailing at £5.99 each on the Usborne website for £12.99 for the lot - a saving of £47.90 and I'm not complaining at that.
Earning opportunities are available for people who want to become an organiser and sell from the catalogue to family and friends or for people who want to host a one-off "Book Party" . Details of both these can be found on the Usborne website.
Overall Usborne offer good quality, highly educational and stimulating children's books and games and if you can find them discounted then you are definitely getting a good deal.
To see the full range visit www.usborne.com
Pictures of Usborne Books at Home - Usborne Activities
I do like their books, but I agree that you can find cheaper options elsewhere.
weetoon 15.01.2006 14:25
Great review. I used to sell Usborne books. Although I never made much money from this, I have retained a very positive feeling towards anything this publisher does. Although they might appear quite expensive, they are real quality books and very expensive to produce. I have very fond memories of reading the farmyard tales with my children, and trying to 'find the duck' on each page!
rosillew 04.01.2006 02:24
Great review...... although I have heard a lot about Usborne books I have never bought from them. Heatherx