We were excited when My Little Big Town asked us to review some of their children’s books. My boys ages 9 and 7 are avid readers and we’re always on the lookout for new publishers and authors to feed their passion for reading. My Little Big Town are a UK publishers based in Yorkshire. They aim to offer a range of children’s books for ages 5-12, all with exciting, fun storylines and vibrant illustrations.
They sent us three books from their Tiny Twisted Tales Collection; Stuart the Bug Eating Man, Pale Henry and Jenny. All are written and illustrated by Calvin Innes and are aimed at encouraging reluctant readers to read.
Stuart the Bug Eating Man ( Ages 5-8) was our favourite. It’s a humorous poem about a man who eats insects. My children have dined on the likes of Roald Dahl and his Revolting Rhymes since they were tiny so the subject matter was right up their street. In the story, Stuart’s insect munching talent isn’t well liked until he uses it to his advantage and becomes….yes of course, a pest control man! We chatted about the moral of the story and I was delighted that my boys could see that everyone is different, with unique talents and abilities.
In my teaching life I came across a number of reluctant readers and each one was very different from the next. A reluctant reader they may sit on a line anywhere from those that struggle to read right through to very able, but because of their reluctance, inexperienced readers.
To engage a reluctant reader, wherever they sit on this line, books need to offer easy access quickly to something that will hook the reader in. A reluctant reader isn’t likely to hang around long enough to be slowly drawn into a story through detailed and lengthy descriptions. They need a read that will really pull them in within the first page or two.
Something I liked about the Tiny Twisted Tales Collection was the appeal of the books as soon as you open them and look at their contents page. Rather than a traditional contents page you get something that piques the interest in a fun and engaging manner.
Reluctant readers can find full pages of text really daunting and this in itself can be a barrier that prevents them from even attempting a book. In all of the Tiny Twisted Tales books we looked at, the pages have just a small amount of text and most had a large picture on the opposite page. This breaks the text up into manageable chunks and the reader gets to finish a page quickly. This sense of achievement can really help spur a reluctant reader on.
The books are also chunky enough to feel like a ‘proper’ read so older children won’t feel that they are being given ‘babyish’ books and the paper quality is nice with thick, white pages which helps make the reading experience for a reluctant reader pleasurable and appealing.
The subject matter of all of the books is aimed at getting children’s interest, appealing to their sense of fun and curiosity. Alongside Stuart The Bug Eating Man, we looked at ‘Jenny’ who is a far from average 8-year-old werewolf hunter! And ‘Pale Henry’ who is a boy that hides away in his attic, afraid of everything but who finds out in the end that he can make friends and that it’s OK to be different from others. (Both aimed at readers aged 7+.)
All the books are written in rhyme which can help spur a reluctant reader on as the flow, pace and rhythm carry them forward. Inexperienced readers may find scanning ahead to get the stress and rhythm a bit tricky at first but we think these are great books to share out loud so with a couple of run throughs of the books together this shouldn’t be a problem.
You can find out more about My Little Big Town and their Tiny Twisted Tales Collection from their website.
(I received 3 books from the Tiny Twisted Tales Collection free of charge for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.)