30/06/2017

Help! (by Margaret Gordon)

I’ve been getting rather behind on my aim of reading 100 books this year, because most of my reading time currently is spent reading aloud to my just-three-year-old grandson. I don’t review short pictures books that I read to young children, but he has a passion for books and likes simple chapter books so long as there are plenty of line drawings. So I bought some from the thrift shop, after a quick glance at the back, and will review them.

I recognised a few ‘young puffin’ published books, supposedly for early readers to read by themselves; but they make great read-alouds for younger children too. I hadn’t come across Margaret Gordon before, but the picture of two pigs eating jam-covered ice lollies looked exactly the kind of thing to appeal to my grandson.

‘Help’ turns out to be an amusing and well-written book comprising six short chapters featuring two young pigs called Fred and Flo. They live in a block of flats, with various relatives in other flats, and they have a baby sister whose name is not given. Their mother reminds them regularly that they should always be helpful and kind, and the two really do their best.

Fred and Flo are very kind and love to try helping, whether going to the shops to buy jam, or assisting their uncle in some decorating, or an aunt in cake-baking, or even looking after Baby for a few minutes. Unfortunately they get distracted, and things go wrong…

I read the entire book aloud at one sitting, and it probably took about fifteen minutes in all. The text is large, since it’s designed for children to read to themselves, but the flow of writing is good, and feels mostly natural. Some books of this type are awkward to read aloud, or have too much repetition. But in this, although the dialogue is simple, it’s enjoyable to read aloud, and also, apparently, to listen to.

My grandson’s favourite chapter was the one he calls ‘baby in the sink’, when Fred and Flo attempt to pacify their crying baby sister. They wonder if she’s too hot, or too cold, or hungry… unfortunately their attempts to warm, cool or feed her lead to more and more problems until they all end up playing in the sink, with the taps still running….

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by this book, which could appeal to children up to the ages of about six or seven or even beyond.

First published in 1988, this book is now long out of print. I think that's a pity as it's a pleasant, gentle book with enough humour to make it enjoyable for both adults and children. However it may still exist in libraries, and (as we discovered) can sometimes be found second-hand.

Review by copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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