Saturday, 29 December 2012

364. Mr Birdsnest and the House Next Door by Julia Donaldson illustrated by Hannah Shaw

Mr Birdsnest and the House Next Door by Julia Donaldson illustrated by Hannah Shaw
Published August 2012 Barrington Stoke

From the publisher:
Beautifully packaged book from Children's Laureate, Julia Donaldson and illustrated by the wonderful Hannah Shaw. A tiger in the back garden! A bird-eating spider in the cupboard! Elmo and his sister love playing in the jungle house next door, that is, until mean old Mr Birdsnest moves in. But when it appears that Mr Birdsnest has kidnapped the children's grandma they must sneak back in to rescue her!

The name Julia Donaldson is a name that anyone who knows even a little bit about children's books would have hear of.  Does the book The Gruffalo mean anything to you?  While Julia Donaldson is most well known for her fantastic read-a-loud picture books, she has also written a number of novels, and this is one of them.

I don't think this book has had an Australian release, I borrowed it from my library, and the publishing date is a UK date.  The publisher is Barrington Stoke,  and they are a publisher that specialises in books for dyslexic and struggling readers.  To be honest, I remember Barrington Stoke titles from many years ago, and I didn't really like them. I think it was because they looked more like a reader, and I found that that was a bit off putting for struggling readers.  I have to say that they seem to have re-vamped their image because at first glance I didn't even recognise that this was a Barrington Stoke title.  Having a quick look at their website, I can see that their books have great looking covers, and some well know and popular authors.

One of the first things you will notice about this book is the colour of the paper.  The paper is a yellowy/cream colour and this apparently 'reduces glare, which is a factor in visual stress and may make words seem to ‘jump around’. Here is a link to the Barrington Stoke website for anyone interested in finding out more.

Enough about the publisher, onto the story.  It's a great little story, broken in to 4 chapters, which as I have said before, younger/emerging readers love.  It's about Elmo and his sister who have been told that their Granny has to move in with them (she's 'getting into muddles'), and because of this they need a new house.  Elmo and his sister LOVE the rundown house with giant spiders and jungle wallpaper, but their parents decide on the must less exciting house next door, with boring rooms and flowery wallpaper.

The only good thing is that they still live next door to the jungle house, and because no one lives there they can play in the overgrown garden, and when they find a rusty old key that fits the lock, they can even go inside...that is until the house gets sold, to a man they nickname Mr Birdsnest.  The way the siblings make up a whole back story about Mr Birdsnest, based on a very brief meeting makes me laugh.  Children do that, they pick certain elements, like a rundown house where an old lady lives, and all of a sudden it's a haunted house and a witch lives there, so the storyline is believable and will really appeal.  A mix-up involving their Granny and a possible kidnapping reveals the truth about Mr Birdsnest, and of course, he is NOTHING like the person they had imagined him to be.

There's also the added bonus of gate fold endpapers.  At the front of the book the gate fold reveals jokes, and at the back of the book you can learn how to draw a jungle bird

Who will like this book: Boys and girls age 6+
Read it if you like: The Alfie Small Series

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