Regular readers will recall that I blogged about the brilliant Maverick Early Readers in November last year (here).  My son – Hugo – is notoriously picky when it comes to reading: he is completely turned-off by school readers, predominantly due to their relatively lacklustre content and formulaic text, and is only interested in books that spark his imagination.  I was over the moon, therefore, when I came across the Maverick Early Readers, because they are everything school readers are not.  Firstly, they are real stories that have been adapted for early reader use, which I think is so important as even children learning to read can also enjoy reading for pleasure right from the very outset.  Secondly, the stories tend to have themes running through them, such as empathy, friendship, kindness etc so children are exposed to broader learning; and thirdly, the fabulous, full-colour illustrations really bring the stories to life which help to engage readers from the moment they set eyes on the book.  It is really quite interesting to watch my son around these Maverick books – he genuinely lights up when he sees new books waiting for him and when I tell him that he can read one instead of a school reader, he reacts as though I’ve let him off a huge chore.  And to some extent, that’s how he sees it as he gains no pleasure from his school books: reading the Maverick Early Reader stories is a completely different concept in his eyes.

We couldn’t offer our services fast enough, therefore, when Maverick asked for volunteers to review some of their latest releases.  Hugo has read all of them a number of times. They have been out on trips with us and he often takes them to bed to read before lights out.  As these four are either gold or white band, the stories have been divided into chapters, which works perfectly for both reading in bite-sized chunks and building up reading stamina:

Bingo and the Burblies by Steve Howson and illustrated by Gisela Bohorques: Gold Band.  Bingo lives in the rainforest with her family and one day discovers a new species: burblies. Unfortunately, not only does she find that people want to take the burblies away to study them, she also discovers that due to the destruction of the forest, the burblies’ habitat has been destroyed, endangering their lives.  She thus embarks on an adventure to re-home them where they cannot be found.  This story really struck a chord with Hugo, who stopped reading at various places to ask why humans would want to hurt the burblies and take away their home.  As a parent, it was a pleasure to see him responding with empathy and concern about saving animals and the planet.  I was instructed by Hugo to include the photo below, which is his favourite illustration in the book.

The Underwear Wolf by Clare Helen Walsh and illustrated by Letizia Rizzo: Gold Band.  Stitch is different from other children.  Firstly, he loves to knit, and secondly, when the full moon appears, he turns into a werewolf!  His wolfy skills are not really up to scratch, though, and he’s also a bit lonely, so he seeks out a pack to join.  Hugo thought this story was hilarious!  He loved the fact that Stitch finally made friends with other werewolves and he thought that it was very kind of Stitch to knit them ‘super-stretchy pants’ to keep them warm.  The story gave us lots of opportunities to talk about difference, inclusion and empathy and Hugo has now decided that he wants to dress up as Stitch for World Book Day.  Super Nanna’s knitting skills have thus been pressed into action…

Nanny Ninja by Jenny Jinks and illustrated by Sean Longcroft: White Band.  Ant thinks that having his nanny to stay is boring because she sleeps during the day. Imagine his complete surprise when he finds that at night time she turns into Nanny Ninja!  He soon realises just how hard it is being a ninja but with perseverance, he starts to pick up some super-hero skills himself.  No wonder Nanny needs to sleep during the day to recuperate from her evening’s work!  This is a cleverly-written story that breaks down the older-person stereotype and also introduces the concept of resilience.  Hugo loves super-hero characters and so this story was right up his street.  He understood that you need to keep working hard in order to be good at something and now keeps asking his Nanna if she needs to go for a sleep…

Scary Scott by Katie Dale and illustrated by Irene Montano: Gold Band.  Scott is a lonely ghost who wants nothing more than to make some friends rather than scare people away.  He thus attends a Hallowe’en party where he has great fun, until he realises that there are children under all the costumes.  Will the children want to be his friend when they find out the truth?  Hugo’s favourite time of year is Hallowe’en and so he was excited to read this before he even opened the cover.  He thought that Scott was brave both to go to the party when he didn’t know anybody and also to face the bullies.  He cheered at the end when the children wanted to remain friends with Scott, even though they had found out he was a ghost; Hugo’s parting shot was “It’s nice to be kind and let everyone join in, Mummy”.

In summary, these books are such great value as they do double duty: help children to learn to read and also encourage a love of reading for pleasure, which is a huge win-win in my eyes.  There are also lots in the range – with more due out in March – which means that you can always find stories (from pink band to white) that will interest your young readers; indeed, my daughter, who has been a ‘free reader’ for over a year now, still loves to pick these books up as she is drawn to the superb illustrations and engaging stories.  I only have one complaint – the books have been responsible for a number of arguments over whose turn it is to read them!  If I’ve got to referee sibling arguments, though, I’d far rather it be over a book than anything else…

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