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Mixed Results - Some Stories Quite Dull
on 9 March 2015
I've just read this collection of seventeen stories to my five-year-old son at bedtime. He's a typical little boy, obsessed with ninjas and Captain Underpants, and this anthology wasn't really aimed at him.
A batch of stories were retellings of old folktales, where someone was at risk of being eaten by wild beasts or having their head cut off by an angry king. He quite enjoyed those, and exclaimed "Read another one!"
Some of the modern stories were quite lively, like Malorie Blackman's story of two friends getting jealous over some expensive trainers. He quite enjoyed those too.
A couple of stories were written in a dated, flat style, like Enid Blyton on Prozac.... "Billy Bunny was going to deliver an umbrella for his mother. Oh dear, it was starting to rain!" Didn't this kind of thing go out before World War Two?
One strange story hinged on the children misunderstanding the parents' threat to "whip and beat" them (the American terms for spanking). A British child has no emotional connotation with those words. Even after I explained the term to my son, it still remained a flat story about making a pudding.
And many of the other stories were quite dull, and with no dynamics in them. (Sorry, authors!) As in, no dynamic of humour, or adventure, or magic, or anything! In one story, a girl and her mother go to a shoe shop, buy some shoes, and come home. That's it. That's the story. My son rocked back and forth during these readings, and then loudly exclaimed "That was boring!" at the end.
In her introduction, Wendy Cooling says the anthology is aimed at reception teachers to read aloud to the class when they have a spare ten minutes, and that the stories have already been test-read to five-year-olds. She also brightly suggests that if the child reacts positively to a particular author, go out and get other stories that the same author has written. Great. I'll get him Malorie Blackman's "Noughts and Crosses" when he's thirteen. And a copy of "Grimms' Fairy Tales" for now.
But I'm not feeling particularly inspired to get any more anthologies from this series.