Room On The Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
|Room On The Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler|
|Genre: For Sharing|
|Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath|
|Summary: An excellent book about a witch and her animal friends, made all the better by a fantastic interactive CD to stick in your PC. A few minor niggles aside, it's something children will love exploring with their parents. It's set the bar incredibly high for any such future software packages to accompany other books.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 32||Date: October 2009|
|Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books|
A Times Educational Supplement Teachers' Top 100 Book
As the witch flies around the countryside, she drops various objects, which are picked up one by one by animals. As thanks, she offers all the animals a lift, but will there be enough room on the broom?
Room On The Broom is as fabulous a picture book as you'd expect from the team that brought you The Gruffalo. It hits all the right notes, with its strong sense of rhyme, a familiar element of repetition, interesting characters, and a nice plot twist at the end. Axel Scheffler's illustrations are as glorious as ever. There's nothing to knock. As a book, it's highly recommended and gets a strong 4.5 stars from Bookbag.
What pushes Room On The Broom up to 5 stars is the inclusion of an interactive CD to stick in your PC. Computer games, software and websites for very young children can so often be atrocious, so my expectations were low, but it's a fabulous addition to the book.
Best of all is Josie Lawrence (of Whose Line Is It Anyway fame) reading the book, accompanied by animations of the pages themselves. The words are highlighted like, well, karaoke I guess, making it ideal for children who are learning to read. If you just want someone else to read you a story one day, then having Josie Lawrence reading it to you instead of mummy or daddy is a real treat.
Equally wonderful, although probably best appreciated by slightly older children, is the opportunity to create and print out your own book. You can choose backgrounds and characters from Room On The Broom and provide your own text, or pick from words in the book itself. There's the perfect blend of customisation available: enough for any child to be able to tell exactly the story they want, but not so much as to make it complicated and confusing. The lack of a save function is a shame, but children can creat and print out their masterpieces a page at a time, if they're taking hours over it.
There are also themed posters and games, like snakes and ladder and snap, which can be printed out. Alex Scheffler's illustrations raise these above standard versions of these games. It's well worth making a project out of theses, sticking them on to sturdy card, and treasuring them for years.
The two computer games don't get quite such a glowing report from me. Yes, they're better than the average Flash game aimed at young kids, that you'll find on the internet, but they're still not as good as they could be. The simplified Pacman-style game, for example, has some diagonal paths, yet just uses the four arrow keys. It can create some confusion that feels like unresponsiveness. It doesn't ruin the fun (and I suppose it's a useful lesson for kids that computers and software don't always work as well as you'd want them to) but getting eaten by a dragon when it's not your fault will get a hmph or two from young 'uns. It's a shame, as it could so easily have been avoided.
The geek in me would rather that such CDs worked on all platforms, not just on PCs, but there are plenty of similar activities at Gruffalo.com so it's not the end of the world.
A few minor niggles with the games aside, it's an excellent interactive package of an excellent book. Highly recommended.
My thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.
For more witchy fun, check out our Top Ten Picture Books For Halloween. Whilst there aren't really any other interactive packages up to this standard for such young readers, plenty of books are being packaged with audio CDs at the moment, with our favourites including Bear Flies High by Michael Rosen and Adrian Reynolds, Olivia by Ian Falconer, Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow, Lenny Lipton and Eric Puybaret, The Selfish Crocodile Book of Nursery Rhymes by Faustin Charles and Michael Terry, The Noisiest Night by Thomas Taylor and Gilbert the Great by Jane Clarke.
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