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===In Pursuit Of A Successful Transition ===
It's that time of year when everyone connected with the four year olds [or nearly fours] in Preschool, turns their focus on the move up to 'Big School'. In reality we've been working on transition to the feeder schools in a lower gear for most of the academic year in some shape or form, but now they know for sure which school they're going to and the pace is hotting up.
There are lots of steps we take to try and help children feel comfortable about the forthcoming move. There are visits from class teachers to us, the children, parents and sometimes the preschool staff spend varying amounts of time in school. There's a preschool puppet who is also to be found in each Reception class with his own persona, school uniforms to dress up with in the role play area, and so on. There are several books around that discuss in story form what it's like to start school. I think you have to be careful in selecting them; some are noticeably out of date, some give impressions of school that don't fit with a local ethnic grouping, culture, environment and so on.
I'm familiar with some of the books in the popular 'Harry and the Dinosaurs' series, so I was intrigued to discover what this specific one was like when the manager put it on our medium term plan. Our context, which inevitably influences my review, is that we are located in a Lincolnshire market town. The ethnic grouping is predominantly white. There are currently no children of Asian or African ethnicity in the setting, although we have links with a Kenyan nursery so children are used to seeing photos of them around. There are a few children from bilingual backgrounds, often where one parent speaks Portuguese or an Eastern European language. One staff member is a Polish speaker. At any time there are up to 24 children aged from 2 years to 4+. School entry is the September after their 4th birthday with 25 going to 9 different schools, several of which are in villages. I managed the preschool for over 20 years, but now in semi-retirement I'm only working there about a day a week, though I help with planning. When I'm there I work most closely with the 4 year olds.
=== Setting The Scene ===
I think it's obvious from the first page that the focus of this book is the experience of starting school itself. You may think that's obvious, but haven't you come across books where the storyline seems to take second place to a heavy emphasis on phonics, where everything starts with the key letter, for instance? I confess to having an aversion to books like that. There's a real danger that they put some children off stories and reading. That's just my personal opinion and this is a genuine story about what happens on Harry's first day at school. Sure, there's use of alliteration and assonance, but used sparingly so that it doesn't come across as forced. There's a good range of vocabulary used, too.
Because this book is about starting school I see it as aimed at 4 and 5 year olds principally. I don't feel that it's intended for young children to attempt to read, although older siblings might enjoy reading it to little brothers and sisters.
I like the way the authors address the mixed emotions a child may feel at a time like this. Or are they really the dinosaurs' emotions? Harry is excited because one of his friends, Charlie, is starting on the same day. The dinosaurs, however, aren't so sure. Stegosaurus doesn't want to go, because Triceratops has told him there are no Raahs in class - if you know the series you'll understand that! Mum reassures, but big sister Sam doesn't help with her comment - and how did her toast end up on the floor?!!
At school, the teacher, Mrs Rance, seems friendly and reassuring, showing the children where they can put their property in the cloakroom. The parents have gone by now and Harry is too shy to ask if he can take his bucket into the classroom. You can tell he's feeling increasingly stressed: 'he didn't like the classroom. He didn't like the home corner, or his special work tray.' He's also concerned about another boy who's struggling much more - he cried when Mum left and hasn't spoken since. Playtime is slightly better, but not much. Back in the class, Harry thoughtfully makes a suggestion to Mrs Rance that might help the other child. She agrees, and without spoiling the rest of the story, what then transpires helps them both feel much better, make friends, including Charlie, who hasn't been mentioned again until this point, and enjoy the rest of the school day. So the story ends on a very positive note that should encourage children who are feeling nervous about school themselves.
The brightly coloured illustrations, with an almost cartoon-like quality, certainly appeal to me and are very popular with the children. All of the characters wear a variety of facial expressions during the course of the story.
Excuse my terminology in this section as the politically correct form of expression seems to change so frequently. I like the way characters have been used to depict a range of ethnic groups. Mrs. Rance, the teacher, is herself African/Caribbean in appearance, possibly with hair in dreadlocks. This is great to show children that they may have classmates from all kinds of backgrounds. It's every bit as important in a group like ours, where children don't look all that different from each other. I notice that none of the children are wearing ethnic dress, neither is there a school uniform. This may have been to keep things simple, and the story itself as the focus. I can't resist the comment that my daughter, who's an Assistant Head teacher with an early years specialism, would make about Mrs. Rance's clothing, especially her baggy trousers that look like tracksuit bottoms; her Head would call to task any teacher who dressed like that, whatever year group they taught!
I failed to find anything definitive about Adrian Reynolds; there seem to be several people by that name but I couldn't conclusively identify the 'right' one. I believe he's the illustrator, as Ian Whybrow says nothing about artwork on his site. My copy of the book says nothing on this.
===Some Thoughts ===
This book is a delight to read aloud with children, with plenty of scope for dramatic expression. It's good for an oldie like me that the names of the dinosaurs are given under relevant illustrations on the front two pages and again at the back - helpfully with a pronunciation guide included. I get stuck after the best known ones and have no grandchildren to enlighten me. Thankfully some of the preschool children are real experts!
In terms of its educational value, its focus is on children's feelings and procuring a secure transition to school. In terms of the Early Years Foundation Stage [revised] the main area of learning is Personal, Social and Emotional Development or PSED: the first of the Prime Areas so considered of significant importance, with its sub-headings of Making Relationships, Self-Confidence and Self Awareness and Managing Feelings and Behaviour. Yes, you can use it to promote Reading [which isn't a Prime Area]. Better to use it for Communication [which is] but my point is that PSED is really important for children's well-being and success - remember Maslow's Hierarchy?
The role of Charlie, Harry's friend, puzzled me. I expected them to meet up inside the classroom, or at playtime, at least, but there isn't any further mention of him until we are told all three boys are friends. This didn't seem very likely to me, though I doubt whether most four year olds would pick up on it.
It isn't spelled out exactly what happened to sister Sam's toast, although I think Harry retaliated in some way to her unhelpful teenager comment: 'You can't take dinosaurs to school, stupid!' Whatever happened, perhaps she deserved it!
This is a winner with any child who likes dinosaurs, for me. Often, but not exclusively, that's boys. I think it works equally well read to a group or on a more individual basis, where there can be deeper discussion. In a group I find that younger children are able to concentrate while it's being read, even if the idea of going to Big School hasn't occurred to them yet.
I would offer a word of caution about any books to do with starting school, but particularly this one at the moment as it's the one I'm reviewing. Please check out what it is actually like in your child's first class before reading too many books of this kind with them and discussing them in any depth. It's easy for one small part of the story to start an unnecessary anxiety, if it's not true for your school. Here it would obviously be something like not being able to take a favourite toy into class, which wasn't actually the case but a misunderstanding. Children could become anxious when in fact many Reception teachers would allow a small special toy to be brought in for comfort, in the early days, at least.
Preschool's copy was a gift from Pearson in association with Booktrust. I see that you can currently buy it on Amazon UK for £6.29 in paperback - a special offer. I would imagine it comes in sets of 'Harry' books from suppliers like The Book People. If this book appeals to you, I feel it would be well worth your while to invest in a set, introduce Harry and the Dinosaurs in other stories before using this one. That way they would have a deeper understanding of the characters before getting on to this sometimes stressful topic - just a thought, though; you know your own child best. A four star rating from me.
For older children: check out the Harry Chapter Books - Harry is 9 and too old for his bucket - but what is special about his key ring?
Ian Whybrow's website can be found here:
I have to say I found it a bit disappointing - no freebies to print or games to play! However it does tell you quite a bit about his life and works.
This copy was first published in Puffin Books 2006
Thank you for reading this review. It may appear on other sites.
©Verbena May 2013
Harry and the dinosaurs is a series of books that are also a very popular TV programme for my son so when I seen a 10 book pack presented in an illustrated presentation bag I purchased them for my sons bed time stories collection.
They are on average around 15 pages long with a small paragraph on each page. The first two and last two pages of each book have pictures of all 7 of the dinosaurs with the names of each next to them. They are written by Ian Whybrow and Adrian Renolds. Generally they are a feel good series were Harry and his dinosaurs come across a challenge but find a way to overcome the problem.
The one that is currently our favourite read at bedtime are ' Harry and the dinosaurs go to school'. This book shows Harry excited for his first day at school but the dinosaurs are somewhat nervous. Once there Harry is upset as he has to leave his bucket of dinosaurs in the cloak room and then meets a little boy who is very shy and nervous. Harry try's to make the little boy feel more comfortable about being at school but nothing works until they walk past the cloakroom and hear a little roarrrr. The story continues showing how the dinosaurs make the boy come out of his shell by making school fun.
The one major problem for me with these books is that in every story in some way Harry hits his sister. In the School book he chucks her breakfast on the floor in others he throws things at her but in every book without fail it shows Harry attacking his sister. I usually miss this page out as it never has any major role in the story but I do think it is a bit irresponsible on the author's part to put these scenes in.
Other than that one thing which can easily be skipped I think these stories are very good. My children love them much more than the TV series and they are fast becoming there favourite night time story. They are illustrated well bright and appealing and are the perfect length in my opinion to read for a child.
They are puffin books and say retail price on the back of each book are £5.99. I personally think this is a little high as I got a set of ten books in a lovely presentation bag for £9.99 at the book people. That averages at around £1 a book which is brilliant for such lovely story books. We love this book it has a fun feel to it and helps stop children worrying about trying new things
I have seen the Harry and the dinosaurs range a few times recently and have heard they are great books. So when I popped to my local library the other week and saw it and I couldn't help but give it a go. Since then I have seen there is quite a lot in the range of books and after reading this one I will be looking out for more. We both really enjoyed Ian Whybrow's Harry and the dinosaurs book.
Harry is a young boy who in this particular story is starting school a scary experience for any child. He is upset by his elder sister who is mean to him. But Harry is comforted by the presence of his favourite friends his dinosaurs. Now I can't comment too much on the history of these dinosaurs as this is the first Harry book we have read but it won't be the last. I get the impression these dinosaurs only really respond to Harry. My son loved this. He had a habit of roaring every time he saw the dinosaurs.
So after a shaky start they get to school but Harry ends up leaving his dinosaurs out of the classroom. Everyone is very friendly to Harry but Harry doesn't really like being there. He befriends a little boy who doesn't speak he just holds a digger in his hands. Harry manages to get out of class to show the quiet boy where the toilet is. On the way back they hear a roar it's the dinosaurs. Harry is very happy to see them and show them to the little boy. Harry and the little boy go back to class with the dinosaurs in tow. The teacher is pleased to see them. The children have to make peg name tags and the little boy is asked what his name is and he replies 'Jackosaurus' it is the first word the boy had said all day and everyone laughed and laughed.
My son was engrossed in the story all the way through and has asked for it to be read to him many times since. He wasn't too pleased when we had to return it to the library. He usually enjoys taking his books back and getting more but not this one. I think it is every little boys dream, dinosaurs! I could see this book would assure young children who are about to start nursery or school it is a story with a positive ending.
The story is fun and the illustrations in this book match that. They are bright and colourful with enough detail to tell the story themselves. Harry has some great facial expressions shown in the simplest way.
The text is simple and although the dinosaur's names take a little getting used to it is a dream to read. My son loved the first double page spread before the actual story. It has a picture of each dinosaur and their name. It is also helpful for useless mums who don't usually have much interest in dinosaurs. Underneath the name is the name broken down to help you say it for example the shy one Stegosaurus is STEG-oh-SAW-rus. My son just enjoyed looking at them. There are six dinosaurs in total a handful for any little boy!
As I have mentioned I will be invested in some of these books for my son to keep. He always enjoys a story before bed but he really got into this book more then he usually does. You can buy this book on Amazon for about £3.99 but I would really recommend paying a little more and buying a collection of these stories any little dinosaur fan will love it. Quite often Book people have an offer on a collection of the Harry and the dinosaurs stories.
My son was bought this book recently as a gift from school. He is mad on dinosaurs so it seemed perfect.
It is written by Ian Whybrow and is illustrated by Adrian Reynolds. It is about Harry who has a bucketful of dinosaurs who come to life. It is originally a childrens cartoon but my son has never seen it.
This particular story follows Harry as he starts his first day at his new school. He is excited and also a little nervous but decides to take his dinosaurs with him. At the school harry is told to leave his dinosaurs outside the class and as a result doesn't enjoy any of the activities on his own. He meets a boy who is very shy and Harry volunteers to take him to the toilet where he meets the dinosaurs and eventually comes out of his shell.
This story is well written, it is easy to follow and each page discribes a different part of the day. There is plenty of conversation in the story so you can act it out and there are also several parts with the dinosaurs where the children can join in with the roaring.
The only thing I didn't like about the text was the dinosaur names- some of them are really tricky and it made me lose the flow of the story slightly- maybe it's just me!
The illustrations are very bright and colourful. The pictures take up the whole page so really help to grab the childs interest and there is lots of detail so you can make up discussions with your child about what is happening.
The book sets a good impression of school, the teachers are shown as always happy and smiling, the children are friendly and there are lots of activities in the classroom pages. It shows that it is ok to be nervous about going and that other children may be feeling the same way.
This book is a nice story but it has never been one of his favourites which suprised me because he is mad about dinosaurs but he is willing to sit down and listen if I am reading it to another child.
Harry and the Dinosaurs is a popular series of children's books that have been written by Ian Whybrow. This particular title sees Harry and the Dinosaurs go to school, and is widely available. The best value is if you purchase this as part of a multi-title Harry and the Dinosaurs set from book retailers like The Works or The Book People. It's also available individually from places like WH Smith and Amazon, with a retail price of £5.99. Shop around for your copy though as the prices do vary quite considerably between retailers.
Our copy of this book is a large A4 version with a glossy front cover. You may find this is also available in a smaller hardback edition, as a lot of the stories from this series are. I much prefer it when stories aimed at this age group are in this larger format though, as it makes them easier to share with the child you are reading the story to. If the book is too small, the child can't see the pictures as you read.
The story is very simply about Harry's first day at school. He's a bit too shy to ask if he can have his bucketful of dinosaurs in the classroom, so he leaves them in the cloakroom. Harry decides he'd best take a very shy boy to the toilet, as the boy hasn't said a word all morning. On the way back, the pair find Harry's dinosaurs "raahhing" softly in the cloak room, and Harry tells the boy that one of them wants to have a ride on the boy's toy digger. The boy obliges, and a friendship is made. By the end of the session, the shy boy feels able to talk at last, and Harry and his dinosaurs are all settled into school.
I love how realistic this story is, and how it doesn't totally sugar-coat the starting school experience. Other books will imply to small children that everything is going to be just fine, and the day will run smoothly. However that's not always the case when children start school, and this book acknowledges that. I think it helps if the parent or person reading this book stops to ask the child who is either about to start school, or is just settling into school, what sort of problems they think they might have. Might they be shy? Might they be worried about making friends? About where to put their shoes? This is a great talking point for getting kids to open up in a subtle way.
The pictures are all really bright and colourful, and they cover almost every page. The text is quite small, so this is definitely intended as a picture book to be read by an adult. The story flows really smoothly, and is quite an easy bedtime story for a child to listen to. The only thing I think they could improve on is the use of onomatopoeia. I think a few more 'BANGS!' and 'CRASHES!' would help to get little listeners a tiny bit more involved. Other than that, this is a great book that I highly recommend for a child who will be starting school soon, or has recently started.