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The Fabulous Flapdoodles - Chae Strathie

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Genre: Junior Books / Author: Chae Strathie / paperback / 1st Edition / Publication Date: 2011 / Publisher: Scholastic

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      19.06.2012 17:28
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      A colourful, quirky story for children who like monsters

      "When stars fill the sky at the end of the day
      the Fabulous Flapdoodles
      come out to play."

      Meet the Fabulous Flapdoodles, magical and mischievous little creatures who sneak into your room when you're asleep and get up to all sorts of tricks. Have you ever wondered why you can only find odd socks on a morning? That's because the Flapdoodles are particularly fond of hiding single socks in their Flapdoodle box. But they don't just do naughty things. Flapdoodles have a much more important task to carry out. They keep us safe from all the things that go bump in the night, all those scary monsters, ghosts and bogeymen that lurk under our bed or sneak into our rooms in the dead of night. Fear not! The Fabulous Flapdoodles will see them all off in a variety of ingenious ways, including trapping naughty ghouls in nets made of moonbeams and shrinking giants down until they are two inches tall.

      This book is intended to reassure children who get scared at bedtime. Whatever night terror your child may experience, the Fabulous Flapdoodles will send them scampering into the night. That is the idea anyway. I do wonder whether this book actually creates more problems than it solves because some of the monsters portrayed in this book are seriously creepy. The grumpy blue bumpalumpus has the body of a caterpillar and a grotesque, bulbous human face. I'm not sure it's the sort of thing I would want to look at last thing at night, let alone a child with night terrors. The bogeyman dripping with green goo is quite disturbing too and possibly scarier than anything a child's imagination could conjure up on its own. I therefore have to wonder whether the book shoots itself in the foot because in the process of telling children there is no need to be scared, it brings them face to face with some very scary looking creatures!

      Having said that, it is true that not all the monsters are frightening. Some of them have a more cartoon-like quality which wouldn't be out of place in Monsters Inc. However, I would recommend thinking carefully before giving this book to a child who is prone to nightmares or is of a timid disposition.

      The Fabulous Flapdoodles themselves are......well, fabulous! With their feathery, bird-like bodies, long skinny legs in red, stripy stockings and their wild purple hair, they are zany in a way that reminds me of the creations of the great Dr Seuss. The book's off the wall style resembles a Dr Seuss book too. There is plenty of totally wacky detail, such as the Flapdoodles travelling around on brooms built for six and the information that they always have things hidden under their hats, "like cookies and spell books and tiny green cats."

      The attention to rather bizarre detail really inspires the imagination and shows children that stories do not have to be limited to what is predictable and mundane. My daughters always liked their stories to be on the wacky side and they have both grown up to be quite alternative in their approach to creative pursuits. Creativity knows no limits and this is a valuable lesson to learn from an early age to stand children in good stead when they begin writing stories of their own.

      The book is told in rhyme which makes it an excellent choice to read aloud to young children who cannot yet read independently. Being able to use rhyme to predict the word at the end of a sentence means that children can participate in the reading experience even before they can read properly. If an adult is reading the book to a child, they can pause at the end of the sentence to see if the child can fill in the missing word. This makes the story a more interactive experience and motivates the child to concentrate, listening carefully to the word sounds, whilst also using the pictures as a cue.

      I love the way that this book makes reading fun by actively playing with language. There is plenty of alliteration (Fabulous Flapdoodles, boggle-eyed Bugwaggles, etc.) , some onomatopoeia words (slithery, ooze, puff, slime) and made-up words (Snarkles, Starwhizzers, etc.) Not only does this make reading aloud exuberant and lots of fun, but it also helps children to appreciate the way that specific words are made by particular sound combinations, an important pre-reading skill. As with Dr Seuss, some of the lines have a tongue-twister quality. The author sometimes swaps the order of similar sounding words, for example, "big scary hairies" and "small hairy scaries" which demonstrates the endless and amusing possibilities of our rich, colourful, expressive language.

      Children who are fluent enough to read the book independently will be able to spot word patterns, noticing how some words that rhyme are spelled similarly e.g. fright/night, wall/all, clocks/socks, etc, but others that rhyme are spelled quite differently, such as ghoul/fool, tough/puff, there/scare, etc. It is a great book for introducing the irregularities of the English language.

      Overall I do like this book for its whimsical charm, particularly the lovely pictures of the Flapdoodles up in the clouds amongst the twinkling stars, birds and rainbows. I ought to point out, however, that the Flapdoodles don't always set the best example. They doodle and draw on walls, for example. Speaking as a parent of a child who regularly scribbled on the paintwork, the last thing I would want was a book that encouraged it. However, I suppose in one sense it's refreshing to see that the Flapdoodles, for all their good deeds, are not whiter than white. They are naughty sometimes. They enjoy juggling your wardrobe while you sleep too and jiggling the hands of the clock. Maybe this makes them all the more likeable.

      Apparently you never see the Flapdoodles because they come out at night and vanish before you wake up. However, they are always watching you from behind the clouds with their long golden telescopes, "waiting and watching to make sure you're good." Maybe it's just me, but I think that sounds a little bit sinister. Not every child is going to be comfortable with that thought, especially as the Flapdoodles apparently know when you're being naughty. However, for those parents who like to use a bit of bribery, a reminder here and there along the lines of "the Flapdoodles are watching you" might work wonders when you want your child to behave!

      In spite of my reservations about some frankly hideous monsters, I am sure many children would love this book. It really does depend on the child. Although this book seems to be designed to help children who have night terrors, I actually think it is better suited to those who don't, but just want to enjoy a weird and wonderful story. I suspect that it could actually make night terrors worse. However, for those who love their monsters as hideous as possible (and many children do), the blue bumpalumpus and the oozing green bogeyman will be a great treat. This book is currently available new from £1.83 from sellers at Amazon.

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