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Usborne Publishers are well known for their range of educational books for children and within that range, one of the popular series of books is Farmyard Tales. These books are written by Heather Amery and illustrated by Stephen Cartwright, who is sadly not with us anymore but leaves behind a large collection of books with his signature on each page of a little yellow duck to find.
This set of books is especially aimed at children who are learning to read. There is a shorter and easier line of text at the top of each page, which can be mastered first, and then a more descriptive story at the bottom of each page.
We start off the story down on Apple Tree Farm with Mrs Boot the farmer and her two children called Poppy and Sam. Their dog Rusty is also there.
"'Why are the cows so noisy?' asks Sam."
They run outside to have a look and find that a hot air balloon is about to land in their field. They soon find out that they have run out of gas and they are waiting on their friend to bring some more out to them in a truck.
The children are fascinated to see how the balloon works and they are offered a ride in the balloon with their mother.
They are amazed to see how everything looks down below them and thoroughly enjoy the short trip. Eventually they land again and the truck comes to pick them up and take them home.
The story ends with,
"'Thank you very much.'
They wave as the balloon takes off again.
'We were flying,' says Sam."
Stephen Cartwright was a wonderful illustrator and his pictures will live on through these lovely stories for many years to come. The drawings are realistic and very bright and colourful but the most fun is the fact that there is a little yellow duck on each page that children love to look out for. Sometimes it will be in an easy to see position and other times it is hidden away with only it's beak and head showing.
I love this set of books and remember some from when my girls were little many years ago. My son was a big fan when he was just learning to read by himself, as this series is ideal for him because the line of text at the top of the page gave him confidence and pleasure to read the book.
Bedtime has always been a big time for reading a book with him and he still loves to hear my hubby or I read to him but after starting school, he gradually wanted to try to sound out more and more words himself so this was perfect for him. Now that he is seven he can read it all quite confidently by himself.
The characters are lovely and familiar to him because there are a lot of books in the series and he recognised some of the characters from earlier board books that he has seen. The story is simple and exciting - after all, what child wouldn't want the opportunity to fly in a hot air balloon.
The other thing I like about these books is the opportunity to discuss what is happening in the pictures and this is something that they are specially designed for too. It means that pre-schoolers can give their ideas too and of course they all seem to love looking for the little duck, which helps their observational skills.
I'm sure any parent of a pre-schooler would find this book a helpful buy because it has quite a long shelf life with the various levels of text. It was certainly a popular choice with my son.
***Other Farmyard Tales***
Barn on Fire
Dolly & the Train
Kitten's Day Out
Pig Gets Lost
Pig Gets Stuck
Rusty's Train Ride
The Grumpy Goat
The Hungry Donkey
The Naughty Sheep
The New Pony
The Old Steam Train
The Runaway Tractor
The Silly Sheepdog
The Snow Storm
Tractor in Trouble
Woolly Stops the Train
***Price & Availability***
This paperback retails for the publishing price of £3.99 but can be found at Tesco for only £3.59.
ISBN No. 0746062109
'Surprise Visitors' by Heather Amery and Stephen Cartwright is one of twenty titles in the Usborne Farmyard Tales mini edition series. All of the stories revolve around Apple Tree Farm and the family that live there; Mr and Mrs Boot, Poppy and Sam and their dog Rusty. In each book the children have an adventure joined by the rest of the family or some of the other characters who live in the village.
In this story Poppy and Sam are busy having breakfast with their mum when they hear the cows being very noisy in the fields. They wonder what all the fuss is about and all three go outside to have a look. They see a hot air balloon floating overhead. The ballooon is getting lower and eventually lands in teh cow field. Alice and Tim get out of teh balloon and apologise to Mrs Boot for casuing the cows to be frightened. They explain that they have run out of gas and someone is coming along with some more for them. When teh red truck arrives Poppy and Sam help Tim hold teh balloon open and blow it back up again. Alice and Tim offer the Boots' a ride in the balloon as a thank-you. They all take Alice and Tim up on the offer (who wouldn't?) and go for a ride in the balloon. They are returned safe and sound to the ground having had a wonderful time flying in the sky! Now that is what I call an adventure!
Each of the Farmyard Tales books has a little yellow duck to find on each page. This is an added bonus and fun, interactive task for children to do. My son loves to find the duck and can often find him before I do! It encourages the children to look at the pciture and scan the pages looking for the detail.
Each of the Farmyard tales stories have a unique writing style. On each page there are two sections to the text. A shorter, more simple sentence at the top of the page followed by a longer and more detailed sentence at the bottom. These stories are suitable for beginner readers (5years plus) and so when reading together with your child, first talk about the pictures and then encourage your child to read the first sentence, followed by you reading the more detailed sentence.
For younger children you can read in different ways as well. If you want a very short story just read either the sentence at the top or at teh bottom of the page. For a longer story read both. Always remember to talk about the story with your child, looking at the picture as these are very well illustrated stories that will tell the story alone.
These books are great for reading at bedtime and also for taking away or out with you. They are nice and small so fit into a handbag easily. The book isn't just to read as there is the find the duck option too. It will keep your child entertained for a long time. I always take some of these books when we go away for the weekend or travel for longer in the car, they don't take up much room so you can easily take a variety.
I would recommend these books for both boys and girls. Their educational value changes as a child gets older. My son is 20 months and so I read the stories to him but for older children they can begin to read the story themselves using the pictures (making up a story) or starting to read the text.
These books are published by Usborne books. They are only £1.50 so not only lots of fun and a great story to read but also a bargain!