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Now not having kids of my own, I don't often review kids products, but I was lucky enough to be given some Bayard books recently to pass on to my nieces and nephews, so I thought I'd review them as well.
The Story Box is aimed at 3-6 year olds, and the issues I looked at were issues 137 and 140. Story Box is issued once a month, costs £4.15 per issue. This is quite a high price, but it's not too bad once you realise what you're getting, as this is more of a book with extras than a magazine as it first appears.
It contains a mixture of things, beginning with a main story which is around 21 pages long so virtually the same as you'd get in a small book aimed at this age group really.
In issue 137 it was 'Little Black Cat is Scared of the Dark' by Joel Franz Rosell which is about a small cat who's too afraid of the dark to follow his brothers and sisters out to play at night, because he's afraid he won't be seen because of his colour. When he does however he realises he can be seen because of his eyes and he helps a young rabbit find its way home too. It's quite a simple story, but considering the age group it's for, it's not bad. I'd say it's probably aimed at the younger end of the age range rather than the older, as my 6 yr old nephew wasn't that impressed by it, and started wanting to wander off and do other things.
Issue 140's main story is 'The Duchess and her Sock' by E. Soleil. This story is aimed slightly older and has more words per page than the first one, so they obviously vary it a little to try and aim it across the age range well. The story is about a Duchess who was knitting socks for her admirer when she was young and her father sent him away. He had one, she had the other and kept it till she was an old lady. One day the sock is taken away by her dog and she chases it through town and does things a duchess wouldn't normally do (playing marbles and riding on a bike with the fisherman) and eventually finds her sock and her love again. This story takes up almost half the book/magazine. My nephew did enjoy it, though being 'all boy' he had to finish by telling me that she was silly to wait all those years and how girls were soppy. He also got a bit OTT about them hugging at the end and living happily ever after - apparently old people aren't supposed to do things like that. I'm not sure why lol.
After the story in each book/magazine, it then follows a pattern where you then get things like questions and answers about why we don't see in the dark, or how we see colours, or why leaves fall off the trees in autumn. Then it moves on to a section that's cartoony, and is by the looks of it an ongoing story 'samsam the smallest of the big heros' that spans several book/magazines. Next comes around 6 pages about the animal world, focussing on one animal. In the two I've got it's the Orang-utans and Wolves. These are quite nicely done, and my nephew really enjoyed this part a lot. He's very into animals and found everything in there really interesting, although I did think it was a bit of a shame that it was drawings rather than photographs that were used. Next come some fun and games pages with dot-to-dot, and other bits where you fill in the letters of words, or put the pictures in the right order to make the story make sense. Again my nephew liked this section a lot and stopped to take the magazine/book to the floor so he could do the puzzles by himself (up till then we'd looked through it together). Next comes a rhyme or poem - these seemed a bit odd to me, as one was sounds a cat made clearing it's throat followed by a verse asking the cat to sing to us again, and the other seemed to be in some odd language and then translated - about bears buttering buns. My nephew found the cat one funny, with the other one he'd pretty much given up listening at this point and was playing with his cars. Next comes an advertising page for all the different magazine/books in the Bayard series, followed by a 3 page story without words where you can get your child to tell you the story. My nephew is rather good at telling stories, so on the first magazine we looked at his was quite fantastical and had little to do with what was in the pictures except occasionally. On the other magazine as I say he'd given up by this point.
Overall, these aren't bad, but I do find them rather over priced considering what's in there. Most of the stuff is the sort of thing a child is only going to want to look at once or twice though I suppose they might come back to the stories over again. I think this is really aimed more at 3-5 to be honest as apart from one or two bits they were a little young for my nephew and didn't hold his interest as well as one would want it to if you were spending this sort of money. Like I say, I was lucky enough to be given these copies, so the money wasn't an issue for me.