* Prices may differ from that shown
I have often mentioned the fact that boys do not read as much as girls, and often struggle with reading. A large number of experts have concluded this is due, at least in part to motivation. Finding books that really make boys want to read can go a long way towards improving reading achievement. My boys tend to be typical in that they prefer a lot more action and adventure in their stories. So when I came across the 'Time Soldiers' series, I thought this might make a perfect addition to our growing collection of books for boys.
'Rex' is the first book in the 'Time Soldiers' series. This series is illustrated with photographs of what I presume are the authors children and a couple of their mates, digitally altered to appear as if the children have gone back in time to various different ages. In this story they have gone a prehistoric period - although narrowing it down would be impossible as they have combined animals from the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods with a caveman and a modern lizard which has just been enlarged. At least the fact that the animals do not belong together is mentioned in the story - but I do think it would have made for better and more educational reading to have stuck to one era - at the very least the giant lizard could have been omitted. There are a few other major faults in this book. In particular, the photography is frequently a bit blurred. I also would have found it more tasteful to include one ad, at the end of the story for the books website, rather than placing them on every other page or so. In particular, I felt the large ads stamped across the main illustrations were in poor taste.
But - in spite of my reservations, my children both enjoyed this book. This book does combine a children's only adventure, plenty of dinosaurs, and even the stereotypical "Men in Black". They liked the adventure of children like themselves interacting with dinosaurs, and my 3 year old especially liked a section where the children play with and go for rides on the vegetarian dinosaurs. Even my six year old was a bit skeptical of the boys driving off a T-Rex with a duck caddy, but their overall feelings toward the book were quite good and they immediately asked for the second book. This book ends halfway through the story basically, if you want to find out what happens - you must buy book two.
Naturally, being required to buy a second book annoyed me. Especially when I learned that while this book had cost me under £3, book two was going to cost £6, and that only after quite a bit of hunting on my part. Rex 2 actually sells for close to £10. Still I was was happy enough to have found a new series that the boys might really take too. If only Book 2 had lived up to the first, I'd have been happy enough with this book. This book is completely unrealistic ( even if one can accept the premise of time travel) and adds to the unrealistic feel unnecessarily with the addition of a giant lizard, perhaps left over from a 1950's Japanese B movie. The missing link - beast man would also have been better left out. But it is good fun fantasy and the children really enjoyed it. Still the overuse of advertising and the poor quality of many of the photos cost this book a star in my opinion. I would also note that the text is white on black - making this more difficult for children to read. The reading level would be perhaps age 7 -8, but the subject level is younger so this book is best read by parents anyway, but even for myself, I prefer black print on white rather than the reverse, especially on paper prone to casting off a glare. Overall I found the blurry images, glossy paper and white print to give me a bit of headache.
I can't really say as I recommend it, but if you are willing to buy both books, and can overlook historical inconsistencies as well as poor photography, it isn't a bad book. In fact there are aspects of this that could have been brilliant. The author has tapped into many children's fantasies and I really thought I could see this series going somewhere. It would certainly have benefited by better photography and printing skills. I think this would best suit ages 2 -6. There is a T-rex in this book, obviously, but there is nothing really frightening, and I would class this book as more cute than scary. I do not think even the youngest of children would be frightened by this. Before purchase though, I would note though, that Rex 2 ( to be reviewed later) is not as good as the first book.