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I was lucky enough to spot The Highway Rat in a hardback edition recently on offer for just £2.99 which I thought was a great offer as this is at least 50p cheaper than I can usually pick up similar titles for my daughter in paperback. The main reason I purchased this is because it is a collaboration between author Julia Donaldson illustrator Axle Scheffler a duo I know whose work compliments each other well and usually makes for a story that my daughter will enjoy. Having read most of their other work a quick flick through just to check out what it looked like at a glance was enough to seal the deal for me.
First released in 2011 The Highway Rat is one of this duo's more recent offerings. Written in classic Julia Donaldson style being easy to read yet quick paced whilst rhyming throughout which I feel makes this greatly entertaining. The story follows the Highway Rat whose life is proclaimed to be one big feast, mainly due to his acts of highway robbery from the back of his trusty steed, stealing food whether he likes it or not from those unfortunate enough to cross him. Stealing pastries and cakes from a rabbit, nuts from a squirrel and even hay from his own horse gives an idea of what sort of a cretin the Highway Rat is. Eventually however he meets his match in the way of a duck and is easily outsmarted by use of a little guile. All I will say is that his punishment is fitting and finishes off the book well, I will not speak of his punishment here as I feel even with children's books it is nice to leave the ending untold.
As an educational tool I find that Julia Donaldson and Axle Scheffler's books are a great tool for those just setting off on the journey of reading, and just as equally entertaining for children old enough to sit and read by themselves. As I have said in previous reviews the writing style helps to make the story flow really well, with the way that they rhyme placing all the emphasis in the right places helping individual words as well as the story on a whole to be learnt quickly, therefore making it easy for young readers to join in even if they cannot actually read the text.
The Highway Rat has a bit more of a sinister plotline to it than other books from this pair, yet the way it is tackled portrays stealing as something that is most definitely wrong, and there is usually a punishment waiting in the end. Whilst the Highway Rat is far from nice this is offset well by the other characters in the book and I would condsider this book to be anything other than scary. Overall I think that Julia Donaldson has done a brilliant job of writing this in keeping with previous titles, and whilst maybe aimed at a slightly older audience is still suitable from as soon as a child is enjoying being read to right up until 5 years of age at least maybe even having a bit more of a shelf life than this.
As always with Axel Scheffler's illustrations it is hard to imagine that anybody else would be able to match the quality of Julia Donaldson's story telling with the pictures that they draw, which is why I feel that they make such an excellent team. Axel Scheffler has yet again done an excellent job of depicting the story with bright colourful illustrations quite often adding to the story what words can't as well as including all of what Julia Donaldson is writing about. They do not over complicate the page leaving plenty of emphasis on the words written there and only adding to the captivation of this book for the little ones.
Axel Scheffler's illustrations really add a lot of depth and really help younger readers to grasp the story and understand what is being read to them. Overall I feel that Axel Scheffler's illustrations are brilliant throughout this book and easily match up to what he has published previously with Julia Donaldson making this another book that is great to look at as well as read.
In summary this book ticks all of the boxes I feel it is required to as a book aimed at those first starting out with reading. It is entertaining, educational, and funny as well as having a strong moral meaning running throughout. More importantly it is another book published from this duo that has stood the all-important test of being read to our daughter. I enjoy reading this book aloud to our daughter because of the flowing style that is so easy to read aloud, which also makes it ideal for reading as part of a group. Our daughter also likes taking this off on her own to have a flick through and look at the pictures which is where the hardback cover comes in handy as it is just that bit more durable than a paperback.
The excellent illustrations from Axel Scheffler and brilliant story writing from Julia Donaldson make this book well worth a look, and the fact that this book has captivated our daughters imagination enough to be read from cover to cover on more than several occasions speaks volumes by itself. The Highway Rat comes with a most definite 5/5 star recommendation from me as I find it highly enjoyable on every level and most importantly so does my daughter.
Julia Donaldson is back with another classic children's story, this time it's the turn of The Highway Rat. On the back of the book we are told to, "Beware of the Highway Rat. He'll steal your food..... and your heart!" the creators of The Gruffalo stand and deliver another masterpiece, in this rollicking rhyme inspired by Alfred Noyes' much loved poem, The Highwayman.
I really like this book as I am quite a big fan of The Highwayman poem and this is a funny reworking of the poem to make it fun for kids and is also a really funny way of incorporating a rat into the poem.
The little Highway rat is actually really cute even though he is supposed to be a mean rat. He reminds me of Antonio Banderas's puss in boots character in the Shrek movie series, he's small and wears a fun hat with a feather and a cape and boots, just like puss in boots would wear so I think that's where I get the similarity.
Along the way the rat meets lots of different animals on the road and I think this is a great way of familiarising kids with different animals. He meets rabbits, a squirrel, some ants, a cat, a spider and a duck to name but a few. The story is a good one because it teaches us a lesson in the end which is a good thing for kids to know.
The language and text in this book is nice and bold and easy to read and my daughter loves the repetition of the poem, always going back to The Highway phrase and this is the part she is able to join in with as she remembers this part.
As always with Julia Donaldson books this one is also wonderfully illustrated by Axel Scheffler. The animals are very authentic and lifelike and the book is wonderful and colourful and really brings the characters and story to life. This book is a large paperback book and makes it easy for kids to flick through the pages themselves. It costs £6.99 and is a wonderful kids book I recommend.