Review Blog

Oct 03 2014

Newts, lutes and bandicoots by Mark Carthew and Mike Spoor

cover image

IP Kidz, 2009. ISBN 9781921479335. ebk ISBN 9781921869792.
(Ages: 6-10)
'In a gourmet cafe by the Bay of Biscay.
The seafood buffet was well on its way
When a curried satay
Caught fire on a tray
And flambeed the moustache of a waiter named Ray!'
This is the first rhyme in this unusual book which focuses on the multitude of ways that a particular sound can be spelt in English. It is accompanied by a riddle - 'This creature crawls beneath the bay, Searching for rocks and sand each day' - and hidden amongst the rich full-page illustration is the answer to that riddle. But as the students search they will also discover a host of other items that have that 'ay' sound even though their spelling might be different. In this instance they could find archway, bay, beret, birthday, bray, buffet and more than 20 others! Each page features a different sound combination and takes the explorer on a journey through their imagination as they examine a trolls' lair, a magician's cave, a circus, a castle, ski slopes and the outback.
Given the popularity of books like Where's Wally that have even the most reluctant readers poring over pages to spot the hidden items, this book is a winner on many levels because it teaches as the children search and encourages them to think and discuss and focus on the inconsistencies of our language. Also hidden on each page is a tiny newt or bandicoot playing a lute enabling even those not yet ready for the spelling aspect to participate.
Once the basics of letter/sound recognition have been mastered, the most commonly used skill in determining the correct spelling of a word is whether it looks right, and so developing visual perception and discrimination are critical skills. So combining the elements of rhythm, rhyme and riddle and accompanying them with complex, colourful and quirky pictures makes this a great book that will provide for hours of entertainment and learning. And then there is the next one, Witches, britches, itches and twitches.
Barbara Braxton

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