Monday, 14 October 2013

Early Readers: Ava Adds, Ethan Eats, Rory Rides, Violet Vanishes

Early Readers by Ursula Dubosarsky Illus by Annie White (Lothian/Hachette)
PB RRP $9.99
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie
Ursula Dubosarsky is an award-winning author who has written this four-story series to bridge the gap between picture books and junior fiction. Melbourne-based illustrator Annie White's line-and-wash images are as delightful as the simple text which relates well to the experiences of 5- to 7-year-olds. The books are all approximately 650 words long and are structured as novels of four chapters, each of which develops the storyline towards a satisfying conclusion.
Ava Adds ISBN: 9780734414007. Ava loves playing shops, using her bed as the display counter, and creating her own pretend bank notes. The opening chapter shows Ava and her friend Billy wondering what type of shop to have, and coming up with the answer - a shoe shop.
Chapter Two shows Ava as the bossy shoe salesperson going through the routine of helping a customer buy shoes. Billy chooses a gumboot and Ava tells him to try it on and walk up and down to see if it fits. Billy thinks it is too big. "Oh, you'll grow into it," said Ava.
In the final chapters, Billy appears quite confused when it comes to paying for his purchase, and gets upset parting with his money. However, Ava knows exactly what to do and the shopping session ends happily.
Ethan Eats ISBN: 9780734413987. Ethan is a good eater except he doesn't like peas. The use of green lettering for several words including peas enhances this statement; Annie White's illustration of a large plate of peas with Ethan looking glum adds further emphasis. Ethan's mother is okay with the fact he won't eat peas, but a problem arises when he has a sleep-over at his friend Gabby's house. Gabby's father doesn't know about Ethan's aversion to this particular green vegie, and gives Ethan a generous helping at dinner.
In Chapter Three, Ethan tackles all the other food first, but when nothing but the peas are left on his plate, he begins to worry. Would he get into trouble for not eating them?
Fortunately, Gabby's father is a wise dad and a good solution is found so that Ethan can relax and not feel uncomfortable.
Rory Rides ISBN: 9780734413994. Rory loves riding his bike. His dad explains why there are two small wheels at the back. "They are called training wheels," said Rory's Dad. "They are to stop you falling over, while you are learning."
Rory's older cousins arrive for a visit with their big bikes without training wheels. They zoom off leaving Rory to peddle like mad to try and catch up with them. On a turn, his front wheel hits a stick and flips over, and Rory lands on the ground with an "Ouch!"
Chapter Three commences with Rory rubbing his leg and discovering one of his training wheels has fallen off and disappeared. He wonders if he can ride his bike without it. Would he wobble and fall off, too?
The last chapter has Dad arriving with the missing wheel. He flips up the other training wheel so it doesn't touch the ground and Rory begins to ride. His cousins encourage him and Rory soon discovers the answer to his question.
Violet Vanishes ISBN: 9780734413970. Violet wants to see a magic show like the one she saw on television. The magician wore a cape and top hat and had made a rabbit disappear. Chapter Two has mum searching the newspapers and notices and finding out that a magic show is to be held at the library. Violet and her mum join other kids on the floor of the library and Violet's heart thumps with excitement as she sees the magician's silk cloth and wand.
When the magician appears he is just a young fellow in jeans. He begins with card tricks, and instead of a rabbit he holds up a pineapple and announces he will make it disappear. The lights go off and when they come on again not only has the pineapple disappeared, so has Violet!
The author brings the story to a conclusion kids will easily relate to, and when Violet wonders what it must be like to be a rabbit in a magic show, mum makes the statement all mums will endorse.

I particularly liked the illustrations in Violet Vanishes. The last one of mum and Violet in conversation on the bus is particularly endearing. Children will enjoy the experience of reading these first short novels.

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