I've just finished reading Dorreya Wood's lovely book Just A Dream to 6-year-old Juliette for the first time and I think it will be read many more times in the future. It's written entirely in verse and I couldn't help putting on my voice that I use to read Dr Seuss's The Cat in the Hat so a great time was had by all !
The story tells the tale of a spoilt little boy called Justin who steals a penguin from a zoo, has a tantrum when he has to give it back and ungratefully tosses aside the penguin toy he is given as a replacement. Juliette already enthusiastically grinned and started telling me all the naughty things he was doing and why he was so horrible and pointing things out in the pictures.
Justin goes to bed and the penguin comes to life, taking him off on a magical adventure in Penguinland where he discovers that he's a penguin prince and plays with all his friends. Both the story and the detailed illustrations reminded me of the Raymond Briggs classic tale The Snowman.
On this "magical penguin adventure" level, the book works really well and Juliette loved it. As a parent, I enjoyed reading in rhyme which made it more interesting and fun than usual. I did feel that some of the vocabulary was quite complicated for young readers (I'm sure Juliette had no idea what "scores of penguins" means and, in order to keep the rhythm and rhyme going, you can't keep stopping to explain things).
I'm sure the underlying spiritual level went completely over her head though. The publisher explains : "Pick-a-Woo Woo Children's Books are designed to encourage spiritual growth, inspire joy and laughter and help create a more enlightened world by helping children with their mind, body, spirit connection." That sounds quite complex for a 6-year-old ! The story explains that there is a Higher Self and a Holy Spirit constantly accompanying us and guiding everything we do, but it doesn't lean towards any religion in particular or get too moralising, so it's not off-putting if you're not religious-minded.
I asked Juliette to tell me about the story after we'd finished to see what she'd understood and she went into great detail about the little boy's bad behaviour, throwing the toy away, the magical penguin kingdom and floating back home on an iceberg but the whole spiritual angle just totally passed her by. It does show that the at times rather ambitious vocabularly didn't pose the slightest problem though. She did ask why there were angels and fairies on the front cover when there weren't any in the story !
It's a lovely book and it's complicated enough to be a book to read and enjoy many times which will lead to some great discussions. The illustrations are also great for kids to look at and point things out in, so it's a fabulous bedtime book for 5-8 year olds.
It does seem a bit pricey (£9.99 for a 34 page A4 sized paperback book) but there are two things that will help justify spending the money - firstly a portion of Pick-a-Woo Woo's profits are donated to children's charitable organistaions and secondly the Eco Libris logo informs us that 100 trees have been planted for this edition.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £9.99
for more information : www.dorreyawood.com
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