Thursday, June 14, 2007

A read-it-yourself adventure story

Barney is stuck in bed with the chicken pox, and the itches are driving him crazy. Luckily his Grandpa knows lots of stories, stories that are so exciting that they make the itches go away - at least till it's time for a new story.

In this third installment of the easy-reader series, Barney's grandmother wants him to take a nap before Dr. Storkmeyer comes. Grandpa is clearly itching (pardon the pun) to tell him a story about the time Dr. Storkmeyer got his head shrunk. But no, Grandma says he must mow the lawn while Barney takes his nap. Off Grandma goes in her pickup truck, and Grandpa cleverly finds a way to take care of yard work as well as tell Barney his exciting adventure story.

The story is funny and action packed, involving poison arrows, a creepily funny jungle queen, and a head-shrinking potion made from triple-sour lemonade and cranberry juice. To add to the fun, there are comic-book speech bubbles to complement the text.

This is a treat for children who are fairly proficient readers but are still daunted by huge blocks of text unbroken by illustrations. The vocabulary is challenging but not too difficult - in fact, it is categorized as I Can Read level 2, "reading with help." (But levels vary from publisher to publisher, so don't trust the number -- always look at the text to see if it the right kind of book for your young reader.) Best of all, it's an interesting story, fun and exciting and enjoyable to read.

One criticism of this series that I've heard is that, with the chicken pox vaccine and fewer children getting the virus, the premise is obsolete. Not in our family! One of my children had the vaccine and still got chicken pox - twice! Regardless, any child can certainly identify with being uncomfortable and stuck in bed, and the stories are so fun that I find myself hoping it will take quite a while before poor Barney gets better!

The Shrunken Head: Grandpa Spanielson's Chicken Pox Stories # 3 by Denys Cazet (HarperCollins, 2007)


  1. i like that this series is called "read-it-yourself." i know it's supposed to be empowering, but it also sounds like a sarcastic imperative: "what? you don't like my interpretation? fine! READ IT YOURSELF, then!"

  2. Tee hee - I actually called it that - it's really an "I Can Read" book (as in, you idiot, I CAN read, you know). Which begs the response, I imagine, of "then read it yourself!


    What I was getting at was that too often the really exciting books are the ones that adults have to read to kids - the beginning readers too often get stuck with simplistic, repetitive stuff. I liked that this was funny and exciting, but was still easy enough for kids to read themselves. Which you probably figured, but you know me, blah blah blah...


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