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Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown is another blast from my past book which has recently been re-released in a whizzy new format, complete with website, interactive apps and the like. It has been a staple of our school library, in all its incarnations for about the last forty years. Despite this, I had never read it until today. It was one of my brother’s favourite books, and as my brother and I cordially hated each other for our entire childhoods, it put me off rather.

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Today, being World Book Day, I decided to celebrate it by checking out Flat Stanley, especially as I was reliably informed that it features in the 1001 children’s books to read before you die list.

Luckily for me it was a) short enough to polish off in about half an hour and b) very enjoyable, so it was a win win situation for a time pressed, guilt ridden librarian.

This book, and the succeeding books in the series, are books which we feature both in our Guided Free Reader section of our reading scheme, and also our free reader library. We like to use it as a bridging book between the two abilities, but also recognise that free readers might love it and want to carry on reading them without being thought babyish or inadequate.

Flat Stanley tells the story of Stanley Lambchop, who wakes up one morning to find that the noticeboard in his bedroom has fallen on him in the night and flattened him. Other than being flat, Stanley is perfectly fine, and he and his family learn to cope with his flatness as the book progresses.

Stanley finds that being flat has its benefits, like being able to make the world’s most agile kite out of himself, and being posted to visit his best friend on the other side of the country. He also finds it has its bad points. Stanley learns to negotiate his way round his new life before his brother finds a way to restore him back to his old, rounded self.

The book is pretty simplistic. It does not go into depth about what happens, nor expand upon Stanley’s adventures in anything more than a cursory way. As such it makes a great transitional or chapter book, being undemanding in terms of vocabulary and the amount of thought the child has to put into the book. It has good, clear to read font and font size. it also has plenty of illustrations and white space on the page, with easy to finish chapters.

This would make an excellent guided reader in class room situations and there are lots of activities and ideas on the website for teachers to exploit.

I recommend it for boys and girls aged six and up. I wouldn’t give it to readers older than about ten, unless they need something simpler than a regular novel can offer, as it might prove a little dull for children with older interests, but for younger children who are confident in their reading skills and are just embarking on free reading, this is excellent.

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