I have finally come to the last of the parcel of books that Barrington Stoke sent me to review. I am very sad about this.
As I pulled the book in question from the teetering pile by my bed I also realised that I have read The Bad Trousers before. I had mixed feelings about this, not because the book is/was bad you understand, but because I had been expecting something new.
In the end I am rather glad I got to revisit this tale by Ros Asquith. It is splendid, and certainly stands up to a re-reading. It is one of those books that is salted through with little nuggets of pleasure, and which will be fun to read and re-read to and with children for a long time to come.
I have re-blogged my original review below for you. Everything I said then stands now, and the only thing I think I missed is the rather wonderful games and activities on the inside book covers at the front and back that you should definitely make time to find and do. I love things like this, and children will enjoy discovering the extra treats too. Probably more than me, if truth be told.
I’d also add what a pleasure it has been over the course of my reviewing for Barrington Stoke that the authors have been so well matched with illustrators of such fine quality in every book. The illustrations are such a powerful part of what makes these stories so successful.
Here’s what I said about the book way back in September of last year:
The Bad Trousers by Ros Asquith is the first of the Barrington Stoke, Little Gem books I picked up from the library earlier in the week. I have posted about Barrington Stoke and their Little Gem books previously. You can read the post by clicking the link here.
At first glance the book might seem familiar to you, as the illustrations are by Mairi Hedderwick, who is responsible for the very popular stories about Katie Morag, which have now been adapted for television.
Asquith also has an impressive pedigree as a writer, having written over seventy books for children. In this story, we meet Robbie, who lives in a small, seaside village with his fairly eccentric family. There are some lovely touches of humour here. His mother is an experimental cook at home, sometimes with disastrous results for the rest of the family. His granny is called Granny Knit, because she knits everything. His uncle is called Uncle Poached Egg, for reasons unclear, but delightful.
Robbie has a birthday coming up. His heart’s desire is a shiny, red, ride on tractor toy he has been eyeing up in the shop for months. His mother wants him to have practical things like a new coat and lunch box.
The story follows the build up to Robbie’s birthday, with a rather lovely sub plot about kittens, and culminates in the big day itself, and a small addendum at the end with regard to Christmas.
The book has gorgeous illustrations with lots of detail which you can discuss with the reader, and help them decode and expand the story in their imagination. The story is broken up into manageable, chapter like chunks which give it a more grown up feel than a regular picture book, and as I said in my previous post, I love the fact that the book is made for a child’s hands to hold and manage. Traditional picture books are wonderful, but they can be awkward for little hands to cope with on their own.
I worried that the clarity of the pictures might be lost in a smaller edition of a book, or that the quality would be poorer. There are other small sized picture books available on the market, but they are often marketed as cheaper alternatives to regular picture books, and as such, the quality tends to suffer rather. I also worried they might be flimsy, but they are not. They have proper book spines and are quite chunky to handle. They feel like a cut down version of a novel, rather than a cheap version of a picture book.
I need not have worried. The production quality is high and the book is an absolute delight. The story is funny, charming and engaging. It would work equally well for boys and girls aged anywhere from 2 to 8 as it is perfect for a read aloud story as well as a read alone story.
Barrington Stoke have marked it on their website as something that could be read by children with a reading age of six, and an interest range of six to eight years. The first chapter is available to read on their website, by clicking the image on the product page. You can follow the link here.