Minikid by Michael Morpurgo is the last of the batch of Little Gem, dyslexia friendly books by Barrington Stoke that I picked up in my local library recently. As you will see, from the huge number of Little Gems that I have reviewed on Making them Readers, I have a real soft spot for the series.
It is not only that the quality of the books are so high, but that I love that they are made for smaller hands to manipulate and that they have so many simple but effective tools to help children read.
- Short chapter lengths that children can easily achieve and feel good about.
- Cream pages that are much more suited to children with dyslexia and other reading problems than white pages.
- Simple, sans serif fonts in larger sizes which make letters easier to recognise and distinguish between.
- Good amounts of blank space on the page, and between the lines of text making it easier for children to get their eye in and not muddle up lines.
- Great illustrations that are well suited to the story and give the reader plenty of visual clues as well as enjoyment.
- Extras like nice thick paper so that the pages are easy to turn and a pleasure to handle.
- Quizzes, jokes and games on the inside front covers of the book.
- Integral book marks on the front and back covers.
- Each book is chosen with a specific age range and reading/interest ability in mind and the books are tested by children before Barrington Stoke publish them.
All this is tremendous, and makes for an exceptional reading experience. I am also wildly impressed by the number of stupendously gifted authors and illustrators who work with Barrington Stoke to give wonderful stories to a publisher who is committed to doing marvellous things in children’s fiction.
Minikid is one of those stories, and comes from the pen of Michael Morpurgo, ex children’s laureate and prolific author, most famous for his book War Horse which is now a successful film and play.
Morpurgo writes a lot about animals. He writes about animals in a realistic, unsentimental, sometimes upsetting and gritty way. I believe that it is important that children learn about the real world, and I think fiction is an exceptional place to learn about things that might broaden your horizons. I do however struggle with this story, as I also struggled with an earlier story by him I reviewed on here called Snug.
In this story it is not so much what happens to the animals that I found upsetting, although there are elements that children may struggle to come to terms with, and I do advise that you read the book first and judge your audience before leaping into this book for story time. In this story I found that I had most problems with Minikid himself.
The story is written from the point of view of a boy whose cousin comes to stay on the family farm while his mum and dad sort out their problems. The children do not like him very much. He is wild, and wilful and cruel. They nickname him Minikid.
Each chapter deals with a different event in the time that Minikid stays with the family and I have to say that neither Minikid nor the other children come out of it particularly well. There is no real moral here, and the stories are rather open ended and just presented rather like a slab of meat which you feel you should inspect but don’t really know what to do with.
It is written with a recommended reading age of six and an interest age of five to eight years. I think it might be an interesting book for older readers to start discussions in class with over the wider questions that are implicit in the text. It certainly makes you think about the nature of cruelty and responsibility. There are a lot of ways you could go with this book, but I can’t say it was a pleasure to read.
You can read the first chapter here.