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Regular readers will know that I sometimes get sent very lovely parcels of books from dyslexia friendly publisher Barrington Stoke to review. A few weeks ago they sent me some early years appropriate picture books from their Picture Squirrels range to have a look at.  I’ve been so busy I only just got round to reading the first one today. I saved it for a quiet moment to savour and enjoy and it was a real pleasure to read. I’m really looking forward to sharing it with some of the children at school. I know they’ll love it.


Picture Squirrels have their own dedicated website that you can visit here. Their brief, just as with their books for older readers, is to promote a love of reading and to make it easy and accessible for the 30% of children in the UK who experience reading difficulties such as dyslexia, as well as for everyone else. As such they incorporate a lot of dyslexia friendly material into their books, making them suitable for everyone to share. This is something which is particularly valuable in picture books, as they are ideally made for sharing.

As with the Little Gems for slightly older readers I love so much, these family friendly picture books offer:

A clear, easy to read sans serif font.

A tinted background for all the pages which makes them easier to read.

Wider spacing between words and letters and more space on the page in general. This helps the eye to orient itself more successfully and lets children track the words across the page better.

Well thought out collaborations between authors and illustrators where words and pictures work together beautifully to make the entire book a delightful reading experience, text enriching pictures and vice versa.


I was sent Mad In The Back by Michael Rosen, with illustrations by Richard Watson.

I love Michael Rosen. My children have grown up with his songs and stories and poems, and they are not the only ones. Rosen’s success and popularity with young readers seems to go from strength to strength over the years and he is now a literary institution and in our house, has national treasure status.

This lovely book has the same lyrical quality as some of his narrative poems. It reminded me very much of the poem Chocolate Cake, and just as much mischief in it. A brother and sister narrate the tale of a car journey in which they systematically drive their mum mad with what they call ‘the Moaning’.

Any parent who has taken a journey of any length at all with small children will find this book wryly entertaining. It is very true to life indeed, and extremely enjoyable because of it. The fact that the humour is broad enough to incorporate both adult readers and children who are being read to make this one of those books that families will love to share again and again.

The illustrations by Richard Watson are perfectly suited to the text and make the book even more fun to read. There are lots of gross details like noses running with luminous green bogey snot and horrible face pulling from the children, as well as mum’s increasingly frazzled expression. I like the fact that the book embraces diversity and has a mix of races depicted in the family. It’s nice to see real life reflected in the pages of picture books. It’s particularly important, in my opinion to have this in early years books as it shows children a true reflection of a world that they recognise and share in.

This is great fun, and a truly funny book to share with children. It is ideally suited for the early years age group, and Barrington Stoke recommend it for children aged 3-5 years, but I predict it will be one of those books that becomes a firm family favourite, and in years to come you will find older children sneaking back to have a read, just because they love it.

I was particularly excited to discover that you can listen to Michael Rosen read Mad in the Back here, on the Barrington Stoke website.