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Gawain Greytail and the Terrible Tab by Cornelia Funke is the second of Barrington Stoke’s new picture book imprint, Picture Squirrels, I have been sent to review.  The first of these was Mad In the Back by Michael Rosen, which I have already reviewed here on Making Them Readers.


I have been reviewing Barrington Stoke’s Little Gem series for some time, and thoroughly enjoying what they have sent up to now. Picture Squirrels are shaping up to be just as pleasurable to read and review, despite having a slightly different focus to the Little Gems series.

Picture Squirrels are aimed at younger readers, and are ideal for sharing with children who are just beginning to acquire literacy skills. They are for families, for teachers in Early Years and nursery settings, for older children to share with younger siblings, for any setting where sitting down to share a book together seems like the best idea. They are aimed at children aged 3-5.  Picture Squirrels are the sort of books which will become well worn favourites that get read hundreds of times and become tattered, well worn volumes that are remembered word for word years after the reader has grown out of them.

I love picture books for that very reason.

Cornelia Funke is a long term collaborator with Barrington Stoke and I have reviewed many of her books here on Making Them Readers. Her breadth is wide and I love the fact she can turn her hand to any subject. In this book we visit Raven Castle, where Sir Tristan of Twitstream is so fed up with the mice in the castle eating his food and gnawing his children’s toys, he calls in Terrible Tab, a cat who is the enemy of mice everywhere.  None of the mice are safe, and their numbers dwindle until there are only three of them left.

Shuffle, Snuffle and Scuffle are in despair. They know their days are numbered and they do not know if they can even escape the castle, the Terrible Tab is so ruthless. Their lives are saved and their futures are turned around by the arrival of the marvellous mouse knight Gawain Greytail.

The book is a lovely skit on medieval tales of chivalry and derring do. It is a well balanced mix of adventure and funny story. I particularly liked that the mouse hero is called Gawain.  Having studied Arthurian legends at university I am conversant with Gawain, and much prefer him as a mouse. I like a story where the undermouse wins the day, and they definitely do here.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Monica Armino in a kind of Disneyesque style with bold lines, stunning colour-ways and a deep, rich palate that makes excellent use of light and shadow to add more drama to the images. She is also excellent at adding texture to the pictures which make them particularly three dimensional and wonderful to explore as part of unpacking the story. I loved the rich colour on every page, including the fuchsia end pages and the tapestry like title pages.  The book is gorgeous to own. It would make a splendid gift because it is so pretty.

Barrington Stoke have ensured that their trademark dyslexia friendly touches are still all here, with parchment coloured backgrounds to the text boxes, a specially developed dyslexia friendly font, large print and well spaced text on the pages.

You can download the first few pages of the book to read here.