Sea Urchins and Sand Pigs by Cornelia Funke is another of the dyslexia friendly publisher, Barrington Stoke’s Little Gem books I picked up in my local library. It is the third book by Funke I’ve read under the Little Gem banner. You can see my reviews of The Moonshine Dragon and The Monster from the Blue Planet here on Making Them Readers, here and here.
Sea Urchins and Sand Pigs is a little different in tone to the previous two books. Firstly it doesn’t feature any dragons, which made me slightly sad. I like that Funke likes dragons. I missed them. Secondly it is actually a series of short stories about children and their holidays in a place called Sandy Cove, rather than a single, chaptered narrative.
There are some things about this book that work for me, and others that don’t. Firstly I found the stories of variable quality and interest. Short stories are a tricky form, and these are shorter than most. Some of the stories almost seem like the beginning of bigger stories, and I got the sense they were only just beginning to get going before they stopped.
Having said that, some children absolutely love the short story form, and these manageable snippets will probably work very well for them. There is very little text in each story, and lots of illustrations by Sarah Horne. The pages are clear, clean and the font is easy to read. The font is sans serif, and situated on a cream background, two key points if you’re looking for dyslexia friendly texts.
My favourite story is Joe and the Sand Pigs. I though the Sand Pigs were an absolute delight, and almost made up for the lack of dragons. Of all the stories this seemed the most complete to me. I also loved the humour, and the illustrations of the pigs were perfect.
Other elements I liked were the jokes and the dot to dot extras on the inside front covers of the book, and the map of Sandy Cove on the first pages. I love a good map, and it’s a great way of exploring a text with children and teasing out more information and ideas from them.
Sarah Horne’s illustrations were dynamic and fun, quite cartoonish in style. They gave energy to the stories, but I was disappointed that there wasn’t any colour to the illustrations. The cover is so vivid and sea sideish that I thought it was a shame that it wasn’t carried on throughout the book. I also thought that some of the illustrations were rather overused as the same motifs got repeated from story to story.
Barrington Stoke recommend the book for readers aged six and up and give it an interest rating of five to eight years for both boys and girls. I would say that the stories are rather simplistic and actually this would be suitable for a slightly lower interest group. They would be great for young children, pre schoolers in particular, to read to them as a bed time story or share with them. In my experience of 7-8 year olds I can’t think of many I know or work with who wouldn’t find these stories a little bit babyish, with the possible exception of Joe and the Sand Pigs.
The stories are fun and gentle. They are quite silly in places and quietly thoughtful in others. I found them quite soothing to read, but there wasn’t a lot to hook in readers who find reading ‘boring’, and I’d be very selective about who I recommended this to as a result. I think more girls would have patience with it than boys on balance.
You can read the first chapter here.