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Sunday, 26 February 2017

Tales of Robin Hood: Robin and the Silver Arrow

Author: Damian Harvey
Illustrator: Martin Remphry
Publisher: Franklin Watts, Hachette Children's Books, 2006, The Hopscotch Series

I've recently put a polite request in with our local library to please consider buying more of these Hopscotch Series of books as my boys (5  and 7, and increasingly so my 3 year old girl) absolutely love this collection. Over the past couple of years, we've borrowed and read the Tales of Robin Hood, the Stories of Sinbad the Sailor through this range, and some about legends or historical figures such as BloodAxe Eric, Blackbeard the Pirate, Sir Gwain and the Green Knight (Tales of King Arthur), Mary Seacole, Guy Fawkes to name a few. I imagine the true series range is huge, sadly our library and all the local libraries from which I also requested, have incomplete books in the series ( and we live in a big city for the UK). What a shame for all that the number of books obtainable from the Hopscotch series free in our libraries is sadly limited. Moreover, they don't seem to carry this series at my children's school either, which again, is a real travesty. Seems such a pity as this series makes reading rock! 

From an educational point of view, Hopscotch states it is 'specially designed to fit the requirements of the National Literacy Strategy, aiming to develop children's reading skills' and carries the 'series advisor Dr Barrie Wade, Professor of English in Education, University of Birmingham' . As I've stated before on my blog, I can't officially comment on the educational value of children's books I review, as I have no training at this age range, but whenever I finish reading a Hopscotch book, I always personally feel I've learnt something (mainly about a historical figure). 

In this title, Tales of Robin Hood: Robin and the Silver Arrow, there's a good mix of dialogue and narrative, enabling early readers to try out expression. The illustrations are a little fussy perhaps, but they are laid out pragmatically, allowing roughly three or four sentences  maximum per picture. The use of thought bubbles helps emerging readers follower the storyline, and place themselves in a authorative and knowledgeable position as storyteller. All the books I've read in this series follow the same very useful and purposeful logic. Themes and vocabulary coming out of this title, as an example, are: disguise, competition ( in relation to a tournament), the den and merry men (working together as a team and having friends). This pitch is again typical across the series. 

Using a very familiar folk legend, Robin Hood, children come to the text with some existing expectations. As an adventure story, they seek action-filled, but in way of critiquing this particular title, I would suggest that there are maybe too many characters introduced all at once: Robin, Will Scarlet, little John, Much the Miller's Son, and the Sherriff all in just 31 very short pages. Saying this, as the story is already familiar, this isn't too much of a problem; my two sons, early independent readers, get a real sense of statisfaction from being 'in the know' and feel confident and interested in reading this series themeselves as a consequence. Thumbs up to Hopscotch for #gettingboysreading! 

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