Previously by Allan Ahlberg

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Previously by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A splendid lark of a book as we romp our way backwards through some favourite fairy stories and nursery rhymes. Recommended for sharing in the five to eight age group and for the emerging reader.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: September 2007
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-1844280629

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Have you ever wondered about characters in fairy tales and nursery rhymes, about how they might be connected or if they might even have known each other? In this wonderful book for the five to eight age group Alan Ahlberg explores the connections between the various characters and what happened to them just before we meet them.

We begin - or finish, depending on which way you look at it - with Goldilocks arriving home all hot and bothered after running through the big dark woods. You might recall her narrow escape from the three bears. Before breaking into the bears' house she had been walking through the woods humming a tune, when she bumped into Jack, who was running through the wood with a hen under his arm. He'd just climbed down a beanstalk. Before that he'd had his adventures with the giant after swapping his mother's cow for those magic beans.

Before his mother had asked him to take the cow to market he'd been playing football but that was after he'd had the nasty fall down the hill when he and his argumentative sister had gone for a pail of water. Do you get the idea? Each storyline runs back into another and then another story, all ingeniously linked together and with very little in the way of tweaking. The old favourite nursery rhymes and fairy stories are revisited and given a twist in the tale. We go right back to the beginnings of them all, to the deep dark woods through which Goldilocks ran at the very end. It's just the thing for those children who are perhaps growing out of the original stories and need a little more to think about. Emerging readers will find a few challenging words but the context and illustrations will come to their aid. They'll certainly have no problems with the word previously in the future!

It's ingenious, it's funny and you'll never think about some of those rhymes and stories in quite the same way again. You'll love the illustrations too - big, bold scribbles of the type that a child might produce but with lots of detail and some wonderful expressions on the faces. It's a standard thirty-two-page book but it's packed with interest, fun and those odd points which start discussions. It could even be the beginning of extending the idea to other stories.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.

For another story based around an ever-popular song you really can't do better than Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land or for a retelling of the old legend, Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo is highly recommended. You might also appreciate The Phlunk by Lou Rhodes and Tori Elliott.

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Buy Previously by Allan Ahlberg at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Previously by Allan Ahlberg at


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