Flotsam and Jetsam and the Stormy Surprise by Tanya Landman

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Flotsam and Jetsam and the Stormy Surprise by Tanya Landman

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: Gently magical, funny and poetic story of driftwood creatures living on a secluded beach: good for newly confident readers, good for sharing with a pre-reader too, with a warm story and some potential for use as a source of language work material.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 96 Date: March 2007
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-1406302806

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Flotsam and Jetsam are two driftwood creatures living in on a tiny secluded beach at the bottom of the cliffs in a house made of upturned boat. They have a pet crab called Sainsbury, explore the treasures that the sea brings and talk in a strange but perfectly understandable dialect reminiscent of the BFG.

In The Stormy Surprise, a great gale leaves a massive heap of bedraggled feathers on Flotsam and Jetsam's beach. The heap recovers and shows to be a shelduck, who proceeds to take semi-permanent residence in Flotsam and Jetsam's bed and whom they reluctantly but good-heartedly feed and water for the next few weeks until... but that's for the readers to find out.

The sea brings treasures every day: an umbrella, an old bicycle wheel, a huge sheet of plastic - and Flotsam and Jetsam enthusiastically collect and utilise it. Above their beach, a boy and a man walk every day to the shore to fish in friendly silence, not looking and not caring about the little beach - after all, it's not even accessible from land, and there is only flotsam and jetsam there.

Flotsam and Jetsam and the Stormy Surprise is a lovely book. The setting is inspired: evocative of the magical times spend rummaging through seaweed and fishing things out of rock pools, of this curious affinity that people, and in particularly little people have with the shore. Every child who ever came home with pockets full of pebbles, shells and assorted debris - and which British child hasn't? - will recognize the excitement.

The language in The Stormy Surprise has moments of poetic quality without becoming gushy or convoluted. The sea, the weather and the accompanying moods are brought vividly to life, and the story is set in clear, but reasonably challenging way: most of the text is accessible and the imagery, though rich, is not baroque, but the shore setting provides a good opportunity to introduce numerous difficult words, from abalone to gannet (anyway, these were the ones your non-native speaking reviewer had to look up).

However, none of these are crucial to the narrative, so the child, whether reading by themselves or having the story read to them, has a choice of ignoring the unknown terms , guessing the approximate meaning (both good experiences and essential to being able to approach harder texts with confidence stemming from the knowledge that one doesn't need to know all words to understand and enjoy a book) or asking the adult. And adult might need to look some of them up (I had to, but then I am not a native speaker) which is good opportunity for a practice with a dictionary.

The world of Flotsam and Jetsam mirrors ours (they eat milkwort mash and drink buttleworth tea) and this, as well as their dialect is a source of humour and another opportunity for active language work: a child with a sticklerish streak will delight in pointing out and correcting their utterances and you can also try to work out what is our world equivalent of a Flotsamese object: great introduction to understanding creative use of language; but of course it can be just enjoyed as is if you are just looking for a story.

The illustrations by Ruth Rivers complement the text very well: subtle line drawings with some areas filled with shades-of-grey they provide a great hook and leafing through the book and seeing the illustrations before reading should increase the child's motivation to find out what happens and thus continue reading.

I think the story will be particularly attractive to children who enjoy art and crafts' activities: Katie loved the way the characters make great things out of rubbish and she noticed and approved of the way the title's typography mimicked driftwood pieces.

It's a good book to read aloud to an older pre-reader who cannot yet approach it by themselves and it is good one to practice for those gaining confidence in their reading abilities too, while the text provides accessible source of additional language-related activities.

It's not a dynamic, fast paced story and this might make it less attractive to some children, especially older ones, but enough happens to maintain interest and the magic of the shore itself is also a great hook. Finishing the book should gave the young readers feeling of accomplishment while leaving them (and the adults, if they helped) with a warm glow.

This is a second book featuring Flotsam and Jetsam, and a worthy addition to the early reader selection. Get it for children who can confidently read, but might not be able to tackle a full-length novel yet (it can be read chapter-by-chapter with ease); and its' also suitable for reading aloud to a child from approximately 4 years old upwards.

My thanks to the publishers for sending this book.

Buy Flotsam and Jetsam and the Stormy Surprise by Tanya Landman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Flotsam and Jetsam and the Stormy Surprise by Tanya Landman at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Flotsam and Jetsam and the Stormy Surprise by Tanya Landman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Flotsam and Jetsam and the Stormy Surprise by Tanya Landman at Amazon.com.


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