Smile by Michelle Magorian and Sam Usher

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Smile by Michelle Magorian and Sam Usher

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Category: Dyslexia Friendly
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Hilary Hawkes
Reviewed by Hilary Hawkes
Summary: A high quality little book with a homely story about change, security, family love and a new baby. It is just right for emerging readers and is dyslexia friendly too.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 96 Date: July 2015
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1781125007

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Josh is tired, fed up and feeling put out and ignored. No, he isn't having a tantrum – something big has happened (well, two things actually) and his world has turned upside down. You see The Howler has arrived and everything has changed and not, so far, for the better. Baby brother Charlie is just seventeen days old and is not only taking up all of his parents' time, but also stopping everyone in the house from getting enough sleep with his constant howling. Will the crying 'ever' stop? And there's worse because the really terrible thing is the baby's arrival meant a very special event had to be cancelled.

According to his mum, the hard bit with a new-born is the first month. Josh thinks he will be a wreck by then. As if this isn't enough, the second big thing that has happened is that the family has moved house and there is a particular reason why Josh doesn't like his new bedroom.

So far Josh hasn't wanted to hold Charlie. But one morning he does. And something astonishing happens. It's not just that the crying has stopped (although he thinks what a relief that is). No, there's more. Like all babies, Charlie has a trick or two up his sleeve for getting people to fall in love with him, and looking up at his big brother he works his magic. It's very quick, but it's definitely not wind and only Josh sees it. And suddenly everything is different – Josh knows he loves Charlie and he'll look out for him like all good big brothers do.

This is such a gentle and warm little story. I loved the characters: exhausted mum, dad dragging himself off to work after a night of no sleep and Josh cross and baffled by the way the new baby has disrupted life. Just reading this brought back memories of early days with new-borns - especially the way Josh's mum seizes her chance to jump in the shower before the only opportunity she might get that day is gone. And poor Josh. The story doesn't say how old he is, but there is a clue that means he had quite a few years as an only child. So his being fed up makes him very real.

I did feel sorry for Josh. A new sibling and a new home at the same time – both can be unsettling changes for young children to deal with can't they? The story reflects all this perfectly.

Ah, but Josh's mum is wise as well as loving. The understanding she has for her eldest child is obvious. And how sensible to give Josh a chance to hold Charlie safely and get to know him.

Josh is such a lovely little boy with a kind heart. I love the way he sees that his mum is even more tired than he is. It doesn't take long for Charlie's technique to work its magic on Josh. It's those endearing little things that babies do that are designed perfectly to have that effect on us of course. I could just see Josh sitting there feeling all cosy and content again. I wonder how many young readers are going to think Charlie would make a very cute baby brother too.

I liked the gentle, colourful illustrations – they complement the well-written story perfectly. It's an attractive little book overall - its smallish size makes it manageable for the hands of young readers. The adorable cover has flaps that open to reveal a spot-the-differences game at the front of the book and a Could you look after a baby? at the end. So an extra element of fun to this gorgeous little book.

But there is something else very important: It is carefully designed to be dyslexia friendly and publisher Barrington Stoke know exactly how to do that. While it looks, of course, like a perfectly normal book it has some added special features. The pages are a thicker off-white/cream so you don't get the print from the previous page showing through and there is no glare either. The pages are a truly lovely smooth and high quality. I just had to keep feeling them. It has a special dyslexia friendly font, double spacing after full-stops, extra space between paragraphs and sentences are not too long. The story is divided into short chapters as well. All these points help readers with dyslexia or visual intolerances, but can also make a book look more appealing to children who are reluctant readers for other reasons. Just as a general guide it's suited to children around six to eight years to read themselves. I think it would also be nice as a story for an adult to read to a younger child too.

All in all, I have to say, a cosy little gem of a story about change, security and family love.

Thank you to the publisher for supplying a copy for review and for a link to the first chapter of the book.

Blamehounds (Little Gems) by Ross Collins is another book in the Little Gems series and so is also dyslexia friendly.

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Buy Smile by Michelle Magorian and Sam Usher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Smile by Michelle Magorian and Sam Usher at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Smile by Michelle Magorian and Sam Usher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Smile by Michelle Magorian and Sam Usher at


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