The class book review: The Case of the Red-Bottomed Robber by Richard Byrne

A classroom dust-up that gets ‘a huge thumbs up’

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The Case of the Red-Bottomed Robber

Richard Byrne

OUP

32pp, £11.99, hardback

ISBN: 9780192749765

The children’s faces lit up with joy when Mr Moore brought down a mysterious parcel from the office. Of course, Bumblebee class knew it would be another book for us to review. Josie asked with excitement: “Is this one of those books that isn’t even in the shops to buy?” That was all it took, and she was hooked at the prospect of reading it for the very first time.

The children were excited. I slowly pulled out the new arrival from the envelope and an almighty roar of laughter erupted across the classroom as I read the title aloud. Felix shouted: “A story about a robber with a red bottom – that’s really funny!”

I didn’t need to ask them if they wanted to read it – the whole class were looking straight at me, eager to peer inside.

The Case of the Red-Bottomed Robber is really quite humorous. It has wonderful illustrations and an innovative storyline. The tale is about a group of chalks who are trying to solve the mystery of who has been rubbing out their lovely drawings.

They hatch a plot and successfully catch the alleged robber. Sergeant Blue is ready to throw the culprit in jail when the other chalks realise it was all just a terrible misunderstanding. Fortunately, there is a happy ending and all the characters find a game they can play together.

This is a lighthearted, funny story, which was particularly lovely to read with the whole class. Once we had opened the book, India-Leigh noticed straight away that “the pictures look like they have been drawn with chalk”. Then Holly exclaimed: “It is a black background and it looks like the chalks have drawn on the page.” The blackboard background is really effective at making Richard Byrne’s bright illustrations pop out.

After reading the book several times across the week, I chose some children to share their favourite part of the story. Zac said: “I noticed that the chalks have speech bubbles; I like that because we can see what they are saying.” India-Leigh noted that she liked “the page where they draw a rainbow, but you can still see the chalks’ eyes – it gives their hiding place away”.

Most of the Bumblebees agreed that their favourite page of the book was the one in which the stationery suspects were lined up in order. “All the characters just looked really funny,” said Ava. She then spotted some of the words they used, adding: “Tall, thin and small are our magic maths words this week!” This provided a natural opportunity for a discussion about maths.

This picture book would suit children from nursery up to key stage 1, as there are lots of talking points and opportunities for discussion. Along with all the fun and laughter, there is a subtle, yet valuable, message that we should not judge others too quickly, and that forgiveness is an important quality.

Bumblebee class rated this book an astonishing 10 out of 10. Zac even suggested: “When the book goes to the shops, maybe we could buy it for our new Year 1 classroom?” This prompted Aliena to say: “Actually, I think we need more than one because we need one for each class.”

The Bumblebees have chosen to re-read this book most days during their exploration time and, on several occasions, I have heard them giggling from the book corner, then seen them with this book in hand. So it gets a huge thumbs up from us.

Kerry Swift is an early years foundation stage teacher at Moorlands Schools Federation in Bath