Down town

25th December 1998 at 00:00
BUSY PLACES SERIES. Football Stadium. Supermarket. Railway Station. School. By Carol Watson. Watts. Pounds 8.99 each. Pounds 7.50. MY STREET MY TOWN. By Rebecca Treays. Usborne. Pounds 6.99 (Pounds 4.99pbk) each.

Young children love to read about the kind of real places that they might have visited and these books from the Busy Places series will be pored over in key stage 1 classes. They would also be suitable for adults to read with much younger children.

There are several colour photographs on each page, supported by accessible text that includes direct speech - "Sue goes to the waiting room to read her newspaper"; "They go to the coffee shop to have a snack. 'Ooh, look - doughnuts!' says Natasha." There are some subtle comprehension challenges, too, for the beginning reader, as in " 'Where is the milk?' one woman says to herself."

Unsurprisingly, the books paint quite rosy pictures of the chosen places - in the railway station book, for example, the trains are all on time (this book is "with thanks to GNER"). However, there are safety notes at the end of each volume - busy places do have dangers for small children.

My Street and My Town are for children from three upwards to share with an adult. Intended to provide an early introduction to some basic geographical concepts, they are described as "Lift the Flap" books, which means that some of the pages fold out to double size. This device is used inventively - sometimes, for example, there is a hole in a page that links to a spot on a map or plan on another fold-outpage. And at the end of each book there is a fold-out map which can be kept open to provide a continuing reference to where things are happening.

The pages in these two books are colourful, with illustrations in a cheerful cartoon style. The text is for adults to read, and one page says: "There is a big superstore just outside my town. We drive there every Saturday and buy enough food for the whole week." This town, incidentally, seems to be located in the heart of balsamic vinegar country, judging by theillustrations. It has a chained-off pedestrian street with a "Bar Trendy", and a bistro called "Mange Tout".

Gerald Haigh

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