Early years

18th August 2000 at 01:00
PUZZLE BOOKS. By Various authors. Kingscourt. pound;49.95 (pack of five titles)

"Think early reader board-book meets giant floor jigsaw - a book that turns into its own follow-up activities!" Apologies to Kingscourt if its pitch for this "unique new resource" has been misrepresented in my imagination. Some matches are made in heaven - gin and tonic, clock radios, audio books - while others are not. Has Kingscourt stumbled on a winning concept?

This set of five Puzzle Books is a robust, colourful package, attractively presented in slipcases with notes for classroom use. The narratives are aimed at beginner readers. Illustrations are mostly well-chosen and the text is large enough to be used at the front of the class. The themes cover a familiar range of early-years topics such as counting, opposites and road safety.

After reading the story, you release the cylindrical binder and, hey presto, the pages separate for use as a jigsaw (or flash cards, iscussion prompts, sorting and matching cards, and so on). Activities are most suited to pairs and small groups.

The jigsaw and narrative complement each other perfectly in Going Home, which can be reassembled into a giant map. In the other books the two elements are less effectively integrated. With more narratives that can be turned into striking and relevant 12-piece puzzles, the publisher will have cracked it.

Some reservations: the ambiguous photograph representing 6 in Fruit Is Fantastic - my children variously interpreted it as 7 or 5, but never 6. Also, the books are fiddly to get back in their slipcases and, unlike a standard floor puzzle, have to be reassembled into book form (with the pagination not always clear) rather than just shoved back in a box.

Puzzle Books are competitively priced, however, and my children found them novel and motivating.

Kevin Harcombe is head of Redlands primary school, Fareham, Hampshire

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