23rd February 2001 at 00:00
TALES FROM THE TRICKY TRUCK TRACK. By Amanda Graham and Greg Holfeld. Era Publications Big Book pound;15.99Pbks pound;3.99 each, CD pound;6.99.

This is a series (one Big Book, an audio CD and six paperbacks) of comical stories about "eccentric characters designed to stimulate phonological and graphological processing".

The first story I read, "The Queen Can't Sleep", featured a sheep in high heels. (Well, it certainly engaged my interest.) This amusing counting story of an insomniac queen tells of her increasingly desperate attempts to get to sleep by counting strange sheep.

The emphasis on rhythm and repetition in all the books is reminiscentof Dr Seuss, only not as memorable. The narratives are as eccentric as the characters and don't always hold the reader. It's as though the brief was "let's take a group of related phonemes and turn them into a story", with results much as you'd expect. The CD features enthusiastic readings and sung versions. I'm all for celebrating accents and dialects, but in "The Tricky Truck Track" the Australian rendering of "Mick had sacks" sounds uncannily like "Mick had sex". My 10-year-old daughter asked if she could see the illustration for that page. Disappointment followed.

Kevin Harcombe is head of Redlands primary school, Fareham.

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