The Besties show and smell by Felice Arena and Tom Jellett

cover image

Penguin Random House, 2020. ISBN: 9781760890988. 80pp.
(Age: Beginner readers) Highly recommended. Felice Arena and Tom Jellett have teamed up again with a new series called The Besties. In the series, in each book, the two main characters are introduced through illustrations and speech bubbles on the first double page. "Hi. I'm Ruby." "Hi. I'm Oliver." These are fun, page-turner beginner readers that are grounded in everyday situations that engage children who are learning to read. The books are small and easy to hold (approximately eighty pages) and each page has a varied amount of large font text which is typeset in different places on the pages - above, below and around the illustrations for variety and interest. Sentences are well structured; vocabulary is accessible; interest level is high. Even a reluctant reader would want to read on to find out what is going to happen to Olly and Ruby next. Because the situations are familiar, much of the text (even the difficult words) could be inferred so that the beginner reader would not stumble and lose the thread.
In The Besties show and smell, Ruby and Oliver have a hilarious and worrying time with a relief teacher and Show and Tell time in their class. At the back of the book are detailed instructions about "How to make a rude noise with your armpit" (Highly exciting!), a cartoon related to the topic by "Olly Comics," a little ukulele song with an online address for lyrics, chords and strumming patterns, two pages of jokes, information about The Sporty Kids series and fun, child friendly information about the author and illustrator.
There is plenty here to engage and indeed expand the world of the beginner reader. Teachers would be pleased and relieved to see that Felice Arena does not play "cool-not" games with incorrect grammar. The beginner reader is exposed to only correct grammar and punctuation! Hooray! Extracts could be used to direct student attention to correct English usage as models for their own writing.
Highly recommended for both reading and interest level for beginner readers.
Wendy Jeffery