The Bookbag | 14 June 2013 |

The story begins with a young child, living in a small village at the foot of a holy mountain. When he is told to take a small cake as an offering to the spirits of the shrine, he is disappointed as he would rather play with his friends, but he does as he is told. It is a long walk though and he soon grows hungry. Surely the gods will not mind if he has just a tiny nibble at the cake? But one nibble leads to another and by the time Hagurosan arrives at the shrine, he has eaten the whole cake. All children make mistakes, but what Hagurosan has done is a terrible offense in the culture he lives in. He isn't a bad child and confesses his crime to the spirits with great sorrow and fear. The spirits are not totally unkind. They take a liking to this child offering one wish which he makes very unselfishly - but there are strings attached. He can stay with the spirits as they desire, making his home in the temple, or he can leave but his wish will not be fulfilled. It is a heavy burden for so young a child.

 

Hagurosan is part of Barrington Stoke's line of books written specifically for children with dyslexia. These books follow all of the guidelines of the British Dyslexia Association for dyslexia friendly text. Working with a team of experts in the field, Barrington Stoke have developed their own font which is especially designed to make reading as easy as possible for children with dyslexia. They also print all of their books on a thick, off white, non glare paper to minimise distractions which can make reading more difficult. The print is large and double spaced, with short chapters and short stories created to build confidence. There are also a fair number of illustration, which can be especially important to boys, who are often less able to visualise a story without a little help.

 

The stories are commissioned by Barrington Stoke, usually from very well known authors, and are written to appeal to older children, but at a much lower reading level than the interest level. The main idea is to give a child books he or she can really enjoy, which are easy enough that the struggle of trying to decode text does not ruin the pleasure of reading. Once a child is hooked on the reading, their reading level inevitably improves. Children who read for pleasure become better readers, and children who read well will read more often for pleasure leading to a never ending circle of enjoyment and increasing proficiency in reading.

 

My own child does not suffer from dyslexia, but he has commented on how much easier it is to read the books with this style of print. The double spacing and frequent breaks mean he does not lose his place in the book, and makes reading a far more enjoyable experience. He loves the short stories which he can finish in one sitting, and he loves having books which suit his interest level but still have illustrations. These books can literally be life changing for a child who is struggling to learn to read, but they make reading easier for all young children, whether they have disabilities or not. These books make reading a pleasant activity that children will actively seek out in their free time.

 

I absolutely loved this book myself. I loved the author's descriptions of the mountain which enabled me to visualise the sun gently drifting down through the canopy of the forest, the ascent of the mountain trail and the refreshment of a cool mountain stream. I loved the moral to the story, the generosity of spirit of the young child and the concept of making sacrifices for the greater good. My four year old was delighted by the story as well. Unfortunately my eight year old, who is much closer to the target age group was not as taken with it, and it may be just a bit too deep for many of the children this is targeted at. If you happen to have a very spiritually minded, philosophical child, then I wouldn't miss this one, but if your child is looking for something along the same lines of Zom-B, they may be disappointed. Don't get me wrong, this is beautiful, magical story, but the audience may be more narrow than is the norm for this series. I am only giving this 4 stars due to my son's lack of enthusiasm, but if I were reviewing this completely on my own opinion it would easily merit 5. I would also like to make clear that while my son wasn't raving about the story, he did finish it and did not find it horrible - it just wasn't one of his favourites. I also feel that this has exceptional value as an educational book, to learn about other cultures, but also about philosophy and morality as well.

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