The Beasties

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The Beasties by Jenny Nimmo, Illustrated by Gwen Millward, book reviewWhen Daisy’s family move house, she can’t sleep in her big bed in a strange room. She doesn’t notice when the Beasties, Floot, Weevil and Ferdinand, creep into her room. After they spread their treasures under her bed, however, Daisy hears a growling noise. It’s Ferdinand, and he tells Daisy the story of how he prevented robbers from stealing a king’s treasure. As a reward, the king gave Ferdinand a ring; Daisy keeps thinking about the ring and eventually drifts off to sleep.

The following night it is Weevil’s turn to tell Daisy a story. Weevil used to sail on a ship and feed a beautiful bird with biscuit crumbs. After being shipwrecked, the bird rescued Weevil from dangerous creatures. The bird gave Weevil a feather for friendship. When the story ends, Daisy falls asleep and dreams that she is flying with the beautiful bird.

On the third night, Floot, who has a musical voice, tells Daisy about how he used to sing a princess to sleep. The princess goes missing, but Floot eventually finds her in a forest and sings her favourite song. She gives Floot a button for faithfulness and he takes her back home. Daisy has already fallen asleep as the story ends.

On the fourth night Daisy, hearing noises, plucks up enough courage to switch on the light. Looking under her bed, she sees the Beasties for the first time. They tell her not to be frightened, and she asks for another story. This time, however, they convince her that she can tell her own story. She starts off very tentatively, but a sea shell inspires her to make up a story about a mermaid. When she has fallen asleep, the Beasties whisper ‘Night night, Daisy!’ and set off with their treasures. Daisy doesn’t need them any more, so they are probably off to stay with another lonely child.

In ‘The Beasties‘, Jenny Nimmo has created a delightful book of stories within a story. Each of the inner stories that Ferdinand, Weevil, Floot and Jenny tell are unique little gems. There is a sense of adventure as faraway places are visited and young imaginations will be stirred by the desert island, the friendly wolves, the beautiful bird or perhaps the mermaid. Children who actually have moved house will probably be able to identify with Daisy’s feeling of strangeness in her new room. ‘The Beasties’ is also a book that should give young children confidence in making up their own stories, having seen how Daisy was able to do this herself when encouraged to.

“Highly recommended by the group of three- to four-year-olds to whom I read it.”

There is a little more text per page than the average picture book. It is always superimposed on an illustration, and sometimes it is printed in light blue on a dark background. The font is not the plainest one, but it is large enough and sometimes certain words or phrases are set in a larger size for emphasis. The vocabulary is quite varied but not to the point of being too complex. ‘The Beasties‘ is definitely a read-aloud book; it will require a fair amount of concentration and is probably best suited for children aged three and a half up to about six. However, the fact that there are four short stories within the book means that it could be read in more than one sitting. It would be quite difficult for the average young independent reader, but a confident one would enjoy the challenge.

Gwen Millward’s illustrations for ‘The Beasties‘ are gorgeous; any adult is likely to admire them, never mind the child being read to. There is a splendid wealth of colour and detail within the pages to bring the stories alive. We see the Beasties’ treasures under Daisy’s bed: shells, feathers, flowers and buttons. Ferdinand does look rather scary as he roars, but then he sits meekly in front of the king, who wears a turquoise robe patterned with purple leaves. Weevil is tiny enough to ride on the back of the wonderful peacock who rescues him. Floot has a long stripy snout and always looks surprised; Daisy is almost engulfed by curling turquoise waves as she tells the story of the mermaid.

It might sound as though ‘The Beasties‘ is a girls’ book rather than a boys’ one, but there are robbers as well as a shipwreck, and most children would enjoy the adventures. It could be a good bedtime read, unless a child might be afraid of the idea of beasties under the bed. The Beasties here, however, are so friendly, and this is clear from the illustrations as well as from the stories. It is a delightful book, crammed as it is with little stories and more than the usual quota of characters, all beautifully illustrated. Highly recommended by the group of three- to four-year-olds to whom I read it.

The Beasties by Jenny Nimmo (author) and Gwen Millward (illustrator)
Paperback, 32 pages
Egmont Books Ltd, 2010

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Beasties, The
by Jenny Nimmo (author) and Gwen Millward (illustrator)

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Written by frangliz

I have a degree in Fine Art but never actually worked in that field. After almost two years in Paris, I moved to Cairo and spent many years there teaching English language and literature in schools. I came back to the UK in 1999 and now work with young children. I also tutor students of all ages in French, English or Maths. I enjoy writing reviews in my spare time; another hobby of mine is photography. I have two sons who are now grown up, both working in IT.

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