Look Out, Stripy Horse

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Look Out, Stripy Horse! by Jim Helmore and Karen Wall, book reviewThe stripy horse and his friends live in a bric-a-brac shop, where magic is causing mayhem. Stripy horse is upside-down, Hermann the sausage-dog draught excluder is tied in a knot, someone has scribbled on Muriel the bird’s lampshade and Roly and Pitch, the salt and pepper pots, have been swapped around. Mortice, the lion-shaped lock from the wooden trunk, realises that the monkeys have escaped because the trunk wasn’t locked up. They have stolen his key and are causing havoc.

The friends set about trying to catch the monkeys, but this is no easy task and they end up falling over each other. Mortice announces that they need to get the monkeys to stand on top of a jigsaw so that they will be pulled inside the puzzle when the friends shout “Elzzup Yekmon” at the tops of their voices. (It’s hardly likely that young children will realise that that spells monkey puzzle backwards – some explanation will be needed there.)

Once the friends have made the jigsaw puzzle, they still have to entice the monkeys along. Hermann obliges by disguising himself as a giant banana, and this does the trick. As the friends shout “Elzzup Yekmon!” there is a sparkling light, the monkeys are thrown into the air, and they then disappear into the puzzle. As the cuckoo clock strikes five, the missing key falls from the cuckoo’s beak, and all that remains is for the stripy horse to lock the trunk up safely.

Jim Helmore and Karen Wall have packed plenty of fun into “Look Out, Stripy Horse!” I was a little put off at first by some of the characters, as a six-year-old boy I read the book with did not know what a draught excluder was until I explained. It isn’t very likely either that the target audience is going to know what a mortice lock is, and names like Hermann and Muriel are not the most familiar ones. Get past these hurdles in the first few pages, however, and there is more than enough fun and excitement to hold the attention of a young child.

The text of “Look Out, Stripy Horse!” is set in a decent-sized font, but the style of it is not the simplest one. Some of the characters’ exclamations are capitalised and set in an extra large font, curving or bouncing all over the page, bringing the text alive. The text is superimposed on the illustrations, mostly but not always on a light-coloured background. The vocabulary is varied, using for example words such as ‘trilled’ or ‘grumbled’ rather than just ‘said’. This is definitely a read-aloud book rather than one for a child who is learning to read. It might suit a child who is a confident independent reader; the six-year-old I read it with didn’t find it too childish.

Karen Wall’s illustrations for “Look Out, Stripy Horse!” are full of action and colour. One or two of them feature quite a bit of heavy old wooden furniture that is rather dark and dull, but perhaps I am niggling too much over that point. The stripy horse himself is extremely bright and colourful. Young children will surely love the double page spread of the astounded monkeys being thrown up in the air as the other animals look on in amazement.

Look Out, Stripy Horse!” is likely to appeal to children aged from three up to perhaps six. The story is an original one and the characters are a little unusual. There is plenty going on for a child that has a good attention span. It is definitely worth borrowing from the library, and Amazon’s discounted price is worth considering for a family with more than one young child.

Jim Helmore and Karen Wall were winners of picture book category of the Sheffield Children’s Book Award for their first book, “Letterbox Lil”. They also received the silver Practical Parenting award for “Who are you, Stripy Horse?” in 2007.

Look Out, Stripy Horse by Jim Helmore and Karen Wall
Paperback, 32 pages
Egmont Books Ltd, 2008

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Look Out, Stripy Horse
by Jim Helmore and Karen Wall

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Written by frangliz
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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