The Lost Smile and Remarkable Women in Verse by Julia Stebbing

Now, I’m not really taking on additional books and blog posts at the moment as I’m finding life a bit overwhelmingly busy, but when Julia Stebbing got in touch about her new children’s books and publishing venture I was so intrigued by Remarkable Women in Verse that I simply had to take a look. My grateful thanks to Julia for sending me a copy of Remarkable Women in Verse and The Lost Smile in return for an honest review.

Both Remarkable Women in Verse and The Lost Smile are available for purchase here.

The Lost Smile

The Lost Smile – a tale of friendship. When Jasper Cat loses his smile, his four friends come to the rescue. Where can it be? Enjoy reading how Robbie Robin, Mimi Mouse, Freddie Flea and Dora Dalmation help Jasper Cat in his search to find it. An engaging and beautifully-illustrated story of friendship and kindness, written in delightful rhyming verse.

My Review of The Lost Smile

Jasper cat has lost his smile.

The Lost Smile is an utterly lovely story for young children. It’s actually quite lengthy so that there is real substance to the story, but at the same time, the rhyme makes it accessible and entertaining so that it holds the attention very effectively. I thought the balance of illustration to text was perfect and the illustrations themselves fit the narrative delightfully. There are some brilliant touches such as the portraits on the walls being of cats in Jasper’s home, making for plenty to explore with children. The illustrations have a charming naïve style that children will enjoy and adults appreciate. Aside from the story itself, pictures and text refer to shape and colour with nature being very prevalent so that there’s quite a lot to discuss with children outside of the boundaries of trying to find Jasper’s smile. Indeed, The Lost Smile has sufficient content to reward several readings. At the end of the book, as an added bonus are some colouring pages that make The Lost Smile interactive and creative too.

There’s so much in The Lost Smile that can educate as well as entertain. I loved the use of language so that children are exposed to such devices as alliteration, onomatopoeia, full and near rhymes and so on, that help develop their own reading, language and understanding. I can envisage promoting numeracy through counting the number of Rosinda’s babies for example, or the items found under the bed.

However, what I liked most about The Lost Smile was that because Jasper is feeling low and his smile has vanished, the story affords the opportunity to discuss feelings and emotions in a safe way with children and I thought the underpinning message that all the animals support one another in the search modelled positive behaviours really well. This is a book about being kind and considerate.

The Lost Smile is a a really beguiling children’s book that I thoroughly recommend. Young children will love it.

Remarkable Women in Verse

Imagine you are Rosa, a black child growing up in Alabama, barred by law from attending the same school as white children; Helen, a playful toddler who suddenly cannot see and hear; Anne, brought up in an almshouse who becomes Helen’s governess, and the only person able to get through to her; Florence from a wealthy family, seeking a career in nursing against the wishes of her parents.

Each story, told in rhyming verse, guides you through their early upbringing towards a particular iconic moment or time in their lives, and beyond, showing how they overcame their situations and the impact their achievements made. As one reader said, “It’s easier to remember when read in verse.”

My Review of Remarkable Women in Verse

The stories of Rosa Parks, Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan, and Florence Nightingale told in verse form.

What a clever idea. With strong female characters, the perennial problems of racism and the current focus on health, Remarkable Women in Verse couldn’t be more timely or relevant to today’s society.

All three sections in Remarkable Women in Verse have the same high quality rhyme and rhythm throughout so that the stories of what these women achieved become accessible and interesting. The ex English teacher in me would love to use them for choral speaking with a class to develop oracy, as a stimulus for children taking other characters from history and attempting their own verse portraits of them and as a basis for other creative writing so that I think there is considerable mileage in Remarkable Women in Verse, not just for individual readers but for classroom use too. This book may only be less than thirty pages long, but the depth of research and factual information is extremely impressive. I could see history teachers using the verses as a way in to the past, especially for those children less keen on reading. With the glossary sections at the end of each woman’s story, vocabulary and understanding are further enhanced.

However, I don’t wish to make Remarkable Women in Verse sound like an overly worthy or turgid educational text. It isn’t. It’s an exciting, fact-filled exploration of important women from the past presented in an engaging and captivating style. I thought it was unusual and excellent.

About Julia Stebbing

Julia has always lived in north London and was brought up in Stanmore. Opposite her house were only fields and the local school was a mere 5-minute walk. The spinney nearby provided opportunities for jumping a stream, picking blackberries, and hiding in the woods. Switch to three children later, husband David, and seven grandchildren – 3 girls and 4 boys. She used to write song lyrics and now loves writing children’s stories, especially in rhyming verse. S

he has published two books, The Lost Smile, a picture book which is the first in a series of The Fabulous Five. Remarkable Women in Verse tells the story of Rosa Parks, Helen Keller and her governess Anne Sullivan, and also Florence Nightingale.

Find out more on Sticky Bun’s website here and on Facebook.

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