One of my favourite parts of my job as a school and children’s librarian is the weekly storytime sessions that I run. I usually do themed storytimes around seasonal events or topics at school but sometimes I find a picture book that I love so much I have to plan a storytime session just so I can read it. This happened when I first came across ‘The Giant of Jum’ by Elli Woollard and Benji Davies which offers an alternative to the traditional Giant stories. I knew that I would have to have a Giant storytime just so I could get to share it with the children at the library. The perfect book to complement this is the equally brilliant ‘The Princess and the Giants’ by Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton which is another superbly told fairytale with a twist.
‘The Giant of Jum’ opens with a very grumpy giant which gives me the perfect excuse to use my best growly voice to set the tone of the story. It oozes with description as the Giant is ‘grizzliing’ and ‘grumbling’ and he would ‘slobber’ and ‘slouch’ because he is hungry. He then goes on to ‘Fee, Fo and Fum’ which continues with slight variations throughout the story which gives great opportunities for children to join in when you’re reading.
He decides he needs a child as a snack to stop his tummy rumbling and off he goes in search of a boy named Jack that he has been told about. His plans get distracted by children who only see a tall man who can help fetch their ball and rescue the cat, they are not scared by him at all.
When the Giant decides it’s now time to eat some children he gets really confused when they say he is lovely and kind as he helped them out and actually what he really needs is CAKE to eat not them. The poor Giant has never been called lovely before and decides that actually ‘Chocolate’s much better than children’ to eat and so they all live happily ever after.
For me, the brilliance of this story is the beautiful rhyming verses which help the book flow so smoothly and make it a joy to read aloud. Great books for reading aloud are more difficult to find than you would think and if you can find a story that gets a group to be so involved that you could hear a pin drop, then you’re on to a winner. It is also delightfully ilustrated by the amazingly talented Benji Davies, whose ‘Storm Whale’ book is another one of those stories which when read aloud captivates children.
‘The Princess and the Giant’ is another fantastic book for storytime with its sublime rhyming throughout and is ideal for reading aloud. We meet the Princess Sophie who is clearly in charge of the story and is not waiting for anyone to sort out the problem of the Giant. Why would she when she can do that herself! It opens with lovely touches such as ‘her father made the porridge and her mother chopped the wood’, it is refreshing to see variations from the traditional fairytale roles.
Princess Sophie is very unhappy as the Giant is keeping everyone awake by stomping around at night. Her parents tell her that’s just the way it is but she comes up with a plan to stop the Giant from disturbing everyone. She climbs up the beanstalk and tries lots of different ways to get the giant to go to sleep. Porridge, cuddly bears, and even a new mattress can’t get the Giant to sleep and everyone is in despair. Sophie then realises what the Giant actually needs is a bedtime story, who could possibly sleep without one of those? It appears to do the trick, the Giant goes to sleep.
But then disaster strikes, the Giant comes thudding down the beanstalk looking for Princess Sophie and everyone is terrified that he has come to eat them all up. However the Giant just wants Sophie to read him a story and she then realises he can’t actually read himself so she decides she must help him.
And because the Giant can now read and Sophie sees him every day they both live Happily Ever After! This book is fantastic it’s great to see a feisty brave girl in a fairytale who doesn’t need to be rescued. It fills me with happiness to see that it is something as simple as sharing a bedtime story and learning to read which creates the happy ending. With the beautifully detailed illustrations by Sarah Warburton which ensure this book becomes a truly marvellous sight to behold and Caryl Hart’s imaginative storytelling. I’m not sure there is much more you could wish for in a picture book.