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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Review: The Giants and the Joneses by Julia Donaldson

Author: Julia Donaldson
Title: The Giants and the Joneses
Genre: Fantasy adventure (Children's)
Series: no
Publisher: Egmont
Published:  March 2010
Source: purchased on my Kindle

Find it at Goodreads or Amazon UK

The blurb says:
Most giants don’t believe in iggly plops and, down on earth, humans don’t believe in giants either. But a real girl giant is on her way down the beanstalk, and the Joneses are about to find themselves in BIG trouble.

My verdict: A thrilling adventure to read with children 6+
This is not a gentle bedtime story. Rather, it is an exciting adventure with violence (almost) worthy of the Grimms. I read it with my (then) 7 year old and there were gasps and tears in a couple of places, and I was a bit surprised at some of the peril the human children found themselves in as toys of the giant girl Jumbelia. This is not to say that it's inherently a problem, but it is perhaps better as a shared read for younger or more sensitive readers. To be honest, it's probably more of a statement about how sanitised many kids' stories have become, and it's certainly true that the violence in this story is easily matched by many cartoons, but somehow it is more surprising enacted on human characters in a book.

The story features an invented language for the giants, with a glossary at the back. (Although for us, reading on a Kindle, we didn't really see this until the end.) Most of the words are guessable in context anyway, and when there are whole songs or sayings in the giant language, the English translation is given in the main text. This language is fun, playful and inventive, and I'm sure most child readers will bring some of the giants' words into their play as my daughter did.

For all the excitement and adventure, there is a moral core to this story which encourages children to think before making pets or toys of wild creatures. Children will not experience this as moralising, but they will absorb the messages about how the children are treated by Jumbelia, who doesn't mean them any harm, but also doesn't quite see them as living creatures who can be hurt.

Overall, I'd recommend this for fans of Donaldson's picture books who are ready to move onto chapter books at bedtime. For the more delicate among them, though, her Princess Mirror-Belle adventures might be more suitable.

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