TJ's Sunflower Race (by Rose Impey)

In glancing through the shelves in our local Thirft Store, looking for more books to read aloud to my book-loving young grandson, I spotted one by Rose Impey, a writer whose name I remembered from twenty-five or so years ago when she spoke at my sons’ primary school. One of my sons bought one of her books, something rather scary about fireballs… it didn’t appeal to me, and I had never thought about buying any more of her books.

It turns out that she’s a very prolific children’s author, and most of her books for young readers are mildly amusing or heart-warming, with cute illustrations. The one I bought is called ‘TJ’s Sunflower Race’, and is apparently in a series of four books about TJ, a practical and friendly girl who’s probably about seven, if the pictures are to be trusted, and has a small sister of around two called Josie.

When the book opens, TJ and her friend Abi are feeling bored when their neighbour offers Josie some sunflower seeds. TJ rather rudely grabs them from her little sister; she and Abi take two seeds each, and Josie gets the smallest one. TJ and Abi decide to plant their seeds side by side, and have a race to see which one reaches the roof of the house first.

The story traces the gradual germination and growth of the sunflowers, so in a low-key way it’s educational, but it also has a lovely subplot involving Josie’s single seed. It hasn’t (as her sister suspects) been eaten. Instead, Josie plants it under the roses, and it grows in secret, watered mostly by washing-up water, and without anybody suspecting.

It was obvious to me that Josie’s seed was going to be the tallest, but it’s so well written that, despite a simple storyline and fairly simple language, it made a lovely read-aloud. It’s illustrated by Anna Currey, whose line drawings match the text brilliantly, and the characters of the two older girls (and, indeed, Josie) come out very well.

The story is intended for early readers, but was also a great success as a read-aloud to my grandson, who’s just three. Definitely recommended.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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