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I have always read that children should have a good variety of reading material including both fiction and non fiction. However, I always felt stories were more fun, and tended to buy primarily fiction unless non fiction was needed for a unit study we were planning. But as my son has grown older, I have asked him to sit with me and look through Amazon's website and choose some of his own books. Quite often he asks for non fiction, and this is one of the titles he selected. I have found, much to my surprise, that even my youngest child ( age 3) also loves the non fiction titles, and I realise I was basing all of my purchases on my own taste as a child. I really should have included far more non fiction titles at a much earlier age for both boys.
'Spectacular Film Stunts' is part of Oxford's Project X series, a new series of levelled readers designed specifically to interest boys in books. This is most definitely a boy friendly subject, but I'm sure a fair number of girls would like to see how film stunts are done as well. I actually enjoyed this book myself, and I did learn a few things from it. This book is level 13, which is intended for ages 8 - 9. There are quite a few very complex words in this book, such as "pyrotechnician" , coordinator"and "gymnastics". I would not expect a child to read this on their own unless they are already into the chapter book stage, and even so, my son did need help with some words.
This book is illustrated primarily with photos from well known films. These include Anthony Horowitz's Stombreaker, Spy Kids, Transformers, and Goldfinger. There are also a few drawings, including one comic book style which demonstrates the actions in a fight scene. Max, one of the characters from Project X's fictional books also appears with comments on some of the photos. The pictures are all very good, depicting some great action scenes - sometimes from a different angle than we would normally see, and make this book of some interest even to my 3 year old.
The strong point of the book though is the step by step detail telling children exactly how many of these stunts are performed. My son loved this section but was perhaps a bit too interested. His eyes positively lit up when we read about trampolines being used in stunts and a section about diving from high windows or ledges to an air pillow. I could see the wheels spinning and immediately went into standard Mom mode, explaining how dangerous it would be to try these stunts at home. My son listened patiently while I rattled on, agreeing with every word I said. Problem sorted - or so I thought. Later that day I heard my husband shouting, a large number of the words would not make for polite reading, but I clearly heard "DON'T ******* MOVE! VERY SLOWLY STEP BACK INTO THAT ********** WINDOW!" It turns out my son had decided to try being a stuntman after all and was getting ready to attempt a leap from the bathroom window to a trampoline in the back garden! Still - I can't really blame the book - I did a few things like this myself as a child without the benefit of guide books!
Another nice thing about the book though, is that it does really encourage children to be active. It tells children if they would like to grow up to be stunt artists ( it seems the old stunt men is no longer correct) that they should be involved in as many athletic activities as possible. It features an interview with a stunt artist as well, and a two page spread on Jackie Chan.
My son loved this book, and it certainly fulfilled requirements of getting boys reading. Perhaps he loved it a bit too much. He really loved the section on explosives as well. Thankfully it does not give instructions for making the detonator that so clearly caught his attention. He did ask for details, but of course I wouldn't know myself and this is one time I have no intention of googling it for him! That said I would not be at all surprised if he thinks of this himself, but of course he would have to get whatever materials are required. Of course I suppose I could complain that the book was a bad influence, but I believe people are responsible for their own actions. He is usually quite well behaved, but boys have to act up once in awhile. He clearly knew he was not allowed to to this. I am not going to rate down for this fact. After all boys will be boys ( If only I could have used that excuse myself as a child!)
The only thing I would fault this book on at all is the text. This is smaller than in the earlier Project X books and is comparable to the font in this review. It is sometimes printed in white on black, or black on various colours. I am not an expert on fonts, so I can not say for certain, but the interview section of this books appears to be a Verdana font. If not it is something similar. These types of fonts are meant to make reading more difficult for dyslexics. The majority of the book is in an ordinary, clear easy to read text though. Ideally, children with dyslexia should be reading clear bold black letters on a cream or off white background. I personally feel the recommendations for print for children with dyslexia would be very beneficial for most new readers. I also think that it would be nice if books printed for widespread use in the school system were a bit more dyslexia friendly, especially a series aimed at boys that could go so far towards encouraging children with reading difficulties to read more. I will not rate down for this, it does not affect us personally, and the vast majority of books are not printed with dyslexics in mind. I just think it would be nice if the publishers considered this and at least took a few easy steps of always using acceptable print and backgrounds.
This book currently sells for £5.94 from Amazon's including free postage, which is the lowest price of all the sellers I could find . The Book Depository did sell it for slightly less, but has no stock currently available. This is expensive for a 32 page book with a fairly cheap binding. However, I do feel this is worth the price, as are the others in this series simply because these books really do help develop reading skills and boys and make boys want to read. Also I know a great deal of expense went into the creation of these books, from research and development, to hiring top notch authors and brilliant photography.