“ Children's Book Magazine „
This review will cover two magazines: Puffin Post and Puffin Post for Pufflings. I have decided to review these publications under one heading, because they really are very similar. Both Magazines are put out by Puffin Books - a division of Penguin Books . If we compare the two side by side we will see many of the same articles and features in both. The main difference is the recommended age level. Puffin Post for Pufflings is recommended for ages 6+ and Puffin Post for age 9+ - although I will disagree with these age levels - but more on that later.
I was sent four issues by the publisher to review, two of from each age level. These including two which were of the same issue numbers so I could compare side by side.All of the magazines are 52 pages, printed in full colour. There are no advertisements at all in this magazine, except for a small card to renew you subscription. Each magazine contains the usual letters to the and from the editor and artwork from readers. The first section of the magazines is PuffInsight - these are short easy to read news type articles. The ones in Puffin for Pufflings tend to be a bit more animal oriented, but there are animals in both, including a very interesting article on real Puffins at Bempton Cliffs, as well as some brief information on Puffins "Protect our Puffins" fundraising project with the RSPB. Some other articles that I found repeated in both magazines include and activity - celebration Cakes, and the learn to draw pages ( which were very well done). Both magazines carried some fun Puffin comic strips, and both featured sneak peeks from Diary of a Wimpy Kid, as well as other books. They both feature a few puzzles and games, but the magazine for younger children has an exceptionally good column called code breakers. The Puffling version also has a nice pets column, where the older children's version has more in depth interviews with authors.
The main reason to subscribe to Puffin Post though is not the magazine at all - it is the books. A subscription to Puffin Post costs £45 and only includes 6 issues - one every other month. Each issue has articles on several books as well - but the best part is - you get to choose one book from each issue to be sent out to you as part of the subscription price. So the child reads the magazine, finds out about each book and then chooses the one they want to read the most.
Puffin claims these books have a value of up to £47. Perhaps - if you chose all the most expensive ones, and bought them on the high street. Realistically - I would set the value of the books as closer to £30. I will note though - that the books reflect a wider variety of interests chosen from different publishers - they haven't just used this magazine to flog their own books. You'll also find at least one classic in every selection - books like The Jungle Book and Charlotte's Web. There is a picture key which points out which categories each book falls into - things like Action, Conflict, Easy to Read, Fantasy and History. There is even a logo for sad books. Of course most books have a number of these labels. The selection cards included 11 - 13 books to choose from for each month and the titles were not repeated in the next issue - so over the year there should be quite a fair choice of books. We ended up choosing 2 books listed here and ordering from Amazon - but as I was able to buy one of these used - I paid under £6 for the two books.
Some of the books available in Puffin Post club include: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw, Earthfall ( a very popular new YA novel), The Chronicles of Egg, The Wizard Of Oz , Cycling for Gold, Time Riders, Storm Breaker, Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex. Young Samurai: The Ring of the Sky and Frankenstein. Puffin Post for Pufflings included The Lorax, Lego Ninjago, Spy Pups : Training School, Charlottes's Web, The Howling Castle, Mini Scientist in the Kitchen, DK Pocket Eyewitness; Animals and The Secrets Club: Alice in the Spotlight. A few books were listed in both age levels such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Matilda. Overall I felt the selection was very good and I feel there really is something for everyone. In fact I ended up buying Earthfall for myself, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid for my son.
I really liked these magazines, they are well written and cover a wide range of interests, but the part I like best is that they really encourage children to choose their own books. I've had a number of adults tell me they've tried buying their children or grandchildren books - but the child just isn't interested. Quite frankly - I expect many of us would lose interest in books in someone else chose them for us. This encourages children to find out more about the books and choose ones they really want to read. If a child starts to really enjoy books and read for pleasure their reading level will improve dramatically. One their reading level improves - they have more and more books to choose from and reading becomes more pleasurable - improving ability even more and so on in a never ending cycle. Simply getting a child started with a love of books is probably one of the very best investments we can make in their future. I think a subscription to this magazine would make a lovely gift that keeps on giving - not only for the year in which the subscription lasts, but for the rest of the child's life. Literacy is something every child needs - and deserves.
So I think the magazine is grand - my sons enjoyed it - my youngest did have a look at these as well even though he only 4, and I think the books on offer are great - so did I subscribe? No. I really do like this magazine - but to buy two subscriptions would cost me £90. I really would need two as there is nothing for my youngest in the Puffling's magazine, and at age 7 - my son oldest preferred the Puffins for ages 9+ magazine and almost all of the books that interested him were only in this magazine. My son was dissapointed that there any graphic novels or non fiction in his age level except for the diary of Anne Frank. The non fiction in the younger club he considered too babyish. I did like the fact that he was reading about and choosing books, but this is something we can do online for free. My children are very actively involved in choosing their own books. I usually find a number I feel they might be interested, read reviews and descriptions with them, look online for images etc... and allow them to choose. My oldest even reads some Dooyoo reviews (only ones I have read first and felt would interest him). I feel I am better off investing the £90 directly in books, choosing as many used copies as possible and shopping around for the best deals. I also feel by shopping online we have the widest possible range of choices - and my sons interests are quite specialised.
So..... I didn't buy it - but I'm telling you to. Well - that isn't exactly the case. If you are happy to spend the time online researching a large number of children's books and choosing with your child - by all means do so. But if you are grandparent looking for a wonderful gift and a way to encourage your grand children to read - by all means try this. If you are a working parent where time is at a premium and you really can't take two hours choosing a book with your child, again this a brilliant alternative. If your child hasn't taken much interest in books before but enjoys magazines at all - then this is for you as well. The child will be encouraged by getting to choose one book from each magazine to read the articles, and with the wide variety of topics available, most will find something they like. Children also love the excitement of getting something in the post - so this will be something to look forward to throughout the year. A subscription to Puffin Post would also be an excellent choice for children who really enjoy reading about the authors, information on how stories are written and perhaps even hoping to be an author themselves someday. And if you are worried that a subscription for magazines and books in the post doesn't make a nice Christmas box - you do get a few extras. You will also receive a stuffed Puffin, a canvas book bag, stationary, a secret code book and an enamel badge, as well as membership to Puffin Island online - which I haven't tried myself.
I did mention that I disagree with the age level at the beginning so I will give my reasons for this here. I realise these are a very general guideline - but I feel that the Pufflings Magazine has a reasonable amount to offer a 4 year old, and if one or two extra picture books could be added it would be wonderful for this age group. Of course a parent will have to read the magazine. My own son also felt the Pufflings magazine was far too babyish for him, but I realise he does seem to gravitate towards books for older children. I realise other children read at different age levels though and being stuck with a magazine and books listed for younger children will put some children off as well. Getting a subscription with books you can not read would be the worst though - and this service would be so wonderful for struggling readers without the age limits.
Personally I would prefer a Puffin for families. A single magazine with sections for older and younger readers and a wide selection of books to suit all ages. As such a big part of this magazine is the choice of 6 books - options would have to be offered for extra children in the family to be added and receive their own choice of books as well - but I would expect additional children to be added at a lower price as only one magazine would have to be sent out and postage could be combined. I'd even love to see a few pages for parents in each issue - a quick review of a couple of adult books ( when children see parents read they are more likely to read themselves) as well as tips to enjoying books as a family. An option could also be included to add babies and receive books for them as well - it is never too young to start a love of books. If they ever came up with a Puffin Family magazine - I most likely would subscribe.
I would also like to see a slightly wider range of types of books. As some children just can not be interested in the traditional paperbacks, I would like to see at least an occasional graphic novel style book or a collection of comics on offer. I would also like a much better non fiction selection for older children, especially since it is well known that many boys prefer non fiction. I would also love to see at least one title in each issue for high interest - low reading age books. I will note that they do have a few titles which are listed as easy to read, such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Jeremy Strong - I don't really see these as being very appealing to the older child. These books are especially developed for children who read below age level, but still allow them to find books they will really enjoy reading. Most are printed according to guidelines to make them easier for children with dyslexia to read as well - large print double spaced, cream paper etc.. The more choices we offer children the more likely they are to become readers, but this magazine does retain one outstanding feature - it gives children a choice in their own reading material. I do believe a subscrition to this magazine and books package will help children branch out in reading, and learn to love books - it just isn't the only way - or the least expensive way to do this.
I did enjoy these magazines, and I feel it is a wonderful idea. I'm afraid the current price of £90 for two children is just too much for me, and I feel it will be for many families, but it really isn't too bad when you consider you are getting the magazines + the books. I originally rated this as 4 stars, deducting one because I feel they should have offered at least one non fiction book with each issue and one high interest - low reading age book. It isn't just the children who are reading below their age who enjoy the high interest low reading age books. They are grand for very young children who are only interested in more grown up topics as well - such as my 7 year old. I have also found many children, especially boys prefer non fiction to fiction. As getting boys to read can be a struggle I do feel Puffin should consider this in their choices. I would of course, have been over the moon with the inclusion of graphic novels /comics, but I did not rate down because they were not included.
After reading a very large number of children's magazines though, I do have to conclude this is one of the best - so I have updated this review and rerate this as 5 stars. I still prefer the science based ones - but this does offer a unique opportunity to get children interested in books and reading. If I could afford these magazines, I would subscribe, and I do feel they would make wonderful gifts. I have to admit - we would never have tried th Diary of a Wimpy Kid otherwise and my son has really enjoyed this so much we will be ordering several more titles in this series. We also ended up ordering a third book that was featured in these magazines - so they really have encouraged him to branch out and try new things in literature. I would still like to see a few changes, but overall this is an excellent publication.
My thanks to the publishers for sending me these copies to review. As the publisher most likely will read this review - I would really appreciate it if members could add their own opinions here. Is there anything you would like to see in this magazine? What would it take for you to consider subscribing? What type of books should be offered? Would you be more likely to subscribe to a family issue then separate issues for each child?