'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Saturday 12 April 2014

Review: Ali Berber and the Forty Grains of Salt

Chapter books--or readers--are a literary mainstay of our early educational system. They are designed to extend the reading experience, encourage vocabulary-building and heighten word association and sentence construction. They comprise some of the earliest texts our children are exposed to, and this is why it's so vital to publish readers that are brilliantly written and produced.

Ali Berber and the Forty Grains of Salt is a prime example of a reader than has been done very well.

Young Ali Berber and his camel Sufi head to the kingdom of Alhambro, keen to win their weight in gold by coming up with the tastiest flavourings for the King's dishes. With him, Ali carries a special pouch filled with salt, hoping he will win his prize (and not the treat for runners-up ... having his head chopped off).

When Ali presents his pouch and tips forty grains of salt out onto the table, the King is enraged. Thinking it is sand, he threatens to lop off Ali's head. Standing nearby, the lovely Princess Portia bats her eyelashes at Ali, and encourages the King to sample the white grains, which Ali assures him are a true taste sensation. Upon tasting a lump of salt on its own, the King only becomes more enraged.

Can Ali convince him the inherent value in this simple mineral or will some ill fate push Ali and Sufi to the edge? And what of young Portia and her fluttering eyelashes?

This is a gorgeously-written story that will thoroughly engage children with its overt narrative and subtle referencing to science, history and fables. Clever, witty, packed with words sure to enrich any vocabulary and a plot that doesn't skimp on twists and detail, this is how readers should be written.

Title: Ali Berber and the Forty Grains of Salt
Author: Sheryl Gwyther
Illustrator: Christopher Nielsen
Publisher: Pearson, $11.40 RRP
Publication Date: 25 November 2013
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781486007516
For ages: 5 - 8
Type: Junior Fiction, Chapter Book, Reader