Illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown
For ages 3+
Naomi Jones is becoming a prolific children’s picture book writer! Go Naomi! After pivoting from her 8-year career in the Children's publishing industry, her first published children's book was a collaboration with her husband James Jones, ‘The Perfect Fit’, published in 2021, and ‘Thunderboots’ will be her 6th… and let me tell you - it’s going to be a hit. Why? Because the story is an #OwnVoices authentic story about dyslexia. The first page of the book features a letter to readers from the author herself about her own dyslexia journey; diagnosed at 21 years old whilst at university studying for an English degree this explained her poor spelling, awful sense of direction/time and poor memory. In spite of her dyslexia traits growing up, this never stopped her loving books, reading and becoming a successful children’s author. A special welcome to those who have found my review today through the Oxford Children's Blog Tour - so happy to see you here!
When Oxford Children’s PR agent asked whether I’d like to be a part of this Blog Tour, I panicked. Two major Blog Tours in one week?!?!! Chocolate and caffeine overload, juggled a few things around etc... plus I couldn’t say no in this instance, even reluctantly, as my darling 11 year old daughter is dyslexic and what a whirlwind journey we went on as a family before she was finally formally diagnosed aged 8. ‘Thunderboots’ is, what I would say, a gentle introduction to looking for the signs of possible learning difficulties associated with dyslexia that might lead to putting a plan in place with the school; which may or may not then lead to assessment and ultimately diagnosis.
Although it (unfortunately) doesn’t mention it in the book itself, the publisher’s press release states that “Thunderboots was written in consultation with the British Dyslexia Association and the Unicorn School (a specialist dyslexia school) with the intention of celebrating all young people” - reassuring for readers.
About the book
We meet a joyful, jumpy-abouty, fun and larger-than-life young girl called Trixie who lives in Primrose Tower. Readers find out that Trixie has a dad, but not whether she has any other parent in her life, so the story is open to interpretation befitting a variety of family unit combinations for readers whilst also reinforcing a positive father role-model. Trixie's home, Primrose Tower, has been beautifully illustrated and imagined by creator Rebecca Ashdown and the people who live there with Trixie (or Thunderboots, as they call her, due to her loudness) represent a mixture of cultural and heritage groups. There is a lovely sense of community spirit as they all wave Trixie off to school for her very first day.
Good news! Trixie loves school… the playground, the teacher, her classmates! However, as the story moves through Trixie’s sequence of new and different experiences the observant reader begins to notice things. For example, when Trixie is at lunch she doesn’t notice her water bottle has fallen under the table and she can’t find it; or in PE when the teacher asks the children to stretch up or down/left or right, Trixie does the opposite movements, bumping into her friends - “Whoops!”.
Subtleties in the illustrations indicate to the reader that there might be a problem brewing… her classmates are looking at her quizzically (but not unkindly) as she does the opposite to the instructions given by the teacher… Trixie sneaks a peek at her classmates to check if she’s doing something right or wrong. There are other signs the reader can pick up on too, great for engagement with children when reading together to see if they can spot them before you point them out!
Only when the class’s reading proficiency level starts to move past learning the initial letters and phonics and onto reading books does Trixie find that she doesn’t see words forming a short sentence on a page as her classmate Lily does. The letters are dancing around! Dreading school the next day she is incredibly brave and tells her dad what happened. With support from Dad and her school, Trixie feels empowered and she goes back to her bouncy, superstar self in no time.
Aimed at raising awareness of dyslexia amongst children of EFYS or KS1 age, this story achieves its goal through Trixie’s relatable journey of starting school and going through some common shared first experiences - structured teacher-led lessons filled with multiple instructions with a group of new peers, learning the alphabet, starting to read and write words. The culmination of multiple difficulties Trixie experiences (and her courage to speak up about her worries) result in her responsible adult and the school taking measures to support her through putting in place a 'plan' with Trixie's input.
There is no diagnosis given formally within the narrative, perhaps due to the character's young age and this highlighting the start of her assessment journey. Hopefully this story will enable children to have empathy for anyone with dyslexia; and for those reading this book with young children who might be struggling, perhaps this will form a positive part of their dyslexia journey together one day. It'll certainly be going into my school orders.
Download FREE teaching resources and activities
Thanks to the team at Oxford Children's, Naomi Jones and Rebecca Ashdown for this fab activity sheet! Enjoy discovering your superhero!
About the creators
Naomi Jones (author)
Naomi Jones (née Cartwright) worked in children’s publishing for eight years before leaving to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. She is the acclaimed author of the picture book The Perfect Fit (OUP); its sequel One More Try, How to Catch a Rainbow (OUP), How to Make a Story (OUP), and The Odd Fish (Farshore). She lives in Cornwall near the sea. (Source: Oxford Children's)
'I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was 21 and half way through studying English at University. Trixie’s story isn’t my story, but the sense of frustration she experiences is definitely something I experienced too. Trixie has been brought to life in Thunderboots by the lovely Rebecca Ashdown who has a dyslexic husband and daughter. We are both really keen that this book emphasises that everyone is good at different things.' Naomi Jones also shares in her letter in the intro to the book that 'Thunderboots' was her Grandpa’s nickname for her too!
Rebecca Ashdown (illustrator)
Rebecca Ashdown worked as a graphic designer, vector illustrator, and motion graphics artist, before becoming a full-time illustrator. Her books have have been shortlisted for national awards, including the Kate Greenaway CILIP medal, the Sheffield Book Awards, and the Portsmouth Book Award. (Source: Oxford Children's)
Learning to read
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Publication date: 1 June 2023
Praise for 'Thunderboots'
"Thunderboots is a joy! The perfect read for any dyslexic child who might find school a challenge and for any parent or carer who wants to guide them through it." ― Jane Elson, Author of How To Fly with Broken Wings
"The visual energy and inclusivity of Thunderboots is just wonderful and the moment when Trixie goes quiet sensitively shows how a seemingly small thing can shift a child's feelings about something in a very BIG way. For me, Thunderboots demonstrates how the language that we use and the relationships we have are the magic keys to feeling confident about ourselves and our differences." ― Leigh Hodgkinson, Author of Martha Maps It Out
"We really love this picture book!" ― Inspire Education Library Service (ELS)
"I love the character designs and the brightly coloured pages. I really appreciate the nod towards dyslexia being genetic, the normalisation of talking to teachers about learning difficulties, and the celebration of learning plans. I think this is an excellent book to create awareness and as feel-good representation in classrooms or at home. Representation in media is so important, no matter the age of the reader." ― Toni, Bookseller at Waterstones Enfield Crown Road
*reviewed from an advance reading copy provided by the publisher
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