Nat the rat, Pat the rat, and Matt the rat try to steal the jam that Gram is making for Ann, Fran, and Stan.
In a nutshell, that is the plot of this phonics book for emergent readers, one of a new series, Bright Owl Books. The short “a” sound is the focus, but the appeal is in the original photo illustrations that will grab children’s interest even if the words and bare story don’t. Stuffed white mice and gray rats are dressed and posed in fascinating environments filled with old toys, baskets, textured fabrics, and painted antique containers. These photos look like stills from a stop-action animated film that should have been produced with a more exciting storyline. A skirt, apron, and shawl in three different vintage prints adorn Gram’s small figure, tiny spectacles perched on her pink stitched nose, in just one of the lovingly made costumes for the toy creatures. While most of the dialogue-driven text supports the repetition of the short “a” sound (“I am a bandit, ma'am. Hand over the jam”), some of the vocabulary is more advanced and occasionally inconsistent in its reinforcement of its chosen sound. Publishing simultaneously are Cubs in a Tub, Hop, Frog!, Princess Pig, and Wet Hen.
With such creative illustrations beckoning to readers, children may muster up their decoding skills to get through the purposeful text, perhaps with a little help from an adult. (Early reader. 4-6)