Age Range: 5 to 7
My daughter received three Sophie stories as a Christmas present last year and once we started reading we couldn’t put them down, they are so entertaining and funny. The books were first published in the early nineties but I had never heard of them before. These versions, illustrated by Hannah Shaw, were published in 2015 and we definitely want to read the other three stories.
Sophie is a very determined, very independent little girl who is mad about animals and dreams of being a lady farmer when she grows up. She lives with her mother, father and older twin brothers Mark and Matthew. The stories also introduce her classmates Dawn (not her favourite person!), Duncan and Andrew and her beloved Great Aunt Al who lives in the Highlands of Scotland.
Sophie’s Tom: On her fifth birthday Sophie finds a stray cat and names him Tom but she’s not allowed to keep him. Tom disappears, Sophie starts school, makes a new friend, Duncan, and gets chicken pox. When Great Aunt Al comes to stay Tom reappears and there’s a big surprise for everybody at the end of the book.
Sophie Hits Six: Tom (who has been renamed Tomboy) is now part of the family and Sophie needs to find homes for all her kittens. At school she makes a new friend, Andrew, and is delighted when she receives an invitation to tea on his father’s farm. Great Aunt Al comes to visit and brings a surprise for Sophie, she takes part in both her first Sports Day and first Nativity Play, goes to an agricultural show and there’s a special present for the family on Christmas Day.
Sophie is Seven: Sophie is still determined to become a lady farmer. She does a sponsored walk to raise money for her farm fund and is delighted when she hears that her class are going to learn about farming. She also starts riding lessons, goes on a school trip to a farm and the book ends with a proposal for Andrew.
We love Sophie. She is strong willed, a very independent thinker, is determined to pursue her dream of being a lady farmer and doesn’t believe in crying or telling lies. She often mispronounces her words which totally alters the meaning of what she’s trying to say and her experiences mirror those of many children of her age – wanting a pet, birthdays and Christmas, going to tea with friends, going on holiday and dealing with the everyday dramas of school and friendship. We love the inclusion of the child being sick on the coach, Andrew and Sophie’s enthusiastic participation in the farming topic and I have sympathised with Sophie’s class teacher on more than one occasion!
The humorous, easy to read text is supported by Hannah Shaw’s wonderful illustrations, each new chapter starts on the right hand page of the book and is accompanied by a full page illustration on the left. Smaller pictures are dotted throughout the text and we love some of Sophie’s expressions especially when she falls in the mud!
These stories are perfect for children of infant school age, they will identify with so many of Sophie’s experiences and the everyday dramas in her school and family life. The books are also available on CD, they would be brilliant to listen to on a long car or plane journey. As a teacher I can also imagine reading the stories to Reception / Year One classes.
Update: June 6th 2016
We’ve now read and enjoyed the other three stories and my daughter is very disappointed to hear that we have now read them all!
Sophie’s Snail: This is the very first story in which Sophie finds a small yellow snail, announces her intention to be a lady farmer and meets Great Aunt Al for the first time. She also has a disastrous playdate with Dawn and fills the potting shed with a menagerie of woodlice, earwigs and centipedes.
Matthew and Mark’s snail race inspired us to hold our own race which was a lot of fun despite our small yellow snail cheating and hitching a ride on the winner’s back! The ten snails didn’t follow the rules and stay on the course at all and it was hilarious to see the children shouting directions to them! The children became so involved in the whole activity, predicting winners, enticing the snails with greenery and finding the biggest leaves for prizes! When the race was over we took the snails to the wood to have their own post race party!
Sophie in the Saddle: Another pet joins the household, a small terrier called Puddle. Sophie learns to swim and the family go to Cornwall for their summer holiday and stay on a farm. Sophie learns to ride and is also involved in ‘rescuing’ her arch enemy Dawn. When the family returns home Sophie receives an exciting letter from Great Aunt Al!
Sophie’s Lucky: Sophie becomes engaged to Andrew, wins a prize in her first gymkhana and Tomboy rescues Beano, the rabbit, after he spends the night in the garden. The family drive up to the Scottish Highlands to visit Great Aunt Al where Sophie discovers that her aunt owns a farm and she’s delighted when she is allowed to ride Lucky the pony every day. After a wonderful holiday the family drives home and the children go back to school but a few weeks later they receive sad news which will change their lives completely.
All six of the Sophie stories can also be bought as a set which would make a wonderful present;
We would love to hear which Dick King-Smith stories you would recommend that we read next. Please leave your favourite titles in the comments below.