Book reviews - learning to read - Maverick Books

  • Learn to Read with Maverick Maverick's guided reading scheme has book bands ratified by the Institute of Education, University of London. The books are:

  • Written in Natural English Some early readers are written with the repetition of a specific phonics. This can make the flow of the story unnatural. Our early readers are still phonic based but focus more on the flow of the text.

  • Book Banded All our early readers are book banded (levelled) to the Institute of Education (UK) standard. To find out more about book banding and what makes up the different levels click here.

  • Audio Available It is important to hear a language spoken in order to learn to read that language. Our pink, red, yellow and blue books have audio available in the form of a video which highlights specific words.

  • Guided Reading Scheme Our book levelling is aimed at guided reading, meaning that they are taking into account that a child will be sharing their reading experience with an adult.

"Learning to read is such a key point in a child’s growth and the transition from being a listener to being a reader is not an easy one.  We hope that by offering our fun picture books, book banded as early readers, we can bring the fun of the bedtime story to the classroom. Our early readers have been adapted from the original picture books so that children can make the essential transition from listener to reader. For each book, the author and an educational specialist have worked together to make the text accessible to the given readership level. All text is on white, in a clear, easy to read typeface. The books also feature a quiz at the back, to see whether the reader has read and understood the story." Don't miss the new Maverick Early Readers website for free reader resources including activity packs packed with fun activities.

Jim's Junk and Fix It (Pink Early Reader Level 1) by Jenny Jinks

Two very short stories for beginner readers, linked by a common theme for continuity. in Jim’s Junk, we discover there is lots of junk. Can Jim make something new from it? In Fix It, meet Bot, who likes to fix things. But who will fix Bot when he goes wrong? The book features instructions to write the letter j, as well as useful advice on reading, especially focusing on words introduced in the book. It also suggests making new things from cardboard boxes. The lively illustrations gie the book plenty of appeal.

Nuts! and Is That My Ball (Red Early Reader Level 2) by Jenny Jinks

Lost and found is the theme of the two stories in this book - I like the way there is a link between the two, to make it more meaningful for children. Pip wants to bury his nut, but everyone else wants to dig it up! And can Tom find his lost ball in the second story? Moving on to Red Level, these stories are decodable at Letters and Sounds Phase 2. The letter n is feauured with writing instructions, to add value to the book.

The Perfect Spot (Early Reader Level 3) by Alice Hemming

How difficult can it be to find the perfect place to paint? Surprisingly so, as there seems to be a small problem everywhere! An entertaining story, which children will identify with as a familiar situation. The quiz at the end is very useful for discussion around the story and to extend the value of the book. This Yellow Band story is decodable at Letters and Sounds Phase 3/4.

Shy Stan (Blue Early Reader Level 4) by Katie Dale

As children progress through the reading bands, so the stories become longer and more enjoyable, reflecting Maverick's commitment to always bringing us great story telling. Ben the crab has just joined the class - but who is Stan, who Ben says he must play with? Nobody else can see him! A lively story with superb illustrations to make reading really pleasurable;decodable at Letters and Sounds Phase 4/5. +.

S.I.D Snake in Disguise (Green Early Reader Level 5) by Lou Treleaven

Sid really wants to make some friends, but nobody seems very happy to see him... so he might just have to go into disguise. A lively story with cheerful illustrations to help with reading. One thing I always really enjoy about Maverick Books is their attractive presentation, which offers instant child appeal. It's really good to see that carried forward onto their Early Readers series which have that same high appeal. Decodable at Letters and Sounds Phase 5. Green Book Band stories will now often include opportunities for children to use prediction skills, e.g. to guess what might happen next. Approximately 200-300 words per story with one story per book.

Greedy Birds (Green Early Reader Level 5) by Gareth Shepppard

Mavis loves to cook but enough is enough when her garden fills up with greedy birds. So she hatches a plan to get the birds to help make her dream come true. Maverick Books are excellent at bringing us really good stories and their Early Readers are no exception with superb stories from top class authors. The original text of this story, as with others, has been modified by the author to be an Early Reader without losing any of the original appeal.

Mole in Goal (An Orange Early Reader Level 6) by Amanda Brandon

Mole loves to play football, but the problem is he’s not very good. His feet are too little and he’s almost as blind as a bat. Will he find a way to play on a team? Moles do have one great benefit - big hands which are perfect in goal. A lovely story about friendship and working together to find a solution.Orange Book Band stories may have an identifiable theme (e.g. ‘stopping bullying’, ‘being brave’, ‘friendship’, etc.). Approximately 300-450 words per story with one story per book.  There is an quiz page at the end of each story.

A Knit and a Knot (Orange Early Reader Level 6) by Amanda Brandon

This again is a story that has been adapted to be an Early Reader and children will enjoy this lively story about determination, helpfulness and kindness. Granny Mutton is teaching Lionel to knit but first of all, Lionel and his friend Rocky must solve the clues and find the missing wool. The story is great fun and children will enjoy following the journey of the ball of wool as they share in searching for it through the pictures. 

Mr Tash (Orange Early Reader Level 6) by Yasmin Finch

Mr Tash has a very special moustache - it's so big that he attracts attention wherever he goes. But disaster strikes one day when he has a bit of an accident on a children's roundabout... what is to be done? A hilarious story with super illustrations that makes reading a really enjoyable experience for children. Both the Green and the Orange Book Banded books include quiz questions to assess children's understanding of their reading.

Slugs in Space (A Turquoise Early Reader Level 7) by Lou Treleaven

Suzy dreams of going into space and meeting aliens. That doesn't seem unusual... until you learn that Suzy is a slug! Despite the fact everyone makes fun of her, Suzy won't give up on her dreams in this amusing and engaging story. With lovely illustrations, this is a fun way for children to continue their reading journey, and the high production quality makes for an attractive book to make reading really enjoyable. The quiz at the end checks understanding and stimulates further discussion.

Woah! What's the Weather (A Turquoise Early Reader Level 7 Non-fiction)

Finn and Zeek are alien tour guides and in this non-fiction book, they explore the different types of weather found on Planet Earth, and how to prepare for it. It's always good to see non-fiction as part of reading schemes and this fits well with the curriculum as well as offereing lots of talking points. The spread which shows weather symbols adds a fresh dimension to learning to read and to extracting information from books. THere is also a very useful glossary, introducing another learning/research concept.

The Oojamaflip (A Turquoise Early Reader Level 7) by Lou Treleaven

Professor McQuark is always inventing strange things, but one day she has such a wacky idea that she couldn't even think of a name for it - so she decides it will have to be an ‘Oojamaflip’. So off she sets to the town's science fair - but the Oojamaflip won't fit through the door! When the judging is nearly over, the judges see lots of excitement outside - but just what does the Oojamaflip DO? A hilarious story, ingeniously illustrated by Julia Patton with great detail. Turquoise Band - text and pictures work together perfectly in this pacy story. Plots are still mostly simple , without subplots, but there is more variation in speech and a greater range of sentence structures and lengths than at previous levels. Approximately 600-800 words per story with one story per book. There is an quiz page at the end of each story.

Wild and Wacky Animals: An Alien's Guide ( A Purple Early Reader Level 8 Non-fiction)

Finn and Zeek are back with another entertaining non-fiction reader - this time, children can learn about Planet Earth's wackiest animals. Sea hares, angler fish, armadillos, peacocks and stick insects are just a few of the animals included. With excllent colour photos, this is informative and entertaining. The word breakdowns help children pronounce unfamiliar words, erxtending their comprehension and vocabulary. There is also a combined glossary/index and a quiz.

Wishker (A Purple Early Reader Level 8) by Heather Pindar

Whatever Mirabel wants, the answer always seems to be the same.  No. But then a rufty-tufty roaming cat with magic powers shows up. Soon Mirabel has everything she wants - but life is utter chaos and maybe things are better as they were... perhaps with the granting of just one more wish...Beautifully illustrated by Sarah Jennings, with wonderfully joyful and action-packed pictures,this is a lively sparky story that will make us all think about what we wish for. Orange Band - there are continued opportunities for prediction at various points in the text, and for discussion of characters and motivation. Plots are still mostly straightforward and linear. Approximately 800-1000 words per story with one story per book. There is an quiz page at the end of each story.

Dress to Impress: An Alien's Guide (A Gold Early Reader Level 9 Non-fiction)

Our friendly alien tour guides are back to show children what humans around the world wear. It's good to see these familiar characters featuring in books through the reading scheme, as the familiarity is enjoyable for children, who relate well to familiar characters. I like the fact the book includes a map of all the places visited, as map reading is another learning skill children need to acquire, and this simple map is ideal. As woth all the Maverick Early Readers, the layout is clear and really makes reading a pleasure.

The Underwear Wolf (A Gold Early Reader Level 9)) by Clare Helen Walsh

There is a real strength in the fact these are adaptations of existing picture books, meaning there are strong storylines to make reading a real pleasure. Stitch knows he's not like other children – he’s a werewolf! He goes to special lessons, but the thing he wants most is his own pack to knit for... but will they see past his super stretchy underwear? Gorgeous illustrations complement the entertaining story. Gold Band - as the stories get longer, children will need more stamina to read them, however plots and characters are still mostly clear and straightforward to follow.  Word choice are still within children’s passive vocabulary. Approximately 1000-1300 words per story.

King Pong (A Gold Early Reader Level 9) by Clare Helen Walsh

It's all very well being the bravest, strongest animal in the jungle but if, like King Pong, you are also the smelliest, something has to be done. Can the other animals finally convince King Pong to have a bath and overcome his fear of water? A delightful story about a lovely group of animals who all work together. Bright illustrations by Kelly Breemer help with enjoyment and understanding.

Bingo and the Burblies (A Gold Early Reader) by Steve Howson

Bingo was an inquisitive little girl, always looking for something new in the rainforest which is her home. One day, she finds some strange but friendly creatures who she calls the birblies. But their lives are threatened by development and Bingo, with her grandfather's help, sets out to save them. The story is beautifully illustrated and will stimulate discussion about rainforests and protecting them.

Scary Scott (A Gold Early Reader) by Katie Dale

All Scott wants is a friend but that's hard when you are a ghost! He keeps accidentally scaring people. When Halloween comes around, will Scott finally find some spooky friends? He finds some new friends, but they are being bullied, so Scott steps in and finds a good use for being a ghost. A lively and fun tale. Maverick's high production values mean that all their Early Readers are a joy to read, with attractive covers, good quality printing and vivid pictures

The Freezosaurus (Gold Early Reader Level 9) by Jenny Jinks

When Freddie gets home from the museum, he finds a dinosaur egg in his bag! Frozo turns out to be a very unusual dinosaur but sadly Freddie just can't keep him. As the stories get longer, children will need more stamina to read them, however plots and characters are still mostly clear and straightforward to follow. Word choices are still within children’s passive vocabulary. Approximately 1000-1300 words per story.

Shooting Star (Gold Early Reader Level 9) by Katie Dale

Stella's a superhero and being in a wheelchair doesn't hold her back. But can she come to the rescue when a burglar breaks into the school? Much of the appeal of Maverick's Early Readers is down to the attractiveness of the illustrations. It's so important that children find books appealing, that they want to pick them up and enjoy them, and the illustrations are a key part of this which Maverick have given due attention.

Pirate Parrot and the Knit-Wits (A White Early Reader Level 10) by Steve Howson

Jim Squawkins wants to be the greatest pirate ever to sail the seven seas. But when: the human pirates on board the ship are only interested in knitting, it's a bit of a chellenge. Can Jim and his beastly crew find a way to make their dream come true? The pictures in this book are super, making the story really enjoyable and character-full. White Band stories are slightly longer and more complex than before, sometimes needing the reader to use more complicated inference or bring in knowledge from outside the story in order to understand it. Plots are still mostly straightforward, but with some scope to surprise the reader. Approximately 1300-1500 words per story.

Jetpack Jelly (A White Early Reader Level 10) by Alice Hemming

Spacey Stacey and her friends  live on Planet Five Ways. She has lots of jelly to deliver but not enough time - she will need some help! The planet links to five other planets we can visit, giving lots of potential for more stories. The characters are great and there is plenty of excitement for children to enjoy; of course, space is always an appealing topic.

Nanny Ninja (A White Early Reader Level 10) by Jenny Jinks

Ant is bored - things have been boring ever since Nanny came to stay. He has to go to bed early, and she seems to be always tired. One night, Scott is woken by a strange noise and hopes to catch a glimpse of the mysterious Ninja, a local hero who fights crime. He gets a big surprise when he creeps down to the kitchen... and soon he's off on a huge adventure. Another fun and lively story which children will enjoy, with carefully graded language and appealing illustrations.

Cara the Cowgirl (White Early Reader Level 10) by Elizabeth Dale

Cara is the best cowgirl in Creektown… well, actually she’s the only cowgirl in Creektown. Will Cara prove what a great cowgirl she is when the terrible Black Jake rides into town? White Band stories are slightly longer and more complex, sometimes needing the reader to use more complicated inference or bring in knowledge from outside the story in order to understand it. Plots are still mostly straightforward, but with some scope to surprise the reader. Approximately 1300-1500 words per story.

The Magic Helmet (White Early Reader Level 10): A Viking Adventure by Cath Jones

When Harry arrives at his grandma’s house, he thinks life can’t get more boring. But after Harry puts on a magic helmet he finds in the garden, he’s transported back in time to when the Vikings ruled the seas. Will Harry find his way home? I am very impressed with Maverick's Early Readers - great stories, eye-catching presentation and excellent progression makes them really appealing and a great way to encourage a love for reading. You can view the whole Early Readers range at

Cool Duck & Lots of Hats (Early Readers Pink) by Elizabeth Dale

Maverick's Early Readers are attractive books that aim to bring the fun of bedtime stories to learning to read, whether in the classroom or at home - and they certainly succeed. The Pink Early Readers each contain two short stories, and here we have Cool Duck; Cat is hot but then he spots duck. In Lots of Hats; it is a windy day! Sam and his family are wearing lots of hats! Included in the book are pages to explain how to write the letters d and h, which is a useful feature. Coloured spines distinguish the bands.

Peck, Hen, Peck & Ben's Pet (Early Readers Pink) by Jill Atkin

Simple repetitive text creates enjoyable stories, enhanced by the colourful lively pictures. In Peck, Hen, Peck! Tom has a hen in his backpack but then hen can peck!; and in Ben’s Pet Ben has a new pet but what is it? These books are full of added value - as well as how to write the letters k and p, there are High Frequency words which are recommended that children learn before reading the stories.

Buzz & Jump Jump (Early Readers) by Alice Hemming

Two more stories - Buzz! Buzz! What is that sound? and Jump! Jump! - Ken loves to jump. He jumps everywhere! Letters b and j are the letters to learn in this book. The stories are enjoyable and well illustrated but it is the additional material which makes these books stand out. This book includes Tips for Reading each story as well as High Frequency words and Fun Activities.

Bam-boo & I Wish (Early Readers Red) by Alice Hemming

Bam-Boo Bam the panda likes hiding. Can you find him? I Wish There is a magic wishing well on a hill. What will the princess wish for? Fun stories that make learning to read enjoyable, with full page colour illustrations that really make the book attractive and appealing.

Izzy Wizzy by Elizabeth Dale (Early Readers Yellow)

Izzy is magic! There are lots of things that she wants but her spells don’t always go to plan. Yellow Band books have one story per book and end with a simple quiz to show how much children have remembered about the story. The illustrations in this one are great fun.

The Four Little Pigs (Early Reader Turquoise Band) by Alice Hemming

Maverick Books produce some of the best picture books around, so it's brilliant to see these special editions produced for beginner readers. FOUR little pigs? Surely not! This is a clever and humorous twist on the old favourite. Tom is staying with his granny - but she's no ordinary granny, she is a witch. So when Tom says that the Three Little Pigs story is boring, Granny uses a spell to send him right into the story. Is Tom clever enough to avoid being eaten by the big bad wolf? Children will love to recognise the familiar elements whilst enjoying the quirky take on the story which gives it a whole new appeal. Book banding is carried out to industry standard and the text is edited by a leading educational consultant to give us a book perfect for Turquoise Band readers.As with all their books reviewed here, Maverick have produced Learning Resource Packs which are free to download.

I Wish I'd Been Born a Unicorn (Early Reader Green Band) by Rachel Lyon

Mucky lived up to his name and nobody wanted to be friends with the grubby brown horse. So he decides he would like to be a unicorn, and with a little help from his friends, his dream comes true... until the rain comes! Then, Mucky finds out what really matters - his friends. A charming story, with expressively illustrated characters to capture the imagination - and an important message about being true to yourself. The gorgeous illustrations are full of clues to help children if they get stuck on tricky words. All the books in the series have appealing colour illustrations and layout, to encourage children to really enjoy reading.

Gold Star for George (Early Reader Orange Band) by Alice Hemming

George the Giraffe is back in the second book in the George the Giraffe & Friends series; this time the message is how helping others brings about the greatest reward. The Heavenly Hippos Wildlife Park is awarding gold stars to the animals and George the Giraffe has the perfect spot on his fence for one. Helpful George helps the other animals but sadly, doesn't get a gold star - until he gets a very special surprise. A delightful story with some wonderfully drawn characters - and a quite adorable hero. As with all the Maverick Early Readers, the original story has been carefully edited to suit the reading band, whilst still keeping the enjoyment of the story.

Pirates Don't Drive Diggers (Early Reader Orange Band) by Alex English

If you are digger-mad, then the life of a pirate just isn't for you! But Dad insists and Brad is sent off to sail the seas with Captain Blood. Poor Brad just isn't cut out for life at sea - can he convince the fearsome captain of this? When he is sent off to find treasure it seems his dreams might just come true... Great fun, with lively illustrations to engage the reader throughout. As with all the books in the series, there is a quiz at the end to discuss with children and see whether they have understood the story.

Grumpy King Colin (Early Reader Turquoise Band) by Phil Allcock

What a superb character! King Colin can do just what he likes... because he's king. Every toddler will revel in this story of an adult who does all the things children are told not to - he doesn't wash his hands, he wears dirty clothes, he has a tantrum... but then he meets his nemesis! It's Great Queen Connie and King Colin has to do as he's told - because she's his mum! A hilarious story which children will adore - when they're naughty, share this to defuse the situation! Great story telling, carefully chosen suitable language and superb illustrations - learning to read has never been such fun!

The Black and White Club by Alice Hemming

The penguins of the Heavenly Hippo Wildlife Park have set up a club but only the black and white animals are invited. Poor George the Giraffe is feeling very left out so he takes matters into his own hands with delightful consequences. Lots of lovely animals feature in this book and there's lots to talk about in the illustrations, which are by Kimberley Scott. I love Maverick's brilliant picture books and so I was thrilled when they asked me to review the books in their new venture. These Early Readers have been adapted from their existing picture books, carefully edited by each author in conjunction with Catherine Baker, an educational specialist. This ensures the books fit into the industry standard book bands; the books reviewed here are banded Green, Orange and Turquoise - the spines are coloured accordingly and there is a coloured star on the cover; this all helps to make teachers' lives easier.

A Scarf and a Half by Amanda Brandon

Granny Mutton loves to knit - but she really doesn't know when to stop! Little Lionel is not at all impressed with his present - he wanted something to make him laugh. Luckily Lionel’s friends are blessed with plenty of imagination and they find lots of fun things they can enjoy with a scarf and a half! The brightly coloured scarf makes a lovely focus for the bright and amusing illustrations in this charming story about inventiveness and friendship. The high quality storytelling coupled with the excellent illustrations in these books makes them really appealing - a great incentive to encourage children to persevere with their reading.

Yuck Said the Yak by Alex English 

Alfie does not seem surprised when a Yak appears at his house on a bicycle but when the Yak refuses to eat any of the treats Alfie offers, he does get very puzzled. Luckily, the problem sorts itself out in the end, much to Alfie's surprise. Excellent storytelling makes this is a good story to use with a group of children as well as for early reading one-to-one. The humorous approach encourages children to look at things from a different point of view. The series is made even more outstanding by the excellent teaching packs thay have been created to accompany each book. The pack for this book includes a suggested lesson plan for readingYuck! said the Yak; a detailed list of the language and linguistic features included in the text; an activity sheet for children to enjoy after readingthe book and a colouring in sheet.The packs are free to download from the Maverick Books website.

Preposterous Rhinoceros by Tracy Gunaratnam

It's bedtime and the animals are waiting (all dressed ready for bed!) for their bedtime story - but King Lion has lost his voice. Never mind - Preposterous Rhinocerous will step into the breach - trouble is, he doesn't know how to read. Aided by his friends, he tries all sorts of hilarious ideas but it's only when Shy Salamander comes on the scene and helps him learn to read, that all turns out well. This humorous story is just perfect to share with a child who is learning to read as it highlights the importance of reading. The adaptation from the original is well done and none of the story is lost.

Hocus Pocus Diplodocus: The World's First Ever Magician by Steve Howson

Hocus Pocus is no ordinary dinosaur - he is the world's first-ever magician! Fame spreads, even in the prehistoric world, and soon dinosaurs are coming from all over the swamp to see his magic. But things don't always go quite to plan in this hilarious story... and now we know why there are no dinosaurs any more! Kate Daubney's lively illustrations are full of glorious colour and the dinosaurs have the most delightfully expressive faces. Each book has a short quiz at the end - as well as checking children's understanding, these are great to use as prompts for further discussion. This is a fabulous start to the new venture - I am really looking forward to seeing what is to follow.



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