Friday, 20 October 2017

Vulgar the Viking and the Rock Cake Raiders by Odin Redbeard, illustrated by Sarah Horne

Vulgar the Viking and the Rock Cake Raiders by Odin Redbeard, illustrated by Sarah Horne. Review for Primary Teachers.

This first story in a series of stories about a young Viking, Vulgar, is a book that will appeal to children aged 8+. It would make an ideal addition to a year 3/4 class library, a fun class read to accompany a topic on the Vikings and as it offers so much potential to develop children’s comprehension skills, it would also work well as a guided read.

Vulgar wants to be a Viking, a real Viking, because, unfortunately, his people seem to have renounced their old ways and become a rather boring bunch. Vulgar reminisces fondly upon their history of rampage and pillaging. Vulgar has great hopes to learn more about it on History Day, but when this turns out to be a huge disappointment, Vulgar decides to take matters into his own hands: with the help of best friend Knut and hanger-on Princess Freya, he hatches a plan to do a little bit of looting of their own. Their target: the bakery. Their coveted treasure: rock cakes!

The plot is straightforward and linear in structure. It is organised into seven chapters and follows Vulgar’s quest to become ‘a real Viking’. As such, children could analyse the structure, identifying the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ and comparing how the plot of this quest is similar to others. The opening is very atmospheric. ‘The cockerel’s cry tore through the early morning air.’

The main character is a hero that will appeal to young readers. He is a bit of a rascal who has a thirst for adventure. These key traits are identified through a mixture of action and dialogue in the first chapter.

The other two main characters in the story are introduced in chapter two. Knut, Vulgar’s best friend, is a foil for Vulgar, providing opportunities for comparison activities. Princess Freya Gold-Hair proves to be an interesting character and it would be good to map the children’s changing views of her. The three friends find themselves in unlikely and comical situations; with a few gross elements such as eating bogeys and juggling elk poo added to the mix.

The story is illustrated throughout with black and white drawings. The illustration of Vulgar’s mum in chapter 1 helps to emphasise the vastness of the figure that Vulgar sees in the corner and the darkness of the room. Likewise, the drawing of the cellar adds to the atmosphere of the scene as the two young Vikings creep down the staircase. The illustrations add to the overall “naughty but funny” atmosphere of the story. They also break the text, making it more manageable for pupils who are fluent readers but need to develop their reading stamina.

Children who have enjoyed listening to Cressida Cowell’s 'How to Train a Dragon' series but who are not quite ready for the density of the text will find this an enjoyable book to read.

After reading the story children might also enjoy making rock cakes. Hopefully, they won’t be as hard as the ones made by Ivar!

Published by: Nosy Crow
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 978-0-85763-056-8

Lexile Level: 690L

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