According to the rumours and the internet articles, books are dead. In the modern educational system, printed paper is a relic, an anachronism, a throwback to the clumsy days of the chalk and slate, the parchment and charcoal. If your two-year-old doesn't have an electronic tablet, you the parent have already condemned them to a life of ignorance and failure.
Fortunately, Scholastic Australia haven't received that memo, and they've spent the last two or three years pumping out attractive "Phonics" books to placate backwards-thinking parents like myself who struggle with the complexities of modern life and who are thus condemned to offer their children a second-rate upbringing with antiquated print media.
This is the fourth (or fifth if you could re-releases) boxed set of "phonics" or "sight words" books that I've seen published in the last three years. Clearly, there's somebody out there buying this stuff!
And it's easy to see why. Well priced at something-teen bucks, you get an attractive cardboard boxed case, with twelve bright, high-quality books. Each one is 5.5" x 7.5", staple bound with 12 full-color pages. The left hand page is a short sentence of text, and the right-hand side is illustrations taken directly from the Ultimate Spider-Man TV (2012) cartoon series.
Despite failing to inspire a particularly positive adult response, the 2012 "Ultimate" cartoon series has been a pretty solid hit with kids. These books borrow the same high-tech trappings, and bring in the key heroes and villains from the show, along with the basic plot elements from various episodes.
Nick Fury appears, as do White Tiger, Iron Fist, Nova and Power Man. For the villains, we meet The Trapster, Doctor Doom, Taskmaster, Living Laser and more. Even the supporting cast (e.g. Harry and Mary Jane) get a mention.
The scripters take all these elements and combine them freely to produce the appropriate text, featuring the short or long vowel that forms the basis of each book. These plenty of content to choose from, each book easily assembles a mini plot without any difficulty at all.
The material from the "Ultimate" cartoon series has already been re-factored and revised into various different formats. There are several books and comics which "re-tell" the cartoon stories. Most of them have just come across as pointless. The comic book of the TV series is a particularly useless re-factoring exercise, which squeezes out all of the joy and excitement of each episode, leaving a dry, unattractive shadow of the original.
By contrast, this Phonics Program feels like a genuinely worthy use of the original raw material. If you have a young reader who loves the TV show, I really can imagine that this set of books might actually pique their interest. It's definitely worth a try!
I give it a highly-commended 4 Web rating.