- Age Group Suitability
This is a first for me… I’ve never reviewed an angling-related book, despite owning hundreds!
I was approached by the publishers of a new children’s hardback called “The Boy and the Trout”, written for early readers in the 4 to 7 year-old age group. The book aims to inspire interest in angling and the outdoors in youngsters. In an age where it is all too easy to plonk a tablet in a child’s hands, or sit them in front of the telly, this is something I think we should all be mindful of doing.
“A chalk stream is more than just a stream. It is a dream made real in crystal”
I’m passionate about promoting angling to children (I’ve published details of free angling events to get youngsters interested in fishing), but I can’t think of many fishing books aimed at early primary school children. Even fewer that can get kids really excited about going fishing, or going outdoors in general, when they’re stuck at home during those long winter nights.
My daughter started school this autumn, putting her at the younger end of the target demographic, and we read with her every night. I took her fishing for the first time in September, and I’m keen for her to share in my love for angling and nature; so everything was in place to test and hopefully enjoy this book…
We join a boy with a fascination for fish and riverside wildlife, who sets out on a quest to catch his ultimate target – a wild brown trout. Harry, the protagonist pescator, is as enraptured by the summer streamside scene around him as he is by his quarry itself. We follow the ups and downs of a long, balmy day on the riverbank. When the fishing is poor he goes off to explore and enjoy the wildlife, but whilst he’s fishing he’s too focused to take much else in; such is his determination to land his “most wanted” species.
The illustrations, which play an essential role in any book for this age group, are excellent throughout. A mixture of sketches and watercolours depict waterside scenes, wildlife studies and snapshots of the action. The watercolours have a dreamy quality which evokes the clear running water of a stream superbly; the pace, turbulence and movement of the water captured so well.
As with many books aimed at young children, The Boy and the Trout doesn’t feature too many words. The illustrations tell much of the story, so describing and discussing what’s happening on each page will vastly expand the story and help relate parts of it to your child’s own experiences. I used some of the pictures to help discuss characteristics of different animals, and explain where and why a trout might be found in the stream. On the page showing different fish underwater, I asked my daughter to point out the differences between the dace, perch, minnows and bullhead on display.
A key message from this book is that patience can bring its rewards. When marauding bullocks tramp through the stream, ruining the fishing (it happens in real life!), Harry doesn’t simply give up. Instead, he wanders off to see what else he can find – resting the swim until later, when he knows he has a better chance.
Another good message for a children’s book is that, (spoiler alert!) once Harry finally lands his first trout he quickly unhooks it, admires it for a moment and then releases it back into the stream. Although many trout are taken for the table, the majority of British freshwater anglers release fish purely for sport and practise catch & release.
In the few days since we first read it, my daughter has mentioned the book a couple of times and has just had it read to her a third time, which is great!
So, does this book succeed in meeting its brief as an inspiration to children? I think so. Time will tell how highly my daughter regards it amongst the various fairy tale and adventure books she has, but it was an enjoyable read for us both. I think I’ll try to revisit the story the night before any fishing trips or countryside adventures we have planned. I’m sure it will inspire her to take more interest in the things surrounding us on such days and relate them to Harry’s experiences – especially when summer comes back around.
One slight criticism is that the book is very straight-faced for a children’s book. In my experience, a smidgen of humour helps children to really engage with a story and encourages them to pick the book out on the shelf at future bedtimes.
Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay The Boy and the Trout is that, after reading it, I ordered another copy to give as a Christmas gift to the daughter of a good friend!
If you’re an angler or outdoor enthusiast with young children, this lovely little book should make an ideal stocking filler.
The Boy and the Trout can be found in the usual outlets including Waterstones and WH Smith, but you can also order it direct from the publisher with a 20% discount, at £7.99 rather than the usual £9.99 (with free postage in the UK): http://www.bramblebybooks.co.uk/boy_trout.asp
The Boy and the Trout is written by Richard French-Constant and Illustrated by Laura Cress. Published in 2019 by Bramble by Books. ISBN: 9781908241580.