"Tappety Tam Fairley" by Tom Achbold is a lovely book. A good children's book is probably harder to produce than a good novel aimed at an adult market. The words have to be right in both cases, and the story has to reach out and pull in its readers. But the number of words is usually much smaller in a book aimed at children, particularly younger children, placing a greater premium on getting the words that are used just right. And while covers sell books whatever the market, the look and feel is again especially important when the target market is a young one (or their parents and grandparents), with the cover art and interior illustrations particularly critical in defining the feel of the book.
"Tappety Tam Fairley" is aimed at readers aged between five and seven years old. We tried it out, together with its a second book of Tom Archbold's, "Clarty Jim McCloud", on our six year old grandson. He's an above-average reader for his age, but wouldn't have needed to be to lap up both books. The covers are bright and cheerful, and most importantly, engaging: easily good enough to pull him away from the competing attractions of the game he was playing on an iPad. Once between the covers you find a nice balance of enjoyable line drawings by the author, interspersed engagingly with the story itself.
And at the end of the day, while the cover and the pictures might draw a reader in, it is the words that will keep a reader turning the page, and returning to re-read in the future. So is this a book that will keep a young reader coming back for more? We think so. Tappety Tam is the odd job man in his village, which as a result of his efforts has won the Best Kept Village Competition every year, much to the annoyance of the neighbouring village. As the next competition approaches things begin to head off at odd tangents, thanks to the presence on the organising committee of a mysterious stranger whose preferences run to streets filled with elephants and a pond filled with fresh custard. And when the judging panel arrives, things go truly haywire. But can Tam's village win the competition anyway? You'll just have to read this book and find out: you will certainly enjoy doing so.