Written for those newly independent readers who need accessible yet stimulating material, An Leaba Sciathánach is a simple story of a young boy’s night-time adventure with his much-loved, ‘special’ teddy bear. Teddy’s wish is that his young ‘special person’ should accompany him to his birthday celebrations so they fly on Niall’s bed to the Planet of the Bears where they play party games and toast Teddy with glasses of honey or, in Niall’s case, orange juice, before returning home.
Children in middle primary should have little difficulty with the vocabulary: the text is straightforward and undemanding, though not repetitive, and the satisfaction that young readers gain from completing a book by themselves cannot be underestimated. It is undeniably difficult to match linguistic competence in what is for many a second language with an interesting and exciting narrative, and the plot lacks both humour and those unexpected twists that motivate and reward the reader. The illustrations, while colourful, are not likely to appeal to children in middle primary and this grown-up reader certainly found the inconsistencies annoying: Niall’s pyjamas variously appear in pink, red, or pink with red cuffs and collar while Teddy’s goggles disappear after only one page.
Teachers now seeking supplemental reading material may welcome this book, as may many children, but how much more welcome would be a story with the imaginative illustrations and subversive text that can transform reading into a uniquely pleasurable activity.