Reviews /

Mike Falls Up

Authored by Candy Gourlay
Illustrated by Carles Ballestros
Published by Little Tiger Press Group

A charming tale of new friendships formed by children from different sides of the world, Mike Falls Up is a great book for early readers to exercise their newly forged reading skills. Mike lives amongst the Chocolate Hills and rice paddies of the Philippines. Having been instructed by his Mama to ‘Get some fresh air. And take that dog with you!’, Mike and his canine friend Bowow find themselves caught up in an earthquake with rather surprising consequences. After following Bowow into the heart of the earthquake, Mike finds himself in London where his adventure quickly takes him and his new friend Kaneisha to the centre of the Earth.

Mike Falls Up is part of a series targeted at newly independent readers and publisher Little Tiger has a good understanding of what really captures the attentions and imaginations of this particular demographic. Featuring minimal text on each page and vivid, cartoon-like illustrations by Carles Ballesteros that support the fast-moving plot, Mike Falls Up feels like the perfect bridge between picture books and longer chapter books. On some pages the brown text over brown illustration can be challenging to read, which given that this book is aimed at inexperienced readers does feel like an oversight, though the short fragments of texts and variations in font size are generally accessible.

Candy Gourlay descriptions of the sweltering Chocolate Hills as well as a frosty London evening are highly evocative. For the most part she chooses familiar language and sentence constructions. However, the joy in this book is that she slips in some wonderfully ambitious vocabulary too – undulated, welling, jutting – so that her young readers can also strengthen their vocabulary muscles.

Mike Falls Up is a great book to tempt early readers to read for pleasure. Read the first chapter under a visualiser to your Year 2, 3 or 4 class and you’ll have a long list of children wanting to borrow it to read on independently.

Reviewed by Leah Dowty.