Scoop's Ups and Downs

illustrated by Alex Patterson

Scoop the building site cat tries to get a drink and falls into a bucket with a splash! How will he get out?

This book is part of Oxford Reading Tree’s Story Sparks series, a primary guided reading series. It has a very simple, phonically decodable text with some extra high-interest words.

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UK Paperback
ISBN-10 : 0198415044 • ISBN-13 : 978-0198415046

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Author's Note

Scoop’s Ups and Downs is a modern-day re-telling of The Fox and the Well Bucket, one of the Brer Rabbit stories from American Folklore.

I’d read some of Enid Blyton’s re-tellings of the Brer Rabbit stories as a child and fallen in love with the mischievous character, who is believed to have been based on Anansi, a trickster from African folklore. I had previously pitched adaptations of The Fox and the Well Bucket story to a couple of publishers using the original characters, but they had not been accepted.

When I was invited to submit ideas for Oxford University Press’s new Story Sparks series, I sent them another adaptation of the story. Their commissioning editor liked the adaptation but asked if I could re-cast the story and re-set it in a modern urban setting as she already had a Story Sparks story featuring a fox and OUP published a separate series of traditional tales. I said I’d give it a go, which is why my retelling of the story is about two cats on a building site!

An A B Frost illustration of the original Brer Rabbit story alongside one of Alex Paterson's illustrations for our re-telling.

The text of Scoop’s Ups and Downs is far simpler than most of my picture books and it’s the first book I’ve done in a phonic format. I’ve written quite a few books for reading schemes like OUP’s Treetops Series and I’m used to working with a word count and language levelling, but the additional restriction imposed by a phonic brief presented a new challenge to me.

My first draft of the story began with the words:

“It was a sunny day on the building site.”

However all of the words shown in blue are incompatible with the phonic level the book was intended for, which is why the first line now reads:

“It was a hot morning in the town.”

I’m grateful to freelance editor (and author) Teresa Heapy for patiently explaining the ins and outs of phonic formatting and for helping me to knock the text into shape.

The book is illustrated by Alex Paterson, who had previously illustrated The Greatest Scientist of All Time, a short play script included in Skyboy and other Stupendous Science Stories. Alex has a great knack for comic characters and I’m delighted with the way he has brought this simple story to life.