As well as laying the foundations for a lifetime of literacy by instilling rigorous decoding skills, Piper Books’ BRI series offers lots of opportunities for children to develop spoken language, including those with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) or Special Educational Needs (SEN). Each book includes several questions to open up discussion on everything from plot to personalities. Below are brief sketches to assist parents and teachers in exploring the cast of characters with their children.
Sam the Lion
As befits the King of the Jungle, Sam is somewhat pompous and self-regarding. He is also rather lazy and gets mightily irritated when disturbed by friends in search of fun. He is, however, as quick to forgive as he is to anger. He perhaps isn’t quite as brave as one might expect of a lion. Hobbies include reading, dressing up, canoeing, lurking in caves, surfing and bus-driving.
Mat the Rat
A lively little fellow, Mat is never afraid to bite off more than he can chew. The over-excitable Rat loves hats, reading, painting, baseball, scuba-diving and frolicking with his friends – irrespective of whether or not they’re in the mood. He’s smarter than he looks, often taking the initiative to solve problems that mystify his larger friends, and fancies himself as a bit of a teacher. He is, sadly, not above framing others for his own misdemeanours.
Mit the Chimp
Underneath Mit’s cheery exterior lurks a surprisingly Machiavellian character. This is, after all, the guy who cunningly disguises himself as Sam the Lion, traumatises his friends with a pair of stilts, and literally ties Sis the Snake in knots. He enjoys lurking in trees and – slightly less traditionally for a member of the great ape family – creating kites and snowmen.
Sis the Snake
Sis makes up in warmth and enthusiasm what she lacks in acumen. Naturally, she shares an apple-obsession with her biblical ancestor. She’s prone to hypochondria and falling down wells.
Will the Elephant
More stolid than his mercurial chums, Will has nonetheless earned his place in their affections with his readiness to provide shade on hot days, rides when they get tired, and assistance with the weeding. He harbours a secret desire to be a fish.
Ann the Giraffe
Rather obsessed by her own appearance – to the extent of tottering around on high heels – Ann has the misfortune to repeatedly suffer the theft of her flower-bedecked hat. She very much enjoys boating and fishing. The absence of her friends rapidly sends her spiralling into depression.
Nan the Parrot
The cheeriest of creatures, Nan is always happy to use her powers of flight to fetch and carry for her playmates.
Sid the Horse
Not over-endowed in the brains department, Sid is more highly-strung than his mates, being known to burst into tears when their escapades go wrong. He’s highly susceptible to bribery, sharing as he does Sis’s fixation with apples. Sid’s also not above giving Mat a hefty kick when the impish Rat is pulling his tail.
Nat the Kangaroo
Baby Nat is blessed with the kind of scatterbrained mother who fails to notice when he accidentally falls out of her pouch – or deliberately hops off in search of adventure. He has a phobia about rain, unsurprisingly given his desert heritage.
Nell the Ostrich
Even vainer than Ann the Giraffe, Nell enjoys a Narcissus-like relationship with her mirror. Her bedraggled comeuppance is inevitable…
Ed the Dog
Stuck with the usual canine desire to please, Ed frequently helps his livelier, more mischievous chums out of scrapes. Only occasionally does the underdog get a chance to shine, but he does make a rather good cook, and once played detective very successfully.
Ben the Ant
Ben relishes riding on buses and elephants. He holds his own amongst his larger friends – in fact, his tiny size comes in handy when they all prove too heavy to extract themselves from the mud.