What witches don’t know

I blogged earlier – I think – about how hard it can be to know what you don’t know. I’ve found one more thing I had no idea I didn’t know. Barrington Stoke. I didn’t know they specialise in books to help struggling readers to read. I just thought they were a publishing company among many other publishing companies.

Not so. But why did no one tell me? ‘That’s one of my Barrington Stoke books’ authors would say when talking about something they’d written. And I simply assumed that this particular book was with a different publisher. Now it all makes sense!

I have just been sent a sample Barrington Stoke book, along with their catalogue, and both make for good reading.

Twisting the Truth

Twisting the Truth by Judy Waite was for me a very quick read. But it’s good. Whenever I come across such brief stories, they are usually also more childish, whereas this is for 14+. It must be horrible to be in your mid teens and only have babyish books to choose from. Much easier not to read at all, I’d say. And that’s what they do, which is such a shame.

I recall coming across some similar books at Offsprings’ school library, except they were abridged versions of ‘real’ books. That’s another way of approaching reading, obviously. But I can see that having something written specially might be nicer.

So, Judy Waite’s story is about a girl who lies to her stepfather when she gets home late. She comes up with a tale about having been abducted, almost, on the way home. As with all lies, this leads to a situation she could not have foreseen. Very exciting.

The Barrington Stoke catalogue is full of books that I don’t need to read, because I can read longer books, but so many of them look very tempting. And I can see how almost anyone with dyslexia could be turned into a reader this way.

I’m fairly sure that Adèle Geras has one or two BS books under her belt, and I know that Theresa Breslin told me that the ‘Alcatraz book’ of hers I’d come across was a BS one. It is. I found it in the catalogue. I also found lots more of my favourite names in there, like Philip Ardagh, Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Terry Deary, Bali Rai, Anne Cassidy, Tony Bradman, Lee Weatherly, Beverley Naidoo, Oisín McGann, Catherine Forde, Joanna Kenrick, Hilary McKay and many more. Many more.

‘All’ that these writers have to do is come up with a great story, with short paragraphs and short chapters, and Barrington Stoke will print it on cream paper in their own clever font in a good size. But only once the book has been tested by test readers, of course.

Why didn’t I know this?


11 responses to “What witches don’t know

  1. The other thing you don’t know is the joyful process of working with Barrington. There are no restrictions on language or shape when you first write the story. All they want is a cracking good tale. The story you write is then ‘road tested’ with actual, real children. Then you have a very long phone call with a language advisor and between the two of you you get rid of the ‘hurdles’ than can prevent a reader hooking on to the story. It’s a terrific process and you end up with something pacey that you’re proud of!

  2. Very pleased to hear that, Anne. It may be a different way round in ‘making a book’, but if it gets results…

  3. BS are a too well kept secret- I’m not very surprised you didn’t know. I very often meet with blank faces when I talk about them, even to people working with students with reading difficulties. ‘Oh, we get lots of catalogues,’ was the last comment I had, and I suppose they do, and can’t go through them all.

    They are brilliant people to work with though, and the feedback from readers is tremendous. Love them!

  4. I have come across Barrington Stokes, though I haven’t written for them, and I think they are brilliant. Anne C’s account of the process is fascinating – I hadn’t realised you wrote the thing first and then adjusted it. MAkes sense!

  5. I wrote two BS books, including one in their first ever batch. Patience was a joy and a wonderful editor and even let me have “garden gnome” though “gnome” is a difficult word, because it was the right and only one acceptable for the object!

    Did you know that Barrington Stoke is because Patience’s daughter-in-law, who was her co-partner lived in the Barringtons and she herself in North Stoke? The man with the lantern doesn’t exist but it’s a nice conceit.

  6. I suspect you didn’t know because no one happened to mention it to you or you had your ears shut when they did or you were thinking of something even more important at the time! I am sure there are lots of things all of us don’t know. I just don’t know what they are…

    I have written a BS book, too – a non-fiction book about curses, called … Curses. It was good fun, and very very difficult to do.

  7. I just knew I’d leave out a few names on my list. At least that’s something I did know.

  8. Yes, hurray for Barrington Stoke from me, too. I wrote two books for them including one called The Gingerbread House which I’m extra fond of because I reckon it’s maybe the scariest story I’ve ever written….
    And I feel sort of responsible for not telling you all about them years ago. They are, as everyone has said, a joy to work with. I once went for lunch at the house of my BS editor in Edinburgh…a most beautiful house and garden and very delicious meal. I remember meals years and years after I’ve eaten them!

  9. I wish I knew about books for young readers when I was growing up. I went straight from Enid Blytons to Agatha Christie, Mills & Boons, Alistair Maclean.

    BS sounds like they give everyone a chance. Any chance they’ll publish my attempts at writing (on my page – Mitzy’s Friends)? 😛

  10. librerrywumman

    I use BS books with my students – they are truly wonderful.

  11. Pingback: Out « Bookwitch

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