Tag Archives: Barrington Stoke

Aidan Abet Teacher’s pet

Guy Bass, Aidan Abet Teacher's Pet

In his dyslexia friendly book Aidan Abet Teacher’s Pet, Guy Bass really, really doesn’t go where you expect him to.

Aidan Abet is being bullied at school. So far he’s been saved by sucking up to his teacher, who then deals with the bullies. But when there is a new teacher, what can he do? Especially as Miss Vowel is a rather unusual teacher.

He tries his sucking up. It sort of works. And then he makes a dreadful discovery, and he knows he has to do something about it.

And, well. It’s a plot with an extra twist to it.

The First Hunter

First catch your zebra.

By the time you’re twenty pages into Robert Swindells’s The First Hunter for Barrington Stoke, the characters have eaten a piece of stolen zebra, and one of them has been killed by a bear.

Robert Swindells, The First Hunter

I don’t think I’ve read many stories set further into the past than this one. I’m not certain where this group of people lived, but in the illustrations they look African. They have not learned to hunt, so have to live off berries and things, plus what they can steal from the real killers, such as lions.

It’s steal, or be killed. Sometimes both.

The fear and anger they feel when one of their group dies after a close meeting with a bear, means that someone – the group’s ‘idiot’ in fact – begins to think of alternatives.

And that’s how they discover hunting.

This is so informative in a way I’d never even considered.

The Sticky Witch

Ah, I had rather hoped for a nicer witch. Oh well, can’t be helped.

Hilary McKay, The Sticky Witch

Hilary McKay’s The Sticky Witch, for Barrington Stoke, features a useless couple of parents who set off on a three year trip round the world on a raft made with rubbish. As if that’s not bad enough, they hand their two lovely children – and the cat – over to a woman they don’t know. Called Aunt Tab, she’s no one’s aunt, and she’s a witch. And she’s mean.

Not to mention sticky. There is treacle everywhere. She has rules. She doesn’t like the children, and she likes the cat even less. With good cause, I have to say. The cat, I mean.

There’s a frog or two. Postcards in bottles. It’s pretty bonkers, but should appeal to any young child who doesn’t already suspect their parents might be of the leaving on a raft variety.

Fun, if somewhat sticky.

(Stickily witchy illustrations by Mike Phillips.)

The Greatest Show of All

Jane Eagland, The Greatest Show of All

Jane Eagland’s latest book for Barrington Stoke gave me a lovely warm glow, in the middle of the night. I woke up and couldn’t sleep, and I wanted something reliably good, and also something I could read to the end, in one easy sitting. And The Greatest Show of All ticks the boxes.

Inspired by Twelfth Night it features siblings, with a girl masquerading as a boy, and she does that classic of rebellious things; she runs away to join a circus.

Crazy about horses, Kitty becomes Kit. There is a lot going on at the circus and soon it seems Kit is at the centre of a couple of conspiracies, as well as in the middle of unrequited love on several counts. An unfriendly clown (how extremely topical!), a tightrope star and more than one horsey boy make for an exciting life.

There is an unexpected, but most welcome, nod to a more modern romantic twist; one which I wouldn’t have minded being taken further.

Lovely.

The White Fox

I know, and you know, that Jackie Morris makes gorgeous picture books. She can paint real and imaginary animals in a way to make most adults actively CRAVE the art in her books. But I must admit to liking her new book for Barrington Stoke much, much more.

The White Fox is – obviously – about a fox and Jackie captures the arctic fox that finds itself in Seattle absolutely perfectly. What made me even happier were the industrial cityscape illustrations, which is the kind of thing I go for, and I adore the way they appear in this book. If there is to be any tearing out and hanging on walls, this is it.

Jackie Morris, The White Fox

The story is simply wonderful. It’s about a young boy called Sol, who lives in Seattle with his father, but he is not happy. He hears about, and then finds, the fox down in the docks, and the two feel as though they belong together. Sol dreams of going back to Alaska, to meet his grandparents after many years apart.

And in the way of stories, especially those about children and animals, something magical happens. It’s also quite ordinary, in a way, but so beautiful. Considering this is a Barrington Stoke Conkers book, aimed at those who don’t read so easily, it becomes even more poignant. Small and perfectly shaped, with purple silk bookmark and everything.

(I hardly ever mention the word stocking filler, but The White Fox is definitely one of those.)

Master Will and the Spanish Spy

You can learn new things, even in the short 80 pages of a Barrington Stokes book. Here is Tony Bradman with another brief Shakespeare tale. This time it’s set while Will lives at home with his parents and siblings, going to school and getting bored and skiving off to go and see the theatre company come all the way from London.

He meets Mr Burbage, and although we can’t know what actually happened back then, it feels like true history is taking shape as Will gets to know the travelling actors, and meets ‘real’ people. The way he falls in love with the theatre is truly inspiring, and feels like it could have happened that way, and it would explain all those famous dramas we still have to enjoy.

Tony Bradman, Master Will and the Spanish Spy

The Shakespeare parents have their troubles, and life isn’t always easy or safe. Will sees something odd when he’s out and about, and feels it needs dealing with, just in case. Sensibly, he speaks to the older generation, and something can be worked out.

I had no idea that Spanish Spies could have such a devastating effect on both themselves and on others. And then there’s the plague…

Wave

Set on the 1st of July in 1916, and also in 2016, the adult reader can work out what happens. At first I regretted not having read it on the day, so to speak, but am glad I didn’t. It’s such a loaded kind of date.

Paul Dowswell, Wave

Paul Dowswell has come up with two pairs of brothers – Eddie and Charlie Taylor. One pair for each century. Today’s boys are the great grandsons of one of the soldiers in 1916. Their grandmother is Rose, as was the girlfriend of one of the young men in 1916. The modern Rose is the daughter of the older Rose.

Clearing out their great grandparents’ house in Hastings, they find a photo of the older two, taken at the Somme on that fateful morning, as they waited to be part of the First Wave. Today’s Eddie wants to join up, unlike the older Eddie who only went to war in order to do the same as his big brother Charlie.

This short and sad story shows us the same day, one hundred years apart, and how the two sets of brothers handle the war, and the memories of it.

Very powerful, and it is yet more proof of the horrors of war, and how easily persuaded young men can be.