Tag Archives: Barrington Stoke

Survival in Space – The Apollo 13 Mission

I’d not realised quite how old I am. Or stopped to consider how young Barrington Stokes publicist Kirstin is. But there is nothing like a 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission to bring these facts home. To her, it’s a historical – and interesting – tale. To me, it’s something I lived through, found fascinating, wrote an essay about at school, and nerded like crazy about.

For me there was nothing boring about the third trip to the Moon, unlike – it seems – many people who felt we’d done the Moon now, so what was special about it? I didn’t even realise this was an optional setting; you just had to be interested in such an interesting thing.

To mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13 Barrington Stoke are publishing David Long’s Survival in Space – The Apollo 13 Mission, with lots of excellent illustrations by Stefano Tambellini. It is such a great thing to have a book like this in dyslexia friendly format, and it’s so attractive.

David starts by giving the reader a brief history of how man has always wanted to get off the ground, leading up to the lunar expeditions, starting with Apollo 11, and moving on to Apollo 13. And let me tell you this, his summary of what happened is much better than my essay, and it tells you exactly what you want to know. It’s almost as if he had been there.

I don’t want to give anything away, but there was a mishap – on April 13th, even, in some parts of the world – and the astronauts had to do heroic things, hoping to return safely to Earth.

Read the book!

Watch the film. I will. Again.

But as I said, read the book.

I mean, if anyone had made this up, as a script for a film, it would all have seemed a bit unreal, wouldn’t it?

Prime reading

It took me a while to work out why the Barrington Stoke edition of Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was so thick. OK, around 250 pages isn’t much, except when it comes to dyslexia friendly books we have come to expect half of that. While I’d noticed there wasn’t another author credited with having ‘rewritten/adapted’ the novel, it wasn’t until I began to read that I saw the word ‘unabridged.’

And, well, I approve even more of that. If a novel isn’t too long, or made up of too many difficult words, then it could, and should, be made available in a format that means more people are able to read it.

I still think of my former decorator and his delight in being able to ‘read a whole book.’ While he might not be prime Jean Brodie material, I can see that many other dyslexic adults will be.

So there we have it. If you print it differently, using the right kind of paper, the right kind of colour of paper and print and a typeface that is designed to be easier to read, a book becomes accessible to – perhaps – almost all. Maybe there aren’t the funds to do this with all of literature, but we could have a go to make more friendly books, couldn’t we?

Especially with such gorgeous covers.

Jane Eyre

It was good to revisit Jane Eyre after all these years. Barrington Stoke have just published a dyslexia friendly, short, retelling of the famous Charlotte Brontë novel. Tanya Landman has written a more than creditable short version, and one that I enjoyed a lot.

I wasn’t sure how hard it would be to make such a long novel into a short one; one that actually works. I’m certain it was neither quick nor easy, but the result is a perfect literary summary of an old classic.

Tanya’s version contains most of what I remembered, skipping over one or two sub-plots with just a few paragraphs (which is obviously how one does it) to get on with that which matters. The only major fact missing is Jane’s inheritance, but in the long run it’s not massively important.

She can still marry Mr Rochester and live happily ever after. (I hope this doesn’t count as a spoiler..?)

A classic has to be one of the hardest things to access if reading is difficult. I guess watching the film is the nearest, but won’t give so much flavour of the real deal. That’s what you get in something like this Jane Eyre.

I hope the book will be a happy discovery for many. Jane is still a most interesting heroine.

Very good in 2019

To be perfectly frank with you, I’ve not known what to do. So, yes, it’s the 19th today, and it’s 2019 and my task is to give you some idea of the books I liked the best.

I started the list a couple of weeks ago. But there are simply too many books on it. That’s obviously good, as it indicates there were many books to be enjoyed. And I did.

Many of my favourites are Barrington Stoke’s dyslexia friendly books. This is especially great, meaning there are now loads of grownup books short in length, full on story, and easy for anyone to tackle. So I pondered making 2019 a dyslexia year.

But that would leave others, equally worthy. Some of the best books were part of trilogies or series. That doesn’t make them more, or less, good. Less of a surprise, perhaps, if one already knows their siblings. Should I not mention them?

Perhaps just go for the normal standalones?

Or, you know, make it a long 2019 shortlist? Maybe pick 19 books?

I colour-coded really nicely. Got quite confused when some books seemed to be in more than one category. And – I can hear you say ‘get on with it, witch!’ – then I plumped for three. Three that tingled inside. Me, that is. I went for non-series, and as you can see, only one of the three is part of a series, so that counts more or less as a success.

Wein, McGowan, Gardner

Elizabeth Wein, Anthony McGowan and Sally Gardner. Very good in 2019.

McTavish on the Move

Meg Rosoff’s and the Peachey family’s dog McTavish is back. It’s time for a move in McTavish on the Move. (Well, I suppose the title gives it away.) I understand Meg has recent experience of moving house – and it’s been put to good use, making everything pretty realistic. Except possibly for the ease with which Ma and Pa Peachey sell and buy the houses involved in this move.

Meg Rosoff, McTavish on the Move

Pa seems to have had a personality makeover, which terrifies his family, but in the end his sunny disposition (hah) and general happiness make for a positive moving experience.

Although Betty isn’t keen, and McTavish notices. Trust him, though. He can work out what to do, and he does so with gusto. My own first days at new schools would have been vastly improved with the McTavish magic.

I believe this was the fourth – yes, it was – and last McTavish story. If it has to be goodbye, it’s a heart-warming and moving one. (Sorry.)

And one can always live in the hope that Pa’s personality reverts permanently to his more morose behaviour.

Seven Ghosts

Even at the best of times I find Chris Priestley really scary. I mean, his writing. Sometimes I don’t read a book of his because I’m not feeling brave enough. Other times I save it until there are people nearby. Just in case.

Chris Priestley, Seven Ghosts

For Halloween I don’t want to deny anyone the thrill, not to mention the trembling knees, of reading Chris’s latest offering for Barrington Stoke. You really don’t need to go out in the cold and dark and beg for sweets from strangers. Much better to tuck into Seven Ghosts and hope you will escape unscathed when you’re done.

It’s about a story-writing competition. Jake and a group of other children who have been shortlisted are being guided round the local stately house, to hear about, and maybe meet, the resident ghosts. Just for inspiration, you under-stand, so they can go away and write an even scarier story.

Jake seems to be the only one to feel uneasy, and the only one who can see certain things. Their guide feels a bit fishy, doesn’t she?

The dressed-up, fake ghosts strike Jake as rather feeble. But what about that cracked mirror?

Let’s just say that I was wise to wait until I wasn’t alone, and that bedtime would not have been an appropriate time to read Seven Ghosts.

Tin Boy

Steve Cole, Tin Boy

I’ve never seen Steve Cole so dark. And I’d not expected it in this short book for Barrington Stoke. But it’s excellent, and so very stirring.

Tin Boy is about a young boy in Indonesia, mining for tin in the most dangerous of ways. Just so we can have our mobile phones, and as cheaply as possible. I imagine that after reading this story about Tono, the young readers will chuck out their phones in disgust. Although, it’d be better if we all kept our gadgets until they die, so people like Tono do not have to die mining for tin.

Living with his uncle, Tono has to dive for tin, until the day he has a near fatal accident in the water. He finds a stone, which might be magic, giving him powers just like the heroes in the cartoons he inherited from his father.

And for a while that does seem to be the case, until…

This is powerful stuff; not at all like Steve’s other – excellent but lighter – fiction. I’d love to read more from serious Steve.

(Illustrations by Oriol Vidal)