Tag Archives: Barrington Stoke

Superdad’s Day Off

Phil Earle has a son called Stanley. This Little Gem is about a boy called Stanley, who has a Superhero dad (so I can only assume Dynamo Dan is based on Phil himself…). The problem is that after a full week of Superdad deeds, dad is rather tired. Will he fall asleep in the park?

Phil Earle and Steve May, Superdad's Day Off

Stanley needs to make sure his dad gets some rest, but he also wants to have fun in the park.

So when the world needs Dynamo Dan’s services, Stanley can’t let his poor dad spring into action. And if not dad, then maybe Stanley can do it?

He can. Stanley is your man if you have a panther up a tree or your house fills up with water from a leak somewhere.

Dad gets enough rest so that when he’s really needed, he can join forces with his super son; Dynamo Dan and Super Stan.

The Harder They Fall

Bali Rai, The Harder They Fall

I’m with Bali Rai. It’s a disgrace the way people in our own country suffer hardship, with nowhere to live, or not enough food. Bali had some figures for the rise in food banks, and as he points out in the ‘about’ bit of his new book The Harder They Fall, you are not poor because you don’t work or because you are lazy. Poor people are also people, just like the rest of us.

Bali’s book for Barrington Stoke is about one such boy. Jacob and his mum need to use the local food bank, and this makes Jacob angry and he feels ashamed. This in turn means he’s unpleasant at school and often gets into trouble and is frequently expelled from the schools he has attended.

But now he meets Cal, who describes himself as a friendless geek. Someone who volunteers at the food bank, so witnesses Jacob’s shame. Along with Freya, the girl he fancies, Cal tries to befriend Jacob, but this is no easy task.

This book is about poverty, bullying, lack of trust, and about always being hungry. And it’s not your fault.

We could do with more books on how – badly – we treat our fellow human beings in this country.

Passing for White

Reading about a married couple, two slaves in the American Deep South in the mid-19th century, who manage to escape to freedom due to the fact that the woman could ‘pass for white,’ you’d probably admire the author’s way of solving a difficult situation for her characters, and mutter something about it being unbelieveable.

Tanya Landman, Passing for White

But as they say, truth can be stranger than fiction, and in this case Tanya Landman has based her story on a real life couple, who really did get away from their owner, purely because the woman had white skin. That, and the fact that they were hardworking and brave, as are Tanya’s fictional couple Rosa and Benjamin.

Written for Barrington Stoke, this short but strong tale is truly inspiring, showing us what people are capable of. Rosa is ‘white’ because she was fathered by her owner. She was then sent away from her mother, to a new owner who uses her in the same way her father did her mother. It seems they ‘all’ did this.

That alone means Rosa’s marriage to Benjamin can never be quite as real as you’d expect, nor can they live together. So it’s not only freedom they are escaping to, but they hope to finally be able to lead a normal life, to live together, to be sure whose baby they could be expecting, and much more.

Unlike fictional characters whose creators have allowed them to learn to read and write, for instance, Rosa and Benjamin don’t have these necessary skills, and that becomes a problem as Rosa is trying to pass herself off as her husband’s [male] owner. She doesn’t have the knowhow to be a white man. But there are good people out there, as well as really bad ones.

And it’s fascinating to see quite how racist the people who worked against slavery in the North actually were. There are setbacks and there are successes, and we know they will escape, but we can’t foresee what almost insurmountable problems they will face.

Passing for White is an essential read.

Good Dog McTavish

Meg Rosoff can’t let caring dogs lie, it seems. After Jonathan Unleashed, where his canine flatmates made sure Jonathan was all right, she unleashes McTavish on younger readers in Barrington Stokes Conkers imprint.

Meg Rosoff, Good Dog McTavish

The Peachey family have discovered that mothers are the best. They do most of the work, after all. But when Ma Peachey has had enough, something has to happen, and after some initial domestic mayhem, the remaining Peacheys decide to get a dog. Luckily they find McTavish, who’s prepared to take them on, despite them not being ideal humans for an easy – dog’s – life.

What to do about the laundry mountain, the shoe mountain and everything being in the wrong place? Getting out of bed on time?And when that’s fixed, there’s the cuisine. A dog can only eat so much pizza.

McTavish has many plans, and believe me, they are necessary. But sooner or later a firm paw will work wonders on a misguided family.

I foresee a run on rescue dogs after children – and maybe their adults – have read Good Dog McTavish. Not by me, obviously. Here at Bookwitch Towers we are virtually perfect. Especially me. But needier souls will want a McTavish in their lives.

(Illustrations by Grace Easton)

The Beautiful Game

I remember the Liverpool fans returning home on the day of the Hillsborough disaster, travelling past where we used to live. Not that I was out there watching, but there was this horrible awareness of what had just happened.

Today it’s exactly 28 years since 96 people died at Hillsborough, and football crazy Alan Gibbons has written a book for Barrington Stoke about that day, as well as some other football disasters and soccer related incidents.

Alan Gibbons, The Beautiful Game

If this sounds dismal; it isn’t. Alan tells the short story of young [black] football fan Lennie who’s come to Manchester to see his beloved Liverpool play United, with his dad and grandad, when there is an altercation between the two teams’ fans, over Hillsborough and Munich.

Alan provides brief but full information about what happened, and why, as well as listing a few other football facts. He doesn’t mince words over the actions of the police or his hatred of The Sun newspaper.

Lennie learns that you must behave fairly and decently even if provoked, and why. His dad and grandad were at Hillsborough that day, and Lennie’s grandad has memories of what it was like to be black in Liverpool in the 1960s, when you couldn’t really go to soccer games.

Finally, Lennie is forced to come face-to-face with some real Man United fans, and discovers they are also people and perfectly normal. Sometimes even better at football…

(Illustrations by Chris Chalik)

Bookwitch bites #141

I was sad to learn that Barrington Stoke’s MD Mairi Kidd has been made redundant. Apart from the effect on Mairi’s personal life, this news makes me want to ask questions. Are times that bad? Is it fair to ask other staff to share her tasks between them? Is the work MDs do so easy to ignore? What will happen to Barrington Stoke now? There has been a lot more noise on social media about this than after your average publishing news, which shows the standing Mairi has enjoyed at the helm of an inspiring company.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave has won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for her debut book The Girl of Ink & Stars, and writer and illustrator Lizzy Stewart won the Illustrated Books category with There’s a Tiger in the Garden, and Patrice Lawrence’s Orangeboy won the Older Fiction category.

Miaow. Gothenburg library is to get its own resident cat. Astrid. Or not. Seems it was merely an April fool thing, which is just as well, as I and many others could foresee problems with this lovely idea. I know it is meant to be good for people and it will lower your blood pressure and you’ll be much happier and all that. But I have often wondered what it’s like for those who are not too keen on pets. While some people are busy feeling better for the presence of the new cat/dog/ferret, it’s not only those who are allergic who might suffer. It could be that after enough time anyone would get so used to the pet that all our blood pressures become just perfect. Or maybe the pressure rises as your level of fear shoots up?

And while we are on the subject of Astrid, this year’s winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is Wolf Erlbruch, ‘a German illustrator and picturebook author. He is best known for his illustrations of The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business, which became a great success around the world. Wolf Erlbruch has written some ten books of his own and illustrated nearly fifty titles by other authors.’

Congratulations to Wolf!

Tales from Weird Street

Anne Fine, Tales from Weird Street

Anne Fine’s Tales from WeirD Street for Barrington Stoke are a lot scarier than you’d think, but aimed at a youngish age group, not as horrible as they could be. I mean, I was fine. My interest wasn’t lost through the stories being too wimpy, or anything, but neither did they have me kicking and screaming. Much.

Three children – living in WeirD Street – compete to see who can tell the scariest story. Each has a story that purports to come from someone else; a friend or relative or neighbour. So it didn’t happen to them, but to someone close and reliable so obviously this really happened.

Someone tells of the photograph that caused a boy to drown. Another tale tells of a Chinese restaurant and its ‘fortune’ cookies. And then there is a ghost who…

I would say, beware of the fortune cookie!

(Illustrations by Vicki Gausden)