Tag Archives: Barrington Stoke

Billy Button, Telegram Boy

Billy Button is a Little Gem in more ways than one. Sally Nicholls has written the loveliest little tale about young Billy who yearns to be a telegram boy. Except he’s too young, and a bit on the small side.

But he’s got a big heart and quite a lot of initiative, and when Billy does something, it turns out well in the end. And that’s what we want.

Sally Nicholls and Sheena Dempsey, Billy Button - Telegram Boy

Set in the past when we had village shops with post offices as well as telegrams and telegram boys, this is a sweet and slow story about the Button family and angry old Mr Grundle.

Luckily – for both Billy and Mr Grundle – the regular telegram boy falls out of a tree, so Billy has to step in and take his place. And where would Mr Grundle be if that hadn’t happened?

As everyone would agree, some rules are there to be broken. Whether you are old enough to be telegram boy, or whether you are allowed to, well, read other people’s telegrams…

It’s a bit Miss Marple-ish, minus the murder.

(Sweet little illustrations by Sheena Dempsey.)

Mind Writer

They are good at scaring me, these old favourites of mine, who have new books out with Barrington Stoke. This time it’s Steve Cole, dabbling in reading minds.

Steve Cole, Mind Writer

In Mind Writer Luke has discovered he can read people’s minds, which to begin with seems rather convenient. Knowing what a teacher is going to ask, for instance. But suddenly Luke reads exactly what goes on in people’s heads, and he finds he doesn’t want to know.

And then a girl called Samira turns up and she can make people do what she wants, including Luke. She puts thoughts into their heads.

Now there is nowhere for Luke to go, and he finds himself having to do what Samira says, which brings them to…

You could hate Samira, who seems evil. Or you can hang in there and wait to see what happens.

The Front Room

Would Michelle Magorian be able to scare me witless in a mere 66 pages? Barrington Stoke length pages at that, so not that many words.

Yes, she could.

The Front Room is about a family of four, on a belated holiday, after the mother has had a miscarriage, where they were lucky to book the flat they’re in. Hannah has to sleep in the front room, and she is sure she can hear someone breathe at night, and she can feel chills down her spine. But her parents don’t want to be disturbed…

Michelle Magorian, The Front Room

So maybe the place is haunted, but how bad can it be? Just a little breathing and some chills. Just ignore it. If you can.

Hannah can’t, and ever desperate she

Well, I can’t tell you that, of course.

(Illustrations by Vladimir Stankovic)

Wings: Spitfire

Neither Tom Palmer nor Barrington Stoke could have known how appropriate it would turn out to be to offer this series of three books about planes and past wars, set in a soccer summer school for young teens, right now. Spitfire is the second book, and as the title tells you, it’s about WWII.

Tom Palmer, Wings: Spitfire

In the first one, Flyboy, we met Jatinder who ended up in WWI, flying a plane, mysteriously taking over the part of a real WWI pilot who, like Jatinder, was a Sikh. In Spitfire we meet his fellow soccer fan Greg, full name Grzegorz Tomaszewski, whose parents are Polish. In the same strange way as Jatinder, one night Greg finds himself at the controls of a real Spitfire, somewhere off the coast of France.

Like Jatinder, he’s somehow turned into a real pilot, and he needs to grow up fast to deal with a dangerous situation.

Tom Palmer has clearly watched The Great Escape a few times, but there are worse films to inspire a bit of plot, and perhaps young readers today, whether dyslexic or not, won’t have seen the film.

This timetravelling into old wars appears to be connected with the boys’ soccer school host, Steve, whose house sits right next to an old airfield, and who enjoys talking to the visiting boys about what things used to be like. So here we have Britain’s pride, the two world wars, and these stories show us pilots from other backgrounds coming to help the British fight a common enemy.

It’s exciting and not a little emotional. The boys from today learn a lot from their visits to the past. And so should we, about all kinds of things.

(Naturally there is a Spitfire to build.)

The Crystal Stair

Good things – and quite complex stories – can come in small packages. Just watch Barrington Stoke and their selection of fully grown, but short, novels. Here is The Crystal Stair, Catherine Fisher’s sequel to At the World’s End, which was set in a dystopian near future, where the world is mostly covered in ice.

Catherine Fisher, The Crystal Stair

Caz and Will – yes, they survived – have been living safely, if boringly, in the Settlement. But Caz still wants to find out if her father has survived, and they are soon in trouble, and not long after, the two of them are out without permission, in order to see what the mystery about Caz’s dad might be.

As the plot sped ahead without stopping to dwell on unnecessary details, I was thinking how great this is; the just getting on with what we want, without any surplus padding.

Expect icy cold, slime, mystery and a satisfyingly bad adversary.

I can only imagine how wonderful it must be to be able to read this kind of thing, when ordinarily you’d never even try.

Thicker Than Water

I’d like to think that one day some of the young people who read Anne Cassidy’s Thicker Than Water will come across Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men; either the book, or more likely, the film. And then they’ll think, ‘oh that’s rather like Thicker Than Water.’

Because it is. For her most recent Barrington Stoke book Anne wanted to write a modern take on the book she’s always loved. And it’s surprising how much you can write something that is the same but also quite different.

We have George and Lennie, who are moving between south English towns, from Brighton to Hastings, looking for work, and George hoping that this time Lennie will behave and not cause trouble. Just like in Steinbeck’s book this George looks out for his large, but simple, friend Lennie.

Anne Cassidy, Thicker Than Water

This story is set today, with mobile phones and things, and George works as a DJ. Or tries to, when Lennie will allow.

It’s a beautiful story. Violent, yes, but there is so much love. If you know Steinbeck you will know how it ends. If not, I’m guessing the ending will come as a shock to young readers. It’s what makes this book so grown-up, and a perfect homage to John Steinbeck.

Read it!

Five Hundred Miles

Five Hundred Miles is just wow! Kevin Brooks has done it again, and Anthony McGowan needs to look out. Generally I find the harsh settings of Kevin’s books quite hard to cope with, as I do the bleakness in his books. This one is no more cheerful, except the title tells you there might be something to look forward to.

Kevin Brooks, Five Hundred Miles

Cole and Ruben are the sons of a feared criminal, and live in a breaker’s yard in East London. You feel they are good boys, even though it becomes quite clear they are capable of both theft and violence.

When they unexpectedly come across a teenage girl who’s wanting to rescue a monkey from some gangster types in a pub, it’s not only the fact that she looks like their dead sister that makes them jump in to help.

I ought to dislike everything these boys stand for and what they do, but the way Kevin writes about them you just want to love them and be their friend. This is the kind of book I want to put into the hands of dyslexic teenagers everywhere, as well as capable readers. No one could help but love this book!