Tag Archives: Barrington Stoke

The Devil’s Angel

I mentioned Kevin Brooks and his new book with Barrington Stoke some months ago. It’s great that they invite and are accepted by all these good, mainstream authors. Luckily it seems that both sides consider it an honour to be working with the other. That’s the best way.

Kevin Brooks, The Devil's Angel

The Devil’s Angel is as scarily bleak as Kevin’s other writing leads you to expect. To be perfectly honest, it is not my kind of thing. At all. I prefer a rosier outlook on life, but recognise that this will appeal to countless teenagers, and I can’t see why dyslexics should be any different in that respect.

This is good stuff if you want edgy fiction. As described on the cover, The Devil’s Angel is about Dean, who ‘just walked into the classroom. Sat down. Smiled. Then beat another kid to a pulp.’

Dean befriends the fairly average John and they have an unusual and unforgettable summer, doing the kinds of things we parents would prefer teenagers not to do.

It can’t end well.

Good Dog Lion

This Little Gems story has the most gorgeous illustrations by David Dean! I know I said these books are not picture books, but oh, what great pictures.

Alexander McCall Smith and David Dean, Good Dog Lion

The words, by Alexander McCall Smith are not to be sneezed at, either. This is a man who knows how to tell a story. Good Dog Lion is about a dog called Lion. He is very brave, and very loyal.

Set somewhere in Africa, it’s the story about Timo, who might be nine years old. He’s a good boy who helps his single mum, by picking fruit for her jam making, and perhaps finding some honey. Their hard work keeps them, but only just. No way can they afford to feed a dog.

Alexander McCall Smith and David Dean, Good Dog Lion

So it looks like Timo will have to settle for dreams. But because this is a story, we know what must happen. There is a dog, and there is courage and good behaviour and hard work from all.

It’s a very nice little story.

Jet Black Heart

Sinister. Chilling. Brrr. Jet Black Heart by Teresa Flavin for Barrington Stoke is definitely a pretty ‘grown-up’ and normal teen read, and as has happened on one such previous occasion, I was almost relieved that its dyslexia friendliness meant it was rather short. Phew, who am I kidding? Much more of this frightening stuff and I’d have run in the opposite direction.

It’s very, very good. Don’t misunderstand me. Just a wee bit on the scary side.

Teresa Flavin, Jet Black Heart

Holiday romances… They’re all the same, aren’t they? Can’t trust those pretty boys, or what they say.

Dory and her younger sister Gracie are on holiday, somewhere in Cornwall, I think. And we all know what Cornwall* is famous for; cliffs, storms at sea, romance, general doom.

Eli, the holiday romance, is lovely. Everything a girl could want. You’d do anything for a boy like that. Dory falls for him, in more ways than one. But she’s pretty astute, too, so fairly soon she works out that not all is well. But just as you think she’ll be safe, because of it, Teresa throws in a few more scary happenings. And another one.

Time travel, intrigue, and other chilling stuff. Lovely.

*That would be North Yorkshire, then…

Brace Mouth, False Teeth

Sita Brahmachari has written a dyslexia friendly story about Zeni, who ends up doing work experience at Magnolia Gardens Care Home. Nothing more exciting turned up, so this was a last resort for Zeni.

Sita Brahmachari, Brace Mouth, False Teeth

But like many things in life, her week with the old people at the home turns out rather differently than she had thought. It wasn’t boring. These people might be old and infirm now, but they were once younger and pretty normal, or even quite interesting people.

Zeni has just had a brace fitted, so spits a bit when she talks. Alice, the old lady she gets to look after, has false teeth. The wrong false teeth, or so she claims. But she has dementia, so no one really believes Alice. She was once a pretty cool shop assistant, selling perfume. Now she’s mainly old, but to her surprise Zeni finds she can make her laugh.

That’s on Alice’s good day.

There are several more ‘old characters’ at the home, as well as the staff and fellow work experience worker Joe, whose grandad has just come to live at the home. Together the two of them think of something to cheer the ‘inmates’ up. But will it work?

And is Alice right about her teeth?

(Since we seem to be talking diversity in books a lot these days; I reckon this is a good example. You don’t get that as much as you should.)

The Fish in the Bathtub

I don’t often cry over carp, but I made an exception for Eoin Colfer’s The Fish in the Bathtub. It’s a beautiful little story. And the fish isn’t bad, either.

Eoin Colfer and Peter Bailey, The Fish in the Bathtub

It’s Dyslexia Awareness Week, and Barrington Stoke have their new Little Gems to offer. They are sort of in-between picture books and ‘proper’ books. Plenty of pictures, but more of a real story than a picture book, but less novel-like than their older stories. Still as easy to read, though. (I know. It’s easy for me to say.)

Eoin Colfer and Peter Bailey, The Fish in the Bathtub

Set in Warsaw, this is the story of an old man who will not let either Germans or Communists prevent him from eating carp this Christmas. (Germans – in case you didn’t know – are like Communists, but with better boots. I reckon this must have been a while ago.)

The old man has a granddaughter called Lucja. And when her grandfather finally manages to buy a fish for Christmas, she makes friends with it. So how can he eat her friend? He wants to. (Remember the Germans and the Communists!) But he doesn’t want to. The carp is Lucja’s pet.

What to do?

Lovely, lovely illustrations by Peter Bailey, makes you feel as though you are in Warsaw, and that it’s just before Christmas and you are hungry. Do you eat the carp?

Bookwitch bites #127

You know books? There is money in them. Sometimes, at least, and not only for author and publisher, although I’d wager Michael Morpurgo has made a reasonable sum from War Horse the book. Possibly more from the play and the film.

Michael Morpurgo at the Lowry

War Horse the play has just finished its second run at the Lowry, hopefully pleasing the 200,000 people who came to see it. But what’s more, it hasn’t merely earned money for Michael or the theatre. It has been estimated that Greater Manchester is better off by £15 million. And it’s pretty good that books can have such an effect.

For the last performance in Salford they had a Devon farmer as a Devon farmer extra.

Not a farmer, nor a twinkly old elf, is how Neil Gaiman doesn’t describe his friend Terry Pratchett in the Guardian this week. Terry is driven by rage, Neil claims, and I can sort of see where he’s coming from with that. I reckon Terry got pretty annoyed to hear me say that my local library service banned him from the under 16s. (Correction, it was their representative who did. Not the whole service. But still.) And any person with any decency would be furious about what’s wrong in this world. And luckily we have the non-twinkly Terry to write wonderful books about it.

Someone who scares me much more is Kevin Brooks. I know. He seems non-scary, but his books deal with people in circumstances I find hard to cope with. Kevin has just written a book for Barrington Stoke, to be published in January 2015, and it might be short, and it might be an easy read. But it’s also not an easy read, in that it deals with the hard reality for young, male, teenagers. A typical Brooks, in other words.

Barrington Stoke make books accessible to readers who would otherwise not read. Daniel Hahn was on the radio this week, talking for 13 and a half (his own description) minutes on the importance of translated books. They make books accessible to people who would otherwise not be able to read French or Finnish, or any other ‘outlandish’ language.

Daniel has also worked hard on the new Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, to be published in March 2015. I’m looking forward to that, and hopefully this new companion will pave the way for a few more readers, too.

Whereas authors playing football will achieve exactly what? OK, let’s not be negative or anti-sports here. I did actually want to go and see the football match between English crime writers and their Scottish counterparts. It was part of Bloody Scotland last weekend, but unfortunately the match clashed with an event, and being lazy, I chose to sit down in-doors instead of standing on the side of a rectangle of grass watching grown men kick a ball around.

The winning Bloody Scotland football team - 2014

I understand the Scottish team won. Ian Rankin is looking triumphant, and I can see Craig Robertson, Christopher Brookmyre and Michael J Malone, plus some more people I don’t recognise in shorts.

The two Marys travel back in time

The two Marys, Hoffman and Hooper, have unravelled some more history for me in their new books for Barrington Stoke. Mary Hoffman writes about the war between Venice and the Ottoman Empire in 1571, and Mary Hooper visits plague-ridden London in 1665.

Both historical events are ones I ‘know’ of, especially the plague. But that doesn’t mean I know all that much, so I’m grateful for some fiction to help me learn.

Mary Hoffman, Angel of Venice

Angel of Venice features Luca who dreams of running off to war. But he’s in love, so can’t quite make his mind up, until it’s forcibly made up for him. And war is not at all as you tend to imagine, but hell on earth and he soon wishes he hadn’t gone.

Lovely romance and history lesson all in one. The Ottoman Empire is no longer as hazy to me as it was, and Venice with Mary is always good.

Mary Hooper, Ring of Roses

Ring of Roses is pretty scary. You imagine that ‘your’ character will be all right because it’s fiction and you can’t kill off the main character, can you?

Abby has come to London to look after a rich woman’s baby, and she stays well while the rest of London succumbs to the illness. Mary describes graphically what happens to the people in houses where someone dies of the plague and it’s not good.

Very realistic, and very informative.

The Marys do this so well, and I’m pleased they have written these dyslexia friendly books. They are much needed.