Tag Archives: Dyslexia

Firebird

My interest in the female Russian pilots from WWII has finally been met. Well, I’d happily read more, but Elizabeth Wein’s dyslexia friendly novel Firebird goes some way to satisfying me. It’s a start.

Elizabeth Wein, Firebird

I knew the British and American female pilots had a tough war, even without fighting. But the young Soviet girls who flew planes had a completely different war. More was asked of them, and then it seems Comrade Stalin had the bright idea to suggest that if they ended up behind enemy lines and survived, they’d be shot for treason when they got back home.

The mind boggles.

Anastasia in Firebird has flown for as long as she can remember, and it makes sense to volunteer on the day her country joins the war. But even though she flies well, they make her stay on as a flying instructor to begin with, rather than join her male friends.

That would have been a different story, whereas this one, where Anastasia and many others form a women’s unit of pilots is infinitely better. I’d read about them, and after this taster, I’d like to read more.

It was a cruel war for everyone, but I’m fairly sure the Russians had it worse (unless it was the Germans who froze as much on their side of the line), and there was never much in the way of good news.

They were skilled, and they were brave.

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Run Wild

Gill Lewis weaves her magic every time. There’s no other word for it. She pulls you in and you live with her characters and you want the best for them but can’t work out how that’s going to be possible.

In a book like Run Wild, which is dyslexia friendly and therefore short, you feel that it will be even harder to arrange for that happy ending. There is one, of course, but as always it’s not impossibly sugary; just rather nice.

For instance, in Run Wild Gill’s characters meet a wolf on a derelict gasworks site in London, and how can you save, let alone keep, a wolf?

Gill Lewis, Run Wild

The children stumble across the wolf and various other wildlife in their search for some place to skateboard. They are children, and they need somewhere to play, somewhere to just be, to walk barefoot.

This is so good. I’m almost jealous of anyone who hasn’t yet read Run Wild. But I can always reread.

Houdini and the Five-Cent Circus

I freely admit to not knowing a lot about Harry Houdini, other than marvelling at his abilities to escape. It seems he had a ‘normal’ childhood as Erik Weiss, and that’s what Keith Gray has written about here, when Erik was eleven.

Keith Gray, Houdini and the Five-Cent Circus

At some point I wondered how Keith knew all these things about the young Houdini, but soon realised that authors make things up. So this might be true, or it might not be. It still gave me valuable background to the great Houdini.

Erik’s friend Jack dares him to unlock all the shops in the main shopping street in their little American town. At least in this book, Erik displays autistic traits, so he does as he’s told, and can see nothing wrong with it.

Along with their friend Mattie they end up having another couple of adventures, based on Erik’s skill at picking locks, and you can see how he works out the direction he might go in, for some real success.

Really enjoyed this early window on someone so famous, reminding me that we all have to start somewhere.

The Family Tree

The Family Tree is a short story by Mal Peet, which Barrington Stoke have fashioned into a dyslexia-friendly book. I don’t know how young a ‘younger reader’ is, but it says it’s not suitable for them. I want to disagree.

OK, the book begins with Ben re-visiting the house he used to live in as a child, but this is an adult reliving what he went through at the age of about ten, and many children have been lying in bed, pretending to be asleep when the adults fight, and it’s time they get to read about one such family.

Mal Peet and Emma Shoard, The Family Tree

A family where things don’t necessarily work out, but that makes it all the more valid. Ben’s dad tries to be a good dad. It’s just hard to do, when other things in life aren’t good. His mum probably also wanted everything to be fine, but it wasn’t.

There is a tree house, which was built for Ben, but in the end it’s taken over by his dad, and maybe that’s what made things go wrong.

So yes, it’s a grown-up kind of story, but I feel it will work for anyone between nine and 99. And it’s Mal Peet magic. Everyone needs a bit of that.

Gorgeous, dream-like illustrations by Emma Shoard.

McTavish Goes Wild

McTavish is back. Do you remember this clever little dog? Meg Rosoff introduced us to McTavish the rescue dog this time last year. He sorted his adopted family, the Peacheys, out in their time of need. So OK, maybe he was ‘rescued’ from a dogs’ home, but he’s more rescuer than rescued.

Meg Rosoff, McTavish Goes Wild

It’s holiday time in this Conkers book from Barrington Stoke, and every Peachey has their own idea of how to spend the holiday. But Betty says they should go camping, and Ma Peachey agrees.

They have a surprisingly good time, when they don’t have a rather dismal time (it rains). But there’s no getting away from their personality differences, and Pa Peachey really is a little silly. Yes, you don’t know for certain about piranhas, but surely he could relax a little?

When things begin to look iffy, McTavish has an idea, and he rescues the holiday.

Zebra Crossing Soul Song

Lollipop man with soul. Sita Brahmachari’s latest dyslexia friendly book is different. It’s an unusual topic; the friendship between a young boy and the local lollipop man. But also the way it’s been written.

Otis the lollipop man is West Indian, and Sita has him speak in his own accent, which could potentially be hard to understand, if you don’t know how he might sound. On the other hand, I can see that this makes it even better from a point of view of including many readers who have never found themselves in a book.

The other thing is that Otis communicates with young Lenny through songs, and not just any songs, but ones from the ‘olden days’ i.e. my youth. At least I knew the songs.

Sita Brahmachari, Zebra Crossing Soul Song

There are more issues covered in this story. Lenny has two dads, and one of his old school friends has two mums. Lenny is also having to re-sit his A-level in Psychology, which means he’s a year behind his friends, and he is struggling with revising and keeping on top of things.

As he’s doing all this, he also puzzles over what happened to Otis the last time he saw him. We are kept guessing all through the book.

There’s a lot of depth here, and it feels pretty grown-up. I’m hoping Zebra Crossing Soul Song will find many fans, especially among those who don’t read much.

‘Sittin’ on the dock of the bay…’  🎵

Smile

It’s wonderful how much you can learn, when ‘merely’ reading for pleasure. In her new book Smile, for Barrington Stoke, Mary Hoffman tells us the truth about how the famous Mona Lisa portrait came to be. Or at least her truth, since we can’t truly know, but there have been countless guesses over the centuries.

Mary Hoffman, Smile

I like this one. It’s mostly about Lisa herself, and much less about the man she calls Leonardo, and who I think of as da Vinci. That’s what makes the story feel real.

So Smile is more a history lesson in how Italian women lived five hundred years ago, and then only women of a certain class. Lisa’s family was noble, but poor, so she had to marry well, meaning Lisa married a wealthy widower, who hankered after a noble wife.

It’s heartrending learning about the inevitability of a new baby every year, and the hopes that the baby will survive infancy.

And on the side, we have Lisa’s friendships with both Leonardo and Michelangelo. I had forgotten the two men were active in the same place at the same time, even if there was an age gap of twenty years. It’s the sheer normality of Lisa’s life among these greats that make for such a fascinating story.

Although personally I have never stopped to ponder the famous smile. It just is.