Tag Archives: Dyslexia

White Feather

It is the 11th day of the 11th month, 100 years on. I can’t think of a better way to mark it than with White Feather by mother and son Catherine and David MacPhail.

Catherine & David MacPhail, White Feather

Ostensibly about a coward soldier in WWI, we discover early on that Charlie, who was shot as a deserter, is believed by his mother and younger brother Tony to be nothing of the kind. And the awful thing is that neighbours even handed Tony a white feather, on behalf of his dead brother.

Tony sets out to discover what might have happened to Charlie, and to clear his name. This is a short, dyslexia friendly, story, but it packs a lot into those few pages.

And today we can think back to Charlie’s terrible fate, and that of many other unfortunate soldiers, and we know they were all brave, whether or not they ran away from the fighting. How could anyone thrive on the horrors of this war? Today we know that it didn’t stop other wars from happening.

Let’s remember all who suffered through this time, one hundred years ago. They did it for us. What have we done for them?

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Kerb Stain Boys

If this wasn’t so real, it would be a lot more funny.

In Alex Wheatle’s new book for Barrington Stoke, we’re back in Crongton – his fictional part of London, where black young boys are not necessarily going towards a fantastic future.

Alex Wheatle, Kerb Stain Boys

Briggy and Terror come up with this really terrific idea to impress a girl, and to get some cash. They are going to rob a post office. Except, it’s not a great idea at all, and it was Terror’s plan and Briggy is worried about pulling out.

While learning what their lives at home and at school are like, and realising their dreams are pretty normal, you still know that robbing any post office, let alone one close to where you live, is not going to end well.

Boys will be boys, so ditching the plan isn’t likely. Besides, if the author stopped them from doing this silly thing, there would be no story. But if they do rob the post office, the boys don’t have much of a future.

I didn’t see the end coming. Can’t say more than that. Let’s hope the readers can work out they should not copy Terror and Briggy; not for any girl in the world. Especially a world in which a black boy carrying even a plastic toy weapon is a potentially lethal situation. This is something we tend to forget, if we have a different colour skin.

Stay a Little Longer

Set somewhere in or near Bali Rai’s Leicester, Aman has lost her dad. She misses him a lot, and she wishes she had given him the letter she wrote when he was ill.

Bali Rai, Stay a Little Longer

Wherever you live, there will be bullies, and being bereaved does not save you. In Aman’s case it’s a new neighbour who does. Gurnam, an elderly man who just moved into her street, comes to her assistance.

She and her mother befriend Gurnam, who becomes some sort of grandfather figure. But all is not well, and among more bullying, there is more sadness. It takes Aman some time to understand what is going on with Gurnam.

The question is whether her friendship will be enough for this troubled man. Society can be very harsh.

It’s good to read more about life in what I believe to be a predominantly Sikh area. There should be many more books like this.

The lost diary of Sami Star

We don’t always know what others want, and sometimes not even what we ourselves need. And parents want what they believe might be best; not what would be best.

Karen McCombie, The lost diary of Sami Star

Hannah wants peace and quiet at home, and isn’t getting it, because her parents ‘know best’ regarding her older sister and her future. Her friends seem to have lost interest in what Hannah needs. Then, one day she finds a diary in the park, and reading it – to see if she can find out whose it is – she discovers someone really interesting. Someone cool, but also sad.

A bit of detective work sends Hannah and her sister Victoria to a spot where maybe she’ll find Sami Star. We all need each other, and that’s something the girls discover.

Great little story by Karen McCombie about friendship and learning what’s important in life. And that goes for parents too.

Race to the Frozen North

‘How does she know so much of what happened?’ I – almost – asked myself when reading Catherine Johnson’s book for Barrington Stoke about Polar explorer Matthew Henson, who was the first man to reach the North Pole in 1909.

The answer, of course, is that authors make things up, but apart from ‘knowing’ what the young Matthew might have said to his sister the night he ran away from home, the facts are facts. Catherine is telling the story of this black man who worked so hard to reach his goal, but whose success was mostly ignored for so long, because of his colour.

Catherine Johnson, Race to the Frozen North

Matthew was a good worker and clearly talented, learning several languages and acquiring many useful skills, despite his humble beginnings. It feels good to read about a man like him, and I hope that countless children will be inspired by what Matthew achieved, and will feel that they, too, can make something of themselves. Early background and colour should not stop you from trying anything.

The not surprising course of events after he reached the Pole, was that others of his expedition were rewarded, but not Matthew. Decades later, he gradually gained recognition for what he did.

This makes for very exciting reading, and the pride you feel, both when he learns new skills, and when he arrives at the North Pole, is considerable.

Armistice Runner

Tom Palmer doesn’t usually make me cry. Yes, I enjoy his books, which are thoughtful and deal with a mix of children today and people from the past, with a sports element, and the reader learns through them. But this one, Armistice Runner, was something else. Published in the Conkers series by Barrington Stoke, it’s a little longer than the usual dyslexia friendly books.

Tom Palmer, Armistice Runner

It’s about Lily who is a fell runner, practising for an important run near her grandparents’ house in the Lake District. She worries about her gran who has Alzheimer’s, and she fights with her younger brother.

In one of her more lucid moments, Lily’s gran brings out an old box for Lily. It used to belong to Lily’s great-great-grandfather Ernest, who was a fell runner before he went to war in 1918. Lily reads his log book, which is almost like a long letter to his dead brother Fred; about running and about the war.

It’s so gripping, and as the reader along with Lily herself desperately wants to discover if someone will be all right or not, Tom does a very naughty thing and interrupts both us and Lily with something much more urgent, and there was a wait to find out what happened.

Even if you’ve read countless other WWI stories, and this obviously has overlaps with many other tales, it also has something that belongs only to this book. It’s very good. And sad.

But also inspiring.

(As long as I don’t have to do any fell running. I’m still out of breath.)

Gorgeous cover by Tom Clohosy Cole.

True Sisters

Sisters. Who’s a true sister? It could be your actual sister, or someone else, or both. You don’t even need to have a sister to have a sister.

Keren David, True Sisters

Keren David’s True Sisters for Barrington Stoke is a short tale about sisters and friends, and how families work. Ruby has had lots of siblings, because her mum fosters children in need. Clara is the latest of them, and even though she has a blood sister, she doesn’t relate well to either Ruby or her mum. Her background has just been too weird; the kind of situation you might read about in the papers.

This has everything. There are family issues, there are race issues, and sexual orientation issues, as well as the common garden teen issues of growing up.

True Sisters should appeal both to readers with nothing much to worry about, but also to anyone who does feel they are having problems, or being the odd one at school.

I liked it very much.