Tag Archives: Emma Shoard

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.

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The Pavee and the Buffer Girl

You can’t read and review a truly divine story too many times. Siobhan Dowd’s short story The Pavee and the Buffer Girl has just been published as a book in its own right, by Barrington Stoke, illustrated by Emma Shoard, and you want to buy it purely for those pictures! They are stunning, and the whole book is so beautiful.

Siobhan Dowd and Emma Shoard, The Pavee and the Buffer Girl

(Here is the link to when I first reviewed it, many years ago. I can’t believe time has passed so quickly.)

It’s a story about Irish travellers, and if I didn’t know that Siobhan could turn her hand to anything, I’d ask how she could know what it’s like for people like Jim and his extended family. It’s as though she had been there. Maybe she was.

More poignant than ever, this brief tale about outsiders unwanted by a community is very touching. Jim and his cousins have to go to school when they stop to live in a new town. They are not welcomed, and Jim’s younger cousin is severely bullied, and eventually the group of travellers decide they will be better off somewhere else and they leave.

Before that, Jim has made friends with a girl in his class at school, another outsider who doesn’t quite fit in, and whose home life is dreary.

In the current climate where reading and libraries are so threatened, it’s humbling to learn that none of the travellers know how to read, but would love to be able to. Jim’s mum is so hopeful when she asks if he will teach her, if he learns anything. It makes you want to cry.

Siobhan Dowd and Emma Shoard, The Pavee and the Buffer Girl