Barrington Stoke work with some of the best authors and illustrators in the children’s book business, crafting exceptional stories that cater for a wide range of reading interests and ages. Sure to grab the attention of avid readers, the focus on high interest, low ability makes titles an excellent choices for reluctant readers too. Wonderfully accessible with manageable chapters, dyslexia-friendly font, page tint and spacing, and illustrations to bring stories to life, reading confidence, stamina and enjoyment levels will rapidly increase. Barrington Stoke offer something for every child and ensure everyone can be a reader, a very happy one at that!
Finding Her Feet; Eve Ainsworth, illustrated by Luna Valentine
Football is the path to belonging in this sporty tale as a young girl deals with high school anxieties, loneliness, self-doubt and navigates the difficult waters of friendship. Just in time for the FIFA Women’s World Cup too!
The move to high school has not been easy for Lily. Struggling to make friends and overwhelmed by lots of things, she often feels like the outsider. Feeling invisible, Lily is sure that no-one even notices her so she is shocked when Mr Allen, the PE teacher, invites her to join the football team. Friendship, belonging and that winning feeling beckon. But will a moody team-mate ruin everything…
The start of high school can be tricky; a new environment, new routines, new friendship groups and a new social pecking order mean it can take time before pre-tweens find their feet. And whilst there are no easy answers to the transition, Eve Ainsworth offers promise that even if the first few days are overwhelming and outsider feelings are simmering, things can and will get better.
Delivered as part story, part history lesson, and featuring the artwork of Luna Valentine, Finding Her Feet is a gentle, relatable and accessible read that will be a hit with football-loving girls, those worrying about the move to high school and fans of sporting history. In a match-winning story the facts are fascinating and the action is plentiful with much drama both on and off the pitch.
In Lily, Eve has written a genuine protagonist whose feelings and experiences - the knot in the tummy when trying to make friends, the nervousness at being the newbie on the team, the stomach churning that comes with keeping things bottled up - will resonate with many. Everyone will join in with the pitch-side cheering as Lily finds her feet, kindness and teamwork hit the back of the net and spitefulness and angst get the red card.
Brilliant bonus content, that charts the history and progress of women’s football from over one-hundred years ago through to the present day, features at the end of each chapter adding some terrific non-fiction to this fest of footy, friendship and finding yourself. Learning about the struggles that women and girls have faced to play the sport they love, some of the ridiculous criticism that has been thrown at them and the oppression doled out by the FA in the 1920’s will certainly elicit cries of ‘foul play’. More uplifting commentary on a national framework for the women’s game and the success of the Lionesses will empower our future sporting stars and certainly proves that the girls are more than a match for the boys if not quite on an equal footing in terms of pay and sponsorship deals (hopefully this is addressed soon).
Perfect to share in the last weeks of the summer term with year six children as they prepare for their own moves to secondary school.
Recommended for 8+.
Nightjar; Katya Balen, illustrated by Richard Johnson
An injured bird is the catalyst for repairing a broken relationship in Katya Balen’s companion novella to the stunning Birdsong.
Noah lives a happy life in England with a mum who understands him, listens to him and gives him the support he needs to live true to himself. His dad lives in New York and since fleeing the family home has become disconnected from his son. The last thing Noah wants is a trip from an estranged father but with his Bar Mitzvah looming that is exactly what he is going to get.
The long distance has taken its toll on their relationship and the frosty air between the pair shows little sign of warming. The discovery of an injured Nightjar brings tensions to ahead. With a relationship having in the balance, will Noah and dad find a way to rebuild that that is broken…
Katya Balen soars with another exquisitely written narrative once again showcasing her ability to explore her character’s deepest feelings and thoughts in just a few, carefully chosen words. In a mere seventy-three pages an entire young life’s worth of feelings have been poured onto the page, hearts have begun to warm and a nightjar has been saved. Katya has found the perfect partner in illustrator Richard Johnson whose ability to match artwork with words is sublime; his emotion-packed, expressive scenes add further depth to the beautiful prose.
Without missing a single beat and with an incomparable lightness of touch, Katya accessibly delves into the complexities of family relationships, the responsibilities that come with growing up, life’s difficult choices and the power of nature to heal. Gentle, heartwarming and empathy-filled, the journey of a boy coming-of-age as he finds the path to reconciliation with an estranged father encapsulates everything that life is; challenging, complicated and most certainly not black and white. But with time, and the ability to understand, listen, compromise and to come at things through a different lens, family bonds can be saved, the hurt can be healed, and pain, anger, frustration and resentment can be set free.
When things in life are broken it is easier to lay blame, to not be accountable for one’s actions and to let a relationship fail. It takes bravery, self-reflection and maturity to admit fault and Noah and the nightjar provide reassurance and encouragement to offer the olive branch when it is needed. A deep-rooted connection with nature and the gradual building of bridges make for a deeply moving exploration of emotional turmoil and ultimately the green shoots of forgiveness.
Like Birdsong, Nightjar is beautiful and heartfelt, raw and real, honest and moving, pulling the reader into an emotional tour-de-force that encourages reflection on personal family ties. Relationships, flourishing or broken, need nurturing and this is a powerful message for all ages. My words do not do it justice, you should probably read it for yourself.
Recommended for 9+.
The Day the Hiccups Took Over; Jo Simmons, illustrated by Lee Cosgrove
Eleven-year-old Frank has a busy day ahead of him; visit to the dentist, trumpet exam, swimming lesson and a ticket to watch crocheting sensation, Eliot Abdi, at the World Knitting Games. What he doesn’t need is the world’s worst case of the hiccups. Now, hiccups would usually pass after a few minutes but these are no ordinary hiccups, these are super-charged and they are here to stay. Helped by his new friend Daisy, Frank tries all sorts of weird and wonderful remedies. But when nothing works can he successfully hic, hic, hiccup his way through the day…
A case of the hiccups, one of life’s more random medical episodes, has Frank in quite a pickle and experiencing a very eventful day in a brilliantly entertaining madcap caper that explodes with silliness, crazy ideas and an awful lot of hiccuping. With comedic moments following one after another, readers will laugh their way through the pages as Frank has trouble with the trumpet, gets that sinking feeling at the swimming pool, causes pandemonium at the park, drama at the dentist and awkward scenes at the sewing championships.
Anyone who has ever had hiccups for an unreasonable amount of time will sympathise with Frank, especially his efforts to rid himself of them as he resorts to ‘internet recommended cures’ involving water, peas, being sat on, breath-holding, palm-pressing, tongue-pulling, vegetables and sugar. I’m personally a fan of swallowing three times whilst holding my breath, and the always funny, and never working, drinking from the opposite side of the glass.
Frank’s problems with hiccups are only part of the story as a nice sub-plot explores his anxieties and why he feels the need to keep an unusual child passion and hidden talent to himself. As someone who took up lawn bowls during my early-teens, Frank’s desire to keep knitting a secret from cool friend Callum really resonated with me and I’m sure it will too with those children who enjoy more quirkier hobbies. Being true to yourself, confidently embracing who you are and not worrying about what others think are important issues that many youngsters have to deal with and a wholesome ending with Frank finally finding his voice and sharing his big secret is empowering and inspiring.
With fast-paced, rip-roaring, laugh-till-your-belly-hurts storytelling, entertainment is served up on every page and some of this is brilliantly brought to life through Lee Cosgrove’s hilarious artwork. Each scene is an absolute blast and readers will wait with great anticipation for the next one. Many will have kids snorting out loud but it was the touching knitting scenes towards the end - Frank with his family and on stage with his knitting idol - that warmed my heart and had me grinning from ear-to-ear.
The Day the Hiccups Took Over is another great example of a funny book that has positive, life-affirming messages seamlessly stitched into its heart. Very, very, HIC, funny!
Recommend for 7+.
Peggy Little-Legs; Pip Jones, illustrated by Paula Bowles
Sausage dog with a confidence crisis discovers that little legs have their plus points in an inspiring and feel-good addition to the Little Gems series.
It’s Puppy School Adventure Weekend and sausage dog Peggy is excited to practice new puppy skills before going off to live in her forever home. There’s teacher Mrs Floof to impress and a prize for the top dog. But Peggy’s little legs are not designed for running fast and jumping high and she’s soon feeling useless. When one of Peggy’s puppy pals has an accident on a clifftop walk, a little rescuer is needed to save the day. Perhaps little legs have a use after all…
Peggy Little-Legs is a paw-some ‘tail’! Life can be hard when those around you are excelling and you don’t feel you’re good at anything but everyone has valuable skills, sometimes they just take a little finding. Readers will love joining Peggy, the delightful dachshund, as she grows in confidence, learns to love herself and values what she has.
Pip Jones’ bouncy narrative and Paula Bowles’ colourful and energetic illustrations wrap empowering and important messages up in the most pup-tastic of early chapter books. Fun, heartwarming and paw-fectly pitched for children of five and up, this doggie-filled delight is one for the entire family to enjoy. Look inside the front cover for a trio of sausage dog facts.
A tail-wagging success. Dachshund to the shops and grab your copy!
Recommend for 5+.
With huge thanks to Barrington Stoke for the titles I received in exchange for honest reviews.