Barrington Stoke’s high interest, low reading level books offer exceptional stories from award-winning authors that are great for reluctant readers. So engaging and compelling are the stories these wonderfully well-written reads will be enjoyed just as much by more confident readers too. With manageable chapters, dyslexia-friendly font, page tint and spacing, and illustrations to help carry the story forward, reading confidence and stamina will be built up rapidly. Barrington Stoke ensure every child can be a reader, and a very happy one at that!
Birdsong; Katya Balen, illustrated by Richard Johnson
Music, friendship and nature are the catalyst for a restorative journey back to health - both physical and mental - in Katya Balen’s exquisite Barrington Stoke debut.
Music used to be Annie’s entire world but after the crash everything changed. Unable to play her beloved flute, her musical existence has been replaced by an angry silence. Angry that she has to move; angry that her damaged arm no longer does what it once did; angry with her mum for causing her all this pain and anguish.
In a patch of wild garden near their flat block she meets Noah, a protector and feeder of a family of blackbirds. The birds bring Annie comfort and their song is the spark to reconnect her with music. But when tragedy strikes and the blackbirds fall silent, will Annie lose music forever…
A gentle, heartwarming and empathy-filled story of a young girl who slowly recovers from trauma with the help of a boy, some feathered friend and the sweet sound of music. Every so often a life-changing event comes along and completely knocks us sideways, turning our perfect and comfortable little worlds upside down. Providing comfort for the soul, Birdsong gives hope that trauma can be dealt with, recovered from and life can be restored to its fullest.
In dark times it is easier to hide away, to retreat from life and to let dreams perish. It takes strength, perseverance and bravery to rise from the ashes and Annie, Noah and the blackbirds provide a reassuring and note-perfect soundtrack to healing that many will need. The beautiful connection with nature, the blossoming friendship and the parallel of a female blackbird dealing with its own terrible tragedy make for a musical and thoughtful exploration of the difficulties in starting life again, overcoming the fear of failure and finding the courage to face things heads on.
Read it slowly and cherish each and every word. ‘There is music everywhere - if you know how to listen.’
Recommended for 9+.
Next to Alice; Anne Fine, illustrated by Gareth Conway
Ben is not impressed when his teacher asks him to move seats and sit next to Alice. The scariest girl in class mocks his lacklustre science work, slams his sloppy handwriting and comments on his poor table manners. Ben is not happy. But Alice’s advice isn’t all bad and as he begins to listen some of the things are actually really helpful. Is sitting next to Alice becoming enjoyable? Has he made a new friend? What will Ben do when he has the chance to return to his old seat…
Classroom stories are always a hit because of how easy it is for children to relate to the very real situations presented. And this tale of classroom dynamics and the seating arrangement (the scourge of many a teacher and child) is a cracking example of school life and the day to day experiences of school kids.
The main characters are very authentic. Alice is a bit brash, comes across as rude and is fairly bossy, but she is full of wise words and helpful advice; good intentions are at the heart of everything she does. She genuinely just wants to help another peer improve, challenges them to do better and most importantly gives them the feedback and tools to do so. And despite his initial animosity towards Alice, Ben eventually reaps the rewards and is soon basking in the praise of his improvements. He may have even made a new friend - best to be on the right side of the scariest girl in class.
A delightfully entertaining read!
Recommended for 7+.
Dragonracers; Peter Bunzl, illustrated by Lia Visirin
The daring exploits of aviation pioneers in the early 1900’s inspire twins Kitty and Harris to take to the skies in a thrilling blend of fantasy, adventure and historical fact.
Growing up next to Hendon Airfield where their father works as an engineer, ten-year-old twins Kitty and Harris Hawk are no strangers to flying machines. Kitty is obsessed with planes and harbours dreams of taking to the skies, something her father has forbidden. Harris’ interests lie in a different form of flight…dragons.
When the pair take a strange egg home they are not expecting a dragon to hatch, a very hungry dragon that rapidly outgrows its hangar home and becomes an extremely difficult secret to keep. A dragon though could be just what Kitty needs to enter the London to Manchester air race and prove to everyone that she is the best pilot of them all…
Fast-paced, exciting and well-researched, Dragonracers takes inspiration from events in April 1910 and adds a dragon and some determined young aeronauts who want to experience the wonder of flight for themselves. It is a brilliant short story that is filled with the thrill of those early days of aviation and has some great historical facts - Claude Grahame-White and Louis Paulhan were involved in the London to Manchester air race - that will encourage young aeronauts to find out more.
Dragon obsessed Harris, and Kitty with her dreams of flying, share a wonderful sibling bond, their love and kindness shining through as they nurture their dragon before hopping aboard for the adventure of a lifetime. Kitty especially will encourage children to chase their dreams and to find courage in the face of adversity. Despite being told that being a pilot is not for girls she won’t let anything stop her; having to prove both her dad and Claude wrong adds plenty of dragon-fire to her belly.
Dragons, adventure and racing through the skies…what’s not to love! Dragonracers will soar.
Recommended for 8+.
The Curio Collectors; Eloise Williams, illustrated by Anna Shepeta
Hunting for treasure, or in this case curios, is always fun and there is nothing quite like the thrill of finding something unexpected. My mum has recently began hunting for treasures from the ocean, scouring the Cornish coastline for hidden gems; she took much pleasure in sending me pics of her first sea glass finds last summer.
Lil and Tom live with Ma Hawker in their cosy horse-drawn caravan. The Hawkers make a living by selling their marvellous collection of curios (items that they have gathered along the way). Never staying in one place for long, they travel from town to town telling made-up stories about their breathtaking finds.
Always on the hunt for hidden treasure, Lil thinks she has struck gold after buying a battered leather case full of remarkable curios from around the world. Ma thinks most of it is worthless rubbish but a special piece of engraved scrimshaw is hotly sought. Flora Meriweather is convinced that it will solve a family mystery. Fine dressed gentleman, Horatio Pinch, has much darker motives, needing to keep secrets hidden in the past. Can the children uncover what is so special about the scrimshaw? Will it find its way to the rightful owner…
A sprinkling of adventure, a dash of mystery, a dastardly crime and the magic of collecting and trading curios combine in a story that is as spectacular as Ma Hawker’s cabinet of curiosities.
Set in 1896 and taking readers from the quiet countryside to the hustle and bustle of Victorian London, The Curio Collectors is a beautifully written historical tale from the fabulous Eloise Williams. In a fast-paced hunt for the truth, exciting escapades, a cabinet full of curiosity, an important mystery and the blossoming of friendship will entertain and captivate readers.
Plucky children Lil, Tom and Flora are the stars, and as secrets and lies are revealed they find courage and use all of their resourcefulness, displaying bags of heart to get the better of a devilish villain who has no shame in taking advantage of others. Suspense, mystery and shady goings-on enthral, whilst messages of doing the right thing and helping those who need it most are welcomed.
Finding wondrous things, travelling from town to town and then selling them for a pretty penny or two sounds like such a unique and interesting life and it is a pleasure to have a little glimpse into another era and see how a different community lived. Children will be fascinated by the caravan lifestyle and having the freedom to move whenever the family felt like it - oh to live so simply.
Another piece of brilliance from Williams. Loved it!
Recommended for 8+.
With huge thanks to Barrington Stoke for the copies I received in exchange for honest reviews.