Sunday, 26 August 2018

The Song of Somewhere Else by A/F. Harrold and Levi Pinfold


Key Stage 2, fluent reader, junior school / teens, ages 9-11, crossover   

This is a slightly puzzling book. It seems to be a book for the fluent reader at the end of junior school. Yet it contains elements for other age groups. 

It certainly has a nice fat spine and uses blocked text which suggests the fluent reader.  It also uses a serif font and includes difficult a and g which again is normal for this reader.  

It makes a concession to the new reader by containing a double-spaced text.

As in picture books for the pre-school child, the pictures add to the story, although they are in black and white and are more sophisticated than they would be for the younger child. Pictures are clearly important in this book; it was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway prize in 2018. The text also included quite a few decorative elements. Some of the pictures, however, are very dark ,  e.g. the double spreads on pages 116-17 and 162-3, and this brings it back up into the older age group.       
There are elements also that suggest a teen reader. The protagonist reasons logically – is she in   Piaget’s formal operations stage? She behaves like a teenager. She is reluctant to tell her father about her day at school. Bullying is a teen theme. 

The children are left home alone so there is plenty of opportunity for them to have their adventure on their own.  

It includes high fantasy elements – including a troll mother and a talking cat. Shades of Alice? 

 Bordering on horror? We are also treated to the mystery woman – the agent of Extra-Existent affairs.

Being by Kevin Brooks


Keys Stage 3, Key Stage 4, Teen, YA, ages 13-17, Secondary school  

Fostered sixteen-year old Robert Smith goes for a routine endoscopy and things go badly wrong.
The novel is a car chase from the very beginning. Short sentences and frequent line-breaks maintain a fast pace. Kevin Brooks keeps us guessing all of the time. The pace slows later as the story turns to romance and sex. 

Robert tells his own story in a first person immediate narrative that as so often in books written for young adults makes the reader feel as though the narrator is their best friend and is telling their story in order to work what has happened. 

Is it a thriller? Is it a science fiction?  There is violence and Robert takes risks. There are also elements of the thriller in this novel.  

There is something odd about Robert and the reader is left to find her own explanation. 

The fast pace and the thriller elements in the first part of the story make it seem suitable for teens. 

The content in the latter half of the book brings it more firmly into the YA area.                  

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Rook by Anthony McGowan


This is the second in a series of three books about a teenage boy and the problems he faces. In each case the story is softened by protagonist's Nicky's involvement with an animal.

It is published by Barrington Stoke, who specialize in producing texts for reluctant readers.  This may be described as a "high-low" or "hi-lo" – high concept, low reading age. This particular one is aimed at the young adult.

Several concessions are made to the reader. The text is formatted ragged right. This helps the less confident reader to keep their place. It is just 123 pages long and the chapters are quite short. It uses a simple font with an easy to read a and g.

It explores the teen  themes of  peer pressure, bullying, boy / girl relationships, school, “staglet-lit” – a little like chick lit but written for teen boys.

We meet the emotional closeness so often found in teen literature. The first person narrative enforces this.  We feel as if Nicky is our best mate and he is confiding in us. We also read of his close relationship to his dad, his brother Kenny who has learning difficulties and his dad's girlfriend, Jenny.

Throughout, Nicky behaves like an adolescent. He takes risks, travelling by bus without a ticket and facing up to bully Stanno.  He blushes easily.  He thinks one thing and says another.

Anthony McGowan captures Nicky's voice superbly.

Maybe this is why the text was short-listed for the 2018 Carnegie medal.

It  is suitable for Key Stage 3 / teens / age 10-13.             

Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

Set in World War II, this story brings us the themes of war, death, abuse, friendship and growth. Young William Beech poses reclusive set-in-his ways Tom Oakley a challenge when he arrives as an evacuee in Little Weirworld. There are some grim scenes and both Will and Tom have a hard time of it but the ending is upbeat.   

This is perhaps the best known of Magorian's books, many of which are set in this era. This one could be described as a modern classic.  

This is clearly suitable for the fluent ready in the latter stages of Key Stage 2 and the last two classes of junior school, ages 9-11. It would also appeal to slightly older readers and adults. 

Magorian's characters are richly drawn. She uses a close third person point of view and we get to know each one of them really well. She does flit from head to head a little which may disturb the modern reader somewhat but nevertheless we remain gripped until the end. 

I was very happy to reread this book.