The Trouble with Reading for Pleasure: Repeated Reading

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repeated reading

“My child only ever reads *insert book or series here*. How can I get them to read something different?”

Any primary teacher will tell you that there are some questions regarding children’s attitudes to reading that never seem to go away. One that I’ve spent a lot of time considering is the issue adults- both parents and teachers- have when a child is repeat reading the same book or series of books. The concern is that the child treads water academically, consequently restricting their breadth of experience. More often than not I’ve found the questioning adult already has a solution: to interest the child in a new book of a similar theme. The hope is that I, as the teacher, can suggest the right one.

The Answer Is You Shouldn’t…

I’ve found this to be something of a poisoned chalice. Introducing children to their next favourite book or finding something to excite a reluctant reader is a wonderful thing, but what about when the child has already found that perfect match? That’s not something I would ever want to dismiss. Sometimes, the only book a child wants to read is the one they’ve just finished.

I get this; I read like this as a child and to some extent if my ‘to read’ pile runs low, I will happily revert to type. When I was eight I would greedily borrow Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr from the mobile library every week. Likewise, the Alice in Wonderland audio book from Earlsdon Library. At home, even though I’d inherited a stack of varied Enid Blytons from my brothers, I was only ever really interested in the boarding school books. The Famous Five never got a look in. I would read my way through Darryl Rivers’ school career up to the point where she is leaving for university and feel so sad that it was all over that I would immediately return to the very first term again.

I didn’t see a problem with repeated reading back then, and to be honest I still don’t. What we read is our personal choice. Once we question someone else’s personal choice, no matter how solid we may think our intentions are, we interrupt a crucial process.

Margaret Meek considers how children read in the brilliant How Texts Teach What Readers Learn.  This was written in 1987 and is so good that Meek’s thoughts are certainly still pertinent today. I’d recommend school leaders take a couple of hours to read through this short but mighty book for insight and inspiration. When considering the issue of repeated reading, Meek makes the excellent point that maybe we, the adults, are actually less not more skilled than children in making reading decisions. That more often than not, we are the ones who read only what we’re comfortable with and never happily take risks.

To illustrate this point, I was reminded of a conversation recently had with an ex-colleague who loves reading. She explained her favourite genre: she reads books where the plots were set in American High Schools, based around sports- ideally hockey- and involving a friends to lovers story line which is written in the first person. Pretty specific, and that’s fair enough, because as an adult she has the benefit of complete and utter control over the contents of her own kindle. Be honest, most of us do this to some extent: we stick to type.

Children, on the other hand, are constantly being introduced to new genres. More than that, they are expected to read, absorb, comprehend and even emulate texts in style, week in week out as part of their ongoing learning. Maybe they’re the adventurous ones. Maybe adults should question whether they are really the right ones to be making all the decisions about children’s independent reading habits.

What are the benefits of repeated reading? Simply this: children need to read the same thing again and again.

Truly no one reads the same book twice.

The first read might tell a child what happens, but it’s by reading for the second, third, tenth time where true discovery can take place. The practice of reading becomes easier, new words are understood and noted, sub-text is revealed too. Multiple meanings may even emerge. The child begins to get into the author’s head, to really comprehend fully the whole spirit of the book. In short, they are undertaking the sort of immersion teachers dream of, but doing it all on their own and quite naturally from an early age.

Literacy leaders won’t need me to point out how this could impact across the board when assessing reading, including the holy grail of developing inference. This is something that can be gained by reading picture books right through to Middle Grade titles. We mustn’t make the mistake of underestimating the power of something as seemingly simple as Rosie’s Walk or The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

For me it’s all about celebrating independence and trusting a child to make their own decisions. For schools running reading schemes, it shows clear progression from a mind-set that reading is about completing all the levels to one where reading is about pleasure. Now that’s something worth having a conversation about. Have that conversation. Ask the children what they love about the books they go back to time and time again. You never know, you might learn something.


Cogheart by Peter Bunzl

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cogheart done

” Another harpoon smashed through Dragonfly’s hull, and whirring saw blades cut through the steel ribs, ripping cracks in the ships tin chest. In a jagged screech, the cracks were wrenched into a doorway, and two silhouetted figures appeared. Their silver eyes glinted in the light. The thinner of the figures raised a stick with a skull handle, then John felt a blinding shaft of pain, and everything went black…”

Breath-Taking

When Lily’s father John Hartman disappears following a terrible crash in his airship, it quickly becomes clear that not all those around her have her best interests at heart. John, a famous inventor, has it seems attracted the attention of some very unsavoury people who are closing in on her, hellbent on finding something of her dad’s- but what?

Lily is plunged into a completely different world. Thank goodness she has new friend Robert, son of the local clockmaker, and also dear Malkin, a mechanical fox made for her by her father, there by her side in this breath-taking and original adventure.

Thrilling

Cogheart, suitable for children of ten years plus, is a steam-powered triumph, an ingenious and fresh take on adventuring in Victorian England. Readers should get ready for danger and imminent peril in a world of automatons and airships. Think Christmas Day Doctor Who special, only much, much better, as Bunzl’s beautiful writing is as soulful as it is thrilling. I must admit to experiencing the full emotional rollercoaster here, and along with some fairly hefty breath holding, I might have got something in my eye once or twice whilst reading…

Fantastic New Voice

Both heroes and villains make Cogheart a really special book. The villains, especially Roach and Mould, are every bit as terrifying as you’d want them to be. Lily is easy to root for: brave, spirited and happily very much a young girl. Robert, I love. He’s so human and normal, completely real and every bit a hero. Malkin: well he’s a mechanical fox. This is an addition of great glory that leaves me wondering why children’s literature hasn’t given us one of these sooner? For this Peter Bunzl, I thank you enormously.

Cogheart by Peter Bunzl introduces a fantastic new voice for children’s literature, up there with M.G Leonard’s Beetle Boy and joining other great story tellers such as Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman. Check it out now and love it forever.


Grandma Bendy & the Great Snake Escape by Izy Penguin

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great snake escape done

“Everyone held their breath, terrified of where the snake would land.

The snake twirled in the air and began to fall back down to the floor where… it bounced.

And bounced

and bounced

all around the room.”

Fresh and Funny

Maverick Books are launching their brand new junior fiction range for kids aged 6-9 years in October and this is my second of three posts introducing the range.

Grandma Bendy and the Great Snake Escape by Izy Penguin is fresh and funny, a proper little gem for younger readers. From the very first page I was really feeling the fun.

Children are going to love the style here: Grandma Bendy and the Great Snake Escape is incredibly varied in content and each page is trimmed with Izy Penguin’s lovely illustrations. A great choice for any children waiting to have their eyes opened to the wonder of books. I particularly liked the fabulously illustrated introduction of characters, the double page map of the town of Pumperton (the eagle-eyed amongst you will spot on the town sign that it’s twinned with Bottumburper and Le Pongue- ooh la la!) and the selection of funny headlines from the local paper.

Snake!

It’s the first day back at school in 4B and time for show and tell. Mike Grimace* the school bully has brought in a snake which has only gone and escaped! Lucy has somehow been blamed for this and the whole town of Pumperton are going crackers with the snake fears. It’s up to Lucy, her brother Max and outstanding family elder Grandma Bendy to catch the snake and sort everything out. Children will be keen to read on and find out what happens next.

Giggling Your Socks Off

Grandma Bendy and the Great Snake Escape is an ideal individual reader, but teachers- this is also the sort of book to read to your class, especially if you’re introducing fiction genres. Funny books are a great place to start, especially ones that can be completed quickly. There are plenty of opportunities to discuss where the snake could’ve gone, lots of funny and interesting characters, and a whole heap of silly stuff going on that will have kids giggling their socks off.

* There are a range of excellent names in Grandma Bendy and the Great Snake Escape. Also see shopkeeper Val Crowe and family dog Spag Bol.

 

Big thanks to Maverick Books for sending me this copy!

 

 

 


Eden Summer by Liz Flanagan

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eden summer 2 done

” That morning I have no clue what’s happened. No inkling. No foreboding. Not a sausage. I must be the opposite of psychic, cos I’m actually almost happy.”

Suitable for readers of 13 years plus, Eden Summer is Liz Flanagan’s debut novel and an absolute must for your summer ‘to read’ pile, whether you’re a YA or a NSYA (Not So Young Adult).

School in September, GCSE year. The day has started well for Jess but is all that’s about to change. She’s about to find out that best friend Eden has been missing since last night and it feels like she is the last to find out.

So unfolds an irresistibly thrilling read, the story of Jess and Eden’s precarious summer and the background building up to it: a web of circumstance and secrets, cause and effect. Sufficed to say, that was me out of all avoidable human contact for the next two to three hundred pages as I ran with Jess, questioning her world and doing everything possible to find Eden and return her home.

The setting of the quirky town amongst hills, moorland and rivers is perfect; Jess and Eden couldn’t be anywhere else and you won’t want to be either. The past plays a vital role here and both girls have had a hard time in the build up to Eden’s disappearance, it’s fair to say more than most. Liz Flanagan brings the girls and their contexts to us with care and authenticity.

Perception and identity are expertly handled throughout the book and this for me is where my thoughts return to post reading. This makes me think Eden Summer would be a walloping good choice for a book group discussion as there’s an awful lot to talk about and reflect on, as well as being a thoroughly enjoyable read.

For those who are after a book to fall deeply into (and who in their right mind isn’t?), you owe it to yourself to check out Eden Summer.

 


Perijee & Me by Ross Montgomery

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Whippets Love Perijee

Whippets Love Perijee

” The best moment with Perijee happened when we were lying out in the cove. There weren’t any clouds that night, not one. If you opened your eyes wide enough you could see all the stars together, looking down on us like a city in the sky. It was just me and Perijee and the waves coming in and nothing else for miles and miles. The sky had never looked so big to me before.

I tried to find one of the stars that Dad told me about, so I could show it to Perijee. He was still about my size then. This was before he tried to take over the world etc.”

Caitlin

Perijee & Me by Ross Montgomery is a charming story with hidden depths. Children of seven years plus in need of something refreshingly different are going to love it.

Try as she might, Caitlin isn’t having much luck making friends. Living with mum and dad on an otherwise uninhabited island makes friends hard to come by. Caitlin is in a situation where the summer holidays are looming and her best option for company is Frank. Frank’s beard, long hair and lack of shoes might make him the last word in hipsterdom in some places, but on Middle Island he’s just a fairly ineffectual 40 something local fisherman who ferries Caitlin to school each day in his boat. Frank though, like us, recognises how lonely poor Caitlin is.

Perijee

Then one day, following an enormous storm, Caitlin finds a white and oddly marked prawn washed up on the beach. Much to her surprise, he is warm and living and she gets right on with looking after him. As she tend to him, he grows and changes shape to mimic those around him, with just the strange symbols on his skin remaining the same.

As Caitlin feeds and cares for the creature, he inevitably takes on aspects of her appearance: her human shape and features, her wellies and her bobble hat. She names him Perijee and he becomes like a little brother to her, albeit one who’s growing at an alarming rate.

Their relationship between them is just lovely: heart-melting and gentle, and maybe all the more so because we know that sooner or later Perijee’s size will become a problem.

A Treasure

Perijee & Me is a beautiful story of friendship, acceptance and how the perception of others can affect us. Read simply for the adventures of Perijee and Caitlin and the brilliant touches humour throughout, or delve to a deeper, more metaphorical level if you like. Both are great. For this reason, it reminded me of Maurice Sendak’s ground-breaking and much-loved Where the Wild Things Are, being similarly compelling in feel and value. This feels like an exciting voice and a brand new treasure for children’s literature. Check it out now because this isn’t the last you’ll hear about Perijee & Me.


Hey Grown-Ups! 5 YA Books to Float Your Boat This Summer

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summer recommendations

With the summer holidays approaching, here are five absolutely brilliant YA books that all adults should be making space for in their beach bags. Take your pick from historical fiction, fantasy, contemporary romance, thriller or high concept ghost story; whichever you choose guarantees hours of happy escapism. Each of these titles captivated me and I envy you if you’ve got the pleasure of reading them ahead of you!

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

ella grey

A Song for Ella Grey is a stand alone piece of literature, young adult or otherwise. Set in Almond’s own North-East, this is his version of the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. Exceptionally romantic for both set and players, Almond’s lyrical voice glides us dreamlike into Ella’s and Orpheus’ world which is both magical and menacing.

Claire is Ella’s best friend and she narrates, sharing the unreality of Ella’s romance alongside the fragility of coming to the end of your time at school, with the pressure of exams and the last summer before the imminent splitting of friendship groups as people move on. Remember that feeling?

Read for the glorious Bamburgh beach scenes and be swept under by the blissful story telling.

Alien Rain by Ruth Morgan

alien rain done

Alien Rain by Ruth Morgan is exhilarating and action-packed YA science fiction.

It’s 3016 and Earth has long since been uninhabited due to the devastating effects of war. Although life continues on Mars, with the population living under thick domes in contained cities, there are still many links to home. Our story is part based in New Cardiff, a Martian city built to replicate Cardiff on Earth and originally designed to create a feeling of belonging and familiarity for the first dwellers.

Here we meet Bree, an immediately friendly and likeable teenage girl living in New Cardiff. Bree becomes part of the Earth mission team at the Cardiff Scientific Survey Organisation (SSO) and learns quickly that the public image of Earth and the classified factual information are two very different things.

She is informed that in returning to the home planet there are dangers the team will have to face every day, weapons originally developed by Earthlings in the final war. In discovering just how much the SSO is holding back from the general public, a delicious seed of suspicion was created for me. I couldn’t wait for Bree to get to Earth and start to uncover the truth.

A more than slightly addictive page turner, plus, it’ll open your eyes to the everyday loveliness of our planet, something I was all too happy to be reminded of.

The Boy Who Drew the Future by Rhian Ivory

boy who drew done

The Boy Who Drew the Future is a gripping read, beautifully told by Rhian Ivory. It’s about two teenage boys living in different times but inexplicably linked by their unusual talent for drawing the future.

In the present we have Noah, a good soul and intriguing character, just moved with his parents to the village of Sible Hedingham. A new start isn’t a bad thing: you see, Noah’s had problems in the past that cannot be rubbed out and redrawn.

In the past, we read from Blaze’s point of view, also told in Sible Hedingham but in 1865. Although Blaze also has the gift/ curse to draw people’s futures, it is partially acknowledged in this time frame. This certainly doesn’t make his life any easier than Noah’s though, for whilst some accept and even consult Blaze about their own lives, he knows this could very quickly backfire.

The Boy Who Drew the Future tells their fascinating stories, unravelling the links and uncovering elements of past, present and future in the process. Chapters are equally shared between the boys, punchy and action orientated, which had me binge-reading for long periods of time.

Scenes are highly visual, varied and exciting; it’s all too easy to become submerged. You have been warned.

Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norriss

jessicas ghost

 

We begin with Francis, alone.

It’s a freezing cold school day in February and he’s chosen his location well: a bench at the far side of the school playing field, cold and exposed enough to know most of his fellow pupils will stay away in the warm indoors, yet in full view of the school building- an option not preferred by the smokers and the skivers.

He needs time to think. He’s not finding life easy or enjoyable, so being alone feels like a good move and this spot at this time of year provides that in bucketloads. So, you can imagine Francis’ surprise when a girl about his own age walks across the grass towards him and sits down at the other end of the bench. As she’s wearing a strappy summer dress, Francis presumes she must be cold and offers her a cup of tea from his flask.

She isn’t cold. This is Jessica and Jessica, we discover, is dead.

She’s been dead for about a year, has no memory of how she died, just that she found herself in a hospital room one day and knew that she was. Francis is the first person to acknowledge her since that day, so I guess it’s pretty shocking for both of them. However, apart from the obvious difference, they find they have a lot in common, like each other and begin to hang around together.

I want to tell you more, but I can’t because you will, I guarantee, want to own it for yourself.

Jessica’s Ghost is an absolutely captivating and beautifully written tale of how valuable friendship and kindness are, in good times and bad, and how we never know what is around the corner.  There is authenticity here, a whole little world and more than a little to hope for. A book with soul.

Darkmere by Helen Maslin

darkmere done

This is the YA book that inspired this post. Reading and reviewing this recently was such a pleasure and it bears repeating that Darkmere is a fabulous book.

To recap, family pile Darkmere Castle has recently been inherited by private school kingpin Leo, who plans to spend all summer there partying with his friends including our protagonist Kate.

Darkmere Castle is totally off the beaten track. Unfurnished and uninhabited for years but with the bones of grandeur clear to see, Darkmere is the perfect Gothic holiday destination for teenagers in a book. The mood is thrillingly ominous and the pace exhilarating.

Once there, Kate learns more about Darkmere’s dwellers both past and present.

In the present, Leo’s other guests are all charismatic in different ways, but for me the best thing about them is that as a group they brought that all too familiar sense of edginess I remember from being their age. The sense that anything could happen.

From the past,  we are treated to discovering even more from original inhabitant Elinor through Maslin’s dual narrative. Elinor is alleged to have placed a curse on the castle and all future male heirs back in the early 1800s, so this is thrilling stuff we need to know.

Soon enough, strange things begin to occur and the castle starts to reveals its secrets. You will be utterly hooked. Just don’t forget to breathe.

PS: Secret number six, a book I’ve just finished: Eden Summer by Liz Flanagan, another excellent YA summer read.

Check out my review here.

Enjoy, and happy holidays!

Need to know more?

Here are the links to my original posts:

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

Alien Rain by Ruth Morgan

The Boy Who Drew the Future by Rhian Ivory

Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norriss

Darkmere by Helen Maslin

 


Rickety Rocket by Alice Hemming

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Illustrated by Emma Randall

rickety rocket done

Maverick Books Junior Fiction Range

As part of Maverick Books’ brand new Junior Fiction range, over the summer I’ll be introducing you to three titles due for release this October. This series is aimed at 6 to 9 year olds. Primary teachers, school librarians, take note: these are ideal for newly independent readers and you’ll want to consider them as you start thinking about books for next year.

Rickety Rocket

Much as picture books are wonderful and classic titles are classics for a reason, I’m always after brand new releases to recommend for Key Stage One readers, and particularly Year Two children who need a wide range of easily digestible books that introduce the concept of genre and the opportunity to explore longer texts.

I feel really strongly about how important it is to introduce new fiction for this age group, books that fill young minds with exciting and imaginative ideas and encourage reading beyond decoding.

Rickety Rocket by Alice Hemming is just the thing; it ticks all the boxes for me as either a class or individual read. Here we have a brand new title, ideal for children of 6 years plus, whether reading alone or with others.

Rickety Rocket comprises of three short stories, all about Spacey Stacey and her pals who live on Planet Five Ways- so named as it links to five other planets we can visit. I really liked the format of three stories in one as it gives children bite sized adventures and a triple feeling of accomplishment in one book.

Jellicious

With nicely blocked text perfect for supporting rookie readers, Rickety Rocket introduces kids to lots of exciting new words that Biff, Chip et al (other reading schemes are available) won’t have covered. For me, ‘jellicious’ is now a new favourite that I have happily added to my own vocabulary!

Prepare to meet space bunnies (cheeky little blighters), deliver jelly by jet pack and race through space in a purple rocket. If I were reading this to a class, I’d be planning all sorts of activities around it: for story number three ‘Picnic Planet’ I’d so be looking forward to reading outside whilst enjoying our own class picnic. Rickety Rocket is the sort of book however where kids will be keen to suggest their own ideas as a result of reading, so it’s a good idea to leave some breathing space if you can to allow this to happen.

Rickety Rocket: fun fiction sure to help kids blast off a lifetime of reading for pleasure

 

Big thanks to Maverick Books for sending me this little beauty.

 

 

 

 


Darkmere by Helen Maslin

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darkmere done

” And then, at last, there it was, high above us on the hillside. Just like the picture on the postcard- with turrets and a shroud of ivy- but now in high definition with sound and movement. The dark trees swayed all around it, the windows flashed in the sunshine and the sea made a constant hushing on the air. I could see the clock tower right at the front- time frozen for ever at five past twelve. It was Leo’s castle.

Our castle!”

Waiting…

I’ve been saving Darkmere by Helen Maslin up for MONTHS. Since seeing Helen at Waterstones Birmingham a while back, Darkmere has intrigued me, so I decided there and then to squirrel it away for my summer holiday. I say summer holiday, but it would be more accurately described as the best part of a week spent in a tent, on Exmoor, under questionable weather conditions.

Reading a spine-chilling Gothic thriller with no mobile signal, whilst a thin layer of polyester separates me from who knows what? Sounds great!

Darkmere

Family pile Darkmere Castle has recently been inherited by private school kingpin Leo, who plans to spend all summer there partying with his friends. Amongst the guests is our Kate (I am claiming some sort of ownership here on behalf of us all as she is fabulous: cool, clever and also mentions trying to have hair like Debbie Harry, which recommends her highly in my book).

Kate is new to the school, not rich by any means and looks different to the other girls. Leo has been nothing but friendly since she arrived- notably more than friendly outside a nightclub one night- and he invites her along.

Darkmere Castle is totally off the beaten track, I’m imagining it in the craggiest reaches of Cornwall. Unfurnished and uninhabited for years but with the bones of grandeur clear to see, Darkmere is the perfect spooky holiday destination for teenagers in a book!

The mood is thrillingly ominous and the pace exhilarating. We’re away from school and at Darkmere in no time, ready for whatever adventures it may bring.

Secrets

Once there, the summer really begins and Kate learns more about Darkmere’s dwellers both past and present. In the present, Leo’s other guests are all charismatic in different ways, but for me the best thing about them is that as a group they brought that all too familiar sense of edginess I remember from being their age.

The sense that anything could happen.

From the past,  we are treated to discovering even more from original inhabitant Elinor through Maslin’s dual narrative. Elinor is alleged to have placed a curse on the castle and all future male heirs back in the early 1800s, so this is good stuff we need to know.

Soon enough, strange things begin to occur and the castle starts to reveals its secrets. You will be utterly hooked. Just don’t forget to breathe.

And Sorry

Apologies to my husband, who was ignored for hours on end during our holiday as I obsessed over Darkmere. Sufficed to say, I absolutely loved it and would give it a big thumbs up for readers of 13 years plus, and particularly to any adults (especially if they’re fans of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca) who are after an excellent and all-consuming summer read.


Apley Towers: The Lost Kodas by Myra King

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apley towers done

“She was about to get up and go home when she caught sight of the horses in the feeding paddock. They looked so calm, as if they didn’t have a care in the world. At that moment, Kaela was incapable of leaving. There was a small voice in the back of her head struggling to make itself heard. If she was completely still, she could hear it say: ‘Writing courses are for adults. You will look back and wish you had spent less time growing up, and more time with the horses.”

Cheered and Inspired

I’m currently one book into the Apley Towers series, with books two and three sitting next to me waiting to go. If book one, The Lost Kodas, is anything to go by, then I’m looking forward to several more hours of very happy reading. It’s a pleasure to read a book set in South Africa, because if there’s one thing that’s better than reading about horses, it would be reading about horses in beautiful and exotic surroundings.

For me, horsey books are a library essential: they appeal widely over the age range and have a sense of selflessness that only comes from putting another’s needs before your own. This series is no exception.  Apley Towers: The Lost Kodas left me feeling cheered, inspired and ready for more.

Neverland

Fourteen year old Kaela Willoughby and best friend Trixie see Apley Towers Stables as their own personal Neverland; horses are their passion and they are fully involved in the community there. They say busy people get more done and Kaela and Trixie certainly support that theory. With school work, extra curricular commitments and hours spent both teaching and helping out at the stables, the girls are fully stretched.

Choosing options at school is also causing Trixie confusion about future career choices, and Kaela’s hopes of attending a prestigious writing course are on her mind. There are aspects of self discovery along the way told from the dual perspective of both Kaela and Trixie and this works very well.

Complementing the girls are a wide cast of credible characters, most notably Phoenix, a friend via social media who lives in Canada and adds an extra dimension to the story. It feels like life, but better, as there are horses to enjoy along the way.

Love and Optimism

As is often the case in horsey fiction, the story culminates with a competition. What I love about Apley Towers: The Lost Kodas is that it’s not Kaela or Trixie that are participating, but the younger girls they’ve been coaching. This I adore. It speaks volumes about the kind of writer Myra King is and I adored this big-hearted and altruistic approach. That’s what makes the series for me; it has a sense of love and optimism.

I’d like to leave you to discover more for yourself, as I’m conscious that in regards to Kaela and Trixie’s development, you will much prefer taking it at the author’s pace. I’m looking forward to finding out more about them in books two and three (Made Powerful and Siren’s Song) as well as getting to know the horses better too.

Apley Towers: The Lost Kodas is a refreshing take on one of my favourite genres and a firm recommendation for pony mad kids.

 

Big thanks to Sweet Cherry Publishing for sending me this lovely series.


Spangles McNasty & the Fish of Gold by Steve Webb

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Illustrated by Chris Mould

spangles done

” Spangles McNasty was nasty to everyone and everything, everywhere, all of the time.

He had a heart as cold as a box of fish fingers in a supermarket freezer, a brain brimming with badness and a head bristling with baldness.

There was only one thing Spangles liked more than being nasty, and that was collecting spangly things: shiny, sparkly, glittery, spangly things.

Of course, when he said collecting, he meant ‘taking without asking or paying’, or as everyone else calls it, stealing.”

Seaside Silliness

It’s the first day of summer, so let’s take a little holiday away from all the blooming rain. Spangles McNasty and the Fish of Gold, suitable for children aged 7 years plus, is just the thing to transport you there, with its 270 pages of seaside silliness. Loaded to the gills (sorry) with Chris Mould’s terrific comic illustrations and packed full of irresistibly silly characters, Spangles McNasty and the Fish of Gold is a welcome new addition to the world of funny books.

Spangles himself is both wonderfully naughty and a bit, shall we say, daft. We  learn that he is labouring under the misapprehension that goldfish grow to the size of whales and are made of solid gold. Seeing this as an excellent opportunity to get rich quick, Spangles is plotting to steal all the goldfish he can get his thieving hands on with the help of accomplice Sausage-face Pete.

This inevitably brings them both to the local funfair, where the ancient and pink haired Wendy McKenzie has been offering goldfish as prizes for pretty much ever. One thing’s for sure though: young Freddie Taylor’s not going to be letting them get away with stealing from Wendy. He’s visiting the fair solely (sorry again) to win a goldfish as his mum’s told him that proving he can care for a fish is the only thing standing between him and getting a pet dog. When all the fish go missing, Freddie’s determined to get to the bottom of it.

Will Spangles and Sausage-face Pete be satisfied though with ‘collecting’ Wendy’s goldfish or will they find even bigger fish to fry?

Milligan

Spangles McNasty and the Fish of Gold is one of those wonderful books that only kids and true fans of Spike Milligan will get fully. Children and enlightened adults alike can look forward to reading such corkers as

  • “Camper vans are, of course, little completely mobile homes (like tortoises, but faster and with more seat belts).”
  • “Fog is a curious business. Some people say it’s thick clouds that don’t know where the sky is. Other people say it’s just clouds that are scared of heights.”
  • “‘Are you the ghost of the apple pie?’ she asked. ‘No, Marjory, it’s me, Mayor Jackson.”

Hooked

Plus, it’s worth its weight in gold (sorry again) for the good work it’ll do in bringing reading joy to gazillions of new converts. Reluctant and not so confident readers are going to love it because it’s been made nice and easy to read, with bite sized chunks of text interspersed with illustrations. You can also enjoy reading it without needing to understand every single word because funny books break down these boundaries. Basically, there’s plenty here to entertain everyone, regardless of ability.

I’d recommend it to any Year Three teacher looking to engage new independent readers, but equally I’d also happily plant it in the hands of a bright Year Five boy and be confident that he’ll not only enjoy it but will be passing it on to his friends too.

Spangles McNasty and the Fish of Gold is a total crowd pleaser and therefore needs to be available in schools and libraries everywhere right now. I’m hooked*.

spangles inside

Big thanks to Andersen Press for sending me this glorious copy.

*Sorry again. I do realise these fish puns are wearing a bit fin. I’ll stop now, but if you think of any more, do let minnow.