In her helpful guide to nurturing readers, The Book Whisperer, teacher Donalyn Miller prefers the term ‘dormant readers’ to the more widely used ‘reluctant readers’ arguing that these are children who have not yet found the right book to hook them into the reading habit. Barrington Stoke have for more than twenty years been working to help these dormant readers find that special book. Their editing process ensures that the books they publish are more accessible, presented in a special super readable font and on cream paper to reduce glare. But they know that what really hooks children is a good story. These two books, published on 3rd September, although different in themes and content are both good stories that will encourage more children to see that reading for pleasure is for them too.
Noodle the Doodle by Jonathan Meres illustrated by Katy Halford
As a school librarian I was frequently asked by children to show them where they could find ‘the funny books’ and Noodle the Doodle would definitely be on the funny shelf. This has huge child appeal. Jonathan Meres has brought a typical primary school classroom to life in this happy story and there is a great deal in this adventure that would be reassuringly familiar to young readers.
When Mr Reed tells the children that they have a new member of the class starting that day none of them expected him to have four legs, a noisy bark and a shaggy coat! However Noodle the dog quickly makes himself at home, listening when the children read him stories and ‘helping’ to deliver messages to other classes. When the class go on their trip to the seaside of course Noodle must go with them, even if this may have more chaotic results than anyone expected.
Jonathan Meres has taken care to ensure that young readers will find someone with whom to identify in this story. The class is made up various diverse types such as the little girl with all the answers and an impressive general knowledge, the class clown who wants to make his friends laugh, the shy child who gains confidence reading aloud to Noodle and, importantly, a boy who worries and is wary of dogs. The teacher is kind and comforting and all the mayhem is resolved in a happy ending that leaves the way clear for there to be more adventures with Noodle. A really lovely story to recommend to newly independent young readers exploring their personal reading tastes, with entertaining illustrations by Katy Halford completing the appealing package. There is a downloadable Doodle activity sheet available here.
The House of Clouds by Lisa Thompson with illustrations by Alice McKinley
Lisa Thompson’s ability to both capture and carefully convey children’s emotions is displayed in this thoughtful and tender story about family relationships and coping with loss. A tale in which love, friendship and the magical power of imagination are brought together to comfort, reassure and also to encourage us all to stop and take notice of what really matters.
As this story opens Tabby is unhappy. Her best friend has abandoned her and since Grandad has come to live with her family their home life has been disrupted. All the changes made to accommodate an elderly person result in Tabby no longer feeling comfortable in her own home. She struggles with Grandad repeating the same old stories and does not really believe all of them. Worst of all she has to take Grandad’s smelly dog for a walk each day after school. Yet an unplanned visit to a mysterious, old house whilst walking Grandad’s dog followed by tragedy changes Tabby’s views.
This is a lovely story leaving the reader with much to think about. It is an important reminder to cherish those we love, to savour every minute, focus on the world around you rather than the artificial one on social media and to value true friendship. Yet again with these novellas published by Barrington Stoke short in length does not mean brief in impact. Despite dealing with themes of grief and sadness this is not a depressing read for children. Far from it in fact, it highlights the power of friendship and love to make things better and also the possibility that magic does exist if you can learn to trust your imagination.
Thank you very much to Kirstin Lamb and Barrington Stoke for providing my review copies. More excellent books have been produced by this publisher over the summer and a couple that you may have missed are After the War by Tom Palmer and Sequin and Stitch by Laura Dockrill illustrated by Sara Ogilvie and I would highly recommend both of them.