I’m aware that here on Making Them Readers, we have a lot of reviews of books for young children and a lot of reviews for books for teenagers, but what about books for those children who fall into the middle between the two?
I’ve picked a few books out of our local library, and will be posting reviews of them over the coming weeks.
It can be hard, when a child transitions from picture books, to find something that matches their reading ability with their interest and age, and I am hoping I can find and share some books that will work well for just these children.
My first choice was the curiously named; The Geek, The Greek and The Pimpernel by author Will Gatti.
It is the story of Michael Patroclus, an English boy with Greek parents, who goes to Staleways school, a nest of bullies and evil teachers. Michael has a series of rules he lives by in order to try and survive relatively unscathed at school. Even so, he has not escaped the attention of the bullies entirely, and he dreads going to school every morning.
One one particular morning, when Michael has fallen foul of the leader of the bin gang, Jaco, he is approached by a curious looking girl, Minou, who he nick names The Geek.
The Geek is new. She hasn’t learned that the safest way to survive at school is to keep your head down. The Geek is angry at the bullying in school and tries to team up with Michael and change things. Michael is reluctant at first, but then the arrival of another new boy, Percy Blake, changes everything.
Percy’s arrival heralds the beginning of a series of events that see the tables turn on the bullies, and more importantly, the evil head Sir Pent. Could Percy be the mysterious Pimpernel, who seems to be intent on righting wrongs and seeing Sir Pent get his just desserts?
Loosely based on the Scarlet Pimpernel stories I loved as a child, this is a great adventure story in which the underdogs take control and the bullies take a beating. It is adventurous, funny and anarchic, and I think children between the ages of about 7 and 12 will love this.
The chapters are short enough to be manageable for a newly confident reader, and the fast paced story really pulls the reader along. There’s a nice balance of mystery and humour and the characters are well drawn and easy to relate to. I suspect it may appeal slightly more to boys than girls, but Minou is a strong and capable character who is able to fend for herself and has an equal share of adventure to the boy characters, although the majority of the characters are boys.
It will appeal to every child who has ever been bullied and dreamed of rising up against their oppressors, and every child who has ever dreamed of getting one over on a teacher they particularly dislike. It has lots of gadgets and gizmos, tricks and ideas for the prankster in everyone.
A very enjoyable read.