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Stupidly, I thought I had read everything by Andy Stanton, when it turns out that I hadn’t. Sterling and the Canary came into my clutches yesterday and I devoured it.


This is not too difficult if you’re an adult. Stanton’s book are never over long, and this, one of his books for Barrington Stoke, the independent publisher who specialises in books for children with reading difficulties, is much shorter than one of his Mr. Gum books.

It tells the story of a teenage boy called Sterling, who despite having a perfectly good best friend called Dr. Edward MacIntosh, who is a girl, and who loves him, decides that life will not be at all the thing if he cannot have the love of Lizzie Harris, a new girl in school who has hair like rainbows, etc.

Lizzie is not interested in Sterling, despite the fact that he has impressive muscles and is on the football team. She needs him to be good at maths, and capital cities. Sterling is good at none of these things, and refuses to accept Dr. Edward MacIntosh’s help when she offers, selflessly to support him.

Luckily for Sterling, he finds a talking canary who is a whiz at both maths and capital cities. Sterling is convinced that this lucky discovery will help the path of true love run smoothly.

Little does he know.

This is a fairly traditional plot, but made rather wonderful by Stanton’s stupendous way with language and his finely honed sense of the absurd.

As with all Barrington Stoke publications this is printed in sans serif font, on cream paper, with lots of space on the page, and short chapters, all designed to help the struggling reader progress.  The production quality is high, and the publisher gets my highest praise for producing books with authors that children actually know and whose work they genuinely want to read.

This is a perfect transition book for children aged 6-10. It would work well as a high interest/low ability reading book for upper KS2 and above children and would work well for both boys and girls as the romance element of the book is not really romantic at all and totally played for laughs.