Barrington Stoke, the dyslexia friendly publisher have been very busy in recent months. Not only have they launched a new series for younger children called, Picture Squirrels, but they have also introduced a new range of colour illustrated readers for older children called Conkers. You can read their blog post about the aims behind the Conkers range here.
The books are aimed to children aged eight to ten, and have all the quality and attention to detail you come to expect from Barrington Stoke. Like the Little Gems, they are somewhat different in their physical appearance to regular children’s books. In this case, they are slightly wider than the average novel, which gives more space on the page for the dyslexia friendly text layout and really generous design and glorious illustrations.
Like Little Gems, the stories have chapters, readable, achievable chapters for children who might well be put off by great, swathes of text and chapters that go on for days. The paperback Conkers do not have a bookmark ribbon like their hardback counterparts, but you still get the generous flaps at the front and back covers which make it easy to save your place.
I was sent two books to review, the first of which is The Seal’s Fate by Eoin Colfer. Colfer is probably best known for his Artemis Fowl series, which I have read and thoroughly enjoyed. He has also ventured into shorter stories for transitional readers such as The Legend Of Spud Murphy, which is a favourite with my children.
This is quite different in style to his usual fare.
This tells the story of Bobby Parrish, a young boy who is spending his school summer holidays on his dad’s fishing boat. Fishing is the life blood of the village, and the villagers are threatened by a proliferation of seals along the shore, who are ruining their nets and eating the fish they need. Bobby’s dad sets a price on the heads of the seals, offering to pay Bobby and the other boys for every seal flipper they bring him.
Bobby wants desperately to be accepted by his friends and rewarded and respected by his father, but he really struggles with the idea of killing a seal.
One day all his resolution is put to the test when he comes across a seal pup on the beach. What will Bobby do?
This is an old fashioned story about an old fashioned way of life. It is based on stories his father told him about a summer he spent with his father when he was a boy himself.
It asks lots of difficult questions, not all of which it answers. It is one of the things I really liked about the book. It is a demanding read. It may seem simplistic at first, but just because there aren’t screeds of text and complex language doesn’t mean that it isn’t a powerful story that really makes you think. It would make an excellent topic for discussion in an upper Key Stage Two classroom in my opinion, and as a reading book it would definitely give food for thought.
The illustrations by Victor Ambrus, probably best know for his work on Channel Four’s Time Team, are perfect for this story. They are detailed, subtle and intricate. They show an old way of life beautifully, and he has a real feel for depicting the natural world. A beautifully presented, well thought out book ideal for the recommended age range, and although of interest to both boys and girls, this would be a fantastic book for the reluctant boy reader to get his teeth into.
You can read a chapter of the book here.