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I got a most exciting parcel from Barrington Stoke, my favourite children’s publisher last week. In it was a copy of one of their latest Little Gem titles, Billy Button: Telegram Boy, written by award winning novelist Sally Nicholls and illustrated by Sheena Dempsey.


Regular readers will know how much I rate both Barrington Stoke and their Little Gems collection. Each book is perfectly sized for small hands to hold, with top quality production values meaning each book is a real pleasure to own. As usual it employs Barrington Stokes signature font, making the books more dyslexia friendly. The usual cream rather than white pages, which also help children with reading difficulties to focus better, and plenty of space around the text, and not too many words on the page, all help to make this book easier for the independent reader.

The story is charming. Billy lives with his mum and dad who run the village shop and post office. The story is set in the time of the telegram, which Nicholls explains to the modern reader without managing to be either patronising or boring. Billy dreams of having the important job of delivering the telegrams, and when the regular telegram boy gets sick, there isn’t anyone but Billy to hold the fort.

Billy’s dad teaches him what to do, and Billy learns the rules. The story unfolds as Billy discovers, through his telegram delivery, an unlikely love story in the village and helps to set the path of true love running smoothly. Through this, Billy also learns when to break the rules for the greater good.

There are moments of lovely humour, underscored by the delightful illustrations of Sheena Dempsey and the text and pictures marry together beautifully to make this a really gorgeous little tale. It’s probably more for girls than for boys, but the job of the telegram boy and the humour lift it out of run of the mill romantic stories and might well achieve the crossover enough to interest boy readers too.

The book is recommended for child readers aged 5-8. It would also be a lovely story to share at bedtime with younger readers.  You can check out the first chapter on the website.

I think these Little Gem books would make such beautiful gifts if you’re looking for a present for a book mad child. This book has such lovely details that really make it stand out from the usual fare. The end papers are illustrated with puzzles for the reader, and there is the usual fold out flap to use as an integral book mark. Each section of the story is divided into chapters to make the story more ‘grown up’ while still keeping the picture book qualities that transitional readers love.