Johnny Delgado by Kevin Brooks - Barrington Stoke Book 8

I was really impressed by Johnny Delgado, it is a little longer than the other Barrington Stoke books I have read so far this year, but packs a lot in. The sentences, paragraphs and dialogue are short and snappy. This shows the influence of classic thriller writers; the introduction mentions Raymond Chandler, and I also recognise a bit of James Ellroy. But unlike these heavy American authors, here the characters and situations are very close-to-home on a South London estate.

I really like the central character, wannabe PI Johnny Delgado, he is deeply naive, but very endearing. All the brains, muscle and morals come from his friends on the estate. But his heart is very much in the right place.

It is a true thriller with a lot of action, and it was interesting to re-read with hindsight. The world of gangs and violence indicates an older audience, and there is a bit of bad language, but this is also what makes it an exciting read.

It also has a nice cliff-hanger ending, setting up a sequel, Like Father, Like Son, that I will definitely be checking out.


Unexpected First Word

I know it is not cool to go on about how wonderful your own kids are, but I do have a reading related bit of news about my daughter, Rose.

Over half term, she said her first word:


I was so proud, what a great first word. It was inspired by a book we got out of the library,
Baby Baboon by Mwenye Hadithi (Author) and Adrienne Kennaway (Illustrator). It is not a book we looked at any more than any other, but something obviously made a strong impression.

I'm am now trying her on gibbon, bonobo and orangutan!


Luck by Alison Prince - Barrington Stoke Book 7

The title, cover and blurb do not give much away about this book. But the first line gives you a big clue as to the sort of read it is going to be; "My mum is a slag."

As well as domestic drama, Luck deals with gangs, robbery and car accidents, and also fits in sub-plots on immigration, bereavement and broken homes. It does all this in 53 short pages, many of which have illustrations. Amazing.

The illustrations by Patrick Morgan are worth a mention, they complement the hard-edged writing perfectly, and there is a breath-taking double page spread that works brilliantly.

A short, but great book, for older readers, about not blaming your luck when things go wrong; "It wasn't bad luck. It was stupid."


Competition Time

I have spotted a few competitions to try:

Bounce into Books

We have just missed the week long Bounce into Books festival (in particular I missed Tommy Donbavand at my local library), but there is still time to enter their competition. They are looking for the most peculiar facts about your neighbourhood to be included in a new book Yorkshire: A Very Peculiar History. Sounds like fun, closing date is 28 March 2010.

Harriet Goodwin

Next, do you like the idea of appearing as a character in a book, well author Harriet Goodwin is offering the chance to be in her next book, The Extraordinary Legacy of Elvira Phoenix. A great opportunity, closing date is 31 March 2010

Sheffield Libraries Readers Card

Finally, and this is more for older readers, Sheffield Libraries' new reader’s card scheme lets you get free coffee, but also the opportunity to win prizes. It is a pilot scheme running up until 18 April 2010, which I presume is the closing date.


Game Boy by Alan Durant - Barrington Stoke Book 6

Game Boy was recommended to me by a Volunteer Reading Mentor as a good choice for reading partnerships, and it's hard to disagree.

I think the reason it works well is that, rather than chapters, the book has levels just like a computer game. Sometime it is hard to read a book over a period of weeks, as happens with our reading partnerships, but with Game Boy it would be fine. The plot can be recapped in seconds and off you go on another exciting level.

Books as computer games is quite a trend at the moment; fast-paced episodic adventures to keep readers interested with lots of potential for sequels. I read a review of The Enemy that made this link, and I think the Maximum Ride books follow the same pattern. Game Boy was ahead of the curve, written in 2002, with two sequels, Game Boy Reloaded and Game Boy Galactic coming more recently.


Blade by Chris Powling - Barrington Stoke Book 5

Blade was published in 2005 but seems incredibly relevant today with so many tales of knife crime in the press. The Barrington Stoke website, gives the Interest Age for this book as 12+, and although it could be read by younger children the subject matter feels very edgy.

It's a short book; some pages only have a few one-sentence paragraphs. This can look like poetry, but, in fact, just keeps the story moving at a very quick pace.

The morals and behaviour of the heroes are not clear-cut. This gives lots of potential for discussing how to deal with the situations encountered, and makes it a great book to read in a partnership.