Barrington Stoke Solos: Bighead by Vince Cross, Take Two by Jo Cotterill, Bomb by Jim Eldridge and The After School Club by Alison Davies

Over Christmas I read four relatively new books in Barrington Stoke's Solo range. I thought I'd write them up in one go here. Solos are described as 'short, whole novels that offer an easier introduction to real books'. They have a large difference between Reading Age (6.5 years) and Interest Age (11+).

Bighead by Vince Cross
Andy's in a wheelchair after an accident, his Dad has walked out and his Mum's struggling to find direction in her life. Understandably Andy has poor self-esteem, but the band he forms with is friends gives him the inspiration he needs. Bighead, the new band's name, reflects this new found confidence. The band can't fail on their path to stardom, and even Andy's Mum sorts herself out. Bighead is quite a cheesy story, but you can't help but smile.

Take Two by Jo Cotterill
I am afraid to say it, Take Two is aimed purely at a female audience, it includes a lot of pink, stars, dresses and glitter. It explains how Carla and Lily get their own back on the sneaky, arrogant Max. The girls see through him straight away, "he's too up himself", and find a great way to embarrass him. Take Two mixes some British, American and Japanese institutions: rugby, school proms and manga pictures. The blurb on the back tells you all you need to know; One prom + One hot boy + Two best friends = A lot of trouble!

Bomb by Jim Eldridge
I really like the way Bomb is presented; dramatic pictures, lots of talk of MI5 an secret reports. It makes the story of a bomb in a school come to life. Rob is the bomb disposal expert, he is only 19, but he's the best. But he is troubled because his best mate was killed by a terrorist bomb like the one he must face. He has 45 minutes to diffuse the bomb, this is about how much time it might take to read, so it feels like it is in real time, which is a neat trick. It ends with a classic decision of which coloured wire to cut, I won't spoil it for you!

The After School Club by Alison Davies
The pictures and words in The After School Club seem to be telling different stories. Without the pictures it would be  a scary horror story about a secret club. But the images are done in a jokey cartoon way, which reduces the impact of the spookiness. Sam can't resist when Lena, the coolest girl at school asks him to join the 'Hairy Bikers' gang. Inevitably things do not go as he hoped and he has a series of run-ins with the other gang members and school bullies. The big revelation is perhaps easy to spot coming, but it is still a fun read. I would have liked the pictures to been as unsettling as the text though.

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