These three books are the first of a series from Oxford University Press called Rollercoasters developed in association with Barrington Stoke. With their highly engaging themes intended to build reading confidence and foster a love of reading, they all use the Barrington Stoke ‘dyslexia friendly font’ and are aimed at readers from around eleven. Each includes an author spotlight, some background information relevant to the story and more.
I Am the Minotaur
Carnegie prize winning Anthony McGowan’s perceptive story focuses on fourteen year old Matthew, referred to as Stinky Mog, who is the narrator.
Matthew does his level best to care for his mum who is battling depression, while trying equally hard to fit in at school without being noticed especially by those types likely to make him the target of their bullying. Not an easy task when he frequently turns up looking decidedly dishevelled in his ragged uniform.
Enter Ari, a beautiful girl who totally captivates Matthew – ‘I longed and yearned for Ari’ he tells readers describing his feelings for her as ‘warm and golden’.
Shortly after her birthday, her brand new bike is stolen and Matthew decides on a plan to get it back from the thieves and make Ari happy as a consequence.. He heads off to the public library to start an internet search.
Next day off he goes to a rendezvous: can he pull off his bike rescue? If so, can it change the course of his life?
With themes of bullying, parental depression and poverty, this short novel packs a powerful punch. It’s great to see that for the narrator, the school library with its kindly librarian is a place he feels safe.
Edgar & Adolf
Phil Earle and Michael Wagg
Whether or not you are a soccer fan (and I’m anything but) this story based on real characters – at the heart of which is friendship – will surely move you. It certainly did me.
The book begins in 1983 in a village in Scotland with seventeen year old Adi.
Adi has come from Hamburg, Germany, with something he has inherited and is on a special mission: to find a man named Edgar Kail and return to him what is rightfully his – a special football badge that the now frail old man hasn’t set eyes on for over forty years. If he succeeds Adi will have fulfilled his grandfather’s final wish to reunite the erstwhile England footballer with his prized possession.
And succeed he does but that is only the start of the tale for it’s one that spans some sixty years as Adi and Edgar share memories, press cuttings, letters and more relating to Edgar and the lad’s grandfather Adolf Jäger.
According to the authors’ notes at the back of the book, Edgar Kail and Adolf Jäger having played for their clubs before WW2 – Dulwich Hamlet and Altona 93 – remain folk heroes celebrated by fans (including Phil and Michael) to this day. Amazing.
If you’ve read the author’s YA book Orangeboy, then you’ll know how utterly compelling her writing is.
As the story opens, Al is living in a flat with his mum who is attempting to stay on the straight and narrow after spending time in prison. Partly as a result of having moved several times already, Al has only. two friends, his pet rats Vulture and Venom, and he has to keep them secret from the council.
Things are tough as Al’s mum out of prison on licence, has very little money and no job. Consequently it’s not long before she shoplifts from the local supermarket and after an incident that involves Mr Brayer who lives in a flat below, is back in prison.
Al’s certain that it’s Mr Brayer’s fault and decides to get his revenge whatever anybody else says.
The entire cast of characters and the connectedness between them is interesting especially Al’s Gran and his nineteen year old sister Plum, a college student and carer, who is called on to stay with him when his mum goes back to prison. We also discover something of Mt Brayer’s back story which comes as a surprise to Al and I suspect to readers.
Gripping and thought-provoking, this should certainly appeal to older, under confident readers.