Dark Peak / Lightning Strike

These are two additions to Oxford University Press Rollercoasters series published in association with Barrington Stoke designed to build confidence and foster a love of reading in the over 11s less inclined to pick up a book.

Dark Peak
Marcus Sedgwick

Award winning author Marcus Sedgwick has created a gripping amalgam of mystery and mythology (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight particularly) in this first person narrative.

A geography field trip one hot summer includes a visit to Lud’s Church. The pupils are instructed to meet back at a certain time and when that time arrives, everyone is there except Stephen and Stephanie.

Nobody gives credence to Miss Weston’s eight year old daughter who says she saw them being taken away by ‘the little white girl’.

Two of the class members including the narrator Porter are sent off to make a phone call and by the time they return to the group, Stephanie has mysteriously reappeared.

But why the delay in searching for Stephen, a quiet slightly strange individual? And next day back in school, why is nobody mentioning the boy? What has happened to him and will he ever be found?

An utterly enthralling, chilling unputdownable tale that examines notions of consciousness and time, as well as what friendship means.

Lightning Strike
Tanya Landman

With the constant danger of being struck by the dreaded phossy jaw disease like many other people working in the match factory, Eliza the fourteen year old narrator of the story is justifiably angry. Especially since every one of her family works all hours and still they struggle to pay their rent and never have enough to eat. Moreover, with the boss of the factory seldom putting in an appearance, denying the existence of the disease ever affecting his workers, and an unsympathetic foreman, it’s small wonder she’s inclined to rant and rage.

Then one Sunday something happens that changes young Eliza’s life for ever. In the park she hears a ‘posh’ woman making a speech about fairness, social justice and the rights of workers. Thus, much to her parents’ horror, begins her journey as an activist. Now though Eliza has somewhere to channel her anger and her energy.

Although Tanya Landman’s Eliza is a fictional character, her story set in London’s East End in the summer of 1888 is based on fact; and a gripping one it is. Readers will empathise with Eliza, her sister and the other young match factory workers and perhaps be inspired to find out more about the Match Girls’ Strike. That, or become activists for a 21st century cause they believe in: such is the power of this strikingly good story.

Introducing Rollercoasters

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
Anthony McGowan

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.

Rat
Patrice Lawrence

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.