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.

The Song of the Nightingale

The Song of the Nightingale
Tanya Landman and Laura Carlin
Walker Books

Based on a creation myth, this fabulous book is a neo pourquoi tale about how the animals got their colours and a feathered creature acquired something very special.

In powerful prose Tanya Landman presents a dramatic unfolding of a spectacular creative enterprise by one named as ‘the painter’.
With the young earth and its flora already rich in colour, she summons all members of the animal kingdom together in their dreary drabness, speedily organises them and then, in a determined manner (sleeves rolled up), she opens her paintbox. Starting with the fiddly wrigglers, sets about adding colour to each and every creature – small and great.

Enter illustrator Laura Carlin to wield her own paintbrush bestowing with sweeps, daubs, splashes and spatters upon the grey creatures their rich array of tints and tones until all earth’s fauna have undergone a remarkable transformation. Some such as the mandrill

and the parrots are instrumental in their own colour schemes.

But what of the one that comes after the painter has closed her box for the day? That shy little creature too scared to leave the shadows until nightfall when the painter’s colours are, seemingly all used up – or are they?

With consummate skill Laura captures both the wit and the lyricism of Tanya’s telling; the combination of the two make the book itself such a wonderful work of art. It’s most definitely one to return to over and over wherever it’s read.