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The Beautiful Game


 Jon Blake’s The Beautiful Game has an older protagonist, a teenager who is good at snooker. The book is just 79  pages long,  and the text, although blocked implying it is for a fluent reader, is double-spaced and in a child-friendly font. The chapters are short. The book has a decent spine. Only those interested in snooker would choose it. It contains a first person narrative which would suit the teen reader. This is high-low - a simple text for the older struggling reader.    

There is tension right from the beginning. By the end of the first chapter - just four and half pages long the protagonist knows  “I’m going to get my arse kicked by Creeping Death” (9). By the end of Chapter 3 Jamie’s estranged father has turned up at the family home and upset his mother.

Gradually, Jamie’s dad creeps back into their lives. He gets Jamie a new cue. Jamie has to hide this from his mother but she does find it eventually. Do we trust Jamie’s father? He turns up one day with a bruise on his cheek. He has been in a fight with another man who thought that he was looking at his wife.    

After Jamie’s mother has found the new cue and is not happy about it. Jamie runs away form home and joins his dad. However what he finds is not pleasant: “there is a stink of aftershave,stale beer and rotten food. The sides are chock-a-block with pizza boxes, paper plates and empty cans of lager” (47). 

Later, Jamie clears the place up and is pleased with himself (56-57). But it is all spoilt when his father brings his mates home and an orgy takes place (58).

His father lets him down. Yet Jamie manages to pull himself together enough to win the big game, defeating Creeping Death. He realises that his mother was right all along. He walks away from the beautiful game. 

This story does indeed have plenty of negatives but the ending is completely upbeat and will appeal to the mature reader.              


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Hilary McKay’s Fairy Tales

2017, fluent reader, Key Stage 2, ages 9-11, upper primary
Here are some familiar fairy stories though the titles may fool you: Rapunzel becomes The Tower and the Bird, Rumpelstiltskin becomesStraw into Gold, and Cinderella is Roses Around the Palace. We are also offered some rather interesting details about some well-known stories. The mayor of the town with the rats tells us how the children who replaced the lost ones were much more amenable than the ones who were piped away. A young girl has a sliver of the looking-glass that once belonged to a wicked queen.Whilst the girl has chickenpox her grandmother tells her Snow White’s story. It is true she assures her granddaughter. How does she know? Because she is Snow White. Hansel and Gretel tell the story of what they did in their holidays.
There is perhaps an assumption that the reader will be familiar with the original stories. Certainly they are amusing and not just for the young reader.Adults can enjoy them too. 
This is quite a …