Mini reviews: the Barrington Stoke edition

The amazing squirrels of Barrington Stoke sent me some amazing books recently and I had a lovely time reading them!

For anyone who doesn’t know, Barrington Stoke is a small, independent and award-winning children’s publisher. For over 20 years they’ve been pioneering super-readable, dyslexia-friendly fiction to help every child become a reader. Their books are printed with a specially designed font and are printed on accessible coloured paper. I love their mission statement and I love that there are books for the children who could otherwise find reading a little overwhelming. If you’d like to find out more or check out their amazing collection of books, please check out their website:


The Beast of Harwood Forest – Dan Smith

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When Pete, Nancy and Krish arrive at Heathland Camp for a school trip, they’re in for an adventure – just not the kind they were expecting. Nearby sits the abandoned Harwood Institute. The crumbling buildings are out of bounds but strange screams come from the surrounding forest at night. Mystery shrouds the events that took place at the institute during the war, so Pete and his friends make it their mission to find out the truth. But the forest is hiding a sinister secret, and the trio could be in real danger … Are some mysteries best left undisturbed?

This is the second one in this series by Dan Smith and I really enjoyed the first one, so to get to read the second one was brilliant! I absolutely loved this! Who doesn’t enjoy a good scary story? When Pete, Nancy and Krish go on a residential with school, they decide to snoop through the forest and come across something pretty scary! You wouldn’t find me creeping through the forest at night… I’m definitely not as brave as these guys! Dan Smith has written a proper banger here – my Y6s will love this!

Keeper – Alan Gibbons

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New boy Shane Logan is loud and has a short temper, but on the football field he also turns out to be a talented goalie. In the first match for his new team, Shane delivers a star performance – but he’s not the only one to make an impression. Hanging over him like a shadow is his dad, Mick, who yells orders and insults from the sidelines. What is Mick’s problem? And why does Shane seem scared of him? There’s obviously more going on than Shane wants to talk about, and maybe he’s not as tough as he seems.

This is another absolute gem from Barrington Stoke! Keeper tells the story of Shane, a young lad who just seems so angry with the world… but who is a top notch keeper! Is something going on? Why is he so angry? I loved the interspersed facts about goalies and the history of goalkeeping in this! This has been a big hit with the kids in my class for months and is always off the shelves (my school are a massive football school – we’re only a stone’s throw away from St James’ Park!). I have definitely taught a boy like Shane (avid footballer; a lot going on) and this really made me think of him and helped me see the world through his eyes. I really thought this was brilliant!

Be Nice to Aunt Emma – Anne Fine

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There are many reasons why Tansy dreads Aunt Emma coming to visit. She’s rude, she’s boring, and Tansy has to give up her room so Aunt Emma can sleep there. And every year Dad makes Tansy promise to be nice – even when Aunt Emma is awful. But this year, when Tansy is left alone with Aunt Emma, she decides she’s going to be the nicest she’s every been – so sickly sweet that it’ll drive Aunt Emma crazy! Let the games begin…

This was fun. A great story about being kind with a sense of humour. I enjoyed the relationship between the two characters and how they interacted with each other. I think this would be a great one to have conversations around relationships and expectations of relationships. Some seriousness but with some real fun too! Aunt Emma seems like a wonderful auntie to have!

Tea Party Parade – Nick Sharratt

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Today’s the day – it’s the tea party parade! The kids are in their costumes and the teachers are marching too. Teacups are twirling, cake slices are spinning, and the big finale is going to be the best show of all!

This is a story bursting with loads of rhyme and rhythm that little ones will love listening along to! It’s also a brilliant book to put in a KS1 library area for them to enjoy by themselves – we love building independent readers! Tea Party Parade tells a fun story about a class who make a delicious looking parade! This would be great in KS1 for looking for different word types too.


And that was my whistle stop tour of 4 of my reads from the squirrels at the Stoke!

Have you read any of these?
Have you heard of Barrington Stoke books?
Who would you love to see write a Barrington Stoke book?

A massive thank you to Barrington Stoke for these books!

S x

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