Barrington Stoke never fails to impress me. As a publishing house it is constant and consistent in its efforts to make great stories available to as many readers as possible. It is known as the publisher for books supporting children and young people with dyslexia. In my day job managing library services for this group, Barrington Stoke is my first thought when asked by anxious parents or teachers what I can suggest. And the people who work for the company – both the permanent staff and their contracted authors – are passionate about what they produce.
Therefore I am always eager to receive review copies of what they produce. And in this they never let me down either! Currently I have four of their titles on my desk. Two, although they have a reading age of eight, are very definitely teenage books. They are True Sisters by Keren David and Firebird by Elizabeth Wein.
I met Keren a few years ago at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. In preparation I read her books for the first time and enjoyed them. So when I saw True Sisters I was very happy to have something else by her to read. It’s Ruby’s story: of a complicated family set-up, an ever-changing household of foster siblings, a passion for performance and a secret hidden even from herself. And it’s Clara’s story: of a troubled family, an unawareness of the world, fear and bewilderment and an entirely new way of living. Somehow the girls each find a path through their lives, stumbling though it maybe and by the end of the book both feel there is hope in their lives.
I should have met Elizabeth two years ago at Edinburgh but instead I was flirting with death back home in Moray. I was gutted to miss chairing her event. In preparation I had traumatised myself reading The Pearl Thief and Codename Verity, both of which affected me deeply. Firebird is completely different but no less powerful It is Nastia’s story, the story of a young woman at war in a man’s world, a pilot fighting for the Motherland, the daughter of revolutionary parents. It is also the story of a truth long hidden and its far-reaching consequences.
I’m whole-heartedly recommending both of these whether you’re a teenager or adult and whether or not you have any reading difficulties. As you would expect from two such talented writers and a prestigious publisher they are excellent novels and deserve a place on library shelves and in private collections.