The House of Clouds by Lisa Thompson

Lisa Thompson is one of my favourite authors. She is a marvellous storyteller and her characters always stick with me. I often recommend her books, especially The Goldfish Boy, to teachers, either as read alouds or as class sets. Lisa is one of the amazing line-up of authors who write for Barrington Stoke, the specialists in fiction for dyslexic readers. Lisa’s latest book with Barrington Stoke, The House of Clouds, has just been released. The House of Clouds packs the same emotional punch as her longer novels, but is the perfect length for struggling or dyslexic readers.

Tabby is in a bad mood. She is annoyed that her best friend is now hanging out with someone else and that her grandad has come to stay. Grandad is struggling to cope by himself so he has been moved in, taking over the dining room space. Grandad is always telling the same silly and annoying stories and he has brought his smelly dog Buster with him, who Tabby now has to walk every day. Her walks leave her even more annoyed when she sees her ex-best friend having fun with another girl. Then there is Alex, a boy from school, who she seems to keep bumping in to. On one walk around the bay Tabby discovers an unusual hilltop house, called the House of Clouds. The place looks abandoned but something strange catches her eye. When Tabby asks her grandfather about the house she discovers that her grandfather has a connection to the place and the woman who used to live there. Could it be that her grandfather’s magical tale is true? Before Tabby is able to find out more, tragedy strikes and she must return to the House of Clouds to discover the truth.

The House of Clouds is a heart-wrenching, beautiful story about grief and believing in the impossible. It’s a story of family, friendship and magic. At just under 100 pages this is a perfectly-formed story with depth of character and emotion. Not only does this make the book perfect for struggling readers or dyslexic readers, it is also perfect as a read aloud for Years 5-8. Teachers are often looking for short but engaging read alouds and The House of Clouds fits the bill perfectly. Tabby is a really interesting character who is trying to process everything that is happening with her friends and family, but the tragedy in her family and the search for answers changes her perspective. She has changed quite a bit by the end of the story.

The mixture of issues facing her characters and a hint of something magical or mysterious is what I love the most about Lisa’s stories. I really enjoyed the mystery of the House of Clouds and the connection that it provided Tabby with her grandfather. Who hasn’t looked at cloud shapes in the sky and wondered how they became that shape?

The House of Clouds is another brilliant book from Barrington Stoke (and Lisa’s second book with them). All school libraries should have a selection of these books in their collection, to recommend for struggling readers and dyslexic readers, but also to anyone who wants a really great short book.

The Invasion of Crooked Oak by Dan Smith

Readers of all ages and abilities should be able to find a good spooky story to read. Dan Smith’s new story, The Invasion of Crooked Oak, has just been published by Barrington Stoke, and it’s the perfect spooky story for reluctant, struggling or dyslexic readers.

Pete and Krish love reading about weird things happening around the world on their favourite website, The Mystery Shed. They never thought that something weird would happen in their boring town though. When their friend Nancy’s parents start acting strangely (dead eyes, talking with no emotion and keeping the curtains closed) Pete and Krish think it’s nothing at first. Then others in their town start acting strangely too and the whole town just seems too quiet. The friends follow Nancy’s parents to Carpenter’s Field and the fracking site that operated there until recently. It’s here that the friends make a disturbing discovery. If they don’t get to their families in time they too will be transformed and life will never be the same again.

The Invasion of Crooked Oak is a fast-paced, creepy supernatural thriller that is absolutely brilliant. Dan brings in all those aspects of horror and sci-fi and creates an accessible story for dyslexic readers that will hook in the most reluctant or struggling reader too. Avid readers will love the story too as it is short but really engaging. It will especially appeal to those older primary kids and teens who are fans of Stranger Things as it has a similar vibe.

Although the thrills and chills are the main appeal of the story there is an environmental aspect too. Carpenter’s Field, where the main characters played together when they were younger has become a fracking site (a controversial issue around the world and certainly in their small town). Pumping chemicals into the ground will have long term effects on the area but it has also unleashed an unknown entity.

The Invasion of Crooked Oak is a book to hunt down and recommend to kids, especially with Halloween just around the corner.

Brilliant new books from Barrington Stoke

Barrington Stoke are one of the best publishers around. Not only do they publish dyslexia friendly books for kids and teens, they also ensure that these stories are written by some of the best authors for young people. Authors like Lisa Thompson, Laura James, Anthony McGowan and Meg Rosoff write short, engaging stories that are perfect for reluctant readers and readers with dyslexia. I’m a huge fan of their books and I read and recommended as many of them as I can. Anthony McGowan’s Lark, which won the 2020 Carnegie Medal is published by Barrington Stoke so they’re also an award winning publisher.

Barrington Stoke have an amazing line up of books coming in August and September. Their books are distributed here in NZ and Australia through Allen and Unwin so are available through bookshops and library suppliers. You can read about the upcoming releases below.

AFTER THE WAR: FROM AUSCHWITZ TO AMBLESIDE. By Tom Palmer, cover art by Violet Tobacco. Publishing: 6th August. For: 9 years+


Summer 1945. The Second World War is finally over and Yossi, Leo and Mordecai are among three hundred children who arrive in the English Lake District. Having survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, they’ve finally reached a place of safety and peace, where they can hopefully begin to recover. But Yossi is haunted by thoughts of his missing father and disturbed by terrible nightmares. As he waits desperately for news from home, he fears that Mordecai and Leo – the closest thing to family he has left – will move on without him. Will life by the beautiful Lake Windermere be enough to bring hope back into all their lives?
A deeply moving and beautifully told novel of friendship and belonging, inspired by the incredible true story of the Windermere Boys.

SEQUIN AND STITCH.
Laura Dockrill, illustrations by Sara Ogilvie.
For: 8 years+.
Publishing: 6th August

Acclaimed creator Laura Dockrill sews together family, imagination and heart in this lyrical and completely unique Barrington Stoke debut.
Sequin’s mum is a talented seamstress and their little flat is overflowing with beautiful silks, fabrics, buttons and beads. It’s a sparkling sanctuary, like a princess’s wardrobe. While Mum works at her sewing machine late into the night, Sequin takes care of her baby brother, Stitch, and dreams of a place in the spotlight for her brilliant mum. But when tragedy strikes, their shimmering world disintegrates and Sequin is forced to confront the biggest loss of all …

JUST ANOTHER LITTLE LIE. Eve Ainsworth. For: 12 years+. Publishing: 6th August


It’s just a little blip. Violet’s mum hasn’t been herself for a while. A few too many glasses of wine in the evening. Mornings when she can’t get out of bed. Now Violet’s the one looking after her little brother and looking out for empty bottles in Mum’s bag. But it’s just another little blip. Mum will be fine again soon. She has to be … How long do blips last for?
Award-winning author Eve Ainsworth returns with a stark, honest and deeply moving novella exploring the difficult subject of alcohol addiction.

WUTHERING HEIGHTS: A RETELLING. Tanya Landman, cover art by Helen Crawford-White. For: 12 years+. Publishing: 6th August


Carnegie Medal-winning author Tanya Landman reignites another beloved Brontë classic in a phenomenal retelling, accessible to all readers.
The night that Heathcliff, an unkempt orphan, arrives at the Heights, Cathy’s life will change for ever … but theirs will not be a happy love story. From a harsh childhood to a foolish marriage, a troubled path of pain and punishment lies ahead. Yet no matter how they suffer, they cannot stay apart – for whatever souls are made of, Cathy’s and Heathcliff’s are the same. After all these years, will Cathy’s ghost find the peace that life denied her?

THE HOUSE OF CLOUDS. Lisa Thompson, illustrations by Alice McKinley. For: 8 years+. Publishing: 3rd September


Tabby’s fed up. Fed up with losing her best friend and fed up that Grandad has come to stay. Grandad’s always telling the same old silly, made-up stories. And now Tabby has to walk his smelly dog Buster every day after school. When one of Tabby’s walks takes her to a lonely hilltop house she spots something strange going on. So strange she can’t help but mention it to Grandad. Of course he tells her another fantastical story but when tragedy strikes, Tabby’s left wondering if Grandad’s impossible tale could be true?
From the Blue Peter shortlisted author of Owen and the Soldier.

THE INVASION OF CROOKED OAK. Dan Smith, illustrations by Chris King. For: 8 years+. Publishing: 3rd September


Stranger Things meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers in this thrilling sci-fi adventure with an environmental twist.
Nancy’s parents are acting weird. Their eyes are blank, they won’t eat – it’s like they’re no longer themselves. Pete and Krish are obsessed with unexplained phenomena and when they offer to help Nancy investigate, they’re sure they can crack the case. But the deeper the trio dig, the darker the mystery gets … Crooked Oak is under attack from a dangerous foe, and they’re the only ones who can stop it.

THE PECULIAR THING WITH THE PEA. Kaye Umansky, illustrations by Claire Powell. For: 8 years+. Publishing: 3rd September


Prince Pete isn’t ready for marriage – he’s only eleven! And this peculiar business with the pea is the daftest thing he’s ever heard. Mother reckons she can find him the perfect royal bride and thinks the pea is the one true test. But when scruffy-looking Patsy comes along, claiming to be a princess, Mother’s careful scheming quickly turns to soup.
A laugh-out-loud retelling of The Princess and the Pea like you’ve never heard it before!

NOODLE THE DOODLE. Jonathan Meres, illustrations by Katy Halford. For: 8 years+. Publishing: 3rd September


Noodle the Doodle, an adorable rescue pup, is joining class and he even gets to come on the school trip! But while Noodle’s settled into being a class helper, and really loves being around all the pupils, taking on a school trip to the beach is a whole different ball game … Can noodle stay on his best behaviour or is this school trip about to take a turn for the chaotic?

Lark by Anthony McGowan

I can absolutely see why Lark won the Carnegie Medal. It is a perfect novella that packs an emotional punch and keeps you on the edge of your seat. By the end of the story I felt like I knew Kenny and Nicky intimately.

Lark is the story of the boys’ visit to the moors which becomes a life-changing moment. What starts out as a ‘lark’ or a bit of fun soon turns in to a fight for survival. A blizzard closes in and both boys and their dog are ill-prepared for such conditions. Just when things couldn’t possibly get worse they do and you don’t know if they will make it home again.

Published by Barrington Stoke the book is dyslexia friendly so the chapters (and the book itself) are short. I think it would be perfect for those Year 7-9 boys who are reluctant readers