Great sports story for struggling readers: Scrum! by Tom Palmer

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Scrum! by Tom Palmer. Published by Barrington Stoke, 2012. Paperback, 74 pages, ISBN:9781842999448

Barrington Stoke produce high quality, high interest books for struggling readers. They also produce books that are ‘Dyslexia friendly’ – the font, printing style, page color, length of paragraphs and chapters are all designed for successful reading. This one is tagged Interest age 8-12, reading age 8.

Publisher’s synopsis:

One boy, two codes … How will he decide? When Steven’s mother remarries and moves down south, Steven is torn between loyalty to his dad and a relationship with his mum’s new husband. Maybe even worse, he might have to leave his beloved Rugby League behind for a new Rugby Union team.

What do I think about this book?

Confession 1: Although I live in the greatest Rugby Union playing country in the world.. I don’t follow rugby that closely and I certainly have no real idea about the differences between League and Union – however after reading this book I learnt quite a few things about the codes and the differences between the two. Confession 2: I would never normally  choose and read a sports book… but I read this one quite avidly and found the story really moving (I had a little tear at one point when I could sense Steven’s frustration with his Dad and the choices he had to make.) Surely a sign of great writing if all of this comes across in a 75 page short book!

We have recently purchased Tom Palmer’s Football Academy series and will be getting all his other books for our library collection. Tom is a very generous author – he puts a lot of time into promoting reading, please check out his wonderful website – link below!

My thoughts on Barrington Stoke books:

I am so impressed with these publications that all of the copies in my library have been tagged and put into a section of short/easy/fast reads for my struggling readers (both girls and boys) at year 5/6 level, those with dyslexia, as well as the boys that don’t like reading fiction (these boys will try these sorts of books because they aren’t too thick and the size is ‘just right’). Having these books together in one place has been a hit with our special literacy groups as it reduces the angst the students feel when fruitlessly perusing the shelves for something to read. I believe in making things easier for these kids, but am doubly motivated when I can see they are more successful and their level of frustration is substantially reduced.

I had previously written about Gamer by Chris Bradford (also published by Barrington Stoke) – after reading that book and being so impressed with it, I decided I would have to seek out more from this publisher. What I love about these books is that they are really well written and are good stories that kids WANT to read.The high interest topics are age appropriate and importantly the covers look like those of mainstream books, not something that marks the reader out as being in a special needs group. These books are so well done, that readers of average ability, would be happy to read them as a quick read. Barrington Stoke have a wonderful selection of authors writing for them including Michael Morpurgo, Jo Cotterill, Tommy Donvaband, Chris Bradford, Karen McCombie, Jeremy Strong – something for every taste. These books are wonderful for kids wanting to be seen to be reading the same authors as their peers.

There are many sports books recommended for boys, and sports books are highlighted as a hook for reluctant readers. The problem for me is that a lot of these are American and kiwi boys don’t play or understand American Football and Baseball. Basketball is OK – as it’s very universal, as is Football/Soccer. It is great to see a book with Rugby as the theme as many of my students play the sport. I hope Tom will write more like these. If I can get boys reading these sorts of books there is always the opportunity to ladder them onto other great sports fiction, even if it is about baseball (e.g. Mike Lupica) because once they are confidently reading then they will be happier to explore other titles and will be able to see the parallels about striving for success, acceptance and identifying with the characters no matter which sport is the subject of the story.

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3 thoughts on “Great sports story for struggling readers: Scrum! by Tom Palmer”

  1. Thanks very much for the lovely review, both of the book and the great work Barrington Stoke do. It is much appreciated. The good news is there are three more rugby novels coming from 2014-15, in time for the World Cup, where we shall see if NZ are the ‘greatest rugby union playing nation’. My money’s on Wales. From Tom

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