Monster Island by Justin Richards; Eg and Me by David Grant; Blood Oath by Chris Priestley; Do Not Wake the Devil by A.F. and P Peters; Ghost Game by Nigel Hinton; The Death of Jude Hill by Richard Conlon; i-assassins by Christopher Edge; Chamber of Nothing by Cathy Forde
Hardback collection 30.00 [pounds sterling]
How do we engage students, especially boys, who are reluctant or less confident readers? This is the question which Pearson is addressing with their latest series of Heroes books. Frank Cottrell Boyce, the award winning children's author, has taken on the challenging job of series editor and brought together a collection of eight short and accessible novels and plays aimed at Key Stage 3 students.
The novels have exactly the right mix of titles to get young students intrigued and excited before they even open the book. Chamber of Nothing and The Death of Jude Hill are both plays designed to be performed in the classroom. All the authors understand how to appeal to young readers, many of them are from an educational background and appreciate what makes a great text for teaching. The covers are vibrant and interesting, the language is descriptive and rich and the stories are accessible and compelling. Each of them balances growing tension alongside relatable characters with a big dollop of horror to boot.
I handed these books over to a group of middle ability Year 8 students to get their verdict. The class in question contained a mixture of avid readers and those, in this case a small pocket of boys and one or two girls, who only read in school. We did a mixture of whole class and individual reading with students swapping books and feeding back their thoughts but it was the boys who enjoyed them the most.
The books didn't work well with students who already read lots or who did not particularly enjoy the genre; in the case of this class it was largely the girls. They decided pretty quickly that these books were not for them and their suspicions were confirmed by the back cover which clearly states: 'Built for boys!'
This series does, however, appeal to boys and also encourages reluctant readers to get excited by the prospect of picking up a book. Both the novels and plays are great as class-readers and provide opportunities for discussion but I think they come into their own as texts which can be read one-to-one with reluctant readers or students who lack confidence. If parents come to me and ask for recommendations for books to get their sons reading, then these will certainly be on the list.