Today's blog post is very special because it's my turn to support the amazing TommyvCancer Blog Tour. This tour was devised by blogger Faye Rogers, from A Daydreamer's Thoughts, and blogger/writer Vivienne Dacosta from Serendipity Reviews. The idea behind the tour is to spread awareness of author Tommy Donbavand's battle with inoperable throat cancer, and to raise donations for him as he is unable to carry out his author visits to schools etc, activities which are a major source of income for Tommy and his family. When he was diagnosed in March this year Tommy set up his own blog to chronicle his battle. It's a moving but ultimately uplifting record of his fight to date. Click here to read for yourself. It's thoroughly heart-warming to see how the blogging and author community have banded together to support Tommy in his hour of need. If you would like to lend your support please click here.
But who exactly is Tommy Donbavand? Here's a quick taster (for more info scroll down to the bottom of the page):
Tommy Donbavand lives in Lancashire with his wife and two sons. He is a HUGE fan of all things Doctor Who, plays blues harmonica, and makes a mean balloon poodle. He sees sleep as a waste of good writing time. Tommy wrote Boredom Busters and Quick Fixes For Kids' Parties (How To Books), and Making A Drama Out Of A Crisis (Network Continuum). He is also the author of the popular 13-book Scream Street series for 7 to 10-year-olds, published by Walker Books, UK, and Candlewick Press in the US. His other books include Zombie! and Wolf, both published by Barrington Stoke. His short novel Uniform, also published by Barrington Stoke, was the winner of the Hackney Short Novel Award. To find out more about Tommy go to his website, or connect with him on Twitter.
So now we know a little about Tommy and his books it's time to kick off my leg of the blog tour. For this I've selected three of his novels to review, the first of which is Uniform. I chose these books as they are suitable for all readers, but especially the reluctant bookworm and/or those with dyslexia or special learning needs. By the way, keep reading to the end of the post for news of some very special giveaways!
As a former teacher/headteacher, sourcing books that would appeal to every child in the class/school wasn't always the easiest of tasks. It was especially problematic when it came to providing suitable reading materials for those young people who found difficulty in, or had no appetite for, reading longer novels. Short, quality stories printed on dyslexia-friendly paper; novels with a below-chronological reading age that would also have an interest level suitable to the reader's actual age; and/or books with bright engaging illustrations that would turn someone on to reading for the first time - these were much sought after. Publishers such as Barrington Stoke and Badger Learning became the go-to for suitable material. And it's to Barrington Stoke, and Tommy Donbavand's Uniform to which I turn now.
I'm not surprised that Uniform won the Hackney Short Novel Award. From its dyslexia-friendly cream paper, to Dan Chernett's vibrant illustrations that wonderfully enhance Tommy's fast-paced story, this book's a cracking read. What's it about though? Well, here's the blurb:
When Matt's mum buys him an old school uniform in a charity shop the tables are turned on the bullies. But what's with the uniform? And how far will it make Matt go?
The plot centres around Matt Miller who's having a terrible time at the hands of the school bully, Steven Chadwick. Several elements of this story will resonate with many readers young and old: bullying, the problems that can arise when you're a child in a low income single-parent family, the urge to fit in with the peer group, power struggles and more. Throw in a supernatural twist and you have a book that is well worth a read.
Uniform is available as a paperback.
Reading age: 8
Interest age: 8-12
Time now to focus on my next choice, The Head is Dead, which is published by Badger Learning. I must admit that I found myself drawn to reviewing this because, as a former Head myself, it appealed to my sense of humour! As well as this I wanted to include a graphic novel in my choices as, not only are they sheer fun, but I also feel they have an important part to play in encouraging those young people who reckon that books have nothing to offer them.
During my long career as a teacher I lost count of the occasions where parents of reluctant and struggling readers would ask me how to get their children reading. One answer I offered them was to buy their young people comics to read. Why? I guess the reason is obvious: fewer words, fun illustrations that aid understanding of the text, plus stories that kids could really engage with. Nowadays of course, we're lucky enough to have an increasing number of graphic novels to choose from. And that's why I picked Tommy's The Head is Dead. Because folks, this book is fun with a capital F, with the big bonus that the story is super accessible to those with reading difficulties.
So, what's this book about? In answer to that let me refer you to the blurb:
Arran, Baz and Jill are in trouble. They've accidentally killed their head teacher by mucking around in the school science lab. Now they have a choice - own up and take their punishment, or use what they can find in the lab to try and bring the head back to life before anyone notices. Guess which choice they go for?
I know - it's crazy. Right? Yet it's just the type of blurb that might entice a grudging or timorous reader to open the book and read on. With a tiny cast of characters, a zany plotline and vivid illustrations by Mark Penman, this book has the potential to amuse and thrill and, just possibly, entice that reader to think that reading for pleasure is A GOOD THING.
As to the power of Tommy's story telling, check out the pages to your left (click on the image to enlarge). Those four words of narrative really pack a punch, don't you think? Kudos not only to Mr Donbavand but to Mark Penman for enhancing the story with his vibrant artwork. If I were working in school now I'd thrust this book into the hands of anyone who queried, 'How can I get my kid interested in books?". Oh, and schools, you can buy this graphic novel in packs of six!
The Head is Dead is available as an ebook and in paperback
Reading age: 6-7
Interest age: 11=13
Which brings me to my final choice, another Badger Learning short novel entitled Kidnap. Although this book has no accompanying illustrations inside its pages, its lay out is similar to Uniform's, ie it has larger than typical print, clearly set on dyslexia-compatible paper. So what's this Teen Title from Badger about? Here's the blurb:
Jo and his mum are homeless and in deep financial trouble. Then the teenager is made an offer he can't refuse, and he agrees to a one-off job that could get his family back on their feet. But are they getting into deeper water than they realise... ?
So far, so intriguing. And intriguing it is. It's also a fun, anarchic romp where the underdog...well that'd be telling, wouldn't it? Why don't you read it for yourself? You'd be doing yourself a favour, plus helping out a man much in need of support.
Kidnap is available as an ebook and in paperback
Reading age: 8-9
Interest age: 12-15
NB All of Tommy's books are available online or in bookstores.
As part of this tour some lovely publishers and bloggers have donated lots of fab prizes. These include a Mid-Grade special set of Tommy's Primary school age books from Badger Learning; Mid-Grade Books and Goodies Pack from Bloomsbury; and a Mid-Grade Mystery Prize Pack from Harper Collins. Check out the following websites for details of entry check out the websites of Sister Spooky and A Daydreamer's Thoughts, or go to the #tommyvcancer Twitter hashtag.
Thank you, reader, for taking the time to read this. Please do what you can to help.
Finally, I'd like to end by sending Tommy and his family my very best wishes. Tommy, we're all rooting for you!
More About The Author:
In theatre, Tommy’s plays have been performed to thousands of children on national tours to venues such as The Hackney Empire, Leeds City Varieties, and Nottingham Playhouse. These productions include Hey Diddle Diddle, Rumplestiltskin, Jack & Jill In The Forgotten Nursery, and Humpty Dumpty And The Incredibly Daring Rescue Of The Alien Princess From Deep Space. He is also responsible for five episodes of the CBBC TV series, Planet Cook (Platinum Films). As an actor, Tommy played the Clearlake MC in the West End musical Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story for over eight years, in addition to roles in the movies Zombie Love Stories (where he battled hordes of Scottish undead) and Going Off Big Time (where he was beaten up on a bouncy castle). A veteran of pantomime, he has portrayed just about every comic character from Abanazer to an Ugly Sister.