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Review – The Mermaid in the Millpond

Barrington Stoke
At a glance
  • A new dyslexia-friendly atmospheric short novel by bestselling children’s author Lucy Strange
  • Written with a reading age of 8+ for students ranging in age from 8 to 13 years old
  • Uses high-quality, pale-yellow matte paper with a spacious, clear layout
  • Specially modified font to encourage a smooth read with well-paced plot and short chapters

Build reading confidence with this new, dyslexia-friendly short novel by Lucy Strange, illustrated by Pam Smy…

When it comes to book recommendations for children, where do you start, especially when considering dyslexic readers and those who are under-confident?

Well, let your pupils be submerged in a strange world and read a tale with a tail that will really get them hooked.

Lucy Strange’s new book, The Mermaid in the Millpond, is a historical mystery dripping with murky strands of fantasy; it’s punchy, emotional and captivating.

Set during the British Industrial Revolution, when child labour was the norm, this is the story of a young girl, Bess, who leaves behind the daily grind of a London workhouse for a better life as a piecer at a rural cotton mill in the North of England.

This turns out to be a bad move because life at the mill is similarly brutal and she becomes the property of the mill, destined to work in cruel and harsh conditions without mercy until she is 21. But Bess isn’t the only one who is trapped.

When she hears rumours of a monstrous mermaid lurking in the millpond, she doesn’t believe a word of it. Until she discovers that she’s not alone in longing to escape.

This is a fantastic descriptive story that blurs the lines between myth and reality and contains lots of tense action packed into short chapters, which is perfect for engaging children and helping to build up their confidence and reading stamina.

The story covers a range of themes including friendship, freedom, loss, and power, and features a strong female protagonist with agency who really drives the story forward, which readers will find empowering.

Striking black and white illustrations add a real sense of the industrial setting and the desperation engulfing Bess, adding a melancholic but realistic aura to the text.

This book is published by award-winning Barrington Stoke and that’s significant because they take great care in publishing super-readable books with a whole host of specialist features designed to help dyslexic and reluctant readers. They are thoroughly reviewed by children, too.

What this means is that you get a book designed with a dyslexia-friendly font, accessible layouts and spacing to stop the page from becoming overcrowded, and yellowish, heavier paper to help reduce visual stress by minimising confusing show-through.

This really matters to dyslexic readers. An effective hi-lo (high interest, low ability) book offers unpatronising content inside a compelling story with engaging characters to interest struggling readers.

This is combined with carefully chosen vocabulary, simple sentences and illustrations to support the text. Lucy Strange’s book does all this and makes it look easy, which of course it isn’t because to write in this way requires heaps of skill.

The book costs £6.99. Find out more on the Barrington Stoke website.

Verdict Reviewed by John Dabell
  • A gripping, age-appropriate and highly readable story packed with dynamic illustrations
  • A very accessible book to build fluency, vocabulary and interest in reading
  • Aimed at the age of the reader not their reading level
  • Perfect for engaging under-confident, struggling and reluctant readers, those with dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome, EAL readers and children with low attention spans and low self-esteem
  • Ideal for classroom discussion and cross-curricular studies

Upgrade if...

You are looking for a hi-lo fictional story that is dyslexic friendly and will engage, excite and be a stepping stone to other books by the same author.
Barrington Stoke

Barrington Stoke

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