Old Dog, New Tricks by Bali Rai

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Old Dog, New Tricks by Bali Rai

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Category: Dyslexia Friendly
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Margaret Young
Reviewed by Margaret Young
Summary: A very unlikely friendship that crosses both generational and cultural divides make this dyslexia friendly book a brilliant read for almost ages and reading abilities.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 84 Date: January 2014
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1781123478

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Nick is a miserable old sod by anyone's definition. His equally mangy dog, Nelson, is the only friend he has, as his nasty nature puts everyone off. But while he may be unpleasant to most people, he is downright horrible when the Singh family move in, bringing out the worst of his racist views - but can a man who likes Bob Marley really hate anyone of another colour? Is Nick just an ignorant and offensive old git, or is there something more beneath the surface? No one seems to have really bothered to find out before a common love of dogs draws young Harvey Singh to attempt to befriend not only the unkempt dog, but the lonely old man as well.

If you are looking for an animal story, this is not it. The dog serves only as a catalyst for events. This is a story about human nature, not animals. Nick has been deeply hurt, and as a result he has withdrawn from his own kind, seeking companionship only from animals. Harvey is at times angered by the man's belligerence - but he is compassionate as well. Old Dog New Tricks pokes quite a lot off fun at racism and I nearly laughed out loud on more than one occasion. The author seems to have gotten all the inconsistencies of many dyed in the wool racists down to a T. Racism is a difficult subject to write about, but Bali Rai pulls it off perfectly. He exposes the ignorance without being judgemental, but at the same time is able to have sympathy for the racist. Racism is hatred in a very extreme form. To hate back is a natural response. But hatred begets hatred. Bali Rai shows another way. Despite dealing with very serious issues, this isn't a sentimental tear jerker, the only tears you will shed reading this will be of suppressed laughter. The book ends with a brilliant joke which matches a surprisingly upbeat story for such a heavy subject matter.

This is a very short story, as all Barrington Stoke books are, but Bali Rai has managed to create the atmosphere perfectly, as well as paint rich and detailed characters in very few words. I can find very little to fault this book on, and I feel it should be required reading in every school. My only complaint with this book is a minor editorial error. The second chapter of the book begins by telling us that Harvey's siblings had both gone out. A few sentences later though, a discussion between Harvey and Father has one question asked by his brother Danny. I'm sure this was meant to read Harvey, and it certainly didn't take from my enjoyment of the book, although it did make me do double take, but I think it could be confusing for struggling readers, and struggling readers are of course Barrington Stoke's target audience. Had the story been anything less than perfect, I would have down rated for this, but as it stands the book is simply too good for anything less than five stars.

Barrington Stoke have listed this book as a reading age of 8 and an interest age of teen. I feel the reading age is appropriate, but I feel the interest age could be expanded in either direction. There is nothing in this book to make it unsuitable for younger children. My 8 year old son enjoyed the book and I have to admit so did I. Barrington Stoke have set the standard for dyslexia friendly reading material, with high-interest low-reading age books printed in a dyslexia friendly format. This is printed in Barrington's Stoke own specially designed dyslexia-friendly font. The print is double spaced, with frequent chapter breaks and printed on a an off-white, non-glare paper. While all these features are designed to help children suffering from reading disability, I feel that they make reading easier for all children. My eight year old son has commented that he enjoys these books because they are so easy to read, and this was especially true as he was developing his reading skills. I very frequently recommend Barrington Stoke books. Of course I recommend them highly for any child with reading disabilities, but I recommend them just as highly for children of average, or even above average reading ability who enjoy more complex stories.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy:

Them by L A Weatherly

Brock by Anthony McGowan

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Buy Old Dog, New Tricks by Bali Rai at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Old Dog, New Tricks by Bali Rai at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Old Dog, New Tricks by Bali Rai at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Old Dog, New Tricks by Bali Rai at Amazon.com.


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