Rugby Academy: Combat Zone by Tom Palmer

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Rugby Academy: Combat Zone by Tom Palmer

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Category: Dyslexia Friendly
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A realistic story for the tween boy which looks at changing from football to rugby and what it's like to have a parent fighting in a war zone. It's dyslexia friendly too.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 102 Date: October 2014
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1781123973

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Woody's dreams were about football: he wanted to play for his country one day, but there was a snag. His father was a fighter pilot - and his squadron was going to war - but as Dad was a single parent Woody had to go to a boarding school for armed forces kids. That's enough of a change for any boy, but there's an even bigger one which Woody has to contend with. At Borderlands they don't play football. They're mad about rugby. It's almost a religion. How will Woody cope with boarding schools and rugby? How will he manage the constant knowledge that his father is in a combat zone?

Tom Palmer didn't know a great deal about either rugby or the RAF before he started writing this book, which is the first in a new series, but he did extensive research into the sport and into what it's like to be in an RAF family. The result is impressive. There's an understanding of the difficulties which Woody faces in adjusting to the school and to rugby and an excellent build up as he takes to the new sport. I was willing him to do well and his successes felt personal. It's realistic too: men fighting in a combat zone are in danger and it doesn't always work out as you might hope, but this point is dealt with sensitively. I was glad that Palmer didn't dodge the issue though.

There's a bonus with this book too - or rather the whole basis of this book is something quite special. It's dyslexia friendly. The reading age is eight, but the interest age is nine to twelve, so it's going to encourage kids who are just a bit slow of picking up the reading habit or who are struggling with the technique. You'll find details of the reading age and interest age just to the right of the barcode on the back of the book - it's not obvious unless you know what you're looking for and kids not going to be embarrassed by it. The dyslexia-friendly sticker peels off easily and the cover design looks just like the trendy books the other kids are reading.

So, what makes the book dyslexia friendly? Well, firstly Barrington Stoke have designed a special font where each character is distinct and pulls the reader on to read the next word. It's printed on an off-white paper, which reduces the glare which can distract some readers and the paper is substantial enough to ensure that there's no bleed through from the reverse of the page. The spacing between words and lines has been carefully judge to give the best reading experience and the text has not been justified as this can mean that readers get lost on the page. The book has clearly defined chapters to give natural rest breaks and it's not just the reader which benefits from that - many parents and carers feel the same way. It's not just people with dyslexia which benefit from these ingenious changes - most young readers will find the books easier to read and more enjoyable. I'm just about into my dotage and recently I've been suffering from eye problems - and Barrington Stoke books are the ones which I can read most easily.

And how about an extra bonus? This book - and each book in the forthcoming series contains a set of six detachable player cards to collect.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.

If you'd prefer a story about football then Tom Palmer can certainly oblige - and best of all, Secret FC by Tom Palmer|Secret FC is also dyslexia friendly.

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Buy Rugby Academy: Combat Zone by Tom Palmer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rugby Academy: Combat Zone by Tom Palmer at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Rugby Academy: Combat Zone by Tom Palmer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rugby Academy: Combat Zone by Tom Palmer at


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