The Last Days of Archie Maxwell by Annabel Pitcher

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The Last Days of Archie Maxwell by Annabel Pitcher

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Category: Dyslexia Friendly
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Discovering that his father's gay and being bullied drives Archie Maxwell to consider suicide. A dark unsettling story which highlights the need to dscuss your problems. It's dyslexia friendly too.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 142 Date: November 2017
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
ISBN: 978-1781127285

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Archie Maxwell was shocked when his parents told him that they were getting divorced. It wasn't that Dads leaving was that unusual: Leon's Dad had left and so had Mo's. It was why he was leaving and Archie was embarrassed that his sister had suspected that their father was gay some time ago. Both of his sisters are sad to see their father leave, but they don't seem to have any problem with the why and they tell their friends. But Archie daren't tell the lads at school: the bullying is bad enough as it is. And then there's the problem of Tia, whom he really fancies but he can't say anything about it. What Tia really needs is a friend: it's just about the first anniversary of the day on which her brother committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train on the line which runs at the back of Archie's house.

It's a dark, unsettling story and totally authentic in the way that it's told and Annabel Pitcher doesn't shirk using the language the lads use amongst themselves. You feel for Archie: he's a decent, thoughtful young man caught up in a difficult situation. If the news about his father gets out, the bullying will get worse, but his mother has confided in Leon's mother - and Leon is the chief bully. It's going to happen and Archie can only see one way of escaping. The trouble is that Tia has her own guilt and her own secrets - and she can see a way of escaping them too.

How easy it is to think that Archie should just be honest and open about the situation: that most of the threat has disappeared once the news that Dad is living with Malcolm is common knowledge. He might have an unpleasant day or two, but then it'll be over. But that's easily said when you're not the person dreading another day at school and young men do find it more difficult to talk about their feelings than young women: Pitcher captures this perfectly and despite knowing what Archie should do, I was completely drawn into the downward spiral of his mental state. (I was relieved to find that Pitcher has supplied some resources for anyone who find themselves in this spiral - you can find them at the back of the book.)

It's a big story and I'm glad that the publisher has opened this story up for discussion. But - it's a Barrington Stoke book, so there are other bonuses. Why is the publisher important? Well, Barrington Stoke produces books which are dyslexia friendly and they'll also help reluctant readers.

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 a pale yellow 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 judged to give the best reading experience and the text has not been justified as this can mean that readers get lost on the page. It's not only people with dyslexia who benefit from these ingenious but simple changes - most young readers will find the books easier to read and more enjoyable.

The books also acknowledge that people with dyslexia - or reluctant readers - will have the same interest level as their peer group, but they might not have the same reading age. The Last Days of Archie Maxwell is very much a book for teens (and not suitable for younger people) but the phrasing and vocabulary has been made as user friendly as possible. There's absolutely nothing on the cover of the book to suggest that this isn't as trendy a book as their peers are reading. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For another story - this time aimed at younger children - where the importance of talking baout your feelings is highlighted we can recommend The Seal's Fate (Colour Conker) by Eoin Colfer and Victor Ambrus - and that's dyslexia friendly too.

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Buy The Last Days of Archie Maxwell by Annabel Pitcher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Days of Archie Maxwell by Annabel Pitcher at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Last Days of Archie Maxwell by Annabel Pitcher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Days of Archie Maxwell by Annabel Pitcher at


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