Tilt by Mary Hoffman

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Tilt by Mary Hoffman

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Category: Dyslexia Friendly
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A novel with warm intentions and designed with those teens with learning and/or reading disabilities in mind, but not a perfect one – detail and dialogue can get in the way of the strong message at times.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 98 Date: January 2017
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781781125656

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To make an author, you first show someone books. To make a reader, you first show them the books they want to, and/or can, read. To make a builder, you first show someone buildings. I use those platitudes to introduce Simonetta, or Netta, who lives in Pisa late in the thirteenth century. She is surrounded by fabulous buildings – it's not for nothing the area will become known as the Field of Miracles, for the Cathedral, Baptistry and bell tower look gorgeous. But something is wrong with the latter one – it's definitely leaning, cracks are showing, and over the hundred-plus years it's taken to get this far people have built the floors at odd angles to correct the problem. Netta is intent on being the person who can solve it, alongside her father who's employed to finish it off. But therein lies the problem – it's all well and good showing someone buildings, and making them want to be an architect, but if they're the wrong gender then all hope is lost… or is it?

This, then, is obviously not just about a single bell tower, even if it's mentioned, walked round, climbed or patted on every page. This is about Netta and an early form of emancipation – she longs to stop needing to do endless housework, she worries about motherhood as her own died in childbirth, and she demands to be taken seriously along her own chosen career path. Luckily she has the right man to go about it in the shape of her father, although history proves the wait for the finished bell tower to have been longer than the pair would ever imagine. (And history proves nothing as regards Netta, for she is fictional – an invented pioneer, convincingly put on these pages with just the right ideas and questions at just the right times.)

So, to return to my platitudes. Barrington Stoke know full well the first two I used, and know that it's important people of all stripes get to see books, for after that anything can happen. From their specially clear font to the firm, tinted colour stock, they have always bent over backwards to make sure people deemed dyslexic can still engage with their books, without them ever looking special (or 'remedial', as the wording once had it). This will, to all intents and purposes, appear to be a book that people eight or older can read comfortably – although with its tale of a burgeoning engineer/architect it is designed to encourage, support and be example to young teens.

But I did wonder if it was a perfect example of its kind. The story structure is fine – weaving in an unwanted romance for Netta alongside all the lessons she takes, and therefore gives us, in mediaeval building design. But there are a lot of lessons to be had before the concluding decisions, and I did find the predominance of dialogue (ideal to break up the page, of course, for the reluctant reader) fell into a repetitive pattern, looping us round in circles as if we were ourselves walking around the tower's terraces. It's a good book as a result, and one that offers a strong heroine alongside a clear and necessary can-do message, but it's one that perhaps goes too far to cram everything in, when less may have been so much more.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

It's not for a specific target audience within the teen shelves, but the author's own David had her looking at another classic of Italian design.

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Buy Tilt by Mary Hoffman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tilt by Mary Hoffman at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Tilt by Mary Hoffman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tilt by Mary Hoffman at Amazon.com.


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