Highway Robbery by Kate Thompson

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Highway Robbery by Kate Thompson
Buy Highway Robbery from Amazon.co.uk

Buy Highway Robbery from Amazon.com

Genre: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A short, evocative story with a twist in its tail with Dick Turpin as a background. Vivid, direct and suspenseful, it will appeal to newly confident readers approaching "proper" books for the first time.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 128 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Bodley Head
ISBN: 0370329570

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When a young beggar boy is asked to look after a horse for a mysterious man, the promise of a shiny golden guinea makes him determined to do the right thing. But the right thing isn't always the easy thing. Is it right for him to charge passers by for petting the beautiful black mare? Should he sell her for even more money to the rather scary villains who see him as an easy mark? And when he discovers that the mysterious man may be none other than the infamous highwayman, Dick Turpin, should he help the King's soldiers lay a trap? Perhaps he should stay true to his original bargain. As the cold, wet night presses on, our young hero finds himself in quandary after quandary.

I did enjoy this little book. The young narrator speaks directly to his audience and this simple, conversational style helps to minimise any difficulties young readers might have with his delivery, which is pretty accurate to the period. It's all very suspenseful, as the young lad waits hours in the dark for the return of the infamous highwayman and faces all sorts of dangers and threats -from thieves, wide boys and soldiers. We also get a vivid picture of child poverty - I had no boots and my feet were as cold as ice and my hands were not much better. I was hungry too, but then I'm used to that - and this is certainly a potential topic for further discussion. What would poverty make you do? What decisions would you make if you were in this boy's situation?

Ultimately, though, Highway Robbery is suspenseful story, well told, and with a great twist in its tail. It's difficult to make stories for children of this age atmospheric, and Thompson's managed it with great panache. What more could you want?

It's beautifully packaged in gold-blocked black velvet, making Highway Robbery an ideal Christmas present for any young reader this year. I do wonder, though, if this gives it a vaguely girly air, when the story itself would appeal equally to children of both sexes. Kate Thompson never lets her readers down, though, and she hasn't with this first foray into stories for the little ones. Recommended.

My thanks to the nice people at Bodley Head for sending the book.

They might also enjoy Jack Bolt and the Highwaymen's Hideout by Richard Hamilton and Sam Hearn.

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