Badger on the Barge by Janni Howker

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Badger on the Barge by Janni Howker

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A welcome reissue, the five stories in Badger On The Barge deal with the special relationship between the young and old. The observation is faultless, as is the writing. Highly recommended for 10s and up.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: December 2006
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
ISBN: 1406301302

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First published in 1984, Badger On The Barge was Janni Howker's first book and was deservedly short-listed for both the Whitbread Children's Award and the Carnegie Medal. There are five stories, each dealing with the special relationship between the young and the old. A generation skipped can make a powerful difference in the way people relate to one another, especially when the missing generation is a parent. All the stories take an adolescent who feels alienated from their parents for some reason, and gives them an older adult from whom they can learn without ever being taught. Those of us who have benefited from such a non-judgemental relationship with an old person can vouch for just how valuable it can be.

Badger On The Barge sees Miss Brady meet Helen. Miss Brady is an animal-loving, people-hating old lady who lives on a barge with only a badger and a swan for companions. Helen is a sad little girl, whose grief over the death of her brother in a motorbike accident is blocked by the grief of her father. In Reicker, Sean learns to deal with violence through his encounter with an old German prisoner of war and farmhand. In The Egg Man, Jane learns how secrets and regrets can ruin a life. In Jakey, an old, fiercely independent boatman shows Steven that hope and faith come from the inside and in The Topiary Garden, Liz meets Sally Beck, who was once a boy, and makes sense of her own frustrations.

Howker's book received rave reviews when it was first published, and rightly so. The writing is absolutely superb. It's dense and unafraid of complicated imagery, but is so rooted in the immediate that it is always accessible. Howker is a master of observation and her portraits of the young never patronise. The old remain slightly gruff and slightly mysterious, but are always generous with their wisdom and always judge events, never people. These are interesting stories which ask interesting and challenging questions. They are also quirky enough to engage the interest and always avoid a lecture. It's great to see them reissued and they come highly recommended for thoughtful children aged ten and up.

Thanks to Walker for sending the book.

More stories dealing with the relationship between young and old can be found in David Almond's Counting Stars.

Buy Badger on the Barge by Janni Howker at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Badger on the Barge by Janni Howker at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Badger on the Barge by Janni Howker at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Badger on the Barge by Janni Howker at Amazon.com.


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