|My Mate's as 'Ard as Nails: (My Obdurate Companion) by Irfan Virk|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 162||Date: December 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
It was one of those days when you feel that something's going to happen: something bad, something you know you won't be able to avoid. Freddy felt it as soon as he woke up...
And yet, Freddy's first day at secondary school begins pretty well. Bertie attracts attention but most of it is good. And then things begin to go downhill. Bertie does stick out like a sore thumb. It's difficult to ignore him. And Freddy's quick wit and sharp tongue might get him out of immediate trouble but they do mark him out as a threat to the bullies. It was always going to happen. And before you can say snap, Bertie has been abducted. It's up to Freddy and friends to get him back. Meanwhile, outside the school gates, some bad men are doing bad things in the realms of hostage-takings and bank jobs.
Freddy and friends, the bullies, and the bad men all find their paths intermix and suddenly, Bertie isn't the only one Freddy has to get back...
Aww. My Mate's as 'Ard as Nails is an irresistibly madcap story. It careers along at a breakneck pace and you're rooting for Freddy right from page one. He is an interesting little boy who is determined to follow his own path in life, even if that means he risks mockery for being different. And he's a loyal friend. But he has an excellent brain and the superpower of quick thinking, which is the virtue that sees him through. Underneath the adventure caper and all the jokes, there is a serious story here - all about friendship, loyalty, courage in the face of danger, and being true to yourself. It's great fun to read and it's empowering, too.
My Mate's as 'Ard as Nails has a glossary of "difficult" words at the end. And the "difficult" words are printed in bold throughout the book. And just in case there are any non-bold words you didn't know the meaning of, the glossary has some blank pages for you to write in the definitions yourself, once you've found them. I think this is a fabulous addition, which cleverly helps kids to stretch their vocabularies in several different ways. Not only are they encouraged to flip to the back to get a definition for an unfamiliar word, they're also encouraged to find definitions independently. It also makes a wide vocabulary an aspirational aim; a good thing; a cool thing. Word-loving parents like me will do a little dance of joy when they see how Virk is putting these ideas into his story.
And searching for the meaning of new words isn't the only bit of coolification (ok, I made that one up - I think Virk would approve) in My Mate's as 'Ard as Nails. Central character Freddy has a best friend and companion. It's his teddy. He loves Bertie with a passion, in part because it provides a strong connection with his beloved grandfather. And Freddy is just starting secondary school - a time when kids feel they should be putting some of the things of infancy aside, like blankies and teddies. But in this story, teddies are cool. Teddies can be babe magnets. Who'd a thunk it?! I love this idea. Kids should put away childhood things only when they are ready and they shouldn't be made to feel babyish if some persist longer than others.
I did like this story. It's energetic and goodhearted and great fun. And it carries a great many positive messages. What more could you want?
I think they might also enjoy The Super Amazing Adventures of Me, Pig by Emer Stamp or Chicken Mission: Danger in the Deep Dark Woods by Jennifer Gray.
You can read more book reviews or buy My Mate's as 'Ard as Nails: (My Obdurate Companion) by Irfan Virk at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy My Mate's as 'Ard as Nails: (My Obdurate Companion) by Irfan Virk at Amazon.com.
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