Mum Never Did Learn to Knock by Cathy Hopkins

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Mum Never Did Learn to Knock by Cathy Hopkins

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Category: Dyslexia Friendly
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A gentle, uplifting story about the loss of a parent told in a senstive but not sentimental way - and it's dyslexia friendly too.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 80 Date: April 2105
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1781124956

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People are worrying about Emily: her Dad and the staff at school are all worried that she's spending a lot of time talking to her Mum. You might think that there's nothing wrong with that - in fact that it's entirely commendable and young people ought to spend more time talking to their parents - but Emily's Mum died a few months ago. Emily has reached the stage of hiding the fact that Mum appears to her in very real form, perhaps just a little bit ghostly, but then you wouldn't expect her to look just like she was when she was alive, now would you? At school she's sent to see a counsellor, but it doesn't go quite the way that the counsellor was expecting... particularly when Emily asked where people go when they die and the ultimate 'what comes after space?'

Losing a parent when you're still relatively young must be a dreadful experience and Emily had to watch her mother fading away before her eyes. She knows that her mother is dead, that she isn't just going to walk through the door as though she's been in hospital for a few days. Occasionally it still hits her and she'll sob her heart out. For a long time the ghostly presence was a real comfort to her, but when a boyfriend came on the scene there had to be some changes.

It's a sensitive but certainly not sentimental look at the grieving process, with the gentle message that it works differently for everyone and that time will heal. There's humour in what could otherwise be a very gloomy story: Mum can be, well, quite impish. I smiled an awful lot more than I felt sad. Cathy Hopkins understands girls in their early teens and her target audience, the pre-teen girl. It's a book that will appeal to all girls in this age group - not just those who have lost someone - because it's a good, well-written story.

There's a bonus with this book too - or rather the whole basis of this book is something quite special. It's dyslexia friendly. The reading age is eight, but the interest age is eight to twelve, so it's going to encourage kids who are just a bit slow of picking up the reading habit or who are struggling with the technique. You'll find details of the reading age and interest age just to the right of the barcode on the back of the book - it's not obvious unless you know what you're looking for and kids not going to be embarrassed by it. The dyslexia-friendly sticker peels off easily and the cover design looks just like the trendy books the other kids are reading.

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 an off-white 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 judge to give the best reading experience and the text has not been justified as this can mean that readers get lost on the page. The book has clearly defined chapters to give natural rest breaks and it's not just the reader which benefits from that - many parents and carers feel the same way. It's not just people with dyslexia which benefit from these ingenious changes - most young readers will find the books easier to read and more enjoyable. I'm just about into my dotage and recently I've been suffering from eye problems - and Barrington Stoke books are the ones which I can read most easily.

I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then we can also recommend The Girl With The Sunshine Smile by Karen McCombie and Bright Star by Jenny Oldfield. For more on the subject of bereavement, have a look at Her Mother's Face by Roddy Doyle and Freya Blackwood.

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Buy Mum Never Did Learn to Knock by Cathy Hopkins at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Mum Never Did Learn to Knock by Cathy Hopkins at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Mum Never Did Learn to Knock by Cathy Hopkins at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Mum Never Did Learn to Knock by Cathy Hopkins at


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