Friday 17 April 2015


Wow. Brock sure packs an emotional punch. A grim, unusual tale of badger baiting at one level- books for children really can deal with almost anything, and also a tale of a family struggling to get by. 

Our narrator Nicky lives in a small village in England with his Dad and his older brother Kenny, who is a bit simple. 

People say he's simple, and he is. I know you're not meant to say 'simple-minded' any more, but it seems to me that it's the exact right word for Kenny. He hasn't got all the stuff going on that messes up other people's heads. He isn't always trying to work out the angles, or how to stitch you up. He thinks other people are as kind as he is, and he only has one idea at a time. 

Their Dad hasn't been the same either since their Mum left. He's not working, he's got into some trouble with the law and he drinks too much. One morning Kenny wakes Nicky early to go out to meet some of the boys from town, nasty boys who are up to no good. 

Rob wasn't mean. He was something else. He was a psycho. He'd seem all friendly and normal, and then something would set him off and he'd smash stuff up. 'Stuff' could mean you, if you were around. He once bit a kid and the kid had to go to hospital to get a shot for tetanus and probably rabies as well. Rob was on Ritalin but it didn't make any difference. 

There are some unspeakable acts of cruelty in this book, it is not a sweet, cosy tale of British village life by any means. But Nicky is a good kid and ultimately it is about being true to yourself, knowing what is right and the redemptive power of kindness. 

I've never seen a badger but they do sound to be extraordinary animals. Certainly many English stories feature them. Badgers seemed to be everywhere for me a few reading weeks ago. Constance the badger was a major character in Redwall which I read recently (see my review), and there was even a recent Guardian list of the Top 10 Fictional Badgers- the old male from Brock rightly being one of them. 

The old male shifted in his sleep. He was fighting again those long-ago battles, back in the days when his teeth were still sharp. Those teeth were worn down to brown stumps now, but once every living creature feared them. 

Fictional badgers are so popular that they are thought to have influenced the UK's conflicted attitudes to badger culling

I'm so glad that I ordered Brock online after I found it in this list of Top 10 Books for Reluctant and Dyslexic Readers. I'd never read a story about badger baiting. Indeed I didn't know that badger baiting was a thing or what it was, and I was immediately transfixed. Published by Barrington Stoke Teen it is Dyslexia Friendly. I didn't know that books could in fact be dyslexia friendly but they use special thick creamy yellow paper and printing techniques, each page is beautifully illustrated.

Anthony McGowan was an author that was totally new to me. I'll certainly be interested in reading more of his work. I'll be searching it out, and I'm looking forward to reading more from Barrington Stoke- they're doing interesting things with books. 

1 comment:

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I didn't realize that some books were helpful for those who are dyslexic.