Stage Fright (Hopewell High); All Too Much (Hopewell High)

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Jo Cotterill, Stage Fright (Hopewell High),  Bloomsbury,  1 May 2017,  80pp.,  $12.99 (pbk),  ISBN: 9781472934130
Jo Cotterill, All Too Much (Hopewell High),  Bloomsbury,  1 May 2017,  80pp.,  $12.99 (pbk),  ISBN: 9781472934079

Here are two parts of a series aimed at readers aged 12 and up who have a reading age of 9 and up. They are set in a boarding school in the UK, Hopewell High, and provide the reader with the adventures of four girls, Samira, Hani, Alice and Daisy.

In All Too Much, Samira, the clever hijab-wearing girl, is putting herself under great pressure to do well in her studies. Her friends are loyal, and want to help her, but she is secretly cutting herself.

In Stage Fright Alice is having panic attacks. She believes her parents’ marriage is on the rocks, and worries about it while she prepares to act in the school play.

Both books have a section at the back where questions are asked about the plot and there are telephone numbers and UK addresses for help lines.  The series may be useful for kids in trouble, but in each story the central character is helped by teachers and friends. That solution sounds a little glib when the seriousness of self-harm and panic attacks is actually happening to a child. In neither case are the parents drawn into the issue.

Readable and moderately attractive, these books mean well and may provide a point for readers to address their own problems.

Reviewed by Stella Lees

NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury High Low books encourage and support reading practice by providing pacy, age-appropriate stories for struggling and reluctant readers, those with dyslexia, or those with English as an additional language. Printed on tinted paper and with a dyslexia friendly font, they are aimed at readers aged 12+ and have a manageable length (80 pages) and reading age (9+).  They are produced in association with reading experts at CatchUp, a UK charity which aims to address underachievement caused by literacy and numeracy difficulties.

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