Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mini-reviews: Mind the Gap by Phil Earle and Passing For White by Tanya Landman

I'm almost always excited to receive books for review from Barrington Stoke. Their author list is incredible and they publish such wonderful stories that not only appeal to dyslexic or struggling readers but also to those who just enjoy a good story. Here are two mini-reviews of books by Barrington Stoke that I have recently.

Mind the Gap by Phil Earle

I loved Mind the Gap by Phil Earle. I knew I would, I've loved everything of his that I've read so far.  I was very excited to read this book when it first arrived: I loved the cover art and the premise of the book. However, having lost my own father quite recently, I wasn't sure if it was the best time to dive into this one.

But I feel like I needn't have worried.  Because while this book is about a boy whose father has died it's more about friendship.  Phil Earle wrote this story with such warmth and heart.  Mikey's dad was one of those dads who didn't stay for very long but who left an impression when they were around.  And since he died, Mikey has gone off the rails a little bit.

When Mikey admits to his best mate that he just wants something to remember him by, his friend goes off on this journey across London trying to track down someone who worked with Mikey's dad.  He's looking for a video clip or a photo or anything that Mikey can hold onto and then maybe he'd stop antagonising the local hard-ass and get himself beaten up.

I really loved this story.  It's based on a true story about the man who recorded some 'Mind the Gap' messages on the London Underground and his wife who grieved his passing.  I can definitely relate to this story ... this need to hold onto little things in the people who are gone from our lives.

Passing For White by Tanya Landman

Passing For White by Tanya Landman was just an emotional read for me.  I thought that by reading the synopsis of this book that I knew how it would turn out but the plot description doesn't really take into account how nerve-wracking it is, how tense I felt worrying about Rosa and Benjamin on this absolutely perilous journey.

Rosa and Benjamin are both slaves. It's the Deep South and the year is 1848. Because Rosa's master is also her father, her light skin means that she is often confused for being white. Using this to their advantage, Rosa and Benjamin hatch this plan to escape slavery by having Rosa pose as a white man with Benjamin has her slave and travel a thousand miles north to freedom.

As I said, I found this book to be very emotional. It's amazing how much is packed into one short story.  I felt for Rosa and Benjamin immediately.  Their need for freedom and why they chose to make this escape plan when they did was rather heartbreaking.  The journey itself is fraught with so many near-misses and some really quick thinking on Rosa and Benjamin's parts.

Passing For White is based on a true story, on Ellen Craft who escaped slavery through disguise and who saved herself as well as her husband.  What I found almost as fascinating as the actual journey is what their lives are like (spoiler ahead) after their amazing escape.  I thought Passing For White was a really eye-opening, emotional story and I'm really glad to have read it.

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