Thursday, 20 February 2014

Ghost Stadium, by Tom Palmer

The last day of school has just ended and best friends Lucas, Irfan and Jack have got their summer holidays off to a thrilling start- by camping out for the night in the old abandoned stadium of Yorkshire County FC. They have heard that it's haunted and the boys want to see for themselves if there is any truth in those rumours. Things start to get chilling before they've even managed to climb over the wall- is that just Irfan's imagination or was that the shape of a man's body falling from the roof? Could it have anything to do with the mysterious and unexplained death of the team's star player 5 years before?

A brilliant example of an accessible book that has a genuinely high interest age. Much of the time it feels like cover interest ages are merely plucked out of fresh air, but in this case it is obvious that the author has gone to great lengths to make this narrative genuinely appealing to the 12-15 age range and has managed to keep the language and vocabulary accessible and unthreatening, as well as feeling natural and realistic for the age of the characters.

The football background has enough weight to make this book appeal to those who only ever want to read 'football records' books, or don't read at all, but the football theme is not so prominent that it would deter those who have no interest in sports. The mystery narrative is strong enough to stand up alone, without relying on its football context as a 'hook', so the story has a genuinely broad appeal; football, sports, mystery, chiller. Many readers would be able to identify with the feeling of pride and devotion in following a sports team, and others would simply be pulled along by the exciting mystery or the scary series of events that's unfording. It's not going to be difficult to find a lot of readers who are going to love this. I also love that the author sneakily name drops some zombie and horror books from Charlie Higson and Darren Shan- so any further reading is all taken care of ;)

The chapters are short, two pages as a rule, and fairly numerous. To reluctant or struggling readers, this book would represent a huge achievement and confidence boost because it doesn't feel like a book for a low reading ability. This itself is a really valuable asset, and one that is pretty rare and difficult to achieve. All the chapters end on spectacular cliff-hangers, so finishing this story is not going to be a problem, even for the most apathetic of readers. This book is from Barrington Stoke's Dyslexia friendly range, so format wise the pages are a bit off-white, the font is more easy on the eye than usual and the text is spaced in a way that is easier to read, but not especially noticeable to those who aren't looking for it.

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