Living with Vampires – a Fantastic Book for Struggling Readers

20 August, 2010 (15:53) | book review, dyslexia, neurofeedback in real life

Living with Vampires by Jeremy Strong is a wonderful book published by Barrington Stoke. I discovered it when I was looking for something that would interest an 11-year-old who was struggling with reading and had come for neurofeedback brain training to help.

The point was to get an appealing book that a youngster could read during a neurofeedback session. I’d set up the training program so that nice sounds would play every time the child’s brain produced brainwaves that were expected to be helpful for reading. Their task was to keep the music going (by producing the brainwaves we wanted) and simultaneously read – if you like, they were able to use the music as a check that they really were activating their “reading brain”.

This book really got the youngster chuckling and turning the pages – reading with obvious understanding and filling me in on the story so far every few minutes.

This is what the story’s about.

Kevin’s parents are very unusual. And there’s a school disco coming up for parents and children. He really wants his mum and dad to be normal, just like the other parents, so that they won’t embarrass him at the disco. He’s especially concerned about impressing Miranda, who he has a massive crush on – even though she has big feet. How can he find a way to work on his parents and rescue the situation?

Living with Vampires has an interest age of 9-12 and comes in two versions, one in the Fiction for 9-12s series with a reading age of 8, and one in the 4U2READ series with a reading age of 7. 4U2READ books are simplified versions of some of the most popular books in other series and to give you some idea of the difference between the two, here are a couple of extracts for you to compare (hope I’ve not given away the plot too much!).

Kevin found just the right dish for them. Chicken stuffed with garlic butter. 4U2READ

Kevin searched the cookery books in the kitchen. It took a little while, but in the end he found the ideal dish. It was called Chicken Kiev. Chicken breast stuffed with garlic butter. Fiction for 9-12s

And here’s another.

The rest of the class began to laugh.

Mrs Fottle read on. “I think you have the most beautiful feet in the world.”

The class exploded. 4U2READ

The rest of the class began to giggle. Mrs Fottle read on and her eyebrows climbed higher and higher up her forehead. “I think you have the most beautiful feet in the world.”

Great splutters of laughter exploded around the class. Fiction for 9-12s

I found the books very funny and sympathetic to the problems experienced by kids of upper primary school age. The illustrations by Scoular Anderson are hilarious and the vampires turn out to be not too scary. But the story is entertaining and gripping and keeps you turning the pages until the very last line.

Two versions of Living with Vampires

The 4U2READ version (black cover) is slightly shorter at 55 vs 58 pages. It has a few more illustrations, which often have speech bubbles on them to help the reader make sense of what’s happening in the picture. The Fiction for 9-12s version (blue cover) has slightly smaller illustrations to make way for the larger amount of text, and no speech bubbles. Each version has 7 short chapters, is printed on cream-coloured paper (easier on the eyes than white paper), as are all Barrington Stoke books, and has been road-tested by children in the appropriate interest and reading age groups. The books look just like regular books and don’t have reading or interest age printed anywhere on the cover or in the book – so no chance of a child being embarrassed by being seen to read a book that has a lower reading age than their age in years.

Barrington Stoke publishes books of various reading (6, 6.5, 7, 8 ) and interest (9-16+, and also adults) ages. The stories are wonderful, fun, gripping (parents will definitely enjoy reading them too) and thoroughly road-tested by consultant children. Layout is clear and text size good.

My neurofeedback trainee read the book in a week – and in fact saved the last two chapters to read in our next neurofeedback session – they didn’t want the book to end! But there are plenty more from Barrington Stoke and I strongly recommend them. Good for your own kids, as presents for grandkids, and every school should have some!

Living with Vampires. Jeremy Strong, illustrated by Scoular Anderson. Published by Barrington Stoke. ISBN (4U2READ) 978-1-84299-796-3, publication year 2003. ISBN (Fiction for 9-12s) 1-902260-67-8, publication year 2000.

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