As a children’s bookseller (and now trainee teacher!) I’m always keeping one eye out for accessible books. I’ve talked before about Barrington Stoke and how they’re making literature available for dyslexic and reluctant readers so it’s fantastic to see Hachette do the same!
New from Jane Elson, comes an inspiring story of a boy and the horse that gives him a new lease on life. A fantastic read for any little bookworms, especially those struggling with reading and looking for a story to captive them. Plus, it’s written in a dyslexia friendly font and layout so no need to worry about that!
Huge thanks to both Jane Elson and Hachette Children’s for the opportunity to get my hands on this wonderful book!
For Daniel Margate, life is muddled because everything moves: letters, numbers, even classrooms sometimes. Daniel is dyslexic and most of the time, school just doesn’t make sense. He’s in the bottom reading group at school with other kids who are trying to make sense of it all. There’s Akin who can’t sit still for more than two minutes and is almost always getting into trouble, sports star Ste is recovering from a car accident that left him learning how to walk again and Molly-May’s school uniform never fits and is a regular at the local foodbank.
But when a mystery horse gallops into their lives one stormy evening, it changes everything. Desperate to keep him safe they form the Secret Horse Society and vow to protect this amazing creature. Inspired by stories of the great racehorse Seabiscuit, they name him Jammie Dodger and find they when they work together, nothing seems impossible. Even the Big Read Off at school. They just need to keep their new horse friend a secret.
Jane Elson talks about her heroes and how Storm Horse came to be:
Why Red Pollard and Seabiscuit are the perfect heroes for dyslexics everywhere…
Everyone needs a Hero. As a dyslexic my hero is artist and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci, the greatest dyslexic of all. Heroes who act as role models are a big theme in my books. In Will You Catch Me? Nell Hob’s hero is Nell Gwyn, the restoration actress. In Swimming to the Moon Bee’s hero is her great Gran Beatrix.
Long before Storm Horse was even a speck of an idea, back in 2003, I was lucky enough to see the film Seabiscuit, before it was on general release in the UK at a ‘Women in Film and Television’ event and fell in love with the story of this little racehorse and Red Pollard, the brave fearless jockey who rode Seabiscuit to victory again and again in 1930s USA. Charles Howard, Seabiscuit’s owner, was a talented publicist. To the press he declared that Seabiscuit was ‘the racehorse who was too small, ridden by the jockey who was too tall’ and the nation, flattened by the Great Depression, loved them. Red was also blind in one eye which makes his feats as a jockey even more incredible. I then bought the brilliant book which the film was based on, Seabiscuit an American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. Since then Seabiscuit had been racing along in the back of my mind.
Fast forward to November 2019. I was having a meeting with my editor Naomi Greenwood, in a coffee bar in St. Pancras station to talk about the final proofs of Moon Dog and to also talk about my idea for my next book about a 12-year-old boy who has dyslexia. At the time my book was about his adventures with Wilbur the reading dog, who appears briefly in Moon Dog. But to be honest I was struggling; I wasn’t quite happy with it and Naomi said it needs to be a bigger story, it needed to have another strand. When I came home to think about it, my imagination began to tick. ‘Why not a reading horse instead of a dog?’ ‘Why not an abandoned horse that Daniel finds on the heath and has to keep secret?’ ‘Why not call him Jammie Dodger in honour of Seabiscuit?’ And then inspiration struck with full force: Daniel my dyslexic protagonist would inherit letters from his great great grandfather written in the Great Depression to Seabiscuit that he could read to Jammie Dodger. I phoned my agent Jodie Hodges to tell her about my idea and when she laughed out loud at the horse being called Jammie Dodger I knew I was on to something.
The more I learned about Seabiscuit and Red Pollard, the more I realised they were the perfect heroes for a dyslexic boy.
At school Johnny, Red Pollard’s teacher, told him he wouldn’t amount to anything. I was also told this at school, so I really identify with him. He carried a bundle of books with him wherever he went and would quote Shakespeare to the other jockeys. Red Pollard really was the perfect hero for my protagonist Daniel. Seabiscuit was ‘the little horse who won against all odds’. Although dyslexia is a gift it also comes with challenges and quite often, in some every-day tasks, it literally feels as if I have to battle against all odds. Seeing how Seabiscuit won again and again and again, even though he was not built to be a racehorse, and he had a strange gait and one of his forelegs swung out wildly as he walked – well, it goes without saying that that is inspirational for dyslexics!
I received a treasured email from Norah Pollard, Red Pollard’s daughter, who told me that her father would have been so happy to know that people are still being inspired by Seabiscuit’s story.
Red Pollard and Seabiscuit are now definitely heroes to me, along with Leonardo Davinci of course. What a trio!
You can check out the thoughts of some other wonderful book bloggers on this book throughout the rest of the Storm Horse blog tour by following along over on social media!
Are you looking forward to reading this book? I’d love to know your thoughts on it! You can always find me over on Twitter if you’re looking for a book chat! 😌