For those new to Pichon’s work, the Tom Gates series is a British publishing sensation. Having started life in 2011 with The Brilliant World of Tom Gates, there are now 10 books charting the life and times of Tom, an endearing but chaotic young boy (aged about 10), his mother and father, sister Delia and best friend Marcus. In five years, the books have sold more than four million copies worldwide, and been translated into 42 languages.
In the same satirical realist comedy fiction genre as the monumentally popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise, the Tom Gates books are not just guaranteed to enthrall a young reader on a summer holiday afternoon. They are also perfect for children who need a bit more encouragement than average – whether that might be due to a diagnosed condition such as dyslexia, or because they just can’t sit still.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like books. I loved them. I just took longer to read than anyone else
Mum-of-three Liz Pichon, 52, has recently published her 10th book in the ‘Tom Gates’ series, which follows the relatable adventures of a schoolboy.
Her engaging books revolutionise storytelling for kids with their brightly coloured covers, creative illustrations and array of fonts throughout.
“It’s almost been a coincidence that reluctant readers and kids with dyslexia have really got into books,” Pichon told The Huffington Post UK.
“If I sat down and consciously tried to do something for them, I don’t think I’d have been able to do it.”
Two Barrington Stoke reissues in handsome new editions. Desirable has been given a shiny gold (not lime-green!) flap cover and new illustrations by Cate James, while Keith Gray’s has an appropriately gritty graphic cover design. Excellent gifts for anyone, but being from Barrington Stoke especially worth considering for readers who find full-length novels daunting.
In Dyslexia Awareness Week, Sally Gardner explains how her dyslexia didn’t (in the end) get in the way of becoming an award-winning children’s writer:
It was pretty tricky growing up with dyslexia, because I thought I was clever, and I know that sounds like a silly thing to say, but I didn’t think I was stupid. Yet I obviously was stupid because I couldn’t read or write. I seemed like a bright little girl but all that brightness could never come out because I couldn’t spell anything. So the cat always sat on the mat, it never did anything else, and the day was always sunny, it could be nothing else because I couldn’t spell anything else.
I got stuck on a reading scheme which I hope you guys never come across called Janet and John. Most people flew off it very early on but I got stuck on it for the rest of my time at primary school. I got as far as Janet and John Had a Ball from the age of six to 11. The most exciting thing that EVER happened to them was they got a dog, I almost had a party that day.
Barrington Stoke, the dyslexia-friendly publisher, has created a new information leaflet for parents, librarians and ‘learning professionals’. I have been sent several copies of the 4-sided (A4 folded to A5) leaflet and I assume teachers and librarians can request copies by contacting the publisher’s website.
The front of the leaflet shows Barrington Stoke titles, and the second page explains what makes the publisher’s books so dyslexia-friendly, but the remaining two sides of advice are of general interest to all those working with children who don’t take easily to reading.
Early on in my life I was diagnosed with dyslexia, and some other learning difficulties. It’s hard as a kid seeing everyone else doing so well at everything, and you just can’t. So the way I found myself as a person was through art. I just loved taking pictures… MICHAEL SHAINBLUm
In her Carnegie acceptance speech, Sally Gardner speaks about her own experience of school and then turns her attention to current education policy. “STOP testing our children into failure.”
The link contains a full audiofile of the Medal announcement followed by acceptance speech.