Sometimes finding books for the reluctant reader can be difficult. The choices from traditional large commercial publishers can sometimes be quite similar. When a child does find a style of book they enjoy it can sometimes be the only one like it offered by the commercial publishers. Even the biggest branches of Waterstones only carry books from commercial publishers, and, very rarely, books of significant local interest. So where can you look to try and find books that suit your child?
The answer may lie in the multitude of small independent presses that you can find in every corner of the country. These presses don’t have the big advertising budgets or the commercial clout to get their books into the big chain bookshops or generate the media hype that the commercial publishers can. This does not mean that the books they produce are any less fantastic. Often it is quite the opposite. A small press can only afford to take on books that are exceptional because, unlike a commercial publisher, they cannot afford to have a single book fail to sell. When your advertising budget is next to nothing this means they can only rely on the quality of their books to generate word of mouth advertising from the marketing options that cost nothing, or very little.
Recently I came across a fantastic example of a children’s book that ticks every single box you would want for a reluctant reader. The book is called “Oy Yew”. It is a wonderful, whimsical, fantasy story for children aged 8 plus, which is captivating enough to engage readers throughout the child and young adult reader spectrum and indeed for adults to enjoy as well. It is the precious thing that all publishers seek and so rarely find – a crossover book. Examples of crossover books include Harry Potter, His Dark Materials and now Oy Yew.
This book came from a small press based in Nottingham called Mother’s Milk books. The mother’s milk team describe themselves as “a small, family-run press that publishes high-quality, beautiful books for adults and children that normalize breastfeeding and celebrate femininity and empathy.”
So how does a child’s fantasy book about an underfed waif from a foreign country who has to fight against those who oppress him, and others like him, fit into this remit? Empathy, this is where Oy Yew fits in. It is a book that celebrates uniqueness, encourages readers to think about social justice and above all entertains in a way that will leave you thinking about it for weeks after you read it.
The book contains made-up words and phrases that will challenge young readers without proving to be an obstacle to enjoying the book. I had a dyslexic friend read the book after I had finished it and they also loved it and found it easy to read.
The best thing about this book? It’s a trilogy so there are two more to come.
Who is going to love this book? Everyone who loved His Dark Materials and similar books. If you loved that style, the way it combines just enough closure with a realistic sense of what life is actually like, the engaging characters, the complex storyline and the constant questions then this book is going to blow you away. All readers of fantasy fiction and everyone who loves an underdog story.
Who is NOT going to love this book? It is very much a fantasy book so those who don’t like high-fantasy fiction probably won’t be too enthralled and some parts are not suitable for very young children. Probably not a book that will appeal to those who exclusively read wordy high brow literary fiction – although I read some of this type of book too and I still loved Oy Yew.
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