Out for the Count
Barrington Stoke, 2016
96pp., pbk., RRP $A13.99
Like many children, Hugo would really like a pet – in his case, a gerbil. He raises the issue again with his dad just as he is finishing the repainting of Hugo’s room. Even though his father acknowledges that Hugo would probably look after it very well, he is not a fan of keeping things in cages and so the answer continues to be no. However, there may be a compromise. Hugo works out that the gerbil would only be in the cage for seven hours during the time he is at school, so his father suggests that Hugo experiences that by staying alone in his now-empty room for the same time.
Hugo accepts the challenge and at midday with just the newspaper already spread on the floor, a snack, three chosen toys (a ghost puppet, a bucket of bricks and a monkey on a stick) and his watch he enters the room to stay alone for seven hours. And even though he also has what gerbils don’t – an imagination – the time creeps by so slowly it seems like it stands still. Will Hugo last the seven hours?
This is an entertaining short story for emerging readers written some time ago but repackaged for the Little Gems series which is deliberately designed to support students with dyslexia. The font is “dyslexia-friendly” helping those who confuse letter shapes to see them more clearly and spaced to minimise confusion; the pages are tinted and the paper thicker so illustrations are not “shadowed” on previous pages; the stories short but engaging; and the book is just right for small hands to hold and read alone. Plots are linear and the language and its structure less complex than in other stories for a similar age group. “This process was developed by dyslexia and speech and language experts in response to research and feedback from thousands of readers on hundreds of Barrington Stoke manuscripts over the years.’
Dyslexic or not, Out for the Count is entertaining, witty and wise and will spark lots of conversations about people’s need to confine animals to cages and the “rightness” of this.