"Hetty and the battle of the books" is Anna James' first novel for UK-based publisher Barrington Stoke, an independent and award-winning publisher of "super-readable, dyslexia-friendly fiction to help every child become a reader."
James has found success with her must-read Pages & Co. series, about Tilly and her friends who can travel into books, and the former school librarian returns to the world of books in this short, accessible story.
7th grader Hetty loves books, reading, and the library at her school. Unfortunately, after a big fallout with her friends Mei, Rocket, and Ali, she still has to see them regularly in the library where they attend their respective clubs and societies. But even more unfortunately, the future of the library, and the position of the beloved librarian Ms. Juster, are at stake when the headmaster announces a budget cut. Everyone is devastated. Can Hetty save the library and kit the relationship with her friends?
As with her Pages & Co. series, James weaves her story around the love for books, reading, libraries, and everything around it. However, she also includes a political aspect, as libraries across the UK have been affected by budget cuts and closings in the last years, much to the detriment of especially young pupils, for whom the library not only provides a safe space to study, meet friends, and relax, but also to access books that are not available - be it due to financial means or other barriers.
Honoring her friends and family by naming characters in the books after her, and making an appearance herself, James creates a comfortable atmosphere in the book, one in which children with different interests can share the same space and work together toward a communal goal. Among this diverse cast of school children and supportive teachers, Hetty was, for me, maybe the least likeable character, although her love for books and mention of beloved characters such as Anne of Green Gables and His Dark Materials' Lyra, that child readers may have a fun time recognising, made up for the quick judgement of her friends.
Fun illustrations by Jez Tuya round off the book that is designed with Barrington Stoke's signature dyslexia-friendly layout and font, this book will engage many more young readers and introduce them to the love for books on reading on two levels -within and outside of the story.