An enjoyable easy-to-read, dyslexia-friendly story that is also filled with things to think about.
Nine year old Sequin lives with her mum and her baby brother, Stitch, in a flat on the twelfth floor of Primrose Mansions. When she’s asked to do a speech at school about someone inspirational, Sequin decides to talk about her mum. Sequin’s mum “makes” amazing designer outfits – the sort that people wear on red carpets at film premiers or in magazine adverts. There is just one problem. It’s the designers who get all the credit and no-one at school believes that Sequin’s mum really turns these designs into real outfits. It doesn’t help that Sequin’s mum refuses to leave their flat (they have everything they need delivered) and Sequin is not allowed to have friends over to visit. Sequin tries not to mind and does what she can to help, taking care of baby Stitch and threading the needles for her mum’s intricate hand sewing. When her mum is commissioned to make the wedding dress for the Princess, Sequin is hopeful that, this time, things will finally change and everyone will find out about her mum’s amazing talents. Then tragedy strikes: the Princess’s dress is destroyed and Sequin and her mum have to deal with a much bigger loss.
For a short book (just 84 pages), this story is certainly packed with things to think about. On one level, it’s a simple – easy to read – story about Sequin, her mum and a very special dress. (This is to be expected as the book is part of Barrington Stoke’s highly acclaimed dyslexia friendly series). On another level, however, the story sensitively raises a whole series of issues, from truth and friendship (when Sequin’s classmates challenge her claims about her mum) to mental health and loss (through her mum’s refusal to leave the flat and lack of confidence). This is complemented by an incredibly clever plot, particularly a revelation at the climax that effectively slots all the pieces of the puzzle in place. (I’m struggling to explain more without giving too much away).
The characterisation is equally impressive. There is limited description given the word count but we, nevertheless, effortlessly picture everyone we meet. Sequin is easily revealed through her first person narrative while mum’s personality, worries and fears are effectively conveyed via a combination of her actions and very minimal dialogue. I especially liked the way the designers are summarised in just seven words, characterised by “their posh voices and takeaway coffee cups.” Topping all of this, is the man who lives in the flat below. Known to Sequin as “Moany Bony Mr Tony”, his nickname, actions and the brief two-line description build a clear image in the reader’s mind. This is, however, turned upside down by the wonderful climax.
If you enjoyed this, you might want to try another middle grade story from Barrington Stoke such as Tin Boy by Steve Cole. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a longer middle-grade story in a similar style, why not try Ella on the Outside or Not My Fault by Cath Howe.
Publication date: April 2020
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
Author’s website: Laura Dockrill