Mini Book Reviews: The latest from Barrington Stoke [Giveaway!]

A slightly different post from me today! I’ve just read three of the latest publications from my favourite publisher, Barrington Stoke, and thought I’d collate them here. I love Barrington Stoke because not only do they publish wonderful children’s books, but those books are also dyslexia-friendly and encourage reluctant readers. I hope you enjoy my reviews and please check out their whole catalogue if you’re interested.

Don’t forget to check out the details of my giveaway before you go!


Author(s): Katya Balen (author), Richard Johnson (illustrator)
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
Publication date: July 2022

The blackbirds’ song uplifts and restores in this captivating novella from one of the most exciting voices in children’s fiction. After a devastating car crash, Annie is unable to play her flute and retreats from the music she’s always loved. She exists in a world of angry silence – furious with her mum and furious she can’t seem to play her beloved flute any more. Then she meets Noah, who shows her the blackbirds’ nest hidden in the scrubland near their flats.

As their friendship grows, the blackbirds’ glorious song reignites Annie’s passion for music.

But when tragedy strikes again, will her fragile progress be put at risk?

If you’ve ever been outside just before dawn and listened to the birds singing, you’ll love Birdsong. It’s about overcoming adversity, family, and friends – and also the strength found in nature. I loved Balen’s story for its honesty – there’s no magic or miracle cures here; it focusses on drawing on support from others so you can find your own way back. It is beautifully complimented by Johnson’s illustrations, making it a heartwarming read.

The Clockwork Queen

Author(s): Peter Bunzl (author), Lia Visirin (illustrator)
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
Publication date: June 2022

Chess prodigy Sophie Peshka inherited her love of the game from her grandmaster father. But now that he has been imprisoned in the dungeons of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg by powerful Empress Catherine the Great, Sophie must use all her strategic skill and cunning to help him escape.

Part of Sophie’s plan involves an incredible chess-playing automaton called the Clockwork Queen, but will the Queen be able to outwit the Empress in a game where the stakes are a matter of life and death?

I never get bored of Peter Bunzl’s books! I was so excited to read The Clockwork Queen because the blurb immediately put me in mind of The Queen’s Gambit, which I have watched repeatedly. This is a wonderful adventure story with a strong, female main character who has agency. I really hope that readers of The Clockwork Queen, particularly girls, will be enthused to discover more about the world of chess.

Stitched Up

Author(s): Steve Cole (author), Oriol Vidal (illustrator)
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
Publication date: June 2022

The horrific real-life cost of fast fashion is exposed in this gripping tale of survival from bestselling author Steve Cole. When twelve-year-old Hanh is offered a job as a shop assistant in Hanoi, she sees it as a chance to earn money to send back to her family living in poverty in rural Vietnam. But on her arrival in the city, she soon learns that the job offer was a lie and finds herself working in virtual slavery in an illegal garment factory.

Life in this sweatshop is a daily hell of long hours, little rest, poor food and regular violence. Hanh is desperate to escape, but when an opportunity arises will she be able to find the courage to take a dangerous chance?

Steve Cole has written many great books but it is not easy to take on difficult subjects and make them accessible to younger readers, and for this I applaud him. Stitched Up takes a very real look at the world of fast fashion and child labour, one of the many difficult topics we face in the modern world. Stitched Up is dark but honest – the main character, Hanh, wants nothing but a better life for herself and her family but it leads her into danger. There is a clear message with real advice, and an opportunity to educate young people on an important subject. I can’t praise this book enough.

As an aside to this, if you’d like to better understand fast fashion and its impact, I highly recommend Clothing Poverty by Andrew Brooks.

Order Now

You can support your local bookshop by buying any of these books through them, or via


It’s time for a giveaway! I ended up with two copies of The Clockwork Queen by Peter Bunzl so I am giving the unread copy away. Check out my pinned tweet for more information and a chance to enter!

Comment below

Drop me a comment below and let me know what you’re currently reading!

Wishing you a wonderfully bookish week,


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