The move to Secondary School always gets attention; it is indeed a big step. But what about that final year in Primary School – Year 6, as you turn away from your younger selves and everyone keeps telling you it will be a tough year. Nate is moving into Year 6 – and from the start it is going to be uncomfortable. For the first time in their school careers Nate and his best friend, Parker find themselves in different classes. Undying friendship is promised – but Parker is drawn into a new set of friends. Nate is on the outside. He misses his absent father and worries about his younger brother, Dylan. Then there is the new teacher. Mr Joshua is rather surprising. But Year 6 see Nate growing up. When he leaves Poppy Field Primary, he will be ready for Secondary School and all its challenges.
This verse novel reflects Matt Goodfellow’s own memories of schooldays. Already well known for his poetry for young people, it rings with authenticity, not least because he talks directly to his audience with his own Mancunian voice. Nate will be recognized by many a young reader. The background of uncertainty he experiences, his emotions and anxieties are believable and consistent. This is no fairy tale but a true reflection of life for some while encouraging empathy in others. Stepping off the page also is Mr Joshua – the teacher who makes a difference. He is prepared to listen and his recommendation of Skellig by David Almond – the right book at the right time – opens a door for Nate. Not only does it intrigue, it mirrors Nate’s experiences and captures his imagination. Understated and immersive, Goodfellow’s prose is instantly accessible. The writing is direct, immediate, unthreatening without sacrificing style while subtle layers of understanding bring to it a depth and resonance. Adding to the whole are the illustrations by Joe Todd- Stanton. They pop off the page in stark black and white bringing a moment of surprise and recognition, mirroring the text without distracting from it. Outstanding.