I am currently on a mission with one child to release him from the clutches of Horrid Henry. I’ve been listening to him read Horrid Henry for the last 18 months. They are “The only books I like Miss.”
Now, I know, it doesn’t matter what he reads as long as he is reading. But he’s decided there is nothing else out there for him. Except for Diary of a Wimpy Kid “They’re ok too, I like the pictures.”
In the last 18 months, he’s read 8 books; 5 Horrid Henry and 2 Wimpy Kids, repeatedly, with a Minecraft book thrown in last Christmas.
I asked him why he always reads the same books. “I don’t like reading, I only do it because I have to, so I stick with the ones I’ve read before.”
His answer told me he found no joy in reading. That, I needed to change. My ears needed a break; his reading horizon needed expanding.
We had a chat while looking through the Class Library together. I pulled out Big Nate, Stormbreaker (the Graphic Novel), Beast Quest, Tom Gates. He looked utterly disinterested.
“Have you read any of them Miss?”
“I’ve read some Beast Quest with my son, he loved Tom Gates, and Stormbreaker has one of the best opening lines ever.”
He eyed me suspiciously, “I’d prefer a Horrid Henry…”
“Are you up for a challenge? What if I find a book that’s like Horrid Henry but isn’t? Will you read it and give me your honest opinion? So it can go on my bookshelf?”
“You won’t find one,” and he grinned, walking off with Horrid Henry Makes the Teaching Assistant’s Ears Bleed on the 487th Time of Listening to it (I made that title up). It’s not that I don’t love Horrid Henry, just not on repeat from the same child.
Having picked up the gauntlet he had thrown down, I took to Google like a librarian obsessed. I read reviews and threads on Amazon, Goodreads, Waterstones, Mumsnet and anywhere else I was directed to. And then, I cross-referenced my results.
I chose The Riotous Rocket Ship Robbery (St Viper’s School for Super Villains) by Kim Donovan, the first in the series.
I read it, I took it to school, I put it on my bookshelf, with a post-it saying reserved for Horrid Henry’s Biggest Fan (I actually wrote the child’s name, but anonymity, child protection etc means I can’t blog it).
It didn’t take long. “Miss, is this the book you found for me?”
“It’s for my bookshelf, but I’d love you to try it first. I’ve read it and it’s a bit Horrid Henry. Let me have it back when you’ve read the first three chapters…”
“Three? Cant I just read the first one?” I gave him the look, he flicked through the book. “Yeah, ok then. I’ll read the first 3.”
The following day he came in, sat down, reading book out as usual. I was talking to the class teacher, when he called my name…
“Miss Cleveland, I’ve read to chapter 3.”
“In one night? I’m impressed. And?”
“I’m really enjoying it, do I have to give it back or can I finish it?”
“You’re enjoying it? Brilliant! Finish it!” I replied, and smiled a little smug smile to myself.
“Oh Miss… is there another one I can borrow after this?”
Horrid Henry 0 – Super Villains 1