Eyes Behind Books – Junior Book Club, Balbriggan Library.

by Fingal Libraries
by Fingal Libraries on March 30, 2015 in Libraries

Eyes Behind Books is the Junior Book Club in Balbriggan library. This book club was hatched last year in the month of September. Classic stories remain among children’s favourites with renowned authors such as Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl in the top list of Children’s authors, alongside Daisy Meadows, Francesca Simon and Jacqueline Wilson. Our […]

Eyes Behind Books is the Junior Book Club in Balbriggan library. This book club was hatched last year in the month of September. Classic stories remain among children’s favourites with renowned authors such as Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl in the top list of Children’s authors, alongside Daisy Meadows, Francesca Simon and Jacqueline Wilson.

Our first read had to be Matilda, a classic by Roald Dahl. This coincided with the annual anniversary of the Roald Dahl Day, which was marked on the 13th of September 2014. The exceptional Matilda is about a smart, easily infuriated little girl who is misunderstood by her parents and loathed by the school’s headmistress. On the other hand her kind and generous teacher, Miss Honey, thinks she is a brilliant academic genius. Matilda has a number of excellent schemes in her head to teach her nasty parents and headmistress a lesson.

Whilst Matilda is the novel’s central character, the kids in the club were drawn to the larger-than-life, extrovert, humorous and strangely likeable headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Her unique reprimands to the children, with phrases such as ‘blithering idiot’ and ‘stagnant cesspool’ left us in stitches.

The novel is littered with excellent examples of Dahl’s use of creative imagination to keep the children’s attention alive such as when Matilda uses her magical eyes to write a truthful message to the headmistress on the blackboard.

For Matilda Wormwood and her fellow pupils at Crunchem Hall – including Lavender, Hortensia, Bruce Bogtrotter and Amanda Thripp, school was a scary and frightful place to be especially with a formidable headmistress like Miss Trunchbull, who thought kids are a bunch of nauseating little warts.

So it seems a good time to run through Matilda’s school survival tips – and hopefully stay away from the Chokey…

  • Remember the hair-raising rules.

Amanda Thripp’s mother thought pigtails were a good idea. Miss Trunchbull didn’t. And it was poor Amanda who paid the price.

Lesson: Pigtails are a no – go.

  • Never ever eat the teacher’s cake.

Bruce Bogtrotter learned this the hard way: if you spot a tasty delicious looking slice of chocolate cake on the headmistresses plate, don’t be tempted to sneak a piece.

Lesson: Leave the cake on the plate.

  • Newts and water glasses don’t mix.

Tempting as it can be to play a trick on a teacher like the Trunchbull, Lavender’s newt idea backfired when that terrible headmistress blamed Lavender’s friend Matilda for the mayhem.

Lesson: Newts belong in ponds, not glasses.

  • Be prepared.

If you’re going to challenge a teacher, especially one like the Trunchbull – you must be willing to face the consequences. Hortensia’s little games have sent her to the horrible Chokey more than once.

Lesson: Be aware of all possible outcomes.

  • Go the whole hog.

As Matilda herself says, if you are going to do something, it will need to be so fantastically far-fetched that no-one outside of school will believe you.

Lesson: Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog.

BOOK CLUB VERDICT: The kids loved this book. It was an interesting and enjoyable experience for the young readers. Roald Dahl’s creative and humorous style of writing made the novel an incredible page turner.

We scored it 8/10.


The next book the Junior Book Club read was War Horse by Michael Morpurgo, the multi-prize winning author and former Children’s Laureate 2003-2005, who has published over 100 books.

The novel War Horse was written from the point of view of Joey, a horse bought by the Army to serve in the World War 1. It describes Joey’s experiences and details how Albert, Joey’s former owner, tries to bring him home safely from France.

BOOK CLUB VERDICT: The kids thought it was a good read but sad at the same time. It was poignantly written and it tugged at our heartstrings.

We scored it 7/10.


The book club then moved on to The Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil Earle. The Bubble Wrap boy is a funny tale about a boy with a secret talent: skateboarding. The main character, Charlie Han, has his own problems, not least his insecurities about his height. He is either patronised or insulted. Jibes such as “Chinese Midget” or “Special-needs one”, really stings.

Yet Charlie is resilient. In musing on his “life as a short arse”, he thinks about all the various tyrants with “small –man syndrome”. Genghis Khan, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler, adding wittily, “Mind you, I bet Genghis’s mum was easier going than mine.”

One of the things that makes the book click is the funny interplay between Charlie and his mother, who is paranoid about danger that she even makes Charlie wear swimming googles if he is decorating a Christmas tree (to be fair, those tough Nordic non-drop needles could have someone’s eye out). He starts seeing home as a prison. “Imagine Shawshank with shoutier guards”, he says. In exasperation, he shouts at her, “All you want to do is wrap me up in cotton wool.”

BOOK CLUB VERDICT: The kids enjoyed reading about Charlie and his secret passion for skateboarding but thought it was hilarious the way his mum was over protecting him.

We scored it 7/10.


The next novel the book club read was titled The World of Norm – Must be Washed Separately, by Jonathan Meres. Norm, the main character in the book, knew it was going to be one of those days when he was woken by the sound of an elephant breaking wind in the next room…Not the best start to a day, but it’s about to get a whole lot worse. As if a trip to see his perfect cousins isn’t bad enough, they’ve only gone and got the brand new Call Of Mortal Battle on Xbox! Not that Norm could play anyway what with being banned off Xbox due to a curious incident of a stinky dog at bath time. Business as usual? ABSO-FLIPPING-LUTELY!!!

The funniest bit voted unanimously by the kids was where John, the stinky family dog decided to sneak in the bath with Norm. Yikes!!!

Norm was so busy daydreaming that at first he didn’t notice one of the ‘mountains’ beginning to move. And when he eventually did notice, he didn’t think too much of it and just imagined that one of the ‘mountains’ was actually a volcano about to erupt. Little did Norm know that it was actually HIM who was about to erupt.

“A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A GH” screamed Norm, as John poked his head up out of the bubbles, like the sun rising majestically above the horizon. Except that the sun didn’t have a stupid grin all over its stupid face, or its tongue lolling about like a wet sock on a washing line.

“GET OUT!” yelled Norm dementedly.

Not only did John not get out of the bath, he continued to stare at Norm as if he thought that if anything, it was Norm who should be getting out of the bath – and not the other way round.

What do you think eventually happened? Who got out of the bath, Norm or John?

Jonathan Meres almost has a similar style of writing to Jeff Kinney, the American author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is so overwhelmingly popular and takes the top six places on the most borrowed titles list. (Public Lending Remuneration) Fans of Jeff Kinney will not be disappointed to have another author similar in writing to him.


We scored it 6/10.


By Yinka Parm, Balbriggan Library

You can reserve any of the above books on the Fingal Libraries Online Catalgue > Click here