A Bad Day for Jayden

Authored by Tony Bradman
Illustrated by Tania Rex
Published by Barrington Stoke

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Barrington Stoke is a top publisher of excellent stories for children of all ages. That they go the extra mile to ensure their books are accessible to children with dyslexia is yet more to their credit. I have seen their books devoured by my classes, both when I have read them aloud and for their own individual reading for pleasure. They speak directly of issues that children find necessary to explore in their own lives.

In A Bad Day for Jayden, the story (as with all Barrington Stoke books) comes first: here we follow Jayden through a day in his school life, with experiences that will immediately engage the young reader. There are problems developing at home then, when he comes to school, his best friend has seemingly turned on him and things go from bad to worse, a spiral of worry.

So far, so familiar, yes? Well, these themes might have been seen before, of course, but the most striking aspect of the book, for me, is the wonderful depiction of what a good teacher can do for children. Miss Wilson deeply cares about Jayden: the book shows how teachers’ working day does not end at 3.15 but rather, how the emotional commitment to the job is constant.

From this, children with anxieties of any kind should draw solace from the book: trusting their teacher, building that relationship with an adult outside of their family could help them. There is a happy ending (perhaps a little ‘pat’ for older children) which gives a clear thumbs-up to teachers who care and a warm hug for those young people who worry.

A Bad Day for Jayden, like so many of the Barrington Stoke books, lends itself beautifully to being read aloud. Year 2, 3 and 4 would be a perfect age to share this book, but I can see Year 5 and 6 children enjoying it as a quick read too. This novel would also work very well as part of a PSHE unit on anxiety. There’s so much to talk about here – the story is beautifully clear and straightforward so there’s lots of time to discuss the characters; asking why Jayden feels the way he does; What’s wrong with mum? What’s made Miss Wilson worried? What could Jayden do?

Finally, mention must be made of the illustrations. Like the text, the pictures depict a reality that is immediately recognizable to all children: it’s reassuring to see a diverse background of characters illustrated in the book. This is an inclusive book and, because of the book’s careful design, speaks to all children (and their teachers!) equally directly.