Needle

Authored by Patrice Lawrence
Published by Barrington Stoke

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What do you do when you feel like the world is closing in on you? Needle by Patrice Lawrence is a short, powerful novel about a young girl who uses the methodical, patterned mechanism of knitting to help her cope with her reality, to ease her anger and her fears. 15-year-old, London-based Charlene has faced many hardships in her life – the passing of her mother, the separation from her younger sister, Kandi, and the uncertainty of moving from home to home within the foster care system. In school and amongst her peers, she suffers from bullying and racist micro-aggressions. Despite these hardships, Charlene has found solace in some aspects of her life: the consistency of her foster carer Annie, recognition and friendship from her peer, Skye, and the comfortable, clicking repetition of her knitting.

This poignant story, with an interest age of 12+ and a reading age of 8+, draws the reader into Charlene’s world – her struggles, her pain and her sense of entrapment in a society that seems to throw her challenges with little hope for escape. Patrice Lawrence’s raw portrayal of Charlene helps the reader to empathise with the difficulties she is facing and forces us to think, ‘What would I do in her shoes?’. A true window into the life of another, Needle is a must-read for its emotive themes and opportunities for discussion around the impact of society on the individual.

Barrington Stoke is well known for publishing titles of this nature to engage themes of interest for older readers who need more accessible reading material. The book itself has been printed with dyslexia-friendly features, printed on an off-white background with sensitive typesetting. Whilst the content and themes of this book would not be suitable for the primary classroom, this would be well placed in the hands of any secondary-aged reader. Patrice Lawrence is a well-known British writer of fiction for both adults and children who won the 2021 inaugural Jhalak Children’s and Young Adult prize category for her YA novel (ages 12+), Eight Pieces of Silva.

Needle would provide a stimulating opportunity for literature circles or book group discussion with a keen eye on critical literacy. There are many choices that Charlene faces in the novel. Create a timeline of events as a summary exercise. Zoom in on individual events to provoke critical discussion, reading aloud short sections of text to reveal the hidden undertones of meaning. What would you have done in this situation? How would you have felt? What might have happened if a different choice was made? How do you think that these events are connected? The dynamism of Patrice Lawrence’s writing hits readers like a shock wave – use this influence to springboard discussion and debate, the heart of critical literacy.

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