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From Pictures to Words - a guide to choosing books for beginner readers:
School Stories


Orla at School by Mary Beckett
Published by Poolbeg Press Ltd., 1991
ISBN 1-85371-157-8

Orla O’Neill the heroine of Mary Beckett’s previous book Orla is Six is now aged eight. She still lives in North Belfast and is still teased by her two brothers, Hugh and Art.

The subject of the opening chapter of the book is something that all eight year old girls will understand - her wish to have a solo part in the school concert.

Orla at School by Mary Beckett

According to Orla’s teacher, the most important prerequisite for a solo part is “to behave”. When Orla, who always behaves and who so wanted to sing solo, is finally asked, not a single sound comes out.

Similarly when it comes to the school outing, eight year olds will identify with Orla’s concerns, like where and when to eat, and who to sit with on the bus.

Other concerns common to Orla and readers of her story include having to keep a friend’s secret when she knows she’s doing something wrong, and the hurt she feels when her best friend chooses another girl to be friendly with.

The story is divided into five chapters, written in large print. Pencil-line illustrations break up the text at four or five page intervals, providing a reward or diversion for the reluctant reader.

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