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We’re bonkers for the Conkers!

Introducing the conkers

This month we are delighted to introduce a brand new string to the Barrington Stoke bow in the form of the Conkers, an imprint designed to build on the core message of the company – and publish some fantastic books along the way. Launching with The Unlikely Outlaws by Philip Ardagh and Tom Morgan Jones and Hook or by Crook by Jan Mark and Tony Ross, the Conkers are fabulous stories packed chock-full of fun extras, all wrapped up in a zany but readable package.

The aim of these books is simple. Even though the Barrington Stoke postbag is overflowing with letters about the difference our books can and do make to the lives of struggling and reluctant readers, we also receive pleas from many looking for the ‘next step’. Barrington Stoke books are great for cracking the reading process and building confidence, but what do you do when the gulf between one of our standard 8-12 titles and the latest kids’ lit phenomena is overwhelmingly huge? And exacerbated in no small part by a tricky design with which newly-emergent independent readers can’t cope? Enter Conkers.

We’ve talked before about the unwieldy lengths that kids’ books seem to be reaching towards nowadays, as well as the fashion for tinkering with layouts in such a way as to exacerbate reading difficulties. With the Conkers we hope to show what’s possible while still keeping accessibility in mind.  The Conkers are the same length as standard middle grade stories. They look and feel just like any other book you’d find in that section of the bookshop or library. But we’ve looked carefully at the font, spacing, paper and a whole range of other design considerations to produce books we know can be accessed and enjoyed by more children. They’re dyslexia-friendly and conform to all our usual practices, offering a next step solution and allowing progression onto whatever mainstream fiction title is the trend of the moment.

We hope that one day all books will be published with accessibility in mind but until then, we’ll get the ball rolling – welcome to the world, Conkers!


In The Unlikely Outlaws by Philip Ardagh and Tom Morgan-Jones, a gang of occasionally inept outlaws rob from the rich to give to the poor, foil dastardly knights and … fail in some quests. Oh well. In a parallel universe, an increasingly frustrated editor chases Sir Philip for new instalments to the story with the help of on-the-ball PA Dotty, a large range of post-it notes and many many cakes…

Resonating with funnyman Ardagh’s wisecracking charm, this Robin Hood-esque romp is perfect for fans of Tom Gates and Wimpy Kid.

You can read a sample from The Unlikely Outlaws below, or buy The Unlikely Outlaws here.

Hook or by Crook by Jan Mark and Tony Ross brings together two tales of Merry England – and there’s mayhem and madness galore. A shepherd has his work cut out for him if he’s to outwit King John’s riddles, while infamous outlaw Robin Hood tries his hand at a career on the open water – but seasickness might put a stop to that…

With Jan Mark’s sparkling wit and Tony Ross’ zany illustrations, this romp through ye olde England is a delight for all.

You can read a sample from Hook or by Crook below, or buy Hook or by Crook here.

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