The Climbers

The Climbers

By Author / Illustrator

Keith Gray, Tom Clohosy Cole


Personal Growth

Age range(s)



Barrington Stoke Ltd




Paperback / softback




In this compelling story of teenage rivalry and friendship, award-winning author Keith Gray captures the subtle agonies and reality of life growing up in a small town.

Sully is the best climber in the village. He can scale the Twisted Sister's tangled branches and clamber up Double Trunker with ease. But when new kid Nottingham shows up and astonishes everyone with his climbing skills, Sully's status is under threat and there's only one way to prove who's best. Sully and Nottingham must race to climb the last unnamed tree. Whoever makes it to the top will become a legend. But something spiteful and ugly has reared its head in Sully ... Is it worth losing everything just to reach the top?



An original story about finding your place in the world and the struggles many teenagers feel to fit in. The Climbers will really appeal to young readers, particularly boys. The title and book cover alone suggest this book is about climbing trees which immediately makes it appealing to many young readers. However, the narrative is so much more than that; climbing becomes an extended metaphor for growth, maturity and friendships.

The Climbers tells the tale of Sully, the best climber in the village. Sully has impressively climbed all of the trees with the best times, except for one. One day a new boy - Nottingham - joins the village and quickly makes his mark by scaling the trees with ease. Sully becomes instantly jealous and feels threatened by this new boy, challenging him to climb a particular tree which Sully knows is spider infested. Covered in lesions and infected bites, the two boys begin a war with each other to be named the best climber in the village and be the first to name the final tree.

The boys challenge and fight each other, Nottingham tying Sully's brand new bike to the top of a tree and mangling it in revenge for Sully tricking him into climbing the spider-infested tree. But things take a turn for the worst. Sully realises his friends are turning away from him as he becomes consumed with hatred for Nottingham and focuses only on being the best climber. Eventually, the day comes where the two boys must climb the unnamed tree. But disaster falls and Nottingham is severely injured. Sully comes to realise the important things in life and starts to rebuild his relationships, gaining back respect from those around him and, most importantly, for himself.

This clever narrative is rife with hidden meanings throughout, but is also a really enjoyable read about climbing trees. Keith Gray (author) has created two characters that most young readers will really be able to connect with and perhaps see elements of themselves in. Personally I really enjoyed the focus on the complex emotions of the boys, I feel this will enable boy readers to express themselves as Nottingham and Sully do. The narrative has strong connotations of challenging yourself and pushing yourself to the limit, a strong message needed in society. Published by Barrington Stoke, this is another fantastic addition to their collection of dyslexic friendly texts.

120 pages / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 11+


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