By Author / Illustrator
Matt Goodfellow, Joe Todd-Stanton
Otter-Barry Books Ltd
Paperback / softback
See that tall, skinny kid with the ball in his hand
sayin see ya later to his mate?
10 years old
and a week away from the end of Year 5.
Life can be tough in your last year of primary school. Tests to take, preparing for the change to high school. Nate is ready for it all, knowing his best friend PS is at his side - they've been inseparable since Nursery. But when they are put in two different classes and PS finds a new friend in Turner, the school bully, Nate's world turns upside-down. As he struggles to make sense of this and forge new friendships, he's dealt another blow when his youngest brother, Dylan is rushed into hospital.
His new teacher, Mr Joshua, sees a spark inside of Nate that's lit by his love of reading and writing and shows him how to use this to process what's going on. But with so much working against him, and anger rising inside him, will this be enough?
A powerful and lyrical story about finding your place in the world and the people that matter within it.
Nate doesn't have the easiest life at home. His mum is loving but struggling and Nate has never known his dad; he often has to get his two younger brothers up and ready for school; and there's never quite enough money to go round. In spite of everything, he has been doing well at school now that counselling has helped him control his rages. With his best friend Parker Smith, he's ready for his final year at primary school - looking forward to it, even. Then he finds out that he and Parker have been put in different classes.
As Parker gradually drops his old friend in favour of friendship with the school bully, Nate's world is rocked. Then, when his little brother is rushed into hospital, it turns completely upside down. His new teacher, Mr Joshua, values Nate's originality and his love for reading and writing. He offers a kind and watchful presence - but can kindness be enough to help Nate manage the anxiety and rage rising inside him?
A summary of The Final Year can't begin to do justice to this fabulously sparkling new verse novel from Matt Goodfellow. Absorbed from the first page, I laughed aloud at the descriptions of Year 6 teachers and mourned alongside Nate when he thought he'd lost his best friend and then his little brother. I was uplifted by Mr Joshua's love for words and music and enraged by the meanness of playground bullies.
The verse format, the layout, illustration and design work cleverly together to create all kinds of neat effects. Most of all, at the centre of the story, Nate comes alive as a fully three dimensional character who will capture your heart. I read it in a single sitting and now I'm recommending it far and wide - even, whisper it, as a great choice to tempt Upper Key Stage 2 children away from Diary of a Wimpy Kid dependency. Absolutely don't miss this one!
288 pages / Reviewed by Louisa Farrow, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+
Nate is 10. He lives with his loud, bingo playing, chaotic mum and his two younger brothers who he spends a lot of time caring for. At school he is a bit of an outsider, especially once he moves into Y6 and his best friend forms other friendships. Sometimes, when things get too much, "The beast begins to stir" and Nate can't control his reaction to these situations which leaves him feeling more isolated than ever. But Nate loves words and, encouraged by his empathetic new teacher, Mr Joshua, who offers him books and encourages his writing, Nate navigates his way through challenges of Y6, the looming menace of SATS and the illness that threatens the life of his youngest brother.
The Final Year is a book that so many teachers are talking about! Pupils and staff will empathise with Nate's thoughts and feelings about life in Y6 and the poetic style is a wonderful introduction to the verse novel genre. The reader is exposed to the use of different fonts, illustration, space across the pages as well as a mix of dialogue and narrative.
The pace and style of The Final Year also ensure that the 288 pages is a quick read. There is plenty for an upper KS2 class to discuss as they read this and it could be a very useful way to launch the start of year 6. Finally, if you have read Skellig (David Almond), then the reading of this will be enhanced and if not, it may well lead you to do so.
288 pages / Reviewed by Rachel Bolton, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+