The Return of Johnny Kemp

The Return of Johnny Kemp

By Author / Illustrator

Keith Gray



Age range(s)



Barrington Stoke Ltd




Paperback / softback




Tense teen thriller from award-winning Keith Gray. No one messes with Johnny Kemp. But Dan got him kicked out of school and now word on the street is that Johnny's back - and he's looking for Dan. Will anyone help Dan face up to the bully...? Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers aged 12+



This short and well-crafted school story from Keith Gray adds to the decent stock from dyslexic-friendly editions from Barrington Stoke.
Gray creates a realistic and familiar world of school and teenage life, with honest and believable dialogue. The main character Dan tells us his story in a day, from waking up to his friend Gary's phone call warning, as far as lunchtime at school where his life is transformed. Dan, prior to the story's opening, stood up to a bully Johnny Kemp and today marks the return to school of this ominous figure, who we hear lots about but only meet in the final pages, his reputation and legacy of fear more present with the reader than he himself. Gray's beautiful description at the start is enough on its own - He was mean like barbed wire, dangerous like broken glass. We warm to Dan, through his first person narration, and we understand his character, motivation and honesty. Gray is careful to do this so that what finally happens shocks us. Gray's careful use of vocabulary and short sentences help us to hang our own school experiences and imagination onto his frame without it feeling patronising for a low reading age. We feel for Dan as each stock character or figure in his life he meets could change his story, as we journey with him to the conclusion.
This is marketed for 14 years + with a reading age of 8. The main character is this age, but there is nothing unsuitable for younger readers. It stands up to adult reading too and therefore could work well for any reading age something every teenager can appreciate.

60 pages / 11+ years / Reviewed by Helen Swinyard, librarian

Suggested Reading Age 11+


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