Small Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans: shortlisted for Costa Children’s Book Award 2012 and recommended for girls/boys age 8+

The Costa Book Awards 2012: The Children’s Book Award: Shortlist

Flip by Martyn Bedford (Walker Books)
The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Walker Books)
Small Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans (Doubleday)
Blood Red Road by Moira Young (Marion Lloyd Books) – WINNER

Small Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans (Doubleday)

Stuart Horten is small for his age, very small.   In fact, he often gets confused for someone much younger – this he finds VERY annoying.  Not only that but his parents are very tall (how strange is that?).  His Mum is very clever – a scientist.  His Dad is equally clever – he compiles crosswords.  But clever does not mean sensible.

Everything changes for Stuart the day his Mum is offered a job in a hospital a long way from home and the family upsticks and move to Beeton which, as it happens, is where Stuart’s father was born.  Problem no. 1 – Beeton is dull, really, really dull.  Problem no. 2 – it’s the start of the school holidays and Stuart knows no-one.  See what I mean about sensible!

By the third day in his new home, Stuart is bored, bored rigid.  His father suggests a “brief perambulation” – that’s a short walk to you and me – and they set off to explore Beeton and to go to a factory that once belonged to Stuart’s Great Uncle Tony.   And this is where Stuart’s adventure begins – to find his Great Uncle Tony’s lost workshop, reputed to be stuffed full of all sorts of magic and trickery.  You see, Great Uncle Tony was also a famous magician and his stage name was Teeny Tiny Tony Horten (note the height connection!).

A tin box with a secret compartment and a handwritten message from Great Uncle Tony set Stuart off on the strange and dangerous quest.

“I have to go away, and I may not be able to get back.  If I don’t return, then my workshop and all it contains, is yours if you can find it – and if you can find it, then you’re the right boy to have it.


Your uncle Tony

PS. Start in the telephone box in the High Street”

Will Stuart be up to the task - bearing in mind he needs a box to stand on to reach just about anything!   Who can he trust?  The triplets, April, May, June, who live next door?  Maybe, maybe not.  And is he the only one who wants to get their hands on Great Uncle Tony’s workshop and everything inside?  I doubt it.  And who is the shadow that keeps following him with a white dove circling above?

Small Change for Stuart is a heartwarming tale of mystery, magic and tenacity with lots of clues and puzzles along the way.  It is also a very funny read.  Stuart’s father’s crossword-clue dialogue is hilarious, for example, “Do you have any plans for the matutinal hours?” Meaning, doing anything in the morning?   And Stuart’s continuing hang-up about his height is very endearing.

I highly recommend this book for girls and boys aged 8+ who enjoy a mystery, some magic, a little time travel and lots of laughs.


This entry was posted in Age 6-8, Age 8-10, Evans, Lissa, Pre-teen and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Small Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans: shortlisted for Costa Children’s Book Award 2012 and recommended for girls/boys age 8+

  1. Zoe says:

    You’ve tempted me to reserve this at the library…

    • Yvonne Keen says:

      Oh it really is a wonderful read. Thoroughly deserving of its place on the Costa Children’s Book Award shortlist. Now, I just need to read the winner! So much to read, so little time!

  2. Zoe says:

    Ok, so I finally read this last night in one sitting! Couldn’t stop turning the pages, which is a good sign. I loved all the magical machines – I thought the story was quite ripe for turning into a film actually. And the relationship between Stuart and April is really nice – not straightforward but actually rather lovely. The father’s language annoyed me a little – and made me think of Dr Shellington in the Octonauts (at least in the books, I don’t know about TV version, he also talks in long words and complicated sentences that leave everyone else confused), but I can see how it works in the context of the book.

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