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Highway Robbery [Hardcover]

Kate Thompson
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Oct 2008

'Hold the mare for me, lad. And when I come back I'll give you a golden guinea.'

It's more money than the street urchin has ever dreamt of. But who is the rider, and why is there so much interest in his big black horse? And will the boy ever see the money he has been promised?

There's highway robbery in the air, but it isn't always entirely clear just who is trying to rob who.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head (2 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0370329570
  • ISBN-13: 978-0370329574
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 18.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 191,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Stunningly illustrated and fast-paced, this story for younger readers brings to life the legend of the most famous highwayman of them all - and his amazing horse" (Four Shires Reading Room) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

A wonderful beautifully illustrated short story for young readers featuring the most famous highwaymen of them all and his wonderful horse, Black Bess.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quirky but great 8 July 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What a cool book. The illustrations are great and the story captivating. I read it to my class during a topic on Highwaymen. They would not let me stop until it was finished. You immediately build up an affection for the little character telling the story and you can almost hear his voice from the beautiful way it is written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I borrowed this book, and I loved the velvety cover that my hardback copy had. It's written in such an adorable way, as if the main character is talking directly to you. I was drawn in straight away, and I didn't want to put this excellent book down!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW, an absolute treasure. 20 Mar 2009
I was completely enraptured with this book from the moment I picked it up. The hardback is beautifully produced with a black velvet cover: it felt like a highway man's pouch of gold before I even opened it, and from the absolute first I was hooked.
The time that elapses during the whole book is only about twenty-four hours whilst a small street urchin holds Black Bess for Dick Turpin. The strength of the tale is in the characters, particularly that of the narrator, the young lad, who tells his tale in a polite conversational way - though not the twentieth century chatty style because this is of course set in the eighteenth century when you address men taller and grander than you as `Sir'. It's a great story and I was surprised and delighted by an unexpected twist at the very end. A short read, this is perfect to read aloud - but make sure your listeners are sitting close because on almost every double page there are fantastic black ink illustrations by Jonny Duddle who captures the beauty of the big black horse remarkably well. His slightly quirky big-eyed children, crooks and highway men are equally appealing and put me in mind of a cross between those of Chris Mould and Chris Riddell.
This book is an absolute masterpiece and I can't recommend it hightly enough for any child from about age 6.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tall Tale and wonderful Told 1 Aug 2011
By Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
As the old saying goes "A story never loses anything in the telling" and that's the premise of this tale by Kate Thompson, aimed at the seven year old market.

It's witty, the protagonist a cunning as well as witty narrator and above all else the story wends it's way in such a wonderful pace that it wouldn't have been out of place at the Santon Bridges yearly competition (held at the Bridge Inn.)

Finally, add to the mix the enchanting artwork of Jonny Duddle and it's a story that's fanciful play on words will entertain the reader for a long time. I definitely look forward to more of Kate's work.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who will buy? 20 July 2009
By E. R. Bird - Published on Amazon.com
I've been talking a lot about unreliable narrators in my children's book reviews lately. Not entirely sure why that is. I guess it may have something to do with the fact that I've been seeing a lot more of them popping up in kids books lately. The other day I read and reviewed "Max Quigley, Technically Not a Bully" which had the advantage of being the kind of unreliable that is evident right from Chapter One. Then I recently had the good fortune to stumble on author Kate Thompson's early chapter book "Highway Robbery". I liked the cut of its jib. Its easygoing style and plucky hero. I had also heard it was a good unreliable narrator tale, and I was willing to go along with that, but there was nothing indicating to me that the main character was unreliable in the least. Then I got to the end and the whole premise tipped itself over backwards and around. Slim and exciting, Thompson's newest isn't quite like anything out there. And that's a good thing.

As our young ragamuffin street kid will tell you, he wasn't bothering anyone. Just minding his own business when this elegant gentleman and his magnificent horse pulled up and spotted him. The man offered our hero a real golden guinea if the boy would just watch his horse for a while. The boy agrees and there begins his troubles. Everyone from girls to farmers to villains wants to take a closer look at the horse. It isn't until a regiment of soldiers arrives, however, that the truth comes out. This horse is none other than Black Bess, owned by the highwayman Dick Turpin. Now the soldiers want the boy to remain so as to lure Turpin into their clutches. Does he dare refuse? And when the story is done, will you, the reader, believe a word that's been said?

Kate Thompson is the author of "The New Policeman" and its sequel "The Last of the High Kings". And to be blunt, I was not particularly fond of "The New Policeman". I thought it had quite a few nice ideas, but it didn't enthrall me. The text seemed too slow and the pages too many. So, admittedly, I was reluctant to even pick up "Highway Robbery" at first. When you get right down to it, though, I think that the entire reason I like this book so much has to do with the fact that it does what I wanted "The New Policeman" to do. It's quick, it's to the point, it's funny, and it's immediately engaging. With this book I can see that Thompson can write a fast-paced and furious title when she has half a mind to do so. And huzzah for that, says I.

The funny thing about the story is that it almost reads like a stage play. In fact, if you wanted to turn it into a one-act play for kids it would be exceedingly easy to do so. The main character spends most of the book barefoot and standing in one place. There is one fast-paced chase sequence, but that's easy enough to fake on a stage. No, the impression one is left with is that this was originally a play that Thompson adapted to a book. It's like the "Horton Hatches the Egg" of Dickensesque middle grade novels. Our hero is given a job that he sees through to the end, no matter what the outcome. Considering the nature of the story, this could also have been a short story spun out a bit so that it becomes an early chapter book. Hard to say how it started.

There's a strange moment in the book where our lad (strange that he doesn't have a name, isn't it?) has to make a decision and the decision that he makes is later regretted. Near the end of the tale two villains try to steal the horse and are stopped by the King's men. Our narrator is suddenly given a choice. If he says that one of the men is the guy who gave him the horse in the first place he'll get paid AND Dick Turpin won't get caught. If he doesn't, then Dick could get caught and the boy may get nothing. In the end, he turns in the villain, which he seems to bitterly regret later down the line. You don't usually find protagonists regretting the arrest of villains, but this boy (at least in his head) has quite a few moral conundrums to work through.

Illustrator Jonny Duddle does a fine job of bringing the boy's story to life. Interestingly enough he renders the human characters, particularly the narrator, as almost comic book types. There's not a great deal of realism there. Black Bess, on the other hand, is never anything but 100% realistic. I also enjoyed how Duddle took care to obscure your view of the horse in the first picture in the book. You see our hero talking with a tall well-dressed gentleman, weaving the story we're about to read. In the boy's hands are reins, and just the tip of a horse's nose behind him. For all we know, the horse is a nag or an elegant beast. It's entirely open to interpretation.

Of course the ideal pairing with this book is alongside Sid Fleischman's "The Whipping Boy". Both books employ similar jovial narratives. Both take place in the past. Both show the cream and dredges of society. Both are well illustrated with pen-and-ink pics. And, most important of all, both are remarkably short little tales. "Highway Robbery" will definitely appeal to the reader reluctant to pick up a book longer than 100 pages (this one has a mere 117 and a large font) and it provides a slam-bang story from start to finish. Strange and a reading delight, kids will get a kick out of this. Whether they trust the narrator or not is another story entirely.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richie's Picks: HIGHWAY ROBBERY 18 July 2009
By Richie Partington - Published on Amazon.com
Richie's Picks: HIGHWAY ROBBERY by Kate Thompson, Greenwillow, June 2009, 117p., ISBN: 978-0-06-173034-4

"Round the corner he came, a tall rider on a big black horse, and the pigs and chickens cleared the road in double-quick time to get out of his way. I stepped back myself, sir, even though I was already out of the road, and I squeezed myself tight against the wall. Still he came on, at full tilt, his black cloak streaming in the air behind him and now I could see his face, his cheeks red from the cold and his mustaches as black as the black horse under him.
"He didn't look at me at all as he came on, but I saw his eye fix on something beside me. The alleyway, I think it was. And just as he drew level, he straightened in the saddle and reined in the mare so fast she sat right down on her tail in a shower of mud. Some of it hit me in the face, sir. That's how close I was.
"The rider sprang off as light as a cat and pulled the reins over the horse's head. Then he marched straight over to me and put them in my hand. I gaped up at him and my mouth must have been as big as a badger hole. You can imagine, I'm sure, how astonished I was. He was very tall, that man, and his cheeks were red and he was breathing hard and there were tear tracks across his face. He looked wild and mad, sir, and I have to admit that the sight of him terrified me.
"But of course the way he looked was not because he was angry or excited but because he had been traveling so fast through the icy weather. And indeed, when he opened his mouth, it was not to yell at me, which is what I expected, but to say quite gently:
"'Hold the mare for me, lad. And when I come back, I'll give you a golden guinea.'
"And he ruffled my hair for me, sir. Look. Like this. Made it stand up like a bunch of straw. I would have done anything for him after that."

So begins the engaging tale of a grand horse as told by a young barefooted beggar child to an anonymous gentleman he has accosted on a back street. It is an exceptionally fun story wrought with danger, intrigue, and double crosses. The sense of time and place evoke Dickens and the manner in which the lad conveys the story reminds one of Poe's rules for short stories (The story must be read in one sitting and there must be one effect to which all of the action in the story contributes.). This exquisitely crafted first person narrative, in which the horse-holding lad encounters a series of characters, makes for a heck of a read aloud. (I've already done one performance and it easily fits into a block period.)

"'You're tempted, aren't you?' He stepped closer to me as he said it, and glanced quickly up and down the street."

Watch out! You just never know who might come charging down that road next (OR suddenly reappear)!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The lad is selling something, but are you buying it? 12 July 2010
By small review - Published on Amazon.com
Highway Robbery starts out with a sales pitch. The narrator's voice is charming and unctuous, which should be the reader's first tip off that this whole story is a con. Who is the narrator, what is he selling, and what is he really about are the questions the reader should be asking as they rapidly turn the pages. What follows includes excitement, moral dilemmas, shady characters, heroes, and a beautiful horse at the center of it all. Who are the heroes and who are the shady characters and what are the right resolutions to the moral dilemmas all depend on your perspective, which may or may not line up with that of the narrator.

Well-crafted and fun, Highway Robbery breathes fresh air into a genre riddled with stale plot devices. Slim but weighty, this book offers multiple opportunities for discussion on a variety of topics including unreliable narrators, writing devices, perspective, and morality. Wonderful for the classroom or private enjoyment (for all ages!), Highway Robbery has much to offer. The gorgeous illustrations are a positive addition.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magnificent Horse, a Notorious Thief, an Unlikely Hero and a Daring Adventure 9 Jun 2009
By KidsReads - Published on Amazon.com
After being pushed around by bigger street urchins, a wee lad finds a remote corner far from the city's center. On a muddy little alleyway he stands, shoeless and hungry, begging for scraps of food. His corner is mostly deserted; not even carts use the road because of its deep ruts. Then a tall rider on a big black horse thunders down the road and hurriedly dismounts his steed. Before slipping down an alley, the gentleman asks the boy to watch the horse, with a promise of a golden guinea upon his return.

"Covered with mud and steaming like a dragon," the horse is a majestic animal, standing 16 hands. The boy suspects it is the legendary Black Bess; he quickly grows attached to the mare, even sharing his meager food with her.

The sight of the huge animal on the remote street corner draws a crowd. Most onlookers are curious, a few are kind and generous, but some are dangerous and devious. As the boy awaits the man's return, the cold day turns into an icy night. With hunger gnawing at his belly, the boy dreams of how he will spend his money.

When a shifty-looking toothless man attempts to buy the mare for "thirty shillings," the boy grows suspicious. The situation becomes more dangerous after soldiers question him about the horse's owner. The soldiers, led by the captain of the King's guard, are in pursuit of the legendary highwayman, Dick Turpin, who has committed a robbery and escaped on his famous horse, Black Bess.

The boy has to make a decision that could cost him his gold guinea, put him and the horse in jeopardy --- or get him into trouble with the law.

HIGHWAY ROBBERY is a suspenseful tall tale told in an engaging voice. The story's message is one of responsibility, courage and doing what is right, no matter the circumstances. A magnificent horse, a notorious thief, an unlikely hero and a daring adventure --- Kate Thompson knows how to keep young readers turning the pages.

--- Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect comination of story and illustrations! 5 Jun 2012
By Deborah Sandford - Published on Amazon.com
Fair play to Kate Thompson for a fun novel for young readers. No fantasy in this one, the narrator is a street urchin who is telling his story to `a fine gentleman' (of how he happens to be standing in the middle of a village holding a choice horse). It could be classified as historical fiction, albeit in an undetermined time in Olde England. It is loaded with intricate pen and ink illustrations which help to move the story along. The plot revolves around a beautiful black horse and the machinations of a young boy.
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