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VINE VOICEon 27 December 2013
This is the eighth book in the popular series written by Jack Sheffield. Set in a village school in Ragley on the Forest, the head teacher, Mr Sheffield, is set for a new school year at Ragley School while his wife, Beth sets her sights on a new challenge for either herself or Jack at a larger school.

I usually look forward to the next installment at Ragley school each January, however this year it came out a month earlier, and I eagerly devoured it. As usual, Sheffield's writing is fantastic, as he writes his 'alternative school logbook'. Although the logbook is for the school, villagers are always popping in and out of storylines and I enjoy past characters popping in, catching up on gossip and going about their daily lives. And as ever, although this book is fiction, it is a great account of social history as Sheffield ensures the villagers of Ragley celebrate current trends and react to news stories from 1984.

There is a double wedding this year - the two binmen; Big Dave Robinson and Little Malcolm Robinson both marry and Ruby, the school's caretaker, has a bench to remember her husband, Ron Smith, installed on the village green. There is an Elvis competition in the village hall and a Belly Dancing for Beginners class is held in the Coffee Shop for Ragley's Ladies.

As ever there is a busy life within Ragley and I love revisiting the village each year. The books can easily be read as standalone stories however I really enjoy it as a series. They are easy to loose yourself in one Sunday afternoon, where characters become old friends. Sheffield has done lots of research for these books, each one a record of a life not only in Ragley, but the highlights of British history, social trends and news stories of the time. This one is set in the back drop of Thatcher's Britain and the miner's strikes.

In this book, there is a shift in the power dynamics of Jack and Beth's marriage. Beth wants more from life, a bigger house etc, but to get this, one of them needs a promotion - however village headteachers can not progress higher in their own schools or villages but must look to towns or cities for a new school. Jack does not want to make this promotion, settled as he is in Ragley and therefore it is Beth who steps up for promotion, which in itself is history in the making with females not being offered such promotions in 1984.

As ever, village life within Ragley is full on highs and lows, but throughout it all, the children are the heart of the village and their little outbursts and words of wisdom litter the story, which will leave the reader laughing out loud at a moments notice.

In summary, Jack Sheffield has written another fantastic installment in Ragley School's alternative logbook and I am already looking forward to the next installment already!
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on 4 June 2014
I personally recommend all Jack Sheffield's books about Ragley-on-the-Forest School, where Jack is in his 8th year as headmaster in this latest book which I have just finished. By the time you have read just the first few pages, you feel as though you belong there, in that school in Yorkshire, and that you personally know all the staff and pupils! There is always a good storyline running through all Jack's books, alongside all the day-to-day activities which are full of interest and fun. The period we have now reached is 1985 and, throughout each year, there are interesting historical facts included in all the books, from the political situation at the time, to sherbert lemons (could we ever forget them?), to Gestetner printing machines, to the pop music of the day and more! Jack Sheffield always writes in an anecdotal way through a diary of events that take you through each school year, yet there is always an element of surprise, or shock, thrown in. I can't wait for his next book; I am lost without them!
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on 23 May 2014
Having read all of this series of books thus far...I have enjoyed them but this one is not quite of the same standard. I also find the Beth and Laura characters rather irritating as i did note that there is never a time when neither woman looked anything less than 'stunning' and the local Yorkshire women were described as what I would class as real people with weaknesses and foibles and not a cardboard cut out. Both sisters seem to be on pedestals, permanently turning heads! Descriptions of their parents aren't much better either. I did miss Jacks mum and Aunty, both ladies sound like lovely warm characters...as usual the children were quite amusing as were their parents. I shall continue with the series...as by and large I am hooked...
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Silent Night by Jack Sheffield for me was a great read and one which I would certainly recommend to anyone who likes to have a giggle while reading a great book with an entertaining story-line, plus the added bonus of having a nostalgic look back to the 1980's which I have to say I really enjoyed. I am a child of the 1980's and throughout reading this wonderful book I was constantly saying "I remember that!!” Yes there were certainly unhappy times but throughout the school years I do remember the many changes which are detailed within the pages.
As always the children are the stars in Jack Sheffield's books and I loved how the author brought out the many mannerisms plus the many comic exchanges which he has written with great detail and I could actually picture the scenes happening within my head they were written so well. The 80's styles are written with great detail and I have to admit cringing as I do remember having them myself so for me this book was a great book filled with not only a great story but one which is filled with many memories for myself as a reader.
The actual book as always is based in the village school and as always the school year is filled with many lessons learned and the characters of the village are unique and wonderful as always.
Silent Night written by Jack Sheffield is a book I am happy to recommend to any reader who likes a nice gentle read filled with wonderful characters and as heart-warming as an open fire on a cold winter's night.

I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a honest and open review.
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on 4 August 2014
Excellent read - a follow on from the previous authors books about a primary school headteacher in a Yorkshire Village. In my opinion Jack has found the correct mix within his books - he has managed to explain the role of primary schools in a village community, the seriousness of his and his staffs jobs and to combine the the innocent humour of young children together with snipits of information of events which take place in each school year. I own have thoroughly enjoyed reading all the books in the series (most several times) and look forward to the next book.
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on 3 January 2015
I liked the book the first time around.Unfortunatly, since the publishers in their "wisdom" have changed the cover, I now am the not so proud owner of two copies. Why do they do that??? So beware when buying this series. I did dither over the book, but then thought, since i knew I hadn't read a book with this cover, it must be a new one, although the title was familiar. I decided since I had been checking for a fall in price that was why the title was familiar to me -not because I had already read it.
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on 1 August 2014
I have read all the Ragley Books, I love them, if you are a teacher or headteacher who started their career in the 80's you will love these books. A real blast from the past , reflective,funny and so true to children and schools. Children and parents never change and it is reassuring to know that the things children do and say are more or less the same every year.
An excellent read and I eagerly await the next one... Even though I have just retired as a head... And am now an inspector.
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on 1 January 2014
First experience of this author, and was expecting a 'James Herriot' kind of book, humorous and heartwarming. Although it's a pleasant read, descriptive and particularly evocative of the period - the 1980s - I didn't find it funny. It seems somewhat contrived, with exaggerated characters, unrealistic names, and predictable 'funny' lines. The Yorkshire speech doesn't always seem to be correctly represented either.

Reviewed in exchange for a preview Kindle copy.
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on 30 December 2013
I have read all the Jack Sheffield books and to honest this isn't his best, the humour seems to have been lost in the last couple of books. Instead of focusing on villiage life it's more dominated on Jack and his wife (Beth who I find to be very selfish and not an interesting character.) I hope the next book is a bit lighter and not dominated by Jack and Beth's reletionship, it would also be nice to have Jack's Mother and Aunt in it again as they are hilarious!
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on 28 November 2014
This is not a new story, it was published last year 2013 with a blue cover, what a rotten trick. Does he think he can fool his readers with a new cover !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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