Monthly Archives: April 2009

The Childrens’ Laureate’s choices

There was much on the news and in the papers about the Childrens’ Laureate’s choices of best children’s books to celebrate 10 years of having the post – Long may it continue. The five Laureates, past and present, each chose about twelve books which were whittled down to seven. In the media, much is being made of the fact that… Read more »

The way of the Warrior

Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori) by Lian Hearn This is the first novel of a series set in an imaginary world based on feudal Japan and the chivalric Bushido code of conduct. It successfully takes you into that world of honor and loyalty, mastery of martial arts, married with simple living and appreciation of nature and art…. Read more »

Superstition and fear – Your worst enemies in Puritan times…

Witch Child by Celia Rees Right at the beginning of this remarkable novel, Mary’s grandmother is tortured, tried and dies for being branded a ‘witch’. Rees lets you know exactly what was in store for the poor women who as healers, herbalists and midwives, were routinely denounced as witches when something went wrong in the superstitious Puritan times. Mary is… Read more »

There are faeries everywhere – but not all can see them …

The Thirteen Treasures by Michelle Harrison The debut novel from this young author is full of proper faeries, the kind with an ‘e’ from British folklore. They’re there right from the beginning, when Tanya’s faery tormentors decide how to make her day – not! For fourteen year old Tanya has second sight – she can see faeries, and knows the… Read more »

“If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?”

The Kiss of Death by Marcus Sedgwick Now this is a proper novel about vampires – and they don’t even make an appearance properly until late in the book, however, they are mentioned in the blurb, so I’m hardly giving the game away. It’s also a proper book about Venice, set in the 18th century during the end of the… Read more »

A Cinematic treat for readers of all ages…

The Invention of Hugo Cabret: A Novel in Words and Pictures by Brian Selznick This book has a fascinating concept. It’s a chunkster of over 500 pages that can be read in just a couple of hours for over half the pages are pictures – black and white pencil drawings mostly. But it’s not a graphic novel, this book is… Read more »

Sheer Poetry – a remarkable read

Cloud Busting by Malorie Blackman This is unlike any other children’s story I have ever read. A series of 26 short poems, telling the story of Sam and Davey, and all about bullying and friendship, secrets and lies, and the terrible thing that happened one day … Told entirely in Sam’s voice, the poems are mostly in a prose style,… Read more »

A realistic novel of pampered pets and fearsome beasts in Ancient Rome

Tiger, Tiger by Lynne Reid Banks Two tiger cubs brought to Rome – one is destined for the arena; the other is defanged, booted and becomes a much loved pet for the Emperor’s daughter Aurelia who is twelve. She begins to fall for the tiger’s handler Julius, to her cousin Marcus’ dismay. When a prank played on Julius goes wrong,… Read more »

Tempus Fugit – Time flies when you’re having fun!

Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson There is much to like in Winterson’s novel for older children (upwards). I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope it might have a sequel some time. This fast-moving Fantasy/SF novel, (it’s a bit of both), about the power to control time, owes a lot to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. It has a sparky young heroine,… Read more »

The real King Arthur …

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve Arthurian myth and legend is one of my favourite reading themes.  If asked about my favourite movies, Excalibur [1981] comes 2nd (after The Blues Brothers). I saw that film the week it came out at the Odeon Leicester Square and was immediately smitten with the Arthurian bug.  A few years later having read much of… Read more »

One New Year a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love …

When the Snow Fell by Henning Mankell A coming of age novel set in a small lumber town in northern Sweden during the 1950s. Joel’s mother left when he was seven, so he’s grown up looking after himself and his father, who’s prone to the odd bender and never has any money. Joel has reached the age when hormones are… Read more »

Another modern classic novel for older children

The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban This Pinnochio-esque tale for older children written in 1967 of a clockwork Daddy mouse and his child is a modern children’s classic. Deservedly so, it features a road trip for the discarded and broken wind-up mice full of adventure, peril and featuring a nasty rat-baddy, also much happier episodes where the mice… Read more »

Beware of black buttons – Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline by Neil Gaiman is a deliciously scary children’s novel that is destined to become an absolute classic. Think Clive Barker for kids, but with a sense of humour and you’re about there. ***SLIGHT PLOT SPOILER ALERT*** Coraline’s family has moved into a new flat. Her parents are too busy to talk to her so she explores the building and… Read more »

Vive le livre! Long live the book!

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner is a dazzling historical novel for older children and young adults – and fair blew this forty-something adult away too. I absolutely loved it! This is the Paris of the late 1780s, just before the revolution. Yann, a gypsy youth who has second sight, assists his friend and mentor, the dwarf Tetu behind the… Read more »