Posts Tagged ‘Children’s Books’

Between the Lines – Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer

Posted in American Fiction, Children's Books, Proofs on April 28th, 2012 by admin – 2 Comments

Between the Lines


Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

My Rating3.5 stars (for pre-teens)

I was intrigued when I first heard about Between the Lines, a collaboration between Jodi Picoult and her sixteen year old daughter, Samantha, aimed at a younger audience.   Equally attractive was the idea of fictional characters coming to life, a theme which I loved in Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart trilogy and Jasper Fforde’s madcap Thursday Next series.  I was also keen to see if this would be good enough to join the likes of Cornelia Funke, Sally Gardner and Michelle Harrison and other great writers on my ever expanding TBR pile of future reads for my daughter.

This is quite a light-hearted read with touches of humour along the way.  Fifteen year old Delilah is not a typical teenager and her efforts to fit in with her peers usually end up in disaster.  Instead of dating in real life, she spends her time immersed in reading her favourite fairy tale, wishing and hoping that she could meet someone just like the fictional hero, Prince Oliver.  Well, in this case, wishes do come true but if only the “happily ever after” was as easily attainable – the barrier between fiction and reality is thicker than paper and Delilah has the difficult task of convincing her mother that she isn’t certifiable when she stays cocooned in her room, talking to fictional characters.

Jodi Picoult’s trademark style of multiple narration is at play here with three separate narrative strands each in a different font, Delilah’s story, Oliver’s story and the actual text of the fairytale, Between the Lines.   The pencil and silhouette illustrations are exquisite and really complement the whole notion of stories as living, breathing entities with characters climbing up the margins and objects made of actual words.

This is a clever, wholesome romance probably best suited for the pre-teen reader as older readers might prefer a bit more bite (not always of the vampire sort!) to their reading consumption.  Not as dark as the Inkheart trilogy, it will appeal to fans of The Princess Bride and The Neverending Story

Jodi and Samantha

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A Waste of Good Paper – Sean Taylor

Posted in Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, YA Fiction on January 5th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

A Waste of Good Paper

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (3 May 2012)  I was initially attracted to this YA novel as I used to teach French to a wide variety of pupils from top stream to those who faced severe behavioural and emotional challenges on a daily basis. I was keen to see how an author would recreate the voice of a youth who struggles to fit into “mainstream” education and I think he’s got it spot on.

    The novel takes the form of a journal/diary written by young Jason who has the opportunity to move onto a mainstream school if he’s on his best behaviour but as we gradually discover, it’s rather hard not to LOSE IT when his mum looks like she might go back on drugs, when he is continually riled by his classmates, when he has to listen to the platitudes of the teachers. At first he treats the diary project as some sort of joke, a way of fooling his teacher, Pete, into thinking he’s actually doing some work but gradually he puts down in words the truth about his home situation…but the diary is confidential so how can anyone else help?

    As well as gaining insight into Jason’s home life we also see life in school, warts and all with the tiniest slight sending some pupils over the edge. One scene reminded me of the time a chair was thrown in my direction…but I had the good sense to duck! I have so much admiration for teachers who can draw on infinite amounts of patience and creativity to help disadvantaged and disaffected children and are happy to see progress on a day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute scale rather than throwing in the towel. I think the author does an excellent job of representing the work done by such professionals.

    This is a very honest portrayal of one boy’s life, with a fair injection of humour too – well worth reading and recommended for both young teens and adults in need of a hefty dose of empathy.


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    Luke and Eva’s Current Reads

    Posted in Children's Books, Eva's Books, Luke's books on September 12th, 2011 by admin – 2 Comments

    My poor children have been seriously neglected on the blog what with Luke starting “big”school and Eva going into P4 but they have been busy reading too!  Here are some of their most recent reads as well as some which are on the wishlist for Autumn.

    Quite an eclectic mix from Eva, the Morpurgo and Anne Fine books are ones I have been reading to her at bedtime but fairies and occasionally mermaids are still very popular!  I particularly like The Angel of Nitshill Road and the subtle way it deals with bullying.

    It’s her birthday in mid-October so I have already gathered a few surprise book gifts to  accompany the main present…of course this is all top secret at the moment!  As the new Wimpy Kid book isn’t out  until November it won’t be part of the birthday present but will certainly be pre-ordered.

    Meanwhile Luke has been enjoying the latest Skulduggery Pleasant book, Death Bringer and is looking forward to the new Charlie Higson, The Fear.  I am kept busy researching suitable titles for him, thank goodness we have two excellent library branches nearby!   Below are some of his most recent, current and soon TBR books.

    Oh and last but not least, a special mention for a very funny book which kept both of them entertained on holiday in Kildare,  The Donut Diaries of Dermot Milligan, “a British Diary of a Wimpy Kid” with tons of toilet humour.  It’s great when I can find a book they both like which strikes a happy medium between zombies and fairies! 

    I love to hear what other folk’s children/grandchildren/younger siblings are reading so if you have any recommendations just shout! :-)

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    The Thirteen Secrets by Michelle Harrison

    Posted in Children's Books, YA Fiction on February 8th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    The Thirteen Secrets is the final instalment in Michelle Harrison’s wonderful trilogy involving the relationship between faeries and humans.  I adored her first two books, The Thirteen Treasures and The Thirteen Curses and I anticipated the latest novel with a mixture of sorrow, excitement and dread – sad because it was the signalling the end of my interaction with well-loved characters, excited to see how these characters would develop and the tiniest hint of dread that I might be disappointed.  Fear ye not as the author does a fabulous  job of bringing events at Elvesden Manor to a close whilst introducing us to some intriguing new characters.

    I don’t want to give away too much of the plot but suffice to say that you are in for a real treat.  Rowan (Red) is living at Elvesden Manor and she is doing her utmost to lead a “normal” life with Tanya, Fabian and co.   Of course “normality” is off the menu when you live in a fairy-infested house, fairies in the grandfather clock, a tea caddy brownie in the kitchen complete with walking stick and a drain dweller in the bathrooom whose belches smell like rotten eggs.  However, Rowan is haunted by nightmares from the past and it would appear that everyone, human and fairy alike, is harbouring some sort of secret, some of which have dreadful consequences.

    This is an even darker tale than the preceding novels, perhaps due to the increasing maturity of the characters who have already experienced the dark and light side of faeries.  We have already seen the malevolence of the Unseelie Court, the random removal of human children replaced by changelings, the vindictive nature of Tanya’s faerie guardian  but things take an even more sinister turn in this volume with the battle between good and evil becoming a fight between life and death.  Some scenes are reminiscent of the Chronicles of Narnia, especially the battle between Aslan’s followers and those of the White Witch – stirring stuff which doesn’t pander to those of an overly sensitive nature so expect tears amidst the smiles and rejoicing!

    So, the feeling of dread has vanished but there is still some residual sadness that the 13 series is over.  At least I will have the pleasure some day of reading the trilogy aloud to my daughter (who, at 7, is still at the Tinkerbell stage..)   I highly recommend this whole series to children of all ages (9-99) who believe in some sort of magic and who don’t automatically attribute those odd noises in the bathroom to faulty plumbing!

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    Review – The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh

    Posted in Children's Books, Historical Fiction on September 14th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

    Targetted at the 9-12 age group, this is a very engaging read suitable for all ages.  It is 1347 and our narrator, 15 year old William, is taken in by the monks at Crowfield Abbey when his parents perish in a fire which William miraculously survives.  These are hard times and William has to work very hard for his keep in freezing conditions with little food available to any of the inmates.  His only ally at the abbey is Brother Snail, a healer who helps William when he discovers a “hob” (fox like faerie creature) injured in the woods.  Thus the magic begins and as this medieval fantasy/mystery unfolds there are encounters with varying species of fays (both from the Seelie and Unseelie Courts i.e. good and bad!), talking animals, ancient curses, the legend that an angel lies buried in the woods.  It is the aforementioned angel which provokes a battle between good and evil and William treads a very dangerous path as his benefactors have concealed the story of the angel and his grave for over a hundred years.

    At times this reminded me of a junior version of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (0ne of my all time favourite reads) given that it’s set in a medieval abbey with all its secrets and skullduggery.  William is not a particularly perspicacious young detective as he tends to stumble into discoveries but he is a gentle, likeable soul, kind to animals and much more open minded than most of the monks.  It would appear he his gifted with the “sight” which allows him to see and rescue the “hob” known as Brother Walter as giving its real name would give someone else power over it.  William’s youthful optimism and willingness to investigate the unknown are at odds with the cloistered, claustrophobic nature of the abbey and its inhabitants.  The abbey setting is very atmospheric and gives the novel that brooding feeling of tension and suspense.

    An enjoyable creepy tale whose medieval setting makes it stand out amongst other children’s fantasy novels.  Looking forward to the sequel, The Crowfield Demon, to be published in Spring 2011.

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    Review – Skellig by David Almond

    Posted in Children's Books on June 27th, 2010 by admin – 2 Comments

    Published in 1998, Skellig, won the Carnegie Medal as well as the Whitbread Children’s Book Award.  It’s a relatively short novel at 170 pages but one which encompasses a lot of important themes and images. 

    Michael, our young narrator, is embarking on a new adventure with his family – new home, new area, new baby but unfortunately the baby has arrived too soon and ends up seriously ill in hospital in need of an urgent operation.  Left more or less to his own devices, Michael discovers a strange creature in their derelict garage – an angel like creature with less than angelic personal hygiene and a taste for Chinese takeaway, Aspirin and dead mice all washed down with some brown ale.  Michael tells us how he begins a rescue mission for Skellig, this strange being, aided and abetted by Mina, his new neighbour, a precocious, homeschooled girl who appears to be wise beyond her years.

    This is a short, compact little novel, with elements of magical realism and great humour.  Skellig, whose name means “rock” in Irish, turns out to be a rock or haven for Michael during a turbulent time.  The novel has so much going on – angels, arthritis, homeschooling, magic, friendship, family relationships, youth versus age, William Blake.  Each chapter is very short so ideal for young readers.   The vocabulary is quite matter of fact and the language is never flowery or verbose.

    On the negative side, for me, there is too much going on for anything to be dealt with in-depth.  The novel is an ideal length for a class novel for study at age 10/11+ but not long enough to address in any meaningful way the important themes which are raised.  Yes, it’s a wonderfully original tale but it seems to be trying to straddle different genres/age groups and ends up falling in between and losing its way – such a shame as it has such promise and could have been a very engaging book for young boys but I fear it might just bore them.  Maybe it’s the kind of book adults think young children should read.  Anyway, I have the film on DVD so it will be interesting to see if I actually like the film more than the book – once in a blue moon!

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    Luke’s Books 1

    Posted in Children's Books, Luke's books on April 23rd, 2010 by admin – 5 Comments

    My almost 10 year old son, Luke, hasn’t really had a “look” in here so here’s a selection of his recent acquistions.

    For Easter I got him a wonderful set of 10 Usborne True Stories, some of which are shown on the left.  He is currently intrigued by anything to do with World War II, guns, warships, spies and this set are ideal for age 9-12 – he is dipping in and out of 4 of the titles at the moment!  His Granny (prompted by me) gave him Jo Nesbo’s Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder – I’m not entirely sure if some men ever grow out of toilet humour – ahem!   Recent charity shop finds included 2 excellent DK information books about warships and aircraft (can’t beat 50p each for like new books!) and Jeremy Strong’s My Granny’s Great Escape – Jeremy Strong can do no wrong is my motto!

    Luke has two current fiction reads (more than I could manage, I’m a strictly monogamous reader…),  Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy is his in school read although he also reads it at home using the copy from my TBR pile – I love the fact we can read the same books now. :-) – and Operation Typhoon Shore by Joshua Mowll, the second in the Guild of Specialists trilogy.  The latter is a fabulous book for boys of Luke’s age who like adventure and possibly lean more towards non-fiction thanks to its presentation as it is more like an artefact than a work of fiction, with lots of realia including maps, photographs, newspaper clippings and other information.   It reminded me of The Selected Works of T S Spivet by Reif Larsen but it has a lot more action!

    Last but not least, Luke got half of a prize I won from Lucy Coat’s blog , two of the Greek Beasts and Heroes series, The Monster in the Maze and The Magic Head – these are beautifully illustrated short adaptations of Greek myths, a subject which has always attracted me and you really can’t beat a bit of Minotaur when it comes to attracting boys to books!  (sorry, that was not meant to sound sexist..).  Eva has claimed the more girly parts of the prize,  if Greek myths can ever be considered girly..but it proves a welcome change from fairies and magic rabbits and unicorns…  Lucy was also kind enough to individually dedicate each book to them and the fact they were delivered in separate parcels addressed to them individually was a very welcome bonus – thank you again, Lucy. :-) 

    Just to add that I’ve just discovered Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series today after seeing his latest book nominated for the Carnegie Medal – I think these would be right up Luke’s street – yay! 

    I’m always interesed to read what other folk’s children, pupils, grandchildren, nephews, nieces etc are reading so any suggestions/comments are very much appreciated. :-)  And if you have any specific recommendations for 9-12 boys who have an aversion to Harry Potter and any of those other wizardish books, please let us know…ps I like HP myself…

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    Eva’s Eight Picks for Spring

    Posted in Children's Books, Eva's Books on March 21st, 2010 by admin – 3 Comments

    Eva is very keen to become involved here and is a proper little bibliophile at 6 so she has selected her top books for reading this Spring. 

    Alice in Wonderland – Ladybird Classics (we saw Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 3d yesterday so it will be interesting  to compare and contrast the two!  We also have a lovely edition illustrated by Helen Oxenbury but with slightly more difficult language, one to keep for the future.

    Our World Book Day freebie, Magic Ballerina, The Magic Dance – Darcey Bussell and Kitten Chaos – Anna Wilson.

    The Pain and the Great One, Soupy Saturdays – Judy Blume – surprisingly low on fluffiness, fairies and furry animals but seems to strike a chord with its friendly sibling rivalry and humour.

    Danielle the Daisy Fairy – Daisy Meadows – I’m not sure when the Rainbow Fairy phase will be phased out, I think there are 100+ books in the series so hopefully we will not have amasssed the whole collection…

    Princess Poppy – The Fashion Princess – Janey Louise Jones.  What little girl could resist these candy coloured books where the script matches the cover – pale pink pages, dark pink writing.  I think we have the complete series now.

    Not Quite a Mermaid – Mermaid Tricks – Linda Chapman.  A relatively easy read but good for emerging readers plus we have just started Linda Chapman’s Secret Unicorn series and it looks very promising.

    Sam the Stolen Puppy – Holly Webb.  Part of the appeal of this series is the predictable plot so Eva can enjoy reading them without being distracted by complicated storylines plus negotiations are presently underway re acquiring a four footed friend – could be a long process!

    And last but certainly not least Magic Bunny – Chocolate Wishes – Sue Bentley and apparently there is a Magic Ponies, Puppies and Kittens series – thank heavens for our local library and online reservation.

    You will have noticed there is a preponderance of pink, princesses and general fluffiness but I’m just pleased she is so into reading.  For Easter I have ordered a book set each  for her and Luke.  Eva is getting Sally Gardner’s Magical Children series and Luke is getting an Usborne set of True Stories including tales of prison escapes, spies and WWI and WWII.  Don’t worry, the Easter Bunny will bring them some eggs so they won’t be deprived!

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