Archives for category: For 8 and upwards

Published by Faber and Faber.

Max is a retiring sort of chap and spends much of his time making small intricate little models. His inspiration is the schools groundsman, Mr Darrow, whose models are perfect. His models are so detailed they include the stairs, and doorways inside the houses. So at every opportunity Max tries to spend time with him, learning how to add those all important little touches, however, his never quite reach Mr Darrow’s beautiful pieces.

Max goes to boarding school, and shares a room with another boy, who seems friendly enough, however, Max isn’t a great one for making friends. In fact he’s never really had one, but they get along well enough to share a room. Sasha is one of the cool pupils – with a crowd of friends always around him, so Max is a little cautious.

Max’s deafness certainly doesn’t help him make friends and he is used to being shouted at, which results in his hearing aids giving off high pitched wines…which are painful. When other pupils do make the effort to make friends with him, he is used to their drifting away, when he isn’t quite quick enough to respond. He can lip-read, but only if he is able to see them straight on…

This is a rather different story of another world. With elements of Gulliver’s Travels (Swift) & The Borrowers (Norton) – it is a story of friendship, war, and playing to your strengths…


There is also a pet flea named Excelsior in the book. What more could anyone want?


Image result for in the mouth of the wolf morpurgo

Published by Egmont

May 2018

Michael Morpurgo has become known for his books about animals in war. So much so that when I told a colleague I had just read a proof of a book due to be out in May, he assumed that this new title would be another such. This one though, isn’t quite the same. The only reference to animals is that of the wolf in the title, which though pertinent is, perhaps, unfair to wolves…

The book is about two brothers at the beginning of the last war. Both enjoying, words and poetry. One became an actor, the other a teacher. When Hitler changed all of that, one joined the RAF, the other, a pacifist, leaves to work the land.

What happens next changes both their lives forever and one finds himself in the jaws,  ‘in the mouth of the wolf’.

Michael Morpurgo needs no introduction. This book is of his usual calibre – in addition a personal history from this extraordinary author. The book is illustrated by Barroux – simply, but powerfully.

This is not one to be missed. It is to be published in hardback; I hope that, in addition, Egmont gives it good quality paper too. This is an important volume.


Published by Pushkin Books

This is a rather pretty little hardback. Just 88 pages. It tells the story of two children caught in a snow drift, and taken in by a dog.

I have always liked Irish Wolfhounds – long legged and full of character. This relates the story of the poet, and his relationship with his dog, and the dog’s relationship with the children. Its about love. How someone can be with us, even when they are gone. This is a poignant little volume. It contains a small amount of poetry and is a moving story.

At the moment the book is a reflection of my life, in away. I know that someone I cared about and lived alongside and with me for many years is no longer here. I find, however, that she is also with me, as the poet is with the dog, in this small volume.

Its a rather special.

The picture below is off the Internet – credited as The Pinnacle of Nobility – on Pinterest.


Published by Oxford University Press

Anger. True anger, the sort where nothing else matters is usually indicated by shouting, red faces, noise and confusion.

This book is about the power of anger.

The power of revenge.

Families and real friendship.

It is a tale of power. The use of power for good and the not so good.

It is the story of Ned Harrison Arkle-Smith, his two sisters and his parents who have decided that they can no longer continue to live together as husband and wife.

Though rather than sell their home, with its large staircase and hall, they decide to keep the family together by splitting the house between them. So when Ned returns from a trip away, he finds his home divided by walls. The front hall now has two doors. One for his Dad, the other for his Mum and the year will be split with him and sisters visiting each parent on alternate weeks.

This is not how things are supposed to be.  Ned can’t see why things can’t be the way they were. He can’t understand his sisters either and when he finds his best friend has made new friends, and has new interests from the summer, his anger grows.

Written in the first person this is also a brilliant book about parents. Who on the whole do try to make things as right as they can. Its about change, friendship and dealing with things.






Published by Harper Collins.

It is now 02.15 – early in the morning. Dark outside and cold. I have just finished reading this small book, having gone to bed with it, and then to wake to finish it some while ago.

The dark can be disturbing. Actually outside now it isn’t really dark. There are street lights, pale now as it is early morning and they are run, I think on solar energy – and weaken in the early hours. There are Christmas lights too, shining from one of the houses, and someone has left their light on over their door. So not really dark at all.

Number the Stars is the fictional tale of one instance of what happened in Denmark during the war. Of what happened in so many different ways all over the country.

It follows the story of a family caught up in that terrible time, when the world was not only dark physically,  spiritually and in so many other ways.

It is simply and clearly told; it is the story of a great aunt who never was. A story of two girls, friends almost from birth. The God of Thunder falling into a milking pail. A story of young men and women doing what they could, and risking their lives for their country, and what was right.

It is the story of Denmark, Copenhagen and the Nazis…it is also the story of bravery, and hope. It is a remarkable, extraordinary story.


Sandi Toksvig wrote Hitler’s Canary – another book about the Danes – which is also superb, but is probably for readers who are slightly older than eight. I am a little ashamed that I haven’t reviewed that – but mention it here, as reference for those who would wish to read it. Both books are clearly and compassionately written.




Published by Bloomsbury

This was wonderful – I loved it. Not least as it takes you back to another era. A better time, a period of stiff upper lips and honour. This is a brilliant story of the old style with gorgeous language:

“…almost squeezed the pip out of poor Sponge here…”

“…frightfully dangerous…”

“…Mildew’s southern most lip began to quiver…”

“…Mildew’s upper lip began to lose some of its structural integrity…”

Along with the two main characters being named Mildew and Sponge.

What more could you want or need or indeed expect to have? Well, it seems you can have a lot more for your money –

A book of mysterious ghosts, Vikings, Romans, werewolves, a time machine….a school with a cloister, with extraordinary school teachers who are remarkable in themselves…adventure and it will be stuffed with illustrations. I know this to be true, because my proof has little boxes set within the text to give an indication of where they will be when the book is published. They have also said that Chris Priestley wrote it and that it will be illustrated by him. They have printed that on the cover of the proof. So there!

The only problem is, I’m afraid is that it hasn’t been published yet – but they state on the inside cover that you will be able to buy copies on the 5th of October, which I believe is a Thursday. A good day on which to buy a new book – this one will be perfect. Funny, full of interest, good English (for those of you who know this to matter)….a wonderful book on so many fronts.

Put Thursday the 5th of October in your diary.

As sometimes happens when I have read a book before its published, the cover has not been put on the Internet yet. I have found though the above sketches of the Werewolf Boy – so that will have to do.

Ps. Sorry, I forgot to say – this is the start of a series…and also that Chris Priestley is an author to ‘follow’ – he also wrote Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror – which are brilliant. Slightly surprised I have never done a post about that volume…I suppose I read it before I had this blog – buy that too – and you can buy it now – its already published.





Published by Faber & Faber

This is a superb book – I started this yesterday afternoon, in my tea-break. Then continued reading on the way home on the train and then just before sleep. This morning I read it between having my shower and getting dressed, then on the train again, this time on the way to work. Sadly I had no time at lunch, but finished it this evening as I came home again.

The legend of Podkin One-Ear is related by a story-teller, one who tramps the lands to tell tales at times of celebration. The legend he relates is full of good old fashioned adventure, with a young rabbit, the son of a chieftain and his older sister and younger brother up against an evil taking over their world. At the start of the tale, he does have both his ears…

I can only say I loved it – was captivated by the story, which was enhanced by the illustrations by David Wyatt – just enough to give extra flavour to the legend.


This will be a classic, without any doubt. I usually pass on my proofs to local youngsters. I’m afraid this time, I’m keeping this one. Simply one of the best books I have read for a very long time, which is particularly pleasing for this age group. For them, there isn’t enough good writing, so I’m always pleased when I come across something this good for our younger readers…though anyone sensible, who is older than that will enjoy it too…

Published by Walker Books

David Almond’s books are quite extraordinary, no two seem to be alike – each is a masterpiece. I’d love to know where he gets his ideas from. This is the story of a bus driver. Bert has been driving his bus, on the same route, every day for ten years. He knows every bump, curve and passenger – he has dealt with all sorts of people, the young, the foolish, the friendly, confused, lost and bemused. Things are becoming a little predictable. Until one day he feels a fluttering in his chest and begins to panic and stops the bus. The complaints that result from this unauthorised and unwanted stop, he doesn’t hear, he is too concerned with what the fluttering means. Is this the end? Before the book has really got started? By page 12?

Actually it is just the beginning. This is a lovely, kindly book about people. About how people want to be seen to be bigger than they really are. It is about art classes and art teachers – it is about hope. It is also about bullies, and friendship, but mainly its about Angelino Brown – as unique a character as any David Almond has written about before.

I thought I had written a post about Clay or The Boy who Swam with Piranhas, one of my favourite David Almond books, but it seems I haven’t yet – so along with this one – have a look at those too, along with I suppose, Skellig, probably his most famous book…



Published by Pushkin Children’s Books

This is probably the most extraordinary cat book I have ever read. Part love story, part adventure this really has something for everyone. Liberally illustrated by Andrezej Klimowski and translated from the Russian.

Baguette likes to lie in a window space watching the birds. The love of his life was slender and striped, her nose was as pink as a rosebud, her whiskers as white as snow on New Year’s Day, and her coat shone like a diamond necklace…

The black cat Noir lives close by and is a rival for Purriana’s affections and tries to encourage Baguette to leap to the birds (and his death), but Baguette is more intelligent than that…

It is great fun – very different from any other cat book I have read. Whether Baguette wins the paw of Purriana is for you to find out – another rather special book from Pushkin Press.

Published by Chicken House

I’m not sure I believe in Bigfoot. I’d like to believe that there are places still out there that no one reaches, where such entities might still survive. I sometimes feel we are all pervading as a species, and that this isn’t a good thing at all.

This though is a rather fun volume. Lemonade has moved recently to Willow Creek after her mother has died. The place is very different from home and she’s not sure that she will stay, if given the chance to return home. She meets though a rather earnest young naturalist / explorer, who is fascinated by all things Bigfoot and has set up his own detective agency to investigate any sightings…. This is funny, hopeful and really a rather lovely book – full of hope, acceptance and to be frank bravery.

Just remember – should you ever see Bigfoot, the first thing to do is to take a photograph.

It was a wonderful read – and I loved the cover too!