Archives for category: For 9 – 12 Years

Published by Collins Modern Classics.

First published in 1964 –

I suppose I first read this in the early 1970’s and I always remember that I loved it, though I couldn’t tell you what the book was about. Somewhere at my parents’ house there is probably the copy I read amongst other old editions of classic Penguins and the like.

Recently Collins Modern Classics have published a new edition of it – copies of which I found on our shelves at work the other morning, and so, I have been reading this once more.

The book is set in America – and has many Americanisms as a result. There are parts that I found I didn’t understand. Whether I understood them when I was ten or eleven, I don’t know.

This is the story of the eponymous Harriet the spy. At the beginning of the book she lives with her busy parents, a cook and her nurse with whom she seems to have the closest relationship. She has all the material things she could need. She has friends at school, but spends most of her time alone, recording details of people’s lives in a black book. Some of which are not the kindest of observations. When her nurse leaves to get married, Harriet finds herself bereft – and her gathering of information gains pace. Even hiding as she does in people’s houses to listen and to observe them at home, the details carefully recorded.

When her book is found and read by her peers at school their reaction to what she has written is dramatic.

The book is about stories. About the truth, and whether it should be told. About lies. Friendship, families, growing up and the differences between people; backgrounds, lives and beliefs…

Parts of this reminded me of my youth. Being told that some mathematical problem was simple, and that they would show her, reminded me of being told something similar. It may have been simple for them, but never seemed to be to me. However often they tried to show me.  Then there are the episodes of Harriet’s anger at the world, and everything and everyone in it, that also resonated with me too…

An extraordinary American tale – more American ‘flavoured’ than many I have read for some time. Some terms of reference, as I said at the beginning, seemed nonsensical to me, but didn’t affect my enjoyment of this book and my return down memory lane.

 

 

 

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Published by Walker Books

This is a rather lovely unique adventure story. A fantasy novel which is a little different. The characters are intricate and well developed. It has a reflection of Charles Dickens, but is also something totally different. No 13 has no memory of anything outside the orphanage where he has grown up. Part fox, part boy he is naive and struggles to survive in an orphanage run by evil Miss Carbunkle. Things don’t look good, and they don’t look likely to change either, until another groundling persuades him that together they can escape…

It has elements of steampunk, has brilliant language and clever ideas – this is something special and like nothing else I have read. Animals that are people at the same time are well mixed into the story – each with their own abilities and idiosyncrasies. Some are more animal than others. Some are more child.  There is even an aye-aye like boy, who is similar to the character of the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  Which I suppose has meant I am even more pro this story than I might have been, having become a little infatuated with all things Madagascan…

This is a tale of bravery, mechanical beetles, adventure, and character – frankly something that will take you away from the everyday…into another world.

My proof is a fat hardback – an inch and a half or so thick, and some 450 pages. Illustrations will be prolific, and if the chapter heading devices are anything to go by, should be suitably atmospheric…Mira Bartok is both the author and illustrator.

Published by Harper Collins.

I think I like most animals. Well, apart from hissing cockroaches – somehow I don’t seem to appreciate cockroaches. They tried to have me handle one in a zoo once. They thought we would have a meaningful meeting of minds. After all, I had just handled a snake or two, and a large rose kneed tarantula (named Rosie) amongst other creatures, so I suppose it was a reasonable assumption. I had to explain that though I was sure Hissing Sid was very nice in his own way, I didn’t want to have him walk from hand to hand, as I had with Rosie. I had, I remember to be quite firm about it…anyway, he survived to be presented to someone else and I was relieved that, to quote Stanley Holloway, that the Manager didn’t have to be called for…

This volume is about the friendship between a young boy and a fox. Friendships with animals should never be just brushed aside. They are as important as those we have with homo sapiens, at least that is what I have found. This starts with the heart rending description of a boy having to release his friend back into the wild…’for his own good.’ Which never really helps as a statement. We know in the front of our brains that perhaps it is, but, then again, perhaps it isn’t. You can never be sure…and there are ways of doing things, and sometimes they shouldn’t be done at all.

I remember once, and only once, walking with Pakka on the common. She took over long to come and I needed to go.  So I left the common without her. Then worried all the way back to find in the middle of the afternoon that she obviously hadn’t been home since that morning…so went out onto the common, called once and she bolted out from the undergrowth calling back as she ran straight to me. She had obviously been searching since the morning. I never did it again, and could never do, what this boy is encouraged to do by his father. Pakka and I lived together with respect for one another. She would wait for me on our walks, and I for her. She supported me, and we watched out for dogs and foxes, because she liked to chase them.  I was there for her when the seagulls flew to close and found her when the magpies ganged up and had her pinned down; we ran home together, she along side me.

This is a superb little book – a story of war, and the powerful connection between a boy and his fox – with illustrations by Jon Klassen, an emotional rollercoaster of the most extraordinary kind…

 

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Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd

This is a story of perfection. An uprising. Rose tinted glasses….Jealousy. Families. Tea. Orphans. It is the story of the three Archer brothers, bravery and of course, good old fashioned adventure. It starts with Violet’s family moving to the town of Perfection and a boy who she can’t see who laughs at her as she runs into their new house. When at last they meet she finds that he is called ‘Boy’ and has no parents at all.

I like tea. Personally I have never liked flavoured tea. I like tea to taste of tea and not of something else. This book rather backs my view. There is nothing like a good cup of English Builders’ or Kenyan tea. If I found my favourite brew should suddenly taste of vanilla and orange, I would be very suspicious. Those who like tea that is flavoured, however, would perhaps be beguiled….

Boy’s and Violet’s adventures become intricate and compelling. Violet’s father has disappeared. Her mother has started to bake cakes, and isn’t really sure about her daughter any more. For that matter nor is Violet sure of her mother. Boy too has questions. What happened to his parents? Why was he left at the orphanage? What is his history…

Perfection sometimes, isn’t everything it is held up to be. Sometimes normality is better. After all who can say what perfection is? Mine certainly wouldn’t be yours, I’m sure…Imperfection or differences should be celebrated…

At the end of it all, it seems it’s not. That is, The End.  After all, what did happen to Edward Archer?

There will be more.

 

 

Published by Pan Macmillan.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Which is probably true – though it is without doubt the first thing that attracts a reader, if they haven’t met the author before. In this case it was Chris Riddell’s illustration that caught my eye. Twice. Then I succumbed and I am very pleased I did – a superb story of a young boy who has, as far as he can remember always been the ‘owner’ / ‘caretaker’ of ‘the box’ which contain three demons – up to mischief at any opportunity. One, somewhat smelly, another frankly cantankerous and the third – well he’s just greedy for the smell of chips…

When he was younger the demons were at least funny, however, now things are getting a little more serious…he has always been deemed as a little ‘odd’, but now it is becoming something more. When Ben comes across an angel, who tells him he can be rid of the box, it seems like a dream come true. Perhaps there will be silence…the music the box makes is a continuous noise in Ben’s head, and for that alone, he would do almost anything….just for some peace and quiet.

I am just a little over half way through this and I can confirm it is brilliant.

Go out and buy it.

It is with some regret that I notice that there was once a Special Edition of this – I never saw it. I wish I had seen it – I’d have had a copy… A greater regret, is that this was first published in 2015 and as a paperback – last year. One that I missed, but not one you should.

 

Published by OUP

I always remember this book for three reasons. The first is that it is a very good story – the first that was published by this author. The second reason, because it is about a bird of prey and the third, because the title is a misnomer.

The story is brilliant, so much so I organised for a school to have an event based around the book. I love birds of prey and the book is a superb story about ospreys, and a nest that is found on a farm in Scotland…

When the author came to give her talk – which was filled with natural history and information about how the book came to be written, I asked her about the title. After all the book is about an osprey – an eagle, and not a hawk.

Oxford University Press’ decision to inaccurately (in my view) give the story this title has mystified me ever since. It is a good title. It should not, however, have been given to this book – there are many others it could have had.  So, this book is not about a hawk, it is about an eagle – and children who become bound into its story.

If you think birds of prey are extraordinary creatures or you love birds or wildlife and adventure, then this is the book for you.

Gill Lewis has written quite a number of books for this age group since this came out:

White Dolphin / Moon Bear / Scarlet Ibis / Gorilla Dawn / Sky Dancer (October / Hen Harriers).

 

Published by Orion Books

This reminds me a little of Welcome to Nowhere (Elizabeth Laird’s book on the Syrian refugee crisis); this though is a tale of Tibet, of bravery, adventure, secrets, mountains, danger, and two extraordinary yaks. It is another story about man’s inhumanity to man – but it is also a tale of hope. Tash and Sam attempt to travel to India from Tibet by yak, hoping to meet the Dalai Lama and perhaps make some contribution to change.

The chapters are small, no more than a few pages, with beautifully decorated leaves in between. Simply and clearly written it is a powerful novel.

I now want to visit Tibet, the mountains and perhaps to be introduced to a yak or a dri…I suspect they are rather special creatures.

 

Published by Puffin Books.

Some of you may have read The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, some years ago. This volume continues the adventures of Ted Spark – just three months after he solved the mystery of what happened to Salim, his cousin who, (if you didn’t guess, or know) disappeared off the London Eye. This is Ted’s second mystery – set around the theft of a picture from the Guggenheim museum in New York.

I have dipped into The London Eye Mystery, but haven’t yet managed to read it; it sells itself by word of mouth, and I do like to encourage new good books. I have read enough though to be happy to include it in my piles, with the notation that though not read by me yet, I believe it to be good. I will be reading it very soon; I loved The Guggenheim Mystery – its brilliant and extremely well written.

Ted Sparks is rather a unique character – and having a trip to New York to see Salim should be a holiday to remember, but not for his aunt being arrested for theft….

Robin Stevens is the author of the Wells and Wong detective novels.  There are six so far, and are very distinctive cover wise, with very bright covers. I have read the first in the series (I have too many books to read to try them all) – and wrote a post about it some time ago. This is very different – set mainly in New York, and is a brilliant bit of deduction.

So, for all those potential Poirots, Christies, Holmeses, Chestertons e.t.c that are out there – do read the Wells and Wong books, but start with The London Eye Mystery (Siobhan Dowd), then this and then disappear into Murder Most Unladylike. They will keep you out of mischief for some time to come!

Do remember, though, to read as wide a range of authors as possible – it is very easy to just follow one; only to miss out on new potentially superb authors. Its important for your health to eat a wide ranging diet, the same is true for reading – your English will improve if you read many different authors…(they use different words, and their use of language is different)…. It makes reading more interesting and food, quite extraordinary…

The titles in the Wells & Wong series so far run to six:

Murder Most UnladylikeArsenic for Tea, First Class Murder, Jolly Foul Play, Mistletoe and Murder and Cream Buns and Crime.

There are also two mini volumes: The Case of the Blue Violet and The Case of the Deepdean Vampire.

 

Published by Macmillan Children’s Books.

I recently organised a school event for Elizabeth Laird and at the end one of the boys asked Elizabeth Laird which was her favourite book, that she had written. It was obviously a very difficult question; her reply much the same as many parents’ – she loves them all, however, she did go on to say that the character Ben, in the story, was based around her younger brother, and so perhaps, if pushed this is her favourite.

This is the story of Anna’s family – her Mum, Dad, little sister, Katy and their new baby brother Ben. It is a tale of growing up, of accepting responsibilities, of acknowledging who you are, and who other people are too – along with realising that love comes in many forms and ways. It is a story of a family dealing with someone special, who though severely disabled, has a massive impact on the family.  Sometimes in a good way, and at other times taking all the attention.

The preface explains just a little about Elizabeth’s relationship with her brother Alistair – the positives and the negatives. Superb.

 

Published by Faber & Faber

This is Emma Carroll’s latest novel. It is set in the Second World War and encompasses the blitz, refugees, and evacuation – friendship, bravery and a little bit of luck – well more than a little. It will become a classic – there’s mystery and danger from the first page – it is a real page turner – a book that details the sense, and atmosphere of a very dark time in our history.

This is the first book of Emma Carroll’s that I have read – which is slightly embarrassing; five others are listed in the front, and her seventh book – The Lost Boy is being advertised in the back. Well written, edgy and engrossing. Superb.