Archives for category: For 9 – 12 Years

Published by Bloomsbury

Mary was the daughter of Katherine of Aragon and  Henry VIII.

Katherine was Henry’s first wife, whom he set aside to marry Anne Boleyn with whom he had Mary’s half sister, Elizabeth. Both girls were ultimately to rule England. This though is Mary’s story, the story that made a young girl into the Queen she was.

It is a story knotted and entwined in her father’s desperate need to sire a son, with his drive and determination to marry Anne Boleyn, and when that resulted in her death, with his marriage to Jane Seymour.

The Tudors, for me, start English history. From them, my knowledge of history spreads, a little like a poorly made spider’s web.

They weren’t perfect. Then again, history was a different place. They did things differently then…so differently.  Their knowledge and beliefs were diverse too.

This story covers the period before Mary or Elizabeth had ascended the throne. The courtiers, and Henry VIII had nothing to compare, they didn’t know the strength, knowledge and forethought that a woman can have. Hindsight is a marvellous thing. Then again, when you look at our more recent history, perhaps it isn’t so different.

There are gaps in our knowledge about the Tudors. They are the people I’d like to meet from the past – there are so many questions. Not just of this period, but of Elizabeth’s time on the throne, and Mary’s too.

Lucy Worsley, of whom I am quite jealous, lives and works around Hampton Court, amongst other palaces, as their Chief Curator. She knows her history. I hope she will go on to write the other two stories, that of Elizabeth I and that of that much desired boy Edward VI – whose lives were so tied to the need to ensure there was a prince to follow in Henry VIII’s footsteps.

Our history would be so bland if it weren’t for this extraordinary family…

Lucy Worsley has written three books, so far for this age group, though this, perhaps, is my favourite.





Published by Harper Collins

This series has been on my radar for some time, but I never picked one up until today. I borrowed the first volume from our shelves to read with my lunch. I haven’t put it down. I am presently reading a book on Madagascar (too heavy to carry to work), Alison Weir’s new paperback biography/fictional account of Anne Boleyn, a book on venom and now this – which I suspect will be my ‘main’ read until it is finished.

I’m only up to page 82. My favourite quote though, so far, was on page 28:

“Stuffed dogs, Miss?” I wondered aloud.

“Can’t stand the things. I like to see them dead.” replied Miss Fox

You can tell she’s not on the good side…immediately. Someone to watch.

This is something I am really enjoying. I should be having some time off soon (if all goes to plan), and if I do, I have a feeling I will be wanting to read all the other titles by Sophie Cleverly – The Whispers in the Walls, The Dance in the Dark, The Lights Under the Lake, and The Curse in the Candlelight.

Even the titles are intriguing.

What have I been doing?

I feel this series has been overlooked by the publicists, and the reading public. To my shame I have overlooked the books. They have not given the attention they deserve.

The Lost Twin (book one in the series) is a superb story. Scarlet has gone. Scarlet was brave, outspoken, determined and everything Ivy is not. Ivy though, has been enrolled in Scarlet’s school…to replace her…to become her…

It’s quite a thing to be told that you don’t exist anymore…

Its brilliant!

For twins and for people who are not twins – everywhere…

Published by Piccadilly Press.

I love rain. I was staying with my uncle on his farm in Laikipia, Kenya some years ago and my cousin complained that the ‘rains’ hadn’t come. I offered to encourage the weather with a rain dance. George was a pragmatic farmer and African, and he laughed at me. The next day he complained that though it had rained, it hadn’t rained on his tomatoes. So, I promised him more for that night, and danced a dance in the middle of the courtyard…like I have never danced before… or since, to be truthful. I don’t do much in the way of dancing.

The thunderstorm that occurred that night was like nothing I have ever experienced. Loud, all-pervading, and glorious! I couldn’t hear my Mum when she spoke directly into my ear…and the smell was, well – quite sumptuous.

I have always liked the rain, in preference to the sun – so much more going on.

This is a new dystopian volume from Zillah Bethell (author of A Whisper of Horses) – in an era where water is the rarest commodity in the world and as a result those who have water, or are able to use distillation plants to obtain fresh water are at war with those who don’t. This is the background to this multilayered story of a young boy with achromatopsia, a condition which results in the suffer being totally colour blind. They see the world in a spectrum of greys and whites – a rainbow means very little to them.

At the beginning of the story Auden’s father is away fighting in the war. His uncle, a scientist has recently died and left his cottage to his family and Auden’s mother has moved them from London to the country.  Which is when this really begins.

The book raises various questions and ideas, beliefs and thoughts: Does everything have to have a purpose? Is that why things exist? What makes a thing a living entity? What makes us human?

The ideas include the fact that for the most part, humans are kind and truthful and wise and decent and that we should recognise difficulties for what they are, and press on regardless.

Achromatopsia is a real condition – though suffers, the Internet informs me, not only have an inability to see colour, but other aspects of their sight are also affected. Particularly when in bright sun light, and though this is something that Auden also has to deal with, the idea that he is able to see better than someone without it, in poor light, seems not to be the case.

This is a story about doing what is right. Believing in yourself. Friendship, bravery and sacrifice.





Published by Chicken House

I once had a balloon flight. I was a member of a group called S.P.I.C.E. (Special Programme of Initiative Challenge and Excitement, if I remember correctly), and had become rather ‘hooked’ on anything to do with flying: I skydived, flew a helicopter, a Mark 2 (I think) Provost Jet, experienced a basic aerobatics flight, followed by a second that was to competition standard, flew a glider, a tiger moth (including doing a loop the loop), and had a lesson in a small plane. I also had the flight in a balloon. It was remarkably peaceful and as though the world was turning beneath, rather than we flying above it – it was most peculiar.

This is about the race to construct and fly the first controlled balloon flight. Its about a young fingersmith (pick-pocket) who is employed to steal a box at the start of this intriguing and rather wonderful story. Which seems a simple enough proposal…initially.

Her adventures, though, are just beginning; as a result of a spur in the moment decision she becomes caught in the ropes dangling below a balloon and finds herself being carried above the trees and a barn…the river below a silver slither of brightness.

When she recovers, (which takes a while) she is offered a job working for the family from whom she was to steal the box…and its not long before her disappointed previous employer appears on the scene…

This is (remarkably) the story of the Montgolfier hot-air balloon -which was unveiled before King Louis XVI of France in 1793. I’m afraid I knew nothing of the two Montgolfier brothers, however, the Internet (the modern day encyclopedia), makes this reference:

On 19 September 1783, the Aérostat Réveillon was flown with the first living beings in a basket attached to the balloon: a sheep called Montauciel (“Climb-to-the-sky”), a duck and a rooster. The sheep was believed to have a reasonable approximation of human physiology. The duck was expected to be unharmed by being lifted and was included as a control for effects created by the aircraft rather than the altitude. The rooster was included as a further control as it was a bird that did not fly at high altitudes. The demonstration was performed at the royal palace in Versailles before King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette and a crowd. The flight lasted approximately eight minutes, covered two miles (3 km), and obtained an altitude of about 1,500 feet (460 m). The craft landed safely after flying.

I don’t know what has happened, but 2018 looks to being a quality year for Children’s writing. This is superb – I have even had to put it down at intervals, because I have been too scared to read what happens next.

Out now. Buy it, read it, and pass it on.

NB – I note two authors. Neal Jackson won The Big Idea Competition in 2014 – and Emma Carroll was asked by Chicken House to write the story based on his idea. So you have two authors. Magic.


Published by Chicken House

A story of crime fighters, but not the usual kind. These are from a freak show – each different from the norm and from one another as they could be: grotesque and curious.

This is the story of missing mud-larks, murder, dastardly deeds, murder and mayhem. Set in Victorian London – the Great Exhibition has opened its doors to the great and the good, but otherwise London was still one of the most aromatic places in the world, and not in a good way.

This is a story of misbegotten characters, and the search for perpetual beauty.

Funny, disturbing, engrossing – a book by the author of  The Legend of Podkin One-Ear and The Dark Hollow. Perhaps for slightly older readers – Superb.



Published by Simon and Schuster

I haven’t got very far with this yet – but it is quite an extraordinary volume.

It is a brilliant piece of fantastic fiction and adventure that (so far) involves an evil ice queen, a young boy with his arctic fox cub, and a young girl frozen alive onto a musical box.

It is intriguing, well written and (so far), quite wonderful – It has all the elements to making this a very, very good story. At the moment I am at home writing this up, and outside it is cold, with rain/sleet – a day for snuggling down with a good book. Which I intend to do – with this one. Though I think I might put the fire on first.

‘…Flint found himself wondering whether birthplace, parentage and appearance were really the things that you should list people under. Somehow courage and loyalty seemed better markers.’

‘Belonging is not about knowing your tribe. Its about trusting people whatever their tribe.’

Read it – I know this is a ‘good one’.

Later…I seem to be savouring this volume – not finished yet – but it is a brilliant and a superb read. An absolute ‘must by’. Good thing Waterstones is making it the Children’s Book of the Month for January! Go out and buy a copy – and get another book in the promotion for half price (if cheaper than this), or get this one for half price, if the other is more…

Or just buy, borrow or beg a copy. It isn’t expensive. It’s a paperback and its good.




Published by Harper Collins

This is a rather clever book. I am not sure I would ever have wanted to live for ever. The world changes so fast, and not always for the better. I wouldn’t have minded being able to time travel, though, that would be different. As long as I was able to return to where I should be; today – now: 27th of December 2017 at 10.57 am.

This story, though, (unless everything changes), is about a boy who will essentially live forever. Like Peter Pan, he will never grow up; he will stay 11 years old and unless he has an accident, will never die.

For some, that sounds almost perfect. Alfie, though, finds his friends grow away from him. They don’t understand how he can stay a boy, when their interests begin to change. He is still playing football and with his cat and wants to stay with his mother. His interests are still those of an 11 year old boy. Friends never last long.

He and his mother live a very quiet life. His father died a long time ago from an accident on a ship and so they live in peace with his cat.

When his mother dies in a fire, Alfie finds himself alone and begins to think that perhaps he would prefer to grow up with his friends and to live a normal life. He has one opportunity to do this, a way of changing things. Other factors, however, are beginning to be brought to bear on his life – things are changing and being a boy alone, life is getting more complicated, more difficult.

This is about a boy and Biffa, his cat from around 1014 AD. living in the 21st C. It is clever and touching. What happens in the end, is for me coloured by Biffa’s survival – but for all that, this is a story of friendship, history and that peculiar yearning we have to ‘live for ever’. Do we really want to?



Published by Oxford University Press

Sailing – especially in small boats is an almost visceral occupation for some. For others, it is a mechanical procedure, hardly understood. Then again others know the physics, the mathematics, but would never step on board.

St Kilda is an island off the west coast of Scotland. The most remote part of the Outer Hebrides. Bleak and uninhabited, apart from the birds and sheep – and even these are different from the usual woolly ruminant. There used to be a small hamlet, and the army have had a base there, but on the whole, it is left to the birds (and the sheep). It is a desolate place. A place, on the whole, deserted.  A place where you could, if you can reach it, disappear. Escape from life, perhaps, just for a while.

Jamie’s family build boats, and sail them. Theirs, so far, have never capsized and his grandfather intuitively, it seems, builds beautiful small vessels and hopes that Jamie might follow in his footsteps… though he thinks he should become a stronger swimmer, before learning to sail.

Jamie, however, has a secret.

This is a lovely book about boats, sailing, friendship, a dog, and bravery.

The illustration below, is I think, a picture of a ‘swell’ – and I have ‘nicked’ it from the Internet again – from Pinterest – Beth Robertson Fiddes / Dark Sea St Kilda. Somehow it fits this story…it gives the feeling of menace…


Published by Chicken House (February 2018)

Are you proper, or have you been constructed, made to do a job. Do you need to sleep? If you cut yourself, do you bleed? Do you have a soul? Or are you made of metal?

If you are proper, you are real – flesh and blood. If not, then someone, somewhere, made you. If you are adult sized, and look proper, but aren’t, then you are probably illegal.

This is a story of identity. Of lies. Belief and friendship. Gripper, Jack, Manda and Rob are mechanicals. Christopher though is different. They live with Absalom, who runs what amounts to being a junk yard, from which he resources much of his materials… Life is hard, but they support one another. There is time to make the odd snowman between bouts of work…

I haven’t got far with this yet – but it is superb. 148 pages in (of 329) – it has already given one twist, that I didn’t see coming…a twist that results in far reaching changes…

It comes out in February – buy it, and enjoy it….

I am reading a proof – the above illustration of the cover-to-be may not be the one that is actually used. So it is no indication of how good this is. Trust me. I know.



Published by Scholastic (February 2018)

A rather good story written in, sometimes overly, colloquial English, quasi American. So much so, it did colour the book for me, and not positively. I am uncertain as to where it is set – perhaps in the US, but it could just as well be somewhere imaginary.  It is written in the first person and tells the story of a girl’s search for her father. It is the story of a rather marvellous witch, and of course magic. Good against evil. School bullies and their stories too. Ghosts. It is the tale of a dog, with a wagging tail – brave and true.

It is a most extraordinary book. If the story hadn’t been so good, I’m afraid I would have found the English would have brought me to a halt. Mainly as I think we should encourage ‘good’ clear language for young readers, so that becomes the norm (particularly for exams and the like), and the more interesting, should perhaps be for later, once clear good English is the practice.

That said, there were some rather nice ‘nuggets’.

Then she told Ma the whole of Culleroy would think I was being raised by mudskippers.

… his spider-brown eyes followed me around. They were deep-set as if someone had pushed them hard into his skull.

Bird song floated up from the valley. I smelled the breath of the forest: all sticky pine and baked herbs and wild flowers and hot grass. Insects hummed and rattled and zizzied; bees gathered on giant bushes of yellow flowers as if they were dropping into their local diner for pollen shakes; ants march and lizards flicked their tails and butterflies slashed their patterned wings.

Perhaps the colour of the language, the use of it, fits the book – anyway it is certainly one to enjoy.

It is not for the faint of heart – dark, but also rather wondrous.


I read a proof – so the cover probably isn’t that shown above. Though it might be – the proof had a black and white rendition of that one. So, just perhaps…

Due out February 2018