The end of January brings the bi-annual listing of new children’s books from Bookseller magazine. It is always great to sit and check which of my favourite authors have got a new titles in the next few months. This latest offering has got me all excited about those books appearing over the next months, but also those that have been appearing in the post for me to look at. I still think we are lucky to live at a time where so much writing and illustration talent is on offer.
The other week I was lucky enough to be invited to meet new Irish author Shane Hegarty, whose book “Darkmouth” has just been published. It is a dark and atmospheric book about a small seaside village in Ireland where there exists one of the last doorways between the world of ‘Legends’ and our world. The hero is a young boy called Finn, who is being trained as a Legend Hunter by his father, but he is not very successful. It is an action packed story for both boys and girls and there will be more to come in the series.
For those who like their mysteries to be more linked to the modern world then the new book by Amanda Mitchison, called “Crog” might fit the bill. the ‘hero’ Wilf is something of a kleptomaniac, although he steals because he is bored. A less than inspiring person who has an extremely wealthy father and a very normal sister, he finds himself in real trouble when he steals a bowl from a local museum and the next morning finds a 3000 year old man in his room, who says he has to guard the bowl. There are great adventures and many
twists in the plot before the truth is discovered. A real page turner for the middle years.
“Big game” by Dan Smith is a really strong story, which has just been made into a film, starring Samuel L Jackson. Imagine being out in the snow in Finland, undergoing a trial to prove your manhood, and then finding a crashed escape pod containing the president of the United States. The problem comes when you find there are men out there who want to kill the president – and you. A great adventure thriller.
One of my favourite books of the last couple of months is “Julius Zebra: rumble with the Romans” by Gary Northfield. This is a hysterical story of the less than brave Julius who is captured by the Romans and ends up fighting in the Colosseum in Rome. It requires a huge amount of disbelief around the idea of anthropomorphic animals. There is wonderful humour, mixed with a fair amount of information about gladiators, which will be great for young readers, both boys and girls.
For a young teen audience there is a really heart wrenching book being published by the great Chicken House. It is called “The Honest Truth” by Dan Gemeinhart and is the story of Mark, a twelve year old who is terminally ill with cancer and decides he is going on one last big adventure while he can. It is a fantastic story of grit and determination, fighting against the odds and also about the families and friends who care. I strongly recommend this one.
“Scarlet and Ivy” by Sophie Cleverly is a first novel, by one of the graduates from the truly amazing Writing for young people course at Bath Spa. they have produced some of the best authors of the last few years. This story is about mysteries and missing people; with all kinds of twists and turns as Ivy tries to find out what has happened to her missing sister.
For younger readers we have the funny and truly imaginative story of “The Accidental Prime Minister” by Tom McLaughlin. The premise is totally impossible but it makes for a good read and I think some of the contenders for the real office might learn a thing or to about working for the people, if they read this book to their children.
“The Last of the Spirits” by Chris Priestley is a wonderful re-telling of the story of “A Christmas carol” but told from the perspective of a destitute boy and his sister. It is one of those books that just grabs you, and I finished it in one sitting. It is also going on my list of those books which have to be read every year; probably just after I have watched the ‘Muppet Christmas carol’.
“The door that led to Where” by Sally Gardner is yet another real winner from a truly superb writer. It is a time travel novel, set in modern and Victorian London, but with the twists and turns that keep you hooked into the story. The ending seems to give hope that there will be a follow up, I do hope so.
“Arsenic for Tea” by Robin Stevens is the second in the series featuring the girl sleuths Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong and set in a Poirotesque time frame. I have to say that this one kept me guessing and I was really disappointed
when the murderer was announced, because all of the suspects were such nice people, in fact the only nasty person turned out to be the victim. I have just heard that a contract has been signed for more books by this author and I can’t wait.
My last offering is the first in a new series by Vicki Lockwood, called ” The Magnificent Lizzie Brown and the Mysterious Phantom”. It is set in Victorian London and surrounds the adventures of Lizzie Brown, who runs away from her drunken father and finds herself joining a circus. Whilst assisting the fortuneteller, Lizzie discovers that she has a true ability to see into the future, not something she really wants. the story deals with her attempts to unmask a mysterious thief, with the help of her new circus friends. I am looking forward to the next in this exciting series for the ‘tweens’.