The luckiest of readers often find that a handful of childhood books will stay in their hearts their whole lives through. Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr is one of those for me. Having bewitched me since childhood, I was thrilled that its 60th anniversary presented the opportunity to write a glowing review. It is the story of invalided 10-year-old Marianne, who passes her lonely, bedridden hours by drawing a house. When Marianne sleeps, her dreams transport her into her picture, to the house she drew and the secrets it conceals. The stage is set for the spookiest of psychodramas.
Imagine if the ground beneath your feet was riddled with tunnels, home to a predatory and ‘voracious underground hurricane that thinks and feels’ its way to destruction. Heavy stuff. This scenario is visited upon 12-year-old Gran Flowerpetal in this new book from the brilliant Dave Eggers. His first foray into children’s fiction, The Lifters presents us with a spirited and magical adventure, and the ever-popular theme of kids having to take charge and save the day.
Max Morel is a true Parisienne, lucky enough to live within sight of the Eiffel Tower, and the best pain au chocolat shop ever. But her life feels small; never has there been a girl more ready for grand adventure. Little does Max realise that she is one fateful phone call away from being swept aboard an intoxicating night train ride across Europe, one that will include international jewel thieves and undercover detectives. Hold onto your hats!
Remember Each Peach Pear Plum, The Jolly Postman, and the infamous Burglar Bill? Many of us grew up with the books of Allan Ahlberg, one of our best-loved children’s writers. June brings his 80th birthday, and a celebratory review is definitely in order. I’ve chosen the lesser known but very lovely, My Brother’s Ghost, the story of a girl’s 1950’s childhood, enlivened by the ghostly guardian figure of her dead brother.
It seems we’re finally living in an age of true girl power. Our bookshops are piled high with stereotype-busting titles, exhorting our girls to become scientists, inventors, activists. Endless shining possibilities beckon. But what about our boys? Is their book reading still dominated by gender cliché?
Volume One of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, a collection of 100 tales of extraordinary women, was one of the publishing sensations of 2017. Showcasing real women of courage and ingenuity, and riding the wave of thezeitgeist, the authors produced a beautiful factual book that has been translated around the world. A wonderful thing then happened, a clamour of readers’ voices calling for more tales, and offering up their own heroines. Here, in Volume Two, we see the results of a very happy collaboration.
To the casual observer, Alfie Monk looks like an average 11-year-old boy. But Alfie can remember the last Viking invasion of England. He was there. As was his mum, Hilda, and cat, Biffa. A thousand years later and they’re still alive. Ageless, with a millennium of history and wisdom between them.
Astrid feels it is extremely important to sing when you’re skiing. Also a fearless ‘sledge pilot,’ Astrid spends many happy hours whizzing gleefully through her home valley of Glimmerdal. But her exuberance masks a brow-furrowing problem. There are no children to play with! Not only that, she lives unfortunately close to the ‘quietest holiday camp in Norway,’ run by an irascible gentleman who despises noisy children. What is the ‘little thunderbolt of Glimmerdal’ to do? Astrid the Unstoppable is Maria Parr’s second novel, and the 2009 winner of several prestigious prizes in her home country of Norway. Finally translated into English, it’s a must-read for fans of feisty girl adventurers.
The Wizard of Oz is surely the most famous of American fairy tales. L. Frank Baum’s band of merry characters and their epic journey of discovery, is now enshrined in our popular culture. In this quirky re-telling, we examine eventsfrom the perspective of Toto, the dog. What is his uniquely canine take on this world of Munchkins, witchery, and magical shoes?
BANG! WALLOP! CRUNCH! Bad Dad by David Walliams greets the reader with noisy fanfare. The hotly anticipated new book from Walliams tells the story of a father and son’s struggle to escape the clutches of a local crime lord, and right a shameful wrong. A riot of car chases and madcap schemes, does it deserve its runaway success at the top of the bestseller charts?