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Goodnight Mr Tom

Compelling and well-loved children's classic

I have a hunch that Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian will feature on many of your children’s back-to-school reading lists, a classic choice for English teachers everywhere since it was first published in 1981. Perhaps some of you even remember it from your own schooldays. I’ve been revising our school reading lists and spied Goodnight Mr Tom on our Year 7 list. I hadn’t read it since I was in Year 7 myself, and I wanted to find out why it’s such a permanent fixture in our children’s literary canon.

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Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death

Intricate illustrations bring an elaborate gothic world to life

My pupils and I have been waiting for Chris Riddell’s sequel to Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse, and here it is, cleverly launched in time for Hallowe’en. At my local Waterstone’s, copies of the chocolate-box, gilded hardback are displayed with cobwebs and spiders and fairy cakes (the latter not traditionally associated with Hallowe’en, true, but all will become clear).

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How To Be A Woman

Women (and men!) out there!! You have GOT to read this one!

I have no idea how I missed this book when it first came out in 2011. Thankfully, a friend suggested I read it and what a hoot! I have been snorting, screaming, squealing with laughter, while my children have been watching me with increasing concern. How To Be A Woman is part memoir, part modern feminist manifesto, written by British journalist and TV presenter Caitlin Moran and the funniest and smartest book I have read in a long time.

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All Our Names

Idi Amin's Uganda and race relations in America, beautifully interweaved

All Our Names is the story of Isaac, a young African on the run from the political chaos of Idi Amin’s Uganda, and Helen, the social worker assigned to look after him when he arrives in America. Laden with emotional baggage, they embark on a controversial love affair. All Our Names is a quietly contemplative and beautifully constructed story with a window into the brutal world of African politics and race relations in America in the 1970s.

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The Signature of All Things

Great storytelling with humour and ambition

I never thought I’d get excited by a novel about botany, but The Signature of All Things proved me wrong. Firstly, Elizabeth Gilbert is an outstanding storyteller: funny, insightful and ambitious. Equally compelling is the novel’s unlikely heroine, Alma Whittaker, a multi-layered and unusual character and a woman with a brilliant scientific brain born in the wrong century.

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Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

A bit pallid Murakami

Haruki Murakami is a rare creature: an author of literary fiction and hugely commercial, a Nobel Prize contender and a best seller. I was completely engrossed by his last book, 1Q84, a 1300 page, three volume magic realist ‘thriller’. Would his new novel Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage live up to my sky-high expectations? Not quite. It is a perfectly good book and if you are a long standing Murakami fan you would probably want to read it. If you are a Murakami virgin, I suggest you start with one of his other books, as I don’t think this is his best. Read full Review