23 September 2009

Book of the Week (30): “Tell Me a Dragon” by Jackie Morris

I want a dragon! I want one! And trust me, you will too. Each of the people in this glowingly beautiful book has a dragon of his or her own. And each dragon is different, depending on their person and depending on the world in which they live. There are dragons for skyscapes and seascapes, dragons from cityscapes and fairytale-princess landscapes, there are dragons in worlds of fire and worlds of ice. Though only 14 pictures – including front and back endpapers – and under 180 words long (slightly shorter, in other words, than this paragraph), I nonetheless spent a good half-hour on my first reading of this book, marvelling with slow relish at Jackie Morris’s colours and the vividness of her rich imagination, exploring the perspectives and the scales (in a proportional, as well as a dragon-skinned sense), alighting on delightful details, looking into her wonderful creatures’ reptile eyes. Tell Me a Dragon shows you what picture books can be at their most elegant and lyrical – if you can’t get a dragon of your own, well, this magical book may be the next best thing.

Recommended by Daniel Hahn

22 September 2009

Teen prize shortlist

If feels like such a long time since we announced our longlist back in July, but now, at last...

I'm delighted to report that our shortlist for the Booktrust Teenage Prize was announced today.

The six books we've chosen are:
A good, good selection, strong and interesting. I'm very pleased with it indeed. Very good, bold books all. Varying greatly, each from the other, but every one very engaging, every one very thought-provoking; sometimes moving, often very ambitious, with six quite different writing voices and six quite different moods. Any one of them is well worth a read - or read all of them!

I'm planning to re-read them all before we have our next (and final) judging meeting in November, and I'm looking forward to the treat...

Meantime let me know any thoughts - do you agree with our choices? What are you pleased to see recognised? What's your favourite teen book of the year that we inexplicably overlooked? Very keen to hear any feedback...

15 September 2009

Book of the Week (29): "A Trick of the Dark" by B.R. Collins

In a famous scene in Peter Pan, Wendy wakes to find Peter crying in the nursery because his shadow has broken off, and she sews it back to his feet. Now move the plot to the 21st century, add some years to Peter and Wendy and make them teenaged brother and sister, throw in large amounts of angst and supernatural horror and you have the excellent new novel from B.R. Collins.

Although A Trick of the Dark is inspired by Peter Pan and is scattered throughout with references to J.M. Barrie’s classic tale (which are, by the way, fun to spot), this novel is unlikely to be read to small children before bedtime. The relationship between the popular and charming Zach and his adoring younger sister Annis is fraught, especially when they are forced to spend the summer vacation in a secluded French farm with two parents on the brink of a very acrimonious divorce. Zach has been involved with some pretty nasty stuff back home and now hangs out sulking and foul-mouthed where he shouldn’t be – a derelict barn on the verge of collapse. And collapse it does – on top of Zach, right in front of Annis’ horrified eyes. Surely Zach couldn’t survive this crash? How is it possible that he gets up unscathed? And who exactly is that dark boy-shaped shadow which chases him, leaving death in his wake? Alternating between Zach’s diary entries and Annis’ relation of events, A Trick of the Dark leads the reader down a creepy, bone-chilling path to an unsettling resolution.

Recommended by Noga Applebaum

  • B.R. Collins’ first novel The Traitor’s Game, about friendship and betrayal, laced with a dose of fantasy, has won the Branford Boase Award and is well worth reading.
  • Peter Pan in Scarlet, the recent sequel to Peter Pan, beautifully written by Geraldine McCaughrean, also picks up on the dark side of this story, as it follows the now grown Lost Boys and Wendy on their mission to stop a leak which blurs the boundaries between Wonderland and our world. Not for young kids.
  • In A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin the wish to impress school mates makes young wizard Sparrowhawk release a deadly shadow which he now must chase to the end of the earth - oh, and kill a dragon too.


Apologies for the past fortnight's silence - circumstances beyond our control...

Book of the Week no. 29 will be posted very shortly. It's probably time for a general catching-up-on-news post, so will do that soon too...