28 March 2011

Book of the Week (93): "Dear Dumb Diary: Let's Pretend This Never Happened" by Jim Benton

These are the diaries of Jamie Kelly, a girl for whom life is never easy. Sarcastic, gloomy, slightly cynical (with hair like that, who wouldn’t be?) and beset with problems – mainly caused by the oh-so-perfect Angelique – Jamie suffers through middle school. She trusts her innermost thoughts to her diary, and that is what we read – a dairy complete with cartoon-style illustrations and complaints about everything including school, teachers, Stinker the dog (he stinks AND eats her homework), her hair (which will never be long, blonde and perfect), boys and life generally. Luckily for us her complaints are hilarious.

So hilarious that, despite Jamie being a girl, these books are too good to keep just for female readers – boys get them too. In fact they make a perfect ‘next’ after the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.

In America the Dear Dumb Diary series is up to book twelve, though here in the UK we’re just catching up and the first in the series is just available. Go read. Then be patient and wait for the rest of the series – anticipation will only sweeten the fun of each book as it appears.

Recommended by Leonie Flynn

  • In case you’ve missed them, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney.
  • Big Nate by Lincoln Pierce is a slightly easier read, but is just as American and just as funny.
  • The original and best diary? Sue Townsend’s genius, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾.

12 March 2011

Brief hiatus

Hi -

We're taking a fortnight off our Books-of-the-Week - back with the next one on the 28th.


07 March 2011

Book of the Week (92): "Wreckers" by Julie Hearn

A story of changing friendships, of lust, hope and hopelessness, a creature unlike any other and an ordinary box – a box, which has been closed for many years; a box which if opened could have devastating consequences for the world…

‘Let. Me. Out.’

The voice is bleak. A sandpaper rasp.

Pandora’s box is a well-known Greek myth and is marvellously interpreted by Julie Hearn. Set in a time and place after ‘the attack’, when England is seemingly isolated from the rest of the world quaint and peaceful. Inter-tellies are novel, Inter-phones and automobiles a rare sight and Eco-Christianity is the main religion as the world tries to reverse the devastation of pollution.

Five friends on a quest for entertainment decide to visit the old abandoned mansion. Five friends who have known each other since potty training, who naturally fall into the same boy-girl line up wherever they sit or walk. Yet, they are growing up; roles are changing and on the way to the mansion they swap places, their ‘first big mistake’. On entering the old house each reacts unexpectedly, the brave timid, the timid brave. Then they hear the sandpaper voice behind the wall…

‘Let. Me. Out.’


‘Do it, Maude,’ says Gurnet, his voice low and urgent. ‘Let the poor little creature out.’

Julie Hearn’s skill of developing believable characters with clearly distinguishable voices is as evident here as in her other novels. As a reader you rapidly befriend the characters and are effortlessly carried along and involved in their journey. The narrative is told primarily from four of the five friends perspectives, with Maude’s kept effectively minimal. These chapters are interspersed with a separate narrative reminiscent of a Greek chorus an omnipotent narrative utilised to add depth and understanding to the history and mystery of Pandora’s box.

A tense and gripping read, Wreckers is a captivating story which forces reflection on the daily interplay of hope and hopelessness that dances through life.

Recommended by Tessa Brechin