24 May 2011

The Western Mysteries: WANTED by Caroline Lawrence

Wanted is the first instalment in the Western Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence and is released on the 2nd June 2011. It is fiction. It is set in the Wild West during the great American civil war. The main character is a boy called P.K. Pinkerton, nicknamed ‘Pinky’. It all starts when he comes back from school and sees his foster parents lying on the floor looking dead and the adventures start there and get more nail-biting as the book goes on.

I think the book is different from The Roman Mysteries because his parents die and then he sets off alone to solve a major mystery whereas in The Roman Mysteries their parents don’t die and they solve the mysteries purely for fun. In ‘Wanted’ Pinky sets off to escape killers, but then starts to do mystery work as a job - and to follow in his father’s footsteps - not just for fun! The fact that it is all sounds more serious doesn’t make it any less exciting.

I think that this book is as good as The Roman Mysteries and is more grown-up. I think it will have up lots more great surprises too as the series continues. I think it’s a great read and recommend it very much.

Asher Laws age 10

16 May 2011

The end.

With our hundredth recommendation, just published, we’re bringing our ‘Book of the Week’ series to a close. Huge thanks to all our contributors, especially to Noga Applebaum, Tessa Brechin, Ariel Kahn and Matthew Humpage, for sharing with us their enthusiasm for some of the brilliant books published over the twenty-seven months since we started.

We’ll all still be posting recommendations of books on this blog from time to time, of course, albeit occasionally rather than regularly, whenever we come across anything that we’re just too excited to keep quiet about…


Book of the Week (100): "Caddy's World" by Hilary McKay

If you’ve read the rest of Hilary McKay’s Casson Family books, you won’t need my encouragement to read Caddy’s World. Just the knowledge that there’s another one in existence and you’ll be utterly desperate to get your hands on a copy, longing to throw your arms around these characters you’ve so missed. Caddy, Saffy, Indigo and their slightly delinquent parents…

(But wait – you’re wondering – what about Rose?)

In Caddy’s World we go back to a time when the Cassons had only three children – the eldest, Caddy, is just twelve. She has three best friends (perfect Beth, brainy Ruby, and Alison who hates everybody), a sort of boyfriend, Dingbat (whom she shares with the other three) and worries about the stability of her mad family’s mad household, where things seem to keep being upturned just as she’s managed to get her bearings. And then her mother tells her there’s a baby on the way…

You may, like me, worry slightly when a book like this appears – the others in the series are so gorgeous, what if this one doesn’t live up to your expectations? Well, you needn’t fret. Everything you loved about Saffy’s World, Indigo’s Star, Permanent Rose, Caddy Ever After and Forever Rose is here in this book, too, in abundance – a lot of laughs, warmth and mischief, characters with more character than any family of children I think I’ve ever read about, a lightness of touch and, well, so many other things. It’s quite hard to talk about, really – quite hard to describe what it is that makes the Casson Family series so special. But as I say, if you’ve met them already you don’t need me to tell you. So, I’ll just say, Have a wonderful time. Caddy’s World awaits.

(If you haven’t read these books, what on earth are you waiting for? You won’t find a more endearing, eccentric, maddening and marvellously warm family in any other book, by anyone, ever. High claim? I don’t think so. But find out for yourself. Start from the beginning, and go read Saffy’s Angel now. Just do what you’re told. You’ll be so glad you did.)

Recommended by Daniel Hahn

09 May 2011

Book of the Week (99): "One Dog and His Boy" by Eva Ibbotson

When Eva Ibbotson died in October, aged 85, she had just finished work on one final book, this story about a dog, a boy, and the adventures they go through in order to be allowed to keep one another. And to my mind One Dog and His Boy is as good as anything she wrote in her amazing 35-year career.

Ten-year-old Hal has always wanted a dog. His super-materialistic parents lavish expensive gifts on him at every opportunity, but just won’t stand for the idea of a pet. All too messy for their beautiful, luxurious, spotless, lifeless house. But they believe they can cure Hal’s enthusiasm by letting him have a dog just for a weekend, certain that he’ll quickly tire of it – so they go to the Easy Pets Dog Agency and hire one. But boy and dog become immediately attached, so when the parents return Fleck to the agency, Hal has to take drastic action. He kidnaps the dog and runs away. But not long into his escape he finds he has acquired four other canine friends, as well as a human friend to accompany him on his journey. Oh, and there is a private detective trying to track him down now, too, and a huge reward for any information leading to his apprehension…

Ibbotson can be wickedly funny when she wants to be, but what will stay with you once you’ve finished this book is the warmth of it – of the story (loyalty, bravery, hope, belonging), of the characters (all of them pin-sharp – including some particularly ghastly grown-ups) but mainly of the voice – that voice, inimitable, that made us all feel as though we knew Eva Ibbotson personally, and just loved being in her company. And here, and in so many other marvellous books, we’ll have her around for a long time yet. What a legacy that is.

Recommended by Daniel Hahn

02 May 2011

Book of the Week (98): "A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness, with illustrations by Jim Kay

A Monster Calls is the extraordinary new novel from Patrick Ness. It is based on the story idea of Siobhan Dowd, a much loved, Carnegie Medal winning author, who sadly lost her battle with cancer before she could write the book. Patrick Ness has taken that kernel of an idea and created an impressive tale, which will stay with me as one of the most insightful, heartbreaking and powerful novels I’ve ever read.

Having been somewhat in awe of Ness’s ‘Chaos Walking Trilogy’ I was desperate to get my hands on this new novel. Desperate and a little nervous, wondering how he could possibly follow it. I was not disappointed. A Monster Calls is not at all like his ‘Chaos Walking Trilogy’, yet it is equally unique and spectacular. The emotional intensity and skilful storytelling once again keeps you turning page after page until you finish and sit stunned.

Here is the story of Conor, a teenage boy trying to cope with the likely loss of his mother to cancer. With his father now living in America with his new family, Conor has to be grown up and brave as his Mum battles her way through treatments. And then a monster comes to call, but it’s not the monster he’s expecting. This one isn’t nearly as terrifying as the one that visits his nightly nightmare - ‘the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming’. Yet this one is ancient and wild, it tells him stories and it demands the truth from Conor.

With a style reminiscent of folklore story telling and dense with symbolism, Ness captures the confusion and pain of Conor’s experience incredibly well, providing a depth of understanding to teenage grief that I haven’t before encountered in fiction.

Hauntingly beautiful illustrations by Jim Kay add extra depth and intensity to this affecting tale. As Kay says on his website ‘Get hold of a copy, hide yourself away, and throw yourself between the rollers of an emotional grinder’.

Recommended by Tessa Brechin