Sunday 19 April 2015

11 Things I Like about 'The Dreamsnatcher' by Abi Elphinstone

1. Moll. She's mischievous, brave, loyal, pig-headed, and stubborn but with a heart of gold.
2. Gryff. Inspired by Lyra's Pantalaiman, this wildcat makes an excellent sidekick for the feisty Moll.
3. The setting. So many children's books are about epic adventures and journeys, I found the rather enclosed nature of the book's setting very refreshing. It's basically set in one forest, and the reader encounters nothing of the world outside the trees. To Moll, the forest is huuuuge, but I'm guessing it's actually not. And the world of a child can often be like that. A bed can be an island, a bedroom can be a sea, and a back garden can be a continent.
4. The Gypsies. I think this is the first novel I've read about gypsies and in this book we get a real sense of them - their beliefs, their superstitions, their clothes, their food, their music. You get to smell that camp-fire smoke! And you've got to love those names - Oak, Mooshie, Wisdom, Cinderella Bull and (my favourite) Hard-Times Bob.
5. The magic. The Dreamsnatcher is full of magic, both good and bad. The good relates to old world beliefs and superstitions but also new world eco-friendly living.  The bad magic is really scary and hangs over the novel like a dark cloud about to rain.
6. The villains. Skull is a genuinely frightening character and his malevolent presence pervades at all times. His gang of cronies and monsters are also terrifying.
7. The puzzles. If you've read any of my Code Crackers books you'll know I'm kinda fond of puzzles, so this aspect of the story was always going to be a winner for me.
8. Nature. The author's (and Moll's) love of nature seeps through the writing.
9. No technology. The Dreamsnatcher is a most welcome break from technology of any kind - a mechanical detox, if you like - no phones, computers, Twitter, cars, iPods - nothing!
10. The author. Isn't Abi Elphinstone the best name for a children's author. She seems like a cool person too.
11. The cover is brilliant, as is the map inside.

Saturday 11 April 2015

Review of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone"

So I read this book when it was first published and really liked it.  Then the whole world seemed to read it and adored it.  Twelve years later I've returned to it to see if I missed something, because clearly the rest of the world loved it more than me.  My rating stays the same - 4 stars.  I really like it and can see its appeal to kids - a fresh and exciting world full of quirky characters- pure escapism. The writing is solid too.

Having read it the first time, I didn't feel inclined to read the sequels, and unfortunately I kind of feel the same now.  We'll see...

Thursday 2 April 2015

My Top 13 Children's Books

Today is Children's Book Day. Inspired by SF Said's list and the BBC's poll of the top 10 children's books of all time, I decided to do my own top 13. Here they are in no particular order.

by Louis Sachar (1997)

by Frank Cottrell Boyce (2005)

Watership Down
by Richard Adams (1972)

His Dark Materials
by Philip Pullman (1995-2000)

Chaos Walking
by Patrick Ness (2008-2010)

by Robert Cormier (1998)

Treasure Island
by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

The Giggler Treatment
by Roddy Doyle (2000)

Danny the Champion of the World
by Roald Dahl (1975)

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
by John Boyne (2006)

Artemis Fowl
by Eoin Colfer (2001)

Charlotte's Web
by EB White

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
by Kate DiCamillo