Category Archives: Review

Five Hundred Miles

Five Hundred Miles is just wow! Kevin Brooks has done it again, and Anthony McGowan needs to look out. Generally I find the harsh settings of Kevin’s books quite hard to cope with, as I do the bleakness in his books. This one is no more cheerful, except the title tells you there might be something to look forward to.

Kevin Brooks, Five Hundred Miles

Cole and Ruben are the sons of a feared criminal, and live in a breaker’s yard in East London. You feel they are good boys, even though it becomes quite clear they are capable of both theft and violence.

When they unexpectedly come across a teenage girl who’s wanting to rescue a monkey from some gangster types in a pub, it’s not only the fact that she looks like their dead sister that makes them jump in to help.

I ought to dislike everything these boys stand for and what they do, but the way Kevin writes about them you just want to love them and be their friend. This is the kind of book I want to put into the hands of dyslexic teenagers everywhere, as well as capable readers. No one could help but love this book!

The Adventures of Alfie Onion

I loved this! My first (yeah, sorry about that) Vivian French book. Not my last.

Vivian French, Alfie Onion

Alfie Onion is an adorable boy with a somewhat misguided but romantic mother, and a lazy slightly older brother, Magnifico Onion, the seventh son of a seventh son. He is supposed to make his mother proud.

Unfortunately he likes his food too much and is too scared to make a truly good hero. (And we all know who’s the hero in this book.)

It’s a case of going to find the princess and to kiss her and become tremendously rich. And happy. Magnifico can’t go on his own, so Alfie has to go with him. There are ogres. And trolls, and a talking horse and a couple of mice and some magpies, and Alfie’s loyal dog.

Even when you know who has to kiss whom, this is fun and exciting. Great stuff. And how to get round the seventh son nonsense.

Cute and funny illustrations by Marta Kissi.

Immi

Your everyday things could be someone else’s treasure.

Immi lives somewhere cold, and she fishes for food through a hole in the ice. One day she catches a colourful, painted wooden bird instead. And after that there are many more such treasures; beautiful things of a kind she’s never seen before.

Karin Littlewood’s picture book about Immi shows the difference something new and beautiful can make to your life. In Immi’s cold, white world these bright and strange things are exciting.

Karin Littlewood, Immi

When the ice starts to melt, Immi decides to throw her wooden polar bear down the hole in the ice, and one day it appears on the warm and sunny beach where – possibly – Immi’s little surprises originated. (I’m imagining a sort of wormhole between somewhere cold and some place much hotter.)

Very beautiful.

Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool

Lucinda Belinda Melinda looks really nice, but that’s all that’s nice about her. This perfect girl in Jeanne Willis’s new picture book, illustrated by Tony Ross, is pretty dreadful. She knows how to look good, and she not only tells everyone else how to improve, but she goes right ahead and improves them.

People hide when they see her coming. Lucinda Belinda Melinda even has a go at her poor grandparents, who are not well-groomed enough. And she blow-dries the monster she meets in the park.

Well, she shouldn’t have done that…

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool

This is poetry. I really wanted to read the book aloud, but as usual was missing that child who would have loved it. Not sure the Resident IT Consultant wanted Lucinda Belinda Melinda to intrude on his history programme on television. But it just rhymes so very nicely!

And yes, my bottom does look big in those shorts.

The Lie Tree

Women can. That’s the message in Frances Hardinge’s award winning The Lie Tree. Being female does not mean being feeble, even 150 years ago. I really, really enjoyed this book, and can only say I should have read it a long time ago. I’m not in the slightest surprised it won the Costa, despite it being a ‘mere children’s book.’ This is fully grown fiction.

14-year-old Faith wants to be a scientist like her father, but back in the days when Darwin was an ugly word, it was seen as laughable that a female of any age could or should be doing anything but wait to be married, and then bear children.

Frances Hardinge, The Lie Tree

The family move to a small island where the locals are suspicious of them. When her father is found dead, Faith vows to work out how he died. This is early crime fiction with a scientific angle, and Faith is young and a little naïve, but quite capable nevertheless.

Her mother tries to deal with matters in a totally different way, and Faith hates her for this. She just wants to clear her father’s name. And to be a scientist; to be allowed to be intelligent.

When she is patronised by the local doctor, also the coroner, ‘Faith wondered whether it would benefit the doctor’s investigation if he experienced a cliff fall first-hand.’ This made me laugh out loud.

Wonderful period crime novel with a twist.

And remember that women most difinitely can.

Calum’s New Team

I liked this book. I can’t claim to have understood all the football in Danny Scott’s Calum’s New Team, but it didn’t seem essential. It’s the first of several footie books about Calum, who has moved to a new town and starts a new school, and who only wants to play football.

Danny Scott and Alice A Morentorn, Calum's New Team

It’s for younger readers. Whereas Calum is in Primary 6, so about ten or eleven, I’d say the writing is easy, and the print large enough, to read that you could be much younger than that. If you’re into soccer, anyway.

Calum makes a few new friends, including the statutory girl football player, but also makes an enemy of the son of the local football star, who rather fancies himself. Without the correct boots, Calum finds it hard to join in, and is barred from trying out for the team because he only has plimsolls (which were ‘good enough’ for his Dad…) to wear.

This is a feelgood sports story, so things work out eventually.

Nice writing style and no embarrassing stuff. You only need to like football. And to be able to sympathise with a boy who has to use his dog as goalie [not very good at defending the goal] when he plays all alone.

(Trading cards inside, drawn by Alice A Morentorn, who also illustrated the book.)

Too much chocolate

Daughter and I both remembered this book, Lulu and the Chocolate Wedding by Posy Simmonds. It’s been reissued, and you can’t have too much Posy. Possibly too much chocolate, however, as becomes evident from poor Lulu’s experience.

Posy Simmonds, Lulu and the Chocolate Wedding

She is to be a bridesmaid at her aunt’s wedding, and the anticipation is building up enormous expectations for the day. But children will be children, and somehow Lulu eats rather a lot of chocolate the night before. Nightmares follow and she is sick.

Sick bridesmaids won’t do, so Lulu has to stay behind. (After all that waiting and longing!!) Still tired and under the influence, Lulu dreams a wedding cake dream while she waits for the bride and groom to return.

But all’s well that ends well. The mice get the beetroot and the little bride (off the cake) is found.

There will be no chocolate at Bookwitch Towers today. Well, only a token bit of chocolate substance, and absolutely no wedding cake. The Resident IT Consultant and I are doing what we do every ten years, throwing a party because we are crazy and don’t know better (although we ought to). Never again. Or at least not for another three weeks.

But here’s to not being sick. We won’t even be serving beetroot. (The swede I ate last night doesn’t count.)