Since my exams ended, I have done nothing but read kids's books. ... okay, a few adult ones too, but only in between.
I cannot possibly give them all some time cher bloggie because there are tons...tons.... tons of them....
Instead, I will pick away at some of the memorable ones.
First, Wendelin Van Draanen's Sammy Keyes series. They are not the greatest thing since sliced bread... not nearly as clever as my newfound friend, Peter Abrahams, but not bad for lunch breaks at work. So, I'm not whining.
A Parcel of Patterns by Jill Paton Walsh. This is a story about Mall, a young woman in a fictional rural English society Eyam in Derbyshire circa 1655. Therein, the plague strikes traveling via a parcel of dress patterns from the country's more urban centres. Mall has to watch the horrific ramifications of the disease that could kill her entire family and community in a fell swoop. The tenderness of this often haunting story is channelled in the character of Thomas, Mall's beloved shepherd, who risks his life burying the village's dead, foregoing any thoughts of his own contraction of the disease to stay near Mall.
The story seems rather dense for the 9-12 group it is listed for---what with Walsh's impeccable gutteral dialect and Mall's pitch perfect narrative----and, it has a bit of a cop-out ending that flowed a little too seamlessly, but nonetheless this is quite a collage, this Parcel, and I would recommend it to older readers.
Lily's Big Day by Kevin Henkes
I come from an extended family obsessed with Mr. Henkes. I have read Chrysanthemum, Wemberley Worried, and Julius, Baby of the World more times than a sane person should admit counting. Whenever I do a reading for primary kids I skip the rest of the books on the library shelf and skip to the Henkes. His YA books leave a lot to be desired, but his careful, humorous picture books are snort pop -out- your -nose funny. Lily's teacher is getting married and Lily ( our Scarlett O'Hara with whiskers, as one reviewer cites ) is determined to be the flower girl....whether or not a pretty little mouse named Ginger, her teacher's neice, has been chosen instead. More than one mouse spends time in the unco operative chair by the end. Too funny.
Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris.
A cute story about a troll named Ed who adopts a boy named Christian who falls in love with a bookwormish princess named Marigold. Christian and Marigold's forbidden love is transplanted through p-mail ( mail carried a la pigeon ) and there are some cute laughs. Shrek-ish to say the least.
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
This adorable throw back to the episodic tales of Alcott and Burnett is furnished by Birdsall.... first time novelist and lucky winner of the National Book Award for a chraming gem. I read most recommendations people give me and when someone said this might be my cup of earl grey, I hopped on. I was entranced by the summer magic afforded to four very different sisters and the rich boy next door ( Marchs and Laurie, anyone ? ) There are rabbits, a gardener named Cagney, and a four year old named Batty who always wears fairy wings. Fast driven plot, this is not.... however, it is savoury perfection for those who pine for the fiction of yesteryear. Loved it ! It made me breathe a sigh of calm relief.
Another book that tastes like peppermint tea is Mandy by the Julie Andrews who I had forgotten dabbled in kids' books. Mandy is a beautiful orphan story reminiscent of Alcott and Burnett. A Secret Garden-esque plot has our young orphan creeping over the hedges that line her orphanage and a broad beautiful estate beyond. Mandy commandeers a small nearby gardener's shed, fills it with trinkets, plants, and love and becomes even more desirous of a home of her own. It harks back to days of yore, tugs on ye olde heart strings, and makes the Melrose Duck sing. Good show.
Peppermints in the Parlour by Barbara Brookes Wallace.
Nice gothicky mystery for the whipper snappers with great, bleak language and Dickensian flair ( with a dash of Poe *natch*)
The Claidi Collection by Tanith Lee.
Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast for the Young Sort. Weird clockworky tale of fantasy and magic and mechanical things and romance.
Bilgewater by Jane Gardam
This book was recommended by my impeccable kids lit resource, but I cannot say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was too dark for the mood I was in and read more sad than escapist. A young, flawed, awkward woman boards in her father's all boy's school and learns harshly the lessons of being closely scrutinized by members of the opposite sex. With the arrival of a suave, sophisticated girl linked to a nearby college, Marigold decides to dabble in chic-ness. The thing is cold and depressing, a Holden Caulfield for girls. It left me with a non-toothpasty taste in my mouth and I don't think I'll ever return. I like the name Terrapin though, and might use it in the future.
Shug by Jenny Han
Characters are named for the Colour Purple. Hello. Fun!
Ingo by Helen Dunmore
This decade's Splash for teens
I am the Messenger and The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
We're talking uber dark, Duckies. One of the two of these morbid meanderings is narrated by death. But, both make statements, both meddle in the macabre, and one of the two delves into the horrors of the Holocaust. Kudos for intermingling suspense and history and itching to take a leap.
Trickster's Queen and The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce
Everyone in the world knows that I love Tamora Pierce and I shalt forever more so let me sum it up in "fantastic" and move on.
Okay, can I now finally squee about Anthony Horowitz? Book lovers of the world unite, this guy is Versatility in human form. Genius thy name is Horowitz. I must confess the obsession began a la Foyle's War, and Midsomer Murders, but he is so much more than a clever constructor of adult screenplays.
I love Alex Rider. Will forever more, and have now caught up finishing the last I needed Eagle Strike. Perfection. Cannot wait for the Rider movie in August.
Other Horowitzian delights sans Alex:
The Diamond Brothers' Series:
The Falcon's Malteser
South by Southeast
Public Enemy Number 2
Three of Diamonds.
If you don't want to read the aforementioned merely based on their clever titles, then something is obviously wrong with you. They are film noir for the kiddies.... Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade for a 12 year old. The kid wins... every time.... outsmarting his older, Private Eye brother and coming home with not the credit, but the carefully won hearts of every reader.
Horowitzian dapples into Elizabethan history ( is there anything this guy cannot do?) lead you to the Devil and his Boy. This book is partly written for the benefit of sceptical adults. You have to have a basic knowledge of the history to read how he turns Shakespeare for Dummies on its ear. I laughed hard.... very hard.... face very red and throat contorted hard. Tom Falconer reminds one of the protagonist in Cue For Treason by Geoffrey Trease, but he is far more humane and far more loveable and adventurous. In the speed-reader time it takes you to get from page one-176 you have an uber-short reconstruction of pigsty London, a quick fix of Shakespeare writing Titus Andronicus and an audience with the painted Queen ( not to mention a girl pick pocket worthy of Tess in Horatio Lyle). The ending is a surprise, though every cliche is trampled out blazingly. But the delight in Horowitzian cliche.... is he's laughing at it up his sleeve, and turning it on a 360 degree angle. This will not disappoint.
Anthony Horowitz meets Clive Barker and you've got the Gatekeeper's series:
Raven's Gate and Evil Star are darker than the usual Horowitzian fare. His dark, macabre humour is replaced with well... dark macabre. Scary and intended for the teen audience. I felt chills up my neck.
The last Horowitzian read was The Killing Joke: an irreverent smorgasboard of quips and satire for adults. A puzzle is intertwined with the quest of one man to find a joke's origin.... but his encounters along the way make this Quixotic tread memorable. A beach read with intellectual spice.
Welcome Home by Stuart McLean This is McLean's anthropological leap into the life of small town Canada. From Saskatchewan, Ontario, through Quebec and the Maritimes, McLean set himself a list of criteria and ran with his instinctive talent for capturing the everyday by visiting an array of towns sans bank machines, finding pin boys still existed at bowling alleys, and meeting people so real and so distinctively Canadian they captured the heart of the country: whether waiting at Corner Gas-ish bus stops, or chatting with Stuart about their most recent sculptural forage into the world of automotive metal squeezed into art, McLean is in his element. The best travel literature book I have read since the similarily Canadiana masterpiece-in-the-making Beauty Tips from Moosejaw by the irrepressible Will Ferguson
Last but not least the Sherlockian in me ignites with Laurie R. King's latest The Art of Detection. The title might surprise those used to her Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell books when you find out it is actually set in modern San Francisco and pulls a CSI type look into the murder of a die hard Sherlockian.
King is an underrated mystery writer and throughly worth your time. She knows her ducks.... lines them in a row.... and adds a punch with her emotional appeal. I am a fan, yes I am.