Lights, Camera, Magic

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The late Kate Saunders’s children’s books are characterised by warmth, humour and charm. Her posthumously published A Drop of Golden Sun (Faber & Faber 336pp £7.99) displays all these qualities and more. The title is slightly misleading, as the novel is only tangentially connected to The Sound of Music. Set in 1973, it tells the […]

Debutantes, Dragons & John Donne

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Sally Nicholls’s latest novel, Yours from the Tower (Andersen Press 359pp £14.99), makes clever and unusual use of the epistolary form. It’s the late 19th century and three friends – upper-middle-class Sophia, whose family are desperate for her to bag an earl (even a minor one) during the coming social season, solidly middle-class Polly, who […]

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Flights of Fancy

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Marcus Sedgwick’s many novels for the young are innovative, intelligent, wide-ranging in subject matter and tinged with a poetic sensibility unusual in the field. He died suddenly last year, leaving behind a great hole in the world of children’s books. I met him two decades ago, in my very first job after university, working as […]

The Old Haunts

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Delores has a gift, though you might not want to call it exactly that. Ghosts are drawn to her and she’s been plagued by them all her life. Her parents have gone missing and when things become too dangerous, she’s packed off to a magical school that masquerades as a bookshop in Edinburgh, where she […]

Tigers, Wolves and Flesh-Eating Horses

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Patch (short for Crosspatch, a nickname given because she was so grumpy as a baby) is the endearing twelve-year-old heroine of Judith Eagle’s The Accidental Stowaway (Faber & Faber 288pp £7.99). Impulsive, reckless and theatrical, she has been abandoned by her mother and passed from relative to relative in early 20th-century England, picking up all […]

There Be Giants

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Lissa Evans’s moving, joyous new book for children, Wished (David Fickling Books 254pp £12.99), combines all the most enticing elements of children’s fiction into a confection about wish fulfilment, imagination and the need for understanding between different generations. Ed and Roo are an ordinary brother and sister whose parents are trying to build an extension […]

Spectres & Sea Monsters

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Anne Fine’s latest novel, Aftershocks (Old Barn Books 277pp £11.99), deals with grief, clashing cultures and the battle between rationality and mysticism in an arresting, sensitive and thoughtful manner. The setting is both unusual and uncertain, appearing to be some time in the near future and perhaps in an alternate universe. Great Britain, it seems, […]

They Never Grew Up

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Three young friends lark about in Vienna, riding on a Ferris wheel. All seems perfect at the start of When the World was Ours, Liz Kessler’s new novel about the Holocaust: Max, Leo and Elsa will be together forever. Soon, however, things begin to change as war is rumoured and then engulfs them all. The […]

Burning Bright

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Beasts are vital components of children’s fiction. They can be agents of revenge for the powerless and metaphors for challenging emotions. In The Time Traveller and the Tiger, an engrossing novel by Tania Unsworth, tigers prowl in all their Blakean glory. We begin in India in the 1940s with John, a twelve-year-old boy, in the […]

Visual Fictions

Posted on by David Gelber

The Museum of Modern Art at Oxford has often been the venue for unusual events, but the happenings of the past month must have been among the oddest it has seen – sixty children wielding brushes, attacking a vast mural under the exuberant direction of Jan Pienkowski, small groups producing meticulous, collectable drawings with Helen […]

Spectres & Steam Trains

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Her novels deal with the nightmarish and the claustrophobic. Her most recent, Missing, teetered on the edge of the supernatural. Moore’s first children’s book, Sunny and the Ghosts, deals with things that really do go bump in the night. The story is set in an […]

Inky Fingers: December 2018 Children’s Books Round-up

Posted on by David Gelber

As children, the Brontë siblings developed a magnificently rich imaginative world populated by armies, generals and editors. Their literary ambitions were in evidence from an early stage: they carefully wrote their stories down in tiny books, complete with the names of the author, publisher and editor on the title pages. In Celia Rees’s Glass Town […]

Worlds upon Worlds within Worlds

Posted on by David Gelber

The late Mal Peet was a writer of extraordinary gifts. His work was varied, intelligent and challenging, and he strained at convention while telling powerful and moving stories. His estate has been publishing the manuscripts he left behind; it is with sadness that I note that this is probably the final one. Few other authors […]

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