Wednesday 30 November 2016

Review of THE EYE OF THE NORTH by Sinéad O' Hart

When Emmeline’s parents (zoologists who specialise in unusual creatures) are kidnapped, she is put on a ship, bound for a safe-house in Paris. On board, she meets a boy called Thing (a scruffy stowaway orphan); and an unlikely friendship forms between them. But the criminals who kidnapped Emmeline’s parents soon catch up with her and whisk her off to the frozen north to be used as bargaining chip by the deranged Dr. Bauer who wants Emmeline’s parents to awaken a mysterious creature, asleep beneath the ice.

Determined to save his friend, Thing seeks help from a secret organisation called the The Order of the White Flower. Together, they set off on Emmeline’s trail, but when they are attacked, Thing must continue the journey alone.

What follows is a white-knuckled race towards a glacier in Greenland, with the perspective constantly shifting between Emmeline and Thing. Along the way, they meet many weird and wonderful characters, including magical creatures, some friendly and some not. The plot is perfectly paced, building in momentum with every turn of the page until the reader is hurtled into an edge-of-the-seat climax.

The absence of modern paraphernalia gives O’ Hart’s steampunk world a classic and timeless feel. The scope of her imagination and inventiveness is breath-taking, as indeed is the writing. I loved the character of Emmeline – a bookish, brave but nervous, particular (with a touch of OCD!) girl; or in the words of Dr. Bauer – ‘a singular little creature.’ The more rough-around-the-edges Thing is an ideal foil to her – he’s spontaneous, upbeat and funny, with a dark backstory.

This book is pure middle-grade gold, pitched perfectly in tone at its audience. It is sure to be lapped up by boys and girls alike. This impressive debut is my first 5 star read of 2017. I hope it’s a huge hit. It certainly deserves to be!

Now, in the words of Thing himself: ‘Let the adventurin’ begin’.

Click here for an interview with the author.

Friday 11 November 2016

Our Favourite Books

My favourite series of books are the Artemis Foul books by Eoin Colfer. There are breath-taking bits and massive sighs of relief bits. It`s about a boy called Artemis. He has found out about an armed and dangerous (not to mention high-tech) race of fairies. He was their No. 1 enemy but now he and the fairies are friends. He has agreed to help whenever help is needed. Allied by Captain Holly Short (she is a fairy) Artemis Foul goes on dangerous journeys through time and all around the world.  

By Lucas W

My favourite book is Historopedia. It was written by John Burke and illustrated by Fatti Burke. This is the second book they made together. I liked it because it has a lot of facts and activities. Some facts I never knew about!!! It tells stories from all around Ireland dating back to 5000 years ago. I would rate this book ten out of ten!!!!

By Luke H, aged nine.

My favourite book ever is written by Roald Dahl. The book is called The Witches. It is illustrated by Quentin Blake. I really like the picture of the witches taking their wigs off. It’s really funny when the witches were turned into mice. After the witches are turned into mice the cats eat them. Grandmamma and her grandson went back to Norway. I like when the grandson puts the mouse-maker into the soup. It happens when grandmamma and her grandson heard the witches ask for soup. Then the grandson gets the idea of putting the mouse-maker into the soup.  

By Martin W

My favourite book is Are We There Yet. It is by Enid Blyton. There are three children, a mother and a father. The family live with their grandmother. The children disturb their grandmother so much they move into a caravan in a field. One day the farmer came to the caravan and said you have to move to a different field. They have a very strong bull that has broken all of the fences. The family went to their auntie and uncle’s house on a farm. The children learn how to milk cows and make butter. They go to school and have a great time.

Harriet H

My favourite book is called My Magical Pony - Silver Mist. It was written by Jenny Oldfield. It was about this girl called Krista and she has a very special pony called Shining Star. Krista and Shining Star became best friends. There was this guy named Joe. Joe got a helper to mind the ponies and horses. The helper’s name is Rob. This husband and wife told Rob that they had to steal the ponies and horses. They said that Rob had to do it with them. Then Rob did it.
 Krista and Shining Star saved the day as always. And that's why I thought that this book was BRILLIANT

My favourite book is called George’s Marvellous Medicine. The  author is called Roald  Dahl. If he was still alive he would be a hundred years old, two month ago. His birthday is on September the 13th. I like this book because it is fun to read. The book is about a little boy called George. George’s mammy goes to work and his granny minds him. His mammy tells him to give his granny  medicine. George decides  to make his own medicine for granny.

BY      ELLEN   age   8

My favourite book is Dairy of a  Wimpy Kid because it’s funny and I can’t sleep sometimes because it’s that funny  and if you want to know who the author is, it’s Jeff Kinney.   I like him a lot because he’s funny and I love funny people because  I am a funny person.

By Elizabeth

My favourite book is Harry Potter and The Prisoner Of Azkaban. The author of this series is called J.K. Rowling. This author is full of mystery and cleverness, and that’s why I love the series. My most preferred creature in the books are the Dementors. They give you that eerie feeling!!!

By Niall D

Friday 4 November 2016

Middle Grade Murder - an interview with Robin Stevens.

As the fogs of autumn give way to the occasional crisp morning of frost, it’s time to settle down to a bit of seasonal mystery...
Robin Stevens, author of the bestselling, award-winning Murder Most Unladylike series, has just launched another Murder Most Unladylike Mystery – the fabulously titled MISTLETOE AND MURDER. It’s getting fantastic reviews and already topping the charts (just shows the importance of Middle Grade, people) But Robin wasn’t always a bestselling novelist, she was once an 11-year-old and that was the person I wanted to find out about:

Here she is, aged 9, having a bunbreak. 

 The 11 year old Robin Stevens was, by all reports, a bit of a bookworm – where and what would we have found her reading? 

Absolutely anything and everything! I raided the library, second-hand bookshops (my father used to take me to Hay-on-Wye every year, and standing in the specialist mystery shop Murder and Mayhem was the highlight of my life), my friends' book collections and my parents' shelves. Nothing was safe from me! I'm very lucky that no one ever told me that books were too 'young' for me to read. I happily read everything from picture books to adult books - I was definitely already reading Sherlock Holmes by then, but also re-reading my Blytons. Some of my favourite books at the time included Swallows and Amazons, Bunnicula, The Secret of Platform 13, Guards! Guards! and (bizarrely) Dave Barry Turns 50. As I say, nothing was safe from me ...

What a fabulously diverse reading list - I'm especially taken by Dave Barry (had to look that one up) But what do you think you were looking for in a book? Palpitations? Escape? Brain testing mystery?

I wanted books that taught me something and made me think (that's why I've always been so interested in puzzles and mystery - and that's what the Dave Barry was, a way of learning about history that also made me laugh) but mostly I was looking for a book that I could dive into, that made me feel part of its world and connected to its characters. I was an only child, and didn't have many neighbours my age, so I found most of my friends in books!

As a matter of interest - do you do crosswords or sudoku?
I had a phase of being a big cryptic crossword fan. I used to be pretty good! That reminds me that I should probably pick it up again. I found it really fascinating to learn, like a special coded language. Sudoku I can do, but I'm not as interested, as it's numbers or symbols, and my brain prefers word play!

So what came next? Did you hit the great Hollywood gumshoes?
I discovered Agatha Christie aged about 12 and fell in love with her plots. I loved Dorothy Sayers, too, and Ngaio Marsh and (a bit later) Josephine Tey - funnily enough I was never a big Raymond Chandler fan. His books are more thrillers than puzzles, and I think that disappointed me a bit. In terms of books I've never really wanted crime that's gory or dangerous, though I was an enormous CSI fan as a teenager!

You’re not alone with the CSI thing -  what other TV shows did/do you like - Murder she wrote?
I watched Murder She Wrote and Diagnosis Murder, but my Big Loves were (and are) the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple with Geraldine McEwen and the Suchet Poirot. I love BBC's Sherlock too. I had a Silent Witness phase, and Criminal Minds, but that just got too scary. I'm a wuss! Then Veronica Mars, Supernatural, Jonathan Creek, Alias, Heroes, Firefly ... I love good stories with great characters, however they're presented. At this very moment my big obsessions are Westworld and Humans. Robots just want to be loved, guys.

I'm thinking that you're now writing the books that you couldn't find when you were 11? So what else is out there now that wasn't out there then that you would have liked? If that makes sense?

There are so many amazing stories that just hadn't been written yet - I would have loved Skulduggery Pleasant, Mortal Engines, Hunger Games and (in terms of crime) The London Eye Mystery and Katherine Woodfine's Clockwork Sparrow series. But I think that even since I was 11 (which was 1999, not so long ago really), there's been a massive expansion in what genres are available. I know I would have LOVED comics and graphic novels, but at the time I felt like Marvel and DC were only for Proper Fans and was too shy to pick them up. If anyone had given me Lumberjanes, or the Kamala Khan Ms Marvel, or Raina Telgemeier's books, I'd have been in heaven. And YA, too - I had Louise Rennison, but I wish I could have moved on to stuff like Nicola Yoon, Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Jennifer Niven. I'd have eaten them up.

And definitely the final question - the library is burning down - which book does the 11 year old Robin rescue?
Oh man! 11 year old Robin probably stands and cries in panic. But if my library burned down today, the book I would save is one I got when I was 15. Diana Wynne Jones came to speak at the Cheltenham Festival, and I went to see her. I got my copy of Dark Lord of Derkholm signed, and it was about one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I love her books beyond all reason, and I loved seeing what a good person she clearly was at that event. If I could grow up to be any author, it would be her!

Here are Robin and her dad enjoying Christmas when she was 11 (p.s. She made the Christmas crackers)

Thank you Robin Stevens. Mistletoe and Murder is out now from Puffin books priced £6.99 and is available from all good bookshops.