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My Lockdown Books: Sixty Six

In The Glass Swallow Julia Golding revisits the world she created in Dragonfly. This is more of a companion piece than a sequel, however, and tells the story of Rain. She designs the stained glass made by her father’s workshop but the law is clear: girls may not be part of the glassmakers’ guild. To keep her secret she is sent to the nearby country of Magharna, arriving as that society’s structure begins to crumble. She is rescued – twice – by the untouchable Peri, with whom it will ultimately fall to her to rescue Magharna. Julia Golding’s novel is engaging and thought-provoking, telling the story of believable and engrossing characters. A novel to be eagerly read by those who love fantasy and one that will persuade others to give the genre a try.

My Lockdown Books: Sixty Five

Juliet in Publishing by Elizabeth Churchill is a book I’ve added to my collection as an adult and it’s one of my favourite career novels.  I don’t have anything else by Elizabeth Churchill and I don’t know if she wrote more.

As we meet her, Juliet has just arrived in England from Australia and is on the train up to London from Southampton.  Serendipitously, she finds a job as secretary at the Iliad Press, a small but well-known publishing house.  Along with Juliet, the reader is plied with information about the book trade as Juliet moves from post to post.  If the book is to be believed, publishing was at a turning point (Juliet was published in 1956) and the Iliad Press, a small family concern is contrasted with the modern, much more commercial Symmons and Symmons.

Naturally, openings for women were few and far between and were mostly secretarial.  I’m just of a generation that didn’t expect to find discrimination at work although, of course, it was still there but Juliet, who’d have been ages with my mother, lived and moved and had her being in an altogether different world where successful businesswomen were still regarded with suspicion.

My Lockdown Books: Sixty Four

By rights Mimi by John Newman should be a dismal read, recounting as it does the days after the death of Mimi’s mother. Her family is not coping well and Mimi, the youngest, is struggling to make sense of life as she experiences it. However, this is not a maudlin book; it is poignant and funny and real. John Newman handles his subject with insight and sensitivity and manages to keep the resolution realistic as well as positive. Full of a mixture of emotions, the story avoids sentimentality without ever minimising the sense of loss felt by Mimi’s family.

I read this book when it was first published and reviewed it The Scotsman.  The book really captured my heart and I’ve been recommending it to children ever since.  I commend it now to you!

My Lockdown Books: Sixty Three

Philip Reeve was another author I discovered in the course of my duties as a Carnegie Medal judge.  Predator’s Gold was longlisted in one of my years and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I read all the others in the set.  So, years later, I was delighted to read Fever Crumb.

Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve recounts the much earlier history of the world of the Mortal Engines quartet but it doesn’t depend on having read those books. Fever has been brought up by the Guild of Engineers, men who believe in reason not emotion. At the age of fourteen, however, she is sent to work outside the Guild’s precincts and gradually everything she has been taught about the world and herself begins to unravel. Who is she really? And what has she to fear from Charley? This tightly-plotted, fast-paced adventure has all the answers.

My Lockdown Books: Sixty Two

When the bank his parents own crashes, Oliver’s life starts to spin out of control. Precipitated into responsibility for a grumpy girl, her unpredictable mother, sixteen camels and a dog, he has to do some fast thinking, creative planning – and difficult sums. Too Small to Fail is another book by Morris Gleitzman and sees him at his clever best. The humorous story has moments of unexpected pathos, a thought-provoking undercurrent and a cliff-hanger ending. Gleitzman’s lightness of touch and awareness of the absurd, not to mention his ability to tell a gripping story, make this a book not to be missed.

I really like the way Morris Gleitzman writes.  It feels simple but there’s always a deeper point being made.  I could have chosen many of his books for this selection but I enjoy this one for the journey across Australia it takes us on.

My Lockdown Books: Sixty One

I know I’m not alone in having had horrible experiences of being compelled to read books in primary school that I hated.  But, hopefully, I’m also not alone in having discovered some great ones.  For me The Hill of the Red Fox by Allan Campbell McLean stands out.  We read it, I think, in Primary 6 and it stays with me yet.  Which is a good thing.  On one memorable occasion one of our authors failed to turn up at the Spirit of Moray Book Festival.  The audience, however, didn’t!  It fell to me to entertain them and I did that by using an excerpt from this book.

It all starts when Alasdair is on the train from Glasgow to Mallaig en route for Skye, the birthplace of the father he scarcely remembers. On board he encounters two men, each chilling in his own way, who leave the train in dramatic fashion and leave Alasdair with a crumpled note saying ‘Hunt at the Hill of the Red Fox MI5’. Allan Campbell McLean’s classic thriller is as exciting today as it was fifty years ago. The Hill of the Red Fox is published by Kelpies Classics.

My Lockdown Books: Sixty

Two reviews for one today.  I’ve added these books to my picture book collection but they’re not simple and they can be enjoyed by fluent readers as well as those we normally think of as picture book consumers.

The Day the Crayons Quit seems like a simple picture book but take a closer look. Debut author Drew Daywalt and celebrated illustrator Oliver Jeffers have produced a sophisticated triumph in technicolour! One day Duncan’s crayons all write him letters that make him re-assess his colouring-in. Drew Daywalt creates unique identities for each crayon in a few well chosen words and Oliver Jeffers brings them expressively to life. Give this book to competent young readers who realise they’re never too old to draw.

The Day the Crayons Came Home is Oliver Jeffers’ and Drew Daywalt’s triumphant sequel to The Day the Crayons Quit. The tale is told through a collection of postcards sent to Duncan by his missing crayons. One by one they tell their sad stories as they prepare to come back. And, full of remorse, Duncan builds them a home. Daywalt and Jeffers collaborate brilliantly to create a funny, strangely heart-warming story of a reunion that children and their parents will enjoy. The premise may be simple but this is a sophisticated book in language and illustration.