Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Monsters of men: Patrick Ness

I reviewed the first two parts of Patrick Ness's Chaos walking trilogy in the summer when The Ask and the Answer (part 2) was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. I've just finished the final part, Monsters of men (as one of the character's says, "War makes monsters of men"). Rereading that earlier post, I was struck by how tense I had found the writing, particularly in the first book, The knife of never letting go. While I was certainly intrigued to find out how Ness would resolve the dangerous situation Todd and Viola found themselves in, I didn't find the conclusion quite as gripping. The war on New World becomes very complicated and a bit confusing, especially when a third force, the Spackle, the planet's indigenous species, also takes up arms. Each battle felt as if it was going to be decisive and then more followed. However, there is a satisfying ending with themes of revenge, forgiveness and redemption and Todd, Viola and the relationship between them are finely drawn - I was reminded of Philip Pullman's Lyra and Will. Overall, I would heartily recommend this trilogy for avid readers of 12+.

PS - click here for an online short story prequel to the trilogy, telling how Viola arrived on New World (via Booktrust).

Friday, 22 October 2010

Eva Ibbotson 1925-2010

Eva Ibbotson's publisher, Curtis Brown, has made the sad announcement that she died on 20th October aged 85. Eva only started writing in her 50s, but she kept on right up until her death. We have some of her titles in our catalogue, including Journey to the river sea, which won the Gold Medal for the 2001 Smarties Prize and was written in honour of her deceased husband, a former naturalist, and Morning gift which features in our Love lessons reading list. It's a romance set in England and Vienna in World War Two - this reflects her background: she was born in Vienna in 1925 and moved to England with her father when the Nazis came to power. I took it on holiday with me this year and found it a great read. Below are the covers of the titles we have in stock:

Books for Keeps
Horn Book
New York Times
Nosy Crow

Older articles:
Books for Keeps, May 2002
Guardian 6/10/10

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Gruffalo tops list of children's favourite books

The Gruffalo has come out top in a Booktrust survey of children's favourite books. Almost one in five children (18%) picked the Julia Donaldson tale, while Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Peppa Pig, by Ladybird books, came joint second with 11%. See the BBC's story for more details - and, of course, we have the Gruffalo and many other Julia Donaldson titles in our catalogue.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Brian Wildsmith

I discovered recently that there is a Brian Wildsmith Museum of Art in Japan, founded in  Izukogen in 1994. It is modelled on his atelier/house in Southern France and contains original illustrations for picture books and stage designs, posters, large-scale paintings, drawings produced during his art school years, work by his family, photographs and small artefacts.

For more information about Brian Wildsmith, see his own site, this Booktrust interview and lots more if you Google him. And of course, we have a good collection of his work in this library.

Should kids still be reading Enid Blyton?

I devoured just about every Enid Blyton when I was a child, but even then I was aware they were slightly frowned upon - although I maintain they never did me any harm. However, they aren't considered literary, therefore we don't stock them in this library (though we have books about Blyton if you are interested.) Anyway, today I came across two pieces of Enid Blyton news. First of all I read Feminism and the Famous Five on the blog I was a teenage book geek. I follow quite a few children's literature blogs, but have only recently discovered this one. It's author, Lauren, maintains "My reading age is stuck at sixteen. And I like it that way." Lauren, whose mother disapproved of Blyton because of negative gender stereotypes, read them in secret as a child and recently she has re-read Five on a Treasure Island. While agreeing with her mother's opinion, she argues that the book reflects the culture of its times and, in fact, the character of George could be regarded as something of a feminist icon.

The other piece of news is that Seven Stories (the Centre for Children's Books in Newcastle) has recently acquired several original Blyton typescripts and staff are busily cataloguing the collection with a view to putting it on exhibition. In the meantime, you can follow progress on their Blyton blog. I've written posts about this fantastic museum before, and if you ever do find yourself in the North East of England it's well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Jacqueline Wilson

Jacqueline Wilson is a fantastically popular author. She consistently tops, or comes near the top, of "most borrowed lists" in public libraries and her books go out very well here too - here's a full list of what we have. Her latest book, which hasn't arrived yet, is The longest whale song - but as a preview, here's a link to Jacqueline's home page where she reads aloud an extract. Just a few of Jacqueline's many titles are shown below: