New Home for my Books

I’m so pleased.  I have a new bookshelf for my children’s book collection.  The old one was bursting at the seams:


I got to reorganise all my books according to new categories 🙂 I spent hours deciding:  Should I  sort them according to how strange they are?


Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Title: Mortal Engines
Author: Philip Reeve
Series : First is a series of “The Hungry Cities Quartet”.  Next is Predator’s Gold


In Short:
In a post apocalyptic world, humans have turned their cities into “traction cities” – huge mobile city sized machines.  These monstrous city-machines move around the deserts that used to be oceans, scavenging one another. Cities eat towns, towns eat villages.  This all seems right and proper to Tom, the apprentice Historian who lives in Traction London.  But one day Tom saves his hero the chief archaeologist Valentine from an assassination attempt – and sets of a series of events that forces him to question everything he believes in.


What I thought: Mortal Engines is a rattling good adventure book.  It contains all the elements of the standard “boys own” story, but just when you are lulled into a seemingly familiar pattern, the story punches the air out of your lungs. More

Ernest in the Wild West by Ermanno Libenzi, illustrated by Adelchi Galloni

When I was a child, we had a book called Robin and the Pirates. You could spend hours pouring over it, and each time you would find something even more exciting and alarming.  I think my sister has got that book, but luckily I found another by the same author and illustrator:  Ernest in the Wild West written by Ermanno Libenzi and illustrated by Adelchi Galloni. He is capable of working in a remarkable variety of styles, as you can see from this page.


It has all the qualities I loved in Robin and the Pirates:  pages crammed full of deliciously scary pictures, funny and edgy and really quite surreal.  Not your average children’s book at all. More

December’s Travels – Dusan Kallay & Mischa Damjan

I wonder what I would have thought of December’s Travels if I’d read it as a child.  Many of the children’s books I love now I found too intense when I was little. December’s Travels is illustrated by the Slovakian illustrator Dussan Kallay:


The story, by Yugoslavian Mischa Damjan tells what happens when the month of December decides to visit the other months in the year.  Here is December preparing toys for Christmas: More

Drogman by Stepan Zavrel

Every time I write about a book that I read when I was a child I want to say “my favourite”.  But Drogman has a special place in my heart. The story is magical.  Its romantic, with scary bits and a clever heroine.  It takes place mostly underwater which is something that has always fascinated me.    I particularly love the range of underwater colours, and the way the bleeding blobby ink style lends itself to watery scenes:bit2

The illustrations are simply stunning.  I cannot really give even a glimpse of them here, as every single page is a huge sumptuous double page spread.  Ive had to crop out little details just to give an idea.  More

Alchemy by Margaret Mahy

Title: Alchemy
Author: Margaret Mahy
Series : No, this is a stand alone book


In Short:
Roland is on top of his world. Roland is barely hanging on. He hangs out with the in-crowd. His sleep is haunted by dreams, and by day he hears voices. He is in control.  He is being blackmailed. His girlfriend is Chris – the most popular, sexiest girl in the school. But he cannot get loner girl Jess Ferret out of his thoughts.


What I thought. Margaret Mahy can do no wrong.   Most of her books that I have read are about teenagers, and the psychic energies let loose as they change from self-absorbed children to self-aware adults.  It is never clear what is reality and what is fantasy – and in fact, there is no difference.  Magic is not strange, just a natural extension of the general weirdness of life.  She has her own take on Magic Realism. More

Riding Tycho by Jan Mark

Title: Riding Tycho
Author: Jan Mark
Series : First in a series.  Sequel is “Voyager”


In Short:
Eleven year old Demetria lives on the High Island with her mother and her older brother.  Her life is dominated by unspoken rules.  People do not speak about the prison island on the horizon – Low Island.  Sometimes there is an escape attempt, and the sirens keep her awake all night – but nobody mentions it the next day.  There are prisoners on the High Island too.  They are called “Politicals” and  live with the village families.  One day, the soldiers bring a Political to live with Demetria’s family. But Political 37250 does not obey the unspoken rules. And as she gets to know him, Demetria’s view of her world changes forever.


What I thought: This is a powerful book.  It is very short – only 215 pages – but it succeeds in creating a thoroughly chilling vision of Demetria’s world. More

Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

Title: Speed of Dark
Author: Elizabeth Moon
Series : No this is a stand alone book.


In Short: Its about 50 years into the 21’s century.  Lou Arrendale has made a comfortable life for himself.  He is good at his job. He may be falling in love with a woman at his fencing club.  And his new boss is trying force him to “volunteer” for a  experimental medical procedure that will make him normal- because  Lou is autistic.


What I thought: This is a fascinating book.  Most of it is told in the first person, from Lou’s point of view.  It works.  There is no other way to tell this story.  Lou’s life is accompanied by an ongoing  internal monologue as he navigates the world of the “reals” as he calls none-autistic people. More

Heaven Eyes by David Almond

Title: Heaven Eyes
Author: David Almond
Series : No this is a stand alone book.
Other books by the same author: Skellig, Clay, The Fire Eaters


In Short: Erin, Mouse and January are running away from the Whitegates children’s home.  They float down river on a raft made of doors aiming for freedom far beyond the horizon –  but are soon drawn into a hidden riverside world on their doorstep.  They meet the wild and gentle Grandpa, forever searching for treasure in the black mud, and  Heaven Eyes who finds treasure in everything she sees.


What I thought: Initially I was a bit skeptical.  I found the voice of Erin Law – the first person narrator – not quite convincing.  She seemed a bit too controlled, too smoothly knowing, too adult for my complete belief in her as a young teenage girl.

But as the book progressed, this became unimportant. More

The Weathermonger – Peter Dickinson

Title: The Weathermonger
Author: Peter Dickinson
Series : First of the three “The Changes” – but they can be read as stand alone books as well.


In Short: Five years ago, a mysterious change took place in Britain.  Thousands fled the country, and those left behind reverted to a medieval way of life.  Machines are hated and feared.  Anyone associated with modern technology is stoned as a witch.  So far, all missions sent by the outside world, have failed to find the cause of the phenomenon.  Pilots forget how fly, or are struck by lightning.  Soldiers turn upon one another.  And  now, two children – Geoffrey and Sally -are travelling to the heart of “The Changes” on the Welsh border to discover and if possible destroy it’s cause.


What I thought:
The Weathermonger is another favourite book from my childhood.  I first read it when I was about 10 years old and I found it frightening but fascinating. I still do.  Geoffrey and Sally are both very young and have been orphaned by the Changes.  They live in a world where magic is real.  Geoffrey is the village Weathermonger;  he can make it rain,  change the wind, or call up a mist.  This is a dangerous skill in a world where witches are stoned, drowned or burnt to death. More

Corby Flood by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

Title:Corby Flood
Author:Paul Stewart
Chris Riddell
Series :
Part of the “Far Flung Adventures”  Not so much a series as a set of related books that can be read separately too.


In Short: Corby Flood is travelling with her family aboard the decrepit cruise ship the SS Euphonia. There is plenty to keep Corby’s mind off the new school waiting for her at the journey’s end.  Who is the man from Cabin 21?  Why is Mr Times New Roman, leader of the Brotherhood of Clowns, in such a foul temper?  And above all – what is the source of the saddest song echoing out of the cargo hold?


What I thought:
I  loved this book.   It is simply crammed with fabulous characters and places. More

Varenka by Bernadette

Many of the books I share here are books that I grew up with.  There is something special about books from your childhood.  Varenka by Bernadette was one of my favourites.


I tried to find out more about Bernadette – I have several of her books – but her surname is not mentioned anywhere.  Edit: Bernadette is, of course, Bernadette Watts and here is a link to her site. Varenka is not a re-telling of a Russian folk tale as I previously stated, but written by Bernadette herself. Each picture fills the entire page, so I was forced to reproduce mostly cropped details here.  Which really does not convey the beauty of the book.

Varenka was a widow who lives in a little wooden house deep in the great forest.  “Inside was everything Varenka needed, a table, chairs, a cupboard with a shelf for crockery, and picture on the wall.” More

Genre Covers

My post on my subconscious book-choosing rules has spawned a child.  Since most of us seem to have strong preference when it comes to genres, it makes sense for publishers to develop clear genre styles.

I remember reading a post about Gothic romances that feature a woman, in a night dress outside a house with a light in one window.

So what other genre cover clichés are there?   I’m starting with the easy ones: More

Pirates Galore by Sid Fleischman

Title: Pirates Galore (also titled “The Giant Rat of Sumatra”)
Author: Sid Fleischman
Series : A stand alone book, but it is related to “By the Great Horn Spoon” and “Bandit’s Moon”
Illustration: Jim Hendrix



In Short: Captain Gallows of the Giant Rat of Sumatra rescues a cabin boy from drowning.  He takes a liking to “Shipwreck”, and invites him to join him at his new ranchero in Mexico.  Should Shipwreck stay with his new friends, or try to make his way home to Boston, where he is not even sure if his mother misses him? More

Across the Wall by Garth Nix

Title: Across the Wall
Author: Garth Nix
Series : No, this is a stand alone book


In Short: A collection of short stories from different parts of his career. Garth Nix wrote an introduction to each story.


What I thought: More

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