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Archive for the ‘children’s book reviews’ Category

Staffordshire author wins Solihull Book Award

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Staffordshire children’s author Barbara Mitchelhill has won the Solihull Book Award for her novel Storm Runners.

The award, run by Solihull Borough Council for the past five years and sponsored by John Lewis, is voted for by youngsters across the town from years five to eight.

Avid readers have spent three months reading the shortlisted three books: Broken Glass by Sally Grindley, Grim Gruesome: Viking Villain by Rosalind Kerven and Mitchelhill’s novel.

John Lewis donated copies of the three shortlisted books to every primary and secondary school in Solihull, as well as the prize of an engraved vase for the winner and Champagne for each of the runners-up.

Storm Runners (Andersen Press) is one of two books Mitchelhill has written for older children. She is famed for her Eric stories and Damian tales, funny stories aimed at children aged between six and nine.

In Storm Runners, the story centres on two girls who discover a group of scientists on a Scottish island who are trying to control the weather.

They need to escape from the remote place and get back to Edinburgh to alert the authorities before the evil scientists use their powers for no good.

Mitchelhill was presented with her prize at an award ceremony and tea party in the town on July 3, 2009.

Written by CommonPeople

July 6, 2009 at 9:34 am

Wolverhampton author makes book prize longlist

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Wolverhampton children’s author Paul Dowswell has won a place on this year’s BookTrust Teenage Prize longlist.
His book, Auslander, is vying for the prize with 12 other titles. They are:
Exposure by Mal Peet
The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
The Vanishing of Katherina Linden by Helen Grant
Solitaire by Bernard Ashley
The Ant Colony by Jenny Valentine
Bloodchild by Tim Bowler
Ostrich Boys by Keith Grey
Furnace: Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith
The Graveyard by Neil Gaiman
Tales of Terror from the Black Ship by Chris Priestley
Numbers by Rachel Ward
Three Ways to Snog an Alien by Graham Joyce.
The shortlist is announced in September and the winner, who will win £2,500, will be announced at a ceremony in London in November. Last year’s winner was Ness’s book The Knife Of Never Letting Go.
The prize was launched in 2003 to celebrate modern fiction writing for teenagers.
Former judge, author Matt Whyman, has described the prize, which is judged by a mixed panel of adults and teenagers, has, “fast become the benchmark for quality young people’s fiction in the UK.”
Booktrust, a charity, is run with the support of The Reading Agency, which publicises the Teenage Prize in libraries across the UK, primarily through coordination with public and school library services.
It is now inviting young writers to enter a short story competition to win a place on the judging panel for this year’s prize.
It is challenging young writers aged 11-16 to write a 500-word short story with the title President for a Day.
The deadline for competition entries is July 27, 2009. The guidelines and entry form are available for download from the website http://www.bookheads.org.uk
The authors of the four best short stories will win a place on the judging panel for the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2009.
They will join Times journalist Alyson Rudd, author Marcus Sedgwick, librarian Judi James, writer and translator Daniel Hahn and Aniketa Khushu, a young judge whose short story won her a place on the judging panel last year.

Written by CommonPeople

July 1, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Thrilling story from Narinder Dharmi

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Bang, Bang, You’re Dead by Narinder Dhami. Corgi Books.

A psychological drama that produces an absolutely corking twist, this is a book that sees Narinder Dharmi take on a totally genre of writing.

The Wolverhampton-born writer, who has penned more than 200 stories from Rainbow Fairies for under tens and Bend It Like Beckham, is tackling an altogether darker subject in this book.

It explores the unthinkable. It tells the story of Mia, a girl who forces herself to take action when a gunman enters her school.

She thinks the gunman in the school is her brother Jamie because he has developed a menacing attitude since their mother became ill with severe depression.

When he threatens to do something spectacular to snap their mother out of her illness, she thinks he has carried out his appalling threat. She must stop him carrying out this terrible crime and braves the empty school corridors looking for him.

She begins to play a terrifying game of cat and mouse; this normally timid teen crawls around the school to find him and to talk to this angry young man.

But, this is a clever and multi-layered tale and just when you think you know what’s going to happen, Dhami produces an incredible twist that leaves the reader reeling.

I’m not even going to hint at what it is: just read this enthralling book. You’ll be glad you did.

Written by CommonPeople

May 15, 2009 at 12:47 pm

The Battle for Gullywith – worth the wait

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The Battle for Gullywith by Susan Hill (Bloomsbury. £6.99). Paperback review

A story that is steeped in ancient mysteries and strange mythology, Susan Hill’s wonderful tale is now out in paperback.

A diverse talent, this was Hill’s first children’s book for more than ten years when it came out in hardback and it was proof indeed that young readers had been missing out.

The story opens with ten-year-old Olly and his family moving from the comfort of their London home to a remote wreck of a place in Scotland.

Of course, it is spooky, damp and the very fabric of the building seems to be alive. And what are the strange stones with their ancient markings that appear to move about and appear in unexpected places? What do they signify and what are their powers?

The reader feels for Olly, who has moved away from his comforts and friends to this strange and foreboding place, but when he meets his nearest neighbour, a feisty young girl named KK, she takes him on a journey where he learns more about his new home than he would like.

A tantalising mix of supernatural and the more mundane real life keeps the story believable and accessible. So not only do we have the Polish builders, Olly’s earthy parents and his new school pals at Fiddleup, we have magical books appearing, a castle and lake and the mysterious character of Nonny Dreever, who is critical to he development of the story.

Hill is an easy writer to read. Her narrative and elegant prose flow easily and her ploy to keep chapters short and sweet mean that readers can get to grips with the story in bite-sized chunks, if necessary – or that it can be read aloud to a willing audience.

The story ends on a knife edge, so watch this space for a sequel.

Written by CommonPeople

May 15, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Auslander by Paul Dowswell

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Auslander by Paul Dowswell. Bloomsbury. £10.99.Auslander by Paul Dowswell

Piotr is a Polish boy who is orphaned when his parents are killed in a car crash.

The Nazis have invaded his country and, as a minor, is forced to leave his home for an orphanage in Warsaw.

There he is assessed and measured by the Germans, who categorise him as “racially valuable” because he is Volksdeutscher (of German blood) and packed off to Berlin to the home of Prof Kaltenbach and his family.

Hailed as a perfect German specimen, Piotr quickly realises he wants nothing to do with the Nazi movement and decides he has to do something to get out. But, this is 1942 and possibly the most dangerous time for someone in his vulnerable position to go against the prevailing political storm.

A profound and moving story, Wolverhampton author Dowswell is an historian who has captured beautifully the intensity of the time, the fear and trepidation of young Germans during the Second World War.

Very different in style and tone from his previous children’s books, which centred on a young boy, Sam Witchall in the Napoleonic Wars, this is a mature story and one that carries a powerful message about how corruption can destroy almost anyone.

It does take a little time to get going, but it really is an excellent novel  with some incredible historical insights, including  the Fritz von Rabaneau adaptation of Silent Night that included the words, “Silent Night, Holy Night,all is calm, wakeful only is Adolf Hitler, watching over Germany’s destiny…”

While this book will receive obvious comparisons with John Boyne’s The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, simply because of the time in which it is set. They are totally different, but if you enjoyed Boyne’s incredible novel, then Dowswell’s is certainly worth exploring.

Written by CommonPeople

March 18, 2009 at 5:15 pm

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – 40th anniversary edition

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Puffin, £14.99)

When it comes to classic books from my childhood, The Very Hungary Caterpillar is up there in the top two. That and The Tiger Who Came To Tea.
It is incredible to realise that this wonderfully simple and imaginative book celebrates its 40th anniversary next month.
To mark this milestone, Puffin has produced an intricate and stunningly colourful pop-up version that will as much fun for the reader as the
youngster who will interact with it.
This tale is of a little caterpillar who munches his way through a cornucopia of foodstuffs, including Swiss cheese, strawberries, chocolate cake,
before getting tummy ache.
Afterwards, he munches on a leaf and then falls asleep in a cocoon before – on the last page – transforms nto a beautiful butterfly.
This book never fails to impress even the tiniest of children, who are mesmerised by the colourful illustrations. The fact that it has apparently sold
one copy every minute since it was first published in 1969 shows just how enduring this book is.
The paper engineering in this new edition is great as it remains true to Carle’s style, but children can pull the caterpillar along a leaf with a tab, push
their fingers through the tiny holes and marvel at the seven pop-up spreads.
Just don’t let them get too excited with tugging at the tabs, though, as you might want to keep this as a souvenir edition.

Written by CommonPeople

February 25, 2009 at 8:29 am

Shortlist announced for the 2009 Red House Children’s Book Award

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Time travelling cows, a 17th century Japanese ninja and a young boy who mourns for his dead cat have made it on to the shortlist of a prestigious children’s book prize.


The Red House Children’s Book Award (RHCBA) has announced  the shortlist for 2009, chosen by children throughout the country from 838 submitted books published in 2008.


The award is unique because it is the only book award voted for solely by children. (While awards such as CLIP, Smarties and WH Smith/Richard & Judy celebrate children’s books, the shortlists are drawn up by adults and children vote for their favourite. This is not the case with the RHCBA.)


Children from schools, libraries and nurseries have spent the past 12 months working with regional testers from the Federation of Children’s Book Groups (FCBG) and ploughing through the titles, which range from picture books to novels for young adults.


Each reader, aged three to 16, from the 13 Federation of Children’s Book Groups across the country, chose his/her favourites in the three award categories: books for younger children, books for younger readers and books for older readers.


The votes were collated and the eagerly-awaited shortlisted titles are revealed today:




The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg, illus. Bruce Ingman (Walker Books)


Beware of the Frog by William Bee (Walker Books)


A Lark in the Ark by Peter Bently, Illus. Lynne Chapman (Egmont)


The Three Horrid Pigs and the Big Friendly Wolf  by Liz Pichon (Little Tiger Press)




Cows in Action: Wild West Moo-nsters by Steve Cole (Red Fox)


Daisy and the Trouble with Zoos by Kes Gray (Red Fox)


The Cat Who Liked Rain by Henning Mankell (Andersen Press)



Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford (Puffin)


Blood Ties by Sophie McKenzie (Simon and Schuster)


Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine (Harper Collins)


Voting is now open to find the category winners and an overall winner.


Anyone under the age of 16 can participate by simply logging onto the RHCBA website, www.redhousechildrensbookaward.co.uk and completing the voting form before the closing date of May 11.


Last year, 59,339 votes were cast in this final stage, which saw Polly Dunbar win the books for younger children category with Penguin and Chris Riddell take the books for young readers prize for Ottoline and the Yellow Cat, while Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant took the award for books for older readers and scooped the overall prize.


Previous winners of the award, which has been running for 29 years, include Robert Swindells, Michael Morpurgo, Roald Dahl, Jacqueline Wilson and Malorie Blackman. It was also the first book prize awarded to JK Rowling, who picked up the prize in 1998 for her first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

 (I’ll declare an interest here – I am being paid to be publicity officer for the RHCBA, but honestly – in my heart of hearts – think this is a fantastic award, which is why I agreed to do it.)