Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is always a popular option, children and young people love to read about history, they love to imagine what the people of the past were like, how they lived, where they lived, how they spoke and more besides.  Add to this a desire to read a good story, usually with a mystery and you have the ideal book for many readers.

There are some fantastic authors of historical fiction for children of all ages and now to add a new element to the mix come two very cleverly imagined and titled historical fiction stories.

Firstly I was intrigued by Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender (Scholastic).  Was Marie Antoinette a serial killer I wondered or was the author just using the name of one of France’s most notorious queens?  Indeed the book is set in France, but not an old France, a modern one.  Furthermore this is Paris, a city with food, fashion, boys and lurking under the surface … murder.  A class trip has taken Colette Iselin to Paris and she is loving her very first visit.  There is only one problem, as she travels the city she keeps having the same vision: a ghostly and pale woman in a sumptuous ball gown and a powdered wig.  A woman who looks remarkably like Marie Antoinette.  None of her friends will believe Colette when she tries to tell them so instead she turns to the most charming of French boys.  What links the murder victims who have been recently found and the visions that Colette is having?  Something has woken the ghost of the queen and she wants her revenge … how is Colette linked to this mystery and will she make it out of Paris alive?

A clever murder mystery interweaving modern romance and historical intrigue.

The second book that caught my attention and had me avidly reading is Curses and Smoke. A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter (Scholastic).  I have a passionate connection to Pompeii I have to admit and I love an ancient Romans or Greek story so this one had me curious.  What was this story and how would it unfold?  This is the story of a young love between a medical slave and his master’s daughter.  It is the story of a world on the brink of destruction and it has been released to coincide with the release of the forthcoming film Pompeii.  Tages is the slave, Lucia the daughter.  Tage may be a medical slave but in his heart he is a gladiator and yearns to fight in order to earn his freedom.  Lucia is betrothed to a wealthy benefactor of her father’s but more than anything she loves to study the natural world around her home and endeavours to find out more about the strange behavior of the landscape.  As the two friends, having known each other from childhood, reconnect as young adults, a passionate feeling of love enters their lives, they argue and are separated during which time Pompeii is struck by an earthquake.  Will the inevitable eruption of the volcano – a tragedy about which we all know keep them apart and destroy their world …?  A gripping and thrilling story of forbidden love and the ancient world.

Two fantastic books to get your teeth into and to reignite that love of history!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Little Time, Little Books Blog

So many books, so little time but what about when you have little books and little time??  Sudden Saturday afternoon thought – I can read them of course!
The prefect way to fill a little time is with a little book, even better if you can share said little book with a little person, unfortunately I don’t have one of those around at the moment so adult thoughts about little people’s books are coming your way …

The books in question are two charming board books from the American publisher Gibbs Smith.  They are part of the BabyLit series created by Suzanne Gibbs Taylor.  The series takes very well known classic literature and transforms it into books for babies.  Did you ever think that you would see a Jane Eyre or Jabberwocky for the littlest reader?  Well now you can!

Jane Eyre, A Counting Primer written by Jennifer Adams with art by Alison Oliver is a Little Miss Bronte title.  A small board book, perfect for little hands and very chewable too, should the fancy take, it succinctly tells Jane’s tale in 10 simple words, teaching the smallest reader how to count and at the same time introducing them to a timeless classic.  Begin with 1 Governess, pick up 2 Trunks and off you go until you reach 10 Books.  Each double page spread has the number, its associated word and some gothic but very child friendly artwork.  Brilliant!

Jabberwocky A Nonsense Primer again written by Jennifer Adams and with art by Alison Oliver is a Little Master Carroll title.  It follows the same format, double page spread, words and artwork on one, artwork on the other.  This one is bright and colourful, matching its theme.  It is of course complete nonsense but it will have grown-ups and little readers giggling with delight at the sounds these silly words make.

Two perfect little books for anyone and everyone, for we all have a little time, it is how we use it that matters and what could be better than using it wisely with a little person and a little book?

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

2014 Blog 1 ...

After a considerable absence of 2 months I am happy to say that service is being resumed and for the first Blog of 2014 Armadillo reviewer Bridget Carrington shares a few (very honest) thoughts on a couple of books she has been kindly reading and reviewing recently...

Tiny Twisted Tales
Last January I blogged a piece about Stuart Reid’s Gorgeous George series, which I thought was better suited to an animated film than to print – not least because of the many typos. Further GG stories have confirmed my opinion…  The GG books are illustrated (well) by Calvin Innes, who has now written and illustrated two brief stories in verse, Pale Henry and Jenny in a series he calls ‘Tiny Twisted Tales’. Again, the illustrations are the best bit.

Glenmore Valley
This new series from the noted Irish publishers O’Brien is produced in collaboration with the Irish Farmers Journal, and are written by Anna McQuinn with illustrations from Paul Young. The two titles so far available are utterly delightful. Colm’s Lambs introduces us to the village, the farms and the characters who will appear in the stories, and gives readers a good insight to the realities of lambing, while A Rosette for Maeve? follows another farmer’s daughter, Lisa, as she prepares her prize calf for a show. Aimed at older KS1 and lower KS2 readers, well-illustrated, funny and sad at times, these short novels don’t glamorize farming but perfectly express the hard work and enjoyment which farm life offers. They also offer an insight to Irish life, on and off the farm.  Brilliant!

Yet more Tales from Lovecraft Middle School

I’ve just received another volume in Charles Gilman’s excellent ‘Tales from Lovecraft Middle School’ series (see the February Blog).  Intriguingly titles Creature it comes in the splendid holographic cover. Can’t wait to read it!