Posted in Adventure, Children's Books, Fantasy, Science Fiction

‘Scavengers’ by Darren Simpson








Forager and scavenger Landfill lives with wooflers, swims with turtles and tries to stick to the rules outlined by Babagoo, but the rule about not going outside is one Landfill is desperate to break.

This is an interesting and potentially very clever book that centres around the relationship between its two main characters. Dealing with issues around control, abuse and emotional support, the author tells a story that is by turns, hopeful, sad and affectionate. Having said that, the story didn’t draw me in as much as I’d expected, and the world of the Hinterland didn’t ring true. While I’m sure readers of ten and up will love it, the book felt a bit artificial to me.

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Posted in Adventure, Children's Books, Illustrations

‘The Wailing Siren Mystery’ by Franklin W. Dixon

The Wailing Siren Mystery


When Frank and Joe Hardy are caught in a storm with their motorboat the Sleuth, they observe a mysterious yacht, hear a wailing siren and see a helicopter drop a wallet full of cash into the sea. Later, after their pal Chet has a load of rifles stolen from his father’s truck, the crime-fighting brothers begin to see a connection.

It’s hard to believe that The Hardy Boys were dreamed up way back in 1926, the first three books in the series appearing the following year. Author Franklin W Dixon, rather mysteriously, never existed and was in fact a pseudonym used by series creator, Edward Stratemeyer and his Syndicate. While Stratemyer came up with the basic plots, ghost writers were drafted in to write the books, which also explains why some were better than others.

Though I read many of the Hardy Boys adventures as a kid, I have no memory of ‘The Wailing Siren Mystery’ – our local library had a lot of the books, but certainly wouldn’t have stocked all 59 of them. The original Wailing Siren was number 30 in the series and published in 1951, though the hard-back copy I bought is the revised version, updated by Priscilla Baker-Carr and published in 1968.

The story is classic Hardy Boys, with a host of villains, strange occurrences and mysterious messages. The writing, however, is a bit clunky at times and there’s a couple of errors in the plot – for instance, Frank telephones his dad to tell him about the homing pigeons, but at that point in the story, Frank can’t possibly know the pigeons exist. Aside from that, and the ridiculous proliferation of exclamation marks (particularly from Aunt Gertrude!) it’s not a bad tale and reminded me why I loved this series so much as a kid.

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Posted in Adventure, Children's Books, Humour

‘The Closest Thing to Flying’ by Gill Lewis






The Closest Thing to Flying


Semira and her mother have nowhere to call home. Controlled by bad-tempered Robel, they must pretend they are part of his family to stay out of jail. But what if Robel is lying? Samira keeps to herself, avoiding difficult situations, but when she finds a diary from 1891, she discovers a kindred spirit whose life strangely mirrors her own. Can Henrietta’s story give Semira the courage she seeks?

Gill Lewis tells a thoughtful and clever tale of two girls, a feathered hat and a collision of opportunities, hope and courage. Though aimed at girls, this is a book for everyone who has a dream. The writing is superb, witty and sensitive, and Ms Lewis creates two distinct but well-crafted worlds, populated by characters that are endearing and believable.

This is a truly lovely book that everyone should read.

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Posted in Adventure, Children's Books, Humour, War

‘Carrie’s War’ by Nina Bawden

Carrie’s War


Visiting the wartime village where she and her younger brother were billeted following the evacuation from London, a grown-up Carrie Willow tells her own children of her adventures. But her memories of the Welsh hills, the surly Mr Evans and his timid sister are marred by something she did following one of her many visits to Druid’s Bottom, where the sickly Mrs Gotobed lived with her housekeeper Hepzibah, the odd Mr Johnny and another evacuee, Albert.

I had vague memories of having read this years ago but must have imagined it, as the book was entirely new to me. I read it in one sitting and loved the atmosphere, the strange mix of characters and the slightly sinister plot line that bubbles away on the backburner throughout the book. Nina Bawden’s characters, particularly the mysterious Hepzibah and the bullying Mr Evans, are beautifully drawn, entirely realistic and, ultimately, thoroughly endearing. The ending had me on the edge of my seat and left me in tears, (which doesn’t happen often).

An absolute delight from start to finish.

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