In my last post, I recommended some great YA and young teen novels, and good places to look for recommendations for more.
But at home, I’ve been reading more books for slightly younger readers recently. My youngest has just finished Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series, and Oh. My. Goodness. What a bang it went out with. The world practically ended. What started as a gentle, funny story about boys and their pet dragons ended up as a clash between species of epic proportions.
Still funny, still page-turning, but densely packed with illustrations now, and keen to address issues of slavery, courage and leadership in absolutely uncompromising terms. It’ll be a classic for decades to come.
And, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it includes my favourite female character at the moment – Camicazi (who sort of becomes Astrid in the film and TV series because, as Cressida admits, Camicazi is not the most internationally politically correct name). These are books for girls as much as boys. Camicazi spends a lot of time trying to rescue Hiccup, because ‘he’s only a boy’, and it’s lucky she does. He needs her, and she’s brilliant.
As a teenage reader myself, I was a big Nancy Drew fan, before I discovered Dorothy L Sayers, who’s still one of my favourite writers today. To my absolute delight, detective fiction is taking off for 9-12s. Robin Stevens has written the brilliant Murder Most Unladylike series, which is storming the charts with its Agatha Christie settings and fabulous graphic covers, and has recently been optioned for film and TV.
Katherine Woodfine has joined her with the equally impressive Clockwork Sparrow – the first in a series of its own, which was nominated for the Carnegie medal yesterday. Add to those Patricia Elliott’s wonderful new Connie Carew mysteries – also historical detective fiction, set in the early 20th century, and you have a bit of a genre revival going on. Clever girls, solving crimes. Fantastic.
Back in the world of 9-12s, to my absolute delight, the Harry Potter series is being re-released with new illustrations by the super-talented Jim Kay. Like so many Potter fans, I am hugely protective of the characters and settings, and how they’re portrayed. There were times I felt the films didn’t do them justice, but I think Jim Kay is doing an extraordinary job. JK Rowling likes them too. If you’re interested in art, and making things, as I am, then check out the video of his studio at the end of the interview. It’s wonderful.