Reviews: December 2011 Archives

Guardian Review 2

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Guardian Review 2

Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes by Lauren Child, reviewed by Simon Mason

It's unusual for a Guardian children's books review to be as negative:

there's an awful lot of detail and it tends to pile up all over the place, blurring the characters, clogging the dialogue and cluttering the plot. The theft-of-Mrs-Digby subplot appears in brief flashes at set intervals, breaking in like commercials for another story entirely. In the main story, clues arise at suspiciously convenient moments, like brightly coloured balloons, to be promptly solved by Ruby with a knowing wisecrack.

Codes and puzzles are at the heart of it all, some very nifty indeed, some a little shopworn, and others rather lame. Ruby herself is an odd mixture of likeable sauciness and child-genius stereotype. A child-genius is a challenging thing for an author to create, and I'm not convinced. There are some great moments - Ruby's exchanges with the Spectrum agents are funny and warm - but too often I'm told how clever she is (she's reading War and Peace in the original Russian, apparently) without seeing her intelligence in action for myself. Worse, I don't feel I get to know her. The chemistry with her best friend Clancy is intermittent, and she struggles to express herself beyond jokes and the endless "Jeepers", "Darn it" and "Boy, is this guy a prize potato head".

She's a cartoon who lives in a cartoon world, and I fear the brilliant premise, charming detail and occasional wonderful moments can't sustain her through the long haul of a novel. SIMON MASON

Guardian Review

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Guardian Review

Collected Folk Tales by Alan Garner, reviewed By Neil Gaiman

This Collected Folk Tales is, by definition and by temperament, a patchwork, and reading it is like entering a rag and bone shop in which every object has been polished up and repaired and made fit for use, while always leaving in the cracks and dents that show that the goods have had years of use already. With the exception of some of the poems, there is nothing new or shining here, and the book is all the better for it. If I had small children, or a class, I would read to them from it.

And if, by the time I have grandchildren, there are still public libraries, as I hope there will be, I trust that they will find this book themselves in one (for it will be all the better for not being given or suggested or recommended to them by an adult), and take it to a quiet corner and read. NEIL GAIMAN

Independent - Children's Books

Daniel Hahn is the reviewer, and I'm pleased to see we feel the same about...

Lissa Evans's Small Change for Stuart (Doubleday, £10.99), a small book about a small boy, and one of this year's great delights. Stuart Horten is 10, but tiny for his age. (The nickname SHorten is unfortunate.) When his mother, a doctor, and his father, a crossword compiler who uses words such as sylvan and perambulation and matutinal, decide to move to the village of Beeton, Stuart thinks the whole prospect rather grim. Until, that is, he finds himself on the hunt for the workshop that used to belong to his great-uncle, an incredible magician. It's a finely written book crammed with exciting incident and colourful characters; something quite special. DANIEL HAHN

Observer Review - Teenage Fiction

reviewed by Geraldine Brennan, who finishes her piece with a recommendation for a title to be published early in the New Year:

Look out early in the new year for India Dark by Kirsty Murray (Templar £6.99), the tale of many orchestrated hissy fits on a floating prison: the ship carrying a troupe of Australian child performers on a tour of Indonesia and India in 1910. They thought they were going to America; they won't get home for two years; their biological clocks are ticking (once past puberty they soon become too old to perform); and their promoter is a charlatan. As a result, some of them are a little disturbed. The Red Shoes crossed with Picnic at Hanging Rock, based on a true story. Unmissable. GERALDINE BRENNAN

Observer Review - Fiction

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Observer Review - Fiction

reviewed by Kitty Empire

Sapphire Battersea (Doubleday £12.99), Jacqueline Wilson's 654th novel (or thereabouts) packs in plenty of bloody tubercular coughs and end-of-the-pier freaks (kindly drawn). This is the next book along in the Hetty Feather series, in which Wilson's care home heroine Tracy Beaker is basically reincarnated as a foundling hospital girl 135 years previously. Plucky Sapphire (formerly Hetty) goes out to earn her keep, fuelled by Wilson's class rage and carnivorous sense of yearning.

Even better, though, is Lauren Child's Look into My Eyes (HarperCollins £12.99) which features Ruby Redfort, a Clarice Bean bit-parter now enjoying her own spin-off series. Mathematician Marcus du Sautoy lends a hand with the puzzles thrown in the path of this rich, pampered but razor-sharp American teen sleuth. The villains are cartoonishly bad, in the most enjoyable way. And if it lacks any actual ooze, Ruby makes up for it in being witty and stylish. Having pretty much abandoned the little ones for the tween market, the writer really ought to change her name to Lauren Older Child by deed poll. KITTY EMPIRE

follow the link for the remainder of the recommendations

Observer Review - Picture Books

selected and reviewed by Kate Kellaway

Of special note:

Christmas is a time for remembering absent family and friends, and My Henry by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins £7.99) is a picture book to touch the heart as well as make one laugh aloud. It is a new departure for Kerr, a deliciously singular extended daydream in which she imagines wild, airborne outings with her late husband, Henry. He is dressed in a pink cardigan and yellow tie and has sprouted some rather inefficient looking green wings to help him fly. Heaven, obviously, is his new address. And bliss, all round, is guaranteed. (All ages) KATE KELLAWAY

Guardian Review

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Guardian Review

Steampunk! edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J Grant, reviewed by Mal Peet

The exclamation mark in the title of this collection suggests an announcement, a new arrival. In fact, the term was coined in 1987 to denote a burgeoning sub-genre of fantasy in which the principles of Gibsonian cyberpunk are projected backwards on to a wildly reimagined 19th century. I can only guess at what yearnings underlie this weird historical revisionism, but I find myself drawn to it. Perhaps this is because steampunk, despite its obsession with kit, boasts a great many feisty heroines who are handy with a wrench or a temporal displacement occulator. On the strength of this anthology, it is no boys-only genre. MAL PEET

Kirkus Best Children's Books of 2011

The Kirkus Review's pick of the best children's books of 2011 - with links to the individual reviews, so very much worht checking out...

Horn Book - The Best Books of 2011

Horn Book's pick of the year's titles

Irish Independent's Christmas Roundup

Children's books recommendations from the Irish Independent

Guardian Roundup

Books for giving: children's fiction and picture books

Julia Eccleshare's selection includes

[Last Week's] Guardian Review

You Against Me by Jenny Downham, reviewed by Keith Grey [sic]

despite the crime and punishment aspect of the novel never being fully resolved, readers wanting to discover if the relationship overcomes all the odds are sure to find themselves provoked, moved and rewarded in equal measure. KEITH GREY or GRAY?

footnote: I delayed posting this last week because I was disconcerted by the probable mis-spelling of the reviewer's surname - I still think it it likely that this is by Keith Gray and not Keith Grey, but there has been no correction, so here's the link anyway...

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This page is an archive of entries in the Reviews category from December 2011.

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