August 2006 Archives

The Coming of Dragons

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A. J. Lake
Oct 2005
Edmund is the privileged son of a king, travelling cautiously in disguise. Elspeth is the fierce daughter of a shipmaster, working proudly at her father�s helm. Their paths are thrown together when they are the only survivors of a terrible shipwreck.

All they want is to return home. But they learn that an evil warlord plans to destroy their homeland, and discover that they each possess mysterious powers significant in the fight against him. And so, aided by a learned old man and accompanied by an enigmatic minstrel, the children are forced to comply with destiny.

Edmund and Elspeth narrate alternate chapters, creating a read which should appeal equally to both boys and girls.

A. J. Lake�s historical knowledge of the Dark Ages means that the ancient British setting is well realised; perceptive details woven subtly and consistently throughout the tale give us a satisfying feel of the texture of their daily lives.

Though �the dragons are coming� we don�t encounter many throughout the story (we get just a brief glimpse of the one who caused the shipwreck at the beginning of the book). The conclusion foretells more dragon action in the next book, as well a quest to defeat a malevolent god.

Which means that fantasy fanatics who enjoy this story should be left eager to read the next in The Darkest Age series.


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Catherine Forde
Barrington Stoke
Jul 2006
�They go all sniffy and hurt. �We�re not losers,� they bleat, �We�re just different from you.��

Something of an egotist and concerned to the point of preoccupation with his appearance and the way others perceive him, John Blue is scathing about his brother Dane and his friend Lee, dubbed the two cheeses, Dane-ish Blue and Dairy Lee � because his presence is somewhat unfortunately accompanied by a stale, milky sweat smell.

Dane and Lee are huge fans of Star Wars and so, on learning about the �BIGGEST MEETING IN THE HISTORY OF THE GALAXY� due to be held in New York, are keen to attend the convention. Plans are scuppered, however, as the pair do not have the money to enable this, having spent it all on Star Wars toys, costumes and other paraphernalia.

John Blue is a guitarist in a fairly ineffectual band. Sibling rivalry and disdain for his brother cause him at ever-increasing intervals to make an �L� shape with his finger and thumb against his forehead whilst chanting L-L-L-Loser. This becomes a line of a song that he creates a killer riff to go around!

What happens from hereonin brings Lee and Dane the possibility of fame and indeed fortune. They turn this down handing the opportunity to John Blue whose very perfection and conformity fail to make it viable. Money is still to be made, however, and Dane and Lee prove to be far more astute than John has given them credit for. Breaking down the stereotypes and ease of assumption that might be made about the pair...

Here is a book all self-respecting teenagers could feel proud to be caught perusing, this is testament to the high production values and the quality of writing Barrington Stoke titles embrace. A short and sassy book with Catherine Forde�s ear for teenage idiom and demotic makes for a convincing read.

Johnny Delgado: Like Father, Like Son

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Kevin Brooks
Barrington Stokes
Jul 2006
�You can�t fight against men like Jack Taylor. They never lose. I tried telling your dad that, but he wouldn�t listen. And look what happened to him. I didn�t want anything to happen to you.�

The subject of a vicious murder instigated by the command of Jack Taylor, the death of Johnny Delgado�s father has left questions for which Johnny is determined, regardless of personal cost, to uncover answers�

Investigations are driven by Johnny's tense, nervous energy, carried out against an increasingly tumultuous backdrop of gangland violence and war-fare that is instigated by Taylor himself, who presides over the estates as gangland baron. The revelations Johnny makes lead him directly to Taylor and so threaten to endanger his sphere of family and of friends.

The novel concludes with a highly dramatic, classic and beautifully realised show-down on the top of the block of flats where Johnny and his mother live. The covering of snow adds depth and atmosphere to this gripping finale which is reminiscent of Joyce�s �The Dead� in its frost-atrophied ending.

The Griffin and Oliver Pie

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Michael Lawrence
Orchard Books
Jul 2006
�Time can be made to pause, but she�s an impatient mistress. She won�t wait long, even for griffins. The wink of an eye is almost up.�

The importance of friendship and by consequence of trust is a common thread to much of Michael Lawrence�s writing. When readers are first introduced to Oliver Pie, he is between his thirteenth and fourteenth sigh, all of them made due to the prospects of the adult-centric world that he inhabits and into which he is about to be thrust head-first once more.

When Oliver opens the ram-shackle door at the bottom of his garden, he pushes aside much of the adult influence and constraints of imagination and possibility that have been exerted over his life, stepping instead into a world where there is ceaseless growth and endless openings before him. A griffin, a stone statue located amidst the long green grasses on the other side of the door, forms an anachronism but at once a manifestation of trust and of the needs-fulfilled that accompany the best friendships.

It is little surprise then that after confiding in his father about the Griffin, Oliver feels betrayed when the Griffin is sold to the nearby garden centre. A terrible sense of foreboding broods in the minds of all who approach the statue in the garden centre as transference of feelings occurs. Oliver Pie who has developed emotional attachment to the Griffin shares particularly in this and so must find a way to try to alleviate some of his newfound friend�s anxiety. This is achieved through convincing the Griffin that though he might be from another age, that there is still place and purpose for him in the present.

The curiosity of Oliver, the magic of the Griffin and the careful.depiction of emotion are reminiscent of Edith Nesbit�s writing. Adam Stower illustrates the book beautifully detailing with wonderful expression the Pie family and the Griffin�s magisterial haughtiness. Truly, here is a tale that is timely and, like its subject, is something to be treasured�

The Fledging of Az Gabrielson

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Jay Amory
Aug 2006
Az Gabrielson is a living paradox; a wingless boy born into a winged world. He struggles to live with dignity in a hallowed, �Airborne� society that treats his winglessness as an embarrassing infirmity. Az feels an understandable affinity with the prehistoric Groundlings, who were also wingless and inhabited the dismal and abandoned earth. When the mysterious infrastructure that supports the sky-cities starts to malfunction, Az finds himself the ideal candidate to investigate what really lies beneath the clouds�

This is the first book in �The Clouded World� Series.

This book is being explicitly marketed at fans of the fabulous Philips (Reeve and Pullman) and it does indeed touch upon some of the themes explored in their books. As in the �Mortal Engines� series, Armory presents a re-imagined, scavenged world that has diverged dramatically from our own (technology is the catalyst in Mortal Engines, while here it the branching of human evolution) resulting in a deeply divided society and an incipient �class� war between its highest and lowest tiers. Armory also alludes to the abuse of religious dogma, a theme that is explored so dazzlingly in �His Dark Materials�. However, I think that The Fledging of Az Gabrielson does have an appeal of its own; the story taps straight into that atavistic human desire to fly and there are some intriguing, ambiguous characters (I loved Mr Mordadson) who are often beautifully named (Ramona Orifielsdaughter Enochson!). It will be interesting to see how Amory takes this story forward and whether he chooses to distance himself from the inevitable comparisons.

Fearless Dave

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Bob Wilson
Frances Lincoln
May 2006
A self-professed �heroic tale of daring deeds, dangerous dragons, blood, gore, smoked cheese � and motherhood�, �Fearless Dave is the latest novel by Bob Wilson, most famous for his Stanley Bagshaw stories.

Employing the form of a graphic novel, �Fearless Dave� is the story of Dave, a zealous, if somewhat ineffectual knight-in-embryo and his well meaning, though somewhat overbearing, mother.

Responding to an advert in the paper making a plea for a person to help a Princess in distress, Dave sets forth with trusty wooden-blade in hand, and a bucket on his head intending to rid the princess� bedroom of the beast that dwells there. All, however, is not quite as it appears, although the outcome does mean Dave does has to contend with one of his fears and so prove himself as brave�

Good natured, playful jibes are made about the excesses and hyperbole of history and age-old stories as a tour-guide fervently embellishes the true story of Dave, presenting instead a heroic account to amaze his audience, the contrast between this and the true pictorial and narrative account of Dave�s deeds make for a tongue-firm-in-cheek romp of a read.

Under the Spell of the Moon

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Katherine Paterson et al
Frances Lincoln
Jul 2006
The styles and cultures of world illustration are magnificently show-cased in �Under the Spell of the Moon�. This impressive and highly collectable collection of illustrations from across the globe is a celebration of artists put together by The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) who administer the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen awards.

Donations of the illustrations by the artists allows royalties from the sales of the book to go to IBBY enabling it to sustain and develop it work in ensuring children the world over have access to high quality books. Each artist presents a short text � nursery rhymes, poetry, riddles, idioms etc � to accompany their illustration.

Thirty-two double page spreads by different illustrators are included, as well as a short summary of biographical and bibliographical information. Countries represented include the United States, Japan, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Canada, Austria, Iran, Brazil, France and many more�

A wealth of recommendations for artists and books to seek out makes this a most welcome addition to the multi-cultural bookshelf and a book to pore over and admire.

The Secret Life of Pants

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Roger Stevens
A & C Black
Aug 2006
Perfect for reading on a dull, wet day, it�s impossible not to feel one�s mood being elevated and enhanced by always bright � sometime brash � poetic offerings presented in �The Secret Life of Pants�, a pant-astically absorbing collection of new poems to pamper oneself with�

Poems are collected under eight headings, some to make one laugh, some to make one think but all of which inspire admiration in the playful, imaginative use of language that opens up new ways to perceive the world around us. Contributors include Paul Cookson, Brian Moses, John Foster and Andrew Fusek Peters.

Of particular note are the Albanian and Czech riddles which have a beautiful simplicity in their outlook. �Don�t Snog Frogs� is a cheeky and comical caution against following the advice of fairy-tales. Jusin Coe�s �The Lost Poem� poses consideration as to what might and might not be considered poetry. Limericks, haiku and riddles give tantalising tastes of the diversity of the poetic form. Primarily a fun book to read, this serves as an excellent introduction to poetry avoiding the high-brow pretensions that can be such a dampener to new readers�

Meerkat Mail

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Emily Gravett
Aug 2006
Having just won the Carnegie medal for her debut picture-book �Wolves�, Emily Gravett makes a welcome return with �Meerkat Mail� a story of the meerkat, Sunny, who sometimes finds togetherness with his family a little too close for comfort�

Living in the Kalahari Desert with his large family makes Sunny long for a place of his own. So it is he packs his case, leaves a note of explanation for his family � replicated in photographic form within the book � and sets off to find a new home.

Sunny�s travels lead him to his Uncle Bob�s, to stay with cousins Scratch and Mitch , to cousin Edward and to numerous other family members. Lift-the-flap postcards presented �as-written-by-Sunny� provide additional �colour� to the story giving an intimate account of Sunny�s adventures. Gravett�s observations of Meerkat behaviour is exceptional and creates a vibrant contrast with the detailed simulated facsimiles postcards from Sunny. This is a sophisticated and clever picture-book that benefits from multiple, close readings, that does not patronise its reader and that successfully widens both field and audience for the picture-book, admirable achievements worthy of celebration.

Little Genius: Brains

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Kate Lennard
Hutchinson Children's Books
Aug 2006
A pint-size professor, Little Genius, acts as a tour-guide on this whistle-stop tour through the anatomy, functions and health of the brain. This guided approach by a peer creates a feeling of informality and of direct involvement by children in the learning process.

The brain, its substance, size, form and location in the human body are introduced. Basic technical language is used, such as �skull� and �brain-stem� with clear illustrations and associations � the brain stem is compared with a flower stem � to aid both comprehension and memorisation.

Awareness of the basic control function of the brain is provided through lift-the-flap paper engineering depicting the right hand side of the body and the left half of the brain revealing the left half controls the right side of the body, turning the flap indicates the reverse.

The more specific functions and tasks that different sectors of the brain are responsible for are emphasised through the use of a colour-segregated �brain map� and a series of vignette illustrations depicting Little Genius in the process of carrying out various tasks against the backdrop of the colour corresponding to the respective part of the brain responsible for its handling.

Brain sizes in different creatures and in different stages of human development are outlined, as too is the brain�s need for blood, oxygen, rest and stimulation. Though Little Genius might be a small protagonist, he introduces big ideas, content here is pleasingly cerebral both in matter and in method.

Little Genius: Bones

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Kate Lennard
Hutchinson Children's Books
Aug 2006
Continuing his explorations into the human physiology, Little Genius, the pint-sized professor here introduces readers to bones. Functions of the bones in providing protection and structure for the body are clearly explained with whimsical analogies � without the skull, the brain �would slosh about inside your head like a poached egg in a plastic bag - that allow for ease of comprehension. Cross-over with the book on brains is provided in the section on the skull.

Basic specialised language is introduced and explained such as �nerves�, �ligaments� and �bone marrow�. Lift-the-flap �bone map� forms the basis for a fun quiz where readers are challenged to find the �skull�, �finger bones� and other parts of the human skeleton.

Other creatures with skeleton are detailed as well as those without skeletons � sharks and jellyfish � and those with exoskeletons. Foods needed for healthy bone growth and things to avoid that damage bones are also detailed. A great little book to help children begin to bone up on the skeleton and that ties in with curriculum learning.

How to be a Knight: A Squire's Companion

Dugald Steer
Jun 2006
Assuming the guise of Hector de Lance, readers become caught in a quest to rescue their assumed father, Sir Geoffrey from the clutches of the French Knight Sir Denis d�Oc who although allowing Sir Geoffrey to abode in Castle d�Oc itself rather than in the dungeon won�t abide releasing him until a ransom of �40 is paid. Sir Geoffrey, however, has a cunning plan to teach his son to become a knight, how well will you fare?

Following the high production values in terms of print, illustration, paper-engineering, design and lay-out, that Templar�s �Ology� books have become renowned for, �How to be a Knight: A Squire�s Companion� lays-out the mediaeval world of knighthood and chivalric values. Details on chivalry, on armoury, heraldry, training, questing and battles are provided. Adding colour and detail to these are lift-the-flap sections, a complete game, Squirefight, with all the pieces needed to play, a rule book on jousting a pop-up showing the strongholds of the castle gate means and devices for making an attack on enemy castles, a mini bestiary of creatures that might be encountered when questing and a short retelling of the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

A book that enables such active participation successfully transports readers through time to live and breathe, learn and battle in the age of knights and chivalric honour. The over-arching story provides a satisfying cohesion to the work.

A Night-Time Tale

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Alexandra Junge
Wingedchariot Press
May 2006
Originally published in Germany, "A Night-Time Tale" is the latest European picture-book offering made available by Wingedchariot press. The book opens as Laura, a nychtophobe, descends into bed postulating over why it has to get dark. Alexandra Junge�s illustrations brilliantly portray the way darkness leaches forth from Laura�s unconscious mind and the types of primitive, base fears, twisted torturously into the horrific far from the familiar or recognisable that proliferates amidst the darkness.

Taking her fears to the logical, if extreme conclusion, Laura wonders why it cannot always be daytime and ponders over a world without night. Laura�s imagination and the illustrations depicting this verge on the surreal as astronomers pan the sky fervently looking for stars, as giant road-rollers level no-longer-needed lamp-posts, as confusions of chickens wonder when to lay breakfast eggs, as plants grow to ever more extreme heights, as the sun lapses into exhaustion and as there are no more dreams, no endless possibilities and escape from the fears of the everyday.

�A Night-Time Tale� is a reassuring read that challenges readers to look and think beyond their initial fears and in so doing that introduces us to impressively wide and varied imaginative vistas.

Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE

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Aug 2006
August sees Random House launch its new Manga imprint, Tanoshimi It launches with five new series. Literally translated from the Japanese, Manga means �random pictures�. Manga holds huge cultural significance in Japan with weekly sales of comic books there outselling the entire annual output of the U.S. comic industry. The surge of interest in anime films such as �Spirited Away� in the UK make it a n opportune time for development of what is already proving a burgeoning and highly diverse field.

Tsubasa means wings in Japanese and these play a crucial role in this graphic novel both as a plot device for Sakura, princess of Clow Country, and as a metaphor for the spiritual �flight� they enable.

Raised by her brother, King Toya who presides over Clow County, Sakura has a vision of a symbol. When visiting the archaeologist Syaoran, a childhood friend to whom she intends to profess undying love, Sakura discovers markings in the shape of the same symbol. Powers are unlocked creating the formation of wings upon her back and quickly threaten to pull her into the ruins Syaoran has been uncovering. With tremendous effort, he is able to save Sakura, but amidst this process her wings shatter and disperse across the dimensions

Syaoran and the comatose Sakura make their appearance before Yuko � as concurs with the first volume of �xxxHOLiC�, another series by the CLAMP creators that runs in parallel with this. Syaoran learns that to save Sakura, he must collect each of the feathers from her wings.


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Aug 2006
Watanuki Kimiho presents as the almost archetypal children�s book hero in this brooding, gothic tale. Orphaned, he holds special powers, in this instance the ability to see spectres. The graphic novel lends itself particularly well to paranormal elements, as too do the conventions of Manga, with its intense focus on personal emotions. Intensity of feeling, of action and reaction are the standard fare of Manga and this is foregrounded through conventions of the form, dropped jawlines, large expressive eyes, style of delineation of speech bubbles etc.

Increasingly distressed by the powers vested upon him, Watanuki seeks refuge in a shop that purports to grant wishes. Inside the shop, Yuko offers to aid Watanuki�s hope to be rid of his ability to see ghosts, however, to remunerate her efforts, he must work off a debt equal to the power taken to achieve this�

Yuko is a sage, a wise witch who helps cure her customers of the various addictions, obsessions and preoccupations from which they suffer. Yuko has two henchman, Maru and Moro, twin entities with a deathly pallor and an unnerving ability to communicate telepathically with their mistress.

The �xxxHOLiC� volumes cross with those in �Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE� and CLAMP, the creators of both, claim the two series tie all of their previous work together. Referential material and interplay between characters and artefacts alike add an extra dimension to the series by consequence.

Guru Guru Pon-Chan

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Satomi Ikezawa
Aug 2006
�A love between dogs and humans can never be�

Caught somewhere between Melvin Burgess� �Lady My Life as a Bitch� and �Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde� but enlivened and made highly accessible by the dynamism of the Manga form, with its characteristic, almost hyper-active revelation of drama and emotion, �Guru Guru Pon-Chan� makes for a high-paced and humorous reading experience.

The action of the story begins when Grandpa Koizumi believes he has created a �chit-chat� bone, a device allowing animals to communicate with humans. The bone, however, unexpectedly transforms the canine Ponta into a homo-sapien.

Mayhem ensues as Ponta, who in human form initially struggles to speak her needs and desires, gradually falls in love with Mirai who saves her life after she runs out into the road.

Much of the frenetic, sometimes almost too-fast-paced � humour derives from Ikezawa�s perceptive observations of the behaviour of dogs. Alongside parading naked, vomiting and the inevitable sniffing of excretia, Ponta battles against the prejudice of her classmates and has numerous accidents along the way concerning appropriateness of canine behaviour when translated into the human form.

A fun-filled, highly accessible book that will serve as a great introduction to the Manga form and that will resonate with dog owners.


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Ken Akamatsu
Aug 2006
Ken Akamatsu will be most familiar for his best-selling �Love Hina� series which won its author the prestigious Manga of the Year title. In this new story-strand, he introduces readers to Negi Springfield, a ten year old wizard who aspires to become a Magister Magi, one of a special class of wizards who use their power to aid others.

Underlying the desire to become a Magister Magi, is Negi�s wish to find his father Nagi Springfield, a once legendary mage who most now believe to have died. On leaving his school of magic, bizarrely Negi is given an alias as a professor teaching English to a class of girls, all of whom are older than himself, in Japan.

Negi comes across as a likeable, although extremely youthful, individual who is both sensitive and hardworking. His age and relative inexperience enable Akamatsu to parody and satirise a number of conventions in the graphic novel form creating a fiction that looks inward upon its genre challenging a number of its clich�s and parameters.

Negi�s class respond to him more as a younger brother to be patronised rather than as a teacher and an antagonism erupts between him and one of the students, Asuna who had a crush for the teacher whom Negi replaced. The story as Negi continues to battle to fulfil his dream of becoming a Magister Magi follows in further volumes.

Ghost Hunt

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Shiho Inada
Aug 2006
Ghost Hunt is based on the novel �There are many evil spirits� by Fuyumi Ono. The author claims that each of the characters as presented here perfectly match with the vision she had for her novel.

Mai Taniyama is a high school student with a job employed by the mysterious company, Shibuya Psychic Research. She examines hauntings and the supernatural. Seventeen-year-old Shibuya Kazuya boss of the Psychic Research centre and, to Mai�s mind a liar, cheat and a narcissist, throws her into a confused state of attraction and repulsion from what she initially perceives as arrogance accompanied by boyish good looks.

The company is employed to investigate an old school building that is believed to be cursed after a series of �accidents� occur each time the site is attempted to be re-developed.

Mai�s curiosity over a camera that has been set up to record evidence of any paranormal happenings, leads to her working to pay for the damage. The principal of the school hires other psychics to assess the property including Ayako Matsuzaki who is a Shinto priestess, Takigawa who is a Buddhist monk, John Brown a priest who has learnt Japanese in the Kyoto dialect and believes this to be the polite method of pronunciation and one of the most renowned psychic mediums as featured on teleivison, Masako Hara.

The cross sections of different thoughts and systems of belief provides a backdrop for theological and philosophical discussion. Disagreements abound between all concerned, not in the least between Shibuya and Mai herself, whose wrangling it is implied shrouds quite another emotion as is suggested at the end of the novel when Shibuya offers Mai an administrative position and she keenly accepts.

The Ghost of My Pussycat's Bottom

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Mike Jubb
Back to Front
Jul 2006
�The Ghost of my Pussycat�s Bottom� is a wide-ranging collection of poetry written by Mike Jubb. Material traverses the irreverent such as the eponymous poem �The Ghost of my Pusscat�s Bottom�, the stately and elegant such as �Midnight Meeting� which takes its inspiration from Edward Lear�s �The Owl and the Pussycat� and the deceptively simply with almost ethereal beauty including �The Emperor and the Nightingale�, told in the form of three linked haiku to form a rensaku.

There are poems here to meet every moment and every mood. Poems are collected under seven beastly headings and range from the miscroscopic � �Said an Angry Amoeba called Anne� � to the gargantuan with �What is a dragon like?�.

Mike Jubb provides notes on a number of the poems, some of which unfairly self-abase the work and thought that belies the crafting of this collection. Points of reference aplenty and a practical written style makes these ideal support for teaching of poetry in the classroom and a perfect springboard to explore other referenced works. All of the notes, however, achieve accomplishment whilst sharing the unpretentious overview they provide of different poetic forms and techniques, areas from which to draw ideas, and ultimately these serve to inspire and enrich an imaginative repertoire that creates a strong and empowering urge to have a go oneself, go on�!

Ryan's Brain

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Michael Lawrence
Orchard Books
Jun 2006
�One for all and all for lunch�

With work that defies easy classification, traversing many genres and all age-ranges, Michael Lawrence deserves to be a much bigger, brighter star amidst the skyline of children�s literature. The �Aldous Lexicon� trilogy, due to draw to a close in October with the highly anticipated, �The Underwood See�, showcases his skills as a powerful, thought-provoking novelist. Meanwhile, his irreverent �Jiggy McCue� stories have found firm readership with children for the anarchic sense of fun and frivolity that fills their pages, an affectionate base lies beneath the mad-cap antics in the latest, �Ryan�s Brain�.

It is characteristic reluctance rather than the bravado shown by many a book�s hero that drives Jiggy McCue, Pete and Angie � this century�s new, self-professed, three musketeers, into their eighth exciting adventures. Taunts on the football pitch between Jiggy and arch-enemy, Bryan Ryan, culminates with a show down whereby Bryan Ryan prepares to head-butt Jiggy, takes his aim, fires and� misses, hitting the wooden goal post instead and suffering immediate concussion!

Pandemonium ensues as events appear to transpire to avenge Jiggy, seemingly manipulated through psychokinesis by the sub-conscious of the eponymous Ryan�s brain. Together with Pete and Angie, Jiggy attempts to convince the brain to reach a truth and in so doing encounters giant slugs, ravenous dogs, marauding horses and eventually uncovers the true culprit responsible for these torments.

Jiggy celebrates his thirteenth birthday in the novel, early teenage behaviour is typified through belligerence and an unerring ability to sleep. Lawrence�s awareness that the absurdity of storylines is what makes this series such a riotous read is belied by the encouragingly warm depiction of unswaying and unconditional brotherly love, respect and admiration that is firmly at the centre of this book. An at once savvy, sensitive but not remotely sentimental story�

Small-Minded Giants

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Oisin McGann
Jul 2006
His father didn�t trust anybody. Not really. He had a few friends, gambling mates, but Sol couldn�t think of anyone who� Murder. His father was being accused of killing somebody. It hit home for the first time. Sol couldn�t believe it

Trust is firmly at the centre of Oisin McGann�s impressive dystopian thriller, �Small-Minded Giants�. The projected future world which protagonist Sol inhabits is domed, it was one of the last refuges for those with wealth enough to afford survival following the climate changes. The underlying and largely unspoken sense of desperation that accompanies the novel as the mechanics of this domed-world slowly corrode � literally and metaphorically � creates an atmosphere taut and tense to the point of imminent danger.

The novel opens with Sol and his classmates witnessing a crane car crash on their school trip. News breaks that Sol�s father has committed murder and disappeared, the authorities seek out Sol baying for knowledge as to the whereabouts of his father.

Sol becomes ensnared in the political machinations and inner-workings of the domed enclave of Ash Harbour, and is fast embroiled within plot and counter-plot as the likelihood of The Clockworkers, a presumed mythical organisation to protect the Machine of the city, becomes ever more possible.

Sol�s welfare lies with Maslow, a somewhat mercenary and violent individual in whom he has little choice but to place his trust. Disturbing truths are revealed about Ash Harbour and its extreme capitalist nature in Sol�s chase for ultimate truth concerning his father and what becomes the pursuit of survival�