July 2010 Archives

Dragon Feathers

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illustrated by Olga Dugina & Andrei Dugin, retold by Arnica Esterl
September 2010
The well-known traditional tale about a woodcutter's son on a mission to pluck three feathers from a dragon's back. The book was first published in German as Die Drachenfederen in 1993, and Floris Books is to be congratulated for bringing it to an English reading audience (translation by Polly Dawson) because the illustrations by the husband-and-wife illustrating team are exceptionally good and, on some of the spreads at least, medieval in their attention to detail.

The Glass Demon

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Helen Grant
May 2010

At times I had to keep reminding myself that Lin and Michel are both in their late teens (indeed, Michel drives them both around in his car) because their manner is not the teenage manner as more usually portrayed in contemporary young adult literature, and also because the adventure that unfolds is, for all its menace and melodrama, very much in the mould of younger children going out and attempting to solve a mystery without adult intervention.

This all works to the book's advantage and results in a novel that is at one and the same time an older children's mystery and a chilling, Hawthornesque tale of murder and malevolence for adults.

Lin's father, an academic driven by an idee fixe, uproots his family to Germany, determined to discover the long lost Allerheiligen stained glass. Even before entering their rented property they stumble upon the first body - an old man apparently fallen dead while picking apples, small shards of shattered glass noticed only by Lin at the time. Not long afterwards the family is all but completely unravelled when Lin's younger brother comes close to being impaled by a spear while sleeping in his cot.

The local police so closely follow protocol and procedure that the family themselves feel under suspicion.

Just as she did in her first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, Grant cranks up the drama and excitement with impeccable pace and timing. The story would make a fabulous two-part BBC thriller, expecially because each of the characters is so well-realised, from the ineffectual young stepmother, to the darkly dashing priest. And there would be wonderful bit parts for the stonewalling police.

Can't wait for novel number three!