Emma Dunn and Sara Mallon round up the best books for kids as the nights draw in
Emma Dunn and Sara Mallon round up the best books for kids as the nights draw in
This roundup of YA titles in the Irish Times culminates in a summary of And The Ocean Was Our Sky, the latest title form Patrick Ness:
“This is an elegant novella with a mythic feel, beautifully illustrated by Rovina Cai, whose black-and-white (with the occasional striking, powerful splash of red) drawings capture the dreamy sense of this world, even as its preoccupation with power reflects our own. Another modern classic from Ness.”
Other novels reviewed in this piece (by Claire Hennessy are:
Imogen Russell Williams’ August roundup led with two historical novels:
There’s a rich harvest of historical adventure for readers of eight-plus this month. Set in the late 18th century, Catherine Johnson’s Freedom (Scholastic) is the powerful story of Nathaniel, brought from Jamaica to England solely to tend pineapple plants aboard the ship by masters who have sold off his mother and sister. Believing that all slaves are free on English soil, Nat looks forward to making his fortune and buying back his family; swiftly disillusioned, he begins to plan his escape. At times harrowing (especially during its description of the Zong court case in 1783, dealing with the murder of 133 slaves at sea), the story is also filled with humour, compassion and hope – humanity’s worst and best, shown side by side.
Candy Gourlay’s Bone Talk (David Fickling) is set in the Philippines at the end of the 19th century. Ten-year-old Samkad, of the Bontok tribe, is desperate to prove himself against the enemy Mangili. Seismic change is coming, however, in the form of other invaders, offering contempt and treachery along with gifts of sweets and guns. Can the Bontok survive the Americans, as well as the Mangili? Gourlay’s evocative writing grips from the outset.
Concluding an admirable round up of ‘grievance’ titles recently published for children and young people, the Wall Street Journal reviewer Meghan Cox Gurdon writes:
Amid this angsty abundance, who or what is being resisted and persisted against is kept mostly in the shadowy realm of understatement, though in the Hudsons’ book there are references to bullies and kids in MAGA hats. In Ms. Styron’s handbook, the actress Lena Dunham bemoans the “slight condescension” of doctors. Ms. Styron herself inculpates “the people in control of things” and “some sects” that in history “have done a pretty bang-up job of oppressing other sects.” Ms. Rich, in “Girls Resist!,” blames “society” for giving young women “messed-up notions” and encourages activists to identify their “enemies” by compiling lists of those who are “entrenched in the opposite view.”
Listing enemies, tabulating “daily oppressions” (Ms. Rich again), sewing up a man’s mouth, even on paper—it seems such a joyless way to spend the fleeting years of adolescence. I suppose there’s a market for everything.
latest Guardian roundup from Imogen Russell Williams:
The stand-out title this month is a picture book, Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Walker). When Julian sees three women dressed as mermaids, he wants to be one too; but how will his Nana react? In this bravura feat of understated storytelling, the richness of Julian’s day-to-day reality and free-floating imagination is caught in images layered with colour, movement, muscle and life, celebrating black and Latin experience. Julian invents a tail and flowing hair, and Nana’s acceptance, as she accompanies him on a wild parade of mermaids, will leave the reader filled with joy.
Nicolette Jones in her Easter roundup of the season’s best children’s books includes this praise for Running On Empty by SE Durrant
Lyrical, moving and realistic, SE Durrant’s Running on Empty (Nosy Crow £6.99, 8-11) is about the struggle of an 11-year-old carer who is starting secondary school and wants to run like Usain Bolt. With a rich and diverse cast, it sings.
A multiple prize-winning hit in Wegelius’s native Sweden, this extraordinary book acquires a passport full of stamps – Portugal, Egypt, India, Greece – as it masterfully juggles skulduggery and malaria, accordion-making and aeronautics, fado and pastries, police corruption and at least two love stories. To say anything more would spoil what is a rare treat: a book you want to thrust into the hands of children and adults alike.
said Ktty Empire of The Murderer’s Ape (Pushkin £16.99) by Jakob Wegelius in her roundup of older children’s fiction in Sunday’s Observer….
Sunday Times Children’s Book Of The Year
For the Sunday Times, Nicolette Jones chose Katherine Rundell’s The Explorer as her lead Children’s Book of the Year calling it “an honourable successor to Eva Ibbotson’s great novel Journey To The Sea.”
Rundell also had another title listed. Amongst the recommendation for 5-8 year olds was One Christmas Wish
Some other titles common between this and the choices of contributors to ACHUKA’s Best Reads of 2017 feature were Hilary McKay’s Fairy Tales and Kevin Crossley-Holland’s Norse Myths…
While I was busy compiling the ACHUKA Best We’ve Read In 2017 feature, there were some weekend roundups I haven’t posted links to yet.
First up Imogen Russell Williams, having also picked some illustrated highlights for TLS (see this previous post), made her across-the-ages selections for The Guardian…
How good to see the TLS giving some space to children’s books and this piece by Imogen Russell Williams, in which she picks out and makes enthralling commentary on the best illustrated books of the year, is a cut or two above most seasonal roundups.
As introduction she warns overzealous parents, “A frequent casualty of the utilitarian focus on advancement and sheer length is illustration, and the reader’s respect for it. The children told “You’re too old for picture books” are not only banished abruptly from an enchanted kingdom. They are also held back from winkling out images’ stored secrets of detail, and from learning the artist’s language of window-frame, colour, light, shade, emphasis, the single line that communicates mood, or loss, or season – everything we mean by “visual literacy”. Sophisticated, demanding concepts may also be communicated, via illustration, to readers unable or unwilling as yet to parse the complex language required.”
I pick out just one of the books she recommends, to give a flavour of the quality of her commentary:
While illustrated books for teenagers remain sadly scarce, the best young adult literature is reinvigorating tired tropes, scrutinizing and dissecting cliché and demanding its readers’ alert attention. In Nick Lake’s Satellite(Hachette), a timeworn science fiction scenario is brought back to full brightness, aiming its tight-beamed questions with the intensity of borrowed light. The narrator, Leo, a child born in space, and his companions, Orion and Libra, are almost due, at fifteen, to come to Earth for the first time – a “home” they have never seen or set foot on. Living all his life in the orbiting space station Moon 2, Leo has longed for years to meet his grandfather, and to achieve the familial closeness his mother – an astronaut who occasionally visits – has never offered. The green-blue beauty of the distant planet, however, heralds danger as well as welcome – and conceals some shattering secrets. The book’s depiction of an Earth both familiar and strange (and a satellite in which engineered sterility is pervaded by tenderness), its thrilling, audaciously unlikely denouement, and its ethical and philosophical conundrums are all communicated via Leo’s truncated, syncopated diction. While not as rebarbative as that of Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker, this voice is initially startling, even irritating – gradually, however, it reveals itself as the perfect means of signalling an existence analogous to that of its earth-bound counterparts, but inevitably and perpetually different. Leo’s care to note mots justes throughout also focuses the reader’s mind on both language’s power and its shortcomings – as when he first sees a sleeping puppy on his grandfather’s ranch:
i stand & stare, just stare, at this little black-&white shape, knotted on itself, only 1 ear visible, chest rising & falling as it breathes. It makes me think of the word compact & it makes me think of the word perfect & it makes me think of the word life.
Here’s a list of the other books she recommends. Follow the link for the full piece (highly advised):