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A Month of: Children’s Fiction – My Best Reads – War Horse

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

War_Horse

A very good, well written story, but incredibly sad. The strong emotional story line makes it a read for older children, rather than younger readers because of the subject matter alone. The story is well written and easy to follow for children, and is told wonderfully through the point of view of Joey, rather than his owners, as it is more in the recently made film.

Joey finds himself taken from his home farm and sold to the army to be taken to the Western Front during the First World War. Michael Morpurgo opens our eyes to an element of the war that tends to be overlooked – the role played by the thousands of horses taken into France. Here we see through Joey’s eyes the horrors of the front line in France in 1914 and onwards. But like the soldiers around Joey, we are in awe at his strength of character and courage.

Visit Michael Morpurgo’s beautiful website for more information on War Horse and his other novels at www.michaelmorpurgo.com

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A Month of: Children’s Fiction – My Best Reads – The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams

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This is a surprisingly charming debut novel by the Little Britain star, David Walliams. The Boy in the Dress has huge amounts of child appeal being charming and funny, with school life that children will be able to relate too. It is a heart-warming story of a boy who comes to school dressed as a girl and the reactions of his friends and family. Walliams takes a light-hearted approach to the subject matter which gives it it’s charming appeal.

A very good read, well written and with the help of wonderful illustrations from Quentin Blake. A thoroughly enjoyable read. Heart-warming and hilarious.

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A Month of: Children’s Fiction – My Best Reads – The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

wind in the willows

First published in 1908 it has enchanted its readers for over a century, and is still a strong and popular favourite to this day.

This is one of those books that I can never remember reading but always assumed I had because I knew the story so well. And I probably did read it as a child – I mean I must have done right? But anyway.

The Wind in the Willows is such a classic tale that everyone should have read it. It is so completely brilliant for adults and children alike. The story and the writing is so superb, it is a joy to read. You follow the glorious adventure of Mole, Ratty, Badger and Toad in this enchanting story. A real must. A sentimental British favourite and classic.

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A Month of: Children’s Fiction – My Best Reads – The Dead of Winter

The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley

death of winter

I’m not really a fan of horror. I read the occasional Stephen King or Dean Koontz but that’s about it, and I never ever watch anything even remotely spooky. But I was still surprised how much this book scared me.

It is seriously yet delightfully spooky for a children’s book. Priestley creates the spooky, creepy atmosphere so well, you feel your heart racing along with the main character’s. Every little detail is so well thought out and adds to the creation of a terrifying atmosphere – not an easy thing to do.

The story itself is exciting, and you want to rush through to the end to see how it all ends. You want to work out the mystery behind the desolate country house where Michael finds himself living after the death of his mother.

A great read, but perhaps not for younger readers, or at least for readers braver than me!!

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A Month of: Children’s Fiction – My Best Reads – Artemis Fowl

ArtemisFowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl is a billionaire, genius and criminal mastermind, and still at school.

A fantastic creation by Colfer. Well written and well paced, an interesting concept and a great and likeable anti-hero character in Artemis Fowl. Criminal mastermind yes, but we’re with him all the way, wanting to fight his corner, and well simply be as smart as he is.

A great read in its own right, and what’s better it’s one of many in a cracking series.

artemis fowl

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A Month Of: Children’s Fiction – My Best Reads – Roald Dahl

My ‘a month of’ best reads of children’s fiction would be incomplete without a mention to the great Roald Dahl. His stories are loved by children and adults alike through the world and many have been made into blockbuster movies.

Read as a child, I recently read a couple of Roald Dahl books again and I found that I loved them just as much, and they are one of many books I will be buying when we decide to start a family. They are simply a must for every child’s bookshelf. (Or you could borrow them from your local library).

Writing for children is notoriously difficult by Roald Dahl manages it with ease.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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This best loved story has come to the silver screen several times, but I haven’t read it for a long time, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact it’s much better than the movies. I’m not going to say much but I am going to quote one ‘song’ for Mike Teavee, of which I have already blogged, but it’s so great that’ll I’ll post it again.

The Song for Mike Teavee

‘The most important thing we’ve learned,

So far as children are concerned,

Them near your television set –Is never, NEVER, NEVER let

Or better still, just don’t install

The idiotic thing at all.

In almost every house we’ve been,

We’ve watched the gaping at the screen.

They loll and slop and lounge about,

And stare until their eyes pop out.

(Last week in someone’s place we saw

A dozen eyes on the floor.)

They sit and stare and stare and sit

Until they’re hypnotized by it,

Until they’re absolutely drunk

With all that shocking ghastly junk.

Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,

They don’t climb out the window sill,

They never fight or kick or punch,

They leave you free to cook the lunch

And wash the dishes in the sink –

But did you ever stop to think,

To wonder just exactly what

This does to your beloved tot?

IT ROTS THE SENSES IN THE HEAD!

IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!

IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!

IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND

HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND

A FANTASY, A FAIRYTALE!

HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!

HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!

HE CANNOT THINK – HE ONLY SEES!

“All right!” you’ll cry. “All right!” you’ll say,

What shall we do to entertain“

But if we take the set away,

Our darling children! Please explain!”

We’ll answer this by asking you,

“What used the darling ones to do?

How used they keep themselves contented

Before this monster was invented?”

Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?

We’ll say it very loud and slow:

THEY…USED…TO…READ! They’d READ and READ,

AND READ and READ, and then proceed

TO READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!

One half their lives was reading books!

The nursery shelves held books galore!

Books cluttered up the nursery floor!

And in the bedroom, by the bed,

More books were waiting to be read!

Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales

Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and hales

And treasure isles, and distant shores

Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,

And pirates wearing purple pants,

And sailing ships and elephants,

And cannibals crouching round the pot,

Stirring away at something hot.

(It smells so good what can it be?

Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)

The younger ones had Beatrix Potter

With Mr Tod, the dirty rotter,

And squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland

And Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and –

Just How The Camel Got His Hump,

And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,

And Mr Toad, and bless my soul,

There’s Mr Rat ad Mr Role –

Oh, books, what books they used to know,

Thos children living long ago!

So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,

Go throw your TV set away,

And in its place you can install

A lovely bookshelf with lots of books,

Ignoring all the dirty looks,

The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,

And children hitting you with sticks –

Fear not, because we promise you

That, in about a week or two

Of having nothing else to do,

They’ll now begin to feel the need

Of having something good to read.

And once they start – oh boy, oh joy!

You watch the slowly growing joy

That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen

They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen

In that ridiculous machine,

That nauseating, foul, unclean.

Repulsive television screen!

And later, each and every kid

Will love you more for what you did.

P.S. Regarding Mike Teaevee,

We very much regret that we

Shall simply have to wait and see

If we can get him back his height.

But if we can’t – it serves him right.’

George’s Marvellous Medicine

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Now I can’t remember actually reading this one as a child – I have got a feeling that I probably will have done but I couldn’t really remember. This is wonderfully silly. I loved reading this and found it very funny (and silly). This will definitely be super popular with children. A definite must if you love a silly, well-written read.

The BFG

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The BFG is one of my favorites. I love the way Dahl writes the BFG’s speech, and it is a lovely idea about the nature and origin of dreams. As a child when I read it I so wanted to be Sophie (not an orphan obviously) but being friends with someone wonderfully interesting as the BFG himself and being a part of his strange world and helping him collect dreams. Simply wonderful.

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A Month of: Children’s Fiction – My Best Reads

As mentioned yesterday, the start of May heralds a new ‘a month of’ blog theme, which is of course today. My theme for the month of May being ‘best reads for children’.

His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman

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The Northern Lights

The Subtle Knife

The Amber Spyglass

This trilogy is wonderful and well deserves its place as number three (third only to the equally brilliant The Lord of the Rings, but somewhat disappointingly to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice) in 2003’s BBC Big Read as voted by the public.

[Somewhat controversial in the States, perhaps primarily due to its anti-religious tone, the series has done well in Britain.]

Some children’s books can be read equally as enthusiastically by adults and by children – this series is most definitely one of them. With its complexity and depth of levels and layers the books are a treasure trove of thoughts and ideas worthy for discussion for any book club, all wrapped up in the seemingly innocent world of a children’s adventure.

For kids there’s likeable kids characters, in Lyra and Will rebellious and brave, there’s adventure and peril, and there’s the discovery of friendship and loyalty. [Whilst being dark enough for adults to appreciate.]

I would recommend this read for older children – each book is pretty long as children’s books go and there is some very real peril which younger children may find disturbing, and who may find the story line too complex to follow or appreciate.

As for boys or girls, I think that Philip Pullman has managed to create a series which both girls and boys can equally enjoy: the developing friendship between Lyra and Will and the central character predominantly a girl, set against intense peril and battle scenes and fantasy world (and death).

I would give the entire series, which in my opinion gets better and better as the trilogy progresses, a well deserved and rare [for me to give] 5/5.

Simply brilliant. Pullman’s genius to create these worlds is outstanding.

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