Category Archives: Children

Dennis, H.L.: The Power of Three (Secret Breakers) (2012)

the power of three
Cover art by Richard Collingridge

I see some reviewers feel The Power of Three ought to be a Young Adult book while others think it is children’s literature. Personally, I consider The Power of Three a children’s story for children over 8-years-old.

Adults often underestimate children and young adults. I hear some of us talking to them as if they were stupid. Others, like crazy old Mr. Smithies, realize that the only thing children lack is experience. Sometimes even the dodgy old Black Chamber is able to think outside the box.

Being part of an undercover group means that not a single person outside of that group is supposed to know what you do. Mr. Smithies is lucky to be married to Mrs. Smithies. We never really learn if she would like to know what he does, but she seems to be perfectly happy to send him off to work.

Brodie is not quite so lucky. She seems to be an orphan. We learn that her mother is definitely dead. Her father could be dead too or maybe he is just off somewhere. Brodie does have her grandfather and lives with him when the mysterious card arrives, the card that ends up making her a member of England’s Black Chamber and Team Veritas.

Early on in the novel it becomes apparent that heredity plays a part in Brodie being chosenfor the job. All three children are descendants of other code-crackers who have had a go at the Voynich manuscript. I wonder if perhaps trying to crack the Voynich manuscript had something to do with the car-accident that killed Brodie’s mother?

Secret Breakers has the feel of James Bond for children/YAs. Dennis manages to bring a flair and tension to the story that belongs in a spy thriller. Brodie’s character is likable. In fact, all of the characters are likeable in one way or another, and most of them are a bit crazy. I think you have to be kind of crazy to want to work in a super-secretive environment with a document that no one has been able to decipher for years and years.


You should visit Helen Dennis’ website for Secret Breakers to read about the research behind the Secret Breakers and other interesting information.



If you want to join a Black Chamber, you can go here.

Bunn, Christopher: The Wicked Day (The Tormay Trilogy) (2011)

Cover art by Alexey Aparin

The Wicked Day is Christopher Bunn‘s conclusion to The Tormay Trilogy. As this trilogy is a serial it would be wise to read The Hawk and His Boy first, then The Shadow at the Gate and finally The Wicked Day.

There are times when I find myself wholeheartedly able to recommend books for children. There are a couple of criteria I feel they need to fulfill. Violence and love stories have to be within certain parameters. Morals and ethics should be discussed without the discussion being obvious. (I like that in adult novels as well) Preachy authors are a pain. The flow of the written language should be such that I like the feel of reading to a child. I realise not every person in the world understands what I mean by that, but I would assume that a fellow autistically traited person would. It is all about word-texture.

Bunn fulfills all of these criteria in his Tormay Trilogy. The plot itself is pretty basic – light battles darkness/light almost loses/light prevails. I guess when life is boiled down to its most basic ingredients, life for humans is pretty much about the battle between light and darkness. One of the things I liked about this trilogy is Bunn letting us see that a person can contain both light and dark. We are not wholly one or the other.

Bunn’s characters are likeable. The story of Jute and his companions is continued. Not everything that happens in the novel is happy but there is an ending that brings the story to a conclusion. I have enjoyed my experience with the world of Christopher Bunn.

Bunn, Christopher: The Shadow at the Gate (The Tormay Trilogy) (2010)

Cover art by Alexey Aparin

Once again Christopher Bunn manages to catch my interest with his characters in The Tormay Trilogy. In The Shadow at the Gate the battle between dark and light continues. As this is a serial, you will have to read The Hawk and His Boy first to make sense of the story. Ronan and Jute had their incident during a break-in in The Hawk and His Boy. Unexpectedly, the robbery goes awry for both Ronan and Jute. The intention behind using Ronan (the Knife) was to prevent Jute from ever talking about the job. But both Ronan and Jute had their lives turned upside-down during that robbery.

In The Shadow at the Gate Ronan is commanded by the Silentman to get Jute back, or else. Ronan goes after Jute. But Jute is not easy to find. He has hidden well realising his precarious position. The kid wants to live, voice in his head notwithstanding.

Levoreth Callas arrives at the castle with her aunt and uncle. She is slowly waking to the necessity of battling the Shadow. But discovering where the Shadow resides, and in whom it is residing, is going to take all she has.

All three characters have allies/helpers that both hinder and aid them in their quests. Dunn keeps a nice pace in his story and manages to make the novel interesting for both young and old. I have forgotten what it is to be ten years old. It would be interesting to hear what a ten-year-old would take from the story of young Jute and the rest of the gang.

Bunn, Christopher: The Hawk and His Boy (Tormay I) (2010)

Cover art by Alexey Aparin

Christopher Bunn begins the Tormay Trilogy with the tale about Jute and his unknown protector. Just who/what this protector is becomes clear in the first chapter of The Hawk and His Boy.

I usually compare myself with the characters of the books that I read. Are we very dissimilar? Is there anything in the story that resonates with me?

Another thing I do is try to figure out how likely the scenario is. Not the whole magic/supernatural thing, but the interaction between various characters. Is there any chance of people acting the way they do in the particular piece of literature I am reading? The answer to those questions determine how I view the author’s passion for her/his work.

Another very important factor for me is words. Are there many mistakes? Do I feel a lot of editing has gone into the novel? Does the author know how to move from word to sentence to paragraph to chapter (or the flow as I call it)?

My mother and father grew up under harsh circumstances. They have both seen how life can force people to commit desperate acts. Jute’s life at the time we meet him is wholly believable. His circumstances have made him a thief and a very good one at that. Unfortunately, being good at something can be dangerous for the expert. Chances are you might be “asked” to do something dangerous.

Jute did that dangerous deed and things went about as one would expect in a fantasy novel – not very well for him. But surprising things can get you out of trouble and into boiling water. That is where Jute ends up – over a very hot fire in a bubbling cauldron.

For Ronan the Knife his job with Jute makes him want to leave his business and change his life around. Is that even possible when your adult life has been spent doing a job that is guaranteed to make you enemies? We shall see.

The third character I want to mention is Levoreth Callas. She is a strange one. As it turns out she is even stranger than one might think.

So. What exactly resonated with me in The Hawk and His Boy? Jute’s character in general. His life is terrible (according to my standards), yet he retains his curiosity and optimism.

In Chapter 6 Bunn writes a scene that could have ended up in overkill, yet he manages the balance needed to keep on writer’s tight edge. Not always an easy thing to achieve.

Christopher’s passion for his work is easy to see in the way he puts his words together so carefully.

Larwood, Kieran: Freaks (2012)

Freaks cover

Freaks  is a mystery with some very unlikely detectives. Detectives who work in a freak-show are kind of visible wouldn’t you say? It must be difficult to blend in when necessary. But this novel occurs in the chaotic and messy London of the 1800s.

Sheba, the were-something (we don’t know at the beginning of the book exactly what she is) is the main attraction of the Grunchgrindle’s World of Curiosities at the end of Little Pilchton pier. One day a man (Plumpscuttle) buys her and the other attraction (a two-headed sheep) for his own show and takes her to London. There she and the other “freaks” of the show set up for the public every evening.

One evening a mud-lark named Till manages to sneak in and befriend Sheba. When Till goes missing her parents come to the show to ask for help. It turns out Till is not the only one who has disappeared on the mud-flats. Then one day, the gang gets a break in the case.

Freaks is a fun read. It has everything a 10-year old would like. The Monkeyboy likes to throw snot and earwax at the public, a ninja is part of the show and so are rats and a giant. London stinks terribly, there is a monster and the gang gets into strange and dangerous situations. Larwood has written a mystery with plenty of humor and action.

Kieran Larwood‘s daytime job is as a Reception class teacher at a Primary School. After working towards being published for quite a while, Freaks finally won The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2011 and publication was in the box.

Tolkien, J.R.R.: The Hobbit: There and Back Again (1937)

Cover art 1975 ed. by J.R.R. Tolkien

I wonder if I came to The Hobbit the same way everybody else has. First I read The Lord of The Rings. I loved it. Then I discovered that Tolkien had written other books and one of them was The Hobbit. I set out on a quest to go through all of his fantasy work. I should probably read some of Tolkien’s academical work as well, but alas. I have wondered at the sense of writing yet another review on the subject. Then I remember how much I liked The Hobbit and I think that there probably is room for another fan out there amongst the 1s and 0es.

David T. Wentzel 2nd ed. cover

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892 …. At the age of three his mother brought him and his younger brother, Hilary, back to England. Tolkien’s father died soon afterwards in South Africa …. When he was 12, Tolkien’s mother died, and he and his brother … lived with aunts and in boarding homes …. The young Tolkien … excelled in classical and modern languages … and began to create his own languages….

Tolkien wrote ‘A Middle English Vocabulary’, but it was not published until 1922 …. During this time he began serious work on creating languages that he imagined had been spoken by elves. The languages were based primarily on Finnish and Welsh. He also began his “Lost Tales” a mythic history of men, elves, and other creatures he created to provide context for his “Elvish” languages…

It was also during his years at Oxford that Tolkien would scribble an inexplicable note in a student’s exam book: “In a hole in the ground         there lived a Hobbit.” Curious as to what exactly a “Hobbit” was and why it should live in a hole, he began to build a story about a short creature who inhabited a world called Middle-earth. This grew into a story he told his children, and in 1936 a version of it came to the attention of the publishing firm of George Allen and Unwin.” (Tolkien biography, Tolkien Library)

Note:  On Thror’s map, east is up.

The Shire is an idyllic place to live. Middle-Earth’s rising problems have not yet impacted on the Hobbits living there, and they will not for quite some time. Bilbo Baggins is a seemingly average hobbit. Hobbits are shorter than humans, have furry feet (making foot-wear uncomfortable) and enjoy socializing. Bilbo lives contentedly in his hole in the ground on a hilltop.

Drumroll. Gandalf arrives. Thus far, The Hobbit has been a pleasant children’s tale, not really giving warning of anything nasty about to come. Gandalf is one of the very certain pointers to dangerous things coming one’s way. To begin with Gandalf’s visit is fairly pleasant. But then 13 dwarves appear, for some reason with the belief that Bilbo is supposed to be one of their party searching for the Lonely Mountains and the treasure of the dwarves. After a lot of convincing by Gandalf, both parties decide to give the adventure together a shot.

If you think children should only meet pleasantness, this is probably a good place to end the story. What comes after entails quite a bit of unpleasantness. But the unpleasantness is presented in such a manner that a child would probably want their parent to keep on reading (and you as a parent would want to keep on reading yourself). The Hobbit is certainly not only a children’s tale. It is very much for adults as well. But please do not try to analyze the book. Tolkien himself said that The Hobbit was what it was – no allegories or hidden messages were intended.

Riddles in the Dark by Alan Lee

I’m not really sure how much to reveal. This is a story that is about to be blown open by the movie industry. But until then, it might only be fair to the reader to keep some things under wrap. Tolkien introduces us to the mythology of England through The Hobbit. I’m certain his children loved the way Tolkien made English mythology so accessible for them. Through The Hobbit and The Lord of Rings we as an audience get to know old English beliefs about the world of the fantastic.

On his journey with the dwarves, Bilbo meets trolls. As a Norwegian I am very familiar with the troll myth. Trolls aren’t cute little key-chain trolls that you can get at souvenir stores. They are ugly, large and quite often stupid. Unfortunately for most of the people they meet, trolls are also capable of smelling their victims and finding them wherever they are. But there is one advantage to be had over trolls, and that is sunlight. They turn to stone if even a ray hits them.

Gandalf introduces Bilbo to Beorn by Michael Hague

Shape-shifters, on the other hand, are not a common Norwegian myth. Bilbo gets to meet one of them, in the shape of Beorn. As you might guess from the name, Beorn’s other shape is a bear and he is a fierce fighter. He is wary of strangers, but once he takes to you, he is willing to go to great lengths to help you.

The Arkenstone by Michael Hague

The other non-humans that the gang of 15 meets are elves, who are good for a given definition of good. Some of the baddies are wargs (great big hulking wolves), goblins (tend to want to eat you) and Smaug the dragon. Smaugs lair is where the treasure is (otherwise The Hobbit wouldn’t be as fun). Smaug is who we see on the cover above.

As Gandalf had predicted at the beginning of the book, Bilbo would not remain the same person as he went through his adventures. And this prediction comes true. A very changed hobbit meets us at the end of the book. He has discovered that he is capable of a lot more than he had thought possible. And if we absolutely have to look for a moral to this story, I guess that is as good as any. We are capable of more than we think is possible.

——————————–

AWARDS

1938: New York Herald Tribune Children’s Spring Book Festival Award.


For all of you Hobbit-nutters out there, you can now get the Latin version of the book. See Middle-Earth News for information.


Adaptations

Film

1966: A 12-minute film of cartoon stills by Gene Deitch.

1977: an animated version by Rankin/Bass. Nominated for Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. I’ve seen this several times on national TV and quite like it.

2012: planned release of film-version of the first installation in a three-part story by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and New Line Cinema. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; The Hobbit: There and Back Again.

Awards

1978: Romeo Muller won a Peabody Award for his teleplay for the Rankin/Bass The Hobbit.


Stage

1953: First stage production by St. Margaret’s School, Edinburgh. Several others have followed later.

1986: The Hobbit (A Musical) was produced for the stage by Khandallah Arts Theatre in Wellington, New Zealand.

2001: The Atlantic Theatre Festival in Wolfville, Nova Scotia is presenting a production of The Hobbit.

2012: The Hobbit returns to The Maverick Theater in Fullerton, California.


Radio

1968: Radio-adaptation in eight parts for BBC Radio4 by Michael Kilgarriff. Was released on audio cassette in 1988 and on CD in 1997.


Comics

1989: three-part comic-book adaptation by Chuck Dixon and Sean Deming and illustrated by David Wenzel. Published by Eclipse Comics.


Games

1982The Hobbit, by Beam Software and published by Melbourne House. A copy of the novel was included in each game package.

1999: ME Games Ltd. was offered the licence to run Middle-Earth Play by Mail, an ongoing team-game based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

2012: The Hobbit: Boardgame by Fantasy Flight Games.

Awards:

1983: The Hobbit (Beam Software) won the Golden Joystick Award for Strategy Game of the Year in 1983.

1995-1999: Fellows of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design awarded the Origin Awards: Best On-going PBM Game: Middle Earth PBM Fourth Age (Game Systems).

1999: ME Games PBM was inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design’s Hall of Fame.


SOURCES:

Hill, Craig: September 13 1916 Children’s author Roald Dahl is born (2012)

Roald Dahl was an amazing author. My children have adored him, especially my youngest. We have all of his audiobooks. An amazing man.

Craig Hill

On September 13th 1916, Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and James and the Giant Peach (1961), was born in South Wales.

Dahl’s childhood was filled with tragedy. His father and sister died when Dahl was three, and he was later brutally abused at his boarding school.

After high school, he traveled widely, joining an expedition to Newfoundland and later working in Tanzania.

In World War II, he joined the Royal Air Force and became a fighter pilot. He flew missions in Libya, Greece, and Syria, and was shot down in the Libyan desert, suffering serious injuries. (He saved a piece of his femur, removed in an operation after the accident, and later used it as a paperweight in his office.)

After he recovered, Dahl was sent to Washington, D.C., as an attachÝ. There, the writer C.S. Forester suggested he write about his war experiences…

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Colfer, Eoin: Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl II
Artist: cat-cat (Catherine Wu)

I started reading Artemis Fowl  to my oldest son until he got into the whole reading thing himself. Once there, he took over and went through the books below. After I’d thoroughly brainwashed him, I set out to do the same with my youngest – first by reading to him and then through audiobooks. Audiobooks are a miracle for dyslectics. A dyslectic brain is just as brilliant as any other brain, it’s just the whole sorting letters into the right order thing that baffles them. Needless to say, I managed to convert my youngest as well. You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m a fan of Eoin Colfer’s creation of the less than legal character of Artemis.

Artemis Fowl II is the main character of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series. Artemis is a teenage criminal mastermind on the lookout for enough gold to restore his family fortune. He considers himself fairly wicked, but as the series progresses we see that there is plenty of good deeds to balance the bad. My kids loved all of the tricks he played on both his friends and enemies. We have not read it yet, but the conclusion to the series was released in July 2012 – The Last Guardian.

ARTEMIS FOWL (2001)Young Readers Choice Award 2004

Artemis Fowl Chinese cover
Chinese cover

Eoin Colfer begins our journey into the world of Artemis Fowl II in the novel Artemis Fowl. Some of the characters we meet will appear in all of the novels while some of them we’ll only see in a few of them. His faithful bodyguard, Butler is one of the characters that will appear again and again.

Artemis is 12 years old. His father is an Irish crime lord, Artemis Fowl, who has disappeared. Through research Artemis thinks he can prove the existence of faeries and when he tracks down The Book of the People he has his proof.

Artemis decodes the book – only natural for someone of his genius – and travels the world looking for locations for a magic-restoring ritual. They discover and capture Captain Holly Short who is out restoring her magic. Holly is then brought to Fowl mansions. The faeries are not pleased with Artemis and sends a crack team (LEP) to recover her.


A graphic novel adaptation was released in 2007. A film adaptation was reported to be in the writing stage in mid-2008, with Jim Sheridan directing.


AWARDS:

  • W. H. Smith Book Award
  • British Book Award
  • Whitbread Book of the Year Award: Shortlist
  • Lancashire County Library Children’s Book Award: Shortlist
  • Bisto Book of the Year: Shortlist
  • New York Times Best-Selling Series
  • Massachusetts Children’s Book Award Master List (2003)
  • Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon Award (2001)
  • New York Times Best-seller
  • Publishers Weekly Best-seller
  • Texas Lone Star Reading List (2002-2003)
  • Book Sense Best-seller
  • USA Today Best-seller
  • ALA Popular Paperback for Young Adults (2002)
  • Garden State Teen Book Award (2004)

THE ARCTIC INCIDENT (2002)

Disney; Reissue edition (April 27, 2010)

In The Arctic Incident, Artemis is a year older (13). We once again meet Butler, Captain Holly Short and Commander Julius Root.

Artemis is set up to take the blame for supplying contraband to goblins. When Artemis and Butler defeat the real baddy, the LEP decides to help Artemis recover his father from the Russian mafia. The rescue group is ambushed by goblins.

It becomes apparent that Opal Koboi of Koboi laboratories is involved somehow, leaving it to Artemis and Holly to figure out how to save the day – both for Artemis’ father and the LEP.


A graphic novel adaptation was released in 2009.


Book Magazine Best Book of the Year 2002


THE ETERNITY CODE (2003)

Cover art by Rowein

The story in Eternity Code happens shortly after the Arctic Incident. While Artemis has changed somewhat since the first book, he still loves to scheme and steal from the fairies. Artemis has created a supercomputer which he calls the “C-Cube”. It gets stolen and in the process Butler is killed. However, Artemis comes to rescue – along with a bit of fairy magic.

Artemis convinces the fairies to help him recover the Cube and they agree – but with one condition. Artemis is to be left with no memory of the fairy world.

THE OPAL DECEPTION (2005)

“Opal Koboi and her assistant” by Jisuk Cho

Our lovely Opal Koboi (from The Arctic Incident) has gotten away from the asylum where she was being held by the LEP.

She then sets out to revenge herself on Commander Root, Captain Short, Artemis and Butler.

Holly is desperate for help and turns to Artemis – against the wishes of the LEP. The only problem is that Artemis is left with no memory of the fairy world.

While Artemis likes to think of himself as someone who chooses to do bad, it turns out he is a softy after all. He is still full of trouble and deviousness, but it is difficult to come out of reading the book and not liking Artemis. Mulch provides all the laughs a kid could need.

THE LOST COLONY (2006)

“The Lost Colony” by Tanya Roberts

Artemis and Butler are demonhunting. He is somehow able to predict when a demon materializes. This comes to the attention of our trusted Foaly. This brings Holly and Mulch (who now have their own PI business) into the story.

In the meantime, there is trouble on Hybras (demon island where time is nonexistent). However, it seems that the spell holding Hybras in stasis is fraying and an answer to the problem is needed. Bullying is a favorite pastime, and No1 is one of the victims. He is convinced to come to the human world.

Right now, its glaringly obvious that everyone is going to meet – probably with a huge bang somewhere. The Artemis series does have a habit of loads of action and humor. Thankfully Colfer is keeping up the good work.

THE TIME PARADOX (2008)

The Time Paradox by Brittany

When Artemis’ mom contracts a fatal disease, Artemis turns to the fairies for help. Unfortunately the only cure to the disease is through the silky sefaka lemur of Madagascar. It is extinct. The last specimen was killed 8 years ago with the help of Artemis. Talk about the past coming back to haunt you.

Through lies and deception, Artemis gets the fairies to help him time travel. The goal is to save the lemur – hopefully for good. Holly and Artemis go back in time and need to avoid their younger selves.

Everything has a price, so too Artemis’ lies to Holly. Colfer portrays this rather well. He also brings up the issue of the cost of abusing our environment. I find myself wanting to preach here, but The Time Paradox does a much better job of illustrating the issue.

THE ATLANTIS COMPLEX (2010)

Cover art by iesnoth

One of the consequences of The Time Paradox is that Artemis is left with a clearer sense of responsibility toward the environment.

When Artemis unveils the Ice Cube – an invention to stop global warming – the fairies discover that Artemis has developed something called Atlantis Complex (including OCD, paranoia and split personality). Artemis has a break-down during the presentation. Holly and Mulch are left taking care of things, while Artemis is dealing with his episode.

In the meantime, Butler is on an adventure in Mexico. Artemis tricked into travelling to help Butler’s sister. Turns out it was a good thing after all.

Byng, Georgia: Molly Moon

Molly Moon is a delightful character. I started reading her adventures to my son, and he fell in love with the series. Molly Moon is for children, but as an adult reading to my child I had fun.

We read them in Norwegian, but Byng is an English writing author. Molly Moon is a young orphan who discovers her incredible ability with hypnosis. With this gift, she improves the living conditions at her orphanage, controls her bullies and makes her life a little better. As she moves along in the series, Molly discovers that she has an enemy who is out to best her. She gets to travel in time, both backwards and forwards. During these travels she has the assistance of her two faithful (for the most part) friends: the dog Petula and the boy Rocky.

Our translation was a good one. The various translators have done a good job in making the Molly Moon adventures exiting and funny. We laughed a lot and I was forced to finish the scary parts before I could put the book down. My son did not have to work hard to convince me.

Tolkien, J.R.R.: Letters From Father Christmas (1999)

Letters From Father Christmas is a gem from J.R.R. Tolkien. I have Letters as an audiobook. Derek Jacobi reads Father Christmas’ voice, John Moffatt reads Polar Bear’s voice and Christian Rodska reads Ilbereth’s voice.

“In these letters, Father Christmas kept the Tolkien children updated with stories about the hijinks at the North Pole – the slapsticky North Polar Bear and all the things he broke, firework explosions, the discovery of ancient caves full of old cave drawings, and battles with the goblins. (When Father Christmas couldn’t write, his Elvish secretary filled in).

Tolkien’s old-school style of writing is a bit formal and very correct, but he tosses in comments of exasperation, amusement, and in the last letter, a sort of sad resignation that children will grow up. Maybe it is because they were given to real children, not intended for publication, that the letters are only a little cutesy, and never cloying.”

A delightful read and completely unlike anything else that I have read by Tolkien. His love for his children and grand-children shows throughout the writing.

J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter

While I’m dealing with guilty parties, I might as well tell you about author no. 2 that helped my other son love reading.

Harry Potter by Tsulala

I have to say that I was prejudiced against the Harry Potter books. They were so hyped up, I felt that I would only be disappointed if I read one of them (silly thing these emotions). Then I borrowed “Philosopher’s Stone” from a neighbor. Ha, ha was I ever surprised. I actually liked this little awkward boy trying to fit in and find friends along with mastering his strange ability.

My oldest son has no reading disorder, but by the time he was 10 his teacher was a bit worried. He read poorly, she felt. For some reason I wasn’t worried. I knew what to look for, and he displayed none of the symptoms of dyslexia, so I just figured he was a late reader.

We started reading “Philosopher’s Stone”. He loved it. Then we went on to “Chamber of Secrets” and “Prisoner of Azkaban”. When we got to “Goblet of Fire”, he felt I was too slow and irregular in my reading to him. He picked up the book himself, finished it and the first three in less than three months. After that he devoured books. I have plenty of them and buy and borrow new ones all the time.

All it took was his impatience and an excellent author to open up his reading door. So, thank you to Joanne Rowling as well.

Keene, Carolyn: Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew: Out of This World by sunni-sideup

My son was about 8 when I started reading our old Nancy Drew books to him. Keene’s books were a great help in getting him to a point where he started reading himself. Being dyslexic, this was not an easy point for him to get to.

Our Nancy Drew books were from the 1950’s and on. Part of the appeal laid in the formal language (the way we used to talk here in Norway) and in the fact that a lot of our books had belonged to his grandparents. In addition, the plots are simple and the characters never change. Nancy is always around 16-18, Ned is her boyfriend and George and Bess her best friends. This never-changing world made it easier for him to stay tuned to what was going on.

I think he was about 11/12 when he finished his first Nancy Drew. Since then, he finished all of the ones that we had and went on to other literary adventures.

So, a big THANK YOU to all of the Carolyn Keene authors. You have made a huge contribution in helping a boy with dyslexia learn to love reading.

Gaiman, Neil: The Graveyard Book (2008)

Graveyard Book McKean 2.jpg
Bod in the graveyard. Art By Dave McKean

Neil Gaiman is another of my favorite authors. Each story I have read has captivated me. The Graveyard Book flows and left me with a sense of having enjoyed something wonderful. His texts lend themselves to being read out loud, and they would be fun and interesting for both reader and readee. However, reading to yourself is just as enjoyable. This is a Children’s story, but it is definitely not for the very young. Perhaps at least 8 years old due to some of the violence.

Nobody, or Bod as he is called, is a loveable boy. He’s completely believable and the characters around him are fascinating. I love his “mom” and “dad”. What a place to grow up and what friends to have. Like any kid, Bod accepts the world around him just as it is. His unusual childhood prepares him for whatever comes his way. I wish I could be more like him. Accepting people for what they are rather than what I think they are would be an incredible gift.


The Graveyard Book is available in four versions:

  1. The children’s version, illustrated by Chris Riddell;
  2. The adult version, illustrated by Dave McKean and
  3. The slipcased edition, illustrated by Dave McKean.
  4. Read by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book won the Newbery Medal, Hugo Award for Best Novel, Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel and the Carnegie Medal for 2009. It was also nominated for the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel and World Fantasy Award for Best Novel for 2009.

Boyne, John: The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas (2006)

The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas is a book that all children ought to read, preferably in company with an adult so they can understand the topic better. The Holocaust has been described and fictionalized time and time again. However, there are some topics that can never be delved into enough.

This novel is about 9-year-old Bruno, a German boy who has no idea of the times he is living in. He just realises that times are changing, and not in a manner that he prefers. Then his father, the handsome Commandant, is commanded to go to a dreadful place with his family. Bruno is struggling to understand why Out-With has a fenced-in area where there are many people walking around in striped pyjamas. On his side of the fence people are dressed in uniform or regular clothing.

One day, while exploring along the fence, Bruno meets a friend – Shmuel. He is thinner than Bruno but that is the only difference Bruno can see. Bruno understands enough that he keeps the friendship secret, but has no understanding of what is going on.

The ending was perfect and the last words of the author were: “Of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age.” Sadly humans have not learned and we and them thinking continues.


Winner of the:

  • Irish Book Award Children’s Book of the Year
  • Irish Book Award People’s Choice Book of the Year
  • Bisto Book of the Year
  • Que Leer Award Best International Novel of the Year (Spain)
  • Orange Prize Readers Group Book of the Year

Nominated for the:

  • British Book Award
  • Border’s New Voices Award
  • Ottaker’s Children’s Book Prize
  • Paolo Ungari Literary Award (Italy)
  • Irish Book Award – Irish Novel of the Year Award
  • Leeds Book Award
  • North-East Book Award
  • Berkshire Book Award
  • Sheffield Book Award
  • Lancashire Book Award
  • Prix Farniente (Belgium)
  • Flemish Young Readers Award
  • Independent Booksellers Book of the Year
  • Deutschen Jugend Literatur Preis (Germany)

2008 filmadaptation by Mark Herman

The movie has won several awards