Review policy

I am very happy to review any novel that fits in with the theme of this blog: novels aimed at 9-14 year olds, preferably with a fantasy/ speculative world setting. However, I will make clear in the review that I was sent the book by the publisher and I will write my honest opinion. Please feel free to contact me via Twitter or Facebook, or fantasticreads at gmail dot com.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Buzzing about books

The Booktrust Bookbuzz list has just been announced. This is a list aimed at Year 7 children who have just started Secondary school. Children from participating schools can order a book from the list; the aim is to encourage children to read for pleasure. I'm delighted that Stephanie Burgis's A Most Improper Magyk is on the list; I reviewed it here.

Image: nosycrow.com

Christopher Edge's Twelve Minutes to Midnight is another favourite on this list. At the end of the 19th century, thirteen year old Penelope Tredwell has inherited the Penny Dreadful magazine, whose fortunes she has revived through her macabre Gothic stories, written under the name of Montgomery Flinch. Unfortunately she has been almost too successful; her public are longing for a glimpse of the author, so she hires a shambolic, unsuccessful actor to play him. After a public reading, she and "Flinch" are asked to visit Bedlam, where the strange behaviour of the patients has alarmed the doctors: at twelve minutes to midnight, they all start to write compulsively. Penny and her friend Alfie investigate, and the solving mystery involves famous names, deadly spiders and a wonderfully compelling female villain.

This was a fabulous, exciting read for 10+. I'd recommend it to fans of Philip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke and sequels; like Sally Lockhart, Penny is brave and resourceful, and it has a pleasing classic Victorian adventure-mystery feel. In a Twitter conversation about Sally Lockhart, Matt Finch said that what he liked about the books was that Sally can be a "kick ass" heroine without having a stupid boy as a foil, and I liked that about Penny, as well. Penny doesn't have to disenfranchise Alfie to be a strong agent; it's a book that I would happily recommend to boys as well as girls.

A word about Nosy Crow: I am so impressed by the consistently high quality of their list. I have not yet read one of their list that I didn't enjoy. Wonderful books for all ages.

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