Review: Dragon Detective: Catnapped! by Gareth P Jones

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This is a wonderfully entertaining MG crime caper with a perfectly realised film noir feel and a liberal dose of sly humour. It’s one of those books that adult readers will gain as much enjoyment from as their young audience.

Anyone who has ever watched an old black and white private detective film will immediately recognise the familiar tropes outlined on the first page; a detective with his feet up on the desk of his unkempt office with smoke unfurling from his nostrils. Turn the page and you discover that Dirk Dilly has actually exhaled that smoke because he is a dragon! To be precise: an urban-dwelling, green-bellied, red-backed mountain dragon. 

Business is clearly less than brisk, so, uncharacteristically Dirk agrees to take on a case from 11 year-old Holly Bigsby whose cat Willow has gone missing. As Dirk begins his investigations he realises that the case is far greater than just one missing cat and involves a dastardly plan to wipe out more than just the feline population.

There are so many enjoyable aspects to this story:

 

  • The relationship that develops between friendless Holly Bigsby and outwardly cynical but soft on the inside, Dirk.

 

  • The snortingly-hilarious interaction between crooks Arthur Holt “ the brains” and Reg Norman “the muscle”. The pseudo-intellectual explanatory excuses invented by Arthur of his medical reasons for never being able to help out with the dirty work will have you honking with laughter! “I am unable to participate in any physical activity on account of a rare condition that I concocted in Africa. That is why I am the brains.” being just one example.

 

  • The seamless blending of a dragon detective, who only occassionally disguises himself with a raincoat and hat, with everyday life in modern London. Dirk is able to get around unseen by hopping across the rooftops because Londoners never look up from their screens, and if they do they just end up squabbling with each other rather than focussing on the observation of a mythical creature.

 

  • The sibling rivalry demonstrated by the dragon brothers, Leon and Mali, in the Kinghorns gang mirroring the behaviour of the human crooks.

 

  • Finally, Dirk’s landlady Mrs Klingerflim “blind as a bat. And madder than a badger”,  taking over the mantle of top fictional landlady from Mrs Hudson of 221b Baker Street.

With its short chapters, a plot that crackles with snappy dialogue and fast-moving action, and imaginatively constructed characters I think this book will appeal equally to boys and girls of 8 years plus. Both human and dragon characters come alive in a tale laced with humour and heart and interesting questions are raised about the identity of the real villains; megalomaniac dragons or neglectful, ambitious, political parents!

Review: Eco Rangers Wildfire Rescue by Candice Lemon-Scott

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I was extremely fortunate and grateful to be invited to the first bloggers event hosted by the lovely people at New Frontier Publishing, and amongst the wonderful books they gave me was the third Eco Rangers adventure. I decided to read and review this book first as I know how that it will be grasped by eager hands as soon as I take it into school! Wildfire Rescue was written before the start of the wildfires that devastated much of Australia at the end of 2019/beginning of 2020, the timing of its publication brings home the damage caused in an accessible way to primary school children.

Twelve year old Ebony and her best friend eleven year old Jay commence this story searching for injured animals in the bush land on the edge of town. As they make their way through the charred and blackened scrub there is still an orange glow in the sky and the smell of smoke lingering in the air from the recent conflagration, accompanied by an eerie silence due to the lack of birds and insect life.  They discover a ringtail possum, with blackened, burned feet. Remembering all the care techniques that they have been taught by the vets at the wildlife centre they carefully wrap the injured animal in a sheet and cool its paws with the contents of their water bottles. As they race to the animal hospital, their sharp eyes spot signs that someone has been using the campsite which is supposed to be closed during the fire season!

Throughout the rest of the story you just have to marvel at the care and kindness demonstrated by Ebony and Jay to the injured animal and to the mystery campers whom they discover. The author makes clear the danger to both humans and animals caused by wildfires, and also the remarkable ability of the landscape to recover.

Once again Candice Lemon-Scott imbues her story with a love of the environment and provides 10 tips for budding Eco Rangers at the end of the book. Wildfire Rescue will help educate children about the natural hazards faced in Australia as well as introducing them to a lesser-known Australian animal, the ringtail possum. I expect this book to be hugely popular with all children aged 7+ who love to discover new information about the natural world and be simultaneously entertained by a gentle adventure.

 

I am most grateful to New Frontier Publishing for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review: The House of Hidden Wonders by Sharon Gosling

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Starting with a kinetic chase through the crowded, threatening streets of 19th century Old Town Edinburgh this story gripped me by the throat and would not let go until I had finished. You are immediately made aware that the brave main protagonist, Zinnie, will confront any danger, whether it be the authorities who would break up her “family” or cruel, underworld, criminal Bartholemew Talbot, in order to protect her younger “sisters”, Sadie and Nell. Zinnie has escaped the horrors of an orphanage and despite her tender years will fiercely defend anyone in her care from a similar fate.

The juxtaposition of Old Town Edinburgh with its twisting, dangerous alleyways and criminal underbelly and the elegant, chandelier-strewn mansions of New Town only half-a-mile away is a recurring theme in the story. Zinnie begins to move between the two extremes as she finds herself in the employ of a young medical student who relies on her knowledge of the streets for information. He is none other than Arthur Conan Doyle! Through him Zinnie enters the sumptuous home of wealthy Lady Sarah Montague, a widow who defies convention by travelling on expeditions to far flung corners of the world and who becomes an admirer of Zinnie’s indefatigable spirit.

The precisely-plotted mystery features ghostly apparitions, corpses appearing in the medical school with their ears removed, the sinister MacDuff who plans to open the eponymous House of Hidden Wonders on George Street and a varied cast of street villains. The real location of  Mary King’s Close, the dark, disease-ridden ruins of former tenements which are abandoned by all but ghosts and beggars, are so powerfully described that you find yourself hunched and shivering as you read these passages. In contrast, the kindness and care offered by Sophia Jex-Blake, the first female to open a medical practice in Scotland casts a ray of hope over the story.

I don’t want to reveal any more details about the plot for fear of giving away any spoilers, but I was utterly enthralled from beginning to end. I think this book would be perfect for children in the summer term of Year 6 at primary school, or Year 7 at secondary school, as I know that many KS3 reading lists feature the Sherlock Holmes titles. The author, Sharon Gosling, has conjured a story which is thoroughly entertaining in its own right and provides an excellent precursor to the novels of Arthur Conan Doyle, giving a glimpse into his future career and showing a model for the Baker Street Irregulars often employed by his pipe-smoking detective. Finally I loved the subtle reflection here on the true meaning of family and the spotlight on strong females who were unafraid to break the conventions of their age.

 

I received an e_ARC of this book from #NetGalley and Little Tiger UK in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Highland Falcon Thief by MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman

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In an increasingly frantic world, sometimes you just have to pause, sink back into a comfortable seat, load up with snacks and drinks and completely immerse yourself in the luxury of a great book. This story majestically transports the reader on an opulent train journey around Britain in the company of celebrities and aristocracy, a jewel thief, five samoyeds and two intrepid young detectives.

Written jointly by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman, it serves up a package of heist adventure wrapped in a delicate tissue of beautifully observed social drama. The two young protagonists Hal and Lenny are beautifully written and complement each other perfectly as a pair of young investigators and such is the detailed rendering of The Highland Falcon that the train becomes a character in its own right. I loved the subtle gender role-reversal which gave Hal the role of observer and Lenny (Marlene Singh, stowaway daughter of the engine driver) the role of engineer and action hero.

We first meet Hal as he is being reluctantly handed over to his uncle’s care whilst his parents head to the hospital for the birth of a new sibling. Uncle Nat is the famous travel writer Nathaniel Bradshaw and presents Hal with the golden opportunity of accompanying him on the final journey of famous steam train The Highland Falcon as it embarks on its  four-day, royal tour of Britain. The guest list for this valedictory tour is redolent of many famous fictional train adventures – royalty, boorish, self-made tycoon, European aristocracy, tremendously wealthy and eccentric old-English landowner and accompanying servant, and railway employees.  

The presence of a jewel thief operating in the moneyed society of London is flagged in the newspapers being handed out at the station, and before the train is a day into its journey, the bullied wife of entrepreneur Steven Pickle and the Countess of Arundel have both reported missing items of jewellery. When the Prince and Princess join the train from Balmoral, the Princess’s priceless diamond necklace is the next target. Hal and Lenny decide that they will unmask the thief, and as they are transported on their journey of discovery, peppered with clues and false leads they develop a friendship based on trust, loyalty and bravery.

There are so many appealing elements to this story apart from its elegantly constructed plot. The technical detailing of the steam engine, combined with sumptuous descriptions of the British landscape delight and educate the reader. Uncle Nat is a character who appears to have hidden depths which I hope will be explored in future stories. Whilst the clever construction of Hal observing every detail with an artist’s eye and sketching out the scenes in his notebook in order to solve the crime is brilliantly brought to life by Elisa Paganelli’s magnificent illustrations. 

I imagine that this book is likely to have very broad appeal to a middle-grade audience, and it is a delight to read as an adult, in my case evoking the feel of such classics as Murder on the Orient Express or Strangers on a Train, but without the murder element. The first few pages of the second Adventures on Trains story are included at the end – I will certainly be pre-booking my ticket to ride the California Comet!

 

I am most grateful to Toppsta.com and Macmillan Children’s Publishing for sending me a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

Top Marks for Murder by Robin Stevens

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The penultimate Detective Society mystery sees our intrepid duo, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, return to Deepdean School after an absence of several months, to find that the school hierarchy has shifted sufficiently to disturb their equilibrium.

They are welcomed with delight by their dorm-mates and additional society members Beanie, Kitty and Lavinia, but much to Daisy’s consternation she is no longer the darling of the school. That position has been claimed by new arrival Amina El Maghrabi, for whom Daisy’s former acolytes cannot perform any service too small. Understandably, Daisy is sent into a moody depression by this turn of events whilst trying to maintain her customary appearance of nonchalance. However, she cannot hide her true mindset from loyal and kind Hazel, who recognises that Daisy needs school to remain constant as she struggles with her personal feelings, and does everything in her power to cheer Daisy’s mood. 

With the tension building as the 50th Anniversary Weekend celebrations approach, when Daisy and Hazel’s parents will be conspicuously absent, it is almost a relief for the girls to find themselves once more in the midst of a murder investigation! This time the very survival of Deepdean School for Girls depends on their sleuthing abilities.

On the Friday morning of the celebratory weekend Beanie witnesses a man appearing to strangle a woman on the crest of a distant hill. By the time she summons the other girls to the dorm window, the suspect is nowhere to be seen and the usual school subterfuges have to be employed to enable a Detective Society investigation. The adventure is afoot, and the chain of events that follows held me gripped until the end.

I don’t want to say any more about the engrossingly complex plot for fear of giving away any clues or plot spoilers. However, once again Robin Stevens has crafted an entertaining murder mystery, filled with vibrant characters, false leads and subtle clues. I read in an article that Robin Stevens got the idea for the initial murder scene whilst sitting waiting for a train at Bath Spa and gazing at the hillside in the distance. I sat on that same platform many times as a student (a very long time ago) which makes this particular book even more special to me!

I also love that enclosed within the highly entertaining detective story we are given an insight into the personal challenges facing the main protagonists. Daisy’s family has been torn apart by the scandal that took centre stage in Arsenic for Tea and she has suffered a blow to her self-esteem as her prestige at school has been tarnished. Hazel is also coming to terms with her family’s behaviour and scandal recounted in A Spoonful of Murder. Beanie has suddenly grown into her intellect and has to cope with family illness, Lavinia must get used to her new-found status as a tennis ace and her Dad’s brash girlfriend, and Kitty is suffering the teenage plight of owning “embarrassing” parents and an irritating younger sister! All of these issues are handled sensitively by the author, in a way that is likely to spark recognition and reassurance amongst her readership.

As a series of books to “read for pleasure” from the age of roughly 9+ I highly recommend the Murder Most Unladylike series. They have entertained a member of my own family right through primary school and she is already looking forward to the final book which will be published shortly after GCSEs end this summer. You can read my short reviews of the earlier books in the MMU series here.

Attack of the Smart Speakers by Tom McLaughlin

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“Holy guacamole with a side order of Yikes!” 

How can three young supergeeks fight off an army of eight-legged, data-hungry machines?

 

With incredible timing this book hit the top of my TBR stack in the week that Ofcom announced that over a quarter of young children now use a smart speaker in their home. Tom McLaughin’s laugh out loud “Accidental” books are already hugely popular with children, and this latest title is hugely entertaining with a useful reminder about online safety issues. 

Tyler Fitz has recently moved to Happyville, a suspiciously upbeat town where  “cute” rules. In the school social structure of Alphas, Wannabes, Perfectos, Nerds & Teachers, she has teamed up with two fellow geeks; Dylan and Ashley. They spend most of their free time hanging out in their clubhouse, a silver caravan parked in Tyler’s back garden, where they discuss maths problems and watching Antiques Goldmine!

As they watch their favourite TV programme they are constantly interrupted by advertisements for Nova the smart speaker that “no-one should be without.” Ashley admits that she already owns seven of them – purely for research purposes as she tries to exploit their AI potential and even as they sit in the clubhouse a drone delivers one that Tyler‘s father has ordered.

Both Tyler and Dylan are very sceptical about the smart speakers both expressing their views that a computer should not know more about you than you know yourself. When it becomes apparent that the smart speakers know substantial amounts of their personal information, obviously mined from other sources, both Dylan and Tyler decide to investigate. Ashley, in the meantime, has become brainwashed!

This highly illustrated chapter book zips along at a great pace with plenty of comic set pieces and smart dialogue to entertain children of 7 years and above.  Newly confident readers will find it a joy to read alone, but it would also make an interesting class read in conjunction with online safety lessons in the Primary School Computing curriculum. It is a hilarious cautionary tale about the risks of over-sharing personal information and failing to read the Terms & Conditions when using any social media. I will be reading it aloud in my school library this week to tie in with Safer Internet Day. The image of eight-legged smart speakers scuttling about like robot spiders spying on an entire town’s inhabitants and controlling their actions is a great metaphor for the surveillance age.

 

I am most grateful to OUP Children’s Publishing for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review: Fantastically Feminist Non-fiction by Anna Doherty

Ada Lovelace by Anna Doherty

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This is the second utterly fantastic non-fiction publication that I have read by Anna Doherty. This time her subject is the fantastically feminist and totally true story of the mathematician extraordinaire Ada Lovelace.

Firstly, the book is a beautifully produced hardcover. The colour palette of lime green, black, white and grey looks stunning and as you open the book the endpapers are decorated with all the tools of a mathematician’s trade. Next you encounter an illustrated family tree of Ada Lovelace’s family alongside the two people who probably had the greatest influence on her life; Mary Somerville the Scottish mathematician and astronomer who acted as Ada’s maths tutor and Charles Babbage the foremost mathematician and inventor of the time.

As you might expect from a non-fiction book where the subject is one of our foremost mathematicians, the story is told in a strictly logical chronological order starting with Ada‘s mother taking the very brave step of leaving Ada’s unfaithful father,  the famous poet Lord Byron, and setting off with baby Ava to start a new life together. You learn that the mother Annabella doesn’t want Ada to grow up poetic and eccentric like her father and therefore decides to educate her in mathematics and science. This was extremely unusual for the nineteenth century, where if girls received any education it would be in the arts not the sciences.

I think that Anna Doherty‘s drawing style, with its almost collage style, does an amazing job of bringing to life the ideas fizzing through Ada’s imagination and really portraying so clearly her love of learning. It fully illustrates the way that she explored everything that she was learning about and tried to make practical applications out of her mathematical and scientific knowledge. The other great thing about this book is that the author puts into context how unusual Ada and her upbringing were for the time period of the 19th century. It’s made very clear that young ladies were not supposed to be educated in science or mathematics and that the society ladies amongst whom Ada and her mother socialised were quite scandalised at the unladylike behaviour of Ada. We learn that Ada was taken by her maths tutor Mary Somerville  to a party hosted by a very famous engineer of the time, Charles Babbage. He had invented a calculating machine which was known as the analytical engine. When Ada was asked to translate a paper written about the analytical engine by an Italian engineer she added her own notes showing that she realised that this analytical engine could be used for things other than just mathematical calculation. As she described in theory what could be done with a machine like this she was in fact describing the invention of the computer. Hence she is now regarded as the prophet of the computing age.

I think that this incredible book should be sitting in every school classroom and school library. I hope it will inspire all children to realise that they should not  be defined by their circumstances or their surroundings. The power of the imagination is clearly shown to have immense power, and when coupled with an interest in STEM subjects can lead to major breakthroughs in technology.

Ada Lovelace day is celebrated on the second Tuesday in October each year, to honour Ada and all the women who work in science technology engineering and maths careers and to inspire the next generation of young scientists and mathematicians. This book will be an invaluable resource for that occasion as well as a general reminder of the importance of determination and lifelong learning.

I borrowed this book from my local public library, but will be adding it to my school library shopping list immediately!

 

The Brontës by Anna Doherty

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Here is another wonderful work of non-fiction written and illustrated by Anna Doherty, to tell the story of the Bronte sisters and their extended family.

It follows a straightforward timeline of their lives; each page contains just a few paragraphs of text alongside brilliantly quirky illustrations in muted shades of green, brown and black. The book begins by highlighting the unusual decision of their father, the Rev Patrick Bronte, to spend money educating his daughters. Fans of English Literature owe him an enormous debt! We learn of the tragic deaths of the two eldest Bronte sisters, following severe illnesses caught at their dreadful school, and how their subsequent home education fired the imaginations of Charlotte, Emily and Anne. I am sure it will come as a surprise for children to learn how difficult it was for females to publish books and that the sisters had to use pseudonyms initially. The summaries of their published work at the end are likely to pique the curiosity of future readers of these novels.  

 

A highly informative and enjoyable book to grace the non-fiction shelves of any library, likely to be appreciated by anyone over the age of 10. 

Review: Patina written by Jason Reynolds

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The second book in the “Run” series by Jason Reynolds is in my opinion, even better than the first book, Ghost, which I also loved.. 

This time the story focuses on Patina (Patty) who projects a surface sheen of cool coping to conceal the boiling anguish inside. Patty is the fastest 800m runner on  the track team, needing to win at all costs as she pushes through life with an almost unimaginable weight on her young shoulders. As her tragic family history is revealed I found my heart breaking at the thought of this teenager trying to contain the unimaginable pain of losing her beloved father to an early death followed by watching her mother develop “the sugar” (diabetes), necessitating radical amputations. Patty’s care for Maddy, her younger sister, and the guardianship provided by her exhausted aunt and uncle are described with gentle domestic details making you realise that this family is held together by self-sacrificing love. 

Before I give the impression that this is a misery-fest, I ought to say that such is the power of Jason Reynolds’ writing, he can combine heartfelt emotion with zinging humour and contemporary teenage put-downs. His style segues from trackside banter to poetic descriptions like an elite athlete moving up through the gears. The short chapters and kinetic writing, power you through the story at a pace The Defenders track team would be proud of!

Patty has had to move schools, joining the elite Chester Academy which is closer to her aunt’s house, where she feels like an imposter amongst the rich kid “hair-flippers”. The description of her doing laps of the cafeteria whilst eating her lunch because she has nobody to sit with will tug at your heart strings. 

The athletics track is the venue for Patty to release her anguish, and where she has to win. Here she pushes her legs until they are screaming with pain, feeling that she is running with four legs: her own and her mum’s missing ones. The scenes where she develops teamwork and understanding with her new relay team are both hilarious and touching; the reliance on everyone performing their role reflecting Patty’s domestic situation. Imagery of the baton of care and responsibility being passed from one family member to another permeates the story, so that we see the extended family unit functioning like a well-coached team of athletes, each member stepping up as another exhausts their role. 

This is a book which will live long in my heart and I don’t mind admitting that at one point I “cried me a flood”. I cannot recommend it highly enough as a thoroughly gripping story to add to your “read-for-empathy” collections for anyone of 10+.

 

Review: Mickey and the Animal Spies written by Anne Miller

 

As a lifelong fan of detective/mystery/spy fiction I understand how an exciting, fast-paced, engaging story can turn a child into an enthusiastic reader. This first book in a new MG series, by debut children’s author, Anne Miller combines a smart, code-cracking girl with a secret animal organisation in a plot to solve a spate of diamond thefts! It is a wonderful new addition to the treasury of engaging children’s fiction.

Michaela R Thompson (Mickey) Is determined to follow in the footsteps of her hero, the super spy Hildegarde L McTavish. To this end, she is hanging upside down from the gymnasium balance beam when we first encounter her, in order to “look at the world from an unusual angle!” Mickey loves codes of all types: morse code, ciphers and even naval signalling flags and is always on the lookout for opportunities to practise code-cracking. Encountering a coded message written on a scrap of paper on the bus home from school, Mickey deciphers it and finds herself recruited by a top secret and extremely unusual organisation!

Mickey has stumbled upon COBRA, not the Cabinet Office B that meets in times of national crisis, but a secret animal organisation established many years previously “to protect the country’s animals in ways humans cannot comprehend.” As befits this imaginative book, the head of COBRA is of course an enormous cobra named Coby. Other members of the High Committee include Clarke, the most incredibly aloof, dismissive and sarcastic cat; a nervous giraffe security guard Bertie; Astrid the spider monkey who takes care of international affairs; Rupert the highly intelligent leader of a team of rats and the office temp, Tilda ( a sloth). This intrepid band of animal agents is lacking one thing – opposable thumbs, hence their requirement for a human agent!

A succession of diamond thefts from high profile pet owners has COBRA facing a deadly challenge, can they track down the master criminal behind the heists and protect the pampered pets of the celebrities from coming to harm? And why are these pets so reluctant to provide any information? Will Mickey ever be able to prove her worth to severely unimpressed Clarke?

You will find the answers to these puzzles in this zany adventure, but don’t be fooled by the red herrings!

I loved Mickey’s intelligent and determined character and the intriguing camouflage methods used by the animals to travel incognito around London. I was also highly amused by the concept of COBRA sending messages by b-mail, with robins being the most reliable bird. In my own mind I consider this to be a nod to Robin Stevens, the queen of detective fiction for the MG market.

This book is an utter joy to read, with its fast-paced, imaginative plot, driven along by short snappy chapters. The idea of a secret service agency run by animals seems completely feasible due to the skilful writing of Anne Miller, and the black and white illustrations by Becka Moor (who has worked on many children’s books) are a perfect complement to the text. The explanations of Mickey’s code-breaking techniques will be fascinating to children, and are a nice introduction to cyber security which is touched on in the primary school computing curriculum. 

 

I think this book will be perfect for early Key Stage 2 readers, who have enjoyed animal-themed stories by Dick King-Smith and Jill Tomlinson, the Daisy stories by Kes Gray, the Clarice Bean chapter books and Scoop McLaren, but are not yet ready for Ruby Redfort, Murder Most Unladylike or Alex Rider. It will introduce young readers to the excitement of young spy/detective stories and give them a new hero to root for. I do hope that there will be further titles in this series as I can’t wait to discover what plots Mickey uncovers next.

Anne Miller is a scriptwriter and researcher for QI and the Head Researcher for Radio 4’s The Museum of Curiosity. Mickey and the Animal Spies is her first book for children.

 

I am grateful to OUP Children’s Publishing and Liz Scott for sending me a review copy of this book and the artwork posted here, created by experienced children’s book illustrator Becka Moor, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: Awesomely Austen, Pride and Prejudice rewritten by Katherine Woodfine, illustrated by Églantine Ceulemans

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I was a little apprehensive when I heard that Jane Austen’s novels were being rewritten for a younger audience, but Katherine Woodfine has totally honoured the original and this is an utterly glorious addition to any school library, classroom or home bookshelf, I will certainly be buying many copies as gifts! To see one of my all time favourite novels made accessible for an MG audience gladdens my heart.

Firstly, the beautifully produced hardback edition with lovely orange-coloured endpapers featuring the main characters tells you that this is a book to be treasured. The “delightful doodles” drawn by Églantine Ceulemans perfectly illustrate and add to the understanding of the story, with Elizabeth Bennet’s “fine eyes” directing the reader towards the action wherever she appears.

Katherine Woodfine has managed to capture the charm and vivacity of Jane Austen’s masterpiece; has preserved many of the most famous original lines; and maintained the personalities of the characters whilst rewriting to make this accessible to a younger audience. The extremely long and complex sentences of the original have been simplified and Elizabeth’s motivations and thoughts are made explicit to aid comprehension. I have been reading it with a group of Year 5 pupils (aged 9 and 10) in a library club, and they have been spellbound. It is interesting to see their reaction to the reality of the lives that were expected of females in the Regency period and their recognition of Elizabeth’s single-mindedness. 

For children who are reading this alone, there are explanatory notes about Regency England and portraits of the main characters accompanied by short biographies at the front of the book. Additionally the end notes by Katherine and Églantine, the short biography of Jane Austen and historical notes on 1813 will all help to contextualise the story.

The lightness of touch demonstrated in Katherine Woodfine’s writing brings the characters alive with their original personalities intact, despite the uncomplicated language. So you are left in no doubt of Jane’s sweetness, Elizabeth’s intelligence, Mary’s misguided pride in her accomplishments, Kitty and Lydia’s silliness, Mrs Bennet ’s obsessions and Mr Bennet’s sarcasm. I could go on, because there is little doubt that every character in Pride and Prejudice has an important part to play in the plot. The complexities of the social class structure and etiquette of the age are portrayed wonderfully and Lizzie’s mortification at her family’s behaviour whilst attending the Netherfield Ball gives a glimpse into the consequences of ignoring the social mores. I was delighted to find that my favourite scenes from the original were rendered with wit and verve and I congratulate the author and everyone concerned for turning a much beloved classic into such an enjoyable MG book.

Highly recommended for readers of 9+, who will hopefully have their appetite whetted to read the original when they reach secondary school.

 

I am most grateful to toppsta.com and Hachette Children’s Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.