Friday, 8 November 2013

Books for Girls: 7-11

I worked in publishing for a decade, the last few years editing children's books (which I loved!), so when I got pregnant you know I was hoping to share my love of books (and huge library!) with my first-born. Luckily for me, she too was a bookworm. However, when her little sister came along a few years later, I found myself with what can best be described as a Reluctant Reader.

Not being quite able to accept that there are people on this earth who don't love books as much as I do, I made it my mission to try to dig out titles that would win her over. We've had varying degrees of success and I'm sure there are those of you out there with the same dilemma (judging by how many times I've been asked for recommendations!), so here's a little round-up of some our recent successes. Depending on the kid, these books would probably be most suitable for the 7-11 age range, and all have strong boy characters too. I think they would be enjoyed by both boys and girls, but as I only have girls, I can't vouch for that!

Our all-time favourite: The Whizz-Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders. (And, joy of joys, we just discovered the sequel, The Curse of the Chocolate Phoenix, two days ago and are already on Chapter 4: hurrah for Kate Saunders!)

These books follow the adventures of London twins Lily and Oz. Their father's ancestors were famous chocolate-makers as well as clever sorcerers and when they move into the old family home (with the old, boarded-up chocolate shop downstairs), Lily and Oz find themselves drafted in by the SMU (Secret Ministry of the Unexplained) to help uncover a plot to steal an old recipe for some very magical and very dangerous chocolate. The plot is fast-paced, but easy to follow, with likeable characters and fantastical settings. Saunders writes with wit and charm and is great at building suspense. We had trouble stopping at bedtime each night, and that is about as good a recommendation as I can give! These stories also lend themselves perfectly to being read out loud.

We are also huge fans of Enid Blyton's Malory Towers series. When the girls were younger, I read the entire series (all 12 books!) to them out loud. It took us a year, but we were all a little bereft when we finished the last one, although I think I was the only one who cried! Ha! So, I was happy to discover a modern writer writing in the same vein. Helen Moss has really captured the Blyton spirit of adventure in her Adventure Island series. We started with The Mystery of the Whistling Caves and if you like this exciting tale of stolen treasure in Cornwall, there are 11 others (with more on the way) to gobble up.

Both my daughters have always loved history and so The Mystery of Wickworth Manor by Elen Caldecott ticked an extra box there. It is set in the present day and follows Paige and Curtis, who are on a school trip to a stately home. Curtis finds an old portrait in the attic and he and Paige have to put aside their differences if they want to solve the mystery of who the boy in the painting is and why his story has been kept a secret for over 200 years. Caldecott manages to deftly weave the history of the slave trade into a story that also tackles how it feels to be at the cusp of moving from primary to secondary school. She writes engagingly on issues that kids worry about, and her characters feel genuine.

My final offering for today is in a slightly different vein, but one that might just get your child reading. They are calling them graphic novels now, but for all intents and purposes, they are cartoons! I am a huge fan of anything that gets a kid to open a book and am not remotely snobby about what they read. I figure as long as they are reading something, that something will lead to another something and they will find their own way into the rich world of literature.

Jimmy Gownley's Amelia Rules! series is "highly recommended for all ages" by the Library Journal and judging by the wide age-span of kids that have told me they love Amelia, I have to agree. Here's what the critics are saying about them:  "delightfully drawn", "comic genius", "full of heartbreak, humor and high drama", "honest" and "poignant" as well as "side-splittingly hilarious". These are all-encompassing tales of what it's really like to be a kid nowadays. What can I add, but "Buy them!"

That's it for today, but I have another whole round-up for this age group to come, which I'll publish before Christmas in case you need some good gift ideas, as well as some suggestions for the 5-8 age group. And if you have any books that your kids loved, I'd love to hear about them!

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