Suggested/Reading List for boys (from The Guardian) 1. Alex Rider

Suggested/Reading List for boys (from The Guardian)
1. Alex Rider Anthony Horowitz's series about a 14-year-old boy recruited by the British secret service has
proved phenomenally popular: there are nine novels, from 2000's Stormbreaker to Scorpia Rising, released last
March, suitable for readers aged around 10 and over; a number of spinoff short-story collections; a film; and a
video game. "Definitely my No 1," says Ainsworth.
2. Harry Potter No list would be complete without JK Rowling's much-loved novels about a teenage wizard
battling the evil Voldemort, while getting to grips with Quidditch, strange spells and first love. Their addictive
qualities are likely to have young boys (and girls, of course) wanting to devour all seven in a row, quickly
putting them ahead in the competition.
3. Young Bond Covering similar ground to Alex Rider, Charlie Higson's books – suitable for ages 10 and over
— act as a compelling prequel to Ian Fleming's Bond series: here, we meet Bond as a 13-year-old at Eton in the
1930s. "007 should certainly give Harry a run for his money" was the verdict of Observer associate editor
Robert McCrum on the second book, Blood Fever.
4. Horrid Henry Younger boys will love Francesca Simon's series about a perpetually naughty young boy and
his butter-wouldn't-melt brother, Perfect Peter. Though unpopular in Simon's native US, over here we might
even be permitted to call them a phenomenon: 20 books, a number of joke books, a series for early readers, a
film, a stage show and a CITV cartoon series.
5. Flat Stanley This classic children's book, written in 1964 by Jeff Brown, tells the decidedly surreal tale of a
boy named Stanley Lambchop who is flattened in the night by a collapsed pin-board. He makes the best of the
situation by using his newly flattened state to slide into locked rooms, be used as a kite, and even posted in a
letterbox. "A lot of boys of seven to nine are still not reading very well," Ainsworth says. "This book is really
likely to engage them."
6. Artemis Fowl The anti-hero of Irish author Eoin Colfer's seven novels (the last is due out this summer) is
like the Blofeld to Higson's Bond: a teenage criminal mastermind named Artemis Fowl II. "This is in the solid
nine-12 years category," says Ainsworth.
7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid Boys aged seven and up will relate to American author Jeff Kinney's tales about a
hopelessly uncool boy named Gregory. There are six books in the series, which originated on the website, where it scored 20m hits over five years. "My own boys loved these books," Ainsworth says.
8. Captain Underpants In Dav Pilkey's series of amusingly illustrated novels, two primary-school boys
accidentally hypnotise their headteacher, turning him into the eponymous superhero. Exuberant fun for younger
9. The Cherub series Bestselling author Robert Muchamore became the subject of controversy last October,
when a north London junior school cancelled his scheduled visit, citing a number of complaints from parents
about the challenging subject matter of his books about a group of orphaned teenage spies (anyone sensing a
pattern here?). "I always call it the EastEnders test – that broadly speaking nothing happens in my books that
doesn't happen in an episode of EastEnders," Muchamore said in response.
10. Holes Louis Sachar's award-winning 1998 novel about a 13-year-old boy named Stanley Yelnats, sent to
the juvenile detention centre Camp Green Lake after being wrongly accused of stealing a pair of shoes, will
appeal to boys of 10 and over.
10 Minutes Till Bedtime by Peggy Rathmann (Puffin, £4.99)
Ten minutes is a lifetime when you are little and almost anything can happen. It certainly does in this surreal,
almost wordless tale in which, as the countdown to bedtime begins, the house is invaded by a busload of
hamsters arriving for the bedtime tour. They get everywhere, from the bathroom to bedroom. The great thing
about this funny, odd little book is that it is so matter of fact in the way it presents a skewed reality. Neatly
bridging the gap between reality and dream worlds, this book may encourage children to make a connection
between their dream lives and their waking lives. At the very least, it will make them laugh and help them learn
to count backwards from 10. The drawings are like detailed cartoons, busy and full of perceptive little touches
that make this as enjoyable for adults as it is for children.
Daisy and the Beastie by Jane Simmons (Orchard, £4.99)
When Daisy the Duck's grandpa reads her and little Pip a story about the Beastie, Daisy is determined to find
the Beastie for herself on their own farm. So it's off to the chickens to see if the Beastie is lurking there, and
down to the barn in case the Beastie is with the cows and the sheep. But it turns out there is something nasty in
the woodshed. Simmons's vivid picture book knows that it is the beasties you can't see that are the most
frightening, and it soothes small fears by revealing the terrible, fearsome beastie to be two playful kittens.
Cynical adults will know that this alliance between beak and claw cannot last into adulthood but children fall
for this gentle story without fail. Best of all, the pictures have a direct quality that cleverly captures the intensity
of the world as experienced through young, not-yet-jaded eyes.
Spot Bakes a Cake by Eric Hill (Puffin, £4.99)
Originally written for his own small son, Eric Hill's collection of lift-the-flap books never date as they tell of
the adventures of the loveable little dog that rates in the nation's consciousness along with the Andrex puppy.
But the Andrex puppy can't help you learn to read. The great thing about these big, bold books is that they bear
repeated readings and introduce the very young to new situations and experiences such as going to school,
going to a party, staying overnight and going to the circus.
Meg and Mog by Helen Nicholl and Jan Pienkowski (Puffin, £4.99)
There remains something very stylish and attractive about these extremely simple books about a witch and her
cat that is always getting into scrapes. The text is kept to a minimum and for lots of children it is the few words
in these books that become the very first that they read.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Puffin, £4.99)
It is almost 30 years since Carle's wondrous book first appeared but it is still a marvellous thing, never bettered
in the age of the pop-up and the cut-away. The life cycle of the butterfly is recounted in the very simplest terms
using bold blocks of colour and minimal language as the caterpillar emerges from the egg and nibbles his way
through the pages. This is a colour book, a counting book, a days of the week book and a nature lesson. It is
transforming in every sense from the final triumphant emergence of the butterfly to the finger-sized holes in the
pages that demand exploration by tiny hands. A book that is quite crucial to happiness.
The Baby's Catalogue by Janet and Alan Ahlberg (Puffin, £4.99)
The lives of six babies (including a set of twins) living in five different families are dissected under various
headings such as Mums and Dads, Baths and Bedtimes, Shopping and Dinners and Accidents (falling down the
toilet, feeding your birthday cake to the dog). In effect it is a book of lists, but all the paraphernalia surrounding
a small child's life is detailed with wit and affection. For a small child it is like looking in the mirror and seeing
a reflection of a life that is both recognisable but also less ordinary. Peepo (Puffin, £4.99) is a variation on these
themes set during the last war.
Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Puffin, £4.99)
"In this book/With your little eye/Take a look/And play I spy..." A delectable little book with a poem on each
page that gives a clue to the characters from a well-known fairytale or nursery rhyme hiding in the picture
opposite. Encourages eagle eyes as the stories of Tom Thumb, the Three Bears, Cinderella and others become
joined in a seamless thread of nonsense.
We're Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
(Walker, £4.99)
In fact you'll be going on it very frequently once this book joins your library. Rosen's version of the old familiar
game has a comic slant as a family set off on a imaginary bear hunt, find a real one and get chased back home.
The language is delightful to small mouths, all swishy swashy, squelch squerch and hooo wooo, and the
chanting rhythm completely infectious. Oxenbury's lovely watercolours add to the effect. Not just a book for
sharing but one for acting out with the whole family.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Collins Picture
Lions, £5.99)
Quite possibly one of the best books ever written. Sendak's story about Max who gets into mischief and is sent
to his room and who "sails through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the
wild things are" is a masterpiece of the subconscious. The anger of the child who longs to eat up the mother
who calls him "a wild thing" creates the monsters who despite roaring their terrible roars are rather benign
figures totally under Max's domination. This is a book about the terrible frightening storm of anger that wells
up in the breast of the two-year-old and the warm safety of home and a good hot dinner when "the wild
rumpus" is finally over. No home with children should be without it.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr (Collins, £4.99)
Just as Sophie and her mum are settling down to tea, the doorbell rings and an uninvited guest arrives. One of
the comic joys of this book is the sang-froid with which Sophie and her mum accept the tiger as if they are
perfectly used to having dangerous beasts roaming the kitchen, eating all the food in the fridge and drinking all
the water out of the taps. All the better if it means Sophie can't have a bath and the family has to go out for
supper in a cafe. A really delightful, friendly book. Just like the tiger.
Can't You Sleep Little Bear? by Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth
(Walker, £9.99)
Little Bear is frightened of the dark. At bedtime he can't sleep, not even with the Biggest Lantern of Them All
at his bedside. But fortunately Big Bear finds an ingenious way to reassure him. Beautifully written story that
dispels all fear of the dark with captivating drawings that display the kind of wit that keep adult interest even
after many readings. Well Done, Little Bear in which Little Bear demonstrates all the clever things he can do
and falls in the river is the latest in a series that now runs to four books.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr
(Puffin, £4.99)
Another brilliantly simple book that works on the "I Spy" principle as animals in bright colours spot their
friends. Good for chanting, learning colours and animals.
The Elephant and the Bad Baby by Elfrida Vipont and Raymond
Briggs (Puffin, £4.99)
Runner up for the Guardian Award this is a really beautiful little book in which an elephant and a bad baby
wreak havoc as they embark on a glorious chase through town.
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell (Puffin, £4.99)
When a small boy writes to the zoo to ask for a pet he isn't offered many suitable candidates. Lift the flap and
you'll get a surprise too. Delightful book for the very young.
Strange Bear by Hilary McKay (Hodder, £4.99)
Simon is a toddler who loves his teddy bear, Snowtop, whose fur is covered in jam, paint and sand. Mum and
Gran are not so keen. So Gran takes him out for the afternoon, and on their return a Strange Bear is waiting for
Simon. That night they go on a Snowtop hunt. The story works on two levels, so it is satisfying both for adults
which will enjoy the throwaway humour and small children who know the importance of your own special
teddy with his own special smell.
Isabel's Noisy Tummy by David McKee (Red Fox, £4.50)
Isabel has a noisy tummy. Nothing can stop it burbling and gurgling. Isabel gets embarrassed and her friends
get the giggles. But, on a school visit to the zoo, Isabel's roaring tum saves the day. Very sharp modern
drawings combine with tummy humour to make this a winner.
Five Minutes' Peace by Jill Murphy (Walker, £4.99)
Mrs Large is desperate for just five minutes to herself. But everywhere she goes in the house the children
follow her. Murphy's lovely, witty books about an elephant family show situations recognisable to every child
and every mother who has ever wanted her own five minutes of peace.
Spot Goes to School by Eric Hill (Puffin, £3.99)
Engaging series of brightly coloured lift the flap books that tell of the everyday adventures of a small puppy
and his menagerie of friends. Very good for early word recognition.
Coming To Tea by Sarah Garland (Puffin, £4.50)
Garland takes familiar events in a toddler's life such as having friends to tea, going swimming or doing the
washing and turns them into mini-aga sagas. The humorous illustrations make these good books to share and
talk about.
Maisy Goes to Playschool by Lucy Cousins (Walker, £7.99)
One in a best selling series about a loveable little mouse who does all the things a toddler would do. The
drawings have a flat, childlike quality that small children find appealing and they love the sturdy pull the tab
and lift the flap elements.
Mog and Bunny by Judith Kerr (Collins, £9.99)
Consistently good series of books about a cat called Mog and the family with whom she lives. Everyday tales of
family life made special by Kerr's sympathetic storytelling.
Nice Work, Little Wolf by Hilda Offen (Puffin, £4.99)
When Little Wolf fell into the Porker's cucumber frame, he was forced to work hard to make up for it. But one
day he gets his own back. Smarties award winner that will delight any child who knows that wolves and pigs
are one bad combination.
Mr Archimedes' Bath by Pamela Allen (Puffin, £4.99)
Science comes easily to tots with this story in which the animals wonder where all the water has come from
when Mr Archimedes' bath overflows. Everyone takes turns getting in and out until they discover who is
responsible for the mess.
I Hate School, by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross (Anderson Press
Buy I Hate School at the Guardian bookshopHonor Brown hates school, the worms the dinner ladies feed them,
the smelly sand-pit, the killer sharks in the water tray. But what do you know? Come the end of year six, she is
in tears at the thought of leaving. For all who are starting school this week, and for their parents who need a
Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells (Picture Corgi, £4.99)
It is impossible not to fall in love with Max the tearaway toddler rabbit who gives his rather bossy big sister
Ruby a pretty hard time. Max causes mayhem in the kitchen when Ruby decides to make a cake for grandma's
birthday, and gets to have his cake and eat it in the shape of red hot marshmallow squirters for his earthworm
surprise cake. It is very simple, smart and sassy and the shopping lists get even the very young reading.
Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Patrick Benson
(Walker, £4.99)
Dealing in a really imaginative way with the idea of separation from the mum you really love, this is a
wonderful book that makes you feel cosy just to think about it. Benson's illustrations have a wonderful
expressive quality.
A Squash and a Squeeze by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel
Scheffler (Mammoth, £4.99)
Endearingly dotty version of old English folk tale about a woman who thinks that her house is too small, and so
it proves when the farmyard animals turn up. The text is simple and silly and the illustrations capture the sense
of ordinary life gone mad.
The Big Big Sea by Martin Waddell , illustrated by Jennifer Eachus
(Walker, £4.99)
One of those intensely magical books in which words and pictures come together to create a portrait of the
world that is just a little bit different. It is a book about the importance of the very smallest things in life. A little
picture book with a big wild heart.
My Uncle is a Hunkle Says Clarice by Lauren Child (Orchard,
Lauren Child has burst exuberantly upon children's publishing with her funny daffy stories about Clarice Bean,
a small girl who is eight going on eighty-eighty and who lives in a very modern household that is always in
uproar. The latest has a ticklish title and is a ticklish book with Child's trademark hurdy gurdy mixture of
drawings, photos and clever typography - the words for driving to the hospital very fast are very squiggly.
Other delicious titles include Clarice Bean, That's Me and I Will Not Never Eat a Tomato.
The It-Doesn't Matter Suit by Sylvia Plath (Faber £3.99)
Only it matters a lot to Max, youngest of seven brothers residing in the town of Winkelburg, that he is the only
member of his family that hasn't got a suit. But when a mysterious parcel arrives and it turns out to be a mustard
yellow suit, Max is the last in line for a particularly special hand-me-down. Plath's book has a charming, deadpan humour that is matched by Rotraut Susanne Berner's illustrations.
The Sea-Thing Child by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Patrick Benson
(Walker, £10.99)
Russell Hoban's superb 30-year-old classic about the terrible power of nature seen through the sea and shoreline
and the eyes of the sea-thing child as he grows in experience and confidence. Patrick Benson's paintings
marvellously capture the immensity of the sea and sky.
Josie Smith in Summer by Magdalen Nabb (Collins, £3.99)
One in a jolly little series of nine books that tell of the adventures of the irrepressible Josie, her family and
friends. These books are not stunningly well-written or even particularly perceptive, but their charm is in their
depiction of everyday life, the perils and pleasures of friendship, the cares and concerns of Josie and her quirky
view of adult behaviour. Child-sized in every way and all the better for it, these are books for readers going solo
for the first time.
Rosie's Babies by Martin Waddell and Penny Dale (Walker, £4.50)
There are enchanting, highly detailed pastel pictures to accompany this story about four-year-old Rosie, trying
to get her mum's attention while she puts the baby to bed. Rosie tells her own stories about her babies, bear and
rabbit: how they make her cross, what she gives them to eat - apples, pears and grapes (but they do not like the
pips). This is a great insight into the egocentric world of the small child and a gentle and sympathetic account
of sibling rivalry.
The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss (Collins, £4.99)
We are in two minds about the world of Dr Seuss. We love the Cat in the Hat; we love it when The Cat in the
Hat Comes Back, even naughtier than before. He is such a character - like the mad, bad, wild creature that lurks
inside even the best behaved child - that you cannot help falling for him, even if the rhythm of the piece is
irritatingly train-like. It is the other Dr Seuss titles that give us a problem. Is there a child in the world who
really enjoys reading "I am Sam and Sam I am?" Sales suggest there are, but we bet it is parents anxious about
their children reading, not children, who demand these titles.
Dogger by Shirley Hughes (Collins, £4.99)
A good story told with empathy for what it feels like to lose your favourite teddy - or, in this case, Dogger, a
worn old dog that belongs to Dave. When Dave loses him at the school fete he only gets him back because of a
generous gesture by his big sister, Bella.
The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley (Walker,
An utterly magical picture book with rich, vividly coloured illustrations, friezes and borders that complement
Barber's simple, almost severe telling of the dramatic Cornish legend of Mowser the Cat and Tom, the old
fisherman, who brave the fury of the Great Storm Cat to save their village from starving.
The Children of Lir by Shelia MacGill-Callahan (Ragged Bears,
What are almost pre-Raphaelite pictures accompany this retelling of the legend of the children of the king of
Ireland who are turned into swans by their wicked stepmother. Writing and visuals set each other off to create a
rich story about the making and breaking of spells and the sorrow of exile. A book for sharing.
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs (Penguin, £9.99)
A classic story, told entirely without words, of the magical friendship between a boy and his frozen friend.
Actually much improved by not having to listen to Walking On Air while watching the story unfold. If you like
this, try The Bear - much the same except that the friend is furry.
Poems For the Very Young selected by Michael Rosen (Kingfisher,
An excellent collection to suit all tastes. Worth it alone for Jack Prelutsky's Spaghetti! Spaghetti! - the kind of
nourishing poetry that four-year-olds really understand.
Twinkle Twinkle Chocolate Bar compiled by John Foster (OUP,
Some funny and some silly rhymes about swings and see-saws, cats and dogs, mums and dads, dragons and
giants, and mudpie stew. Great fun.
The Owl and the Pussycat by Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear (OUP,
Nonsense rhymes by two of the greatest exponents, beautifully illustrated with rich Victorian-style illustrations
by Nicki Palin.
The Teddy Robber by Ian Beck (Corgi, £3.99)
Someone is stealing Teddies; Tom is determined to find out who, and is in for a giant surprise. This story is a
mini-adventure for the very young with illustrations that play cleverly with size and perspective to give a sense
of what it is like to be small in a big world.
Avocado Baby by John Burningham (Red Fox, £4.50)
This story tickles the sense of humour of the very young, and follows a weedy baby in a weedy family who
beats the bullies when it starts on a diet of avocado pears.
Willy's Pictures by Anthony Browne (Walker, £10.99)
There is something completely clear-eyed and honest about the way Browne views the world of families and
children. In the brilliant Zoo (Red Fox, £4.50), he charts a day out in which it is the humans who behave like
the zoo's animals. This book is just as original, with Browne recreating some of the world's most famous
paintings, adding to each his best-loved character, Willy the chimp. Magritte, Dali, Rousseau and Edward
Hopper all get the monkey treatment; the results are funny and disturbing at the same time.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (Puffin, £4.99)
Large-format version of the classic tale about the disobedient little rabbit in Mr McGregor's garden who almost
ends up as stew.
Reckless Ruby by Hiawyn Oram (Carnival, £4.99)
Ruby's parents think she is so precious that they want to wrap her in cotton wool. Ruby has other ideas, and
decides that only by being reckless can she avoid this terrible fate. Crucial reading for little girls who do not
want to grow up to marry princes.
Winnie the Witch by Korky Paul and Valerie Thomas (OUP, £3.99)
A Children's Book Award winner that full of visual jokes and amusing detail. Winnie the Witch decides that
having a black cat when you live in an all-black house is very confusing.
Not Now, Bernard by David McKee (Red Fox, £3.99)
One of those books that stays in the mind. Bernard would like a little attention from his parents, but they are so
busy they do not even notice that he has been eaten and replaced by a monster. McKee's sly pictures are so
delicious you want to gobble them up. A stark reminder that there is no such thing as quality time.
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole (Puffin, £4.99)
This princess enjoys being a Ms, but all the princes want her to be their Mrs. A feminist fairytale with a
difference, full of good humour. If you enjoy this, try Cole's gender-bending variation on the Cinderella story,
Prince Cinders.
Mrs Wobble the Waitress by Allan Alberg (Puffin, £3.99)
One in a series of user-friendly and funny stories that help children learn to read without patronising either them
or their parents. Our favourites are Mr Biff the Boxer, Mr Tick the Teacher, and Mrs Jolly's Joke Shop, from
which most children learn their first knock knock joke.
Something Else by Kathryn Cave and Chris Riddell. (Puffin, £4.99)
Elsie tries and fails to be like everyone else, then something completely different turns up and wants to be
friends. A gentle, eloquently told story about the meaning of tolerance.
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne (World International, £4.95)
Your children may well have been introduced to Pooh, Christopher Robin and the "100 aker wood" long before
reaching four, but now is the time to start reading them the full version with colour illustrations by EH Shepard.
Just don't try to imitate Alan Bennett when you do.
5 upwards
The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl (Puffin, £3.99)
The little girl in this fantasy has a unique gift. When someone makes her angry she simply points her finger and
- zap! - an instant punishment is visited on the offender. When her teacher calls her "a stupid little girl" because
she misspells cat, she points her finger and her teacher sprouts whiskers. Quite right! A small child used to
being coerced will warm to the summary justice meted out in this tale. A little book with a great big message
about the enormity of small children's feelings.
The Jolly Postman or Other People's Letters by Janet and Allan
Ahlberg (Puffin, £11.99)
Children are intrigued by this highly original book containing witty cards in envelopes for the Jolly Postman to
deliver to fairytale characters. Hours and hours of fun.
6 upward
The Dinosaur's Packed Lunch by Jacqueline Wilson (Corgi, £3.50)
A great story about a little girl who is looked after by her dad, and has the day from hell on a school visit to the
dinosaur museum. Things look up when she turns into a dinosaur, although being scaly-skinned brings its own
problems. A perceptive story from an author likely to figure large in your child's reading over the years.
Advanced readers could also try Cliffhanger (£3.99), a good read about Tim, a boy who is hopeless at sport
and, to his horror, is sent away on an adventure holiday.
Mossycoat by Philip Pullman (Scholastic, £1)
A brilliant, simple idea - and talk about value for money! A series of well-known tales retold by some of the
best writers around; each is just fantastic and at £1 very affordable. We have not seen one that is not beautifully,
sometimes heart-breakingly, written or wittily illustrated. Besides Pullman's dark vision of the girl whose mum
made her a mossy coat, you can get Anne Fine's version of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, Gillian Cross's
exquisitely simple telling of the Goose Girl, Berlie Dohert's the Snow Queen, and Henrietta Branford's creepy
Hansel and Gretel. The list grows longer, parents more thankful. Begin by reading them to your children, and
the older ones will start collecting them themselves with their pocket money.
The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl (Puffin, £5.99)
A golloping, gulping, grumptious story from the master storyteller, concerning a horrid, greedy, brutish
crocodile who has secret plans and clever tricks to fill up his tummy with a yummy child. Will make them
scream with laughter.
The Adventures of Mr Toad by Kenneth Grahame, abridged and
illustrated by Inga Moore (Walker £14.99)
An introduction to the riotous adventures of the wayward toad. Full colour illustrations.
7 upward
The Enchanted Horse by Magdalen Nabb (Collins, £3.50)
Irina is a sad and lonely child; the wooden horse she sees in a junk shop is sad and lonely too, and needs a
home. Nabb's book is a superb internalised dialogue, a modern fairytale in which the horse comes alive and
liberates Irina from the burden of her sadness. Seven upward. In a different vein, Nabb has written a very
enjoyable series of stories about a funny, feisty little girl called Josie Smith (Collins, £3.99). Heart-warming
without being twee. Six upward.
The Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog by Jeremy Strong (Puffin, £3.99)
A Children's Book Award winner that tells about Streaker, a rocket on four legs with a woof attached. Children
giggle uncontrollably at the humour, and it will raise a smile in mums and dads as well. Seven upward. Strong
is prolific, although the quality of his work is variable, and confident seven-year-old readers will love
Lightening Lucy (Puffin, £3.99) about a little girl who can fly, a sort of miniature Wonderwoman.
Snow White and the Seven Aliens by Laurence Anholt (Orchard,
A seriously silly retelling of the story in which Snow White is a wannabe pop star who has to defeat the mean
queen, who was once the lead singer with The Wonderful Witched Witches. Parents may sigh, but children find
it hilarious. Great pictures.
The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy (Puffin, £3.99)
This is the place where for most little girls real reading begins. Few can resist Mildred Hubble, the little witch
at Miss Cackle's academy who is always crashing her broomstick and getting her spells wrong. Much copied
but not bettered. There are three more.
Mr Majeika by Humphrey Carpenter (Puffin, £3.99)
First in a witty series about class three, who get a bit of a shock when their new teacher does not enter by the
door but flies in through the window. But then, Mr Majeika is a wizard, albeit one for whom things are always
going wrong. Not much sub-text, but real page turners and plenty of other tales the series to satisfy ravenous
Bill's New Frock by Anne Fine (Mammoth, £3.99)
When Bill Simpson wakes up one Monday morning he finds he is a girl, and his mum packs him off to school
in a frilly pink frock. So begins one of the worst days of his life. A gender-bending fable that is a great feminist
romp for the over-sevens.
•, Thursday 7 September 2000 15.52 BST
Barkbelly, by Cat Weatherill (Puffin, £9.99)
When a childless, elderly married couple find a beautiful egg made out of ash in a field, they take it home and
rest it on their mantelpiece, only to find it hatching a few days later. Barkbelly - a wooden child - is born. Much
stronger than the other children his age, he kills a playmate during a pretend bull-fighting session. Barkbelly
has to run away.
Little Darlings by Sam Llewellyn (Puffin, £4.99)
Primrose, Cassian and Daisy live with their rich father and stepmother who farm them out to a series of luckless
nannies. So far, so Mary Poppins, but then Nanny Pete takes over and they end up stuck between two rival
gangs of burglars. We've had this in the house for months and it has become dog-eared.
You Have Ghost Mail by Terence Blacker, illustrated by Adam
Stower (Macmillan, £9.99)
The lower end of this age group are always keen to get their hands on the really scary stuff, to be read illicitly
under the covers with a torch. But the trouble with so much of the horror genre is that it is really intended for
the 10-plus age range and can prove a little too scary for younger readers. And parents and teachers hate the
fact that much of it is shoddily written. So Macmillan's Shock Shop range is a bit of a find - a series of really
thrilling stories, spookily presented and written by top-class authors. Here, Terence Blacker, whose Ms Whizz
series will be familiar to many children, has come up with a cunning and creepy story about Matthew, whose
new computer appears to be possessed by a dead boy called Giles. Gripping stuff.
Ghostly Beasts by Joan Aiken, illustrated by Amanda Harvey
(Jonathan Cape, £12.99)
"Short stories and poems are like mushrooms. One minute a field full of plain grass the next, a circle of glossy
white globes," suggests Joan Aiken in the introduction to this beautiful collection of stories and poems. There
are ghostly animal tales in which pets save their owners from disaster, the strange and haunting tale of the
woodcarver who turns his daughter into wood, and the spine-tingling story of a village where bears were once
baited and where a small child has now gone missing. What is the link? These stories are a great introduction to
Aiken's work. For many children, it would be a short hop to her brilliant The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. The
large type is a bonus, as are Amanda Harvey's illustrations, which capture the strange otherness of the stories.
The Story Giant by Brian Patten, illustrated by Chris Riddell
(Collins, £4.99)
In a crumbling castle in the middle of a damp English moor lives the story giant. His mind and his library are
full of stories from all over the world, every story that has ever been told - except one. This last story is the one
he desperately needs, for without it the Story Giant will die, his castle fall and the stories will be lost for ever.
So on the night that might be his last on earth, he weaves together the dreams of four very different children
from four corners of the earth and transports them to his castle to tell stories in the hope that one of these
children will know the final, elusive tale. This is a wonderful variation on The Arabian Nights, in which the
author tells many smaller stories within one larger one. This beautiful book gathers together 50 tales from all
over the world and retells them in Patten's translucent prose, with lively illustrations by Chris Riddell. Stories
from the Panchatantra rub shoulders with those from Aesop, English fairytales with African and Japanese
legends. We are made to think not just about the stories themselves, but where these stories come from and why
we need to tell and retell them. It's a book that can be used for many age groups: older children, from around
nine, can read the whole thing themselves, but younger children could just as easily pick out a story for
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke (The Chicken House, £5.99)
When Prosper and his little brother Bo are orphaned, their horrid aunt wants to adopt the angelic younger child
and exile the older one to boarding school. So the pair run away to Venice - a place their mother told them was
full of wonders. So it is, but, with winter approaching, it is also full of hardships. They fall in with a teenage
boy who styles himself the Thief Lord and gives the children stolen goods to sell. Butwhen the "wicked" aunt
engages a bumbling but kindly private detective and the Thief Lord takes on a strange commission, the
children's future is threatened. Funke's story is a rollicking good adventure story, with shades of Peter Pan.
Warm-hearted and funny, it is almost guaranteed to be remembered for years after the last page is read.
Short and Scary by Louise Cooper (Oxford, £4.99)
One of the complaints of reluctant readers is that books contain too many words. They will often begin a novel
and give up the struggle because the end seems such a distant goal. Not with this brilliant series, which also
includes Short and Shocking by Maggie Pearson and Short and Silly by Michael Rosen. These stories are all so
brief that you can see the finish when you are at the starting line. None are more than two pages long and some
take up just a few lines. But every one of these 40 stories is a fully rounded tale. If you don't fancy one story,
you can move on - you don't have to make a lifetime commitment, which is how slow readers often feel. These
books have no pretensions to winning the Booker prize but they will get your children reading. A great
Coraline by Neil Gaiman (Bloomsbury, £9.99)
When Coraline moves with her mother to an old house that has been divided into flats, she discovers a corridor
behind a locked door. There is something lurking there that is much nastier, more dangerous and far more
compulsive than Narnia. It is Coraline's other mother, a mother who, initially, is eager to love Coraline and
please her with lovely food and interesting toys, unlike Coraline's real mother, who is distracted by work and
leaves her lonely daughter to her own devices.
But it is not long before Coraline realises that there is something strange about this woman, with her gleaming
black eyes, pointy teeth and a habit of eating beetles instead of sweets. Why does she want to sew buttons in
place of Coraline's eyes, and who are the ghost children that Coraline finds in the cupboard?
Like Alice in Wonderland filtered through Stephen King, Neil Gaiman's novel is deliciously shivery in a way I
would previously have thought unsuitable for children. It goes into the subconscious feelings that children
harbour for their parents, taking the reader beyond fear to show that it is possible to survive the worst things
imaginable. It will give a few children nightmares, but the majority will see that it taps into the darker recesses
of their minds to let in a light that is truly liberating.
Krazy Kow Saves the World - Well, Almost by Jeremy Strong, illus
Nick Sharratt (Puffin, £3.99)
There should be no qualification in the title. Krazy Kow saves the world. Definitely. Indisputably. Although, as
his young creator, would-be film director Jamie Fink, discovers to his cost, life with a bovine superheroine isn't
always easy and fame not necessarily all it is cracked up to be.
This wonderfully silly, wonderfully clever story is more than matched by Nick Sharratt's line drawings, which
make Krazy Kow seem like the epitome of sanity. And when it comes to saving the world, or at least the world
of reading, Jeremy Strong seems to be doing a superhuman job himself.
This book had to be wrested away from an eight-year-old who is normally a reluctant reader, and an 11-yearold who never has her nose out of a novel. Both thought it a scream.
Buster Bayliss: Night of the Living Veg by Philip Reeve (Scholastic,
Last year, Philip Reeve made one of the most exciting of debuts with Mortal Engines, a book for teenagers that
is certain to become a classic. Well, we know that he can do serious, but it seems that he can do funny just as
brilliantly. You can never have too many novels with a strong appeal to boys, and this one is a winner. Buster's
mother goes on a lollipop-lady training scheme, so Buster is sent to stay with gardening-mad fake aunt Pauline.
Can Buster save fake aunt Pauline and the town from invasion by alien super-cabbages? You bet.
This is an enjoyable, laugh-out-loud romp that is silly and clever at the same time. It has a good chance of
hooking even the most reluctant reader and, when it does, there is a follow-up called Buster Bayliss: The Big
Daisy Chain War by Joan O'Neill (Hodder, £4.99)
Joan O'Neill's trilogy (Hodder will be publishing parts two and three later this year) was first published in
Ireland 12 years ago where it was an instant bestseller. It should be here too, judging by the enthusiasm with
which my 11-year-old daughter and her friends gobbled down the first book.
Set in Dun Laoghaire during the second world war, it follows the fortunes of the Doyle family as seen through
the sharp eyes of 10-year-old Lizzie. Her elder sister Karen marries airman Paul but happiness is short-lived
when he goes missing in action.
This is a wonderful book about growing up and beginning to piece together and make sense of the adult world.
It is beautifully written in prose that is as warm as a sunset on a hot summer's day.
Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson (Macmillan, £4.99)
Hurrah, it's out in paperback. If ever there was a book that deserves a place on your children's bookshelf it is
this fantastical, wise and wonderful adventure story set in the Brazilian jungle. Maia is 13 and has been
orphaned for two years when her only relatives are finally located - living thousands of miles up the Amazon
river. Maia is sent to live with them and, in true literary tradition, they turn out to be very horrid. But Maia
makes friends with Finn, a mysterious English boy who is living with the Indians.
This book is a window on the world. It revels in a sense of adventure not only in the story of Maia but also in
the way it is told, veering between humour and sadness. I read it in one sitting, and even if the house had caught
fire you would have had difficulty shifting me.
Child X by Lee Weatherly (David Fickling, £10.99)
Jules is an ordinary 13-year-old, worried about friendships, just getting interested in boys and thrilled to have
been given the role of Lyra in a local amateur production of Northern Lights.
The only shadow on the horizon is her mum and dad, who are increasing at odds about the former's long
working hours. Then Jules's dad suddenly disappears from the family home and the place is besieged by tabloid
photographers. Jules's dad has discovered that Jules is not his biological daughter.
A story that features Jules's dad suing her mother, secret DNA tests, and hordes of hacks on the scent of a good
story, just couldn't be more topical. It tackles a difficult subject with sense and sensitivity.
The Worry Website by Jacqueline Wilson (Doubleday, £10.99)
The bestselling Wilson has quite a remarkable nose for what children think and feel, and the issues that concern
them. She also has an accessible literary style that children love. In this series of linked short stories the two are
married in perfect union.
The idea is deliciously simple. Mr Speed, an inspired primary teacher, has set up a worry website where his
pupils can anonymously write down things that are bothering them and get advice from fellow pupils. And does
the class have worries... loads of them. Holly thinks her dad is going to remarry, William thinks he is useless at
everything, and Samantha misses her dad who has left home. The collection includes 12-year-old Lauren
Roberts's Guardian-competition winning story. Hers is as much a delight as Wilson's.
Molly Moon's Incredible book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng
(Macmillan, £12.99)
Smarter than Little Orphan Annie and possessing the newly-discovered ability to hypnotise all she meets, Molly
Moon, with her cute little dog, couldn't be anything other than the heroine in a (British) children's story.
Georgia Byng's debut novel takes Molly from downtrodden misery in an English orphanage to fame and
fortune in New York - and into the clutches of a particularly smelly villain. All ends happily. The literary
stereotyping means that it could be accused of being "writing by numbers". But the twists and turns of the plot
and the appealing exuberance of the heroine carry the day. Like much children's writing at the moment, reality
doesn't get a look-in, but nine- and 10-year-olds will be drawn to Molly and her unusual talent. Prepare yourself
for a summer of swinging pendulums.
Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye (Puffin, £9.99)
Watch out, Stuart Little, you have a literary rival. Hermux Tantamoq is an American watchmaker, city dweller
and a singular mouse. So singular that Penguin have paid a record sum to secure the rights to the little creature's
adventures, which begin when he meets the dashing Lika Perflinger - adventuress, daredevil and aviatrix.
Hermux proves to be the most reluctant but persistent of heroes and an old-fashioned gentleman who is never
going to get the girl even though he deserves to. This pleasurably anthropomorphic story has bags of charm, a
zesty plot, and the feel of a book that was written for the author's pleasure rather than with a specific eye to the
children's market. It is a rare novel that doesn't talk down or up, but is just right.
Mighty Fizz Chilla by Philip Radley (Puffin, £4.99)
The weird thing about Philip Ridley's novels is that however weird they are - and they are gloriously skewed they are also grounded in a down-to-earth reality. Take this one: a real leviathan of a book that includes a castle
on the edge of a crumbling cliff, a blind woman decked out like a Christmas tree, a sea captain on a mythic
quest, and a monster that must be fed on milky tea and custard creams. You would think that it would have to
be a fantasy; in fact, it is a brilliant dissection of male teenage anger, the crisis in masculinity and why boys
need dads as well as their mums. If it is wrapped up as an inviting fairy tale, written in prose so playful and
graphic that you feel you can actually see the words you are reading, then all the better. This is a book that takes
a little effort over the first few pages, but Ridley has never given a more convincing performance in his quest to
demonstrate that stories show us how to live.
The Ghost Behind the Wall by Melvin Burgess (Puffin, £4.99)
Thrillers that are not very thrilling and ghost stories that hardly cause a tingle are too often the norm in writing
for children and young people. Melvin Burgess breaks the mould with this story about a man who haunts
himself. Reading it is like having a fingernail drawn very slowly down your back. David is a lonely 12-yearold, abandoned by his mother and living with his uncommunicative father. At school, he is bullied because he is
small for his age. But his size allows him to gain access to the disused ventilation system in his block of flats.
Soon he is playing nasty tricks on the other residents, but when he is forced to team up with the ghost of a boy
who haunts the pipes and starts terrorising elderly Mr Alveston, who is in the early stages of dementia things
get out of control.
Mirrors by Wendy Cooling (Collins, £5.99)
Like poetry, short stories tend to fall out of fashion with older children and they are often rather dully produced.
But this collection is a real cracker for the 10-plus age range. And a good bridge into a world of more grown-up
books. The list of authors is first-rate and so is the writing; one of the bonuses of the collection is the way it
covers such a wide range of genres. My 10-year-old, for example, would never read a horror book, but was
much taken with Jeremy Strong's vampire parrot story and Lesley Howarth's creepy She would
think herself too old for fairy tales, but loved Berlie Doherty's The Girl of Silver Lake. There is good stuff, too,
from classy writers such as Anne Fine, Melvin Burgess and Malorie Blackman.
Up On Cloud Nine by Anne Fine (Doubleday, £10.99)
Stolly is a one-off. Even his teachers call him eccentric when they aren't calling him a liar and fantasist. Bright,
funny and emotionally upfront (none of the other boys rag him when Stolly talks about how he feels), and with
parents so irresponsible they behave like kids, Stolly was always so alive. But now he is lying motionless in a
hospital bed after a fall - which doesn't look like an accident - from a top-floor window. Beside him sits his best
friend Ian, who tells us all about Stolly, a star who shone so brightly he burned himself out. This latest novel
from the Children ' s Laureate may be inspired by the phenomenon of teenage suicide, but there is nothing grim
or mawkish about it: a wonderfully funny and perceptive glimpse of the inner lives of boys