BooksOfTheMoon

Hilda and the Midnight Giant

By Luke Pearson

Rating: 4 stars

The second Hilda comic (it’s really too short to be called a graphic novel) sees Hilda encounter the Elves that live around her home in the wilderness (once she signs the paperwork, at least) and a giant giant who’s waiting for someone.

Beautifully drawn, in a simple but engaging style, and very sweet, this is an adorable comic. Suitable for children of all ages, including ones in their forties.

Book details

ISBN: 9781909263796
Publisher: Flying Eye Books
Year of publication: 2016

Hilda and the Troll

By Luke Pearson

Rating: 4 stars

I really enjoyed the Netflix TV show of the same name that is based on this comic series, so went looking for the original material. This first volume is very short and introduces us to the irrepressible Hilda and her adorable deerfox, Twig, as they encounter a troll in the wilderness where they live. The story is pretty simple but does a good job of introducing the characters and the world they live in. The art is very close the animation style of the TV show, which isn’t unexpected since the creator of the comics was very closely involved with the animated series too.

It’s a lovely little comic and well-suited to younger readers, with plenty of (gentle) action and lots of humour, and very quick to read for not-so-young readers.

Book details

ISBN: 9781909263789
Publisher: Flying Eye Books
Year of publication: 2015

A Tale Of Time City

By Diana Wynne Jones

Rating: 4 stars

This is a book I first read and loved as an early teenager, or maybe slightly younger. I got it out of the library and read it several times, but this is the first I’ve read it as an adult. I was fairly confident that it would still hold up, though, as Diana Wynne Jones rarely lets me down. And I was right, this is an enjoyable time travel tale that’s still very readable as an adult. It tells the story of Vivian Smith, who is kidnapped as she gets off the train after being evacuated to the country during WW2 and taken to Time City – which exists outside of time and space. She finds her kidnappers are kids, of ages with herself and ends up taking part in an adventure to save Time City from destruction.

The plot here is pretty twisty and certainly doesn’t talk down to its audience. Jones sometimes isn’t great at pulling all her threads together at the end of a story, but this one ties together neatly. It might have been nice if there had been clues scattered throughout about the identity of the villain, so that it didn’t come entirely out of the blue, but that’s a minor quibble.

The worldbuilding is well done, and Time City feels very real, as does the way it uses its status to become wealthy and powerful. Vivian is an intelligent protagonist and it’s fun to explore Time City with her. Her kidnappers, Jonathan (who’s around the same age as her, but with an attitude) and Sam (a few years younger, and a bit of a brat) also feel real, as their half-term boredom drives them on the adventure to “save Time City.”

So this is a fun story that still holds up, over a quarter of a century after I first read it. The action and characters are strong, and, for me, there’s a strong element of nostalgia, but I think that even without that, I would have enjoyed this.

Book details

ISBN: 9780749704407
Publisher: Teens
Year of publication: 1990

Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women

By Kate Forsyth

Rating: 4 stars

This is a lovely retelling of lesser-known fairy- and folk-tales, with a feminist slant. It tells stories that aren’t necessarily romantic love stories and stories where the heroine has to rescue herself (and maybe her true love). The stories are lavishly illustrated by Lorena Carrington, in a silhouetted, photographic style that suits the tales themselves perfectly.

There are stories from Russian, Scottish and European folklore, although none from Asia or Africa. I think my favourite was probably The Stolen Child, a tale of pure maternal love and what a mother would do to recover her child.

Whilst I’m slightly disappointed in the lack of stories from further afield, this is still a great antidote to the Disney-fied fairy tales prevalent in modern media.

Book details

ISBN: 9780648103066
Publisher: Serenity Press Pty.Ltd
Year of publication: 2017

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1)

By C.S. Lewis

Rating: 4 stars

I read and enjoyed The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe several times as a child, but it wasn’t until I went to university, that I heard about its religious subtext, which surprised me (not growing up in a Christian household). This was the first time that I’ve re-read it as an adult and the religious subtext is pretty blatant coming to it now (I especially liked the mention of Jadis as being a Daughter of Lilith, rather than Eve), but it’s still a very enjoyable read. Despite the allegory, I still felt the pain of the temptation of Edmund and the humiliation and death of Aslan just as much as I did as a child.

It reads very much of its time, in terms of language and assumptions, not to mention style. I pretty much grew up on Lewis and Enid Blyton, so it was all very familiar to me, and comforting, in a way, but it does make assumptions about gender, class and status that would be more challenged today. The voice of the narrator talking directly to the reader is also something that has fallen out of favour in modern writing. It definitely feels, not exactly ‘dated’, but recognisable as not being a modern story (even setting aside the contents).

Even so, I still think it holds up well as a children’s book that draws the reader in and holds their attention well. Characters such as Mr Tumnus, the beavers and, of course, Aslan will live long in the memory and affection of readers for a long time to come.

Book details

ISBN: 9780006716631
Publisher: Fontana Lions
Year of publication: 1980

The Amazing Maurice & His Educated Rodents (Discworld, #28)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

Riffing off the story of the Pied Piper, here Pratchett has more animals become intelligent after hanging around Unseen University too long. First it’s the rats, and then Maurice, a cat. The rats may be clever, but Maurice is streetwise. They band together, along with a stupid-looking-kid™ to do the old plague of rats trick on unsuspecting towns, but in Bad Blintz, they find something very unexpected, and very dark.

Maurice is a fun character. While I’m not their biggest fan, Pratchett really gets cats and he writes a good one. The rat Dangerous Beans, on the other hand, is at least partially well named. As Darktan realises, he makes maps of the earth, while Dangerous Beans makes maps for the mind. He thinks the thoughts that the others don’t. He’s an idealist, and a visionary and a naive young thing. He’s a wonderful creation.

In the character of Malicia, Pratchett takes another swipe at those who get too carried away by stories and storytelling. This was a central theme of Witches Abroad and while it’s somewhat less subtle here than it was in that book, the point is well made, and the character is very fun to read.

I think this was the first Discworld novel “for younger readers”, preceding the Tiffany Aching books. I’ve put ‘for younger readers’ in quotes since at times this book can feel very dark, covering, as it does, topics including faith, its gaining and loss, ageing, hate and man’s inhumanity to anything it considers ‘other’. Despite this, it retains Pratchett’s trademark lightness of touch and humour. An older (or less sensitive younger) child will devour this, as will adults.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552546935
Publisher: Corgi Books
Year of publication: 2001

Matilda

By Roald Dahl

Rating: 5 stars

Matilda was always one of my favourite Roald Dahl books as a child, and after seeing the musical recently (which is rather marvellous, by the way, and if you get the chance, you should go and see it), I was inspired to re-read the book. I’m very pleased that it holds up very well to adult reading, and still made me laugh as much as it did when I was young. It’s got the trademark Roald Dahl darkness as well, which is just delicious, most obviously in the character of Miss Trunchbull, but also in Matilda’s neglectful parents, who think that books are pointless and who fail to see anything special in Matilda herself.

A fantastic book, that well deserves its place in the canon.

Book details

ISBN: 9780140327595
Publisher: Puffin Books
Year of publication: 1988

The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30; Tiffany Aching, #1)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

Another world is colliding with this one and nobody can or will do anything about it. Nobody, that is, except Tiffany Aching. Tiffany Aching who makes good cheese; who hits monsters in the face with a frying pan; and who has the First Sight and the Second Thoughts (much more useful than the other way around). With the help of the Nac Mac Feegle and a book on sheep diseases, Tiffany ventures into the other world to stop the Queen and to save her baby brother.

It’s been years since I first read this book and I had forgotten just how ‘witchy’ that Tiffany is right from the start of the series that begins with this book. A sensible girl who does what needs doing and who stands up to Granny Weatherwax.

For me, the Feegle are as much stars of this book as Tiffany. They could be a parody but in Pratchett’s hands they become more than that. They’re a wonderful creation (especially the swords that glow blue in the presence of lawyers) and a lot of fun.

There’s one line in particular that stands out as totemic of what Pratchett tries to invoke in all of us and which brought a lump to my throat: “Them as can do, has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.” Pratchett reminds us with this single line what we’re like when we’re at our best and what we should strive to be.

Book details

Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Year of publication: 2003

Mister Clip-Clop: Intergalactic Space Unicorn (EDGE: Bandit Graphics)

By Tony Lee, Neil Slorance

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve been a fan of Neil Slorance for a while now, so when I saw on his Twitter that he had a limited number of this fun little comic back in stock, I snapped it up. It’s a slight little thing, coming in at 32 pages, but 32 pages of pure delight. Neil says it’s suitable for ages 7 and up, and I’m definitely up! It’s drawn in his trademark cutesy style, and is a lot of fun, as the titular space unicorn falls to Earth and has to team up with a couple of young girls to save the world from invisible Ooze monsters.

Technically I bought this for my niece, but since she’s not seven yet, I’ll just have to *cough* “take care” of it for her for a while…

Book details

ISBN: 9781445157061
Publisher: Franklin Watts

The Story of Doctor Dolittle (Doctor Dolittle, #1)

By Hugh Lofting

Rating: 3 stars

I can’t remember what format I first encountered Doctor Doolittle in, whether it was a film or possibly a cartoon featuring the good doctor. Whatever it was, I’m fairly sure it didn’t have the racism of the original book. It’s a shame as otherwise it’s a fun little kids’ book. The titular Doctor learns the language of animals, and goes off to Africa to cure a plague amongst the monkeys. But the subplot about the Africans he encounters (especially the very sad one about their prince) are cringeworthy to a modern audience, and the language used mean that I’d be very hesitant about giving this as a present to my young niece, as I’d originally intended.

Apart from that, it’s quite a charming story, with a very kind-hearted protagonist who saves animals and fights pirates. Ultimately, as an adult, I’m able to put it in context and do the whole product-of-its-time thing, but I definitely wouldn’t want to give it to a child without having A Talk with them first.

Book details

Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Year of publication: 1920

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