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Review: The Peculiars by Kieran Larwood

Fancy reading a story about a Victorian freakshow?

Want a tale of hair-raising adventure, a smattering of steam-punk inventions, a break-in to The Crystal Palace, a quick look at the Great Exhibition of 1851 (in the dark), get your hands on Faraday’s machine and even see the Ko-i-Nor diamond?

Well, you’ll find all that in Kieran Larwood’s debut novel (now republished), with added friendship, escapades and dung pellets.

This is the story of Sheba, a ‘wolf-girl’ who is part of Grunchgirdle’s very small, shabby travelling freakshow.

‘Everyone said she had a lovely head of hair.

And face of hair. And hands of hair.

In fact, she was covered from head to foot.’

Sheba is ‘exceptional’, with excellent olfactory skills, a talent for lock picking, and is literate. But the only qualities people see are her wolf-like appearances.

She is sold by Grunchgirdle to the equally descriptively named Plumpscuttle for his (slightly) larger freakshow. Sheba joins his caravan to London – the sprawling, stinking Metropolis – where they sit each night to be gawped at by paying customers.

Sheba joins the ‘cast’ including Monkeyboy, Gigantus, the ninja warrior Sister Moon and Mama Rat. She is accepted into ‘The Peculiars’ with affection and appreciation,

9781911490210finding a sort of family for the first time in her life. The team might appear terrifying or unusual on the surface, but prove to be big-hearted, sensitive and brave friends.

When ‘Mudlarks’ begin to disappear, The Peculiars investigate. They are pursued by an evil woman and her devious accomplices, leading to the thrilling adventures mentioned above.

You can even read a little of the work of Famous Lady Novelist, Gertrude Lacygusset!

There is genuine peril within. I found myself worrying about the characters, racing through the final chapters as the team solved the mystery and foiled the ‘baddies’.

Another excellent book from Chicken House publishers. Although not actually a new book – it’s a reissue from 2012, originally titled The Freaks – it’s a great read. And the new cover by Karl James Mountford is gorgeous!

Recommended for confident readers from eight upwards. Thrilling!

ISBN 9781911490210

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Posted by on 18/02/2018 in review

 

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Review: Tin by Padraig Kenny

Tin cover

You must read this wonderful début! It’s full of ingenious inventions, great bravery and enormous heart.

Meet Christopher. He is a ‘proper’, a human orphan, growing up in Mr Absalom’s junk yard amongst a motley crew of robot mechanicals. There’s Jack who could be sold as a ‘real boy’, Round Rob made from a cooking pot, Manda who’s just a little bit wonky everywhere, Gripper the giant who’s as kind as he is strong, and Estelle, the other ‘proper’ who helps out ‘like a real grown up’.

Together they embark on a thrilling journey of discovery, adventuring to Ironhaven and the Crag, finding their inner strength and undiscovered skills.

This is a world like ours (in the 1930s) but filled with glyphs and mechanicals, Blakes and Runcibles.

A winning combination of Pinocchio with The Wizard of Oz and a bit of I, Robot.

I thought it was a delightful story of friendship, love, and what it means to be human.

What would your robot look like? Would you like to be a robot?

ISBN 9781911077657 pbk

 
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Posted by on 30/01/2018 in review

 

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Review: The Ice Garden by Guy Jones

Review: The Ice Garden by Guy Jones

To be published by Chicken House January 2018.                   ISBN 978191140043 (pbk)

A deceptively slight novel with a sizeable heart.

Jess is allergic to the sun. Her physical movements are limited (even a moment in indirect sun gives her a terrible blister), but her imagination is boundless. She writes stories, is home schooled, attends far too many hospital appointments and -unintentionally- worries her mum. Jess is a ‘normal’ twelve year old despite her abnormal allergy.

After one boring appointment, Jess inadvertantly ‘meets’ a boy in a coma. Knowing how stifling it can be to be stuck indoors, she writes stories to read aloud to him.

The one moment of physical freedom Jess has is occasional moon-lit walks. One night she visits the local playground. But at night time, there is another garden beyond the boundary hedges: an ice garden.

This is Jess’ own secret garden: the antithesis of the sun-filled, over-heated, busy daytime world she has to hide from.

But Jess is not alone in the ice garden. It is home to a mysterious ice boy. They explore the unusual ice garden, its other inhabitants and unique flora and fauna, all of which further fuels Jess’ imaginative stories for the boy in the coma.

What is the power of the ice garden? Where did the ice boy come from? Who is the boy in the coma?  What does sunlight on skin feel like?

Despite being a short book, this is a story with a large emotional heart. It is a lovely mixture of real life and fantasy, imagination and ice. Echoes of The Secret Garden, What Katy Did and the long winter of Narnia are all there, but reimagined in a contemporary setting.

It is an engaging read for ages nine upwards. A good, economical  debut novel. I shall be recommending it to customers once it’s published.

 
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Posted by on 27/11/2017 in review

 

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