LoveReading4Kids

Becoming a member of the LoveReading4Kids community is free.

No catches, no fine print just unconditional book loving for your children with their favourites saved to their own digital bookshelf.

New members get entered into our monthly draw to win £100 to spend in your local bookshop plus lots lots more...

Find out more

James Riordan - Author

About the Author

James Riordan ( 10 October 1936 - 10 February 2012) grew up during the war in his chimney-sweep grandfather’s house in Portsmouth.  After school he was a barman, waiter, railway clerk, commercial salesman, and dance band musician.  During his National Service in the RAF he learned Russian and went on to become Professor of Russian Studies at Surrey University. Besides novels, he has written folk-tale collections, picture books and over 20 academic publications.  His first novel for children, Sweet Clarinet, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Children’s Book Award and, like his other novels The Prisoner and When the Guns Fall Silent, is based partly on his own wartime experiences.

Julia Eccleshare writes: Jim Riordan was a prolific author of children's books. Drawing on the 640 stories gathered together in eight volumes by Alexander Afanasyev between 1855 and 1867, he retold Russian folk tales in two books. The first, Tales from Central Russia: Russian Tales, published in 1976 by Kestrel, the upmarket hardback imprint of Puffin Books, was illustrated with black-and-white illustrations by Krystyna Turska. These atmospheric – if a little static – retellings were combined with Riordan's lengthy and detailed commentary on the original tales, how Afanasyev had collected them and their relevance to children in contemporary Soviet Russia. The volume chimed perfectly with the then fashionable commitment in British schools to teaching Russian and opening up children's understanding of the country. A companion volume, Tales from Tartar, followed in 1979.

Riordan then produced a steady flow of anthologies of various kinds from across Russia and its near neighbours, acting as both collector and translator. He also diversified into other folk-story traditions, including The 12 Labours of Hercules (1998), which won the UK Reading Association award. His collection The Woman in the Moon and Other Tales of Forgotten Heroines (1985), including stories from Japan, Ghana, Sicily, Lapland and the UK, was celebrated for its strong female characters.

Breaking away from other people's stories, he wrote his first novel, Sweet Clarinet (1998), the touching story of a boy overcoming injuries sustained in the London Blitz through his love of playing music. Nine more novels followed; all have something of the folk tale about them in terms of a child overcoming adversity through courage and belief. Many, such as Rebel Cargo (2007), the story of children sold into slavery and his final novel, Blood Runner (2011), the story of a young black boy whose parents are killed by the South African police, carry strong socio-political messages. Russia never lost its appeal as a source of stories for him and he returned there with the setting of his penultimate novel, The Sniper (2008), which is based on the true story of a teenage marksman at the siege of Stalingrad.

Featured books by James Riordan

Other books by James Riordan

The Ugly Little Swan: A Bloomsbury Young Reader

The Ugly Little Swan: A Bloomsbury Young Reader

Author: James Riordan Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 02/05/2019

The little swan is not quite like his brothers and sisters. He's small and brown and just doesn't fit in. So he sets off alone into the big, wide world. Will the ugly little swan find a friend? Will he discover who he truly is? This heartwarming fairytale with a twist from well-known author James Riordan is perfect for children who are learning to read by themselves and for Key Stage 1. It features engaging illustrations from Brendan Kearney and quirky characters young readers will find hard to resist. Bloomsbury Young Readers are the perfect way to get children reading, with book-banded stories by brilliant authors like Julia Donaldson, packed with gorgeous colour illustrations. They also include inside cover notes to help adults reading with children and to give some ideas for activities related to the stories. Book Band: Purple Ideal for ages 6+

Survivors: WWII: A Young Girl's Story

Survivors: WWII: A Young Girl's Story

Author: James Riordan Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 26/11/2015

It's spring 1940 in occupied France when Marie and her mother find themselves looking after two injured soldiers. But one is English and the other is German, and they are sworn enemies. The two patients must not find out about each other. Will the compassion and understanding of one girl and her mother be enough to keep the peace? Part of a unique collection of fictional stories about young people caught up in real-life conflicts and disasters. Through their eyes we experience the day-to-day hardships and dangers of living through troubled times from throughout history.

Oxford Reading Tree TreeTops Fiction: Level 14: Grace the Pirate

Oxford Reading Tree TreeTops Fiction: Level 14: Grace the Pirate

Author: James Riordan Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 09/01/2014

Meet Grace Barry in Grace the Pirate. Grace is a wild young girl; she is captured by pirates and marooned on a desert island. But nothing can stop Grace for long... TreeTops Fiction contains a wide range of quality stories enabling children to explore and develop their own reading tastes and interests. It contains stories from a variety of genres including humour, sci-fi, adventure, mystery and historical fiction. These exciting stories are ideal for introducing children to a wide selection of authors and illustrators. There is huge variety to ensure every reader finds books they will enjoy and can read. Books contain inside cover notes to support children in their reading. Help with children's reading development also available at www.oxfordowl.co.uk. The books are finely levelled, making it easy to match every child to the right book

Blood Runner (PDF)

Blood Runner (PDF)

Author: James Riordan Format: eBook Release Date: 01/12/2011

The Ugly Little Swan

The Ugly Little Swan

Author: James Riordan Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 01/03/2010

The newly born swan is not like the others - he's small and brown and ugly. His brothers and sisters won't play with him, the bigger swans bully him and even his mum and dad chase him away. Sad and lonely, he sets out into the big wide world. A year passes and he begins to think he will never find a friend. But then he sees some beautiful birds and something inside him changes...The Ugly Little Swan is a fairy tale with a twist.

The Sniper

The Sniper

Author: James Riordan Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 14/11/2008

Stalingrad snipers were a legend in their time. Their patience, keen eyes and ruthlessness helped win the Battle of Stalingrad and turn the tide of the Second World War. This is the true story of a teenage sniper recruited in 1942 by Vasily Zaitsev to seek out and shoot German officers. To begin with, the youngster finds it almost impossible to kill, but after a shocking discovery, goes on to 'snap as many as 84 German sticks', and following capture and a daredevil escape, leads a handpicked unit on a hazardous mission - to seize Field Marshall Paulus, the Commander-in-Chief of the invading army. But this sniper is no ordinary marksman...The author first visited Stalingrad in 1959, and made subsequent visits in 1963 and, most recently, in 2006, when he met Tania Chernova, the heroine of this novel. Having studied Russian in Birmingham and Moscow, James Riordan lived, worked and travelled extensively in Russia for five years, and has presented several BBC radio programmes on Russia. He is currently Emeritus Professor of Russian at the University of Surrey.

War Games

War Games

Author: James Riordan Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 30/09/2008

It's Christmas Eve, 1914, and there's a war on. British and German soldiers sit in the muddy trenches either side of No Man's Land, as deadly enemies. Suddenly, a strange sound fills the air. A German voice is singing 'Silent Night'. A British sergeant joins in, and so begins a most unusual evening indeed...War Games is a historical story set during World War I.

The Little Puppet Boy

The Little Puppet Boy

Author: James Riordan Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 01/10/2007

Petrushka is part of Russian folklore, but is not a folk tale. It is in the European tradition of 'Harlequin' and 'Punch', performed in a puppet theatre at travelling fairs. Petrushka is tired of being a clown in a puppet show. He wants to save pretty ballerina from Strongman and take her in his arms far, far away. His mind is made up and, encouraged by Skeleton, the next day he challenges his rival to a duel. But he's no match for Strongman and ends up in a lifeless, crumpled heap. 'That old ragdoll needs chucking out,' says the showman. But Petrushka has other ideas...

My Side of the Story Escape from War

My Side of the Story Escape from War

Author: James Riordan Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 19/06/2006

My Side of the Story is completely unique approach to historical fiction. Read the story of one youngster's life in turbulent times, then flip the book and find out first hand how another child reacts to the same events - with very different feelings and results! Frank : Frank is eleven and lives in war-torn London in a house which has two bedrooms but 10 family members. The 'gezzunder' of the attacking German bombs can be heard, but Frank isn't scared, he loves it! The war is exciting to him: the night-time dogfights, hunting bombed houses for trophies and sitting in the air raid shelter. His uncles and aunts talk about the Germans and the Jews, but they don't seem real to him. Then Frank is evacuated to the boring country were he lives with a strange Jewish girl called Hannah from Germany... Hannah : Hannah is a young Jewish girl living in Berlin. Her family are growing more horrified at what is happening to Jews in their own country. Her parents' fear frightens her more than news of what's happening on the street. For her the threat of war is real and terrible. But she is one of the lucky ones who, after the horrors of Krystal Nacht, is transported out of Germany and goes to live in England. Thrown together with Frank, she clings to playing her beloved violin and wonders what is happening at home. Can she ever become friends with this strange English boy?

Jason and the Golden Fleece

Jason and the Golden Fleece

Author: James Riordan Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 01/04/2005

Award-winning children's author James Riordan boldly retells this story from Greek mythology, introducing readers to the first great European hero to undertake a grand journey. Accompanied by some of ancient Greece's bravest heroes, Jason leads an expedition to retrieve the Golden Fleece, the property of a king in a far-off land. Traveling by sea, they encounter trial after trial along their route - shrieking Harpies, deadly clashing rocks, and fierce Amazon warrior women - and yet more challenges await them at their destination. For before he will give up the fleece, the king devises a test for Jason that will certainly be the death of him - unless the king's daughter, Medea, agrees out of love for Jason to lend him her magical powers. This is a classic tale of high adventure that holds appeal for boys and girls alike.

Football Stories

Football Stories

Author: James Riordan Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 01/07/2004

The stories in this book will make you laugh, make you cry, make you hold your breath - just like the game! They're all written by keen fans who follow their teams all over the country. People like Michael Rosen, Robert Swindells, Michael Parkinson, Barry Hines, and lots more. Football - it's the greatest game in the world...

Sweet Clarinet

Sweet Clarinet

Author: James Riordan Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 05/02/2004

It's the second World War and Billy's life will never be the same again. As he lies in his hospital bed, horribly burned, he longs for death. But when a soldier comes to see him and gives him a clarinet Billy realizes that there might just be something worth living for - some hope for the future...BLJames Riordan has now earned himself a reputation for writng about war in a powerful and uncompromising way BLHis background in retelling traditional stories shows in his excellent storytelling abilities BLJames Riordan lives in Portsmouth

Twelve Labours of Hercules

Twelve Labours of Hercules

Author: James Riordan Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 03/08/2000

Everyone has heard of Hercules - but few can name the feats of strength that made him the greatest of mortal men. Now, James Riordan's bold retellings of the ancient Greek legends re-create the labours of Zeus' much-loved son and mythology's mightiest hero. Christina Balit's powerful illustrations, which include a map showing the sites of Hercules' twelve labours, combine with James Riordan's retellings to create a heroic anthology that children will reach for again and again.

Author Info

Twitter Updates

If this is your author page then you can share your Twitter updates with your readers right here on LoveReading

Find out more

Facebook Updates

If this is your author page then you can share your Facebook updates with your readers right here on LoveReading

Find out more
LoveReading
LoveWriting
LoveReading4Schools
NEW INDIE AND SELF PUBLISHED BOOK REVIEW AND PROMOTION SERVICE LAUNCHED!    Read More
×