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The Classics never go out of fashion. Find new editions of old favourites, plus some abridged and re-told tales in this section.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2021 | A spoilt, lonely and unhappy child, Mary Lennox’s life in India is brought to an abrupt end when her parents die. Uprooted from everything she knows she is sent to live with an unknown relative in a cold and mysteriously sad house in Yorkshire. Mary cannot unlock the mystery but, with the help of Martha, the cheerful servant who looks after her, she begins to explore outdoors and in particular to discover a secret garden. The power of nature to unlock Mary’s unhappiness, especially when harnessed to the natural goodness of Martha’s brother Dickon is as delightful here as in the original. Equally moving is Mary’s influence on her invalid cousin Colin who she transforms into a happy and healthy son whom his father can love.
Book Band: Dark Red (Ideal for ages 10+) | Having read The Tempest as a pupil and taught it to KS2 pupils, I wish we had had this as an introduction. It is beautifully retold, with just the right amount of traditional language to make the young reader feel they are truly tackling Shakespeare. From the very beginning, the writing is atmospheric and descriptive. Ariel immediately gets the reader drawn in, filling them in on the plot so far and making them part of the evolving story. The characters are richly described, and the complex plots carefully explained. There are so many elements to this story, the love story between Miranda and Ferdinand and the murderous plots of their parents. It is also a story of revenge, trickery, and magic. By including the reader in the story, by such questions as ‘do you know what is? Do you remember, and have you ever wondered’ the writer manages to pull the reader in as a conspirator. This is cleverly and successfully done. Ariel’s mischievous character makes the story fun and lively. The tricks played on Trinculo and Stephano and the way the invisibility cloak is used are all themes that appeal to children. Despite it being a fun and exciting piece of writing the author also manages to write about the feelings of the characters in addition to writing so descriptively. There is so much to discuss and to develop into further reading and writing tasks. There is a lot more here than just a good story.
Part of Wordsworth’s Exclusive Collection (a series of 15 classics for all ages), this gorgeous gift edition bind-up of Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea boasts embossed gold foiling and an attractive bespoke cover illustration. Anne is truly an adorable, endearing, inspiring character, and her life at Green Gables after being taken in by the Cuthberts is evoked with lively detail, atmosphere and emotion. While prone to creating chaos, impossibly romantic, and headstrong (often self-destructively so), Anne has the hugest of hearts and reading this book - the first two novels in the series - is guaranteed to have readers hooked on her exploits as she moves from girlhood to womanhood. If you’ve yet to read these enchanting, amusing, heart-stealing classics, now’s your chance to enjoy a stunning edition at an attractive price.
Part of Wordsworth’s Exclusive Collection (a series of 15 classics for all ages), this new gift edition of Robin Hood is resplendent with embossed gold foiling and an attractive bespoke cover illustration. If you’ve yet to read it, now’s your chance to enjoy a stunning edition at an attractive price. What’s more, Robin’s action-packed escapades are perfect for sharing aloud with the young adventurers in your life. Henry Gilbert’s story of legendary English outlaw Robin Hood has entertained and enthralled since it was first published back in 1819. In all likelihood, though, most people have encountered this champion of the poor through films or TV, so now’s your chance to enjoy the story in written form. As for that story, Robin is the arguably the world’s best-loved outlaw whose adventures with the Merry Men of Sherwood, Maid Marian, good King Richard (and encounters with enemies Guy of Gisborne and the Sheriff of Nottingham) have inspired writers for centuries. It’s an archetypal tale of goodies versus baddies here delivered in a spirit of derring-do.
The Sherlock Holmes classic is adapted into a version for young readers here and in a way that catches all the intrigue, drama and atmosphere of the original. Short though it is, all the details and clues are there – the legend of the terrifying hound, the mystery of the stolen boots, the strange lights flashing across the moor at night. Doctor Watson’s narrative is as vigorous as it is in Conan Doyle’s novels, his no-nonsense attitude heightening the thrill of the various spooky goings-on, and Holmes is the same enigmatic figure too. Black and white illustrations punctuate the story nicely and this is both an excellent introduction to these timeless stories and enthralling reading in its own right. Publisher Sweet Cherry have adapted lots more of the Sherlock Holmes stories for young readers which is great, as having read this they will undoubtedly be hungry for more.
October 2021 Book of the Month | When ship’s surgeon Gulliver sets off across the seas in search of adventure he has little idea what he will find. His two greatest discoveries are the countries of Lilliput and Brobdingnag. In Lilliput he finds a population of tiny people to whom he appears as a giant while in Brobdingnag the roles are reversed: Gulliver is tiny and Brobdingnags are giants. Swift uses Gulliver’s descriptions of his experiences in these contrasting countries to write a satirical commentary on his own society. His use of Gulliver’s altered relative size gives great scope for studying everyday events in a new way and makes a fine vantage point for telling the contrasting stories. Gulliver is an iconic figure in literature. Read aloud, this abridged edition with is impressionistic yet detailed illustrations by Robert Ingpen will make an excellent way to introduce the story about him to young readers.
October 2021 Book of the Month | Michael Morpugo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom is just one of the very many stories for adults and children alike that have been inspired by Daniel Defoe’s classic shipwreck story. Written over 300 years ago, the story of Robinson Crusoe, an impulsive young man who runs away to sea against the best efforts of his parents to stop him, is packed full of gripping action as Crusoe survives the worst the elements throw at him before he is shipwrecked on an apparently uninhabited island. The story of Crusoe’s life on an island is a lyrical study of a place as well as an inspiring story of one man’s resourcefulness. In this adapted edition award-winning illustrator Robert Inkpen’s illustrations bring Daniel Defoe’s classic story to life in timeless images.
With its gold foil embossing and warm-hued cover illustration, this edition of E Nesbit’s The Railway Children (part of Wordsworth’s Exclusive Collection) makes a great gift. If you’ve seen and loved the film, but not read the book, you’re in for a treat. This is your chance to experience the story’s timeless charms afresh. Though suffused in enchanting nostalgic charm (it was first published as a series of stories in 1905, and as a novel in 1906), The Railway Children remains appealing to contemporary readers as it tells the moving, gripping story of three children whose comfortable lives are swept from under their feet when their daddy is compelled to leave their London home. Life couldn’t be more different in the country - their mother works as a writer to keep food on the table, and the children take comfort from the railway they live near to. They befriend the station’s Porter and Master, and even save a train from calamity, but the mystery and ache of their father’s disappearance looms large, until the Old Gentleman lends a hand. Packed with drama and adventure, this wonderful story delicately explores the emotional strains of coping with an absent parent, and shows how people can adapt in order to survive - and thrive - in challenging, changed situations.
With its swashbuckling scenario and big themes of betrayal, revenge and sacrifice, J. Meade Falkner’s Moonfleet is an undeniable classic of adventure fiction. And, with its embossed gold foil features and beautiful cover, this edition (part of Wordsworth’s Exclusive Collection) makes a great gift for readers young and old. Fifteen-year-old orphan John Trenchard lives in Moonfleet with his aunt. When she banishes him, John is looked after by grumpy innkeeper Elzevir Block, whose son was killer by customs officials. In the smuggler’s care, John falls under the spell of the local legend of ghostly Blackbeard, who’s said to rise each winter to search for a missing diamond. As John sets out on his own quest to find Blackbeard’s gem, he becomes embroiled in the village’s real secret - and Elzevir’s. Brimming with bravery, atmosphere and all-out action, this is a tale to be dazzled by, and lose yourself in.
With its gold foil embossing and enchantingly atmospheric cover image, this edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (part of Wordsworth’s Exclusive Collection) makes a great gift for readers young and old, and also includes the book’s sequel, Through the Looking Glass, and Sir John Tenniel’s unforgettable illustrations that bring all those iconic characters to life - Alice herself, of course, plus Tenniel’s unmistakable representations of the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, and Tweedledum and Tweedledee. An undeniable classic of children’s literature, this is also the kind of extraordinary seminal story that transcends age boundaries. Indeed, re-reading this as an adult is likely to illicit all manner of different responses and interpretations from childhood reading experiences.
Part of Wordsworth’s Exclusive Collection (a series of 15 classics for all ages), this new edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz also includes LF Baum’s Glinda of Oz, the final book in the series in which Dorothy and Princess Ozma see Glinda's help after finding themselves in danger on the Magic Isle of the Skeezers. At £3.99, and featuring a gorgeous gold-foiled cover with enchanting artwork, this edition makes a great, affordable gift, or a treat for yourself if you’ve yet to read the book. We’ve all seen the movie, but returning to its source - this timeless tale of recognising the attributes, skills and magic that lies within yourself - comes highly recommended. There’s a reason movie-makers took inspiration from it, and this new edition is the perfect way to do the same yourself. While reading the book, it’s worth considering the alleged political undertones of the story - the author was a political activist in the 1890s, and especially interested in the monetary standard of gold and silver. As a result, it’s been asserted that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was written as an allegory about the demonetisation of silver, with the tornado symbolising economic upheaval, the yellow brick road symbolising the gold standard, and Dorothy's silver shoes symbolising the pro-silver movement. Yep, you read that right - in the book, her ruby slippers are silver. Film-makers made them red so they'd show up more strikingly against the yellow brick road.
Part of Wordsworth’s Exclusive Collection (a series of 15 classics for all ages), this new gift edition of Little Women features embossed gold foiling, coloured endpapers and attractive bespoke cover illustrations. If you’ve yet to read this classic, now’s your chance to enjoy a stunning edition at an attractive price. Once encountered, either on the page, or on-screen, the four New Englander March sisters are never forgotten, and between them they represent all kinds of young women, with vastly different personalities, outlooks and dreams. The eldest, Meg, aspires to be a fine-living lady, while fifteen-year-old tomboy Jo dreams of being a writer. Then there’s sensitive music-lover Beth, and Amy, the baby of the family who they all indulge. Though rich in period detail, the sisters’ story resonates still.
OLD books get NEW doodles - it's the classics as you've never seen them before! A hilarious new series that brings the classics to life with illustrations by Jack Noel. Perfect for 7-9 year olds and fans of Tom Gates, Wimpy Kid and Dav Pilkey. And PIRATES. Get your HOOKS into the one and only original pirate adventure! Jim Hawkins spends his life helping out at his mum's boring old inn by the sea, wishing he could sail away and have adventures. But when an old sea captain turns up with a secret, it's the start of a bigger adventure than Jim could ever have imagined - soon he's on a ship on the trail of buried treasure, accompanied by a suspicious sailor named Long John Silver ... Will Jim escape the pirates? Or will he walk the plank? Climb aboard with Jim, a chatty parrot and a bunch of crazy pirates for a hilarious adventure across the seven seas.
December 2020 Audio Book of the Month | Like its hero, the story Peter Pan will never grow old and retains all its power to enchant, tempt and enthral readers; how wonderful that this new audiobook version should be available for Christmas, as it is magical family listening. A host of stars take turns to narrate but it’s a particular passion project for Joanna Lumley, who is directly involved in the recent transformation of author J.M. Barrie’s childhood home, Moat Brae, into a new national centre for children’s literature and storytelling. She reads the opening chapters and therefore sets the tone beautifully for the story that follows. Young listeners will be captivated by the joyful sense of freedom and rebellion, while adults will hear the strains of melancholy and loss of innocence beneath. A story to resonate with everyone, whatever their age, and especially when it is told as well as it is here. Listen to an extract, the opening chapter from Peter Pan, read by Joanna Lumley.
Often regarded as Jane Austen’s greatest work, the eponymous Emma is an attractive, altruistic, self-absorbed young woman of means who’s sworn off marriage, addicted to match-making her circle of friends (with usually dreadful results), and - horror of horrors! - falls in love. This prettily packaged Wordsworth Collector’s Edition will make a delightful gift for a friend, or a great addition to school libraries, with a hardback format that’s both attractive and resilient. The Wordsworth Collector's Editions make wonderful presents for children; you can find more in the series here.
Interest Age Teen Reading Age 9 | Tanya Landman’s storytelling skills shine bright in this potent re-telling of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Specially written to engage reluctant and dyslexic readers, this soars with passion, pinches with the pain of tragic love and brings Brontë’s commentary on social class to the fore. “It just wasn't in me to be the obedient, devoted daughter my father craved,” Cathy states near the start of her story, shortly before her father takes-in beggar boy Heathcliff, with whom she forms a soulful bond that will last a lifetime - and beyond. “The two of us together were bigger than the sky and freer than the wind”, she effuses. They’re wild, and united in their loathing of Cathy’s cruel brother who demotes Heathcliff from family member to servant (and later labourer) when their father dies. When Cathy agrees to marry a well-off suitor, hoping to use his wealth to free Heathcliff from the hellhole Wuthering Heights has become, misfortune after misfortune strikes. But theirs is a love that endures everything, and Landman’s re-telling does a remarkable job of conveying the conflicts and tragedy of the original.
It’s more than 150 years since the publication of Alice in Wonderland and it is delighting today’s readers as much as it ever has. Both a tribute to and a celebration of Lewis Carroll’s story, this collection includes new adventures by eleven favourite contemporary children’s authors, each of whom has been inspired by Alice. With such an extraordinary set of characters and scenes to take as starting points, the stories are wonderfully varied. Pamela Butchart chooses to write about the Queen of Hearts in a follow up story, while Swapna Haddow picks the Mock Turtle. There’s an environmental message in Lauren St John’s lively story ‘Plum Cakes at Dawn’, while Robin Stevens puts the real Alice into her Oxford set story. Together they make for a sparkling collection, one well worth tumbling back down the rabbit hole to enjoy.
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