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Jonathan Stroud, November 2010 Guest Editor, of a classic 'boy's own adventure': He may seem a bit out-dated now, but Biggles was one of the very greatest fictional heroes of my childhood, and I’m still a huge fan. He’s an ace pilot and adventurer – brave, unflappable and decent – ready to serve his country in war, and battle injustice in times of peace. This particular story – one of the very best – is set in World War I. Biggles is sent to Northern Africa to try to uncover a mysterious German spy who is working havoc among British forces. Much to his disgust he must become a spy in his turn – and spies (when they’re caught) are immediately shot. The book is a genuine thriller, full of close shaves both on the ground and in the air, as Biggles and his unknown enemy play their deadly game of cat-and-mouse. Highly recommended!
The sole survivor of a shipwreck, Robinson Crusoe is stranded on an uninhabited island far away from any shipping routes. With patience and ingenuity, he transforms his island into a tropical paradise. For twenty-four years he has no human company, until one Friday, he rescues a prisoner from a boat of cannibals. With Robinson Crusoe, Defoe wrote what is regarded as the first English novel, and created one of the most popular and enduring myths in literature. Written in an age of exploration and enterprise, it has been variously interpreted as an embodiment of British imperialist values, as a portrayal of 'natural man', or as a moral fable. But above all it is a brilliant narrative.
August 2011 Guest Editor Julie Hearn has chosen this favourite tale: "When I was little I believed, absolutely, that Mrs Tiggy-Winkle washed my grandad’s socks and ironed his pocket handkerchiefs, even though he wasn’t a small animal. To this day, I can’t look at a foxglove . . . or a squirrel in the park... or a row of lettuces in a vegetable patch... without remembering my childhood collection of Beatrix Potter books. I knew most of the stories by heart, before I could read, and The Tale of Two Bad Mice was my favourite. There is a dark side to Potter’s tales that I somehow understood, and respected. If Peter Rabbit’s father could end up dead in a pie, then Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca – those ham-smashing, bolster-ripping, cradle-stealing, very bad mice – might just as easily have been pulped in the nurse’s mouse trap, or caught and punished by the police-man doll. But they weren’t. Phew!"
Winner of the 1999 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal Full of the most wondrous wit and humour, wonderful magic and believable nonsense, this particular edition has the most stunning illustrations that complement the imaginative story that’s anything but dull. The story is timeless and can be read at so many different levels. It’s a book that can be read by people of all ages; for children it’s a wonderful underworld fantasy that will develop a passion for reading imaginative writing and for everyone else there’s innuendo, puzzling situations that require deciphering, political machinations and bucket loads of surrealism. Plenty of food for thought and a real antidote to the modern world. From Philip Pullman: "Indispensable. The great classic beginning of English children's literature."
One of Philip Pullman's favourites: "A great political story: democracy in action." If his mother had known the amazing adventures Emil was going to have in Berlin, she would never have let him go. But when his money goes missing on the train, Emil's determination to get it back leads him to team up with the detectives he meets in Berlin - and that was just the start.
Matt Dickinson, our Guest Editor for January 2013 - 'As far as I can remember this was the book that turned me into a reading addict! I absolutely loved it, and to this day can remember the excitement of going to a bookshop in Hemel Hempstead High Street with my mother (aged about eleven) to find the next book in the series. The story is pure escapism—sailing on remote Lake District waters, lighting open fires, fishing for trout, skirmishes with ‘pirate enemies’ and campsites beneath the stars on tiny beaches. I never had a summer like that but I often think my love of the wilderness might have come (at least in part) from this skilfully told tale and the books that followed. Sadly, I never learned to sail a little boat. Or light a fire by rubbing sticks. But perhaps there’s still time . . .' A favourite of Philip Pullman: "As clear and pure as Mozart."
A review for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe : One of our 'Must Reads'. C.S Lewis’s classic fantasy book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tells the story of the four Pevensie children, Lucy, Peter, Edmund, and Susan, and their adventures in the mystical world of Narnia. Sent to the British countryside for their own safety during the blitz of World War II, they discover an entryway into a mystical world through an old wardrobe. Mythical creatures suffering under the rule of the cruel White Witch inhabit Narnia and the arrival of the children gives them hope for liberation. All are dragged into the inevitable conflict between evil and good. Fantastic stuff filled with beautiful symbolism that still captures young hearts today.
'I absolutely adored The Little White Horse' - J K Rowling. The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge is a timeless classic, a novel that has been a favourite of many a child since it was first published back in 1947, the year in which it won the prestigious Carnegie Award. It is also much loved by J.K. Rowling. It is the story of Maria Merryweather, a plain (ginger!) orphan sent with her dyspeptic governess to live with her only surviving relative, Sir Benjamin, in the picturesque Moonacre valley. There she discovers a mystery and an ancient wrong that only she, her friend Robin, and their variously magical animal friends must put right in order to bring peace to the land. The Little White Horse is also available in a beautifully bound hardback slipcased edition, and in a movie tie-in edition as The Little White Horse (The Secret of Moonacre).
A completely original version of the Arabian Nights Stories by award-winning author Geraldine McCaughrean. In order to delay her inevitable execution, Queen Shaharazad tells her murdering husband, King Shahryar, an exciting story every night. She tells her wonderful stories until the King realizes that he won't be able to live without them...
This enchanting collection, retold by writer and critic Naomi Lewis, contains twelve of Hans Christian Andersen's magnificent stories. It includes Thumbelina, a little girl no more than a thumb-joint high, The Emperor's New Clothes , the tale of a man who cares only for his appearance and The Little Mermaid, who longs to one day marry a human prince.
A favourite book chosen by Philip Pullman, along with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: "Indispensable. The great classic beginning of English children's literature". Stepping through the Looking Glass, Alice enters a second wonderful adventure. Here she meets the White Queen and the scarily loud Red Queen, the famous twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the tearful Walrus and the Carpenter.
A truly timeless adventure of a horse with an unbreakable spirit and a bond that eventually goes almost full circle. Animal lovers will love the story of Black Beauty even though the tears will be almost as frequent as the smiles. An essential read. This is the paperback edition but if you’re looking for a gift purchase then look no further than the Everyman’s Library edition. We also rate very highly a new edition from Oxford Children’s Books.