When I’m asked for recommendations for children’s books at work things seem to go one of two ways. If I’m talking to an adult then we have to go through the whole ‘how old?’, ‘boy or girl?’ and ‘do they like David Walliams/Jacqueline Wilson/Harry Potter/Horrid Henry?’ routine. Which I quite like as it can often lead to a good natter with the adult about what kids books we remember enjoying back in the day but it is a bit, well, removed from the person who will actually be reading the book. So when the child is asking for themself (even when they are being gently prodded into asking by a parent/guardian/teacher) we can go directly to what matters. My questions then are usually simpler (but would probably be harder for an adult to answer) – ‘do you like books which are funny/scary/magical/about animals etc?’ I find youngsters generally know what kind of thing they like and yet they don’t mind if their genres get all mixed up. Funny magical stories, scary animal tales, silly scary sad books about families – they’ve all got their fans…
My latest read in the 9-12 age range could best be described as a scary, sad story about families and belonging with more than a hint of magic. A young girl, saddled with the name Owl by her hippyish mother, has always wondered who her missing father was. Apart from that she only seemed to have fairly normal problems – school, friends and, as she gets older, boys – until the moment she starts to realise that she’s possibly not totally normal. (My own theory on teenagers is that they are totally torn between wanting to be a unique individual and hoping they are completely normal – the pain is real…) Strange patterns appear on her skin when she is stressed or upset – like frost on her skin – and she thinks she has managed to hide them from everyone except maybe the new kid at school, a boy with the equally odd name of Alberic. She finds that the fabulous stories which her mother told her about a strange and magical world are not only true but they involve and endanger her, her best friend Mallory and the mysterious Alberic.
This is a great story for children of 9+ who enjoy stories with magic and a bit of peril. Which could mean lots of Harry Potter fans…It has hints of Narnia in its glittering wintry landscape and the perilous world of the fae reminded me enormously of Alan Garner’s books. Owl is a recognizably modern child who is having to deal with mysterious dangers (and still has to get her homework in on time). All she really wants is to find out who her father is – but discovering that he is Jack Frost leads to all kinds of trouble.