friend. Both girls have the same bright red hair, and like each other immediately. Tallulah is very smart and has a pet pug called Smug. Smug is ALSO incredibly brainy and likes to invent things. Pippa takes Tallulah and Smug to meet her friends, Mrs Fudge, Dash the dog and Muffles the cat, at the Chop ‘n’ Chat Pooch Parlour, but unfortunately, Dash and Smug do not get on with each other at all.
Soon, Tallulah and Smug start inventing various machines to help Mrs Fudge at the Chop ‘n’ Chat, though Dash remains suspicious of them. Everything goes well until Tallulah and Smug make a machine adapted from one of Tallulah’s grandfather’s inventions. It can do the hairdressing jobs, but can read minds as well. Unsurprisingly, everything goes wrong when the machine starts to print out everyone’s thoughts. Luckily, Tallulah’s grandfather arrives just in time to save the day.
Part of the Pooch Parlour series this story can be read as a stand alone. It is amusing, and is full of likeable
characters. The story is witty with a great sense of fun. It will appeal to young readers of both sexes but especially to girls who like stories with an animal theme.
…and the Blood Flowed Green
Alan Nolan, O’Brien Press, 80pp, 9781847172570 £6.99
Marion ‘Mick’ Mulligan is a failed sci-fi author who dreams of escaping his humdrum life. When he is kicked out by his girlfriend, he spends the night on a park bench, where dreams become nightmares as he is abducted by extraterrestrials and abandoned on a lawless frontier planet. Together with his alien pals, Mulligan successfully leads a jailbreak, but the only way back to earth is via other planets, each one more uniquely dangerous than the last.
Part of the new Murder Can Be Fatal series by author-illustrator Alan Nolan,
this graphic novel is irreverently off-beat. The book courses with a grim, deadpan humour which contrasts the fantastical images of life on other planets. You can take a man out of Ireland, but even out on Azur, the only planet in the galaxy to be made of almost entirely of water, you can’t take Ireland out of the man. ‘Holy Mother Molly! Just like high summer in Dublin City!’ exclaims Mulligan, stepping off the spaceship into a vast ocean. Reluctant readers may appreciate the graphic novel format, but this book offers much to enjoy for a wide range of readers, and their parents.
Beatrice’s Dream: Life in an African Slum
Karen Lynn Williams, illus Wendy Stone, Frances Lincoln,96pp, 978-1-84780-418-1, £7.99
First published in hardback in 2011, this paperback version of Williams and
Stone’s moving account of a young girl’s life in one of the world’s most difficult places is welcome. It tells us, through a sensitive written account and evocative photographs, of the daily life of a thirteen year old girl, Beatrice, living in Kibera, Nairobi. Many of the people living in Kibera have no modern sanitation, drinking water or electricity and this leads to health problems and low life expectancy.
The bright element in Beatrice’s life is her time spent at school where her day is structured into lessons and routines: lessons, lunch, lessons, break, communal chores and extra study time. In spite of a hard life Beatrice is a bright and resourceful young person who hopes to pursue a career in nursing. Since the book was first written there is some good news about her progress: she has left Kibera and gone on to study at a girls’ boarding school in Nairobi. This is a good step towards her realising her dream of a career in medicine.
MM 10 – 14 Middle/Secondary Dodger HHH
Terry Pratchett, Doubleday, 356 pp, 978 0 385 61927 1, £18.99, hbk
Discworld has sales of 65 million plus, he’s got a knighthood, a devoted following and a Carnegie Medal, so Terry Pratchett can afford to take a few chances: deploying real-life historical figures in an unlikely fiction, for example; or indulging a personal enthusiasm, reflected in this novel’s dedication to Henry Mayhew. The latter’s endlessly fascinating London Labour and the London Poor reported his meetings with hundreds of the mid-Victorian underclass, speaking in their own words (Mayhew claimed) about lives lived within the shadows of sickness, poverty, the workhouse, and a pauper’s grave. Some of those street people appear in this novel, named as they were in Mayhew by occupation rather than in person. By contrast we also meet, very much in person, Mayhew, his friend ‘Charlie’ Dickens, Sir Robert Peel, young Ben Disraeli, John Tenniel, the redoubtable Angela Burdett-Coutts – and, for good measure, the fictional Sweeney Todd. Pratchett loves a game, so every now and then Charlie reaches for his notebook to jot down the odd phrase which could come in useful some day – ‘great expectations’, ‘bleak house’ or ‘our mutual friend’, perhaps. When Charlie and Henry run across jack-the-lad Dodger, we can easily guess where he’ll be reincarnated for posterity.
Dodger is a tosher by trade, working beneath the mean streets of London searching for coins, jewellery, and whatever else might find its way down the drains and into the sewers. Above ground, he also serves as a moral watchman, which is how he gets caught up in the affairs of a lovely young German princess, who one dark night is
dumped out of a coach before Dodger’s outraged eyes. From this moment, the tosher’s fortunes rise so rapidly that within days he is a local hero, hob-nobbing with Disraeli et al over dinner and employed by the government as an international spy.
Pratchett fans won’t like this (they’ll dismiss it anyway), but he does not entirely pull off this risky fusion of fancy and fact. The usual Pratchett qualities are there – the tirelessly comic voice, the coy scatological humour for which sewers and drains provide a fertile habitat. Sometimes the setting and his research seem to take over, leaving the plot to limp along. For example, several pages involve Joseph Bazalgette, the engineer who redesigned London’s crumbling Roman sewers; yet you could remove Bazalgette from the book entirely and little would be lost from the plot. There are references which are there for their own sake, it seems, such as those to Karl Marx, which allow readers to celebrate another ‘Ah, yes, I know where that fits’ moment. Some of the games stem from Pratchett’s idiosyncratic enjoyment of language, though it seems lazy rather than comic to employ phrases like ‘smarmy old gits’ in a Victorian context; or to use ‘OK’, which was around in America by then, but surely not in London. Likewise, it seems facile to use, several times, a device which allows Pratchett to write, ‘Dodger had never heard the word ‘surreal’ but would have used it when…’; or, for that matter, to give Dodger, who is quick as a whip but has no formal education, the easy use of words like ‘egregiously’. There’s even a dog called Onan (now that is a risk, especially as Pratchett never says why – a private joke, maybe), who pees, craps and stinks its way through the novel. Fans will say, ‘Ah, that’s all part of Terry’s fun/genius/daring’. I suppose you love him or you don’t - you pays your money and you takes your
choice – but at £18.99, that’s certainly a decision.
Explore! The Most Dangerous Journeys of All Time
Deborah Kespert, Thames & Hudson, 96pp, 978 0 500 650134, £12.95 hbk.
This is a simply splendid introduction to the achievements of many of the world’s greatest explorers. It is organised in six main sections under the environmental headings polar, ocean, land, deser t, sky and New Frontiers. Each chapter within these big sections is devoted to a particular explorer and the pages follow a set pattern. So we have an explanation of the challenge, the dangers, a brief biography of the explorer and a map of their journey. The ‘ how to’ information boxes include how to treat scurvy, how to avoid frostbite and how to deal with a grizzly bear attack. Illustrations are varied and make for lively pages: there are portraits, contemporary paintings and pictures of objects, maps of journeys and some excellent photographs. One of the best of the latter is a stunning picture of explorers standing in a grotto in an iceberg while Scott’s ship, Terra Nova, sits in ice. When it comes to the written element there are welcome longer passages as well as shorter bursts of text. It is good to see women explorers represented. For example, Amelia Earhart crossed the dangerous Atlantic Ocean in a single-engined Lockheed Vega 5B aeroplane. And Gertrude Bell explored the Arabian desert around a hundred years ago by camel, covering nearly fifteen hundred miles. She gathered information about the geography and the political situation and surveyed the landscape.
Does the book enlighten us about why people take on dangerous journey and quests? It certainly makes it clear that that there are different motivations. Many, like Captain Scott who had ‘pole mania’, felt the call of an exciting adventure that made great risks seems worth taking, others like Columbus had a practical reasons for their travels – in his case trying to find an alternative route to the Far East by sailing west. Finding wealth was another great spur - Tasman sailed to Australia and New Zealand in search of fertile farming land and gold and silver to mine. Amelia Earhart was passionate about flying and encouraged other women to train as pilots. The ‘space race’ points to the political motives that lead to a country striving to be the first reach somewhere- to land on the moon for example. There is enough on each explorer to tempt young readers to read more about those who interest them most. This book provides a clear and attractive starting point and it deserves a place in the school library or the home bookshelf.
Shadows of the Silver Screen
Christopher Edge, Nosy Crow, 256pp, 9780857630520, £6.99, pbk.
This is the second in a series of historical thrillers about Penny Tredwell. Penny produces a magazine called Penny Dreadful in which the stories she writes appear under the name of Montgomery Flinch. There is a real Montgomery Flinch and he is an actor. When Monty is approached by Edward Gold who has a machine which can not only produce moving pictures but also colour and sound, Penny agrees that one of her stories can be filmed. This filming takes place on Dartmoor in a big house, near a mine, and it soon
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