The Ruby Redfort series

Lauren Child read by Rachael Stirling (HarperCollins) 8-12

This is a great introduction to the work of our new Children’s Laureate: Child’s six film noir- influenced adventure stories, to which Rachael Stirling brings her earthy and resonant voice, and a skilled American accent. Thirteen-year-old undercover agent and rich kid Ruby, with

her butler Hitch as sidekick, and her great rules for life, juggles perils and repartee. Remember: “You can never be completely sure what will happen next” and “Smart kids make their own rules.”

The Wind in the Willows

Kenneth Grahame, read by Michael Hordern (Audible) 8+

Michael for


Hordern, the


celebrated of

the Paddington stories on television, reads Grahame in a precise, cheery, avuncular, expressive,

singsong voice

that makes the journey as comfortable and scenic as messing about in a boat

on a river in the company of Mole and Ratty. It deserves this fine, warm delivery to convey Grahame’s elegantly written and enduring exploration of the pull of home and the need for adventure, of decency and villainy, of boastfulness and quiet kindness.

I, Coriander

Sally Gardner, read by Juliet Stevenson (Orion) 10+

Sadly only available in an abridged version,

this tale

of history and magic, set in the austere interregnum of seventeenth-century London, is

about seventeen-year-old

Coriander whose happy life takes a brutal turn. Stevenson’s mellifluous tone softens the cruelty of Coriander’s fate at the hands of a fundamentalist Puritan in cahoots with her

stepmother, and captures the story’s fairy-tale quality (it has supernatural elements) and the mesmeric cadences of Gardner’s writing. Together Gardner and Stevenson conjure place and time transportingly.


White Crow

Marcus Sedgwick read by Teresa Gallagher (Orion) 12+

Eerie, dark and atmospheric, this

gothic novel set in the

eighteenth century is read by Gallagher with exceptional versatility – in the distinct voices of a young girl and an adult narrator. A new girl, Rebecca,

village, and madness, villainy and secrets are revealed,

arrives in the as

bloody experiments are taking place. Not very summery listening, it is involving, thanks to the skill of both writer and reader; the context of sunshine might make it less scary.

Never Say Die

Anthony Horowitz read by Rupert Degas (Bolinda audio) 9+

For anyone who hasn’t caught up on the unexpected new Alex Rider story, it is available on audiobook. An easy

listen which you up in the action,

catches as

retired 15-year-old superspy Alex, living in California after the death of his friend and guardian Jack,

receives an

email that makes him think she might be alive. A very satisfying coda to a funny and ingenious series, read with panache.

The Detective Dog

Julia Donaldson read by Floella Benjamin (Macmillan) 3+


with the picture book that offers skilful

heard Sara

Ogilvie’s illustrations, this in

conjunction funny,


nevertheless takes advantage of a lovely rhyming text, about a dog with tracking skills that leads a class of children into a library, and of Floella Benjamin’s warm, exuberant voice.

Nicolette Jones has been the children’s books reviewer of The Sunday Times for more than two decades. In 2012 she was nominated for an Eleanor Farjeon Award for outstanding service to children’s books.

Books for Keeps No.225 July 2017 11

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