Mary Arrigan selects her top 10 long reads for older children in search of a good book.
NOW that the sun has reinvented staycations in Ireland, we probably can expect to be punished by a biblical 40 days’ rain. What better way to while away our exile from the outdoors than burying oneself in an adventure story, or exploring a world, be it fantastical or historical, or purely escapist. With 10-13-year-olds in mind, here are some suggestions which feature brave, resourceful young people who are challenged to realise their dreams and ambitions — or simply to take control of their lives.
THE LAST CHANCE HOTEL by Nicki Thornton [Chicken House € 7.90]
At a magicians’ convention, Seth discovers that his cat Nightshade can speak. Seth is being blamed for the poisoning of famous magician Dr Thallomious and will have to solve the crime himself. He won’t expect any support from the ghastly hotel owners or their horrible daughter Tiffany. At once encouraged and criticised by Nightshade, Seth becomes an unlikely Miss Marple.
MOLLIE ON THE MARCH by Anna Carey [O’Brien €8.99]
A rather disgruntled Mollie misses her friend Frances now holidaying in America. The absence justifies the long, long letters to her which eventually show Mollie’s excitement at the news that Prime Minister Asquith is to visit Ireland. What a chance for Mollie’s co-suffragettes to showcase their protests. A very credible account of a turbulent period in our history featuring an inspirational heroine who is driven to fight injustice.
THE MAPMAKERS’ RACE by Eirlys Hunter [Gecko Press €12.50]
Lured by huge prize money, the Santander children press ahead without their mother in a race to map treacherous terrain. Leader Sal enlists the help of Becker who quickly becomes their father figure. Sister Francie can mentally imagine the route and sketches it superbly. But other contenders’ dirty tricks cause major holdups. Their parrot entertains them with witty comments memorised from his life as a teacher’s pet. A lovely adventure story.
SKY CHASERS by Emma Carroll [Chicken House €7.90]
Orphan Maggie helps the Montgolfier family in Paris to become the first to use manned balloon flights. Guilt at her role in stealing some precious manuscripts moves her to extraordinary lengths to help, with the willing aid of their son Pierre. The Montgolfiers are under extreme pressure from King Louis to beat the English in the first race into space. At the very end surprising relationships are revealed.
WOLF CHILDREN by Paul Dowswell [Bloomsbury €9.10]
Interesting story of survival in the war-ravaged Russian section of Berlin in 1945. A group of now parentless children and teenagers struggles to find shelter and food. There are many acts of heroism and flashes of the beauty of life, friendship and loyalty in the midst of this horrible period. Strong character development and tense relationships abound in this unforgettable dystopian cityscape.
BOY UNDER WATER by Adam Barton [Harper Collins €7.90]
Cymbeline’s mother never brought him to pool or beach. Cymbeline tries to solve the mystery of his now institutionalised mother and her aversion to water. He is a warm and funny character who doesn’t really understand the adult world but comments anyway on its foibles. His precious Mr Fluffy, though he denies its existence to his schoolmates, turns out to be pivotal in the no-swimming mystery — that and a mysterious painting.
THE SILVER HAND by Terry Deary [Bloomsbury €7.90]
A German lad, Marius is left isolated in the French village of Bray now retaken by the British during the First World War. Aimee sets out to help him escape but they have a common enemy who wants to kill them both — a man with a silver arm, a spy for the Germans. Revealing this man’s secret would endanger Marius in this war-weary community. What price friendship in this sometimes thrilling adventure story.
THE BURIED CROWN by Ally Sherrick [Chicken House €7.90]
During the Second World War, evacuee George has been placed with a sadistic farmer: Jewish girl Kitty escaped from Germany to live with her grandfather. Together they discover a priceless Anglo-Saxon crown with legendary magical powers and coveted by Hitler himself. They are in mortal danger, as is George’s brother now missing in action. Excitement all the way in this historical story tinged with fantasy.
HOW BILLY BROWN SAVED THE QUEEN by Alison Healy [Little Island €7.90]
Billy Brown takes pity on a queen who has a constant problem with mathematics. He believes he can help her so when he visits the palace she decides to visit his home for further lessons. Billy’s family life is attractive to the queen who has never even used a washing machine. The interplay between the characters from such disparate castes is hilarious at times.
WITCHBORN by Nicholas Bowling [Chicken House €7.90]
In 1577 when her mother is taken and burnt as a witch Alyce flees to London to seek out John Dee of Bankside. Her new friend Solomon is the only person she can turn to, but when Alyce discovers a deeper connection with John Dee, she is in mortal danger. Brave, resourceful Alyce avenges the death of her mother.