books monthly november 2019
  Children's books for Christmas 2019





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Philip Reeve: Mortal Engines

 Published by Scholastic 5th July 2018

MORTAL ENGINES launched Philip Reeve's brilliantly-imagined creation, the world of the Traction Era, where mobile cities fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic future.The first instalment introduces young apprentice Tom Natsworthy and the murderous Hester Shaw, flung from the fast-moving city of London into heart-stopping adventures in the wastelands of the Great Hunting Ground. This first instalment of Reeve's critically acclaimed MORTAL ENGINES quartet is repackaged with a fantastic and eye-catching cover featuring new artwork.

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the Peter Jackson DVD of Mortal Engines for my birthday in September, and was so taken with it, I had to read the book. I know the book is intended for young adults, but actually it is pure science fiction and worthy of any adult's reading time. I look forward to carrying on reading about the adventures of Tom and Hester as I get my hands on the other books in the series, and I understand there are three more books to make up the original quartet, plus three more "prequels". First of all, I was struck by the sheer inventiveness behind the plot. Philip Reeve has created something so original, so brilliant, it is a wonder someone never thought of it before. My own fantasy series, Heraklion, has creatures the size of small cities, mountainous animals on thousands of tiny legs that cross the countryside of Heraklion at an imperceptible speed, and on which whole colonies of people and smaller animals live, but that is something entirely different. This is science fiction at its awesome and fantastic best. There is mind-blowing action as "London" pursues and swallows smaller moving towns, and after enslaving their inhabitants, crushes the towns to smithereens. And through it all, there is Hester's pursuit of Thaddeus Valentine, the malevolent villain so ably portrayed by Hugo Weaving, and the wonderful Hera Hilmar as Hester Shaw, as she attempts to avenge her parents' death (no spoilers here!) and the savage wound he inflicted on her. Philip Reeve's description of Hester's injury is far worse than as we see her in the film, but that's by the by. I was hugely impressed by Peter Jackson's brilliant film, but then I expected nothing less from the director of the greatest three films ever made in the history of the motion picture industry. And I was hugely impressed by this book, which owes so much to the pioneering science fiction/fantasy adventure stories from the golden age of pulp fiction that began all those years ago with books by the great Edgar Rice Burroughs. I'm seventy-three years old and I loved every bit of this book, and can't wait to get the rest. Magnificent SF/fantasy on a grand scale - forget about age, this book (and probably the entire series) is ageless. It's pure gold, and I urge you to read it, because, even though Peter Jackson's film is brilliant, and has jaw-dropping special effects, there is more in the book that Peter Jackson chose not to include, such as a whole episode involving pirates, and the spectacular demise of Tonbridge Wheels and its mayor, Chrysler Peavey. The adventures for Tom and Hester come thick and fast, Thaddeus Valentine and the Mayor of London, Chrome, have far more important roles to play in the book than in the film. This wonderful novel is a tour de force of everything that's good about children's fiction, which makes it entirely suitable also for adult consumption. It's a genuine page turner, and makes brilliant use of the device invented a century ago by ERB, the end of chapter shock, adopted in the cinema in films such as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. This book is not to be missed! Absolutely breathtaking fantasy-adventure fiction that's good for all ages! Almost certainly my fantasy book of the year for 2019.

Jaclyn Moriarty: The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone

 Published by Guppy Books 1st October 2019

Bronte Mettlestone is ten years old when her parents are killed by pirates.

This does not bother her particularly: her parents ran away to have adventures when she was a baby. She has been raised by her Aunt Isabelle, with assistance from the Butler, and has spent a pleasant childhood of afternoon teas and riding lessons. Now, however, her parents have left detailed instructions for Bronte in their will. (Instructions that, annoyingly, have been reinforced with faery cross-stitch, which means that if she doesn't complete them, terrible things could happen!) She travels the kingdoms, perfectly alone, delivering gifts to ten other aunts: a farmer aunt who owns an orange orchard, a veterinarian aunt who specializes in dragon care, a pair of aunts who captain a cruise ship, and a former rock star aunt who is now the reigning monarch of a small kingdom.

But as she travels from aunt to aunt, Bronte suspects there might be more to this journey than the simple delivery of treasure.

This is one of those stories that proclaim themselves as modern classics - they are few and far between, but they stand out, and this one has everything. If it reminds me of anything, it's Gormenghast, but really, it's quite unique, quite novel, and rich in characterisation and plot. A really satisfying read, and definitely a modern classic, in my opinion!

Mabel Esther Allan: Cilia of Chilterns' Edge

Published by Girls Gone By Publishers September 2019

When ten-year-old Cilia Pilgrim’s father is sent to Paris by his firm, the decision is made to send her to Chilterns’ Edge School, in Buckinghamshire, where her neighbour, Zena Dacre, is a pupil. On the way to school, Cilia meets Sandra – who is also going to school – but to a rival, High Beeches. How Cilia and Sandra enjoy (or not) their first term, and how the feud comes to an end makes for exciting reading.

One of the best things about this book is the descriptions of the Chiltern countryside. Mabel knew it well and loved it, and this really comes through. So much has changed now, but in those days it was truly idyllic.

We have included one of Mabel’s short stories, ‘Laura’s Dull Life’ with Cilia of Chilterns’ Edge.

Girls Gone By Publishers can do nothing wrong in my opinion. They bring rare and out of print books from the Golden Age of Girls' (and boys') books back to life in collectable, brilliant editions with their full publishing histories, which themselves are utterly fascinating, and occasionally bonus material such as extra short stories, as in this title. Far and away the finest publishers in the UK and probably the World! Mabel Esther Allan was a firm favourite during her own lifetime and her books are genuinely hard to come by. Cilia of Chilterns' Edge is a classic girls' school story which will thrill anyone who acquires it. Her descriptions of Chilterns' Edge are breathtaking and inspiring, and engender in the reader a longing for those days over today's harsh world. An amazing book!

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 22nd year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.