Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Gracie Fairshaw and the Trouble at the Tower

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The story is set in Blackpool 1935 as Christmas approaches. But someone is trying to sabotage the Children’s Ballet Christmas spectacular. A piece of scenery injures a dancer, another dancer has itching powder put inside her costume and a several poisonous-pen letters are sent. Naughty chimps and escaping lions add to the drama.  The damage the chimps do often looks like part of the sabotage.   

Gracie becomes a reporter for the local newspaper. This affords the reader several details about what a writer does – and helps Gracie to do more investigating.   

There are many details of time and place here. We have a glimpse of what Christmas was like back then and in a boarding house in particular. Paper chains feature in abundance.  

Susan Brownrigg is a brilliant story teller.  This is a well-told and well-written tale. Here The Family from One End Street, meets Noel Streatfield, meets the Secret Seven, with a good deal of quirkiness and a 21st problem thrown in.  I hope Brownrigg will bring us many more episodes about Gracie.      

The mystery is solved. Albert Ramsbottom was behind all of the threats and damage.  A rumour goes around that he was eaten by a lion. Thus, Brownrigg cross-references to a well-known poem. Ramsbottom wrote his poison-pen letters on British Bulldog notepaper. Yes, he is a racist and targets the Russians and a Chinese girl. And we are kept guessing right up to the last few pages of the novel.  

The book is 235 pages long – some forty pages longer than the first book in the series.  The text is blocked but double-spaced. The font has a serif. The chapters are relatively short.  Chapter headings are in a cursive font and are fronted with a picture of an envelope with a question mark on it. At the end of the book there is a glossary which contains a lot more information about Blackpool, a note from the author on her research about the Children’s Ballet, and an author bio.            

Saturday, November 6, 2021

October, October by Katya Balen (illustrations by Angela Harding)


October lives in the woods with her father. They have a house and it even has central heating and freezers.  They get milk and eggs form a local farmer. Despite this certain measure of civilisation they do enjoy the wild.  October’s mother left long ago as she missed the city.  

October’s father has an accident one day. He falls from a tree, damaging his spine. October has to go and live with her mother.  She finds London difficult and for the first time she has to go to school. Yet she gradually becomes reconciled to school, makes friends with Yusuf, becomes a mud lark and gradually accepts that her mother cares for her.  She even begins to find some affection for her mother.

Her father does recover and he and October return to live in the woods. Now though she keeps contact with her mother and the friends she has made in London.  

At the beginning of the story October rescues a baby owl. Somewhat reluctantly her father helps her to care for it. When she moves to London the beast plan is to take her owl, Stig, to an owl sanctuary where she is further looked after and trained to be released into the wild. October accepts in the end that this is the best plan.

The text is quite literary and Katya Balen is very skilled in her use of language. It is 291 pages in blocked text in and adult font but double-spaced. There are a few monochrome illustrations.  It is written mainly in prose but there are some verses.  

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

  2012   teen, upper secondary   Key Stage 4, ages 14 -17, Dashner   James, science fantasy, thriller This is the second book in the Maz...