Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Books for Younger People

As a youth leader/worker/minister for nearly 30 years I got the habit of reading fiction for younger teenagers every now and again, firstly so I could recommend good books when asked, secondly so I could cover my God-children's birthdays and thirdly, increasingly over the years, because there were such good writers around.

Here's two recent favourites:

What I Was by Meg Rosoff is a story about a kid who doesn't quite fit (most of her stories are) but yet who is ingenious, smart and street-wise.

We don't learn his name until three quarters through.

It's based at a boarding school from which our hero keeps truanting in order to spend time at the beach with another misfit - Finn.

By coincidence this and the next book both use the same narrative device (forging a letter from school to home and forging a letter from home to school) to cover up disappearing on an adventure. Let's forgive them since it's probably something we all would have done if we'd had the guts.

Rosoff's great theme in all her teenage books is the wonderful creativity and adaptability of young people. For this reason I'd recommend her to anyone, whatever their age.

The web-site fantasticfiction will lead you to the best place to buy the book.

Cosmic is Frank Cottrell Boyce's latest. His hero, Liam, is very, very tall for his age and quite mature looking. He is able to pretend to be a grown-up and so he does. He carries with him an advice book for parents of teenagers to help him with the more difficult decisions. This doesn't include much on what to do if you find yourself alone in space with four children who think you're grown up.

By contrast with Rosoff, whose teenage characters seem always to behave in a grown-up way, Boyce's children can't sustain the adulthood thing for long and soon regress. The space trip (which they win in a competition) is spoiled when they argue over who is going to carry out the only task they have been charged with - pressing four coloured buttons in order to commence the return journey. Whilst sorting out a game to decide who will do the pressing they miss their window and the adventure goes dangerously wrong.

Competitions with outrageous prizes. Misfit children winning. It's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for 2008 but none the worse for that. Chase up a copy here.

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