Fiction for older youngsters overview – wayward wizards and a conflict of the worlds | Books
W.If you’re into comedians who write children’s books, some are worth more than others. Step forward Simon Farnaby, who died on the television series Horrible Histories, screenwriter of Paddington 2 – and potential heir to Jeremy Strong. Farnaby’s first children’s novel, The Wizard in My Shed: The Misadventures of Merdyn the Wild (Hodder, £ 12.99) combines the dark ages with a very modern caper. The yuck factor is strong in this case.
The renegade warlock Merdyn is subjected to a miscarriage of magical justice and is exiled from the year 511 until today. However, his spell might just be the solution to Young Rose’s problems, and there are many pitfalls and explosions as Merdyn’s desire to avenge his fate is linked to Rose’s agenda. Farnaby’s skill is not only evident in the gags, but also in the way he ties loose ends together. Check out the audiobook: Farnaby’s delivery will make this debut even more fun.
David Almond’s agile page turner thinks about nothing less than humanity and free will
The story takes center stage this fall. Robin Scott-Elliot retired from an illustrious career as a sports journalist to write the atmospheric The Tzar’s Curious Runaways, which received much praise last year. His second outing The acrobats of Agra (Everything With Words, £ 8.99) is another circus thriller set in an ugly Raj skirmish in 1857.
Young Beatrice has already cruelly wiped away several safety nets; She is sent to India to live with an icy aunt when her beloved Scottish grandmother becomes too frail to care for her. But as the rebels advance and the Europeans retreat into the fortress, Bea teams up with Pin, a sparkling young servant tired of his lot, and a French circus performer and his tiger to flee – only to get an even bigger one outside Find danger. This lively adventure offers a panoramic view of why unhappy people might do brazen things.
Benjamin Zephaniah’s Windrush child: “ends in a howl of pain”. Photo: Roberto Ricciuti / Getty Images
The complexities of the human heart are the unexpected stars of Windrush kid by Benjamin Zephaniah (Scholastic, £ 6.99), which requires no introduction. Unlike many children’s books, the story of young Leonard leaving Jamaica in the 1950s to travel to Manchester actually takes Leonard into adulthood, alternating the rough with the smooth. The focus here is not just on his status as a new boy in an all-white school, but also on how complicated love and loyalty can be. It ends with a howl of injury when a child who arrived with their mother’s passport denied their rights as a citizen.
Brand new boy by David Almond (Walker, £ 10.99), who wrote Skellig and several other fine books, takes the “new child” trope further than usual. When George attended a normal school somewhere in the northeast, Daniel and his friend Maxie were fascinated – and later electroplated. When George’s ear falls off, it is clear that he is no ordinary boy. Almond’s agile page turner, cleverly disguised as a raid, thinks about nothing less than humanity and free will and how to have a great time in the woods.
Katharine Orton’s last book, Nevertell, combines history and fantasy, subjects that she revisits Glass heart (Walker, £ 7.99). World War II may be over, but Nona lost everything. She and her “uncle” Antoni – a friendly craftsman who took them in – restore stained glass windows and do not talk about their damage.
But Antoni soon falls into a trance and a stranger who looks into the glass worries Nona. It doesn’t take long for the magic to lift its head and a battle rages between worlds in which Nona’s persistent nature and strange powers are both an asset and an obligation. Orton’s fantastic world is drawn in a creepy way; Her understanding of grief, suffering and healing is even better.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave has been on a number of hits since The Girl of Ink & Stars in 2016. Set in Siena during the time of smallpox plague, A secret of birds & bones (Chicken House, £ 12.99) finds Sofia and her little brother slip into town against her beloved mother’s strict orders – only to find that she has been captured.
Soon Sofia and her siblings are also trapped. As Sofia struggles to understand the importance of her mother’s secret work – making beautiful objects out of bones for the rich and powerful – she discovers malevolent magpies and authoritarian power, all directed against her. This is another page turner that enchants with its magical realism and originality.
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