04 May What to Read Now
This month, we have three very different but equally arresting books. What are your current recommended reads?
Featherlight by Peter Bunzl (suggestion for ages 9+)
This is a beautiful tale that evokes the stories of the real heroines like Grace Darling and Ida Lewis who risked their lives to save sailors at sea in the nineteenth century.
Deryn is left alone to tend to the lighthouse that guards the treacherous rocky coastline when her parents have to go to the mainland. A small red feathered bird crashes into the lighthouse light, and Deryn rescues her. The tiny bird is unlike any she has ever seen amongst the amazing wildlife on the island. When the lamp runs out of oil, and the light in the lighthouse goes out, Deryn and her grandmother must rescue those on board and help comes from a curious source.
The mix of real drama and magic makes this a wondrous story of bravery and hope.
By Alison Palmer, BCiS co-director. You can find Ali chatting on Twitter.
Wranglestone by Darren Charlton (suggestion for ages 13+)
The islands of Lake Wranglestone are a refuge from the Restless Dead who roam the outside world. The islanders are safe until the winter comes and the lake freezes over allowing the Restless Dead to cross the ice. In their self sufficient bubble, practical and physical skills are valued by islanders above all others and Peter, whose strengths are more domestic, struggles to fit in. Cooper is in many ways his opposite and has been discretely watched by Peter for some time. When the two of them are thrown together and have to go to the mainland, they discover a dark secret from Wranglestone’s past and much more besides.
It is an ideal read for fans of dystopia, but even if that is a genre you wouldn’t normally choose, give this a go. It is really unexpected in so many ways and I can’t get Peter and Cooper out of my head. I really hope that Darren Charlton writes a sequel – I have so many questions and want to know what happens next!
Thank you to Katy Donelly for this review. Katy is one of our school managers. She has a MA in children’s literature and is also a fabulous book blogger.
The Strays of Paris by Jane Smiley (suggestion for ages 16+)
Jane Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist whose latest novel The Strays of Paris is hard to pin down genre-wise. An animal adventure story, it reads like a fable and is perfect for readers aged eleven and over.
Paras is a spirited young racehorse who in a moment of curiosity leaves the confines of her stables on the outskirts of the city. She meets Frida, a stray dog who is lonely since the death of her owner, a homeless man, and they become friends. Together they set off on their adventures hooking up with more waifs and strays along the way, two ducks and a crow and together they tell their stories, and discuss their ideas of ownership and freedom.
They roam the city’s lush green spaces and life is enjoyable for a time. But everything changes when Paras meets an eight year old boy, Étienne, who cares for his nearly one hundred year old grandmother in a large ivy covered house. As the old lady is nearly blind, she doesn’t notice when Étienne invites the crew into their home, and it becomes a story about support. Can the animals protect a friendless human child who has somehow eluded the French social services, and will the boy be their saviour? As Raoul the Raven says, “Life is always a chancy business.”
This is a charming and observant short novel, about what happens when we open our eyes to the unexpected. It makes us consider nature and how we live with and care for animals, as well as how as humans we communicate with each other; plus it transports us out of lockdown and far away to the streets of one of the most magical cities in the world.
Thank you to Dymphna Flynn for writing this review for us. Dymphna is a books journalist and audio producer. Read her book reviews on Instagram