Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Patron of Reading at the John Roan School

I'm delighted to announce that as of today I've been appointed Patron of Reading at the John Roan School, Maze Hill. I very much look forward to developing workshops and ideas with the librarian and students.

Here's a link to the Patron of Reading website.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Greek Myth in Children's Fiction Part 10

I've rarely seen a book raise so much laughter in the young
as my final choice for Greek Myth in Children's Fiction: The Pig Scrolls, by Paul Shipton. Gryllus was a member of Odysseus' crew, transformed into a pig by the witch Circe. (The name is taken from a little jeu d'esprit of Plutarch's, in which Odysseus and Circe talk with a pig.) He must now save the world, thanks to a somewhat surprising prophecy.

All the familiar names are there, and the book is a rollicking and deliciously irreverent romp. 

Greek myth, as we have seen, manifests itself in children's fiction in many ways: from the stately to the silly. I'm sure that these heroes, heroines, gods and beasts will populate our imaginations for many centuries to come, and I look forward to the many new and exciting interpretations that are bound to follow. 

Gryllus brings my series to an end. Watch out for my own reimagining of Greek myth: The Double Axe, in which the story of Theseus and the minotaur gets a surprising twist.


Monday, 27 June 2016

Blog review of THE KING'S REVENGE

Here's a lovely blog review on Fly Girl's Cabinet of Curiosities, of THE KING'S REVENGE.

Greek Myth in Children's Fiction: Part 9

Time and time again, when I meet older children, they tell me that their favourite book when they were little was Lucy Coats' Atticus the Storyteller. Covering a huge range of Greek myth, from the beginnings of the cosmos right up until Odysseus returns home to Penelope, the book cleverly uses the idea of a storytelling competition at Troy to link the stories together. Lively, and beautifully written, it should be anyone's starting point when thinking about Greek myth for the young. 

Lucy Coats has also recently produced a series, "Beasts of Olympus", about a young demi-god, Pandemonium, who is transported up to Olympus to look after the animals - the books are both funny and exciting, and twist the myths on their heads as Hercules, who's always trying to kill them, becomes the villain.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Greek Myth in Children's Fiction: Part 8

The plasticity and power of myth is taken to imaginative and brilliant levels in Alan Gibbons' Shadow of the Minotaur, in which a young boy starts playing a computer game. He takes on the characters first of Theseus battling the minotaur, and then Perseus fighting the Gorgon. The only problem is - he's not in a computer game, but in a different layer of reality. Gripping and clever. (And also I have a fondness for the minotaur, as the myth provided the basis for my own The Double Axe.)

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Greek Myth in Children's Fiction: Part 7

From the mother and daughter team that brought you Lionboy comes Halo, an enormously involving story in which a young girl is castaway on an island full of centaurs. She must dress as a boy to survive, and ends up in the centre of Athenian politics. It's a wonderfully original take on ancient myth, and Halo is a lively and intelligent heroine battling to find out about herself within the context of greater turmoil.

(The cover, by the way, shouldn't have been in Greek letters - the title reads EDLTH. Confusing for a book that has the Greek alphabet in the back.)

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Greek Myth in Children's Fiction: Part 6

Rosemary Sutcliff is perhaps best known for her novels set in Roman times. She did, however cover a wide range of other subjects - coming, towards the end of her life, to the Greek myths. She did write a version of The Iliad, called Black Ships before Troy; but I'm going to mention her version of the Odyssey, The Wanderings of Odysseus. Dramatic and beautifully written, and full of lovely phrases: ("The Greeks were woolly-witted with so much eating and drinking"), it makes a fine introduction to the travails of myth's cleverest hero.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Greek Myth in Children's Fiction: Part 5

One of the other great dynasties of Greek myth is that of Oedipus and his family at Thebes. Sophocles' play Antigone is part of this cycle, and Ali Smith, in her version The Story of Antigone (written for Pushkin Press as part of their "Save the Story" cycle) is imaginative and wise. A crow forms the framing device, and all the great themes of love, honour and duty are dealt with sensitively and sympathetically, and also faithfully. A must for anyone building a library of classics for the young.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Alma: Discount on THE DOUBLE AXE

Alma are giving a 25 % discount on THE DOUBLE AXE for a short time only. Simply email with your order and the code AXE25JULY.

Greek Myth in Children's Books Part 4

Whenever you delve into Greek myth, you come up against the tale of Troy. As much as anything it is about consequences and causes. If Peleus hadn't fallen in love with Thetis, they would not have had a wedding; Eris would not have been ignored, and she would not have thrown down the golden apple; the mighty goddesses Athena, Hera and Aphrodite would never have quarreled, and Paris would have been simply a glamorous, dancing prince, not the slayer of Achilles. The tendrils of the cycle reach from the beginnings of myth right down to the end, with Iphigenia being found alive at Tauris. 

Adèle Geras's Troy sees the story from the point of view of two sisters, living inside the besieged city, who fall in love with the same man. One can see gods; one can't. It's rich, detailed and imaginative, and proves just how vital those mythic battles are.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Greek Myth in Children's Books: Part 3 of 10

About 9 years ago a book came onto my desk which stood out for its wit and original take on Greek mythology: Snakehead by Ann Halam. It now appears to be out of print, sadly. It is brilliantly fresh  - the mythic landscape hums with gods; yet gap year kids haunt the tavernas. Mystical and full of humour, it deserved more attention than it got. When Perseus eventually sees Medusa, he thinks:

‘Oh Great All, it was Athini herself – It was Athini herself, looking out from inside of me – I was Athini. I was the monster. I had to kill the monster, so I could be Athini.’ 

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Greek Myths in Children's Fiction: Part 2 of 10

I have written extensively about my next choice: David Almond's superb recent novel, A Song for Ella Grey. It takes the haunting myth of Orpheus  and his love for Eurydice, and transports it to the modern day North of England. Full of boldness and beauty, almost a poem in its sparse concentration of meaning, it demonstrates how the power of myth can be found in everyday teen life. There are many thrilling scenes, too, such as a descent to the underworld; and lots of nods to details in the original story. Surely Orpheus does walk among us, again and again, taking on different guises: a bard for all time.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Review of THE DOUBLE AXE in Australia

I was delighted to see that THE DOUBLE AXE has reached the shores of Australia - with this lovely reader review. See it here.

King's Revenge Launch at Daunts in Bookbrunch

Greek Myths in Children's Fiction: Part 1 of 10

There's nothing so potent as a myth. In response to a question on Twitter, I will be posting for ten days ten excellent books for children that either use Greek myth or retell it in some way.

1. The Luck of Troy by Roger Lancelyn Green

Not as well known as Lancelyn Green's Tales of the Greek Heroes, this is perhaps a more engaging and thrilling retelling. Nico is Helen's son, kidnapped by Paris of Troy as a child with his mother. After ten years of war, it looks like there's no hope: but Nico knows about the "luck" of Troy. Beautifully written, and very closely based on literary sources, it manages to tell the canonical story with grace, beauty and intelligence. There is Paris with his panther skins; Cassandra the prophetess; and all the great panoply of heroes and heroines - and Nico is a fine and determined guide.

Here's a beautiful cover posted by @gjteevan on Twitter. I wonder who the illustrator was? Very striking - blood, action, danger.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Summer Children's Book Round Up for Literary Review


I've done my Summer Children's Book Round up for Literary Review, which features:

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
Queen of the Silver Arrow by Caroline Lawrence
The Otherlife by Julia Gray
Chosen by Lucy Coats
Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
Erica's Elephant by Sylvia Bishop
Louie Lets Loose! by Rachel Hamilton
The Dragon and the Nibblesome Knight by Elli Woodward and Benji Davies.

You can read the whole piece here.