An esoteric and distinctly biased list of 50 children’s books you probably really should read (part four)

The Princess Diaries – Meg Cabot

I love these. They’re the ugly duckling tale of Mia Thermopolis who, during that first year of awkward High School-ness, discovers she’s actually the heir to the throne of Genovia. Essentially, Mia’s a princess. She’s a funny, gorgeously engaging narrator who you can’t help but root for. Plus Micheal is *adorable* in the books and probably my first guy-book-crush.

Similar to : the rest of the series

A Horse Called Wonder – Joanna Campbell

These books blew my mind. We only got the first four or so in my local bookshop and then, on a family holiday to America, I discovered the truth. There weren’t just four books in the series. THERE WERE MILLIONS. This horsey saga of life on a racing farm spanned generations of people, of horses, and of hot jockey types. It was like Sunset Beach (look it up on Youtube) and The Saddle Club all in one. It was AMAZING.

Similar to : Sunset Beach + horses. Like I said, you really need to look it up.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle

A classic. It’s the story of a caterpillar who eats loads of stuff, getting bigger all the time, before eventually turning into a butterfly. There’s a lovely simplicity to the story, coupled with lots of holes for fingers to be poked through, and it practically begs to be read out loud.

Similar to : Herve Tullet / Mr Men

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

Oh, this book. It’s written in tight, restrained prose full of spooky horror at every step. It’s unnerving, and it’s edgy and it’s brilliant. A family is murdered by “the man Jack” but the toddler survives. He finds himself in a graveyard, there adopted by the resident ghosts, and named Bod. Bod grows up in the graveyard but the man Jack is never far behind – and he wants to finish what he started.

Similar to : When you walk home at night, and hear a twig crack, but there’s nobody there.

Troy – Adele Geras

This is a very beautifully written book, all from the perspective of women locked in Troy during the great siege. Geras has  a gift of writing female characters very, very well and handles them with great restraint. Even though most of us already know how this story ends, you can’t help but be swept up in it again.

Similar to : Ithaka (Adele Geras)

Misty of Chincoteague

Misty of Chincoteague – Marguerite Henry

This is one of the most wildly romantic horse stories out there. The wild horses of Chincoteague Island are round up, and their colts sold off. One of those colts is Misty. I remember this book genuinely blowing my mind – and there’s a whole saga of them to enjoy.

Similar to : Black Beauty

For Love of a Horse – Patricia Leitch

So. You’re eleven. You’re stubborn. You’ve got red hair. You’re moving to the wilds of Scotland. You visit a circus. You see a wild Arabian steed. And then, just as you’re getting near to your new home, you witness a road accident – involving the circus van that carries the selfsame horse. WHAT DO YOU DO? Well, you do what Jinny Manders does and you get your horse and you fight for her. These books are stunning and quite unusual in that they dispense with the blunt practical knowledge that tends to characterise a Pullein-Thompson book and shift towards a mixture of near-pagan mysticism. Amazing books. I want them back.

Similar to : the rest of the series

The Fashionista Books – Sarra Manning

I have a love of America’s Next Top Model. And these books are the books that Tyra wishes she could write, but can’t. Sarra Manning’s series of four books, all taking the viewpoint of different characters, are brilliant. These are sharp, funny, and brilliant books.

Similar to : the Wholahay ANTM incident (aka the best moment ever)

War Horse – Michael Morpurgo

I’ve written of my love for this book before so I’ll try not to rehash things here. Essentially, if you’re at all interested in horses, families, love, heartbreak, emotionally satisfying endings, get to this book asap.

Similar to : Black Beauty (God, Black Beauty really was quite genre-defining wasn’t it!)

Bedknob and Broomsticks – Mary Norton

Mary Norton also wrote the Borrowers but I decided to plump for Bedknob and Broomsticks as my choice for this list. Whilst some elements of B and B read very poorly today for the racist connotations (viz. the Cannibals), it remains a fascinating and intensely readable book. Written in the middle of World War Two (1943), it also has a lot of intriguing social commentary (particularly about life as a single woman) tucked away in between all the hijinks.

Similar to : The Worst Witch

Insatiable : Meg Cabot

Insatiable (Insatiable, #1)Insatiable by Meg Cabot

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meg Cabot is my guilty pleasure. I have a lot of love for her work and have followed her across all her series so far. I was very intrigued to see that she’s written a vampire novel and picked it up in a manner reminiscent of somebody crossing the Rubicon (this is a genre that I do *not* frequent)

Insatiable is the first (naturally) of a series which deals with Meena Harper. The Mina Harker allusions are most intentional. Meena is gifted, or not, with a skill to predict people’s deaths. She knows how you’re going to die.

The problem is that she’s never been able to see her own future. And that might be kinda handy right now because she might be sort of on the verge of falling in love with the wrong sort of guy…

Meena’s healthily sceptic and self-aware throughout and there’s a heavy dose of humour throughout. Meena is a TV writer, working on one of the most popular soaps of the day, and I really enjoyed how Cabot worked all her possible angles of parodies.

It’s a fun, albeit lightweight, book that might just turn me back onto a genre which I couldn’t abide previously. This is a vampire book for people who do not do vampire books and it’s pretty awesome in a very beach-book, not too serious-y, romance-y in the right places sort of way. A lot of fun all round.

Please note that this book does include sexual scenes and some healthy doses of violence so I wouldn’t suggest it for the younger demographic of Cabot’s fanbase.

View all my reviews

Meg Cabot’s ‘Size 12 and Ready to Rock’ – The best Book Trailer I’ve seen this year


Okay, so now I’ve calmed down a tad (I love this so much), I need to examine why this works. I think book trailers are actually really difficult to do. They need to act like a movie-trailer: you don’t want the whole thing, but you do want to get a feel for the book. You want to know what you’re getting into, and if you’re already into it, you want a little extra AND THEN you need it to be easily available on the internet, you want it short but sweet because you want it to make a mark within the first ten seconds or so because of the increasingly short attention spans and you need it to look good and have a feeling of quality because  frankly some of the home-made efforts on Youtube are outstripping ‘mainstream’ media these days AND THEN after all of that, it needs to, you know, sell the book a little bit.

So, it’s easy right? Not really. I admit I’m a bit of a video snob (I’ve got mad editing skills) and get a little obsessed over trailers that look to be a tad cheap or mainstream when the book itself is not at all run of the mill and deserves a lot more than a shaky hand and a special filter or two.

This is why I love this book trailer:

  • Brief (I am not bored and I’ve watched it a good 10 times now)
  • TUNE (I love a good bit of pop. LOVE)
  • Riffs on Pop-Up Video (iconic pop culture reference, fixes Heather Wells into a  context)
  • Gets the plot across (and does it without faffing about)
  • AND it’s really nicely edited (it’s glossy, but with those subtle stylistic edges that place it in a very specific sort of music video)

Nice work Meg Cabot’s team!!

However, upon having a rummage through the rest of Meg Cabot’s Youtube I came across this which is both amazing and terrifying all at the same time. I think  it might be one of the most epic things I’ve ever witnessed.