Book Reviews


The Debatable Land
Graham Robb - Picador £20

When Graham Robb, author of the wonderful The Discovery of France, and Parisians, moves to a remote farmhouse at the very end of England, he discovers that the river that almost surrounds his house used to be the southern boundary of the Debatable Land. This was an independent territory between England and Scotland, claimed by both, ruled by neither and a haven for fugitives. Without intending to write a book, Robb is nonetheless intrigued by the history of his new home and turns the powerful beam of his curiosity upon it, setting out on foot, by bike, and back into time to discover its secrets. With new discoveries illuminating the forgotten history of this fought over scrap of land, and border debates pulled into sharper focus by current issues, combined with Robb’s charming, understated style, this is a fascinating, engrossing read, even for someone who has never set foot in the Debatable Land.

The Queen of Bloody Everything
Joanna Nadin - Pan Macmillan £14.99

When Dido is six, she and her mother Edie move from their London squat to a ramshackle semi in Saffron Walden in the long hot summer of 1976. The neighbours are scandalised by the comings and goings of Edie’s friends and lovers, by the drinking, the drugs, the mung bean sprouts and the chaos. Dido, meanwhile, has found a gate in their garden wall and become entranced by the family on the other side, the perfect middle-class family. A boy, a girl, two parents, they are everything that Edie and Dido are not, and she desperately wants to be part of their golden lives.
Told year by year, this is the story of Dido’s yearning for a different life, a different family, but also the story of Edie and Dido – their fractured, fractious relationship, the inescapable ties that bind mother and daughter. An eccentric, bittersweet coming of age story.

Mike
Andrew Norriss - David Fickling £10.99

A sweet and poignant story about listening to your inner voice and challenging other’s expectations of you.
Floyd, aged 15, is the Next Big Thing in British tennis. A rising star, hot-housed by his tennis-coach dad, his whole life has been focussed on getting to Wimbledon. Until Mike comes along.
At first, Floyd thinks Mike is just an oddball fan, but when he walks onto the court and interrupts a match, Floyd realises with horror that no one else can see him. Floyd is sent to a psychologist, and together they begin to unpick the mystery of Mike.
This is an absolutely gorgeous, life-affirming coming of age story! Deep, yet almost weightlessly easy to read, neatly structured and well-paced, ‘Mike’ will leave you with a warm glow. Perfect for fans of ‘Wonder’ – another all ages must read!

Lots: The Diversity of Life on Earth
Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton - Walker £6.99

Nicola Davies saw her first dolphin at a very young age, and was entranced by the ‘big fish’ leaping in the aquarium, vowing she would see them in the wild. At eighteen, she was on a scientific expedition to Newfoundland doing just that. Davies’ boundless enthusiasm for all members of the animal kingdom and her wonderfully accessible style of writing both fact and fiction make her one of the best nature writers we have for children. Her latest book is a beautifully written introduction to the concept of biodiversity for younger readers, accompanied by the most exquisite illustrations by one of our favourite illustrators, Emily Sutton. One to treasure!
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