Meet this month's Book Doctor... Abi Elphinstone!

Abi ElphinestoneAbi Elphinstone – author of RumblestarSky Song and The Dreamsnatcher series – is our guest Book Doctor, prescribing the best reads for young booklovers.

Abi has picked five questions – sent in by Caboodlers just like you – to answer. All five Caboodlers will each receive a £15/€20 National Book Token to spend in their favourite bookshop.

Got a bookish bothering of your own? Send your questions in and if we pick yours for the attention of our future Book Doctors, you’ll get a National Book Token!

A Little Princess

Both my 9-year-old daughter and I are avid readers, and we are trying to find classics that we can enjoy reading together. We started with Oliver Twist but it was perhaps a bit too ambitious. Any suggestions as to less challenging classics? – Kate

Hi Kate, I'd try A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (the 1995 film adaption is also wonderful), Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, Watership Down by Richard Adams (bring tissues) and the Just William books by Richmal Crompton. For something a little more recent (published 1960s-1990s) but still with a timeless, classic feel, I'd suggest Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian, The Ruby in The Smoke by Philip Pullman (and indeed the rest of these Sally Lockhart books – they're a quartet) and Flour Babies by Anne Fine. And for historical fiction written by contemporary authors I'd recommend anything by Emma Carroll and Lucy Strange.

What Magic is This?

Can you recommend some good reading material for my daughter, aged fifteen, who has dyslexia? Dyslexia means she takes a little longer to absorb what she's reading, and might be a bit slower to read than she'd like, so books that keep attention easily would be brilliant, plus books which challenge but are still accessible to people with reading barriers. Thank you! - Susan

Hi Susan, I'm dyslexic, too, so I am always on the hunt for accessible books for dyslexic children. If you haven't already come across the publishing house Barrington Stoke, check out their books – they specialize in books for dyslexic children and they have a range of award-winning authors writing for them – everyone from Holly Bourne (her latest, What Magic Is This?, looks brilliant and perfect for a 15-year-old girl) to Phil Earle. I also find verse novels work really well for dyslexic children – anything by Sarah Crossan would be brilliant for your daughter: One is a real tear-jerker and absolutely brilliant, or there's The Weight of Water which is also fabulous. Holly Smale's Happy Girl Lucky is really accessible, too.

The 1000-year-old Boy

My 9-year-old nephew enjoys reading factual books, such as children's encyclopaedias. I'm pleased he is an avid reader because all our family are enthusiastic bookworms, but I'd like to broaden his horizons a little by introducing some children's fiction to him. What would you recommend? – Sarah

Hi Sarah, I'd recommend The 1000-year-old Boy by Ross Welford and The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge – both these authors channel huge, often abstract concepts (like space, science, physics etc.) into brilliantly accessible stories for kids. I'd also recommend Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster, The Boy At The Back Of The Class by Onjali Rauf, The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, Ways To Live Forever by Sally Nicholls, Once by Morris Gleiszman, Holes by Louis Sachar and Skellig by David Almond – all page-turning plots set in the real world (which may appeal to your nephew if he loves factual books) with fabulously engaging narrative voices. And anything by Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

The Dragon in the Library

As a teacher, I always get plenty of requests for book suggestions, but particularly from parents of reluctant readers who are desperate to get their sons off their devices and into books. My usual suggestions are now becoming a little tired and dated. Do you have any suggestions for books more relevant to boys (aged 7-11) in our modern times? – Joanne

Hi Joanne, for the younger boys (7/8-year-olds) anything by Sam Gayton – The Snow Merchant, Hercufleas, etc. (adventurous plots and quirky magic) – and Andy Shepherd's The Boy Who Grew Dragons series is great fun, as is The Dragon in the Library by Louie Stowell and The Legend of Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood. Then for the 8+ reluctant readers, I'd say Malamander by Thomas Taylor (fabulous gothic seaside setting and a very funny narrative voice), The Last Wild by Piers Torday (hugely memorable characters and topical with the climate emergency), Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones (a proper page turner, and fabulously told), The 1000-year-old Boy by Ross Welford (accessible and compelling storytelling), Stonebird by Mike Revell (lovely story championing the power of imagination) and Phoenix by SF Said (enthralling space adventure). For ‘real life’ books, I'd say Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster, The Many Lives of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge, The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Rauf and Wonder by RJ Palacio – and you can't beat Perijee and Me by Ross Montgomery for humour.

The Good Thieves

After being asked by a young relative who thought that all heroes are boys, I struggled to think of many children's adventure books with female leads. Do you have any recommendations? – Laura

Hi Laura, I’ve got loads of recommendations for you (I adore reading books with punchy female leads and indeed I write about them in my own books, too). So, I love The Huntress series by Sarah Driver (fabulous sea-faring heroine), The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell (a feisty stone-hurling gal righting a wrong in Prohibition New York), The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Milwood Hargrave (beautifully drawn female lead characters), Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens (a brilliant female detective duo), and The Girl Who Walked On Air by Emma Carroll (brilliant historical heroine).


About Rumblestar

Eleven-year-old Casper Tock hates risks, is allergic to adventures and shudders at the thought of unpredictable events. So, it comes as a nasty shock to him when he accidentally stumbles into Rumblestar, an Unmapped Kingdom full of magical beasts.
All Casper wants is to find a way home, but Rumblestar is in trouble. An evil harpy called Morg is sending her followers, the Midnights, into the kingdom to wreak havoc and pave the way for her to steal the Unmapped magic for herself. But Casper cannot turn a blind eye because the future of his own world, he discovers, is bound up with that of the Unmapped Kingdoms. 
And so, together with Utterly Thankless, a girl who hates rules and is allergic to behaving, and her miniature dragon, Arlo, Casper embarks upon an adventure full of cloud giants, storm ogres and drizzle hags. Can he, Utterly and Arlo, the unlikeliest of heroes, save the Unmapped Kingdoms and our world from the clutches of Morg and her Midnights?

Live a life filled with adventure with Abi Elphinstone in this brand new series where a whole new world is waiting to be discovered...

Need urgent book advice? Why not visit your local bookshop where the booksellers will be happy to recommend your next read – find your nearest.

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Caboodlers' Corner

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