Saturday, June 22, 2013

Anglophile Reads

To celebrate my upcoming trip to England, I thought I'd post a few of my favorite titles set across the pond.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend

At thirteen years old, Adrian Mole has more than his fair share of problems - spots, ill-health, parents threatening to divorce, rejection of his poetry and much more - all recorded with brilliant humour in his diary.

I remember this being a bit grittier than the cover art implies, but maybe I just read it a bit young?

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Dodie Smith's first novel transcends the oft-stodgy definition of "a classic" by being as brightly witty and adventuresome as it was when published nearly fifty years ago.

Another diary novel, but this time one of my absolute favorites, and, as I recall, perfectly suited for a June read. PBS fans, this one's for you.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Let's be honest, this doesn't even need a caption ;-)

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

Katherine Ann Stephenson has just discovered that she's inherited her mother's magical talents, and despite Stepmama's stern objections, she's determined to learn how to use them.

But with her eldest sister Elissa's intended fiancĂ©, the sinister Sir Neville, showing a dangerous interest in Kat's magical potential; her other sister, Angeline, wreaking romantic havoc with her own witchcraft; and a highwayman lurking in the forest, even Kat's reckless heroism will be tested to the upmost.  If she can learn to control her new powers, will Kat be able to rescue her family and win her sisters their true love?

Regency, magic, and spunky female lead? Oh, rather! I blogged about this one before, and am rereading it and its sequel before I go to Bath.

 The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Who doesn't love a kid's story that kicks off with "the grisly murder" of the protagonists entire family? (If you are raising your hand, you can put it the heck back down unless you are willing to pretend you don't like Disney movies. I thought so.)

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

Catherine, a spirited and inquisitive young woman of good family, narrates in diary form the story of her fourteenth year--the year 1290.

This book is probably 80% of why I love stories set in the Middle Ages, and features one of the earliest cranky, snarky heroines I remember loving.  

 The Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones

In this multiple parallel universes of the Twelve Related Worlds, only an enchanter with nine lives is powerful enough to control the rampant misuse of magic--and to hold the title Chrestomanci... The Chants are a family strong in magic, but neither Christopher Chant nor Cat Chant can work even the simplest of spells. Who could have dreamed that both Christopher and Cat were born with nine lives--or that they could lose them so quickly?

Oh how I love this series. There are interesting characters and cool magic, but mostly I remember the sprawly house and grounds, lots of chapters where people eat lovely things like marmalade toast, and the eccentric wizard in garish dressing gowns. If you haven't read any Wynne Jones yet, you should fix that immediately by picking this one up today.

I'm realizing that these are mostly for the 10-14 set. For older readers there is The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, and I'm sure there are hundreds more that I'm just not remembering at the moment. Oh, well there was The Wicked and the Just, set in Wales. Have there been any decent retellings of Shakespeare or Robin Hood? Any Jane Austen with a twist sorts of things? Please share your favorites in the comments!


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