Books for 8-to-12 year olds reviewed

Tales of porcelain rabbits and prehistoric sharks


The Secret History of Tom Trueheart (Oxford, £6.99) is the famed illustrator Ian Beck's first novel for children. It tells the story of how 12-year-old Tom, seventh son of the Trueheart clan of fairy-tale heroes, has to set out on a quest when all six of his beefy brothers fail to do their usual duty by the Story Bureau, and vanish to boot. Beck creates a world that is a shrewd mix of the mundane and the fanciful, and embellishes his narrative with jaunty silhouettes and graceful flourishes.

Kate di Camillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Candlewick, £12.99) is the story of an elegant porcelain rabbit with wire joints, snappy silk suits and rabbit-skin ears and tail. Pampered by the little girl who owns him at the start of the story, Edward loses his oblivious carelessness about both her and his surroundings when he is tossed overboard from an ocean liner. Found and lost time and again, he slowly learns how to love through having his heart broken. The tale evokes William Nicholson's The Velveteen Rabbit, not just because Edward Tulane is a rabbit, but because it too has the mythic quality of a parable, told with calm assurance. Bagram Ibatoulline's old-fashioned, painterly illustrations double the book's charm.

Matthew Skelton's Endymion Spring (Puffin, £10.99) has an immensely tactile cover, which is appropriate, as it is the story of a book everybody wants to get their hands on. Made of the skin of an all-knowing leaf-dragon and blank to all but a chosen few, it contains all knowledge known and yet to be known. Skelton, an expert in early printing, spun his yarn on hearing of the mysterious Johann Fust, backer of Gutenberg in 1452. Fust's sinister designs are foiled by Endymion Spring, the boy he planned to sacrifice to make the book's knowledge visible. Endymion escapes from Mainz to hide the book like a leaf in a tree - in the depths of Oxford's nascent university library. This medieval escape story is interlaced with a modern quest: an American boy and his sister desperate to mend the rift between their parents. No sketch of Skelton's storyline can do justice to the mesmeric quality of his writing, which conjures up the musty depths of Oxford's ancient buildings as the children pursue and are pursued by sinister shadows through quads, cloisters and cellars.

In Tanglewreck (Bloomsbury, £12.99), Jeanette Winterson's love of literature and myth is allied with shards of little-known London lore and modern quantum science to remarkable effect. Buying and selling time is seen as big business by the sinister clockmaker Abel Drinkwater and the charismatic scientist Regalia Mason. But how to capture it lies only in the heart and mind of Silver, a small girl whose parents and sister have disappeared, leaving her alone with a mean-minded aunt in the great ancient house of Tanglewreck. The story's fantastical plot works because of the immediacy and originality of Winterson's writing; like Regalia's voice it is "silky and soft and edged with some harder material".

Those who need to acquire reading confidence will enjoy Berlie Doherty's The Humming Machine (Young Corgi, £3.99), the sequel to The Starbuster. It returns Tam to his heroic role in fairy-land, this time to rescue his great-grandpa Toby. Doherty writes for children with simplicity, pace and zest, making thoroughly modern stories out of tales that have their roots delicately laced in Celtic myth.

Finally, a mind-bogglingly intricate pop-up book, Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart's second Encylopaedia Prehistorica: Sharks and Other Sea-Monsters (Walker, £18.99). The authors have clearly had fun engineering the huge and lurid monsters that leap out of each spread. Scale is clearly indicated by minute human silhouettes. Ignore the "Age five up" on the cover; this is a volume to be held by parents and displayed with care.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor