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.

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
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.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable