#MGTakesOnThursday – The Good Thieves

#MGTakesOnThursday was created by Mary over at Book Craic and is a brilliant way to shout about some brilliant MG books!

To join in, all you need to do is:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week I’ve chosen a book I’ve been meaning to read for ages but only just got round to. It’s really been one of those “how have I let it go so long before reading this?” reads too, so I wanted to share it with you!

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Matt Saunders, Cover Art by Marie-Alice Harel, audiobook read by Margaret Cabourn-Smith, published by Bloomsbury

I’d forgotten how much I love Katherine Rundell’s books, but this drew me straight in and reminded me if what a brilliant writer she is; surely one of the finest MG authors around today.

She has such a way with words, especially in the way she makes it do thoroughly readable but also uses such carefully selected, effective and exciting language. Her stories leap from the page and this is no exception.

A brilliantly fast-paced heist featuring a classic ‘odd ball gang’ comprising a knife-thrower, animal tamer, acrobat and pick pocket; the group fizz with energy – feisty and strong, with a hefty dose of attitude.

Similarly, the setting of gritty, grimy, glamorous and downright dangerous prohibition era New York oozes cool and demands drama.

This is a wild and exciting ride in which the action never lets up. I can’t recommend it enough!

And I should also add that I listened to the audiobook which was fantastically narrated too, so I’d highly recommend that as well if audiobooks are your thing!

My favourite sentence from page 11:

A strange man with two guard dogs came out of the caretaker’s cottage and pointed a rifle at him.

This book in three words:

Action. Attitude. Adventure.

Why You Should Read Children’s Books…

Those of you that read regularly will know I’m not one for getting reviews up immediately. I mull, I procrastinate, I reflect, I attempt to find the words to do justice to how the book has made me feel and to say what I want to say about it. Then I review about a month later when everyone’s already read it and moved on…

But this morning, I read this little gem on my way into work and just had to share it with you immediately!

Why You Should Read Children’s Books Even Though You Are So Old and Wise by Katherine Rundell

It’s only short so there’s not too much I can say without feeling like I’m going to spoil it, but suffice to say I began by folding down the corners (yes, shoot me now) on the pages that said something that really spoke to me, only to find I was folding down the corner on nearly every page.

I always struggle when asked why I read children’s books – although for the most part I’m not asked, I’m just given strange looks or people assume it’s just for my job (it *is* for my job, but my job is my job because I read kids’ books not the other way around).

I can never find the words I want (I know, big shock, hey?!) to express what it is about children’s literature that I love. What that certain something is that the best of it contains. How transportative it can be. How well it acts as a guide to the less cheery sides of life whilst remaining (for the most part) steadfastly hopeful and determined to believe impossible things.

This essay from Katherine Rundell does what I cannot and makes the case for reading children’s literature in a warm, wry and knowledgeable way from historical, political and personal viewpoints. It has also reminded my love of fairytales and made me want to rush out and drink them all down.

Ultimately, it’s a book that, just like the best children’s books it is written about, filled me hope and utter joy and left a large smile on my face! Everyone should read it (especially those old enough and wise enough to think they know better!)

Into the Jungle: Stories for Mowgli

First published almost 125 years ago, the combination of the wild world, freedom and adventure in The Jungle Book mean it is just as appealing today as it was then. And that writing a ‘companion’ for it would be no easy task.

Luckily, Katherine Rundell is more than up to the task. Already a huge fan of her writing and the way it captures perfectly a scene, a mood, a character… and knowing from her last book The Explorer how well she can conjure up the jungle, I had no doubts she’d bring The Jungle Book roaring to life in Into the Jungle.

9781509822317

Charming and compelling origin stories for all Kipling’s best-known characters, from Baloo and Shere Khan to Kaa and Bagheera. As Mowgli travels through the Indian jungle, this brilliantly visual tale will make readers both laugh and cry. 

Firstly, this is going to be an absolutely stunning book. I received an ARC which included samples of Kristjana Williams’ sumptuous illustrations and they are as rich and vivid as Katherine Rundell’s text. Put together in a hardback edition, this is going to be a beautiful gift of a book.

This is a wonderful series of five stories, as told to Mowgli as he makes his way through the jungle (trying to evade Mother Wolf and the telling off he thinks is coming!) Each story is narrated by one of the animals and tells the backstory of one of the others, with the stories giving a brilliant new depth to each of the characters, while at the same time staying true to Kipling’s original depictions of them.

Mother Wolf’s story is one of the reckless invincibility of youth, female ferocity, loyalty and love. Bagheera’s solemn, often solitary nature is perfectly explained by his story – one of loss, freedom and the ways of the wild. Kaa’s story was the most surprising to me, while Baloo’s was without a doubt my absolute favourite of the bunch – a story of intelligence, courage, defying expectations and challenging preconceptions. While Shere Khan doesn’t have his own chapter, his story also threads through the book and, like Baloo’s, is one of the ones that I enjoyed most.

Mowgli’s own character – one of a typical child: selfish, blunt and arrogant at times; carefree, mischievous and friendly at others, but always full of life – is gradually drawn from each of these encounters before the final chapter shows just how much of life, loyalty, courage and respect he has learned from his jungle family.

These individual stories weave together as the book progresses to create the central plot of the book, which has a much more modern feel to it, despite still being rooted in the characters and events of the original. It is an exciting, colourful and cleverly woven tale, in which quick-thinking, creativity and teamwork make for a dramatic and gripping finale. It has all the ingredients needed to be a hit with young readers today, whether they are familiar with the original or not.

Important messages about diversity and celebrating differences, as well as the impact of man on nature, run through the book too and are written into the story in the very best way: it’s not at all shouty, preachy or shoe-horned in, but it makes the points in no uncertain terms that, as Bagheera finds: “To be alive is to be wild and various.”

Full of warmth, humour and life, and perfectly complemented by beautiful, bold illustrations – this is an adventure for all ages. Those familiar with Kipling’s Jungle Book will relish the chance to delve deeper into some of our favourite characters, and for those unfamiliar with the original this is a perfect introduction to whet the appetite or a thoroughly enjoyable stand alone story bursting with jungle life.