Tag Archives: Tintin

Five Favourite: books for young adults

My Five Favourite series is focused around the three categories in which I now have books published. The last post was my Five Favourite Creepy Stories, and the next and final one will be Poems. That means this time it’s my Five Favorite books aimed at the audience of my own series, The Secret of the Tirthas. These are mainly pre- and early teens, but with crossover appeal to older readers. They’re books that I think can be enjoyed by the whole family – or at least all of them over nine-years-old!

1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

OK, so there’s no surprises with the start. Harry Potter is hardwired into our lives now for a very good reason – it’s brilliant. I’ve chosen Goblet of Fire as my favourite although it’s marginal over the first and all the later ones.

Why do I like this one in particular? I like the fact it’s where it starts to get properly dark, with the fate of Cedric and the proper return of Voldemort. I like the first battle between Harry and Voldemort. (I also like the fact the Quidditch World Cup in the film is set on the Sussex Downs, near where I was born.)

Whilst including Harry Potter is a no-brainer, I will admit something here. When I first tried to read the Philosopher’s Stone I was turned off by one phrase on the first page and put it down… for years. It was only thanks to my wife, a big fan, that I picked it up again, pushed past that section – and then devoured the whole lot in a few weeks one summer.

2. Northern Lights

Five Favourite YA books: Northern Lights

So I’m getting the obvious out of the way first. Philip Pullman has been a major inspiration in my writing. I like Northern Lights best out of all the books in His Dark Materials and The Book of Dust. I love the settings, the cold north and Oxford spires, the armoured bears, the nuanced appearance of Mrs Coulter – and of course the sharp mind and character of Lyra.

3. Chicken Dance

Five Favourite YA books: Chicken Dance

Now for something completely different. I read this book on my own years ago, and then read it again recently to my two boys. They loved it too.

Chicken Dance is the story of a boy who lives on a chicken farm and gains fame in his hometown by entering them into competitions. Don Schmidt has his own special take on the world, quirky, cautious and observant. Despite poor treatment by his family, he remains the true grown-up – even when events take a strange turn, and he begins to investigate the mystery of his sister who supposedly died when he was born…

Check out my Goodreads review here.

4. Cigars of the Pharaoh

Five Favourite YA books: Tintin

I remember my excitement at seeing a Tintin book, King Ottakar’s Sceptre, in a shop in Eastbourne when I was nine. I was staying on a long summer holiday with my grandma. I asked her if I could buy it with my book token but she was hesitant as it was a comic (or graphic novel, as we’d say now…) She eventually agreed and so began my passion for Tintin.

It was hard to select my favourite. It came down to a fight between this one, Cigars of the Pharaoh, and the superb Tintin in Tibet. I chose Cigars of the Pharoah because it was a breakneck adventure and it made me laugh – a lot, especially the eccentric archaeologist, Dr Sophocles Sarcophogus. You can read about how Tintin inspired The Secret of the Tirthas here.

5. The Girl Savage

I love Katherine Rundell and find it hard to select my favourite from excellent books such as Rooftoppers, The Explorer and The Wolf Wilder. But ultimately I think The Girl Savage pips it, particularly for the sheer exuberance of the opening section where tomboy Will runs through the South African countryside, living a wild and free existence. She is loved by her father, and adores every bit of her life. But it’s all about to be shattered by the arrival of a terrible stepmother. Like all of Rundell’s books, The Girl Savage drips with poetry whilst retaining a strong sense of plot and direction.

And now for the ones that got away…

Moominvalley in November. Not really young adult, but I didn’t feel I could leave the Moomins out. I read them when I was eight, but think they appeal up to ages twelve or older. They have a beautiful combination of friendship, strangeness and adventure – surrounded by a wondrous delight in northern landscape and nature.

The Three Investigators – The Mystery of the Screaming Clock. I loved loved loved this series as a kid. They’re now out of print but you can still get them second-hand online – and I keep finding them rummaging around in old book stores. Good news, as my boys love them too!

Skellig – David Almond has a masterful touch for fantasy that subtly encroaches the edges of reality – and of the ability of kids to accept and engage with it. This story of a boy finding a damaged angel in his garage is truly magical.

Earthsea – a wonderful fantasy series from the late Ursula le Guin. The moment in the first book when the young mage Ged accidentally summons a shadow creature is every bit as dramatic as the ‘You shall not pass’ Gandalf-on-the-bridge moment in The Lord of the Rings.

Five Favourite YA books: Earthsea

A Library of Lemons – a fantastic book about the relationship between a boy and his father, struggling to cope with the loss of their mother / wife.

And finally, I couldn’t finish without superlative praise for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I read them all in my early teens but think of them as adult fantasy, which is the only reason they’re not in this top five.

Five Favourite books: The Lord of the Rings

If you’re inspired to read more young adult novels, why not check out my own adventure mystery series, beginning with The City of Light. What would you do if you inherited a garden with a portal to India – and found a killer was using it?

The Cigars of the Pharaoh

Last weekend I handed a copy of The Red Sea Sharks to a cashier at Waterstone’s in Guildford. She went ‘Ah wow, Tintin!’ and immediately asked my son if he knew who their mezzanine statue of the bearded sailor was.

Well, he’s four, so he didn’t have a clue, but I of course mumbled that it was Captain Haddock. How would she know I’d spent a few days ploughing through my recently rediscovered collection of Tintin books – and found this one missing?

It got me thinking just how much Herge (Georges Remi, the Belgian creator of Tintin) had influenced The Secret of the Tirthas. I remember the excitement of getting up before everyone and rushing downstairs to read The Cigars of the Pharoah in the early morning light. I loved the rich variety of the story settings, the good humour and painstaking attention to detail. Trekking and yetis in Tintin in Tibet. Dying of thirst in the desert in The Crab with the Golden Claws. Being chased by an ape in a Scottish castle in The Black Island. Marooned on a raft in The Red Sea Sharks.

When I started working out The Secret of the Tirthas I was thinking about how the world itself can be as awe-inspiring as any fantasy creation, especially when new places are seen for the first time. What better way to explore this than to have a multitude of exotic locations accessible from your back garden?

The Cigars of the Pharoah remains my favourite Tintin book, set mainly in Egypt and India. I read it at something like eight years old and found it exciting and very, very funny, especially the character of Sophocles Sarcophagus. And the first two countries, alongside Nepal, that I went to on my own steam were Egypt and India, so I’m sure Herge’s influence runs deep.

WP_20151005_004

Aswan, Egypt, a long time ago

Get your Tintin here: