Now, where was I?

Have you looked at Google maps? You can see your house from the air. And anything else, for that matter. People standing outside St Paul’s or walking along the Embankment. The trees in the courtyards at Topkapi. Malta looks rather blurry, but London is crystal clear.
I can see the rapids in the river below my house in Melbourne. Seagulls on Onetangi beach (OK, I’m exaggerating now, but you get the idea).
But I’m supposed to be writing about recent kidlit I’ve read. First, some newish books:
I, Coriander (Sally Gardner) starts well, set in Civil War London and great on historical detail and atmosphere. But it’s half fairy story and I’m not much interested in fairy stories so my eyes glazed over for a bit. Still, it’s nicely written and paced, and I’m sure young readers without my prejudices will enjoy it.
Josie Under Fire is Ann Turnbull’s contribution to the Historical House series. This is a great concept: take one house in London and use it as the setting for three separate stories about girls in different eras. Clumsy historical download in the first chapters (see below) but the themes of bullying and difference are explored without any of that moral high-ground nonsense you often get in books set in World War 2. (I do, though, prefer Linda Newbery’s chapter, Polly’s March).
Now a couple of classics:
I read about The Sprig of Broom by Barbara Willard in an essay in Solander, the journal of the Historical Novel Society, that traced the development of historical fiction for children. I’d never heard of it before then, I’m sorry to say, because it’s very much in the Geoffrey Trease mode (it’s a kind of post-script to the Mantlemass books, I think). Feisty girl, smart and brave boy, well-written drama, and a little Plantaganet intrigue. What more could one want?
Dragon Slayer is Rosemary Sutcliff’s version of Beowulf for children. What a rip-snorter. She manages to capture the spirit if not the language of the time and the songs and poems of the oral tradition, while keeping it at the level of spirited adventure. It’s been criticised, I know, but I think the old girl’s got it right. Any kid who liked LOTR will find it appealling – and it’s almost the real thing.
Had to read it for my course, and I’m very glad I did – I don’t have very fond memories of reading the original many years ago, even though I normally love a good saga. I mean that in the Viking sense, not the Days of Our Lives sense. Must read Beowulf again.
Speaking of which, I’m off to the museum tomorrow to see the Viking exhibition – I whizzed around it when it was in Sydney in May, but tomorrow I’ll take my time, and take notes, and get all inspired for the next project which is, inevitably, a Viking book.

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