Books for Young Humans

I read and write books for children aged approx 7-12 years - the heart of publishing for children. I am also a fan of literary fiction for mature teens and young adults. Much of this isn't marketed as YA but would be of interest to that age group - so I'll be making recommendations for you to take a peek at. I'm always looking for books that support young people in facing the challenges of the real world, encouraging humour, self reflection and emotional resilience. 

Watership Down

Watership Down   - Richard Adams

Get ahead of what will soon be a big trend, when a new animation of Watership Down is released in 2017.


Don't be deceived, this is not a story about bunnies, it is about war, dictatorship, loyalty,  and loss. It wasn't written for children but somehow became categorised as a children's classic. Richard Adams knew a thing or two about nature and his lyrical descriptions of landscape and the exquisite detail of flora and fauna he conjures will carry you away.

I highly recommend it for young adults looking for a change from commercial genre fiction.





Try these great women writers

The Dressmaker - Beryl Bainbridge Daughters of the house - MICHELE ROBERTS

Here are two novels by women whose work the world needs regularly reminding of. Each is less than two hundred pages long but that is where the similarity ends. The Dressmaker is set in the city of Liverpool, a tough place during WWII, and is told in sentences of appropriately stark beauty. Daughters of the House unfolds in the countryside of Normandy and has a lyrical richness that seduces. I was so enticed by the opening lines of these books that they are not going back on the shelf...they have drawn me in again. 


Returning to classics would be the greatest teen rebellion

Sons and Lovers - D.H. Lawrence A Passage to India - E.M. Forster Thérèse Raquin - Émile Zola, Robin Buss Othello - William Shakespeare

Way back in the late 20th century when I was a teenager and the genre fiction 'industry,' with its absurdly blood-soaked TV tie ins hadn't been invented, I (and many others my age) slumped on the sofa with the novels of  DH Lawrence - yes, really- with EM Forster, Emile Zola and of course, a bit of Shakespeare. This is what was available and if you had parents who were not great readers, this was rebellion. Here I could access a world that they didn't inhabit, that they perhaps found threatening. Here the seeds of both aspiration and rebellion were sown.


My escape was total as I swam all day through these page and as I swam I began to form independent ideas about what it is to lead a good and useful life, about what really matters and what is merely life's coffee foam.


My thoughts formed into the actions I would later take, and am still taking in middle age, to live differently, to find out who I truly am and be faithful to that. 


A return to the classics is a step forward from where we are now, being spoon fed slickly marketed thrill - lit that constricts our vocabulary, our thinking and, consequently, the narratives we choose for our lives.


Next time - some great women writers

These books will change your life

Keep the Aspidistra Flying - George Orwell Down and Out in Paris and London - Peter Davison, Dervla Murphy, George Orwell

George Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying is as topical today as when it was first published in 1936. Orwell's treatment of the subject of maturing and taking responsibility for one's life is hugely poignant and his prose is staggeringly good. I love my tatty, browning copy but there are several newer editions that could tempt me.


I can't write about George Orwell without mentioning Down and Out in Paris and London. Along with Keep the Aspidistra Flying this was one of my 'formative' reads and is among the novels that switched my son onto reading beyond genre fiction. Down and Out is an account of Orwell's two years spent living as a homeless person before the second world war. His courage and humanitarianism are evident throughout and his prose is deeply moving.


Both books are short, utterly gripping and will change your life.

Beautiful reads for mature teens and adults

Eve Green - Susan  Fletcher What I Saw and How I Lied - Judy Blundell

If you're looking for great reads that aren't part of a big commercial series and aren't genre fiction (whatever that means these days) - in other words if you want a beautifully crafted work of literature AND a great plot - you might want to check out the two above, or the others in my YA Worth Reading section. I've been combing my shelves for books I've loved that haven't been marketed as YA but that many mature teens and adults would like, even adore. More recommendations to come in this category. Happy reading!

The Girl with Glass Feet Ali Shaw

Girl with Glass Feet - Ali Shaw

I can almost guarantee that you won't have read anything quite like the Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw, a young novelist who deserves more attention.

The Guardian review said of it 'Shaw has worded the great tradition of European fairy tales and come up with an ingenious story so deft it defies the obvious label "quirky" ...a magical fable of fate and resignation.'

Suitable for young adults and anyone bored out of their bonnet by samey genre fiction. His second novel, The Man who Rained, is also out and I have it on my must read pile.

If you can, buy the hardback edition, it is such a lovely book to hold.

So you thought you were a difficult teenager?

O Caledonia - Elspeth Barker

This is what dark and gothic are REALLY all about. One for the emo in all of us. Not for pre teens, though. This is the only work of fiction by the incredibly gifted Elspeth Barker that I'm aware of. Maybe someone knows of others?

I read this several times when I was young for the sheer lyrical beauty of the language.


Highwaymen, murder and mystery. Have you read Smith?

I've just re-read this gripping book. It is truly a modern classic. I'd recommend it for readers 10+ who are keen to have their vocabulary stretched. Smith is an Artful Dodger who survives on instinct and speed. The story has mystery, murder and highwaymen. Great for boys and girls who want an exciting story. This is a perfect preparation for the more difficult vocabulary of Dickens and other classics.


King Solomon's Carpet - Barbara Vine The Boy and the Sea - Kirsty Gunn The Bullet Trick - Louise Welsh The Ninth Life of Louis Drax - Liz Jensen War Crimes for the Home - Liz Jensen

Here are some titles I'd recommend for teens and adults. Liz Jensen is a particular favourite of mine and deserves much more recognition. Her books are really varied - possibly why she hasn't had the commercial success of 'genre' writers. 

I haven't read the more recent Louise Welsh titles but The Bullet Trick was as near to a literary crime novel as I've ever found although some of Barbara Vine's (Ruth Rendell) work could qualify. King Solomon's Carpet - about kids who ride the roofs of trains around London - is one of the most adrenalin pumping stories I know. 

Smith - Leon Garfield Once - Morris Gleitzman

These two come highly recommended and are on my 'to read' pile at the moment.

Goodnight Mister Tom - Michelle Magorian Penny Dreadful Is A Magnet For Disaster - Joanna Nadin My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece - Annabel Pitcher Artichoke Hearts - Sita Brahmachari The Children Of Green Knowe - L.M. Boston, Peter Boston Run, Zan, Run - Catherine MacPhail Journey to the River Sea - Eva Ibbotson

I only put books on my shelf that I would recommend to others. If I can't say good things about a book you won't find it here because many other readers might love what I leave on my 'unreadable' pile - I think that's the fair way to review on a site like this.

Come on! Play nicely!

I love to pick up recommendations from others but it saddens me to see how many dismissive and ill-informed reviews are written of books that I love. Readers often give  low ratings to books simply because they are not their 'cup of tea' without any acknowledgments of the merits of the work. 

I know from experience that most authors work 'darn hard' for little reward because they have a passion for what they do. If you think you can do better, please get on and write something rather than pouring derision on the sweated labours of others.

Let's make this new forum a place where people play nicely and write balanced reviews.


"The imaginations of young people contain a thousand new solutions to ancient problems. If you want to change this world for yourself and others then feed your imagination with good books - difficult books, challenging books, books that demand your, read, read…stuff your greedy imagination until it is exploding with new ways of thinking and seeing - then create a life and a career for yourself based on making your best ideas a reality."

From my brain (Claire O'Brien)