The Secret Of Terror Castle ( The Three Investigators #1) by Robert Arthur

First published in the mid 1960’s, this mystery/adventure series of approximately forty books were written for 8-15 years olds and would be hard to beat if you want to find thrilling and original tales that don’t talk down to kids. Some of the plots pertain to ghosts, whispering mummies, talking skulls and other spooky or eerie themes although the stories always climax in some scheme in which a band of thieves, rustlers, con men or other non-supernatural element are attempting to snatch a lost or hidden treasure. I loved reading them as a child, and find that after all these years, they are still entertaining and packed with adventure.  [Read more…]

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Calvin & Hobbes (Bill Watterson)

(I’m not reviewing a particular C & H book, as there’s so many. I recommend the Complete Collection. Unfortunately, some may need to mortgage their grandmother to afford that) It is amazing that comics can be so rich in content. We all know that the world is ‘unfair’, but Calvin and Hobbes makes it more evident than anyone else. As social critiques they may be rated on a par with many ‘serious’ writers. Calvin is a whiny, uncooperative 6-year-old kid who thinks the whole world revolves around him. The boy has a lot of imagination too, and he often uses them as a metaphor in real life, but he thinks that it really happened. Hobbes is the only one who believes him, but he’s a stuffed tiger, so he can make him believe everything. [Read more…]

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971 USA)

Roald Dahl’s Grimm-like book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” gets a careful, pointed musical treatment here, involving five Golden Ticket-winning children who get to tour a mysterious chocolate factory–at their own expense. Turns out the journey is a test of their personalities and upbringings, and while the film is a little presumptuous to suggest that the poorest child may be the most noble and honest (as if all rich kids are rotten). This must be in the top 10 of the most entertaining films of the last 100 years. Few people haven’t seen this. [Read more…]

The Brotherhood Of Satan (1971 USA)

brotherhoodofs3This classy underrated film is packed with spooky imagery. The occult scenes are presented in a completely matter-of-fact way as to make them unsettling and extremely effective – particularly the opening sequence involving an army tank crushing a car, the rampage of a devil-doll, a surreal dream sequence (set inside the ice chamber where all the victims are kept, since they can’t be buried), a beheading committed by a horse-riding medieval knight and the lengthy ‘black mass’ finale which culminates in ritual mass suicide. [Read more…]

Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone (J.K. Rowling)

harry potterBetter latent than never. OK, millions of children and tweens kiss these holy pages every night and morn, and it’s quite sweet. But, having read all of them and a load of actual literature, I am inclined to think this is poppycock. And what is all this nonsense about it being so original. Platform 9 and 3/4 ?! Has any one ever read Eva Ibbotson’s The Secret Of Platform 13? A secret platform on Kings Cross station that leads to a magical castle. Sound familiar? The plot lines are all pinched from folklore and superior children’s literature. [Read more…]

The Water Babies (Charles Kingsley)

charles kingsleyGive this book a go if you are interested in 19th century satire. It does read similar to `Gulliver’s Travels’ because of this social commentary and the fantastical world created. If you have always been curious about this story and what it has to offer, then I would definitely recommend dipping in and out to fully appreciate what Kingsley is trying to say. The second half does meander too much though and my interest did wander off. [Read more…]

The Children Of The Stones (1977 UK)

children of the stonesWhat an oddity, this seven part Harlech Television series was. Initially aimed at a school going audience, but there are some unsettling themes at large here. Some perhaps too dark, even the title sequence with its deeply unsettling choral vocalizations (while seemingly perfect for the subject matter) does seem out of place for their target audience. It draws on many areas of Horror and Sci-fi that came before. [Read more…]

Fantastic Mr Fox (Roald Dahl)

Fantastic Mr FoxMr Dahl was one of the greatest authors to ever put pen to paper during the 20th century. It’s fast paced with enough excitement, danger and momentum to appeal to children (and adults) who are considerably older than the usual 5 year old target audience.  And with gun-toting farmers on the prowl and terrible tractors wrecking havoc on the hill, it’s a particularly good story with which to entice reluctant boys away from computer or television screens. [Read more…]

Tom’s Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce)

51RkdLyEy7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A mysterious novel about a boy sent to stay with his Aunt and Uncle in a flat whilst his brother recovers from illness. He is disappointed to discover the flat has no garden. But after hearing the grandfather clock in the hall striking 13 in the night, he explores and discovers an amazing garden and its inhabitants who only reveal themselves at night.
[Read more…]

THE PUMPKIN EATER (1964 Britain)

200_sMany people have addictions. But Jo Armitage has an unusual one: reproducing. She’s as pregnant as often as she can be. This is her balm to get through the hell that is her life. The slightly soapy plot is treated for the most part as serious drama, but does have its satirical aspects. This is the chic angst of the wealthy rebelling against themselves. [Read more…]

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