Thursday, 30 July 2015

Children's Books And Why They're Great (2): The Excitement Ideal

Good afternoon, blogglings. (Or evening, or morning, or, in fact, night. Aren't timezones a strange thing?) Today I am ploughing on with the second part of my mini-series on children's books.

Maybe this a terrible idea. Maybe you all hated the first post, but this post is scheduled because I am on camp and have not read your comments, so the mini-reviews shall plunge ahead.

I reread The Cry of the Icemark in January (it is appropriate as a winter reread).

In the tiny kingdom of Icemark, war presses in from every side. Princess Thirrin is soon shouldered with far more responsibility than she could ever expect, and it is up to her to use allies and foes alike to win her country's freedom.

The Cry of the Icemark is a really fun book. It's not, and never will be, a classic. There are too many adverbs for the thinking reader. But it has an energy that makes it hugely enjoyable; in short, it has the excitement ideal.

By nature of genre, some books are more exciting than others. Some books are beatiful and adorable and brilliant, but they don't catch your breath with the thrill of the chase. That's OK! Every book should be different. Some books aren't thrillers. Most of my favourite books, in fact, are not thrillers.

However. There is nothing worse than a book that's boring.

In my last post, I discussed the prevalence of humour in children's books; how it's something that's done well.

The other thing that I think children's authors manage very well is pace, and excitement.

The Cry of the Icemark encapsulates this. It's an adventure story spanning magic, mythical creatures, and a journey across the frozen world of the white days and long nights. It has battles and swords. It has werewolves and vampires. It has magical forests and magical boys, and death and danger and thrill. Rather than getting caught up in the muddy waters of over-description, pointless deviation or a barrage of characters' emotions that we could really do without, The Cry of the Icemark grips. 

Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries series is a far cry from the Icemark trilogy. I binge reread the first three books (in this omnibus) a few months ago, when I also binge reread the first three Percy Jacksons.

This was my favourite series when I was younger. The writing teacher in my book is called Caroline, after Lawrence, because she was one of the biggest influences on me, and on my wanting to write.

It's AD 69. Flavia Gemina is the daughter of a sea-captain in the town of Ostia. When she befriends Jonathan, the new boy next door; an African slave-girl called Nubia; and mute boy Lupus, it is the start of many adventures as the four friends work to solve the mysteries of murders, thefts and much more in Ancient Italy.

The Roman Mysteries is an uncomplicated series. There are mysteries; the characters solve the mysteries. But it is also rich with character development and evocation of setting, and the plots are second to none.

I started reading these books when I was maybe nine or ten, and they are totally appropriate for children that age. They're pretty short. They're probably not going to give you nightmares. But their plots are absolutely beautiful, and I think they totally fit in with the Excitement Ideal. They are page-turners - gripping. They all had me hooked, even though I vaguely knew what was going to happen. (OK, I lie. Though I remember certain things about the series, the plots of those first three had faded into the mist of time. Although I did remember all the details about the dogs, and the food. What does that say about me? Don't answer that.) I couldn't stop reading!

I also love the characters. Flavia is a top notch MC -- she can be a bit horrible and proud occasionally, but she's generally kind, and clever, and just great. Then there's Nubia, who is so sweet and lovely and I love her and Flavia's friendship. There's Jonathan, who is hilarious and will always have a place in my heart. And there's Lupus, who likewise is so smart and savvy and generally a great guy. Bonus: there's also Aristo, AKA the forever bae. Did I mention that the later books have wondrous things to ship? Aristo/the ship (no spoilers) was my OTP before I knew what an OTP was!

The bottom line is that I'd 100% recommend both of these series. I will keep you updated as I continue my rereads of both!

Now then: tell me, what is the most exciting book you've read this year? How about ever? And have you read either of these series, and will you fangirl with me?


  1. I've not read either of these. But that last one sounds very interesting!

    I think you're right about the Excitement Ideal. I've noticed a lot of children's books are adventure to next adventure. Out of the pan into the fire style. YA is a little more like: Adventure-- now let's stop and think about that-- okay, continue. Children's books are very fast pace, sometimes unbelievable so. They don't always give us time to think about the gravity of what just happened. What does situations like having monsters trying to kill you and decimating your school do to you emotionally and mentally? (so I just finished Percy Jackson: The Sea of Monsters. . .). Children's books don't always delve into all that. Sometimes they do; but normally they're all about the excitement and adventure.

    Not that I'm saying that's bad or anything. Children's books don't always take the realistic approach, in which case we're not excepted to take them realistically. It's all in the name of good fun. :D

    1. Roman Mysteries are so excellent, you don't even know. They're so good. They're so so good. (Did I mention that they're really, really good?)

      Sea of Monsters is definitely my least favourite of the PJ books, for that exact reason, because I felt like they just went from one thing to another and there was TOO MUCH. But most of the time, I really enjoy the pace of children's books!

    2. I agree about Sea of Monsters. It pushed the pace a little too fast. But I liked Tyson. So I didn't notice too much. :)

    3. I LOVE Tyson. He has appeared a pleasing amount in Battle of the Labyrinth, so far. Yay, Tyson! <3

  2. I've been trying to read more Children's books, because I want to broaden my horizons. I especially need to read some of the newer stuff like those Roman mysteries, because they were just after my time. Since they get borrowed a lot from the library and you recommended them, I'll have to check them out!

    This is a fun series!

    1. YES DO! They are actually close to perfect, I'm serious!


Thanks for commenting! :)