Thursday, June 16, 2011

The 50 books every child should read - With Kindle Links

The Independent recently asked three of Britain’s leading children’s authors and two of their in-house book experts to each pick 10 books, suitable for Year 7 students. Their original list is here.

Unfortunately, in typical traditional-media fashion, they neglected to add any links to any of the books mentioned, losing an obvious opportunity to use the web to both their readers’ and their own advantage. So I have gone through the list and added links to the Kindle editions of every book for which one is available.

I linked to a free edition wherever possible. If a book was not available on the Kindle store, I marked it with an * asterisk. If you know of a Kindle version of a book I could not find, or of a free or better-formatted edition than the one I have linked, let me know via email or comments!

Philip Pullman
Michael Morpurgo
  • The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson. The heroine is blessed with such wonderful friends who help her through the twists and turns of this incredible journey.
  • A Christmas Carol (free) by Charles Dickens. The first few pages were so engaging, Marley’s ghostly face on the knocker of Scrooge’s door still gives me the shivers.
  • Just William books by Richmal Crompton. These are a must for every child.
  • The Happy Prince (free) by Oscar Wilde. This was the first story, I think, that ever made me cry and it still has the power to make me cry.
  • The Elephant’s Child * from The Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. The story my mother used to read me most often, because I asked for it again and again. I loved the sheer fun of it, the music and the rhythm of the words. It was subversive too. Still my favourite story.
  • Treasure Island (free) by R.L. Stevenson This was the first real book I read for myself. I lived this book as I read it.
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. A classic tale of man versus nature. I wish I’d written this.
  • The Man Who Planted Trees* by Jean Giono. A book for children from 8 to 80. I love the humanity of this story and how one man’s efforts can change the future for so many.
  • The Singing Tree* by Kate Seredy. The story of two children who go to find their father who has been listed missing in the trenches of the First World War.
  • The Secret Garden (free) by Frances Hodgson-Burnett. I love this story of a girl’s life being changed by nature.
Katy Guest, literary editor for The Independent on Sunday
  • Refugee Boy * by Benjamin Zephaniah. Story of a young Ethiopian boy, whose parents abandon him in London to save his life.
  • Finn Family Moomintroll* (and the other Moomin books) by Tove Jansson. A fantasy series for small children that introduces bigger ones to ideas of adventure, dealing with fear, understanding character and tolerating difference.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid * by Jeff Kinney. It’s rude, it’s funny and it will chime with every 11-year-old who’s ever started a new school.
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Written for a teenage audience but fun at any age.
  • The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein. Be warned, these tales of hobbits, elves and Middle Earth are dangerously addictive.
  • The Tygrine Cat * (and The Tygrine Cat on the Run) by Inbali Iserles. If your parents keep going on at you to read Tarka the Otter, The Sheep-Pig and other animal fantasies, do — they’re great books — also try Iserles’ stories about a cat seeking his destiny.
  • Carry On, Jeeves * by P.G. Wodehouse. A grown-up book ? but not that grown-up.
  • When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. Judith Kerr’s semi-autobiographical story of a family fleeing the Nazis in 1933.
  • Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett. Elaborate mythological imagery and a background based in real science. If you like this, the Discworld series offers plenty more.
  • The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson. The pinnacle of the wonderful Jacqueline Wilson’s brilliant and enormous output.
John Walsh, author and Independent columnist
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (free) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Irresistible puzzle-solving tales of the chilly Victorian master-sleuth and his dim medical sidekick.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Age-transcending tale, both funny and sad.
  • Mistress Masham’s Repose * by T.H. White. Magical story of 10-year-old Maria, living in a derelict stately home, shy, lonely and under threat from both her governess and her rascally guardian.
  • Little Women (free) by Louisa May Alcott. Inexplicably evergreen, trend and taste-defying 1868 classic.
  • How to be Topp * by Geoffrey Willams and Ronald Searle. Side-splitting satire on skool, oiks, teechers, fules, bulies, swots.
  • Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. First of the action-packed adventures with 14-year-old Alex Rider.
  • Private Peaceful * by Michael Morpurgo. “Dulce et Decorum Est” for pre-teens.
  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. Lively, amoral, wildly imaginative debut (six more followed) about the money-grabbing master-criminal Artemis, 12. The author called it “Die Hard with fairies.”
  • The Silver Sword * by Ian Serraillier. Inspiring wartime story of the Balicki family in Warsaw.
  • Animal Farm (free) by George Orwell. Smart 11-year-olds won’t need any pre-knowledge of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and 1917 to appreciate this brilliantly-told fable.
Michael Rosen
  • Skellig * by David Almond. Brings magical realism to working-class North-east England.
  • Red Cherry Red * by Jackie Kay. A book of poems that reaches deep into our hidden thoughts but also talks in a joyous voice exploring the everyday.
  • Talking Turkeys by Benjamin Zephaniah. A book of poems that demands to be read aloud, performed and thought about.
  • Greek myths * by Geraldine McCaughrean. Superheroes battle with demons, gods intervene in our pleasures and fears — a bit like the spectres in our minds going through daily life, really — beautifully retold here.
  • People Might Hear You (Viking Kestrel picture books) * by Robin Klein. A profound, suspenseful story about sects, freedom and the rights of all young people ? especially girls.
  • Noughts and Crosses (free) by Malorie Blackman. A book that dared to go where no one thought you could with young audiences because it raises tough stuff to do with race.
  • Einstein’s Underpants and How They Saved the World by Anthony McGowan. A crazy adventure set amongst the kids you don’t want to know but who this book makes you really, really care about.
  • After the First Death by Robert Cormier. Cormier is never afraid of handling how the personal meets the political all within the framework of a thriller.
  • The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd. A book that allows difference to be part of the plot and not a point in itself.
  • Beano Annual. A cornucopia of nutty, bad, silly ideas, tricks, situations and plots

* — not known to be available as an ebook.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to get more use out of your Kindle

So you’ve had your Kindle for a few months now, and it’s been sitting in your pack, unused for the last few weeks. What happened? Here’s how can you get more use out of this gadget you used to be so excited about.

Ask it to do less. With its apps and its web browser, the Kindle is technically capable of many things, but great for only one thing: reading. Reading, you may recall, is a wonderful pleasure that may have gotten pushed out of your life awhile back. Use your Kindle for reading more. Resist the temptation to use it for things that will tend to marginalize reading again: games, email, and so forth.

Use the magic wirelessness to your advantage. There is really no good reason to be in the habit of plugging your Kindle into anything (other than to charge it up once or twice a month).

Here’s how I manage my ebook collection wirelessly:

  1. To put an ebook on my Kindle, I email it to my address (a snap since Gmail accepts drag-and-drop attachments). Presto, book appears on my Kindle.
  2. When I’m done with a book, I either delete it from my Kindle or put it in a “Finished” folder in my Kindle.
  3. Gmail keeps a copy of the file in the email attachment in case I ever need it. (I also stick them in a folder on my computer.)

Using this method, there are no wires, no syncing, and there’s no need for special software like Calibri unless I need to convert an ebook to a Kindle-compatible format.

Make finding new reading material as automatic as possible. Time spent looking for new stuff to read is time you could have spent reading. Find ways to have the world send you new things, rather than digging for them yourself. This one is something I am continually looking for improvements on. Some options:

  • Delivereads – This is a new one, and it’s just the kind of thing I’m looking for: free, high-quality stories delivered automatically to your Kindle, roughly once a week. This one is almost a no-brainer.
  • Instapaper – Even though Instapaper is having some problems with automatic deliveries at the moment (which will probably be fixed before too long), if you do any browsing on the Internet in the course of a normal day, Instapaper makes a great way to collect long articles for later reading. Just try and use it as a stash for things you already run across; don’t start crawling the web just to look for Kindle material – you’re trying to get away from that, remember?
  • Newspaper subscriptions: Try a subscription to the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Currently the reviews are very mixed; as of today you can see that not everyone finds these subscriptions worth the cost compared to the print editions. It will depend on the publication and whether you have the time to read all the issues.

Treat Twitter like a newspaper. One good use I have found for the web browser is to use it to log into This is an excellent way to catch up on Twitter. You can now check it once or twice a day at home as part of your morning or evening routine, and forget about it for the rest of the day. (Unless you happen to be stuck in a queue or waiting room with nothing but your smartphone.)

Start or join a book club. The ideal book club will center around a specific kind of book, and send you a new book every month automatically. This is just an idea of mine – I haven’t yet run across a book club like this – but it makes so much sense it’s hard to believe they don’t already exist.