The Eleventh Orphan by Joan Lingard

The Eleventh Orphan by the Scottish author Joan Lingard was published in 2008 and she dedicated this one in memory of her grandparents who inspired her to write the characters of Ma and Pa Bigsby.

They have a pub in Victorian London called The Pig and Whistle where they have a very full home due to the ten children that they’ve adopted. When the local policeman turns up with another homeless child in tow Ma Bigsby isn’t keen to take her in, she always said she wouldn’t take on any more than ten children at a time. Elfie, short for Elfrieda is eleven years old, and has been in trouble with the police for thieving, another thing that puts Ma off, but when she is told by PC O’Dowd that Elfie has a painting of The Pig and Whistle in her bag Ma decides to take her in. Elfie knows nothing about her parents, not even their names, but she does have a bag full of clues that might lead her to her father anyway, she knows her mother is dead.

Ma sets to work cleaning up her newest waif and Pa begins to educate Elfie as she can’t read, teaching the children is Pa’s main job, but he also has to keep Elfie and Ivy apart as they hate each other at first sight. But there’s a lot of love within this blended family which is nurtured by the wisdom and common-sense of the parents.

This is really well done, an entertaining read for adults as well as children. It’s the first in a trilogy.

The Runaways by Victor Canning

The Runaways by Victor Canning was first published in 1972 and it’s the first part of his Smiler trilogy. It was made into a film for US television in 1975. The book is about 15 year old Samuel Miles, his mother is dead and his father is away at sea most of the time, so his older sister and her husband look after Samuel while his father is absent. ‘Smiler’ as he is known is a bit of a handful for his sister, but there’s no malice in him.

However, he ends up being wrongly convicted of stealing an old lady’s handbag and is sent to a borstal for young offenders, he manages to escape only to be recaptured by the police on a stormy night. On the way back to the borstal he takes a chance to escape again and manages to fend for himself in the barn of a house which has nobody living in it.

Smiler isn’t the only one being hunted down. A cheetah has escaped from the famous Longleat Wildlife Park. It was the storm that gave Yarra the opportunity to escape when a tree was blown over. She heads for Salisbury Plain, much of which is used by the army for training. Unknown to the two escapees they take cover in the same barn, with Smiler being in the loft and so begins a wonderful relationship between the two.

This was a great read, aimed at older children or Young Adults as they say today in publishing. It’s very well written with some really likeable characters and I’m very much looking forward to reading the other books in the series.

I was sent a digital copy of this book by Farrago Books via Netgalley. Thank you.

The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon

The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon was first published in 2011 by Faber and Faber. The setting is London’s British Museum to begin with, but it isn’t in a Britain as we know it because Christianity has never taken over from the Norse religion, Thor, Woden et al are still worshiped. It’s a Wodenist culture.

Freya is a twelve year old girl whose parents have split up and have joint custody of her, she’s having a tough time coping with living in two different locations – and with her father’s work patterns. He has a new job as a guard at the British Museum and Freya is having to stay at the museum during his shift. While wandering about on her own she’s drawn to the display of the Lewis Chessmen, most of which were taken to London despite being discovered on the Isle of Lewis. The room houses treasures from a Viking silver hoard, and when Freya fiddles with one of the exhibits she’s catapulted into an adventure which features the Norse gods and the chess pieces which have come to life.

Oh, Mum, if you could see me now, thought Freya, as she stepped off the trembling rainbow into the realm of the Gods.

This was an enjoyable adventure, written by the author of the very popular Horrid Henry series (which I’ve never read). The book has some lovely illustrations by Adam Stower, some of which you can see here.

You can see images of the Lewis Chessmen here.

I love the Berserker, he’s the one chewing on his shield, he just makes me laugh!