Thursday, 29 July 2010

Five Books That Went Under the Radar Catherine Johnson

I know a bit of a silly title. Come on though, you know what I mean, five books for children - of all ages - that came out and never made it onto anyone's bestseller lists. Brilliant wonderful books that deserved a fraction more of the publicity department's budget than it should have.

Every year so many brilliant books are published and usually it's only a tiny portion of those which get the fanfare and the reviews and ultimately the readers. It seems to me that publishers are like gamblers, sending out loads of books and crossing their fingers that one or two make it. This means of course that there are very many hidden gems, and I am hoping to point you in their direction.

Every one of these books, I believe, is rewarding. And I don't doubt there are very many more out there so please add yours.

1. Donald and the Singing Fish by Peter Lubach Macmillan 1992 Picture Book OOP
This is a gem. I don't know if Peter Lubach ever produced another book but this is perfection. It is a wordless picture book set on the Scottish coast concerning a young fisherman who one day, out in his boat, catches a fish that (obviously) sings. It is in almost comic strip style with some full page illustrations, but mostly up to six pictures a page. The drawings are marvellous, the story is both clear and deep and Donald and the fish are brilliant characters. The end is so touching that so long as you haven't just seen Toy Story 3 it will (maybe) make you cry.

2. Salmon Doubts by Adam Sacks Alternative Comics 2004
Another book with pictures and fish. This time a graphic novel which is a coming of age story about a salmon called Geoff and the meaning of life. Set in a large school (of fish hem hem) it's quite a bittersweet tale, the dialogue is sharp and the story is lovely and deeper than one might imagine, but hey, these aren't your farmed salmon. I wanted to put in Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, the last in the series is just out, but given that in a few weeks the major Hollywood film is released, Scott Pilgrim will be well known to everyone any second now. But if you've a teenage boy or girl who loves comics and computer games these are wonderful.

3. The Rules of Magic by Annie Dalton Egmont 2004 Teen
Annie Dalton is a fantastic writer who has had a good deal of commercial success with the Angels Unlimited series, but this book, which is a much meatier read, didn't have half the success it should have had. Have you read it? No, thought not. What I like about this is it's a book about teens, with magic, set in the inner city. It's not all Hogwarts, this concerns the 13th floor of a tower block where a boy went missing on Halloween. The characters, Dino and Bee are wonderful and it feels real, for all the supernature.

4. Accidental Friends by Helena Pielichaty OUP 2008 YA
I nearly didn't include this because it had five reviews on Amazon and so, is almost too well known. It was shortlisted for a prize, and it really is a very good read set at the start of sixth form college. It should have been stellar, it is funny, and thrilling and features a totally engaging, and very different, group of sixteen year olds whose lives collide. Why OUP didn't make more of this god only knows, and why oh why is the cover brown?
By the way I wanted to include Shadow Web by N.M. Browne but this also had five reviews and made the Carnegie Longlist but should have been mega too. Oh and Riding Icarus by Lily Hyde and anything by Catherine Fisher who is brilliant.

I have realised that I've chosen more than five books already. And of course I wanted to mention one of my own, one that I thought was really quite good - one of my best I think - and probably sold two copies which is why I have just heard this morning that it will be going out of print; The Dying Game, there I said it.

So there you go. I am sure we've all got books we think deserve more success and more readers, go on share....


Anne Cassidy said...

I read THE DYING GAME a couple of years ago. A terrific crime thriller set in East London. A girl witnesses the murder of a Russian prostitute and is then contacted by the dead girl's brother. Together they find out what happened to her. All set against questions about arranged marriages and young teen love. Terrific.

Julie P said...

Interesting post, Though I am ashamed to admit that I've never heard of any of the authors or books you mentioned. I think publicity and marketing is key in publishing and it's such a shame these books didn't get enough of it.


catdownunder said...

I have read The Dying Game too - and it is a great read.
And, Annie Dalton's writing is not nearly as well known as it should be...try Nightmaze as well.

Elaine AM Smith said...

I have another list of books to track down. It is odd which books take off with a buzz, and which have to be pushed off the shelves.
Creating buzz is hard for any kind of non-magical being ;)

Mary Hoffman's Newsletter said...

I LOVE Annie Dalton's teen books - Out of the Ordinary,The Alpha Box and Night Maze and I wish she still wrote for that age group.

Have never heard of The Rules of Magic and must track it down. What a pity Barn Owl Books is no more.

Catherine Johnson said...

Two people who read The Dying Game and are not related to me. Result! Although Catdownunder you're not a relative are you?

adele said...

I'm a huge Annie Dalton fan too and wish she still wrote for teens. And I must seek out the Dying Game too. Sounds terrific.

catdownunder said...

No, last time I checked I still had four paws and a tail - and my name is not Catherine and there are no Johnson's in the extensive family tree! :-)

曾有年 said...


Helena Pielichaty said...

Many thanks for mentioning Accidental Friends, Catherine. I really thought it would be my 'breakthrough book.' LOL!