Harry Turns 14

Yesterday, my cousin Harry turned fourteen. He’s a great kid. Smart, sassy and very literate. Buying him books for his birthday should have felt easy but I realised when I went hunting for some chunky reads for him, that I didn’t feel very confident about what he’d already read. I knew he was ploughing through Lord of the Rings and was pretty sure he’d already read all of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials as well as countless other fantasy titles. He has recently become interested in collecting ‘Warhammer’ and so more chunky fantasy books definitely seemed the order of the (birth)day. Finally, after much agonising, I settled on Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn and Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Obernewtyn is the first title in an epic series that has been more than 20 years in the making. As much as I love the sequels, Obernewtyn, the first title, has always been my favourite. The Obernewtyn chronicles have been international bestsellers. Despite the castles and fanstastical elements that draw on European traditions, I’ve always found the books convey a powerful sense of southern hemisphere landscapes that enrich the reading.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is set in Paris. Like millions of people around the world, I love Paris. I lived in France for a year when I was younger and despite the fact I failed to become fluent in French, I still feel a connection and a sense of wonder at all things French. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a cross between a graphic novel and a rather long short story and though not strictly fantasy, it has the feel of a fantastical adventure. It’s an inventive form that belongs in a class of its own.

I’m pretty sure Harry will be happy with these two books. When I gave them to him, I was relieved to find they were new discoveries for him. One of the great things about fantasy is that there is always a smorgasbord of books to enjoy. Hopefully, he’ll put aside Lord of the Rings for a litte while and enjoy the gourmet delights of these two very different realities.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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