On choosing books by lucky dip

This has been my week off between ending at the bookshop and starting at the Fringe, and it has been a lovely opportunity to read a great deal. Today I finished Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, and started and finished Word Hunters: The Curious Dictionary by Nick Earls & Terry Whidbourne. Stardust I loved, and Word Hunters was quite good too – it is a story about a pair of children who have to travel back in time to find the origin of words so they don’t disappear forever. Terry Whidbourne has done some lovely illustrations for it, like this one:

(Have a look at this link, where Nick Earls explains the origin of a book about the origin of words.)

But aside from lazing about reading, this week has also been a week of ‘getting things done’. I have bought a stack of tea to take to my new work (of very high priority), gotten a long overdue haircut, and gone to the library to return my almost overdue books while picking a new stack to start reading after my week of cheating is over.

I have come up with an interesting method of choosing library books from the 1001 Children Books I Must Read Before I Grow Up list. There are SO many to choose from (1001, in fact) but, of course, the library can’t possibly have all of them. So I have come up with a sort of lucky dip method to work out what I am going to read next. I just flick open my copy of 1001 Children’s Books, type in the title of the book living on that page, and if the book is available from the library, I add it to my list to borrow that day. Some of the books I have never heard of before, and have absolutely no idea what they are about, but that adds to the fun. Flicking open a book with a completely blank slate, with no preconception of what it is about, not even someone else’s review of the book? All you have to conjure up an idea of the book is the title.

So through this lucky dip method (or madness) I collected a stack of books including:

The Iron Giant (also known as The Iron Man) by Ted Hughes

Grimpow by Rafael Abalos

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

Just William by Richmal Crompton

Elidor by Alan Garner

Ash Road by Ivan Southall

and the third book in A Series of Unfortunate Events (while not strictly part of the list, I feel I need to read them all to get up to the eight book, which is on the list)

That should keep me going for a little while, I think!

Has anyone read any of these books? Loved them? Hated them? Any words of warning before I plunge into one of them?



  1. I have very fond memories of The Iron Giant getting read aloud by teacher on a Friday afternoon! And I love Alan Garner… one of his books is never enough. Enjoy! xx

  2. Elidor passed my shelf once, a while ago….also borrowed from the library. I was lukewarm on it I believe…I enjoyed the beginnning but lost interest once the main characters arrived in the alternate/fantasy universe. I realise this is probably an unhelpful comment given that you have yet to read it, so I offer instead the amendment that I have also read “The Owl Service” by the same author, and I enjoyed that immensely.
    I have just started Eagle of the Ninth thanks to your recommendation and I am enjoying it muchly. Also, I am intrigued by the title “Grimpow”….I will seek it out.

    • I am intrigued by Grimpow too… I am glad you are enjoying Eagle of the Ninth. I’m a bit scared that I’ll say that I really enjoyed a book (or not) and someone will read it based on my recommendation and absolutely hate it (or not). Hope it lives up to your expectations!

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  4. I read The Changeover on recommendation from a friend, just this past February. It’s definitely one of my favorite books for young readers now–there’s just something so haunting about it, and the characters are so genuine and alive. I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

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