skulduggery pleasant

July 23, 2011

books for kids

I was tidying up around the place last week, and I picked up one of the books my middle son has been reading. He borrowed it from the school library. The cover looked a bit gruesome, so I thought I’d sit down and read a few pages.

Three days later, I finished the whole book. It was rivetting.

One of the main characters is a 12 year old girl named Stephanie. She is independent, athletic, courageous, and intelligent. I can imagine a whole heap of girls who don’t fit the girly-girl mould loving this character. The initial premise is one of a girl who feels she doesn’t quite fit, she feels odd, and out of step with school and her peers. Although she loves her parents and they love her, she is not sure that her parents hopes for her future are in synch with what she wants.

The other main character is a detective who is a skeleton (it’s a long story). Despite his appearance, he is instantly lovable as he has such a wry sense of humour, and  an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time to support Stephanie.

Stephanie embarks on a dangerous adventure with Skulduggery involving the world of magic. They’re saving the world, of course. Initially Stephanie is quite vulnerable and Skulduggery saves her bacon quite a few times. But this is not a story of a damsel constantly in distress. As the story continues, Stephanie, supported by Skulduggery and a few other interesting colleagues, grows in her skills and confidence. She makes lots of mistakes, but there is always someone around to join the fight, teach her some new skills, or help pick her up and dust her off, and support her to learn from her mistakes so she is stronger for the next challenge (which is usually on the next page).

The following paragraph is an example of Skulduggery allowing Stephanie to experience some risk on her own. Despite his flippant response, he was actually on hand to step in if she got into some serious trouble.

Skulduggery: “My shoelace was untied. That’s why I was late. That’s why you were alone.”
Stephanie: “I could have been killed because you were tying your shoelace?”
“An untied shoelace can be dangerous,” he said. “I could have tripped.”
She stared at him. A moment dragged by.
“I’m joking,” he said at last.
She relaxed. “Really?”
“Absolutely. I would never have tripped. I’m far too graceful.”

Why is this book put-downable? An action-packed story with strong and quirky characters. There is so much action in these books, you have to stop every now and again to catch your breath. There are also strong themes of loyalty and morality throughout and these are tested frequently. Each character has his/her/its own skill set to bring to the milieu.

My middle son is delighted that I’m reading these books. He is the Skulduggery expert in our house, as he is now up to the fourth book. There have been some nice moments of connection when we have discussed the books. I have to admit though that I’m starting to stall midway through the second book Playing With Fire. All that adventure is wearing me out.    

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About hakea

groupworker, parent educator, therapist, mother of three boys.

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13 Comments on “skulduggery pleasant”

  1. InsideJourneys Says:

    Hahahaha! Boys have way more energy that we do, no wonder their books have to be full of action to keep them engaged. Sounds like this one does. And I like that it gives you something to chat about and bond over. Pretty cool.


    • hakea Says:

      And I really like that it has the option of appealing to girls by having a female as one of the stars. Actually there aren’t any boys in the story yet. There are another two very strong adult female characters who really kick butt!


  2. Team Oyeniyi Says:

    What age group are we talking here? I thought this might sound good for my kids.


  3. eof737 Says:

    What a lovely surprise, eh? I do read some of my teens books and have found a few quite delightful too… Good to see you back here blogging! 🙂


    • hakea Says:

      Hi Eliz

      I got hooked on children’s and young adult’s books when I studied Children’s Literature at uni. If you ever see a copy of The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett treat yourself to a read. It’s delightful too.

      And also Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wyn Jones.


  4. countingducks Says:

    It’s great when you and one of your children start enjoying the same book. Happened to me and loved it


  5. countingducks Says:

    I find it a bit difficult to find were I am meant to leave comments on particular posts, but in respoce to your last one I just wanted to say I’m a sucker for stray animals myself


    • hakea Says:

      Hi Counting Ducks

      Somehow you ended up in Skulduggery. No matter.

      The last stray dog that I picked up, a doberman (I love dobermans), had to be taken away by the police late at night as my other two dogs at the time (one from the pound, and one stray) kept fighting with it. We’d let it go out the front and it kept jumping our five-foot high fences to get back in.

      It’s an interesting life, picking up strays.


  6. cjdwhitewhite Says:

    I appreciate your book reviews.
    I am reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins to my boys (daughter occasionally listens in), and we all love it. I loved that book as a kid; i think it’s hard to beat the images of the cute little penguins that it creates in your mind. It’s a refreshing read though old-fashioned.


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