High aspirations

23rd February 2001 at 00:00
Robert Swindells' new novel, A Wish for Wings (Doubleday pound;10.99), also for Year 4 upwards, is my other top choice this month. After Swindells won the 1995 Carnegie Medal with the hard-hitting Stone Cold, media attention passed to other authors. But his output during the past five years reveals a steady flow of first-rate fiction, all of it gripping and highly accessible. Novels such as Unbeliever, Abomination and Dosh address 10 to 15-year-olds, but he has also written for seven to 11-year-olds, for example in Last Bus and Nightmare Stairs.

A Wish For Wings, told in his characteristic two-page chapters, appeals to both these age groups. I is about Jenna's determination to become an aircraft pilot and the effect this has on her bereaved grandfather, who supports her in her struggle against big brother's derision and parental cynicism. In a sinister subplot involving a Robert Cormier-esque theme of intimidation, Jenna's brother is in thrall to a nasty piece of work. But Swindells never slips into melodrama, largely because he has a good feel for the way his young characters fill their days.

The story has an uplifting ending, and closes with a paragraph that will bring a tear to many a reader's eye.

Long may Swindells continue producing books as good as this.


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