Top Texts for August

This month’s Top Texts have been chosen by Clare Zinkin, a reading consultant at

A Chase in Time

A mightily accomplished author for teens, Sally Nicholls takes a fresh and perceptive approach to time travel in this new series for younger readers, sending her protagonists back in time to 1912. Although Alex and Ruby use the time-honoured device of a magic portal as a time-slip, what’s refreshing is their down-to-earth understanding of the predicament in which they find themselves. Drawing on their own reading of time-slip adventures, they realise they must solve a problem to make their way back to the twenty-first century. With the young 1912 characters they meet equally pragmatic – and unimpressed by modern inventions such as mobile phones – through Alex and Ruby, readers will also relish the eccentric adults encountered with their adventures of exploration and affairs of the heart. With thefts, stable fires and a rip-roaring car chase, this is a fast adventurous romp, but is also intelligently written so that the reader can take stock of history, its place in our present, and garner greater understanding of the general kindness of others.

The Secret Seven: Mystery of the Skull

Another writer at the heart of this current golden age of children’s literature, Pamela Butchart excels at making readers laugh. This re-telling of Enid Blyton’s addictive septet’s adventures manages to remain timeless but also adds a streak of modernity to the narrative. Our Secret Seven sadly aren’t more diverse than the original, but they do display a little more wit and humour, and the narrative is far more fast-paced and the dialogue more enduring. The children battle to discover the mystery of the buried bones at a newly-bought hotel with two extremely fishy new owners. Butchart brings out the individualism of each of the sleuthing seven, whilst staying true to the themes of friendship and teamwork. This seven don’t have mobile phones to help them out, but with Ross’s imaginative illustrations, and Butchart’s vivacious exuberance, there is an adorable innocence and simplicity to this ageless storytelling.

Secrets of a Sun King

This third book, again chosen because it is authored by one of the premier writers publishing children’s fiction today, also feels like a timeless classic although it is set in November 1922, the time of Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Carroll has her daring protagonist meet the man himself and be one of the first to see inside the tomb. Using a strong knowledge of history to conjure a breath-taking adventure for her readers, Carroll’s modern take allows her to incorporate elements of feminism, a diverse cast, and a nod to the impact of colonialism and entitlement into her story. She explores lost families and the devastating after-effects of the War, whilst showing her natural aptitude for telling a phenomenal tale. Protagonist Lil, together with friends Tulip and Oz, races against an Ancient Egyptian curse to return a canopic jar to its tomb before it destroys her family and friends. With a self-referential wink to writers, a translated story within a story, and an examination of how the past can inform the future, this is a startlingly clever and compelling historical tale, with fantastic scope for digging out philosophical questions of morality.


About this month's reviewer

August’s Top Texts have been chosen by Clare Zinkin, a freelance reading consultant, writer, editor and reviewer. She regularly blogs at and you can find her on Twitter @minervamoan