Friday 19 October 2012

Children's book review : The Battle of Boxhill - Liam McCann

Having grown up in the seventies, one of the films I remember from my youth is Kes, which I've only just learnt was directed by Ken Loach, and which tells the tale of a young, socially-outcast teen whose only positive thing in his life is training his adopted kestrel. When I was asked if I'd like to review The Battle of Boxhill, described as the gripping tale of a young peregrine falcon, I immediately thought that there would be many parallels, but the author of this book, Liam McCann, goes for anthropomorphic birds - in other words, they talk and act like humans.

The central character is Ryker, a young male peregrine, just about ready to fly the nest to start a new life with his mate and soon-to-be-hatched chicks, but trying to find his place in the world with a rather overbearing father. He may be a bird but many young readers will nevertheless be able to identify with him and his journey of self-discovery.

An evil gamekeeper with a lucrative side business dealing in endangered birds, a mysterious wild cat lurking in the shadows and a ruthless band of ravens and cuckoos wreaking havoc on the feathered inhabitants of the surrounding cliffs and forests are all extra obstacles for Ryker to overcome on his voyage into adulthood.

He has a supporting cast of allies, many with wings and a few without, who offer a fascinating glimpse into the different bird species that coexist in the British countryside. Liam McCann really seems to know his stuff and his background as a non-fiction writer is apparent. Young readers are also given a quick geography and history lesson when the birds fly across London and discover Big Ben and the Tower of London.

It's a fast-paced adventure that tweens of both sexes will enjoy, but as a grown-up, I also loved some of the tongue-in-cheek humour that would appeal to adults reading along with their kids at bedtime while going totally over the heads of young readers. The sexually-confused cockerel and the intellectually-challenged pigeon had me grinning as I read along with Sophie at bedtime.

Several times, I thought to myself that I could see this being made into a Disney-style cartoon or an avian version of Watership Down. It therefore came as no surprise to learn that it will indeed be turned into an animated film by a major production company. That's definitely a film I want to watch with the kids.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 172 pages
  • Publisher: FACTS, FIGURES & FUN (23 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904332145
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904332145
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 14.8 x 1.6 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Book review : The Folio Society's The Hobbit

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