Maxwell Grantly

Magical stories from an independent author

Archive for the month “July, 2015”

A Reader’s Verdict

Quayside Photograph Just recently, a sample of five hundred teachers ranked the top ten books that all children should read before leaving primary school. In case you missed the survey results, the top ten reads as follows:

  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  2. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
  3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  4. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  5. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
  6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis
  7. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  8. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
  9. Dogger by Shirley Hughes
  10. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Do you have opinions on the books included in this list? Are there stories that you were surprised to see included or are there classics that you thought should have appeared in this list? It is always interesting to hear what others think and to learn the reasons behind their decisions. However, what do children think of the results of this survey? This BBC article summarises the verdict of 11-year-old Tom Lamb, from Shenfield in Essex. You may find his thoughts to be enlightening. For Tom, the big surprise is that the list does not include a single Harry Potter book.

“I really think they should have been on the list. I am on the last one now. I read it every night. I like the last one best, more than the other ones. “It’s called The Deathly Hallows. The other ones are more about school and stuff. This is about when he’s left school and it’s a lot more exciting.”

Do you have a verdict regarding the results of this teacher survey? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the “comments” section.

The One Hundred List

Albert and the Books

In a survey organised by the Times Educational Supplement and the National Association for the Teaching of English, the following list shows the top one hundred fiction books that all children should read before they left primary school.

1          Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

2          Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

3          Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

4          Matilda by Roald Dahl

5          The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

6          The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis

7          The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

8          We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

9          Dogger by Shirley Hughes

10        Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

11        Stig of the Dump by Clive King

12=      Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

12=      The Iron Man by Ted Hughes

14        Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown

15        Winnie the Pooh by A A Milne

16        Funnybones by Allan and Janet Ahlberg

17=      Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson

17=      The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

19        Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss

20        War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

21=      Grimm’s Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm

21=      The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

23        Peace at Last by Jill Murphy

24        Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

25        Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd

26        Not Now Bernard by David Mckee

27        Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

28        The Twits by Roald Dahl

29        I am David by Anne Holm

30        The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes

31        The Paddington series by Michael Bond

32        Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch

33        Esio Trot by Roald Dahl

34        Five Children and It by E Nesbit

35        Clockwork by Phillip Pullman

36        The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

37        The Magic Far Away Tree by Enid Blyton

38        Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury

39        Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

40        The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier

41        The Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy

42        The Alfie and Annie Rose series by Shirley Hughes

43        Shakespeare Stories by Leon Garfield

44        Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

45        Six Dinner Sid by Inga Moore

46        Sad Book by Michael Rosen

47        The Borrowers by Mary Norton

48=      A Dark, Dark Tale by Ruth Brown

48=      The Jolly Postman by Allan Ahlberg

50        Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

51        Coraline by Neil Gaiman

52        Zoo by Anthony Browne

53        Treasure Island by R L Stevenson

54        Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne

55        Cinderella by Charles Perrault, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti

56        Pig Heart Boy by Malorie Blackman

57        The Railway Children by E Nesbit

58        Cloud Busting by Malorie Blackman

59=      Kidnapped by R L Stevenson

59=      The Sheep Pig by Dick King-Smith

61=      Beegu by Alexis Deacon

61=      The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

63=      Eragon by Christopher Paolini

63=      The Mr Men and Little Miss series by Roger Hargreaves

65=      Gentle Giant by Michael Morpurgo

65=      Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

67        The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

68        Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti

69        Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

70        Theseus and the Minotaur by David Orme and Wendy Body

71=      The Just William series by Richmal Crompton

71=      On the Way Home by Jill Murphy

71=      Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper

71=      Street Child by Berlie Doherty

71=      The Happy Prince and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde

76=      Angelo by Quentin Blake

76=      The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Draywalt and Oliver Jeffers

76=      The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

79        My Mum by Anthony Browne

80=      The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

80=      The Tunnel by Anthony Browne

82=      Face by Benjamin Zephaniah

82=      The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler by Gene Kemp

84        The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

85=      Click Clack Moo: cows that type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin

85=      The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

85=      The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

88=      I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child

88=      The Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy

88=      The Early Years at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton

88=      Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver

92=      Birds Beasts and Relatives by Gerald Durrell

92=      The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner

94        The Mrs Pepperpot series by Alf Proysen

95=      The Asterix Series by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo

95=      The Fib and Other Stories by George Layton

97        The Giant’s Necklace by Michael Morpurgo

98        The Kipper series by Mick Inkpen

99=      The Milly-Molly-Mandy series by Joyce Lankester Brisley

99=      The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson

How many titles on this list have you read? Perhaps you might be prompted by this survey to revisit some of your favourite childhood stories and share these with your own children.

Top Ten Children’s Stories

Jack Knows the Answer

A sample of five hundred teachers has ranked “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” as the top book that all children should read before leaving primary school, explain The National Association for the Teaching of English and the Times Educational Standard.

“Fiction teaches children how to navigate the journey of life,” explained the TES editor, Ann Mroz.

As well as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, another Roald Dahl book (Matilda) also made it into the top ten.

The final top list reads as follows:

  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  2. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
  3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  4. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  5. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
  6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis
  7. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  8. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
  9. Dogger by Shirley Hughes
  10. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Of note, it is interesting to understand that many of the children’s favourite books often have dark and unsettling themes, works by Roald Dahl being the obvious example of this.

Ann Mroz added that many of the books chosen by teachers are “not full of joy and mirth but are instead dark and full of horror – tales of ferocious monsters, abuse, abandonment and even death

“Not what you’d think the average primary child would want to read. But these books serve an important purpose, giving children a safe place where they can take control of troubling subjects, where evil can be glimpsed and then shut within their pages.”


Historical Research for “A Clean Sweep”

Isaac Little 02

Research is an important part of the planning process of any story. It is essential that a storyline should be believable and that readers are not confused by the inclusion of any misinformation that detracts them from the plot. It is the role of an author to build a world that is as convincing as possible, so that the reader may become fully immersed within the story.

One important area of research for “A Clean Sweep” (Maxwell’s latest story) was the role of children chimney cleaners in Victorian times.

It was common to use small children, as young as four or five, to scramble up the insides of chimneys, to scrape and brush soot from the inside of the walls. These children would often freeze in fear, become stuck or simply fall asleep due to exhaustion, within the confines of the flue. When this happened, their masters would sometimes send a second child up the chimney, to prick the soles of the feet of the first child. At other times, the master would light a small bundle of straw or burn a brimstone candle in the fireplace, so that the suffocating smoke would force the child out.

Soot is a carcinogen and, as these children would often sleep on piles of soot bags and very rarely washed, many of these young boys went on to develop Chimney Sweeps’ Cancer in their early adult years.

Although the use of children chimney sweeps was banned in 1875, the practice continued for some years to come, in some larger country houses.

Interestingly, Maxwell Grantly once lived in a small market town in Suffolk, called Beccles. One quirky story from Beccles dwells upon the fact that one small house in the town centre has a stone shaped like a gravestone, embedded into the top of its chimneystack. You can see it clearly, on the left of the chimney pot, in the very centre of this photograph. There are many local tales regarding this peculiar stone, at the top of the chimneystack.

Beccles Town Centre

It is said that the stone is a headstone of a young nineteenth century boy, who was a local chimney sweep. The story says that he was forced up the chimney, in order to brush out soot from the inside of the chimney, but he lost his footing and slipped. In doing so, he became wedged and was unable to escape from the chimney, suffocating within his brick chimney prison. It was felt, at the time, that the top of the chimney was the best location for his gravestone. Other tales about this stone are somewhat more gristly. Some local people explain that the boy’s body was never retrieved and that his skeletal corpse remains embedded within the chimney. However, it is very likely that this gravestone story is not true and the additional gristly embellishment is most certainly untrue. It is completely implausible that the householders would have wanted to live in the same building as a corpse. (In fact there has been another account, from elsewhere, of a twelve-year-old chimney sweep becoming trapped within the flue, as he tried to dislodge soot. In this case, the chimney was demolished in a botched attempt to save the life of the urchin, who died shortly afterwards.)

In summary, it is highly unlikely that this chimney stone really is a child’s gravestone. It is more likely that this stone has an alternative function, solely due to the fact that a neighbouring town (Lowestoft) has three of these strange-shaped stones set into the tops of various chimney stacks, set around the historic centre of its high street. It is very implausible that so many chimney sweeps would have died in such a small geographical area and even more unlikely that their deaths would be remembered in such a similar fashion by different householders. It is more plausible that these stones serve an alternative purpose, in assisting air flow. Even still, the continued repetition of the ‘gravestone’ story serves to reinforce the fact that it is commonly accepted, by many different people, that chimney sweeps did indeed live miserable and wretched lives. All-in-all, it was an awful life being a chimney sweep child in Victorian times and these youngsters suffered from neglect, as well as numerous dreadful hardships.

A Clean Sweep Cover Page

Luckily, in the story “A Clean Sweep” the hero of the story does finally find his happy ending. However, like most stories by Maxwell Grantly, there are many interesting twists to the plot and all is not as it might, at first, appear to be.

Recommended for July

Fingers and the Dream ThiefAre you looking for a special eBook for your young son or daughter this July. “Fingers and the Dream Thief” is recommended for children this month.


Have you ever met a dream thief?

Edward Croydon (also known as “Fingers”) was abandoned by his uncaring parents and left on the streets of New Babbage. Fate forced him to work in order to survive, shining shoes and picking the pockets of rich passers-by. Finally, the kindness of one sympathetic gentleman encouraged Fingers to consider moving into the local orphanage, financed by the town’s wealthy photographer: Mr. Snude. Fingers found that the children of the home were very well-cared for and that they were allowed to play with as many toys as they could wish for. The orphanage looked like a paradise for homeless street children! However, despite all of this, Finger discovered that the children lacked imagination and he soon discovered that this children’s home had a dark and dreadful secret: Mr. Snude was a dream thief!

Discover how Fingers saved the children from a life devoid of dreams and how he was able to teach Mr. Snude a lesson that he would never forget.

—————– Reviews —————–

Beautifully done!

Your stories and images are always rich with heart and light. I hope people will take the time to pick them up and read them as your imagination is inspiring.

Well done indeed!

Another cool story.

A simple and straightforward children’s story, “Fingers and the Dream Thief” is an interesting balance between 3D digital art and storytelling since all descriptions are expressed by the illustrations, with little writing covering the actions. Fingers is an orphan child making a living in a steampunk city by polishing rich men’s shoes and pickpocketing them every now and then. One day, he is told about a lovely local orphanage. There, all children are encouraged to play all day long. But the place hides a dark secret and Fingers needs to save his new friends. I would say it is a bit too short (a few minutes reading), but the fact that there are more books with Finger’s adventures makes up for this. The illustrations and simple writing make it great for children beginning to read.

New Free eBook Release

Maxwell Grantly is very pleased to announce the release of his latest steampunk-themed children’s eBook: A Clean Sweep.

A Clean Sweep Cover Page

Isaac Little was a chimney sweep apprentice who worked for the cruel Mr. Grubber.

It was a difficult and dangerous life sweeping chimneys, especially as Isaac was forced to crawl within the flues. It was his awful task to climb up the brickwork and loosen the soot with a brush by hand. Each evening Mr. Grubber would spend the day’s takings on drink at the local pub, leaving Isaac to clean the yard and pack the soot into sacks, for sale to farmers as a fertiliser for their fields.

The only consolation that Isaac had for this miserable existence was an anonymous handwritten letter that he kept hidden away in his jacket pocket. Isaac couldn’t recall how he had found this note but he knew that it was his, for his name was included in full within the last sentence of the letter. The mysterious note promised Isaac that his life would improve and that he should trust its unknown author.

One day, Isaac succumbed to temptation when he stole a cigar case from a rich customer’s home. In doing so, he discovered a tiny fragment of a tragic newspaper report, rolled up inside with the cigars. The discovery of this newspaper fragment would change Isaac’s life forever and lead him on a terrifying adventure that would end with a face-to-face meeting with the anonymous author of his treasured mysterious letter.

Who wrote the prediction for Isaac’s life and how did the writer know what the future held for the wretched chimney sweep?

What awful news was written upon the newspaper fragment and why was it hidden within a cigar case?

In common with all stories from Maxwell Grantly, all is not what it might first appear to be.

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