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Meet our Book Doctor... Emma Carroll, author of The Tale of Truthwater Lake

In our Book Doctor feature, we welcome a guest to prescribe just the right read for any mood or occasion.

Emma Carroll, much-loved author of children's historical fiction, whose books include The Tale of Truthwater Lake and Frost Hollow Hall, has joined us to prescribe some fantastic books for children and adults.

I work in a local secondary school and it's often difficult to recommend books (crime, mystery, just a good read) that I have read as they are too full of sex and violence! Any ideas for books that will grab Y7 and Y8? It is so important to light the reading fire but so many books turn kids off. – Gilliane

Although not as clearly defined as middle grade or young adult, there are many brilliant authors your students will love in this 'tween' age bracket. I'd heartily recommend Frances Hardinge, who does spooky fantasy brilliantly, or Elle McNicoll, for contemporary storytelling from a neurodiverse perspective. Also Patrice Lawrence, Carnegie shortlisted for Needle; Marcus Sedgwick, an absolute master of suspense; or the Heartstopper books by the brilliant Alice Oseman, which are hugely popular with teenage readers and adults alike.

Needle by Patrice Lawrence

As a man who grew up with many sisters, we had many different books in the house, and some of my favourite books to read were stereotypically 'girls' fiction, with relatable female leads like Jaqueline Wilson's books. I'd like to continue to encourage a diversity of reading, but worry that as my son's getting older, he'll be reluctant to read or relate to 'girly' books. Any thoughts on strategies or authors that'll keep his attention and avoid giving into stereotypes? – James

James, you're already a wonderful reading role model for your son. Share your favourite Jacqueline Wilsons with him. Say why they were important to you. I think part of the trick here is not to worry: how children react to gender – and how writers represent it – is different now, even from our own childhood experiences. Other writers you both might enjoy are MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman's Adventures on Trains series, Katie and Kevin Tsang's Dragon Realm books, Louie Stowell's Loki series, and anything by the ever-brilliant Ross Montgomery.

Loki by Louie Stowell

My son is 9 and enjoyed reading the Frank Lampard books, but he is a bit more grown up now. Can you recommend any football or sport related books for a lad his age? Thanks. – Vince

Marcus Rashford's children’s books spring to mind – The Breakfast Club Adventures series is fun, though not especially football-focused. His non-fiction You Are A Champion is also interesting, motivational stuff. For gripping storytelling with a strong football theme, I'd heartily recommend Kick by Mitch Johnson and Foul Play by Tom Palmer. Also by Tom, After the War is a beautiful, true story about Holocaust refugees being brought to the Lake District where they're coached to play football against the local team.

After the War by Tom Palmer

As a child, I loved to read (I still do when I get the chance!). I would love to see my children enjoying books as much as I do, but my eldest (11-year-old girl) doesn't enjoy reading. I've tried Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl (my favourites from my childhood), David Walliams, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Alex Rider, and His Dark Materials among others. I'm reading Mallory Towers to her at the moment at bedtime. The only books she will willingly read are Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Tom Gates. Do you have any suggestions for a book she might enjoy and read willingly?! – Louise

It sounds to me as if your daughter just hasn't found the right book for her yet, so please don't lose heart. I'd suggest taking her into your local bookshop or library and letting the bookseller/librarian get to work! They are experts in what young people are currently reading and enjoying. Authors I'd suggest would be Louie Stowell if she likes Tom Gates, Robin Stevens if she likes Mallory Towers, or Cath Howe, who writes brilliant contemporary stories on friendships, as does the hugely popular Katie Kirby whose Lottie Brooks series might also appeal.

Lottie Brooks by Katie Kirby

I'm looking for books for adults that will give me the same feeling of eeriness, but also cosiness, that I got from a lot of the books I read as a child. Think Green Knowe, Astercote, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Box Of Delights, and Fire and Hemlock. Any suggestions? – Joanne, 43

What a lovely question – I think our reading tastes are probably quite similar, Joanne. An obvious recommendation here would be Daphne du Maurier, especially Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. One of my favourites of recent years is Things in Jars by Jess Kidd. I'd also suggest books by Liz Hyder, Essie Fox, and Laura Purcell, who are wonderful at capturing eerie atmospheres and mystery, though aren't necessarily what I'd call comforting reads!

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd


The Tale of Truthwater Lake by Emma Carroll

About The Tale of Truthwater Lake by Emma Carroll

On one side of the underwater street is the remains of a house... It's beautiful here, and eerie, a lost kingdom, a ghost village... It's the near-future and Britain is having yet another heatwave. Of course, the government have put in the normal curfews for this kind of weather, and shops are forced to shut again. For Polly, it's the sort of heat that makes her do wild, out-of-character things just to cool down. Like face her fear of deepwater. Essential when she and her brother have been sent to their aunt's eco lake-side house for the summer. But Truthwater Lake is beginning to dry up.

As the water level diminishes, a lost village emerges. Swimming over the rooftops at midnight, Polly dives down and is suddenly able to breathe, to hear church bells and bird song... Polly has discovered an underwater gateway... to the past!

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