One birthday when I was MUCH younger, I was given a book. No surprise there- and it was one of many I was given- but this one had me hooked from the first line.
'Once upon a winter's night when the wind blew its guts out and a fishy piece of moon scuttled among the clouds, a coach came thundering down the long hill outside of Dorking...'
This was my first Leon Garfield book- 'The Sound of Coaches'- and I must have read it about ten times. A baby is born in that first chapter. Named Sam Chichester by the coachman and his wife, all the boy knows of his real parents are the pistol and the pewter ring his mother had left him.
Garfield's stories have a Dickensian feel to them- the sights and sounds of Victorian England come through. This is historical adventure at its finest and is a great read, perhaps more suited to older readers due to some of the language and themes involved.
'Smith' is another great story which brings London of past days to life - with a cast of wonderful characters.Smith is a pick-pocket and this leads him into a sinister world of murder and intrigue.
'Fair's Fair' is one of my all-time favourite books- one which I love sharing with children. The vocabulary is rich and satisfying. Full of figurative language that challenges them to think and discuss, it is a short, achievable book. This is a must for primary children.
Leon Garfield also scripted 'Shakespeare: The Animated Tales' which are widely used in schools. He won the Guardian Prize, the Carnegie and the Whitbread Literary Award.
He died in 1996.