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Monday, August 4th, 2008 at 8:08 pm
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Book Reviews

Hox by Annemarie Allan

Hox is the 2007 Kelpies Award winning publication from Floris. Scotland has been fortunate to have seen not one but two publication winning competitions for children’s writing – the Kathleen Fidler Award (held annually from 1983-2001) and the Kelpies Prize, which was taken over by Floris Books in 2001.

During this time, writing for children has become increasingly difficult, some would say, as children become more sophisticated. To find a plot which is politically correct and inclusive without being patronising, exciting for 8-12 year olds but acceptable to their grannies who, let’s face it, are the ones who will buy it, is a real challenge and 2007 winner Annemarie Allan has certainly met that challenge.

Hox is science fiction, a mystery, an adventure, all rolled together through the world of genetic engineering. Twelve year old Robbie discovers he has a telepathic empathy with a lynx which is part of the experimental laboratory where his parents worked. But his mother died when he was a baby and his father has been less than honest about the way she died.

A twelve year old who finds his way, with two wild cats, across the Scottish countryside, to his mother’s cottage on the west coast, whilst being hunted by the manager of the laboratory, is as improbable as anything Enid Blyton turned out, but somehow, under Allan’s pen, the story is not only believable but intriguing.

A good plot is a good plot, whether for adults or children. No doubt adults would want a little more accurate information on the effect of the Hox genes but as a children’s story there is just enough of everything to satisfy today’s demanding audience. It’s quite simply a good read and the fact that Hox has been shortlisted for the Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children’s Books 2008, which are voted on by children, demonstrates its worth.

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