Arabel's Raven, by Joan Aiken, was one of those impulse choices - I saw it in the library, noted that the illustrations were by Quentin Blake, and decided N & I needed to read it. It turned out to be a real delight, and now I'm looking for the sequel, Arabel and Mortimer, for this holiday season.
Mortimer, the raven, becomes Arabel's companion through a sad accident. He quickly takes over the household and wreaks havoc in the lives of Arabel and her parents. Arabel adores Mortimer; her mother finds him exasperating; and her easygoing father reacts to Mortimer's antics with bemused calm. The improbable events already taking place in Rumbury Town become even more bizarre with the addition of this raven (N wishes me to point out that Mortimer is a good case of "perfonication" - i.e. personification), and the result was a good romp for both N and me. I recommend the book for ages 7-9 or so. (Aiken's other books, if I recall correctly, are for somewhat older readers.)
R & I have been fans of Maupin's Tales of the City since the publication of the first volume. I recently read in Neil Gaiman's blog a series of the 20 most reread books in the UK (and I was highly gratified to find Gaiman & Pratchett's Good Omens listed above the Bible - funny and ironic, if you know the subject matter). This got me thinking about which books I tend to reread, and Maupin's series falls into that category. So imagine my pleasure when Michael Tolliver Lives came out!
The title is meaningful on several levels - the first, of course, being the message to those faithful readers that yes, our beloved Michael has survived "it all." What has happened to all the other Barbary Lane friends is revealed over the course of the book, but that's not what the book is really about. It's really about Michael - and it's really about us. All the things that have happened to him have, in various ways, happened to us as well in the years since we last read about him. How life has changed him, and the insights he has gained, are the very personal love letter from Armistead Maupin to his readers. And we love him right back.