NEW TITLES

Fortunately, the Milk . . .
Neil Gaiman

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408841761

The latest delivery from Neil Gaiman is a wonderfully entertaining story featuring a dinosaur in a hot air balloon, 'wumpires', aliens who have a thing for plastic flamingos, purple dwarfs and pirates. It's an enthralling, rollicking time-travel story which begins with a dad who simply goes out to buy a pint of milk. When the dad returns, with the milk, some time later, he delivers this story to explain why he was away for so long. The novel plays with many literary conventions, which both children and adults will recognise and enjoy. When he is captured by pirates, for example, the dad insists that the pirates make him 'walk the plank' - because 'if you are going to be rescued, it will always be while walking the plank'. Fortunately, the Milk... is also an exploration of story telling; on the final pages, the children look around the kitchen and see the dinosaur models, the vampire books, a calendar with a hot air balloon on it etc which they accuse the dad of using to make up his story - although there is one final twist that makes you wonder whether it was made up, or not. It is a great story to share with the class and can even be used to inspire children to create their own adventure story, based on things they can see on the classroom walls around them. The constantly-changing landscapes, the humour and the plethora of characters will keep children thoroughly entertained while the short bursts of text alongside brilliant illustrations by Chris Riddell will also encourage the most reluctant of readers to keep reading. 157 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

Fortunately, the Milk . . .
Hubble Bubble: The Glorious Granny Bake Off
Tracey Corderoy

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9780857632227

Have you met Pandora and her granny yet? Well if not I shall let you into a secret, Pandora's granny is a (whisper this coming word) witch! Witches have a bad reputation, usually for being evil. Pandora's granny is far from evil, she is not a dark or black witch, in fact she is a rather hopeless witch who tends to get into lots of trouble through her magic, creating mayhem wherever she goes and usually involving Pandora in it all! In Hubble Bubble The Glorious Granny Bake Off, granny and Pandora are enjoying half term together only Pandora has had to promise her mother that they won't do any magic for a whole week so after recovering from the mayhem in the kitchen that ensued after granny tried out her magi-mix, Pandora and granny decide the best thing to do when mum and dad visit is go out for the day... on a treasure hunt at a local stately home. What could possibly go wrong? I am quite sure that you can imagine just what can go wrong with a magical granny who has been forbidden from doing magic and it is the magical, special way in which Tracey Corderoy writes as well as the fantastic illustrations of Joe Berger that bring this story to life, making you laugh from the first word to the last and wanting the adventure to continue, which it will in your own imagination. Perhaps the best thing about this book is that there is more than one story to enjoy too, in fact there are three, each perfect for building the confidence of readers new to chapter books with their blend of illustration and bite-sized chunks of chapters, enough to get their teeth into but not too long to be off-putting. Short enough for a bedtime read too these stories are fun, funny and have a wide-ranging appeal. 96 pages / Interest age 7-8+ / Reviewed by Louise Ellis-Barrett, librarian.

Hubble Bubble: The Glorious Granny Bake Off
I'm a Chicken, Get Me Out Of Here!
Anna Wilson

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781447236634

Titch the chicken is unwittingly delivered in a cardboard box to the anarchic household of Wilf Peasbody (most likely due to another one of mum's internet shopping disasters) and thus begins a hair-raising tale involving a terrifying preschooler, a highly-strung guinea pig, a scheming cat and a dim-witted dog. Titch is desperate to break free from her uncomfortable new home, but as events unfold, she realises the rest of the pets need her help to escape from the humiliation and outright danger inflicted on them by Meena, Wilf's younger sister. Of course, Titch makes the right choices, victory belongs to the pets and Meena gets her just desserts (literally). A happy ending is there for everyone else to enjoy. This book is 'laugh-out-loud' funny in places, and the reader will be increasingly outraged by the terrible deeds Meena inflicts on the pets. As the story progresses, children will be rooting for the pets to get their own back on this audacious girl, whom they call 'The Terror', and they will not be disappointed. Both humans and animals are strongly portrayed, and their quirks and characteristics made obvious: ideal for younger readers. Black and white line drawings by Andy Rowland placed every few pages perfectly capture the mayhem and chaos of the Peasbody household and provide further enjoyment for the reader. 226 pages / Age 7+ / Reviewed by Lucy Russell, Teacher

I'm a Chicken, Get Me Out Of Here!
How to Train Your Dragon: How to Betray a Dragon's Hero: Book 11
Cressida Cowell

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444913989

This is the penultimate adventure staring Hiccup the young Viking warrior as he attempts to find the seven 'lost things' that will help him to be crowned King of the Wilderwest. The series, which began with Hiccup as the skinny, unlikely son of a Viking chieftain, has seen Hiccup grow and develop heroic qualities of leadership. His journey has been an epic one and now he stands at the final hurdle of being crowned king - but the battles will continue to be harsh and plentiful before this can happen. And there is still one more book to go... Hiccup fans will thoroughly enjoy his latest adventure, which is darker than many of the earlier stories and this is echoed in the distinctive, moody illustrations which have also been created by the talented author. The stories have so much to enjoy - dragons, warriors, witches, friendship, battles for a crown and so on. But the series is also about growing up and parenthood, which gives the story a melancholy flavour as the older 'Hiccup' looks back on his younger self and his valiant efforts - possibly doomed to failure - to save the world's remaining dragons. Altogether, a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding series. 398 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

How to Train Your Dragon: How to Betray a Dragon's Hero: Book 11

ISBN 9780192734808

Watership Down with voles. Slyvan is a young vole eager to see the world but inexperienced as to the dangers. When he and his brother and sisters are taken into the wild around their part of the river by their Mother and Mother doesn't return, none of her brood want to admit that she has been taken by the predator lurking around. However, the siblings realise that they need a new home and reluctantly set off to find a safe place to live. Along with Fodur, an unexpectedly friendly rat and unlikely companion, the group head downstream. Slyvan, rapidly growing in maturity having experienced the dangers of life, offers to push ahead on his own to see if the way forward is safe. He is accompanied by his sister Fern and while they manage to avoid an unfriendly otter, they are not so lucky with a fox. A lot of cliffhangers makes this ideal for a bedtime story or a classroom read at the end of the day. A PHSE lesson could be built around 'what would you do in this situation?' This is a warm-hearted animal story with the right balance of reality and imagined fantasy. 256 pages / Ages 9-12 years / Reviewed by Dawn Woods, SLS Librarian

The Battles of Ben Kingdom: The Claws of Evil
Andrew Beasley

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781409544005

Ben Kingdom is a young boy, a typical cheeky street urchin, eking out a living with his father and brother, when he is plunged into the midst of a battle between the Watchers and the Legion. One side are the protectors of London and its inhabitants, the other have evil in mind, but can Ben figure out which side is which before it is too late? This is the exciting premise of the first novel by Andrew Beasley and marks the start of a series featuring Ben Kingdom’s battles against the forces of chaos and darkness.. The book is set in 1891 and the author vividly conjures up the atmosphere of Victorian London with its poverty, taverns and docks. The book even has a guide to the more unusual words used in the book, with which modern day readers may be unfamiliar. The use of such words, especially in the dialogue of the characters, helps to convey a sense of time and place, and the description of life 'under' is particularly effective. The action takes place over the five days leading up to Christmas and events rocket along at a frenetic pace. Many important characters are introduced; Professor Claw Carter, Mr Sweet, blind Jago Moon, the Weeping Man, as well as the terrifying and ferocious Feathered Men, but even those who make only a fleeting appearance are fleshed out with telling details. Alongside the strong characterisation, there are exciting chases over the rooftops of London and through the tunnels under the Thames. There are some genuinely gripping moments when Ben seems to completely misinterpret everyone's motives (a side-effect of possession of the mysterious and much prized coin) and the conclusion of the book sets the scene for the next in the series. 330 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, School Librarian

The Battles of Ben Kingdom: The Claws of Evil

ISBN 9781408330135

Following the death of their parents, Feliks and Greta Mortenberg live in the city of Schwartzgarten with their beloved Aunt Gisela, a parrot and a mysterious house guest. All is not as it seems as the children uncover their Aunt's unusual past. However, when she is dispatched to the next world - as a result of a poisoned marzipan cake - the children are resigned to life in the Schwartzgarten Reformatory for Maladjusted children. That is until the glamorous author Olga Van Veenen comes to their rescue. But all is never as it seems in Schwartzgarten… This book is a must for fans of Phillip Ridley, Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket. It is riddled with adventure, mystery, intrigue and murder. If you enjoy a grisly, but humorous, story full of unexpected twists and turns then this is the book for you. Although the plot is transparent in places, that is more than made up for by the elements that are unforeseen surprises - or indeed shocks! Hill's writing enables the reader to see, smell and feel exactly what the twins do; I for one would love to eat some of the confectionery that seems to be a central theme of the text. His imaginative descriptions effortlessly draw the reader in to the dark and mysterious world of Schwartzgarten. The characters are a flamboyant, unusual cast who fit brilliantly within the factually accurate backdrop of the age of the silent movie. Hill is a master at developing a sense of suspense and tension, but children who are easily frightened should probably not read this book alone! Anyone, however, who enjoys a book that can make them feel uneasy and slightly afraid, will relish The Woebegone Twins. All in all, this is an enjoyable adventure littered with the key features of a great mystery story. 340 pages / Ages 8-12 years / Reviewed by Mikeala Morgans, KS2 teacher

ISBN 9780857532930

From the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas comes this heartening story set in London during the First World war. On Alfie's fifth birthday, the war begins and his father, Georgie, signs up straight away and is soon off to France. The reader follows Alfie and the close knit Damely Road community as they experience the changes that war brings: a Czech family are forcibly removed, his mother has to work harder and harder to make ends meet, the 'conchie' in the street is ostracised, and Alfie takes up shoe shining at Kings Cross Station. It is here that he begins to realise that his father is not, as his mother claims, on a secret mission, and Alfie has to face stark revelations about the whereabouts and condition of his father. Alfie's naïvity when faced with horrors he cannot fully comprehend is all the more poignant as events develop and he pursues his plan to help his dad get better. After some extremely tense moments, there is a satisfying conclusion of the central events. Neatly, Alfie's thirteenth birthday concludes the story, tying up the loose ends for the reader. Alfie is a likeable character, portrayed with warmth and honesty. The reader can grasp his bewilderment as the world changes around him, and with it, the behaviour of adults whom he knows and trust. Readers will be drawn into Alfie's world and the characters have plenty of depth. The scenes at the hospital may unsettle more sensitive individuals but most mature readers would be able to bear with them and see the necessity of their depiction in order to fully understand Alfie's motives. This would make a superb guided reading text for Year 6 and above and is a satisfying read for boys and girls of 10+. 248 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Lucy Russell, teacher

ISBN 9780385618144

A war between humans and aliens, destroying the universe, planet by planet and star by star. A boy who never felt at ease with himself even before he started to show signs of a strange and disturbing power. A spaceship with a crew searching for a saviour. These are the elements that SF Said weaves into an engrossing tale that is not afraid of examining the big themes of death, destiny and sacrifice. Lucky is a boy on a mission - to find the father who will be able to explain why Lucky is the way he is. On the way, he reluctantly teams up with the alien inhabitants of a spaceship who recognise something special in him, and together they go in search of the means to end the war which is endangering the entire universe. There is just a handful of main characters and, through them, the author explores the major themes of the book, bringing difficult concepts to an individual level. So we have Bixa, born to be a Startalker, resisting her destiny for as long as possible, and Lucky, believing if he finds his father all will be well, only to face disappointment. The black and white illustrations are integral to the book, woven into the text, carrying the narrative along, especially in the last few chapters. The drawings, combined with the text, convey the confusion and anxiety in Lucky's mind as he tries to navigate his way through the dying universe. This would be a challenging and rewarding read for a confident reader, not daunted by the thickness of the book. There are trials and tribulations and the author does not shirk from the realities of war and death, but the ultimate message is hopeful and uplifting. 487 Pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian

Middle of Nowhere
Geraldine McCaughrean

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781409522003

Comity Pinny lives in the Australian outback having moved from Adeleide where an Aunt and cousins remain. There's no doubt her Father loves her, but both he and Comity are grieving for Comity's Mother who died as a result of a snake bite. Herbert Pinny retreats into himself, leaving Comity to her own devices. She fills this void with friendship with Fred - a young Aboriginal boy who has picked up some of the folklore of his culture, but doesn't quite understand it himself. Eventually a new assistant, Quartz Hogg, arrives purportedly to help. However, he quickly assesses the situation and takes advantage, eventually stopping working completely and totally ignores his boss' orders. Unlike Comity's parents, Quartz Hogg sees Aboriginals as equivalent to animals and expresses his disapproval of Comity's friendship with Fred. Comity's refusal to accept her Mother's death has resulted in lies in letters written to her cousins back in Adelaide and an innocent remark escalates beyond control. Matters come to a head when Hogg holds a party and Herbert Pinny has not the courage to stand up and forbid partying and drinking. Although slow to start, once Hogg arrives I found myself willing Comity and her Father into changing places so her Father acted like the adult and not the child. The reader can see disaster about to strike and knows simple communication among the characters could prevent it. Yet events have to follow their course and everyone learns from their mistakes. McCaughrean has managed to show up the racial intolerance that existed, portraying Fred and Comity as characters with fairness at their hearts. This is a heart-warming read. 304 pages / Ages 10-14 years / Reviewed by Dawn Woods, SLS librarian

Middle of Nowhere