NEW TITLES

This month's selection of books for 7-11 year olds includes a wide range of books - funny, mysterious, macabre - as well as poetry, plus non-fiction titles exploring politics for younger readers.

Bee Boy: Clash of the Killer Queens
Tony De Saulles

ISBN 9780192763877

Melvin Meadly doesn't have many friends, most of the other children at school don't like the same things Melvin does, they just don't get him! Melvin spends most of his time looking after his bees with his next-door neighbour Dan, or at least he did before Dan moved away and now the bees are the sole responsibility of Melvin. Melvin Meadly lives with his Mum at the top of a block of flats and rather than keep his bees in a hive at the bottom of the garden, as most bee-keepers would, Melvin's hive is on the roof of the Meadow towers, the block of flats where Melvin lives. When Melvin has to stand up in front of the whole school and tell them all about his bees, the other children fail to understand the value of his buzzing collection. Some even think he should 'get rid of the bees', thinking only of their potentially painful sting. In a puff of smoke Melvin takes on the role of 'Bee Boy', superhero and defender of the hive. This story is one boy's attempt to convince his local community of the benefit of bees, while defending the Queen Bee and her workers from other predatory insects. A fascinating work of fiction, packed with interesting facts about bees and bee-keeping. True to the bee and its distinctive colouring, this book is published in black, white and yellow and written and illustrated in a style similar to many current popular, 'journal'-style works of fiction. This would undoubtedly make a enjoyable tale for many lower Key Stage 2 children. It's published format makes this book appear, at first glance, an easy read, however the 'bee speech', 'Zum cells full of pollen! Zum wizz honey! And zum wiz babeez!' may distract a less confident young reader. A great book to accompany a class topic on mini-beasts. 192 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher.

Bee Boy: Clash of the Killer Queens
The Nothing to See Here Hotel
Steven Butler

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471163838

This book is a real deal breaker for any reluctant reader! A real laugh out loud tale of weird and wonderful ghosts, ghouls and goblins. A delightful story told by a young boy called Frankie Bannister whose parents run The Nothing to see Here Hotel. This magical hotel stands in plain sight on the Brighton seafront and is the best secret holiday destination for magical creatures in the whole of England. Coming from a family dotted with trolls, humans and harpies, Frankie is a quarterling, one thirty-sixth troll! His father is a halfling and his Mum is completely human, although many of Frankie's wider family are not so normal; mixtures of all sorts of strange magical, mythical individuals. The hotel, originally built by Frankie's great-great-great grandparents, is cloaked in magic, deterring the entrance of any non-magical person with its outwardly grubby appearance and its disgusting stink. It is a popular venue for many non-humans, so when Frankie's parents hear that they have been chosen to be visited by a real goblin VIP, they feel suitably honoured. However, the arrival of Prince Grogbah of the Dark and Dooky Deep does not quite go as expected. Prince Grogbah proves to be more than the usual 'goblin handful', His accompanying entourage are rather intimidating and as chaos ensues, Frankie and his family start to wonder exactly what they have let themselves in for. Gruesome feasts, rudeness and bad behaviour make for a rib-tickling read, although it is the arrival of Tempestra Plank and her crew of goblin pirates that finally stops Gogbah in his tracks! Naughtiness, word-play, male and female protagonists make this action packed tale an enjoyable read for young and old. A real page turner for a young reader and a certain motivational read for any reader who has not yet developed a passion for the written word. I highly recommend any parent or teacher to treat their children to a trip to The Nothing to see Here Hotel. I certainly hope to be able to revisit for subsequent adventures. 192 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher.

The Nothing to See Here Hotel
Blast Off!
Carole Bromley

Smith/Doorstop Books

ISBN 9781910367766

This is Carole Bromley's first anthology for children (published by a new imprint Small Donkey Books) and a very welcome addition to the world of children's poetry it is too. It has children - their interests, their concerns, their sense of the ridiculous - firmly at its heart. The title poem, Blast Off! (p.28), has shades of Where the Wild Things Are although in this case it's the child's refusal to do sums that leads to I-Pad removal and resort to the fantasy world offered by the rocket in her (or is it a 'he'? I like the way the child's voice could be either in many of the poems) bedroom. Countdown to zero 'and I'm off, / heading straight for Mars, / steering with my frisbee wheel / past unfamiliar stars.' And, just as Max finds his fantasy world ultimately lonely, so it is for this child who finds 'I'm hungry and I'm small /' and returns to mum's countdown: 'What on earth are you up to? Right! / I'm counting. Eight. Nine. Ten.' There's an alien in my wardrobe (p.64) appeals to the age-old themes of both imaginary friends and something or somebody lurking in the bedroom: this time it's a friendly alien in the wardrobe who is, of course, known only to the child who nicks tin cans from the recycling with which to feed him. Risk of discovery lurks though because of the moonwalking lessons which leave 'green footprints / wherever he goes / and I have no idea / how I'll explain those.' The final and fitting realisation is that 'he'll leave me / I can't keep him forever. / I'll wake up and he'll be gone.' There are more bedroom secrets in Under my Bed (p.25), another powerful imaginative space for children. Here, it's what is to be found: 'the spider I didn't want to kill, / some fluff, my walkie-talkie doll./ The poem moves in and out of the familiar, ('plimsolls, slippers, outdoor shoes'), the unexpected ('a sleeping cat'), fantasy ('a ghost') and poignancy at the end: 'the lost key from my brother's train, / that friend I'll never see again'. School Dinners (p.30) bridges the gap between home and school. 'I wish I could go home for lunch / and eat a bowl of monster munch.' it starts, before a series of rhyming couplets bring us full circle to the monster munch wish again. There's a canny reference to the things that grown-up say (to no effect): 'Grandad says 'When I was small / we didn't have no lunch at all, / we just did sums and learnt to read / and then went home to boiled swede'. Still in school, 'Golden Time' (p41) offers a fanciful wish list. The repetition of 'I might...' is something children will enjoying using to create their own wish lists. There are other poems in the collection that provide opportunities for the children's own writing. Who is it? (p.20) uses simple repeated questions to structure a powerful three verse poem about an owl: 'Who is it, / I called. / There was no reply, / just a rush of wings as an owl flew by./' The repetition offers a structure that children could use for their own writing. There is a clever DIY Zoo Poem (p.22) which taps into children's sense of rhyme and rhythm as they are asked to supply the missing words: 'I went to the zoo and looked in a cage, / Beware of these tigers. They get in a ......./.' For cross-curricular fun, look at The Six Wives (p.38) which provides a pithy rhyming history lesson: 'Catherine Aragon was first to go; / he went to the Pope and the Pope said no / but Henry was a stubborn so and so.' There is a rich vein of poems running through the book which draw on intertextual knowledge and subvert traditional texts. Unsuitable Nursery Rhymes (p.54) offers well known opening lines which segue into an unconventional twist: 'Mary, Mary, quite contrary / how does your garden grow? / Same as everyone else's. / Who wants to know?' Then there's Snow White (p.67) who has 'nothing against little men / and there's safety in numbers' but nevertheless finds the accommodation a 'tad snug, / it was like living in a doll's house /.' Children will enjoy the complicity with SW when she confides in the final verse 'You know how it went. / The whole prince to the rescue scene. /' Cathy Benson's is a delightful depiction of the little men 'hi-hoeing down the path / with their shovels and picks. /' Equally engaging is her illustration of the three bears (p.70) humouring baby bear ('their spoilt wee brat') by swinging him as they take a walk in the woods while their porridge cools. But, of course, the real spoilt brat in this poem is Goldilocks having her little rant: 'just absurd / bears eating porridge, bears wearing frocks - / next time they're out 'm changing the locks. With its blast of myriad themes and forms, the anthology really does live up to its name! 60 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

Blast Off!

ISBN 9781847807557

The Story of Life: A First Book About Evolution, is recently republished in paperback. Firstly, I must comment on the vivid and imaginative language that the author uses to discuss and describe these, sometimes hard to grasp, concepts. Choices such as 'choking gas', 'churning seas' and 'belched towards' really hook the reader into learning about early life. The text is easy to follow and understand and the flow of the book is superb. Despite there being great periods of time between each event, the pages just seem to mould together and you can see life evolve in front of you. Even the very origins of the earth, pre-dinosaur, are compelling to read and interesting. The introduction of the dinosaurs once again grabs your attention and the use of language once more allows you to live that time period with time, you almost feel like you can 'thunder', 'wade' or 'wander' with the best of them. Post-dinosaur, the books clearly explains the evolution of mammals into man and shows how we slowly adapted to our surroundings. It then concludes with a stark message that we, as modern day man, are destroying our planet and reminds us of the need to protect our world for years to come. This book is a fantastic non fiction text to share with any curious children. It offers solutions to many early questions children may have regarding how the world started or even when dinosaurs died. It is both child and adult friendly and I found myself learning new things in a way that didn't make me feel silly. I would happily use this text with a class as a way of introducing evolution and to discuss our heritage. The text doesn't follow the usual conventions of a non fiction book, instead it uses vivid illustrations to support the facts and flows more like a fiction text. I found myself wanting to read on and on. The addition of a time line at the bottom of the book as well as glossary, make this even more of a learning tool. Overall, an excellent and informative read. 40 pages / Ages 6-9 years / reviewed by Kyle Matravers, teacher.

Art Activity Book (STEM)
Jenny Jacoby

b small publishing

ISBN 9781911509219

Stem Starters: Science and Stem Starters: Art - Designed to encourage boys and girls from all backgrounds take an interest in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), these two books from the series offer a range of activities to engage and inspire. The Science Activity Book introduces various science concepts from materials to energy to light and sound. Each section offers information and activities like mazes, word searches and drawing. The colourful, cartoon-filled pages are appealing and the answers to all the puzzles are included at the back of the book. The Art Activity Book explores a range of artistic skills and techniques, but also links these to how engineers, scientists and designers work, encouraging readers to see and value the links between these areas of learning as well as developing creative activity. For example, the science of colour is looked at alongside its artistic use and tessellation is considered as pattern and art. Again, answers are included at the back of the book. Combining learning and fun, these books are sure to pique interest in the STEM subjects and encourage children to develop this further. 32 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Art Activity Book (STEM)
Meet the Ancient Romans
James Davies

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781787410527

This book is just great, ideal for any young historian! I almost wish I was back in Primary School myself; a project on the Ancient Romans using a book like this would be easy. Packed full of relevant clearly written facts and information, supported by simple illustrations and humorous annotations, it makes for a great classroom resource. Written in clear comic sans font, using simple language, this book should be suitable as an independent read for most Year 3/4 children. The basic map and timeline include enough details to be relevant and informative without appearing overwhelming. The book has an easy to read contents page and each short chapter / section is clearly labelled and numbered; the addition of an index and glossary would make it even better. This book is one of a pair, the other is very similar in format and introduces the Ancient Egyptians. 64 pages / Ages 7-10 years / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher.

Meet the Ancient Romans
The Day That Aliens (Nearly) Ate Our Brains
Tom McLaughlin

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406375794

Freddy is desperate to watch a wrestling match but he does not have satellite TV. Fortunately, his neighbour does, and Freddy, with the aid of his friend Sal and various bits of kitchen equipment, intends to latch onto his neighbour's signal to enable him to watch the ultimate title fight. Unfortunately, the signal he receives is not from his neighbour's TV but from a very grumpy alien who plans to take over the world and learn the entire sum of human knowledge by means of eating human brains. So starts Tom McLaughlin's latest book, a fast-paced adventure involving world leaders, NASA, a lollipop lady and helicopters on garden lawns. Will the combined forces of Planet Earth be enough to withstand an alien invasion, or will the alien invasion turn out to be not quite what they were expecting? The cover of the book, with its luminous green, three-eyed alien sets the tone for this adventure. The book is peppered with black and white illustrations and frequent changes of font. Chapters are reasonably short and the alien, known as Alan, speaks English in a peculiarly funny way. The humour (the eating of brains, the effects of cheese and onion pasties on the police chief's digestive system) will appeal to many a newly confident reader and Freddy and Sal are engaging characters who try to sort out the invasion they have inadvertently started. 176 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

The Day That Aliens (Nearly) Ate Our Brains
Trouble In New York
Jennifer Gray

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474927253

Ermine is on a trip around the world, first stop New York City and the home of Michael Megabanks. Recently adopted by the Grand Duchess Maria Von Schnitzel, Ermine has become her protege and is fortunate to be completing her education whilst travelling and visiting the friends of the Duke and Duchess of Balaclavia. Importantly, Ermine is no ordinary charge. Small, snowy white in colour, with a long bushy tail and whiskers, Ermine is a stoat. Saved by the Grand Duchess when her husband attempted to repair his regal robes with Ermine's fur, instead she was rescued and instated as a member of the family. Ermine may be little in stature but she is a giant in terms of personality. She is incredibly friendly, always carries a tool kit and travels with a vast wardrobe of outfits. At first the Megabanks are surprised to meet Ermine but it doesn't take long for them to warm to her and welcome her into their home. All seems to be going swimmingly for Ermine and she is loving her time in the Big Apple but unbeknownst to her she is heading for trouble. The notorious Spudd brothers have escaped from prison and their paths are about to cross; a mix-up in the left luggage section of the New York Airport has left the Spudd brothers without a precious diamond - they suspect that Ermine has it. Slapstick chaos ensues as the bundling criminals try to get their precious gem back. A charming story with fast pace and endearing characters. Readers will enjoy the incredibly determined Ermine and the pandemonium she causes as she evades the robbers hot on her tail- quite literally! 160 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Emily Beale, school librarian.

Trouble In New York
Begone the Raggedy Witches (The Wild Magic Trilogy, Book One)
Celine Kiernan

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406366020

This is the first book in The Wild Magic trilogy by Celine Kiernan and the reader will be hooked from the very first sentence. Within the first chapter we learn of Mup's life with her family and we are introduced to the forces that are about to change that life dramatically. Mup (official name Pearl) lives with her Mam, brother Tipper, dog Badger and Aunty Boo. Dad is away working on an oil rig. Aunty Boo (Mam's Aunt) dies in Chapter 1 but never quite leaves the family, protecting her niece from the enemies she faces as the family search for Dad 'over the border'. The border marks the division between ordinary human life and the world of witches. All is not well over the border where the Queen rules with a rod of iron and her subjects live a terrified life, constantly evading the Raggedy Witches. This fearful queen is in fact Aunty Boo's sister and the mother of Mup's Mam. Aunty Boo took her niece away across to the human world to protect her from her mother's evil ways but now she is being pulled back into that world. The action moves on at breakneck speed as Mup and her family search for Dad, involving rhyming crows, talking cats and long forgotten magic. The use of rhyme as a means of controlling communication is central to maintaining the Queen's hold on her subjects. If they don't speak in rhyme, this alerts the Raggedy Witches to their whereabouts. If they do speak in rhyme, the constraints that places on real communication keep the outlaws in their place. Being the first book in the trilogy, there is a lot of information about the characters and the witches' world to introduce to the reader but the story moves on quickly with some terrifying battle sequences and revelations. At the end of the book, Mam/Stella is faced with a choice that will affect the lives of all those she loves and the scene is set for the second book. Readers who have been on this journey with Mup will look forward to Book 2. 496 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

Begone the Raggedy Witches (The Wild Magic Trilogy, Book One)
Sky Song
Abi Elphinstone

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471146077

Erkenwald is in the grip of an evil Ice Queen who has created Winterfang Palace, 'a shimmering fortress carved entirely from ice'. Determined to control all the tribes of the land, she sets them one against the other and then imprisons them in her palace, consuming their voices in a bid for immortality. Their children, however, remain hidden - beyond her grasp- except one. Eska, frozen inside a cursed music box, has no memories of where she has come from, who she is or why the Ice Queen so desperately wants her voice. Flint, a young member of the Fur tribe, is on a mission to rescue his mother from the Ice Queen's palace. When he finds Eska and saves her, together they begin an amazing journey to find an ancient song with the power to defeat the Ice Queen. From the first page, this is a magical story. The prologue sets the scene perfectly, relating Erkenwald's history and grabbing the reader from the first line and the adventure builds page by page to the story's climax. Eska and Flint are engaging, lively characters, easy to empathise with. Flint struggles with feeling like an outsider as he is a user of magic, which is not valued by his tribe. He is forced to re-evaluate beliefs that he has grown up with in the face of things that he learns. His devotion to his little sister, Blu, is heart-warming - and she is an absolute joy. Stubborn, sweet and loyal, Blu often offers words of wisdom and guidance without realising, offering a very positive portrayal of a child with Down's syndrome. Eska is brave and determined, trying to make sense of a challenge she does not fully understand, yet never faltering. Even the children's animal companions are full of personality - Pebble, the ever-hungry fox cub and Balapan, the eagle. Sky Song is an enchanting, beautifully written story. It would make an excellent individual, guided or class read as well as offering much as a text to work from with a class. Children in Year 6 particularly would gain much from the lovely vocabulary choices and the pace of the story. 288 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Sky Song
Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present
Jamia Wilson

Wide Eyed Editions

ISBN 9781786030887

Jamia Wilson's anthology of black heroes is a lovely celebration of inspirational figures both past and present. Covering a wide spectrum of gifts, talents and trailblazing feats, the book is brought to stunning life by Andrea Pippins' beautiful and distinctive illustrations. Noted historical figures such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King are featured alongside music stars and sporting heroes. This is a beautifully-packaged, very accessible read and should serve as inspiration for a generation of young readers. 64 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present
Politics for Beginners
Louie Stowell, Alex Frith, Rosie Hore and Kellan Stover (illus)

ISBN 9781474922524

I have been anticipating the release of Politics for Beginners for quite some time and was not disappointed! This book answers the tough questions with just the right balance of humour and fact and simplifies extremely tricky concepts without talking down to its audience. Politics for Beginners is an especially important book in these politically charged times in that it helps children (and adults) to understand politics throughout the world and prepares them for difficult decisions in the future while encouraging them - in a positive way - to get involved. The colour palette of the illustrations is delightful and the cartoon/comic strip style does nothing to detract from this easy-to-understand guide. Some of the highlights for me were: the debating tips, internet links, the 'what can I do?' page and basically chapter 6 in its entirety. Focussed as it was on 'Big Questions', this chapter covered issues such as: human rights, terrorism, freedom of speech, the media in politics, immigration and feminism. I think this book is essential reading for children aged nine and above and would be particularly useful for any parent, teacher, librarian etc. who has ever been asked about those sensitive issues that they may find difficult to discuss with those ever-curious youngsters. 128 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Rhiannon Cook, school librarian.

Politics for Beginners
Rebel Voices: The Rise of Votes for Women
Louise K Stewart

Wren & Rook

ISBN 9781526300232

A hardback book just a fraction wider than A4 detailing 'rule breakers, risk takers, rebel women, law makers'; the stories of the incredible women who struggled to secure equal rights. Beautifully illustrated, these are the Emmeline Pankhursts of New Zealand, Russia, Ecuador, South Africa, Argentina, China, Egypt. Strikingly similar stories, simply told, catalogued in a timeline right up to 2015 when women in Saudi Arabia won the right to vote. Easily accessible, this is a good starting point for anyone interested in women's suffrage, giving a worldwide view of the struggles faced and the changes that occurred. Fans of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls will not be disappointed. 48 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell, school librarian

Rebel Voices: The Rise of Votes for Women
Battle of the Beetles
M.G. Leonard

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781910002780

This is the third part of the trilogy following on from Beetle Boy and Beetle Queen and moves the story into a darker and more mature phase. Lucretia Cutter’s plans to take over the world by infesting areas with beetles doing great damage to crops, involve breeding giant beetles and to this end she has built a Biome in the jungle in South America. Darkus, Bertolt and Virginia accompanied by Uncle Max and Emma the journalist, try to track her down and stop her accomplishing her goal. Lucretia tries to convince Darkus that her aims are noble but he sees through her argument and she meets a just end! Look out for the 'thingamabob'! I have reviewed all three of these books now and they are a remarkable achievement. I am not sure that many people would have thought that beetles would be a good subject for a story but how wrong they were! Each of the children has their own special beetle with its own characteristics and which is very real to them, and when Baxter loses a leg Darkus's fear that he will die strikes to one's heart. All the children stay in the mind long after the books are finished, their loyalty to one another, their different fears being put to one side because of their friendship and care for each other. There are adults, Uncle Max, game for anything, and Barty, Darkus's father, trying to stop Lucretia who used to be a friend, but not being very successful at it, outsmarted at every turn by the evil Beetle Queen. Novak, Lucretia's daughter, having the courage to stand up to her mother, and the butler Gerard, and Ling-Ling her mother's chauffeur, both real characters with real emotions, all have a life of their own - not just filling up the background. In this, the last book in the trilogy, there are also very strong environmental messages spelled out clearly in the closing chapters. In the afterword, M. G. Leonard talks of looking out for The Beetle Collector's Handbook in 2018. These books will have encouraged young environmentalists to see beetles in a new light and certainly from this last book, think hard about their world and how to save it. 304 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, librarian.

Battle of the Beetles
Tin
Padraig Kenny

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781911077657

Christopher is a 'proper' boy, a real boy, orphaned in a fire. He works with an engineer who creates mechanicals. These mechanicals are Christopher's best friends. Then there is a devastating accident and Christopher's world is turned upside down; life will never be the same again. Set in an alternative 1930s and filled with richly drawn characters, this book explores what it means to be human and themes of love and friendship. With faint echoes of the Wizard of Oz and Northern Lights, this is a fast-paced adventure for children aged 9 and up. Every so often you read a book that is so wonderful you wish you had written it - this book is one of those. This is Kenny's debut novel and it seems destined to be a classic - certainly if there is any justice it should be. It is original and exciting and full of the most marvellous characters and terrifying villains. AI is very much in the news at present and some of the mechanicals show more humanity than the 'proper' people. Exploring concepts that are quite tricky, like the nature of the soul, in a very accessible and sympathetic way, this book explains what it means to be a true friend and touches upon the idea of the ultimate weapon to end war. With such depth you might imagine this is a difficult read, but far from it. I admit there was a tear in my eye at some points and my son did warn me it gets sad in parts (he loved the book too) but this story ought to be part of every child's reading menu. I can imagine a Year 5 or 6 class lapping the story up and it would make an excellent whole class text. I can hear the groans of disappointment when you have to stop reading it and the opportunities for class discussion and really in-depth thinking are boundless. I've been lucky enough to read some great children's books last year, but this was by far and away the best. 352 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher.

Tin
Secrets of a Teenage Heiress
Katy Birchall

Egmont Books Ltd

ISBN 9781405286503

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to grow up in a glamorous hotel? If so, this book is for you! Flick is a confident, lovable but ever so slightly self-obsessed teenager who seems to have a knack for getting into trouble. She is the daughter of the owner of Hotel Royale, the grandest hotel in London who finds herself grounded after being discovered hiding inside Prince Gustav's wardrobe (don't ask!) Childhood friend Cal comes to her aid to help her pull off a plan to get her to the Christmas Ball. There is a wonderful chemistry and humour between these too. This book contains stunning surroundings, fabulous and not so fabulous friendships, a sprinkle of celebrity style - and Fritz, the adorable dachshund with his own set of social media followers. It is a feel-good read with great characterisation. I loved it and cannot wait to see what happens with the characters in the next book in the series. Perfect for fans of vloggers and bloggers with appeal to those who like humour and romance. It is written by Katy Birchall whose book The It Girl: Superstar Geek was selected by Book Trust to form part of their schools pack. 306 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Clair Bossons, school librarian

Secrets of a Teenage Heiress
A Far Away Magic
Amy Wilson

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509837755

Starting a new school after the strange death of her parents, Angel doesn't want to be bothered with friends, yet finds herself drawn to Bavar, another loner, who seems determined to merge into the background. Angel can sense something strange and different about him and a friendship develops between them. As she comes to know him better, Angel learns that Bavar is responsible for trying to protect the world from raksasas, monsters trying to enter the world through a magical rift. Determined to break the cycle, Bavar is trying to find his own way on life. However, his story and Angel's are more closely linked than either could imagine. Told from alternating viewpoints, A Far Away Magic is a compelling, unusual story, full of magic and mystery. Amy Wilson successfully combines the fantastical world Bavar inhabits with the everyday world of school and 'normality'. Bavar's house is an amazing creation, contrasting perfectly with the 'little vanilla house' Angel is living in. Both children struggle with deep emotions - Angel with the grief of losing her parents and the guilt of her survival and Bavar with feelings of rejection and the desire to escape his role. Their emotions are portrayed with great sensitivity and skill. Darker than A Girl Called Owl, but just as compelling, A Far Away Magic is a fabulous, enjoyable read. 352 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

A Far Away Magic
Running On Empty
S. E. Durrant

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9780857637406

When AJ's grandfather dies, his life seems to spiral out of control in a matter of days. AJ's parents are around, but due to their learning disabilities they aren't able to maintain a stable living environment. AJ's only escape is running. He's aiming to get into the national competition that's coming up. His big problem is that his running shoes don't fit anymore. He's resorted to cutting the toes out so he can squeeze into them. All of his money goes to paying the electric meter at his house. As the bills pile up, so does AJ's anxiety. He starts lashing out at school and nobody seems to know what the problem is. He's dealing with way too much for an 11 year old but nobody seems to notice. Will he be able to keep his family afloat and make it into the national running competition? Running on Empty is a really strong novel. It deals with sensitive topics and turns them into a story that everyone can relate to. If you like See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng, which was one of my favourites of 2017, then you'll love Running on Empty. 208 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Lucas Maxwell, school librarian.

Running On Empty
Curse of the Werewolf Boy
Chris Priestley

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408873083

Mildew and Sponge are the somewhat unlikely and unusual heroes in this welcome addition to boarding-school literature. The boys attend Maudlin Towers which is definitely a boarding-school with a difference: the masters have strange and scary secrets and there are some very peculiar goings-on with ghosts, Vikings, statues appearing and of course the mystery of the missing school spoon. Thanks to the discovery of a time-machine created by the now dead science teacher Mr. Particle, Mildew and Sponge visit both the past and the future (which is our 'now'). The time-line is full of twists, loops and repeats as by solving one problem our heroes create at least one new one and so have to return to the past - or future - to put things right. In doing so, they discover among other things, why Mr. Luckless is no longer an incredibly boring history teacher, how Mildew was injured and, most importantly of all, they solve the mystery of the missing School Spoon, thus saving Christmas in the process. In this brilliantly bizarre book, which is set in the second part of Victoria's reign, there's plenty to keep the reader amused and almost as confused as Mildew and Sponge are. The good news is that there's plenty of scope for further volumes. Classroom ideas would include the Investigation of levers, cams and cogs, and simple electrical circuits to light a bulb for Design, or the children could design and make their own time machine which uses these. They could also Research Roman mosaics using either small ceramic tiles or squares of coloured paper to depict a scene from the story. In English, they could create a school prospectus for Maudlin Towers using photographs of their own school buildings, or write an extra adventure for Mildew and Sponge - either set in the past (linking with a history topic) or it could be in their future; What would they make of mobile phones and microwaves? There's also scope to make a true / false quiz about the story and to write a newspaper report of one part of the story, e.g. the death of Mr.Particle. 256 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Anne Benton, school librarian.

Curse of the Werewolf Boy
The House with Chicken Legs
Sophie Anderson

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474940665

Publishing in May, this is so much more than a reimagining, The House with Chicken Legs is inspired by the traditional tale of Baba Yaga - a controversial figure in folklore - and her mysterious walking house. However, this book tells the tale from within, where Marinka and her grandmother (Baba Yaga) guide spirits through The Gate, from the land of the living into the land of the dead. Marinka is coming of age and rails against her destiny - to become the next Yaga, a responsibility she feels like the bars of a cage. Her life, while magical, is something that she has not chosen for herself and she longs for a normal, stable life and most of all friendship. As a reader, I couldn't help but identify with Marinka and her struggle to be heard on her journey of self-discovery, but surprisingly, the stand out character for me was the house itself! The bond between a Yaga and their house is strong and a Yaga house cares for a Yaga as much as vice versa, perhaps more so. The relationship between Marinka and the house is charming, humorous, sometimes fraught, but a pleasure to watch develop throughout the book. The House with Chicken Legs is an exciting adventure chock full of interesting vocabulary. I would recommend the books to children 9+ who like a mysterious, fantastical book with a touch of the macabre. 326 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Rhiannon Cook, school librarian

The House with Chicken Legs