R. J. Palacio

Corgi Childrens

ISBN 9780552565974

Most people's reactions on being told that this was a book about a ten year old child with a terrible facial disfigurement would be to ask why on earth would any child want to read about that? Sceptics will furthermore assume that it will likely be sentimental and mawkish with a prurient emphasis on suffering. But this book – which is now available in paperback - is so aptly named because it miraculously avoids all those pitfalls as well as those presented by the use of multiple narrators. It is simply and so engagingly written that children will be swept away into the story, utterly believing in the characters they meet. Stories like this, even with an American setting, have the power to make children recognise their own behaviour, while at the same time making them really think about what life would be like as someone else. Auggie, the hero is unforgettable: a sweetly funny and yet smart character who has suffered and continues to suffer enormous obstacles. But the real strength of this book is also showing the huge advantages his loving family and supportive teachers give him and also what it is like for others to be in his shadow. This remarkable and powerful book would make an ideal class read aloud since children can then share and discuss the thoughts and questions that it will encourage, but do be prepared for outrage, laughter and tears - especially if there are any other adults listening! 300 pages / Ages 10+ to adult / Reviewed by Joy Court, School Library Services


ISBN 9781407129884

This is exactly the sort of book you need to stimulate your confident reader's appetites in the New Year. It could be portrayed as a classic Blytonesque adventure with the adults conveniently removed and plucky children not only surviving alone but defeating crooks into the bargain. But this is so much more subtle, realistic and genuinely thrilling. Miranda, our narrator, and her brothers are so well drawn that you share their predicament. They are fully aware of the situation and consequences and each of them really do try to do the sensible thing as they get into deeper and deeper trouble. Unlike in Blyton the characters have the full range of modern technology to deploy which amusingly causes more problems than it solves! There are moments of pure comedy, particularly in the cracking dialogue between the family and some of the more colourful locals, as well as page-turning drama and you can almost taste the sea air coming off the pages, so perfectly does the author capture the Cornish setting. She also very usefully supplies a glossary not just to the colourful Cornish words but also to the 'surfer speak' used by the completely obsessed older brother Cal. Without wishing to give the plot away the coastguards would have found that glossary helpful too! Personally, as I finished the book, I felt I would love to find out that the family's ramshackle beachside hotel actually existed in a remote and beautiful cove somewhere so that I could go and stay there! 220 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Joy Court, School Library Services

Far Rockaway
Charlie Fletcher

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9780340997338

In Charlie Fletcher's debut, the Stone Heart trilogy, he brought to vibrant life the statues and carvings of London in a way that made any walk in the city, after reading the tales, somehow more menacing. In this new book, Far Rockway, he flings the heroine, Cat, and her grandfather, Victor, into the heart of three classic adventures - The Last of the Mohicans, Treasure Island and Kidnapped - and all we can do is cheerfully suspend our disbelief and follow her as she meets Chingachgook and the evil Magua, Long John Silver, Captain Flint and Alan Breck. If this sounds like a literary fantasy, in many ways it is, but it is also a story deeply rooted in the present, in the reality of Cat and Victor's desperate attempts to cling to life after a near-fatal traffic accident on the streets of Manhattan. This is a book about lies, truth, family dynamics and growing up; it is at once Cat's breakneck, swashbuckling quest to find Victor and a heart-stopping drama set in the claustrophobic corridors and operating theatres of New York's Bellevue Hospital. It's a journey you will not regret taking, and one you won’t easily forget, full of wisdom, sharply-drawn imagery, great characters and an ending worthy of all the pages behind it. 416 pages / Ages 9+ to adult / Reviewed by Graham Marks, writer.

Far Rockaway
Bernard Ashley

ISBN 9780957035720

Bernard Ashley's Hero Girls is a collection of previously-published short stories (together with a new story, Stronger than Sprite), featuring girls who make a difference, from overcoming their own difficulties at home or school to helping make the lives of other children a little better. Some of their stories are shocking, together covering acts of warfare, child abuse and bullying, others are celebrations of children who have had their moment and shone. All, however, show how children have overcome the problems they have faced and have emerged stronger, more understanding and more able to forge a better future for themselves. The stories, like the characters, are engaging and full of hope. Bernard Ashley is well known for his multicultural approach to storytelling and these stories cover a myriad of backgrounds that truly reflect many inner city schools today. 160 pages / ages 9+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

ISBN 9781444001532

Liz Kessler is best know for her Emily Windsnap series but her latest novel, North of Nowhere, is a stand-alone story set in the small, seaside town of Porthaven. It is an atmospheric time-slip novel with a mystery at its heart. Mia's grandfather has disappeared and she and her mother have to travel to Porthaven to be with her grandmother. While Mia is there, she befriends a girl called Dee although they never meet - Mia writes to her in Dee's diary. Then a boy called Peter, who has also come to stay at Porthaven with his family, suddenly goes missing as well. The novel captures the atmosphere of a small seaside town brilliantly and the intensity of two families dealing with loss and heartache. It also cleverly handles the gap in communication and understanding between young people and their grandparents. The plot cleverly interweaves past and future and builds up to a very surprising ending. Highly recommended for girls aged nine years plus. 190 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone.