Stan Stinky
Hannah Shaw


ISBN 9781407136240

Hannah Shaw, who has already built a loyal following for her picture books, has turned to fiction with this adventure-filled story about rats, sewers and not to forget the poo - which young readers will love. She also puts her considerable illustrative talents to use with incident-filled black and white drawings on every page. The story, about a sewer rat called Stan Stinky, is a great starting point to inspire children to think about the world from another creature's perspective - in this case, rats - and to write 'holiday diaries'. In the story, Stan is distraught to be sent to stay with his Uncle Captain Ratts (and side-kick Roachy the cockroach) during the summer holidays while all the other rats have stowed away on cruise ships to the Bahamas. However, he is soon caught up in an adventure of his own, to discover what is causing the terrible smells in Slime-on-the-Sewer. Run-ins with humans, old socks and pants follow as Captain Ratts and 'sewer hero' Stan set off to save Slime-on-the-Sewer. The story is actually Stan's summer holiday diary and it's packed with pages of his hand-written accounts, postcards home, treasure maps and diagrams, so there are plenty of different writing and illustrative styles that children can explore before beginning to write their own diaries. Apart from the literacy links, there are other areas to explore including finding out about our sewer networks and how they work, as well as recycling and the environment, drawing maps and diagrams, and - on the back pages of the book - ideas such as building a boat from recycled boxes and '20 uses for old socks', which could inspire some interesting discussions and drawings around re-using old clothing.

Stan Stinky
The Great Ice-Cream Heist
Elen Caldecott

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408820506

All too often the reading diet of the primary years is full of multi-volume formulaic series, most often with a gender bias. So authors like this, who write hugely enjoyable, realistic, quality fiction that appeals to both sexes, are to be treasured. Caldecott says she likes to write about ordinary children doing extraordinary things and this is where the strength of her writing lies. Children can recognise themselves and each other in the protagonists and although extraordinary events happen, these occur in credible steps. She writes beautifully too and manages that tricky blend of humour and pathos perfectly. We really engage with Eva and 'bad boy' Jamie who moves in next door. They strike up an unlikely but true friendship and are prepared to go that extra mile for each other and, in doing so, they grow and develop themselves. There are no easy resolutions, they will both still be struggling with difficult family circumstances and Eva will still be struggling with her dyslexia but they have been heard and have been allowed to have some control in their own lives. This is a really positive and non-patronising message about friendship and self esteem and a subtle and moving portrayal of grief and bereavement and what it is like to be in a world governed by text and not be able to access it. This is quite an achievement for a light and humorous family adventure story! Ages 9+ / 192 Pages / Reviewed by Joy Court, School Library Services

The Great Ice-Cream Heist
The History Keepers: Circus Maximus
Damian Dibben

Corgi Childrens

ISBN 9780552564298

In Circus Maximus, the second History Keepers adventure, the team of young 'history keepers' are on a mission to save Ancient Rome and modern civilisation from total destruction by one of their most forbidding foes, the Zeldts. This time Jake and his team must travel back to Ancient Rome in AD27 where they will face flesh-eating vultures and typhoons, find themselves fighting with gladiators and even taking part in their most dangerous race ever as charioteers in the Circus Maximus! Like his earlier book, which is set in the Renaissance period, author Damian Dibben has done his research and the details you read about life in this era - seen from a modern youngster's point of view - are vivid and realistic and draws a fascinating look at what life might have been like in that period. He really does bring history to life and as he himself says, which one of us wouldn't take the chance to travel to another time in history if we could? It is also a great adventure story sprinkled with humour and lots of daring-do. Very satisfying. Ages 9-10+ / 420 pages / Reviewed by ReadingZone

The History Keepers: Circus Maximus
Magic Ink
Steve Cole

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9780857078704

Stewart Penders loves comics and creating his own, too, but when he inherits his granddad's house, he and his family are surprised to discover a pig in a top hat running amok.... That's when Stewart discovers his grandad's secret - a mysterious pot of ink that makes whatever you draw come to life! A world of magic and creation opens up to Stewart - but he soon discovers that messing with magic is no short cut to becoming a famous comic creator. Especially when the superheroes you create just don't get on, and the villain is made of much darker stuff... Steve Cole steers the comic plot in the story brilliantly with some well-timed comic illustrations and vignettes that help to keep the pace of the book, and he introduces an authorial voice to explain the character names, points of action, etc. His humour is plentiful and very funny, and together with the story itself, Cole has delivered a package that has plenty of appeal to reluctant as well as fluent readers, and especially to boy readers.

Magic Ink

ISBN 9781444001716

The central character of these novels is PK Pinkerton, a young boy who wants to carve out a career as a detective. Having a condition that could be Aspergers helps him notice small clues that others would probably miss, but it also means he struggles to read facial signals and to understand people. In his latest adventure, PK thinks he's been abducted, but actually someone wants him to take on a new case. Soon he is on the trail of his old friend and mentor, Poker Face Jace, but then he realises that someone really is out to kill him... Caroline Lawrence is the author behind the Roman Mysteries books and like those stories, these books vividly describe the era in which they are set - in this case, the gold rush period in the US and we get a real feel for what life must have been like in the early 'gold rush' towns. The action in the stories is non-stop and, with humour in the blend and a thoroughly likeable young hero, we hope this series gains the following it deserves. Ages 10+ / 192 pages / Reviewed by ReadingZone

The Treasure House
Linda Newbery

Orion Children's Books

ISBN 9781444003444

Linda Newbery is well-known to many children for her gentle and sympathetic story-telling style. The Treasure House is no exception. Published originally in 2012 it has been reissued as a mass-market paperback with an enchantingly curious cover reflecting, the reader will realise once they have read it, the gorgeous Second-Hand Rose shop. But what is the story? Nina's mother has disappeared, apparently without trace and for no good reason. All Nina and her father know is that the note left behind said mum would be back soon. At a loss to know how to cope, Nina is taken under the wing of her gentle and loving aunts whilst her father sets off in search of mum. Nina's father has set off on an investigation but little does he know that in leaving Nina with her aunts she too will soon be immersed in an investigation of her own! This story touches on many themes; family, loss, friendships, mental illness all of which centre around discoveries made in Second-Hand Rose. Intelligently and cleverly woven together the strands of this story eventually weave together to a satisfying if surprising ending. Ages 9+ / 192 pages / Reviewed by Louise Ellis-Barrett

The Treasure House

ISBN 9780192793539

At times harrowing yet making for compelling reading, Moon Bear is a beautiful and touching story. The story of a young boy and a young bear, some unlikely alliances and friendships and daring rescues. Tam, aged just 12 years old, is sent away from his family and the life he knows following a tragic accident in the field his father is farming. Becoming the man of the family means that Tam is now responsible for looking after them all and ensuring they have an income to help them survive. Young Tam is taken from the comfort and security of his countryside home to the big city with its cruelty and brutality, both of which are handled with extreme sensitivity by Gill Lewis. Gill Lewis does not shy away from big issues but the way in which she presents them will not put readers off. Her style of writing is engaging and compelled this reader to want to know more. I felt strongly for Tam and his situation and genuinely angry at the way in which he and the bears were treated. Lewis clearly relates the injustices of the world whilst ensuring that her audience are captivated by a good story. She demonstrates the power of courage and determination in Tam and will, hopefully encourage readers to understand that whilst they may not be able to rectify individual situations such as the one presented, what they can do is keep promises and believe in their own ability to bring about change. Any reader with a passion for wild animals, a strong belief in right and wrong, a feeling that justice can be done, and a love of good stories will find Moon Bear to be a compelling and thought-provoking read, a book that will stay in the memory long after it has been put down. Ages 10+ / 304 pages / Reviewed by Louise Ellis-Barrett, school librarian.