Dixie O'Day: In The Fast Lane
Shirley Hughes

The Bodley Head Ltd

ISBN 9781782300120

A joyous, energetic and beautifully presented story from one of our best loved authors, Shirley Hughes, who has collaborated with her daughter Clara Vulliamy to create this new series about a dog called Dixie O'Day and his side-kick, Percy. Dixie and Percy decide to enter the All-Day Car Race, but they are up against their arch enemy Lou Ella and there will be plenty of thrills and spills along the way... The story whips along at a cracking pace and the short sections of text along with the deliciously nostalgic illustrations (think 1961 Ford Zodiac convertible and three-piece tweed suits!) will keep newly-confident readers happily turning the pages of as the crazy car race gets underway. While Dixie and Percy confront a number of challenges, you just know that the good guys are going to win and the baddies will get their come-uppance. There will be more books in the series, so look out for Dixie O'Day and the Great Diamond Robbery, to come. 128 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

Dixie O'Day: In The Fast Lane
Little Evie in the Wild Wood
Jackie Morris

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781847803719

This is a sophisticated and atmospheric retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood tale by the talented Jackie Morris, illustrated by Catherine Hyde - a powerful pairing. We see Little Evie making her way from the sunlit fields into the dark woods, full of mystery and shadows, until she finds her way to the cave of the wolf where she shares the red tarts her grandmother has made for them. The shadow of the wolf follows Evie through the early pages, building the suspense of her journey, until the wolf and Little Evie meet and we hear the familiar refrain, 'Great eyes, the better to see her with. Great ears, the better to hear her call. Sharp teeth like daggers, nose black as coal,' and there is the wolf, 'filling the world with wildness'; but here, nature is shown to be a friend to Little Evie, not a threat as in the Grimm retellings. There is a sense of curiosity, rather than fear, of the power of nature, and the wolf is a 'she', not a 'he'. Framing Evie's journey is time, the passage of an afternoon into evening, and the sense that Evie has, in that brief span, made a significant metaphorical alongside her physical journey into nature. Interest level: Ages 7-8+. Reviewed by Louise Gahan, teacher.

Little Evie in the Wild Wood

ISBN 9780857531964

This is the latest in Anne Fine's series of stories written from the point of view of Tuffy, the cat with a very bad attitude. In this story, Tuffy is feeling unloved and unwanted by his family, especially after some of his actions incur the wrath of Dad, so he decides to find himself another home, where his finer qualities will be appreciated, before Dad finds one for him. This proves to be no easy task as he tries out a variety of owners and homes for size. Nothing, of course, suits Tuffy for very long but soon he finds himself locked up in a cage, in imminent danger of being whisked off to foreign climes and in need of rescuing. The question is, will he be reunited with Ellie and will she want him back anyway? The book is littered with illustrations showing Tuffy's range of facial expressions - usually angry, outraged, annoyed or affronted, which all help to reinforce the nature of Tuffy’s character - a cat not to be messed with! The book will appeal to young readers, especially those who have previously enjoyed Tuffy's earlier adventures, though readers new to Tuffy will not be at a disadvantage – Anne Fine conveys Tuffy's character in just a few short sentences. All in all, this is a very funny book. Tuffy has a very amusing turn of phrase and his efforts to turn himself into a busking cat are hilarious. Readers will enjoy this tale for its humour and also for its insight into the balance of power in cat/human relationships. 96 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian

ISBN 9780192734556

Oliver, our ten year old hero, has led a very unusual life. He has not lived in his house, apart from the occasional fortnight's holiday, all his life and has never been to school. His parents, intrepid explorers prior to his birth, continued to be intrepid explorers following his arrival and simply took him along on all their adventures. Now they are planning to settled down in their old house, send Oliver to school and lead a 'normal life'. No sooner do they arrive at their seaside home, however, than they spot something strange in the sea - several somethings in fact - and off they go exploring again. Oliver, of course, is more interested in exploring his bedroom and is not unduly concerned when they fail to return at nightfall. When their empty dinghy floats by in the morning, however, Oliver realises something untoward has happened and sets off in search of them. There follow adventures with moving, talking islands, a bad-tempered albatross, a mermaid who cannot sing and a set of very tricky villains as Oliver battles first to find and then to free his parents. The story rattles along at a great rate of knots and grabs the reader's attention from the start. The book is very liberally illustrated and these help to bring the strange characters to life (just what does a bunch of sarcastic seaweed look like?). Philip Reeves' writing is beautifully constructed and his use of vocabulary will stretch (but never lose) the developing reader. This book will appeal to confident, independent readers looking for adventure, humour and a happy ending!. 201 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian

The Great Brain Robbery
Anna Kemp

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9780857079961

There is a new toy craze amongst children in the playground. Everyone wants to have their own 'mechanimal' and Frankie Blewitt is no exception. He yearns to fit in with his school pals and to be part of the group so he is delighted when he receives one for his birthday. These toys, however, are not what they seem and soon Frankie and his friends discover that the toys are part of an evil plot, concocted by their old enemy Dr Gore (who readers may have met in Frankie's first adventure, Fantastic Frankie and the Brain Drain Machines, though it is not necessary to have read this first to enjoy The Great Brain Robbery). There follows a string of adventures as Frankie, his friends and his guardians, Alphonsine, Eddie and Colette the Poodle (Frankie's parents are in prison), seek to save the world from the mind-controlling toys and to return the children to normal. Alphonsine proves to be a great help in this endeavour with her background in wartime espionage and a battery of useful tricks and gadgets, which come in very handy from time to time. The book is very funny . Alphonsine's mangling of English expressions is hilarious and the notion of children being turned into manic consumers of toys by means of putting thoughts into their heads is both amusing in the way it is done in the book and slightly sinister given the current state of real life advertising aimed at children. The book will appeal to developing readers with its manageable length chapters and illustrations but adults would also enjoy reading this with them. 282 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian

The Great Brain Robbery
The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth
Julia Lee

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192733672

A recently orphaned girl is travelling from India back to Victorian England to meet her aunt and uncle. Little does she know that she is to be snatched into a veritable nest of vipers as her spiteful relatives disowned her mother years earlier. They view young Clemency as nothing more than an obstacle to their own plans, to be exploited and quietly disposed of. Luckily an eccentric family she meets on her journey are concerned for her and embark on a desperate search for her while Clemency discovers hidden strengths as she struggles to survive in the callous atmosphere of her family home. This involving adventure story has a flavour of the late Eva Ibbotson about it, with Clemency becoming a more appealing protagonist as she has to cope with a variety of challenges from her cruel aunt and uncle and their scheming servants. The supporting characters are also believable and portray an interesting cross section of some of the different layers of Victorian society. This will appeal primarily to girls aged 9-11. 336 pages / Interest age 9-11 / Reviewed by Alex McGowan, librarian

The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth
Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse
Chris Riddell

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9780230759800

When Macmillan brought out the very first Ottoline book by Chris Riddell, it was something completely new and entrancing for beginner readers. The lavish illustrations and sheer quality of the production found lots of fans including the Greenaway judges. Now we have Ada the eponymous Goth Girl in the most covetable book of the year. It is simply the most outstandingly beautiful piece of book design and production. Chris Riddell's inimitable illustrative style will, of course, be well known to all those thousands of children who did the Creepy House Summer Reading Challenge and all those 8-12 year old avid readers will find this the perfect treat to soften the blow of returning to school. The younger ones will just relish the deliciously creepy and exciting story and the lavishly detailed illustrations as brave Ada befriends Ishmael, the newly created ghost mouse. Between them they try to unravel the secrets of Ghastly-Gorm Hall and then save the poor creatures they find imprisoned there from the indoor gamekeeper and his evil plans for Lord Goth's annual Indoor Hunt. The older the reader, the more they will enjoy the humour and get all the punning references to some of our most respected classics. Teachers should be warned that you might splutter with laughter as you read aloud about the fearsomely inventive cook Mrs Beat'em and the previous nannies Hebe Poppins, who ran off with a chimney sweep and Jane Ear who was sent away after she tried to set fire to the west wing. This book is a triumph from an author and illustrator at the height of his powers and a testament, if one were needed, to the fact that there can never be a substitute for the physical book. 224 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Joy Court, librarian

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse