Blackberry Blue: And Other Fairy Tales
Jamila Gavin

Tamarind Books

ISBN 9781848531062

The six gorgeous stories in this collection are absolutely steeped in the language and lore of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Andersen and the European tradition - we have witches and dark forests, enchanted animals, heroes and heroines, but there is one incredibly important difference. The heroes and heroines just happen to have skin as 'black as midnight' or 'polished bronze'. These are tales with a diverse flavour to enable a diverse audience living in Europe to recognise themselves within them. All of this sounds incredibly worthy but rest assured, the stories are wonderfully engrossing adventures. The title story has a Cinderella theme, The Purple Lady has Abu trying to rescue his sister from the clutches of a Pied Piper type villain. The Golden Carp is a cautionary tale about greed and Emeka the Pathfinder is the only person able to undo a wicked transformation spell. Oddboy is well named in a sad story about the magical power of music and in the final story, The Night Princess, we have all the elements of true love and sacrifice. Beautifully told, magical, dark and mysterious in the best fairytale tradition, each with a moral point to make but not labour, these are exactly the stories a 21st century classroom needs. The stories will be a joy to read aloud but the beautiful illustrations by the talented Richard Collingridge are crying out to be appreciated by an individual reader tucked away in a classroom book corner. 240 pages / Ages 7-10+ / Reviewed by Joy Court, Librarian

Blackberry Blue: And Other Fairy Tales
The World of Norm: May Be Contagious: Book 5
Jonathan Meres

Orchard Books

ISBN 9781408328392

Diary-type novels have maintained their popularity and have proved to be very effective at engaging boy and reluctant readers and the World of Norm books, starring 12 year-old Norm, are among the best out there and have a growing readership. The latest in the series, May Be Contagious, shows Norm facing a number of new challenges in the space of a weekend. An accident means he's forbidden from riding his bike; his best mate seems to have found a new best mate; and housework beckons. Norm is, as the author says, a typical boy who has his passions and his dislikes, his good moments and his bad, and boy as well as girl readers can engage with this and relate to him - especially those moments (and there are many of them...) when Norm believes the world to be completely unfair and against him! Norm has to navigate the landscapes of family, siblings, school and friendships and on the way, delivers many a well-placed laugh to the readers - enhanced by Donough O'Malley's perfectly-pitched illustrations. 288 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone.

The World of Norm: May Be Contagious: Book 5
Young Werewolf
Cornelia Funke

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781122686

Matt and Lisa are unlikely best friends; she is a foot taller than him and they are at odds over their taste in films. However, a chance meeting with an unfriendly yellow-eyed dog on their way home from the cinema has a strange effect on Matt. He has to rely on his best friend and Mrs Ruskin - his teacher - to save him from an increasingly obvious and unpleasant curse before the full moon makes it permanent. A mixture of unusual events and characters, intertwined with an exciting and fast moving plot, make this an enjoyable tale of the supernatural. Children will easily be able to identify with the two main characters' relationship with each other and their families. Although the story is very dark in places, it is also humorous, with Matt's family scenes being a very realistic account of modern life. Funke’s clear descriptions enable the reader to visualise key events with clarity, supported by Dave Roberts' simple but effective pencil sketches. This is an accessible book published by Barrington Stoke for reluctant readers and those with dyslexic tendencies. The reading level is low but the interest level is high and the use of cream coloured pages makes it less straining on the eyes. That said, I am sure this book would appeal to a whole range of upper Key Stage 2 readers - especially boys. The only downside to this novel is that it ends a little too abruptly. The book is working up to an exciting and thrilling climax when, all of a sudden, everything is resolved in a rather unsatisfactory manner – disappointing! All in all, however, this is an enjoyable, faced paced novel that will appeal to fans of all things supernatural. 110 Pages / Ages 8-11 years / Reviewed by Mikeala Morgans, teacher

Young Werewolf
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
Kate DiCamillo

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406345186

A chance encounter with a vacuum cleaner and a squirrel lead to an exciting adventure for Flora. She discovers the most unlikely superhero –to rival even the Great Incandesto whose comic gives her pleasure amongst the dysfunction of her home life. Ulysses shows Flora that she doesn’t always have to be a cynic and friendships can develop in the most unlikely circumstances. This highly unusual book is an eclectic mix of narrative, cartoon strip and sketches. It uses a humorous, off beat storyline to explore the emotions of love, hurt, loss, loneliness and friendship in a gentle but thought provoking manner. I feel sure that many young readers will be able to identify with Flora and her developing relationship with Ulysses the super hero squirrel. However, this is not merely a tale of one girl and her squirrel; it is also an honest look at the relationships between humans. This text is packed with fantastic opportunities for lively debate in PHSE lessons. This book is laugh out loud funny and yet also very poignant. It is written in an informal style with Flora’s voice coming through very strongly; this will appeal to children. The supporting characters are all fairly whacky in their own ways, from a romance writing mother to a sad and lonely father to the neighbour with a love for poetry and her voluntarily blind nephew! DiCamillo expertly weaves a story that brings these characters, a range of layouts and different writings styles together effortlessly. Despite the fact that this book is well over 200 pages long, I finished it in one night as I could not put it down. Although definitely a book for children in Year 5 and 6 upwards, it will appeal to a very wide audience of both boys and girls. I highly recommend reading it! 232 Pages / Age range 9+ / Reviewed by Mikeala Morgans

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
The Battles of Ben Kingdom - The Feast of Ravens
Andrew Beasley

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781409546245

This is the second in Andrew Beasley's series about Ben Kingdom and continues from where the first adventure finished. Again, the action takes place over a short period of time; this time over six days in March 1892, just under three months after the events of the first book. Ben feels he has found a home with the Watchers, now reunited with his father and his brother, but these are dark days as the battle with the Legion continues unabated. Worse still, the Legion now has a new recruit. The Nightmare Child wreaks havoc throughout London, bringing terror and destruction to everyone he meets, playing on their worst fears and fondest memories, as Professor Carter and Mr Sweet prepare for the Feast of Ravens. But one item is missing - the Crown of Corruption still needs one final coin to complete it and that coin is in Ben's pocket. So begins a battle of epic proportions that threatens to destroy all of London and involves Ben in a shocking incident which throws his moral compass into a spin. This section of the book does not avoid difficult issues and deals in detail with Ben's moral confusion. Guilt, redemption, forgiveness are all explored as characters switch alliances and the battle reaches its conclusion. This second book builds on the characters we met in the first book and develops them further, giving the reader more of their background and history. Again, the book ends on a cliff-hanger, setting the scene for the next book in the series. 322 words / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian

The Battles of Ben Kingdom - The Feast of Ravens

ISBN 9781444004397

This is a fast-paced story crammed full of action and adventure, and with a sinister secret society and even cyber-attacks thrown in for good measure! The book is the follow-up to Steve Backshall's first novel, Tiger Wars, and it picks up the story its two main characters, Saker and Sinter. At the start of the novel they are separated, Saker is deep in the jungles of Borneo, living with the Penang, an ancient and reclusive tribe also called the 'ghosts of the forest', while Sinter is working in a makeshift charity clinic in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City. Both are trying to hide from the attentions of the sinister criminal organisation, the Clan, who are determined to find them and exact a terrifying revenge. The Clan's leader is a real 'super villain' in the best tradition of fiction and film, and the scenes where he has our two heroes in his clutches are among the most exciting in the book. However, there is much more to this book than just full-on action. We can see a real friendship and understanding begin to grow between Saker and Sinter, as they help each other, and even end up saving one another's lives! It also has a strong ecological message about the damage human activity is causing to our planet, and how not only wildlife and plants, but also some human societies are suffering as a result. Sinter's adventures in the shanties highlight the huge contrasts in the lives of rich and poor people in the world, and we also get a glimpse of the corruption of some governments and big corporations, who put profit before everything else. As a reader, you find yourself cheering on Saker and Sinter in their adventures fighting these hugely powerful forces, but it also makes the reader think about what they could in their own lives to make things better. This book should really appeal to adventure lovers from older primary age to young teenagers. As I'm reviewing it at my desk in the library now, two Y7 boys have picked it up and say it looks 'mint'! Ages 10+ / 224 pages / Reviewed by Lyn Hopson, school librarian

ISBN 9780857532015

This is an engrossing, action-packed novel, that grabs the reader's interest from the outset. For over fifty years, the country - like, yet unlike ours - has been troubled by an epidemic of ghosts. Only the young are able to see and hear them; so only the young can deal with them. Enter our heroine, Lucy Carlyle. She is a talented young agent, but things have gone badly wrong in her previous assignment and Lucy is looking to restore her confidence. She arrives in London, hoping to join a prestigious agency, but finds herself employed by Lockwood and Co; the smallest agency in the city. There are only three members of this agency: Lockwood, a charismatic young man; George , his geeky assistant and Lucy herself. The relationships between these characters are full of humour and the hints at their backgrounds make them totally believable as characters. We follow the trio on one of their assignments, which seems straightforward, but where the suspense builds up and things turn desperate for the agency. However, they are given one last chance to redeem their business. Unfortunately, this means spending a night at the most haunted and dangerous house in the country! The horrors that unfold are skilfully built up and will keep you reading with trepidation! Jonathan Stroud's novel is packed with action, suspense and humour. It is easy to become engrossed in the story, drawn on by its fast pace. I cannot wait for the second book in the series! 453 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jane Koszykowska