Adventure, animals and acceptance of difference are among the themes explored in this month's highlights for readers aged seven to 11 years. It's good to see so many strong series emerging once again for this age range.

Foxy Tales: The Great Jail Break: Book 3
Alex T. Smith

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444909333

This third volume of stories about Foxy DuBois and Alphonso the Alligator sees the "two rogues" put into jail. There, Foxy must outwit Warden Gordon in her attempts to escape and hopefully lose Alphonso along the way. This very entertaining, funny, and engaging escapade would make a brilliant class read and ties in nicely to World Book Day Celebrations as Smith was last year's official illustrator. Being the third story in the series, it makes sense to read the previous titles first, and although they will give some background details such as why Foxy wants to leave Alphonso behind and why Eric-the-Devil is later referred to as Billy Bongo, they will not make much difference to the understanding or enjoyment of this story. The interweaving of text and illustrations across the pages will make the book especially appealing to either those children who struggle with their reading or are newly confident readers, and the mass of white space and quite large font allows you to speed through the book. Children will love elements such as what Alphonso does to the guards and Foxy's encounter with frilly knickers plus the silly slapstick humour which enables the plot to race along - I found neither a dull moment or the story lagging. The 22 pages of extras including activities, character interviews, and games are also appealing for individual or group use. A lovely read and I may just go and get the previous two Foxy Tales plus Smith's other series Claude - "the extraordinary dog with an extraordinary life" too. 175 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Natalie Plimmer, librarian

Foxy Tales: The Great Jail Break: Book 3
Circus of Thieves on the Rampage
William Sutcliffe

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471120251

This is the second Circus of Thieves book by William Sutcliffe and children who enjoy their adventure stories funny and full of surprises will love this series! It's also perfect for fans of the Mr Gum books, although these are aimed at slightly older children aged eight years plus. In the first circus adventure we saw Hannah and Billy get the better of the villainous circus master Armitage Shanks (there are plenty of other fabulous names in these pages, too). In Circus of Thieves On the Rampage, Hannah and Billy are once again hot on Armitage's thieving heels and between them, they try to foil his attempts at revenge - and theft - on his biggest competitor, Queenie and her underwater circus act. So much for the story - and you don't have to have read book one to enjoy this story, although it would help. What I haven't mentioned so far is the humour, the footnotes, the energetic and ever-present authorial voice, that really give these books their funny and anarchic flavour. William Sutcliffe has a masterful ability to understand and play on children's humour - but there is plenty to get adults giggling too, such as the 'Oh, Wow!' centre, which grown-ups will recognise as the over-inflated 02 Centre, and the footnotes, and the - well, just flick through the pages and you'll see. As well as enticing reluctant readers, this would make a great story for book groups and as a read aloud, although don't forget to share David Tazzyman's perfectly in-tune illustrations. 488 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Angela Trust.

Circus of Thieves on the Rampage
Kris Humphrey

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847155962

A Whisper of Wolves is the first in a four-book series by debut author Kris Humphrey. It is a well-paced and atmospheric story, set in a recognisable world with fantasy elements and genuinely scary moments. The first story takes us to the kingdom of Meridina where 'Whisperers' - the guardians of the wild who can commune with nature and have some magical abilities - must help to protect their world against the invading Narlaw, shape-shifting demons that destroy everything in their path. The story is focused on whisperer Alice and her wolf companion, Storm, and we get a real sense of their relationship and how hard Alice finds it to protect those she loves from the Narlaw as they come to attack her village. The story shifts from Alice to Dawn, the lead whisperer based at the palace, and her attempts to convince those around her of the danger posed by the Narlaw, despite there having been no invasion for over a hundred years. Both plot lines end in a satisfying way, but leave the way open for more stories from Meridina. With its feisty girl characters, animal guardians and strong environmental message, A Whisper of Wolves has plenty to appeal to readers aged nine years plus who are looking for a great adventure story with a twist of fantasy. 224 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jean Andover.

Harry and Hope
Sarah Lean


ISBN 9780007512263

Hope is twelve years old and lives in France with her artist mother, her mother's boyfriend, Frank, and Frank's donkey, Harry. An unusual set up, perhaps, but one in which Hope feels loved and secure, until Frank suddenly leaves and Hope has to take over the care of Harry. A strong bond develops between Harry and Hope, both rescued by Frank in various ways and then both, in various ways, 'abandoned' by him as well. The story, narrated by Hope, is as much about the relationship between Hope and her mother, as between Hope and Harry. Her mother is artistic, unconventional and perhaps not emotionally suited to the task of bringing up a daughter singlehandedly. She seems to feel that Frank's departure is in the natural order of things and nothing necessarily to get worked up about, and is truly surprised by the depths of Hope's feelings for Frank. They become closer as they struggle to cope with the sad donkey and the changes that are about to happen to their home. This book will appeal to confident readers, perhaps drawn in by the animal aspect of the story, who will then, like Hope, find themselves exploring a range of emotions - affection, love, anger, sadness, loneliness and, finally, acceptance. Sarah Lean writes effectively as the twelve year old Hope, communicating her determination to do the best for the donkey left in her care. The ending, though a little neat, is heart-warming and assures the reader of a brighter future for Hope and for Harry, and indeed for Frank. 291 pages / ages 9+/ Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian

Harry and Hope
The Astounding Broccoli Boy
Frank Cottrell Boyce

Campbell Books Ltd

ISBN 9781405054676

Rory Rooney is remarkably normal in every way; normal home, average school, puny muscles and he's even typically bullied to boot. This all changes one day when Rory takes a head first dive into a stinky pond on a school trip and emerges bright green. Not spinach green or peppermint tea green, but a bright, strong and astounding broccoli green. Thus begins our adventures of the Astounding Broccoli Boy! Segregated away in a hospital from the people of London, Rory is placed in a room with his school arch nemesis Grim, who has also turned an astonishing green and thus begins their journey. I thoroughly loved this book, it took me back to the pure fun, silly adventure books I read as a young'un; I mean how can you not like it, it has a cheeky penguin called Peter. Underneath the craziness (the London Zoo chapter!) this book has some seriously important message for everyone: acceptance of others no matter what the skin colour, size or whether they initially appear to be a bully;and to fear Killer Kittens! A sure fire winner for children 9+ / 388 pages / Reviewed by Jodie Brooks, librarian

The Astounding Broccoli Boy
The Box and the Dragonfly
Ted Sanders

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471403590

One day the bus goes a different way and Horace Andrews thinks he sees his name on an old sign. Curious, he jumps off the bus and finds himself at the House of Answers. He also encouters a mysterious tall man who seems to be after something, something Horace later finds at the House. This leads him into a series of adventures where as the blurb says 'nothing is as it seems'. Looking at other reviews many people seem to have really loved this book, but I found it a bit hard going. The story was good, it was just that the writing was extremely stilted in places, the dialogue being particulalrly clumsy. Like the Russel Stanard Uncle Albert, book it also seemed to be trying to introduce physics in an entertaining way, but this doesn't always work. However I think it would be enjoyed by readers of nine plus who enjoy fantasy, have lots of reading stamina, and are looking for a new series to enjoy. 512 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Lynn Roulstone, school librarian

The Box and the Dragonfly
Hook's Daughter
Heidi Schulz

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781910002216

Being the daughter of the notorious Captain Hook, Joselyn was bound to find life in a finishing school for young ladies difficult. She has a heart for adventure not etiquette and her unruly behaviour brings down the wrath of Miss Eliza, the head teacher, and the scorn of her room mates. Fortunately, she finds a true friend in Roger, the cook's helper, undergardener and all round errand boy. This time together, planning adventures on the high seas, is swiftly terminated when Roger is sent far away so that Joselyn can be turned into a lady. Bereft of her only friend, Joselyn runs to the dilapidated carriage house where she encounters an unusual postman; a crow named Edgar with a letter from her father urging her to avenge his death at the jaws of the crocodile. And so the adventure begins, covering themes of loss, fears and courage. All the favourite characters from Neverland feature in this story but viewed from Joselyn's perspective. The story is well written using mature language which may have youngsters reaching for their dictionaries; so a good class read too. Shipwrecks, monsters, ferocious pirates and cannibal tribes are some of the dangers they face but Joselyn proves equal to the task. Being feisty by nature she overcomes her own insecurities and disappointments to become a worthy sea Captain leading her motley crew to victory. The story is recounted by a rather crotchety old man who hates children; he occasionally addresses the reader directly and gives his own view on what is happening. However, the majority of the story reads as third person narrative with a sympathy towards Joselyn, her thoughts and feelings. The chapters are fairly short, the story keeps moving forward and the characters are well drawn. 280 pages (including an informative and entertaining glossary) / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Gillham, librarian

Hook's Daughter

ISBN 9781848667174

Eleven-year-old Liam finds himself embarking on journey of family and self-discovery when he moves to the small town of Swanbury, to be close to his Grandma who is suffering from a demon inside of her (dementia). Alongside his best friend Daisy, his dog, he stumbles upon a stone gargoyle in a spooky graveyard but rather than be scared by it, he finds himself inexplicably bonded to it. Not long after, Liam discovers his Grandma's diary, a diary which talks about Stonebird, a gargoyle so similar to the one he had seen, that it had to be the same one! The power of a good story is never more evident than in this novel; Liam is a powerful storyteller about Stonebird and the wonderful ways he protects him and his family and magically Stonebird carries out his bidding, becoming warm and slowly coming to life before his eyes. But when a scared and bullied Liam spins a yarn about Stonebird getting revenge on a bully, he soon discovers that stories can be scary. Personally, I think this is a very important novel for young people to read. It is a hopeful tale, but one that touches upon so many essential life lessons: dementia, truancy, bereavement, depression and lastly but most importantly, hope and remembrance. Although I'd be lying if I denied shedding a tear or two, the story left me with a hugely warm embrace and a skip in my heart. Beautiful. 352 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jodie Brooks, school librarian

ISBN 9781408858158

Angie Sage is already a well-known name thanks to her Septimus Heap books. Her new TodHunter Moon series in set in the same world of magyk and includes many of the same character, such as the ExtraOrdinary Wizard himself. I haven't read any of Sage's other books, so the characters were all new to me. I'm sure there were some bits that I didn't know the meaning of, but I still enjoyed the story. It is a good way of being introduced to Sage's world of magyk. Alice TodHunter Moon (known as Tod) is the heroine of the story. After her father goes missing, she begins a frightening journey to find him. Her best friends are twins Oskar and Ferdie and, when Ferdie also goes missing, Osker joins Tod to bring their loved ones home. The story was exciting and the characters believable; the baddies were mean and the goodies were brave! The plot was maybe a bit predictable and nothing new, but the world in which is it all set is really unusual and well developed, which makes the story that much more absorbing. The details of the magyk world are treated as though they are normal; as they should be to those who live in that world. This book would appeal to anyone who loves their other worlds to be well thought out and full of strange creatures and people. The pace of the story was good; lots of adventure and action. 384 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Hayley Nicholson, librarian

ISBN 9780007578825

This is the story of Emily and Lizzie, sisters of Jim, the hero of Street Child, which was published in 1993. Jim's story was based on the real life of Jim Jarvis who featured on Dr Barnardo's posters when the charity was being set up. The follow-up story begins with the heart-rending scene of Emily and Lizzie being left by their dying mother with her friend Rosie, a cook in a big house. Their mother does, however, take Jim with her. So the girls are left alone with Rosie who has to hide them and soon of course this is discovered, Rosie is fired, and leaves with the girls. When they pass the workhouse children being taken off 'for a life in the country', Rosie decides to let the girls go with them. The reality is of course nothing like living in the country; in fact they are to work in the mills so the girls have a rude awakening. Both are set to scavenge beneath the machines, a backbreaking and dangerous job. Berlie Doherty does not spare the reader in the descriptions of the mill and its workers. The children were promised lessons but none really happen until the daughter of the mill owner, Sarah, stands in one day for the housekeeper and sees for herself the conditions in which the children are living. Meanwhile Robin, a tall, handsome boy, who attempts to escape, is soon returned only to hatch another even more dangerous plot, to set the mill on fire which is partly thwarted by Emily's brave actions in telling the master, but the destruction of the mill means many of the children will no longer have work and have to return to the workhouse. The ending is a the least credible part of the story with Sarah's aunt Gillian becoming the girls' guardian and the mill owner promising to help the girls find Jim after Lizzie sees his name on a Dr Barnado's poster. In Berlie Doherty's experienced hands, the reader is involved from the very beginning in the girls' story. The details of the work in the mills in the mid-nineteenth century are graphically described, not least the danger to life and limb and to health, in the form of the cotton which fills the atmosphere, resulting in the coughs the children develop. Emily and Lizzie are strong characters and the boys, Robin and Sam, are convincingly drawn. However, Sarah's rather sudden realisation of the condition of her father's workers comes rather conveniently and the ending does not ring as true as it might. 320 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, librarian.