NEW TITLES

As well as being thoroughly entertaining, this month's selection of children's fiction covers a range of themes from families and friendship to fantasy and even politics. There is also a hard hitting book from Frances Lincoln, Street Children, that explores what life can be like for children in developing worlds and which can be the starting point for discussion and whole-school activities.

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs
Sarah Forbes

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847155955

Sarah Forbes's funny and warm-hearted debut, Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs, features an entire school devoted to showing off where lessons like Attention Seeking in General, Showing Off in Public and Extreme Boasting are on the timetable! The story follows the fortunes of Elspeth who has worked like a slave for the loathsome Miss Crabb, her aunt (who is also the school cook), since her parents disappeared in a flood, or so she is told. However, when a jolt to the head starts to bring back Elspeth's memories of sweet shops and secret recipes, she realises that Miss Crabb may not be her aunt after all.... But what is it that Miss Crabb wants from her? There's a touch of Dahl about the story, including some wonderfully awful villains and fantastically horrible children, but there are also strong friendships and lots of humour and warmth. The illustrations by James Brown are spot on and are enough to entice the most reluctant of readers. Children will enjoy seeing Elspeth Hart winning the day against the villains, and gathering her courage as she prepares for her next adventure - which I for one am looking forward to! 192 pages / Ages 7/8+ / Reviewed by Alison Trent.

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs
Circus of Thieves on the Rampage
William Sutcliffe

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471120251

Oddly, I found that I enjoyed this book much more than its prequel - Circus of Thieves and the Raffle of Doom. Sutcliffe's humour felt much more easy going in this book. I enjoyed revisiting the characters from the first book and seeing their lives intertwine again (with the addition of some dazzling new people too!). This book pretty much continues from where the last one left off; Armitage Shank is still as dastardly, and up to his old tricks.. Billy's waiting for his Dad to return and Hannah... well you'll see if you read the book! This book is a bit more accessible than the first; the language is still creative and flowery in parts, but the footnotes are fewer and easier to understand. The circus setting will intrigue children, and the escapades they get up to are rather fabulous! I think anyone who has read the first book will enjoy this; it's important to know the characters to understand and enjoy the plot fully. I'd recommend this, even if you weren't a fan of the first book - as I mentioned above, I really enjoyed this one. 288 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Lizi Coombs, librarian.

Circus of Thieves on the Rampage
The Rats Of Meadowsweet Farm
Dick King-Smith

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781124178

Barrington Stoke's Little Gems books are aimed at children aged five to eight years although the themes in this story put it in the upper age range. The story is beautifully presented as a small-format book with a glossy cover and illustrations throughout. Dick King-Smith is know for his animal and farmyard stories for younger children and in The Rats of Meadowsweet Farm, we meet a messy and dirty farmer whose farmyard is as filthy as he is. A dung heap stands proudly at the centre of the farmyard and attracts a growing band of rats, which are ruled over by the biggest rat of all, King Ripper. When the farmer manages to kill some of the rats, King Ripper decides it is time for revenge. Chaos follows but it marks a turning point for the farmer and his messy habits. It is quite a dark story but it has plenty of appeal to children who like their villains bad and who enjoy plenty of jeopardy in their stories. The book's layout is also designed to appeal to reluctant and dyslexic readers, with plenty of spacing between the text, short chapters and illustrations. 83 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Alex Stamp.

The Rats Of Meadowsweet Farm
Who is King?: And other tales from Africa
Beverley Naidoo

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781847805140

Beverley Naidoo's expertise on African folk tales makes this a wonderful collection of stories from across the continent, including for example The Miller's Daughter, an Arabic tale from Morocco; Why Monkeys Live in Trees, an Ewe tale from Ghana, and How Elephant Got his Trunk, a Venda tale from South Africa. As well as providing us with an insight into another culture and different approaches to explaining how life is, the stories give us a glimpse into the structure of stories, too. At this age, children are just beginning to develop story writing with a moral and through these stories, we discover that to have a moral you first need to have a character and their goal; the reader learns from the moral that comes at the end of the story. Children could also compare the stories to others they know, especially Aesops Fables, and think about what makes these stories particular to Africa. Children will also enjoy the stylish illustrations throughout the book. 69 pages / Ages 7/8+ / Reviewed by Louise Gahan, teacher.

Who is King?: And other tales from Africa

ISBN 9781781716434

Theseus and the Minotaur form part of the Classic Collection from QED, which provides an attractive and useful introduction to the myths for children aged eight years plus. The series currently includes three more myths - The Twelve Tasks of Hercules, Perseus and Medusa, and Jason and the Golden Fleece, so children can find out about some of the most popular myths from this period. The stories are retold in an exciting and accessible text by Saviour Pirotta and illustrated by Mike Love, with lovely (and occasionally quite scary) full-colour illustrations on each page. Maps help to explain where the action is taking place and there are also useful 'family trees' of the gods and kings at the end of the books. This would a useful collection for primary libraries, and for early secondary readers, too, and the books would work well as read-alouds in classroom settings. 48 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Clare Stone.

A Magical Venice story: The Water Horse: Book 1
Holly Webb

Orchard Books

ISBN 9781408327623

There will not be many young readers who have not encountered the books of Holly Webb at some time or another so this first book in a new series will find a ready audience. Set in Venice at some indeterminate time, the book introduces us to Princess Olivia as she makes a momentous discovery while attending a masked ball and, for the first time, questions the world around her, the people in it and, indeed, her own life. Her father, the Duke, is ailing and Venice itself is threatened by the waters that surround it. Lady Sofia, sister to the Duke, and her son, Zuan, try to use the situation to wrest power away from the Duke and his rightful heir, Olivia. Into this mix of intrigue and complicated family relationships, Webb introduces the magical forces which preserve Venice against the force of the water. We meet Lucian, the Water Horse, invisible for so many years as the magic powers of the people waned, who is overjoyed to find that Olivia can see and hear him, and not just Olivia, but an entire group of beggar children. The scene is thus set for a confrontation between the forces of good, led by Olivia and Lucian, and the forces of evil, led by Lady Sofia and Zuan. This book will appeal to confident, independent readers, looking for a story with a strong plot and a sense of adventure. The character of Olivia is well drawn and the changes in her relationship with her servant, Etta, echo the changes in her life and in the city itself. The book concludes with a sneak preview of the next book in the series which will encourage readers who enjoyed this book to seek it out. 250 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian

A Magical Venice story: The Water Horse: Book 1
The Accidental Prime Minister
Tom McLaughlin

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192737748

Joe Perkins is just an ordinary 12 year old boy, living with his mum who is the warden at the local park. He and his best friend Ajay enjoy playing there and are aghast when they learn it is to be closed, a tower block built there and Mrs Perkins to lose her job. Vowing to do something about it, they arrive at school just as the Prime Minister is about to visit. If Joe can just explain to him how important the park is, he's sure he will be able to help. But the only person Percival T Duckholm is interested in helping is himself, and his refusal to do anything about it makes Joe really angry. His riposte to the Prime Minister is recorded by a television crew and instantly goes viral. Now Joe is famous world wide and people are calling for him to take charge of the country. Percival T Duckholm is only too glad to hand over the reins and soon Joe is instigating some very entertaining new laws [hats for cats; banana shaped buses; fancy dress Fridays, but on Thursdays, to name a few], much to the chagrin of Jenkins, his Private Secretary. But with the villainous Deputy Prime Minister, Violetta Crump, desperate for his job, Joe must be on his guard. This is an appealing, funny and fast-moving story which gives a subtle introduction to the world of politics for primary aged children. It would work well as a class read aloud and certainly provoke plenty of discussion about what children would introduce if they were in charge! As Joe says, 'Where there is grumpiness, may we bring giggles, where there is jelly, may we bring ice cream, where there are chairs, may we bring whoopee cushions!' With this on the shelf, you'll have children voting to read! 240 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, librarian

The Accidental Prime Minister
How to Fly with Broken Wings
Jane Elson

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444916768

Willem Edward Smith is an extraordinary young man. Growing up high above London, in the towering flat complexes, he longs for nothing simpler than completing his homework and being able to fly. He is no ordinary boy; he is incredibly kind, intelligent and generous, he also has Asperger's Syndrome which makes life a bit trickier for him. Sensing Willem's difficulty in understanding others, his Maths teacher sets him the complex task of finding two friends his own age, which Willem decides to complete with gusto. As in the world of bookland, the path of true friendship never runs easy; set against a background of unemployment, hopelessness and riots, Willem becomes pally with a fellow classmate, Sasha and also with a boy called Finn, a leader of the local gang. Together they form a mutual bond over their love of flying and together with the local 'magic' man Archie (the local community project manager), they start to rebuild a genuine Spitfire. Will Willem succeed in his two dreams: flying and friendship? I loved this novel, I wasn't sure what to expect when I began it. I thought it would be a gentle tale for younger teens about making friends and enhance my understanding Asperger's. What I got was much more. The author, Jane Elson, introduces so many intricate themes and characters that it's hard to know where to begin. The complex relationships between children and families were beautiful and in some places genuinely heart-breaking. I was thoroughly scared during the riot scene, the sound of glass echoed in my ears and I was with the Spitfire gang, lovingly polishing the wings of the plane and then towards the end of the story, I was whipping through the pages so fast it became a blur (I even cancelled dinner with a friend to finish it). In short, Elson has created a story that will both break you and rebuild, ground you, yet make you fly! A perfect addition to any library (or home). 304 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jodie Brooks, librarian.

How to Fly with Broken Wings
A Storey Street novel: Demolition Dad
Phil Earle

Orion Children's Books

ISBN 9781444013863

Jake and his Dad are very close and Jake is proud of his Dad's wrestling exploits on a Saturday night; when coached by Jake, Dad demolishes his opponents. In his day job Dad is a demolition man, operating the crane which knocks buildings down with a ball. Jake wants the world to know how great his dad is at wrestling so, unbeknownst to his parents, he enters Dad into a huge wrestling competition in America and to his great delight, his Dad wins the local round. Arnie arrives from America in a huge stretch limo and Dad is persuaded to go to the competition and fight the Tsunami Terror. But Dad is also persuaded to diet and disaster strikes when the Terror demolishes him! Jake is devastated but the worse effect is on his Dad, who loses all his confidence and sinks into depression. All comes good when Dad has to come to the rescue of Jake and his two friends, using his demolition skills to save them when they are trapped in a derelict building. This is a heart-warming story of a boy's love and admiration for his Dad and also a portrait of a man who listens to the wrong advice and loses his way, so there is considerable depth in the story, showing Philip Earle's skills as a writer. The storyline is a little lost at times as the author has decided to go for the popular style of caricatures rather than real characters, but Jake is a rounded character, whose love for, and pride in, his Dad shines through. Jake's Mum emerges from the shadows when her chance to help the family budget means she can return to her old job as an air hostess and travel the world again. There is real tension at the end with Dad riding to the rescue and thus restoring his confidence. I am not sure how many young readers will have been to a wrestling competition, but to this reviewer (who used to watch it on tv!) the descriptions are very true to the action that takes place and Sara Ogilvie's drawings show Dad in all his wrestling glory. 192 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Janet Fisher

A Storey Street novel: Demolition Dad
Street Children
Anthony Robinson

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781847805980

Aimed at children in upper primary, aged nine years upwards (and into secondary), this simply-presented book uses photography and drawings to introduce us to homeless children from different parts of the world including Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Guatemala. What comes through from each of their (very difficult) stories is the children's resourcefulness and resilience. This glimpse into their young lives provides a real education for children in developing awareness of the hardships many other children and young people face; a page of facts at the back of the book tells us that there are, shockingly, some 100m and 150m children living on the streets around the world. Children can begin by exploring those parts of the world the book features and finding out why families here may experience hardship, so there are lots of research opportunities and activities to develop in Geography as well as PSHE and literacy. Children can also research charities that work alongside families and children in these parts of the world. For those that want take this further, the project could encompass a whole school programme to support a specific charity, with fund raising events organised and posters made via ICT lessons, and assemblies created. 38 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Louise Gahan, teacher.

Street Children