NEW TITLES

This month's selection of books for 7-11 years includes a fable about the environment, stories about families and friendships, lots of adventure and some great non-fiction.

The Oceanic Times
Stella Gurney

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781786031501

The Oceanic Times is very different from any other non-fiction books about marine life that I have read. It has been designed to echo the layout and style of a newspaper, however this is a newspaper with a difference, for its readership appears to be sea creatures themselves! For example, 'complete the quizzes...and send your answers in via whale song to win a year's supply of zooplankton!'. My team of Year 5 reviewers thought it was hilarious. What better way to learn, than when you are laughing! This book contains activities such and mazes and word searches, so would be a fun option for use at home, however it has real potential as a classroom resource, in particular for writing non-fiction texts, where it could provide inspiration and ideas for the creation of pupils' own newspapers or magazines. Whilst many of the activities to fill in are fairly simple, this book is a genuinely rich source of information on marine life, covering such topics as bioluminescence, the increasing acidity of our oceans and the journey that salmon undertake in order to breed. Without a conventional index, research would have to take place in the form of browsing, but my young reviewers were delighted by the facts that they uncovered whilst reading. 32 pages / Recommended for ages 7-11 / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, School Librarian

The Oceanic Times

ISBN 9780711239265

The latest instalment from this popular duo, (The Stick Book, The Beach Book, The Wild Weather Book) is, as expected, packed full of creative, fun and practical ideas for kids to get stuck into the great outdoors. With 15 or so activities for each season, there is plenty to get children outside and keep them busy throughout the year. From a Wild World Book day, to New Year's Day challenges, and from baking bread over a fire, to blindfold leaf games, there is a vast range of activities, such that any child will surely find something to their tastes, even if not everything suits everyone. The compact format means the book can be popped in a backpack on an outing, and bullet points and small amounts of text present one activity per page, accompanied by plenty of colour photos for explanation and inspiration. Some activities could be carried out spontaneously or by children alone, while others require some preparation and adult supervision; helpful safety guidelines are included at the back of the book. Whilst many of the activities would be easier for those with ready access to 'the great outdoors' there are also plenty for urban dwellers which could be done in a park or garden with a bit of thought or adaptation. For families and readers of 8+ (although many of the activities are suitable for children of any age). 128 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Lucy Russell, teacher.

Walls
Emma Fischel

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192763822

When his parents separate, Ned Harrison Arkle-Smith is less than impressed with their ingenious plan to divide the family home into two - a mum side and a dad side. They hope this will help everyone cope better with the split, but Ned is furious, hating the walls and the changes they make to his much-loved home. As if this is not change enough, his best friend is acting strangely and a new girl has discovered his special place. Ned's feelings of anger grow and grow, much of his fury focused on the walls which he feels are ruining his life, until one day, he finds he can walk through them. Perhaps his new skill will help him change everyone's minds and bring them to his way of thinking...? Walls is told through the distinctive voice of Ned, a very confused and angry boy, struggling to cope with the changes in his life. The trigger for his anger are the new walls which divide his home, but as the story progresses, the reader comes to learn how Ned has become Ned - why he has developed controlling behaviours and an inflexible approach to relationships. Divorce is, sadly, something which affects so many children and this is a story which offers a child's perspective of the impact of such an event. Ned tries so hard to take control of what is happening to him, but ultimately has to accept that he cannot control things and that he has to accept change - even those change which he does not like. The story offers many opportunities for discussions about Ned's reactions to things, his behaviour in certain situations and the choices he makes - particularly whilst 'wallboggling', his secret talent of walking through walls. Perfect for developing empathy, the book (although from Ned's viewpoint) encourages the reader to consider events from different viewpoints. Walls is an excellent story with much to offer - well worth a read! 288 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Walls
Candy
Lavie Tidhar, illus Mark Beech

ISBN 9781407184272

Nelle Faulkner is 12 years old and a private detective, working out of her garden shed, in the time of Prohibition; Prohibition of candy, that is. Mayor Thornton has issued a decree that all candy should be banned from this American town, and now there is an underground trade in sweets, chocolate, gum and cakes. When Eddie de Menthe, one of the town's gang leaders, comes to Nelle with a case of a missing teddy bear, she finds herself drawn into the world of contraband, smuggling and dirty deals. With Sweetcakes Ratchet and Waffles MacKenzie competing for trade and some very suspicious cops on the scene, Nelle has her work cut out to get to the bottom of the mystery of the missing teddy, and when Eddie goes missing too, there is work to be done. Witty and original, this is more than just a mystery as the teddy plays a significant part in the events in the town, past and present. As events move to a satisfying conclusion, layers of story are revealed. The intended readership is unlikely to be aware of the historical allusions to the real Prohibition era but for an adult reader the echoes are clear. Kid gangsters, dirty cops, and stores as fronts for contraband deals give this book a 'Bugsy Malone' feel: although there are a few tense and menacing moments, the book is never truly scary. Characters are believable and likeable (except the baddies who are appropriately penned!) and Tidhar's prose is flowing and satisfying to read. Beech's popular pen and ink style illustrations pop up every few pages and add humour and keep the storytelling light. A rewarding and enjoyable read for boys and girls aged 8+. 304 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Lucy Russell, teacher.

Candy
Kat Wolfe Investigates
Lauren St John

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509871223

This is the first Lauren St John book I have ever read as I am not normally into mysteries, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Kat and her Mum move to Bluebell Bay on the Jurassic Coast from London, in search of a better life. Her Mum takes over the local vet surgery and Kat decides to start pet sitting as a way of saving her own money. When she takes on the responsibility of looking after Bailey, the Amazonian parrot, for his owner she stumbles into some trouble. With the help of her new friend and some amazing animal characters she sets out to solve the mystery unravelling around her. The book is a really intriguing and will really appeal to readers age 8+, whether they like mystery and adventure or just love animals. 352 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Fiona Dalu-Chandu, teacher.

Kat Wolfe Investigates
The Wild Folk
Sylvia V. Linsteadt

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474934985

Farallone is in danger. A greedy city has over-reached itself and the precariously balanced world of human, plant, animal and sky is at risk. In a world where Stargold is a precious commodity, bargained for and sought after, the rapacious Brothers of the city of New Albion are desperate to uncover more and enrich their world at whatever cost to the others. In the country and in Olima, where the Wild Folk dwell, there is a sense that the balance has been distorted and that terrible danger is heading their way. Two unwitting young children, country girl, Comfrey, and city boy, Tin, and two leverets sent to guide them, suddenly find themselves central to Farallone's survival. This is an epic fantasy novel. There are so many wonderful characters and a real sense of wilderness and the natural world. There's also a very strong message about working in harmony and the dangers of segregating communities and the distrust it breeds. I loved the mesh of the natural and mechanical worlds and the lurking dangers that make this book a slightly darker read than the cover might suggest. Really engaging fantasy fiction and perfect for those who have enjoyed Mira Bartok's The Wonderling or Abi Elphinstone's books. 411 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

The Wild Folk
Storm
Sarah Driver

Egmont Books Ltd

ISBN 9781405284691

After reading the first two books in The Huntress series I could not wait to get between the pages for this final instalment. Oh boy, I was not disappointed. The story and its characters continue to be excellent and keeps the reader turning the pages to see how Mouse and her crew battle the evils and horrors of Trianukka. The adventure in Storm is slightly darker than the first two books. There is a lot more fighting and death, which at times left me tearful as I got so involved in Mouse's despair although I can't say too much as I will easily add a spoiler. I also found the magic of whale song, beast chatter, and spirits engaging and mystical along with Mouse's narrative, which is charming and heart-felt. However, I do have one little grip...where book 2 picked up straight from book 1, Storm picks up around a month later, which could lead to some confusion if its been a while between reading the series. Sarah Driver has got her world building and pace right for her target audience of 9+. The book is just so well written. I also felt that research into indigenous people and their history and culture was brilliantly portrayed, with added information at the back of the book for readers to do further research if they want to. I have really enjoyed reading this series, it's fantasy at its best. 400 well written pages with short gripping chapters, making the novel suitable for 9+ confident readers and older, less confident readers. The whole Huntress series would be great for book clubs or intervention reading as there are so many topics to discuss and explore. Storm is a thrilling ending to this trilogy and I'd recommend it as a must read! 400 pages / Ages 9-12 years / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Storm
Boy Underwater
Adam Baron

HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN 9780008267018

Cymbeline Igloo ( his dad, an actor, was performing in the Shakespeare play when he met Cym's mum) might be third-best footballer in Year 4 (joint) and second best at roller skating, but he has never been swimming. This is now a major problem as his class are going swimming and a stand off with the class bully has led Cym to boast about his swimming skills. A challenge to a race follows and Cymbeline is left with a sense of impending doom about the lesson to come. Disaster follows - not only in his humiliation at the pool, but as it results in him losing his best friend, his mother's breakdown and admission to hospital and Cym ending up stuck living with his cousins until she is well enough to come home. Cym's problems only get worse when his mother discharges herself and goes missing and he realises that he will need to dive into some family secrets to save them both. Cymbeline is a wonderful character with a unique voice which captures both the naivety of a nine year old and the knack they have of sometimes seeing things with a blinding simplicity which eludes adults completely. As he uncovers the many secrets that those around him having been hiding - from him and from each other - a story of family tragedy and heart-break unfolds, allowing a measure of healing and reconciliation to take place. The author, however, balances scenes of great poignancy with those of real humour, making the story a pleasure to read. Lance, Cym's best friend, also offers the reader much to think about. His relationship with his two dads - his 'dad-dad' and his 'new-dad' shows how comments made by adults linger with children and can negatively affect them. The reader never hears the 'new dad' teasing Lance about his name or hears his comments about Cymbeline's name or why he thinks Lance goes to 'that kind of school', but his confusion and hurt are clear, allowing children to explore similar feelings and experiences. Veronique is another wonderfully portrayed character. This is a 'read in one sitting' book. Full of secrets, friendship and family, it is compelling, poignant and funny. The perfect read. 256 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Boy Underwater
The Company of Eight
Harriet Whitehorn

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847159229

Despite growing up in the Magical District of the Great City of Minaris, Cass is entirely un-magical. Her talents lie in acrobatics, at which she practises every spare moment. She longs to join the Circus, where auditions are held once a year. But when she misses the audition, she determines to catch up with the Circus Boat that sails the seas of the Longest World. Invited aboard the Palace Boat by the seemingly charming Lord Bastien, Cass finds herself embroiled in a world of thieves and pirates, where she is forced to use her skills for very different purposes. During a pirate attack, Cass escapes and is washed up on the Island of Women, home to the mysterious, sword-fighting, very secret Company of Eight. Maybe her destiny lies elsewhere? Imbued with magic and intrigue, this is a richly imagined fantasy adventure set in a world of island states, with a variety of ships which sail between them. With strong female characters, exciting action and a dash of mystery, this is a story to appeal to thrill-seeking readers of 9+. 208 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, school librarian.

The Company of Eight
Undercover Princess
Connie Glynn

Penguin Books Ltd

ISBN 9780141379890

This is book number 1 in the Rosewood Chronicles and is about Lottie Pumpkin, a dreamy girl obsessed by fairy tales, who manages to secure a place at the prestigious Rosewood Hall. She shares a room with Ellie, a sulky, moody Goth. However, Ellie hides a secret; she is the Princess of Maradova. When Lottie discovers this, and she herself is mistaken for the princess, she is thrust into a dramatic world of kidnap and mystery. Although she loves fairy tales, Lottie discovers that real life fairy tales are not fun. I enjoyed the story and feel that readers of around age 9+ will really like this, I just wish Lottie had a bit more 'oomph' about her! She was quite weak at times and allowed Ellie to push her around. 384 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Amanda Allen, school librarian.

Undercover Princess
The Secret Ruby
Imogen White

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474927307

The Secret Ruby, the second spellbinding story in The Rose Muddle Mysteries, finds Rui Singh, his companion Rose and monkey Bahula, travelling across India to his home in The Royal Palace in Jaipur. Safe in India from their enemies, The Brotherhood of the Black Sun, they leave thoughts of their recent adventures far behind them. But almost immediately a series of incidents on the journey show that their feelings of security are short lived and they are thrown headlong into another dangerous twist turning adventure. Someone tries to steal a precious ruby that Rui must return to the dead owner's family. The evil Brotherhood have sinister intentions to use the ruby to attempt to open another gateway into the world and allow Verrulf and his fearful Creeplings to create a world full of shadows, fear and hatred. Danger is present at every turn and the friends have no idea who they can trust, no one is who they seem to be. It is a race against time to find out the truth and foil the Brotherhood before the total solar eclipse, only three days away. Rose needs all her courage and determination and Rui all his powers of logic and deduction to foil the evil villains. The beautifully-decorated Royal Palace in Jaipur and all the sights and smells of India are wonderfully described through the eyes of 11 year old Rose, who has never left home before. Jaipur dazzles Rose with its vibrant colours, noise and smells and the journey through the colourful bustling Bazaar on elephants as part of the Marahaja's royal procession brings the setting vividly to life. The Royal Observatory of Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar, built in the 18th Century, and the monkey temple of Galtaji are woven into the story as backdrops to the plot. The story has enough danger and plot turns to keep readers on the edge of their seats, and enough clues and red herrings to keep them guessing all the way to the end. Our feisty red headed heroine and her loyal and clever friend Rui are strongly drawn characters who will win the loyalty of their fans. Altogether a very satisfying read which will appeal to Harry Potter fans and lovers of a good exciting adventure. 336 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Caroline Gosden, school librarian.

The Secret Ruby
My Dad, the Earth Warrior
Gary Haq

GAZZIMODO

ISBN 9781999933791

I'm afraid I'm not much of an environmentalist or 'eco-warrior', most of what I know about the environment or things like fracking I've picked up 'in passing' from various news articles. However having now read My Dad the Earth Warrior I know a little more and have enjoyed a very funny story of family, friendship and love along the way. Hero's Mum passed away two years ago and he now lives with his Dad. Sadly, it seems that rather than bringing the two closer together, his mother's death has caused Hero's Dad to distance himself. Spending his days updating a set of encyclopedia, Hero's Dad is forever spouting obscure facts and information and now rarely spends time with his son. With the return of his Gran from her adventures in Nigeria, Hero hopes things will return to how they used to be but this is not to be... When Gran finds out that the same energy company that had caused so much upset in Nigeria is now buying up land in Hero's home town of Leaford, she is determined to make a stand. As if one eco-activist is not enough for Hero to deal with, following a knock on the head, Hero's Dad begins to think he is Chief Terra Firma, an eco-warrior out to save Mother Earth himself. Between his Dad's near-naked rain dancing, Gran's strong minded beliefs and a nosey neighbour, Mr Bugwell, Hero finds himself caught up in fight to save the green spaces of Leaford and rescuing his Gran from the evil clutches of the energy company's thugs, all while trying to find some way to help his Dad recover his memory and return to his old self. I really enjoyed this book and am sure any child in KS2 would do too. It is an eco-adventure story written in such a way that you cannot help but laugh at the antics of Chief Terra Firma, his son Hero and Gran as they try to save their town from a ruthless energy tycoon. While at the same time you find yourself feeling rather sorry for poor old Hero, he still misses his Mum and now it seems like he's lost his Dad too. For a teacher hoping to do any sort of environmental topic, this would be the class reader for you. 256 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher.

My Dad, the Earth Warrior
Dark Sky Park: Poems from the Edge of Nature
Philip Gross

Otter-Barry Books Ltd

ISBN 9781910959886

Philip Gross has chosen to celebrate some of the most unusual and unknown aspects of the natural world in this mesmerising anthology which had me wondering, learning, looking and so much more. Quite apart from being captivated by his poetic voice, I came away all the richer for what I learnt about worms, tardigrades, terns, even ivy! It's a collection that works on so many levels: we can't but marvel about the amazing minute tardigrades who have been on earth for 500 million years: 'I was there from the off - / the sound of life revving up all over. / This was, oh, a cool half billion years ago.' ('Tardigrade in the Cambrian Era' p.55). I was particularly taken by the sequence of 'Saga' poems about these little known creatures. Short, tubby and with eight legs, the largest is no longer than half a millimeter. Endearingly, they are also known as water bears or moss piglets: 'You say tardigrade - slow-stepper, / sluggish walker, micro-sloth, Or, / if you want to get familiar, water bear. / Moss piglet if you must./ ('A tardigrade by any other name'. p.30). Graceful though Arctic Terns (p.24) may be (they are also known as sea swallows), their attacks on anything that threatens their nests are sharp and vicious: '... all clash / and clamour, shriek and wheel / like knife grinders in the flight.../'. They nest on sea stacs where '... the boulders / huddle close into each other's / shelter, tight against the cold / as the stone-spit narrows, and the weather // grips you, .../'. This poem offers a perfect companion for Geraldine McGaughrean's Carnegie-winning novel, Where the World Ends - a vivid fictionalised account of what happens to a group of boys and men abandoned on a sea stac in the Outer Hebrides at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Look out for the humorous strand of 'Extreme...' poems: 'Lava-Boarding' at the Extreme Sports Olympics (p.21); 'Extreme Aunt' Adelina (p.50) currently being searched for a by a submarine; there's an 'Extreme Uncle' (p.52) too but he's anything but extreme and only at the 'Extreme Musical Festival' (p.46) will you find a storm harp and moon music. Gross suggests that children may like to think up different kinds of extreme music observing that 'The fantastical answers may turn out to say a lot about a real place, or person'. Recent events are movingly brought to the fore in 'Aleppo Cat' (p.26): an atmospherically evoked description of a cat wandering in Aleppo's ruins: Gone / And where the fish man / tossed the bones. / Gone. // Where the children chased her / with fierce cuddles, too young / to know their strength. / Gone, /' As well as the poems, Gross's additional notes are fascinating. Did you know that Ivy-Leaved Toadflax was brought to this country in the cracks of Roman statues and has been in Britain for 400 years?! A robust climber, it has many other names: '... Call me / Wandering Sailor, Mother of Thousands; / in French, call me Ruine-de-Rome. // I'm here, I'm everywhere / you never look. On the brink, / on the edge, with no visible means / of support ... but at home.// Finally, the reader is taken to the 'Dark Sky Park' (p.94) of the title. Set up to support astronomers, Dark Sky Parks offer a space where the stars ('spark after spark / from a burned-out bonfire, /) can be clearly seen as can the flickering of the Aurora Borealis: 'that dark blue-green fraying / of the dark / of space, like fine weed wavering / in a stream.../. These are beautiful and persistent images with which to conclude, as is the very last reminder of the synergy between humankind and the natural world: 'Or picture this: a little boy our late / beyond the streetlights, dap-dapping his ball, / this one and only precious globe, alone / in the park, / in the dark, / the dark sky park. // 96 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

Dark Sky Park: Poems from the Edge of Nature
Suffragette: The Battle for Equality
David Roberts

Two Hoots

ISBN 9781509839674

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of women's right to vote in the UK. The introduction of the Representation of the People Act in 1918 meant that women who were over the age of 30, property owners and graduates from British universities were entitled to vote in parliamentary elections for the first time. David Roberts has produced a beautifully illustrated history of the women's suffrage movement which is both enlightening and fascinating. Starting with a clear explanation of what 'suffrage' is, the book looks at the development of the suffrage movement, bringing to life many of the key figures on each side of the debate and from all walks of life. The book contains names which are familiar - Emmeline Pankhurst, Millicent Garrett Fawcett and Emily Davison - but also those that are less well known - Ellen Pitfield, Muriel Matters and Ethel Smyth. It introduces those of both sexes, from all walks of life, and the role they played in 'the battle for equality'. Presenting the history of the movement in a way that is easy to understand, clearly explaining the difference between terms like 'suffragette' and 'suffragist', for example, the book does not shy away from the atrocities committed against women or the destructive acts committed by them. Referred to as 'torture' and a 'horror', force feeding, for example, is explained succinctly, yet the disturbing details of this process is not dwelt on, offering just the right balance of information for younger readers. The illustrations are wonderful, some poignant, some humorous, all depicting the energy and commitment of these women to the cause they believed in so passionately. This is an inspiring, excellent introduction to such a significant time in our history, a tribute to all those involved, not just a few well known figures. 128 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Suffragette: The Battle for Equality