NEW TITLES

Funny books, timeslip adventures, fantasy novels and books set in the past are all highlighted in these reviews by teachers and librarians, together with some great poetry and non fiction for children aged 7-11 years.

Wish for a Witch
Kaye Umansky

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471160936

This is the second in a series by Kaye Umansky whose stories are greatly loved by many a young reader. The first book (Witch for a Week) introduced us to Elsie Pickles of Pickles Emporium, Magenta Sharp (the neighbourhood witch) and the tower, a self-maintaining residence that moves around and makes cake. At the end of the first book, Elsie returned to her family with the ability to perform three spells and a desire to learn more. At the start of this second book, Elsie is bored at Pickles Emporium so, when Magenta engages her to sort out her administrative backlog of delayed orders for potions, Elsie jumps at the chance and reacquaints herself with all the characters introduced in the first book. Though not strictly necessary to have read Book 1 before starting Book 2, readers would get a better sense of the characters and their interactions if they did. Corbett the raven and the Howlers, Joey and Sylphine, all feature in the second book but are introduced to the reader in the first. The plentiful illustrations by Ashley King and the clear text make these books ideal for newly independent young readers looking to stretch their reading stamina. The humour and the engaging characters will instantly appeal to young readers who will be keen to read the entire series. 224 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

Wish for a Witch
The Legend of Kevin: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure
Philip Reeve

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192766083

Readers will receive a gold star for recognising that the star of this book is Kevin, the roly-poly flying pony. He lives in the hills of the Outermost West and is especially partial to biscuits of the custard cream variety. After a terrible storm blows Kevin from his home to the small riverside town of Bumbleford, he makes friends with a small boy named Max. Together they assist the town during the worst flood in the town's history, bravely rescuing, aiding and assisting anyone in need. Max and Kevin first meet on the night of the storm, when Kevin is blown on to the balcony of Max's flat. Desperate for a pet, Max decides to keep Kevin and the friendship is cemented with custard creams. During the night the River Bumble bursts its banks, flooding the town and leaving the tallest buildings isolated, surrounded by water. Luckily Max, Kevin and his family live on the top floor of their block of flats and are well positioned to offer shelter to their neighbours in their hour of need. However, supplies of food quickly run low with so many mouths to feed and when the biscuit rations are threatened, Max and Kevin take matters into their own hands. Battling sea monsters, mermaids and sea monkeys, the brave duo collect food for their family and neighbours and rescue residents of the town. Kevin proves to be a loyal and talented friend, earning a place within the community of Bumbleford and the heart of Max's family. But Max senses that Kevin may be pining for home and bravely realises that his four hoofed friend must return to the wild hills of the Outermost West. Tissues at the ready for an emotional ending to the story... This is a fun-filled adventure story, perfect for newly independent readers. Kevin, the role-poly, biscuit-fuelled flying pony, is an utterly adorable character that will be loved by all. Humour, magical characters and hilarity abound in this custard cream caper. A compelling plot and delightful illustrations make this the perfect read for reluctant readers. The remarkable double act that is Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre have done it again! Fans of Oliver and the Seawigs will love seeing beloved characters in print in a new tale; and a new audience will be enthralled by mermaids, sea monkeys and of course, a flying pony! 160 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Emily Beale, school librarian.

The Legend of Kevin: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure
Spot the Mistake: Journeys of Discovery
Frances Castle

Wide Eyed Editions

ISBN 9781786031297

Spot the Mistake: Journeys of Discovery by Amanda Wood, Mike Jolley and Frances Castle takes its reader on a whistle-stop tour through history. This fact-filled picture book follows the travels of intrepid explorers such as Marco Polo, Captain Robert Scott and Neil Armstrong. Alongside a brief summary of each journey is a very cleverly detailed, double page illustration inviting readers, both young and old, to 'spot the mistakes'. Would you be able to spot all the weird and wonderful things that are out of place on each adventure? Are you 'eagle-eyed' enough to spot the out of place fir trees on the Apollo 11 badge, or to know that the flag of the United States of America had only 15 stars in 1804 when Lewis and Clark were exploring North America? However, don't worry if you often miss such clever details; each journey has a page identifying and explaining the 'mistakes'; giving reasons why, for example, Ferdinand Magellan wouldn't have had a telescope on board his ship. Spot the Mistake: Journeys of Discovery is a great way to engage a child's interest in learning about some of the world's great explorers. This unique style of presenting historical information will entertain children for hours, making learning fun! A great way to motivate children to 'dig deeper' with their knowledge and understanding of history. I really enjoyed looking through this book and was quite surprised by the number of mistakes I missed, although equally intrigued by some of the very cunning 'red-herrings' that were on each page. A fabulous book, a fantastic resource, ideal for any young historian, especially those who are less inspired by a huge great reference book. It would also appeal to reluctant readers with its short sections of text and high visual appeal. 48 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher.

Spot the Mistake: Journeys of Discovery
Iguana Boy Saves the World With a Triple Cheese Pizza
James Bishop

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444939347

This is the story of Dylan, a boy who dreams of being a superhero just like his brother Arctic Thunder and his sister Millie Monday. However, on discovering his slightly disappointing superpower - the ability to talk to iguanas - Dylan feels rather inadequate. The evil Super Villain Platypus Kid plans to take over the world and sets a trap for all the Superheroes. Dylan, along with his new found friends and trusty iguana sidekicks, make it their mission to rescue the captive superheroes and try to stop Platypus Kid from world domination. I loved this book. I read most of it whilst my family were asleep in a caravan and had to try hard to stop myself from laughing out loud and waking them! I found the characters hilarious, particularly some of their unusual superpowers. I loved the Superhero style/tone of the book and the voices that I felt compelled to use when reading aloud to my children. The book tunes in perfectly to all of the things that my sons (ages 5 and 8) love and find side splittingly funny e.g. superheroes, ninjas, farts (AKA Fuzzy wuzzlers) and pizzas. The fabulous illustrations perfectly complement the text. The different text types, such as comic strips and ID cards, which are used throughout the book, engage the reader. I am sure that most children would find this book hysterical and entertaining. I am looking forward to sharing it with my more reluctant KS2 readers at school, as they would enjoy it due to the humour and accessible comic strip style used in some chapters. It has the potential for fun discussions about which superpowers we would like to have and I can imagine making Superhero ID cards with my pupils. I'm looking forward to the next instalment of Iguana boy! 256 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Leia Sands, teacher.

Iguana Boy Saves the World With a Triple Cheese Pizza
The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic: Book 2
Cressida Cowell

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444941401

This is the second book in The Wizards of Once series, and is fabulous. Infected by witch blood and trying to hide the tell-tale stain spreading up his arm, Xar needs to escape from the prison Gormincrag and Wish needs to escape from the Punishment Cupboard so that they can join forces once more and recapture the Kingwitch and go on a quest for the ingredients needed for a potion to cure Xar. What could possibly go wrong? As witty and entertaining as the first book in this series, Cressida Cowell takes the reader on a romp of an adventure, full of fabulously quirky characters. Her illustrations are energetic, adding to the humour and depth of the story. However, this story also considers the relationship between parent and child. Wish is desperate to please her mother, to gain her approval and so hides her true nature as a witch from her. In this story, the reader also discovers (as do the children) that their parents were very different people when young and that actions in the past can have consequences for the future. Great fun, this series promises to go from strength to strength. 384 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic: Book 2
The Trouble with Perfect
Helena Duggan

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474949514

Formerly known as Perfect, Town has been re-invented. Gone are the dastardly Archer brothers and in their place is a new democracy where former Perfectionists and rescued No-Man's Landers live together in seeming harmony. The disturbing eyes that the Archers were growing now redeployed as surveillance, protecting Town's residents. But something strange is afoot and as Town's fragile alliance fractures, Violet's best friend Boy, is blamed. Confused but desperate to prove Boy's innocence, Violet, Boy's parents and a loyal group committed to securing Town's future must look back to Perfect's troubled past to save their way of life. The second book in the Perfect series is another eerie adventure. Violet and Boy are fantastically flawed and brave and their allies provide great support. There are lots of twists and turns and the plot may be a little complex for some but the excellent comic-style recap at the start of the book provides a handy reference tool. Creepy and quirky, and with a few gory details, this is ideal bedtime reading for fearless bookworms! 372 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian

The Trouble with Perfect
Jinxed
Amy McCulloch

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471169960

What a great start to a new series. Jinxed, has left me wanting more as the story is engrossing, set in the not so distant future, and totally plausible. Lacey has always wanted to be a 'companioneer' for the company Moncha, which is the largest technology firm in North America, they are the creators of the Baku. Baku is an upgrade to mobile phones, they come in four different levels and in all shapes and sizes, from a mouse to an eagle. Bakus not only keep you connected to social media etc, they also become your companion and friends. Amazing ! After yet another unpleasant incident with a boy in her school called Carter, Lacey finds a heap of junk that happens to be an advanced Baku. Through the summer break, she repairs the animal and names him Jinx. This Baku is like no other, he thinks for himself and communicates with Lacey in her head. As Jinx becomes her friend, Lacey has to be careful not to let others know his technology as he feels almost real. 323 pacy, well written pages of a story that contains mystery, humour, friendship, trust and a dash of romance that is totally suitable for 9+ readers or older, less confident readers. Jinx would also be great for book clubs due to all the discussion points about future technology. I adored this story and am excited that this is the start of a series and not just a stand alone, and well, Jinx. Jinx really makes this book. To end with.. if I owned a Baku it would have to be a dog or a hare, sorry I can't decide, perhaps I could have both. Read the book, enjoy and then decide what Baku you would choose! 336 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Jinxed
Armistice Runner
Tom Palmer

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781128251

On the 11th November 1914, the guns fell silent on the Western Front marking the end of the war. A hundred years on, author Tom Palmer brings us the story of a runner who carried the message that the war was over. Armistice Runner is not, however, purely a piece of historical fiction. Instead, Tom Palmer has created two parallel stories that intertwine brilliantly. On one hand you have Lily, whose life is full of worries. Her brother is always making fun of her, her grandmother has dementia and she has no chance of beating Abbie in the big race. She is an instantly likeable character that many children will connect with. Her modern-day story is mirrored by that of her great-great-grandfather Ernest, whose diaries Lily is gifted by her grandmother. His story begins with his training log as he prepares for a big fell race. Before long, Ernest's life is turned upside down by events in France. Ultimately, his life is changed forever and he feels his only option is to sign up to fight. His story continues in France, where he encounters the full horror of war. As with Tom Palmer's other books, Armistice Runner is an accessible text that is a joy to read. Add to that Barrington Stoke's super readable layout and an easy-on-the-eye font, and you have a book that will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. This is a brilliant thought-provoking book, packed with issues that children can relate to: friendship, family, loss. Wrap that cleverly in a story of sport and war and Armistice Runner is, with doubt, one of the finest war books I have read in a long time. 176 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Matt Davies, teacher.

Armistice Runner
Flight
Vanessa Harbour

Firefly Press Ltd

ISBN 9781910080764

I read this book in one sitting which should tell you all you need to know. It starts with suspense 'If Jakob sneezed, he could die.' And then carries on in that vein throughout the book; it really is one you can't put down and the beautiful cover by Anne Glenn seems to capture the essence of the book perfectly. Jakob is Jewish and hiding out helping in rural stables looking after the world-famous Lipizzaner horses. The year is 1945 so Herr Engel is taking a huge risk by hiding him. Then the horses are put in danger, both from a German officer and gathering hungry refugees. Jakob and Herr Engel must make the perilous journey to get the horses to safety as well as keep themselves safe. They are joined by Kizzy, a Roma girl who is in just as much danger as Jakob. This is a real adventure story, fast paced and exciting, taking a different slant from other World War II stories I have read. There is danger and suspense and the horrors of war come across clearly, but it is not so horrific that a slightly younger child, 9+, wouldn't be able to manage the content. A lot of the horror, bar a few passages, is implied rather than described and the main emotion is one of tension. At one point a real historical figure enters the story and this is handled particularly well. Some of the events are also real, such as the end of the war and dangers that were ever present by that time. This is skilfully interwoven with the fictional part and reading the note at the end was particularly interesting to see where the author had her idea for the story. This will be a useful addition to any Upper Key Stage 2 class covering World War II and also a popular choice for any child who enjoys horse stories. 240 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher.

Flight

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).

The Pony With No Name
Tracey Corderoy

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471170416

Having just moved house with her mum and twin brother, for a 'fresh start', Bryony is feeling unsettled as the story opens. But when exploring the woods nearby she has a breathtaking encounter with a beautiful pony and her heart is captured. However, when Bryony meets the owner of the pony she is rudely disappointed to find Georgina spoilt, hostile and most of all, hating the very animal that Bryony adores. As events take a turn for the better, Bryony ends up falling deeper in love with the pony she names Red, yet as Georgina's hostility grows, Bryony faces never being able to see him again. Readers will be satisfied with a plausible conclusion to these events and drawn to Bryony not only for her devotion to her pony, but in seeing her fortitude and loyalty as her own troubles are resolved. As readers walk with Bryony through her determination to save Red, they will enjoy witnessing her growth and maturing as she becomes grounded in her friends and family in her new home. Readers will warm to Bryony, her family and her friends: key characters are sincerely depicted and likeable. The author touches on aspects of village life by the sea and readers will enjoy reading themselves into Bryony's environment - the woods, the wind, and the beach are well penned and there are satisfying details for pony lovers of Bryony's relationship with Red. More mature readers will appreciate the 'understory' of Bryony's personal growth but younger readers will enjoy the story purely for its narrative satisfaction, especially if they are fans of stories about ponies and friendship. 224 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Lucy Russell,

The Pony With No Name
I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree - A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year: National Trust
Frann Preston-Gannon

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9780857637703

Wow! This didn't so much slide through my letter box as arrive with a hefty thump. There's something very special about meeting the occasional book of this size and I think that children will be delighted by the book both in terms of content and but also as an artefact. I Am the Seed that Grew the Tree is published by Nosy Crow, in association with The National Trust. The poem from which the collection takes its title is 'Windsong' (p.234): 'I am the seed / that grew the tree / that gave the wood / to make the page / to fill the book / with poetry'. //. Fiona Waters has made an admirable selection of nature poems - one for every day of the year - and, unlike other recently published anthologies that claim to provide a poem for every day of the year, this is unified by its theme which makes it a much more coherent offering. She has also resisted the need to provide any kind of written commentary attached to the poems: indeed, you could argue that Frann Preston-Gannon's beautiful illustrations provide their own visual commentary. Look at 'Birch Trees' and 'Stopping by Woods' (p.14 and 15) - both set white print against a black background offsetting the silhouetted trees; a turn of the page takes us to a bleached out double page spread of snowy poems. Then move to the rich autumnal colours of a September landscape inhabited by Emily Dickinson's apt 'The Morns are Meeker than Ever' (p.237): 'The morns are meeker than they were, / The nuts are getting brown; / The berry's cheek is plumper, / The rose is out of town. / The anthology is commendable for the curation of such range of poems and the ease with which they sit alongside each other. Sara Coleridge's well known 'The Garden Year' (p.12) provides a fitting preface for all that follows. I received this on one of the hottest days of this summer and turned to the poems for August where I was instantly refreshed by the seascapes (p.190-191) and then the cooling 'Lake Isle of Innisfree' (p.192). Swallows pitch across a hot sun to accompany 'August Heat' (p. 196): 'In August when the days are hot, / I like to find a shady spot, / And hardly move a single bit -/ And sit - / And sit - / And sit - / And sit!//. And then how lovely to turn the page again, this time for refreshing rain with a Tigua Song and Grace Nichols' 'I am the rain' (p.199). Schools will, of course, make their own minds up about how best to position this very special anthology in their book collection. My hunch is that it is, perhaps, a book for the library which classes will choose to borrow from time to time. It's a hugely rich resource, not just in terms of the range of poems and poets but also the cross-curricular opportunities offered as it wends its steady, beautiful way through the seasons. 336 pages / Ages 6-11 years / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree - A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year: National Trust
Happy Poems
Roger McGough

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509871377

As we move into autumn from a glorious summer, this collection of 'Happy Poems' is just what's needed! With its sunshine yellow cover and emoji-style smile, we are warmly invited into Roger McGough's wonderful curation of happiness. Jez Alborough's 'A Smile' (p.1) is the right poem to open the collection: 'Smiling is infectious, / you catch it like the flu. / When someone smiled at me today / I started smiling too. /. And smile I did - from start to finish - and was reminded half way through just why: If History is the When? / And Science is the How? / If philosophy is the Why? / Then Poetry is the Wow!// (p.83). 'The WOW!' (Roger McGough) is one of several poems clustering around the theme of poetry including John Hegley's thought provoking 'Poetry' (p.78) with its lovely reminder that poetry is 'language on a spree'. Language is certainly having a good time in this collection: one minute, we have the gentle dialect of Langston Hughes' 'Mother to Son' (p.20): 'Well son, I'll tell you: / Life for me ain't been no crystal stair. /; the next it's Walter de la Mare's quaint and delightful 'The Cupboard' (p.26): 'I know a little cupboard, / With a teeny tiny key, / And there's a jar of Lollipops / For me, me, me. / . Don't miss 'Snakestanger' (p.74), an old dialect rhyme about the blood-sucking dragonfly that's said to sting boys who were naughty. Carol Ann Duffy describes Roger McGough as 'the patron saint of poetry' and he has certainly justified his canonisation here! He brings together a huge range of themes and poets (old and new). Here are poems about animals, books, friendship, families, food, the weather, even punctuation. Poem placement is skilful: 'A Meerkat Lullaby' (p.46) segues smoothly into 'Weird Wildlife' (p.47): 'It's a queer cat / Is the meerkat, / It cannot purr or miaow. /. Theme and lyrical wishful language reverberate across 'Oath of friendship' (p.16) and 'May you always' (p.17). Lindsay MacRae's 'Middle Child' ('The piggy in the middle / The land beween sky and sea / p.34) is complemented by Joseph Coehlo's intertextual 'Siblings' (p.35): 'Like the Three Bowls of Porridge / we were just right. / ...Like the Three Billy Goats Gruff / we feared the troll. / It's not just smiles that this book generates: there will be 'widespread chortling' at Sue Cowling's 'The Laughter Forecast' (p.4). Such a warming pastiche: 'Scattered outbreaks for chuckling in the south / And smiles spreading from the east later, /. Aptly, the book ends with 'Smile' (p.180): 'Smile, go on, smile!'. The reader will close the book reassured that, in Browning's words (p.5) from 'Pippa Passes': 'All's right with the world!'. 192 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

Happy Poems
This Book is Not Rubbish: 50 Ways to Ditch Plastic, Reduce Rubbish and Save the World!
Isabel Thomas

Wren & Rook

ISBN 9781526361530

Our planet is in peril and it needs your help! It sounds like the opening of a superhero book, yet this is no superhero book. Instead this book outlines 50 ways to 'ditch plastic, reduce rubbish and save the world'. It seems that everywhere you go, people are rightly waking up to the fact that we are having a negative influence on the planet. The movement has really taken hold since Blue Planet was screened last year. Now this fun book gives children the opportunity to do something themselves. Each chapter focuses on a straight-forward way of making a difference to the planet. With titles like 'Be A Bird Brain' and 'Start A Fight At School', readers are bound to be drawn in. Each idea also has a handy Planet-O-Meter which shows the cost, impact and difficulty of the idea. This and quirky images makes this book a joy to flick through for adults and children. I keep being drawn towards this book and it is already centre stage in my classroom. In fact, it is constantly being read by children and some have taken it upon themselves to become eco-champions. Highly recommended for everyone! 208 pages / Ages 8-11 years / Reviewed by Matt Davies, teacher.

This Book is Not Rubbish: 50 Ways to Ditch Plastic, Reduce Rubbish and Save the World!
A Chase In Time
Sally Nicholls

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9780857638984

Brother and sister Alex and Ruby always spend two weeks of their holidays at Applecott House with Aunt Joanna, but this may be their last visit as the house is to be sold due to Joanna's financial problems. Then the two children magically fall through their aunt's antique mirror and find themselves back in 1912, where they become involved in the search for a valuable stolen treasure. Past and present collide in this fast-paced adventure story. There is much to enjoy here, an interesting, well-plotted story with some clever characterisation. I particularly enjoyed the feisty females in the book, Ruby Pilgrim and Mary Flynn, who prove that girls can sort out a bully and solve a mystery as well as any boy! The nature of the story involves the use of some archaic language and some historical references which may prove tricky for the younger reader, but this would be a great book to read to a class of nine year olds as an introduction to the First World War. Special mention must go to the illustrations by Brett Helquist, which perfectly complement the book. The ending of the story is satisfying, with a clever twist linking the past to the present, leaving the way open for a sequel - this being the first book in a series. All in all, a very enjoyable read and I look forward to more of Jack and Ruby's adventures. 208 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Beverley Somerset, school librarian.

A Chase In Time
Pages & Co.: Tilly and the Bookwanderers (Pages & Co., Book 1)
Anna James

HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN 9780008229863

Since her mother mysteriously disappeared when she was a baby, Tilly has been raised by her grandparents in their homely rambling bookshop, Pages and Co. Tilly can often be found curled up with a book and counts Anne Shirley and Alice as dear friends. One wet half term, strange things start to happen: the reader may recognise the characters who appear as Tilly gradually discovers she is a 'bookwanderer - someone who has the ability to actually travel inside a story. But as she and her friend Oskar begin to be inducted into this new and exciting world, learning the rules and how to's of book wandering, mysteries begin to unfold. As she travels into exciting new realms, Tilly finds out more about herself than she ever knew, and unravels the true identity of the suspicious Enoch Chalk. A little slow to get started, the pace picks up as Tilly learns to bookwander, and the reader will be gripped by Tilly's adventures and the whole concept of 'bookwandering'. A well-read individual will delight in spotting familiar friends as they appear but even those who haven't read Tilly's favourite books will be gripped as she delves deeper into the mystery of her mother's disappearance and her own identity. Jones's prose is rich and smooth, Tilly and Oskar are authentic characters and Pages and Co is the bookshop everyone longs to be in - where there are bean bags to curl up and read, and homemade cakes on constant supply! The magic in this story begins as the sort of magic that one can believe could happen to an ordinary person on an ordinary wet half term day, although the discovery of Tilly's true identity may prove a stumbling block to some! This debut from Anna Jones will be popular with children aged nine and above: with 377 pages and quite a complex conclusion, it's for the more confident reader. 377 pages / Ages 9+ / reviewed by Lucy Russell, teacher.

Pages & Co.: Tilly and the Bookwanderers (Pages & Co., Book 1)
The Black Amulet
J.R. Wallis

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471157943

Having loved The Boy With One Name, I was delighted when ReadingZone asked me to review the second tale from the Badlands... Since their 'commencements', none of the three Badlanders have the life they had wanted. Thomas Gabriel's magic is fading, and Ruby needs Jones for hers to work properly. But, Jones wants nothing more to do with the Badlands. He would be more than happy with his new ordinary life as Ed if only he could rid himself of the magic that refuses to leave him in peace. For Thomas Gabriel, the clock is ticking, so when Ruby uncovers a way the three might have their magic fixed, Jones returns to the Badlands. With danger surrounding them, can they finally become the people they want to be before time runs out? The constant menace that surged through the first book is heightened as J R Wallis creates another spellbinding story of friendship, courage and standing up for what you believe in. Supernatural beings, powerful enemies and dark magic had me on the edge of my seat as every turn of the page drew me further into the dangerous world at the edge of our own. Ruby was the stand out character for me, fighting for her right to be a 'Badlander', despite being a girl. Her determination to live the life she wants shines through the courage of her actions without ever forgetting the needs of her friends. Her resolve to be the best Badlander she can be and to prove that girls deserve the same rights as boys, with the ultimate aim of getting the High Council to change the 'Ordnung' resonates with real life, and could be linked in the classroom to both the suffragette movement and Malaya Yousafzai's fight for girls' right to education. Great for fans of Lockwood & Co, The Dreamsnatcher and The Power Of Dark. I can't wait to get The Black Amulet into school, but only for Year 6! 336 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Nicki Cleveland, HLTA and librarian

The Black Amulet
Splash
Charli Howard

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9781788001700

This story is about Molly, a year 6 girl, who dreams of becoming a professional swimmer. Molly has a chance to compete in a regional swimming competition but her confidence is rocked after her 'best friend' Chloe says unkind things to her about her body shape. Alongside this, Molly also has to deal with the unexpected return of her estranged mother, who had left when she was small, but is she the mother that Molly yearns for? The story explores themes of friendship, family, bullying, body image insecurity and the journey to build your own self esteem and confidence. The author has tuned in perfectly to what it is to be an 11 year old girl. Reading the book took me back to similar feelings, situations and relationships with friends which I had experienced at the same age. For me, the book is also reminiscent of what I was reading at age 11. I feel there are similarities with Judy Blume, in terms of the book having a similar style, believable, relatable characters and the first person voice of the main character becoming more in touch and gaining a better understanding of her feelings and emotions. Splash would be perfect for children aged 11+. I have a particular group of year 6 girls in my school who I know would love this book. I wish I had discovered it prior to our school curriculum week on 'Celebrating Difference', as it would have contributed to great book and PSHE discussions. I really enjoyed this book and will be recommending it in our school library. 224 pages / Ages 10/11+ / Reviewed by Leia Sands, teacher.

Splash
A Kid in My Class: Poems by
Rachel Rooney

Otter-Barry Books Ltd

ISBN 9781910959879

What a lovely collaboration between two acclaimed figures in the field of children's literature this is! CLIPPA prize-winner, Rachel Rooney, brings a whole school classroom to life (and I don't just mean its pupils), beautifully complemented by former Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell's witty and sympathetic illustrations. The collection gets off to a flying start (literally - Riddell pictures her on Pegasus) with 'First' (p.10). This is the annoying child who is always first. Enjoy the laugh-out-loud ending: 'Were she a poem, you'd know where to look: / she'd push her way past to the start of the book.//' New arrivals in school in school should be alerted to 'Tips for the New Boy' (p.14): 'On Fridays, we always bring in a box of Gummy Bears / to share with our friends./'. Endings are everything for Rooney, and here there's a challenge for the reader: that incites re-reading 'Don't believe everything you've been told. / Only one of these statements is true.// Everyone is here: the 'Teaching Assistant' (p.80), the 'Substitute Teacher' (p.78) and a 'Job Share' (p.76) which Rooney uses as a powerful vehicle to take a side-swipe at teaching styles: with Mr Rote the days are 'Got it all wrong days. Rotten and long days. / Days when I feel like I'm failing some test. // On the other hand, when Miss Muse takes over these are 'Soar in the sky days. Bursting with pride days. / Being alive days. Those days are best.'//. As well as the many rhyming poems, there are other forms too. Take 'Fidget' (p.26) which takes the form of a kenning: 'Nose fiddler. Desk drummer. / Tune hummer. Pencil twiddler./' Whilst much of the tone is humorous, the anthology is shot through with tenderness and empathy. 'Seeker' (p.32) is a touching, simply expressed poem about the experience of a refugee child: 'Eyes as wide as continents brim with the water between. / Seeks a different further. Looks back on what has been. /. 'Talking Hand's (p.62) is a dialogue between a non-hearing and hearing child: She cups her hand to her ear / as if holding an empty seashell against it. / I say Listen //, whilst 'Inscrutable' (p.50) is about a child is an elective mute. The poems would stand proudly on their own but the addition of Riddell's illustrations adds another rich dimension. Each poem includes a black and white mug-shot of the protagonist (and these also feature on the end-pages). These are expressive, sensitive portraits. Just look at the sideways glance the child in 'Dishonest' (p.74) is giving the reader, or the eye-popping child bursting to answer every question in 'The Questioner' (p.70). Alongside these, there's an illustration, often sprawling across the pages, in subtle shades of blue and grey. Some are realistic (look at the simplicity of the listening shell on p.63) and add a counterpoint to the poem: in 'Tough Kid' (p.57) the illustration has an imposing shadow of dad over the crouched child (even the hamster is cowed). Others feature the fabulous imaginative creatures who characterise so much of Riddell's work. The poor 'Substitute Teacher' (p.78) is confronted by a class of weird, not completely benign creatures - a not very subtle but suitably hilarious reminder of just how scary supply work can be! And then there's the hamster... without offering a spoiler, look out for the class hamster's escape in 'Accident Prone' (p.18) and his appearances thereafter. It is only right and proper that it's the hamster who has the final word: 'The Hamster Speaks' (p.82). 88 pages / Ages 7-11 years / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

A Kid in My Class: Poems by
Across the Divide
Anne Booth

Catnip Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781910611111

In this book the narrator is a young girl called Olivia who lives with her Mum and her paternal grandparents in a military town in England and attends a school where she has close friends from a range of social, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, with different beliefs and opinions, which immediately introduces the reader to the concept and challenges of this. When Olivia wants to join the army cadets at school she argues with her mother who is a peace activist; her mother is then arrested during a peace protest and so Olivia is sent to stay on Lindisfarne with her estranged father for half term. It is here - through flash backs to Olivia's relationships with friends and her new friendship with an old-fashioned boy called William - that readers are actively encouraged to reflect on their own thoughts in relation to peace, conflict and friendship, considering both political and personal perspectives. Through her relationship with William we get a fascinating insight into the concept of conscientious objectors in the First World War from an individual and historical viewpoint; Olivia then makes comparisons to her modern-day situation and the reader is drawn into contrasting the two scenarios with much guidance from Olivia's own thought processes and reflections, which are very mature and thought-provoking. This includes comparing similarities and differences between World War I and more recent world conflicts such as Afghanistan. The aspect of travelling back in time, as Olivia meets with William in 1916, is one that will appeal to young readers as it has the effect of making history come alive and the characters involved will help to create both empathy and interest. The book covers a wide range of themes, many of which relate to growing up and being able to reflect on one's own understanding and actions and the impact these may have on others. This includes building relationships and the need for compromise and negotiation and shows how these skills can be used in the wider world; within this the subject of death is touched upon in a very sensitive manner, which will support the younger reader who may have experience of this. The contrasting settings of Lindisfarne (both past and present) and the military town again encourage the reader to reflect on how emotions and actions may be influenced by situation and time and also the value of having personal time to think. From a classroom perspective, this would make a wonderful class reader to encourage and support discussions for PSHE and one that I would actively encourage children to also read independently. The topics covered and the style of writing, not least reflecting on personal emotions, make this a book which would support young readers in understanding their own development, whilst enjoying the realistic and exciting story line. 305 pages / Ages: 9+ / Reviewed by Salliann Coleman,consultant

Across the Divide