NEW TITLES

Questions around homelessness, resentment and difficult families are explored in this month's selection of reviews by teachers and school librarians, together with stories that will take readers into other worlds - fantasy, dystopian and fairytale settings.

No Fixed Address
Susin Nielsen

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783447213

Susin Nielsen is adept at blending light and dark to create believable, quirky and multi-faceted characters who just need friendship, kindness and understanding to make their lives brighter. No Fixed Address is set in Vancouver and reflects the sad fact that rental units are expensive and scarce as older properties are demolished and inhabitants are pushed to the limits of poverty and despair. Nielsen casts her spotlight on the depression, deprivation and desolation endured by the peripatetic homeless who are without a comfortable refuge, the sofa surfers, those who are forced to live in temporary accommodation and those who find it difficult to stay afloat and keep a job- 'the hidden people who slip between the cracks of society'. Drawing on her experience of being an only child and growing up with a single parent mum, Nielsen imagines what it would be like for a child who didn't have stability like she had, but instead had to cope with 'a deeply flawed parent' and a growing realisation that they were unreliable. When we first meet almost 13 year old multi-ethnic Felix, he is reminiscent of Jamal from 'Q & A' (Slumdog Millionaire), a boy struggling with misfortune who is blessed with an aptitude for absorbing knowledge and relying on a long shot to fix everything. A framing device is also employed as he tells his story to the sympathetic Constable Lee. His family is unconventional and he has spent four months living in a Volkswagen Westfalia van without proper facilities. Felix has learned about the art of lying as practiced by his mother who insists upon him calling her Astrid as 'Mom is too hierarchical'. Their lives have been fragmented by traumatic past events, bad choices and unfortunate relationships. Astrid suffers from the 'slumps' and the reasons why are gradually revealed. Her son's one fear is that if the dreaded MCFD discover his situation and Astrid's erratic behaviour, he will be taken into care so he is desperate to stay under the radar and hide the truth from his friends, joker Dylan who believes in Poltergeists and aspiring journalist know-it-all Winnie who wants to tackle social injustice. Nielsen's expertly crafted plot and setting is evident in her descriptions of life in the van especially as winter sets in and Felix clings to his gerbil for comfort. No Fixed Address encourages empathy by highlighting a universal issue and clarifying that this situation can happen to anyone. Consequently young readers are taught that the homeless need help and support, not discrimination and judgement. 288 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Tanja Jennings, school librarian.

No Fixed Address
Murder At Twilight
Fleur Hitchcock

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9781788000628

Seemingly worlds apart, Noah and Viv live alongside one another in an atmosphere of dislike and resentment. Noah is rich, spoiled and loves nothing better than to put Viv in her place. When Noah mysteriously disappears, Viv is momentarily delighted, until her mum comes under suspicion and Viv realises that she must find Noah no matter how much she has grown to despise him. With a storm raging and all of nature conspiring against her, Viv is determined to bring Noah safely home. Confident readers of 9+ will be gripped by this action-packed tale. As the quest to find Noah and to clear her Mum's name becomes more and more urgent, the reader feels swept along by the rising waters of the rivers and the peril in which Viv finds herself is one that the reader experiences with every turn of the page. Fleur Hitchcock doesn't sugar-coat the reality of crime. There are no scenes of unduly graphic violence, but the author is prepared to pack a punch! There is adventure, excitement peril and surprise to be uncovered as well as an honest look at he volatility of friendship and the power of love, and indeed, greed. A really enjoyable, fast moving story for lovers of adventure who perhaps want to dip their toes into something slightly more gritty. 256 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jo Clarke, school librarian.

Murder At Twilight
The Way Past Winter
Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781911077930

This story sparkles like sunlight on freshly fallen snow. It will transport you to a forested land of never-ending winter where Mila and her sisters, having already lost their parents, wake to discover that their brother Oskar has vanished. Before long it becomes apparent that he is far from the only boy to have disappeared . Mila is convinced that their disappearance has something to do with the mysterious and strangely terrifying stranger that called at their home in the dead of night. The adventure that follows will sweep you up like an arctic blizzard and will hold you in its icy grasp until the very last page. The language is beautifully lyrical, the characters are compelling and the setting wildly magical. I devoured this one in a single joyous sitting and the only thing that would have made it more perfect would have been to have read it, not on a blustery autumn day, but in the depths of winter beside a crackling fire. And if this review has not yet convinced you to read it, then I urge you to hold this book in your hands for it truly is a thing of beauty. From the wonderfully Nordic style cover and endpapers by Helen Crawford-White to the ribbon page marker and short chapters with plenty of white space on the page (something many of my readers particularly appreciate), it will be the answer to many a Christmas shopper's prayers. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Father Christmas himself had put in a bulk order. 256 pages / Recommended for ages 9-13 / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian

The Way Past Winter
Seaglass
Eloise Williams

Firefly Press Ltd

ISBN 9781910080801

Lark is 13, and her life is difficult. Her mother is ill, her sister, Snow, has stopped talking and her best friend has a boyfriend, so she and Lark are no longer close. Lark is troubled, and struggles to contain her anger at times. Lark and her family come to a caravan park on the Welsh coast for a break. While exploring, Lark and Snow discover a ruined house. In this eerie, creepy place, Snow finds an old doll buried in the ruins and takes it back to the caravan. Events take a sinister turn when Lark thinks she sees a little girl dressed in green. Snow sees her too, and becomes fascinated with her. But the mysterious girl is lonely and desperately wants a friend; Lark quickly realises that her little sister is in danger. This is a beautifully written ghost story, creepy enough to give you a chill, but not too terrifying for younger readers. The characters are intriguing - I loved feisty Lark, trying to sort out her own confused feelings while watching out for her family. Even though Snow does not talk for the first part of the story, the author still manages to make the reader care about what happens to her. I also loved the way the girls' grandmother (Mam-gu) becomes an integral part of the tale, linking the past and the present. The writing is very atmospheric, the descriptions of the foggy beach and the dark woodland are the perfect backdrop to this accomplished book. The ending is both exciting and very moving; even though the ghost seems to be threatening the children, the author still makes us feel sympathy for her plight. All in all, I loved this book. I have been reading it in school, and I now have a small group of pupils who were attracted to the beautiful cover, and asked questions about the story. They are now waiting eagerly to read it too! 280 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Beverley Somerset, school librarian.

Seaglass
Poems from the First World War: Published in Association with Imperial War Museums
Gaby Morgan

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781447248644

A poignant collection of poems written by those who endured the horrors of World War 1, this book shares the thoughts and feelings of solders and nurses as well as the friends and families they left behind. It covers early moments of excitement and patriotism as well as the disillusionment and heartbreak experienced as the war wreaked havoc and tragedy worldwide. There are plenty of well-known poems included in the selection. John McCrae's 'In Flanders Fields', Brooke's 'The Soldier' and Kipling's 'My Boy Jack' amongst others make this a go-to collection when seeking out those often quoted works. Poems by Wilfred Owen - familiar to many - capture the hopelessness and desperation of the events, sights and sounds of the conflict, provoking a great sense of empathy in the reader; 'Futility' is (for me at least) one of the most moving poems ever written. Alongside these are poems by others, including some lesser known poets,whose voices also deserve to be heard. Women poets are also represented. 'The Deserter' by Winifred Letts, for example, is deeply compassionate and moving, speaking against the wicked treatment of those trying to escape the horrors around them. Moving and powerful, Poems from the First World War is a thoughtfully composed collection. 208 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Poems from the First World War: Published in Association with Imperial War Museums
Poems to Live Your Life By
Chris Riddell

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509814374

The arrival of any book from the hand of former Children's Laureate Chris Riddell is a cause for excitement and joy for both myself and my pupils, and this illustrated selection of poetry most certainly did not disappoint. Firstly, it is a thing of beauty to hold in your hands, a sumptuous purple hardback with heavy cream paper that would make a delightful gift; (note to self re Christmas shopping). Secondly, this is no standard anthology. It feels far more personal than that. The poems that are presented are favourites of Chris's which he has gathered together under the headings of Musings, Youth, Family, Love, Imaginings, Nature, War and Endings. There is a sense of progression as we journey through life in this volume, with a wonderful contrast between the poems that deal with the big issues of life like love, death and parenthood and those that carry us away to an altogether more otherworldly plain. This blend of fantasy and reality works tremendously well, I felt. Thirdly, and perhaps most striking of all in this volume, is the fusion of poem and illustration. You scarcely know where the poem ends and the drawing begins as Riddell brings the words to life with his inimitable style of illustration, the images enveloping the text. Often, the poets themselves make an appearance in the drawings too. The poems that Chris has chosen are a beautifully eclectic mix of the traditional (Byron, Yeats, Keats, Tennyson, Dickinson and Shakespeare for example) and modern (Jackie Kay, Kate Tempest and Carol Ann Duffy), with some delightful surprises thrown in. I was not expecting to find song lyrics by Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave or Phoebe Bridgers but this collection is all the richer for this sense of diversity and modernity. Poems To Live Your Life By is a real delight and, unlike other heftier collections that one might dip into, it is one to cosy up with and enjoy from cover to cover. Riddell fans, you are in for a real treat! 198 pages / Recommended for ages 10+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian

Poems to Live Your Life By
Secrets of a Sun King
Emma Carroll

Faber & Faber

ISBN 9780571328499

I was lucky enough to review Emma Carroll's first book, Frost Hollow Hall, in 2013, which was a very good debut and was delighted to find that this, her seventh book, does not disappoint. The story of the boy King Tutankamun whose tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922, has always fascinated and this story is cleverly woven around that event. Lil finds a parcel on her Grandad's doorstep after he has been taken to hospital. He has mentioned to her that he and a colleague made a mistake some years ago and when she opens the parcel she thinks she has found the subject of this error of judgement. Inside is a jar which she cannot initially open. Her new friends, Oz and Tulip, have a journalist mother who is desperate to travel to Egypt to cover the story of the discovery of the tomb of the boy King, and together the children find a way to travel to Egypt with her, to return the jar and its contents to its rightful place. When the jar is finally opened, inside is the story of the boy King and how he came to die, and this story runs in parallel with Lily's journey. Cleverly the author sticks to the facts that are known about Tutankamun, and tells the reader at the end of the story which parts are fiction. The life of two very different families in 1922 is made very clear, with Lil a scholarship girl, and Tulip the girl who will not go to school, pairing together to deliver the jar to its rightful home and becoming fast friends in the process. Lil cares deeply for her granddad, and Tulip and Oz are mourning for the brother they believe has died in the Great War. There are some details of the embalming process which might need skipping for the squeamish (!), but the details of the travel, the excitement and the belief that Lil was doing the right thing all makes for a very good read, and should send many children to the nearest museum to see a real mummy! I know that a map is easily accessible through technology these days, but a story that involves travel always benefits from one in the text. 304 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, school librarian

Secrets of a Sun King
The Boneless Mercies
April Tucholke

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471170003

Boneless Mercies: nomadic women earning their living performing mercy killings - ending the suffering of the elderly, ill and wounded. As women with weapons, the Mercies are distrusted by their society, yet they do work that men won't - killing without prestige. One group of Mercies have grown tired of their way of life and hunger for glory and riches. Ovie, Runa, Juniper and Frey (the group's leader and the story's narrator) - hear about a monster terrorising a nearby kingdom, and of the reward for killing it. The promise of fame and fortune seems like an answer to their prayers. But at what cost? The Boneless Mercies is an atmospheric fantasy novel, heavily inspired by Anglo-Saxon and Norse mythology, culture and folklore, and is a loose retelling of Beowulf. It features an array of interesting female characters (the story's main heroes and villains are all women or girls) and I appreciated the strong platonic male-female friendships - you don't come across this often in YA (don't worry, there is romance too!). One real strong point of the book is the relationships between the various characters. The book starts quite slowly, and it took me a while to get into it, but by the second half of the book I was hooked - the action cranks up significantly at the end of the first part and doesn't let up until the end (except for a few 'calm before the storm' moments). This is a book for older readers, but could be great to use in English classes that are looking at Beowulf. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to fantasy readers - especially fans of authors like Sarah J Maas. The Boneless Mercies is an engaging, atmospheric fantasy adventure with great world building, engaging characters and a satisfying conclusion. 352 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Daniel Katz, school librarian.

The Boneless Mercies
Rosie Loves Jack
Mel Darbon

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474937832

Rosie isn't Rosie without Jack. And she's determined to follow him to Brighton so they can be together again. Travelling alone isn't so easy for Rosie as she has Downs Syndrome and when the weather shuts down the train lines, the people she meets, and events, soon take a turn for the worse. Rosie is an extremely likeable character who could teach us all to be more caring, determined and adventurous. Although Rosie meets some truly unsavoury characters, there are also some diamonds along the way who help her with her quest and bring joy when she is feeling low. I must admit to tense moments as I willed Rosie to get to safety, and her Jack. Overriding everything is the sense of love that Rosie and Jack feel for one another, without them really spending any significant time on the pages together. This book should be on the reading list for all teens to ensure empathy and understanding of the difficulties but also the amazing personalities of people dealing with learning difficulties and disabilities. It would also prove to them that love and life are things that are really no different no matter who you are. Due to the later content and subject matter I would recommend this for older readers. 352 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian

Rosie Loves Jack
KILLER T
Robert Muchamore

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471407178

Since moving from London to Las Vegas, Harry Smirnov has been struggling to settle in to his new life. When a bomb goes off in his school, the 14 year old rushes towards the carnage, inspired by his late mother's journalism. He films horrific scenes and his footage goes viral. Meanwhile 13 year old Charlie - a science geek with a penchant for explosives and a rough home life - is be being framed for the devastation, and Harry is the only one who believes her. Their friendship develops and evolves over the eight years of the story, as the world falls apart around them. As gene-editing technology becomes more common and more affordable, people start improving themselves - darker skin, bigger muscles, better memory. At the same time, genetic terrorists are creating and releasing killer viruses - each more deadly than the last. The viruses spread around the world, leaving populations devastated and societies on the brink of collapse. Charlie and Harry find themselves struggling to do the right things in a world gone to hell. Killer T is a stand-alone epic near-future science fiction dystopian romance thriller spanning eight years, from the creator of the hugely popular Cherub series. The book has an explosive start - literally - and rarely lets up on the high-octane thrills, while the characters are likable (mostly - I did have a few moments with Harry!) and believable. The science fiction elements are thought-provoking and disquieting, the collapsing world feels real and visceral, and there are some truly shocking moments in the novel. I did find the writing style a little simplistic for my tastes - it veered more towards 'telling' rather than 'showing' - but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Killer T. The book is definitely one for older kids (there is plenty of sex, drugs and violence), but it would be a good title to use in Dystopia classes. Readers who enjoy thrillers, sci-fi and dystopias will find a lot to like in Killer T. 461 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Dan Katz, school librarian.

KILLER T
The Light Between Worlds
Laura Weymouth

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781911490036

The Light Between Worlds is a fantasy story about two sisters. Evie, whose heart firmly belongs in the Woodlands, and Philippa who is happiest in the 'normal' world. After an amazing adventure in the Woodlands where they live for five years with creatures and people from myths and legends, the sisters have to return to the real world and find that they must be ordinary once again. Unable to speak about what has happened leaves them feeling out of place, especially Evie, who wanted to stay behind. Philippa puts the past behind her and moves on until one day when she gets a call to tell her that Evie has gone missing... Alongside the author, one of my favourite childhood books was the Tales of Narnia series. As I began to read this book I couldn't fail to see some similarities. I found that I really enjoyed the story and got involved with the characters. The book in its own right is a haunting and unforgettable tale of finding your own place in the world. It is a story about the bond/relationship between sisters, and dealing with loss, grief, and guilt. The story contains depictions of depression, self harm and eating disorders. These issues are not dwelt upon or done in great depth, although I believe in the final copy of the book there will be a warning of this content so take care who you share it with. The book is aimed at 14+ readers, but I feel that mature, well read younger readers would also appreciate the story. The Light Between Worlds would also be good for book clubs as there are quite a few discussion points that can be raised. A lovely addition at the back of the book is a list of the poetry and paintings used in the order they appear, I really liked this touch. The author, Laura Weymouth enchants you with the Woodlands and makes you never want to leave. It is heart-wrenching and beautiful and definitely worth a read. 416 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

The Light Between Worlds
Two Dark Reigns
Kendare Blake

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509876495

Two Dark Reigns is book three in the amazing One Dark Throne series. I'm not sure how the author, Kendare Blake, puts this fantasy world together with all the twists and turns, until the very last page that leaves you wanting more. The story picks up with Katherine now the Queen of Fennbrin. Her two sisters, Arsinoe and Mirabella, are in exile on the Mainland after escaping the island. However, things are not running smoothly for Katherine. After she climbs back out of the Breccia Domain, she is possessed with the spirits of past dead Queens that cause her to do unspeakable things. She has developed her relationship with Pietyr (very trusting as he pushed her into the domain in the first place!) and is becoming a more dark and sinister character, who I feel quite sorry for. Arsinoe is slowly developing her relationship with Billy on the mainland, but this is hindered with her insistence of keeping secrets, not just from Billy but Mirabella and by his mum, who constantly wants to marry him off to a wealthy young woman. Arsinoe keeps having disturbingly realistic dreams that cause these three to travel back to the island to unravel the meanings behind them. In this third book we get a mini history lesson of the island's dark past, which creates a new dynamic and develops the reader's understanding of why things are the way they are. Meanwhile, Jules, who went back to the island at the end of book 2, has been in hiding and is coming to terms with the fact that she has the Legion Curse and is put forward as the leader of a rebellion against Katherine. Jules has been told by the Oracles that she is the Legion Queen, and now is the time for change on Fennbrin. I haven't forgotten Mirabella, she takes centre stage towards the end of the book and without spoiling to much for you, will possibly dominate book 4. This fantasy story keeps expanding and developing for the better, it's a Game Of Thrones for YA!! A little warning... the book once again contains violence, mild gore and death alongside some magic, island history, trust, loyalty and a little romance. I'm really enjoying this series and I'm once again looking forward to book 4. My only gripe is the cast of thousands! There are so many characters to keep track of that for the less confident reader it could become quite confusing. The author has even added a few dead characters to the list in this book! However, before the opening pages of the story there is a list of the 'Queens houses' and the people that are loyal to them, which helps a little, together with a map. I love a map in a fantasy book. 464 absorbing fantasy pages for the 14+ confident reader, due to the complex character list and long chapters. I love the way this series is written. It always takes me a few pages to get into the story, but once I'm there it's a pacy and gripping read. There's always something happening. 464 Pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Two Dark Reigns
Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes?
Holly Bourne

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474933612

Holly Bourne has triumphed again. Olive's narrative is so simple, so real, so painful and raw. From the start, from page 1, we feel her mania; it's truly impressive how the writing draws you along, throughout you're skillfully soaring and plummeting with Olive as she struggles to catch hold of herself. You the reader, race with Olive's narrative as her mind races, you understand how she rationalises a situation, you walk through to her conclusions and you will her with every inch of yourself not to act as she does, to see the reason you see... but you're not driving the train - you are just a passenger. The author has mastered the voice of Olive, the voice of a teen succumbing to a manic episode, and as painful as it is at times, it's an incredible journey. There is clear understanding and empathy from Holly Bourne as she delicately deals with an indelicate topic. Mental health, depression, mania, suicide are all issues that are raised openly and honestly. Following Olive's first manic episode, she is offered a place at Camp Reset, a new residential facility, 'the country's first teen residential camp for brain wellness.' From there we explore friendships and importantly, kindness. Convinced that kindness is the key, it becomes the focus for Olive as she tries to reset. Holly Bourne is a talented writer and this is a cracking book dealing with mental health. 400 pages / Ages 14/15+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell, school librarian.

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes?