NEW TITLES

This month's selection of reviews for 7-11 years includes a range of fiction that helps children consider difficult issues including climate change, illness and bereavement.

The Skies Above My Eyes
Charlotte Guillain

words & pictures

ISBN 9781910277683

A beautifully illustrated book with an unusual layout. This book has a pull out page which keeps on extending! It starts on the Earth and moves upwards through the atmosphere. As it moves up through the sky, there are beautiful pictures of what you may find, along with interesting facts. This is a really useful book to allow children to think about what could be above them and it will make them realise just how far the skies really do stretch! Included in the pictures and facts are different forms of transport including hang-gliders, fighter jets and helicopters. There are also lots of different animals before it explores the different layers of the atmosphere. The book travels through the solar system and out to the galaxies beyond before returning back down to Earth. The facts are small snippets of information so it won't overload children but it will hopefully inspire them to go and find out more! I would recommend this book as a great addition to any classroom or story collection at home to power inquisitive minds! 20 pages / Ages 7 + / Reviewed by Lucy Newton, teacher

The Skies Above My Eyes
The Restless Girls
Jessie Burton

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408886915

The Restless Girls is a stunning re-imagining of the classic fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses, with a theme of resilient and resourceful young women taking charge of their own destinies. In the kingdom of Kalia, the 12 princesses follow the example of their bold and beautiful mother, developing their interests and ambitions. Each has a special talent, from music to maths and science. When Queen Laurelia dies in a motor car accident, her daughters are bereft and their father the king is overcome with grief. The palace is shrouded in black hangings and all the girls' activities are stopped, one by one. He vows to keep them safe at all costs. The price of safety means the cessation of their lessons, the removal of their possessions, and eventually, their freedom. Locked into a room containing only twelve beds and a portrait of their mother, allowed out only for an hour a day, the girls are driven close to despair. But Frida, the eldest, is determined that this will not be their fate. The discovery of a secret staircase and a magical world where they can dance the night away begins their journey back to freedom. During this they must use all their skills and ingenuity, led by Frida's courage and imagination. Glowing, jewel-toned illustrations accompany a lyrical text, recommended for restless girls of all ages 160 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, school librarian.

The Restless Girls
The Night I Met Father Christmas
Ben Miller

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471171536

Jackson is worried. His friend has expressed doubts about the existence of Father Christmas. Now Jackson is not worried that Father Christmas might not exist (he is firmly convinced that he does) but he is worried about the practicalities of present delivery, chimney negotiation and why Father Christmas does what he does. So, on Christmas Eve, Jackson stays awake and, sure enough, who should arrive, chaotically and noisily, but Father Christmas. In his surprise at seeing Jackson, however, Father Christmas twists his ankle and therefore enlists Jackson's help in delivering presents throughout the world. In exchange, he promises to tell Jackson the story of how he became Father Christmas as they fly around the world. There follows a tale of sadness, misunderstanding, pride and redemption as Torvil Christmas recounts his story and his meetings with a reindeer showing him his past, a fir tree showing him his present, and a giant snowman showing his future. The parallels with Dickens's A Christmas Carol are quite clear throughout this book; Torvil even has one solitary, over-worked and much abused employee with a sick child. Older readers will, therefore, be very familiar with the moral of the story but this text may be more accessible to younger readers, updated as it is to current times, than the Dickens' original. The chapters of the story are reasonably short, weaving between Torvil Christmas's tale and the progress of Jackson and the sleigh around the world. There are beautiful black and white illustrations scattered throughout the book, providing natural breaks for discussion - this feels very much like a bedtime read throughout the build up to Christmas, to be enjoyed by both adult and child. Though not a funny book, there are flashes of humour, particularly from Rudolph, who clearly has a problem in accepting instructions from an authority figure. The conversations with Jackson, as Torvil recounts his story, also serve to provide plausible explanations of how presents are delivered all around the world by one man in such a short space of time and also why he does it in secret, expecting no thanks. This is such a heart-warming story, both despite and because of its familiarity, beautifully told and illustrated, that it is bound to be popular with young readers and their parents. 304 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

The Night I Met Father Christmas
There's A Yeti In The Playground!
Pamela Butchart

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9781788001168

The arrival of any book by Pamela Butchart is always greeted by a great deal of squealing and general excitement by our Year 3 and Year 4 pupils and I fully anticipate that There's A Yeti In The Playground will have the same magical effect! In this latest adventure, Izzy and her friends Jodi, Maisie and Zach have to summon all their courage and work closely as a team in order to protect their school and their friends from the apparent arrival of a marauding hungry Yeti who has arrived on school grounds during a winter blizzard. As ever, the gang use every ounce of ingenuity they have (together of course with Jodi's legendary survival skills} to evade danger and there are certainly monster-sized quantities of laughs along the way! Our readers are hooked on Pamela's distinctive narrative style, perhaps in part because Izzy's voice as the narrator so convincingly echoes the way in which a child might recount a tale of adventure and danger. I love the trademark layout, font and design, with important words capitalised for emphasis and often underlined and surrounded by bubbles or stars. Widely spaced lines with abundant white space mean that Pamela's stories are perfect for struggling readers who find them visually very accessible. Highly recommended and I look forward to the next Izzy adventure! 274 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian

There's A Yeti In The Playground!
The Girl, the Cat and the Navigator
Matilda Woods

Scholastic

ISBN 9781407184906

Oh wow! I loved this book. The language is absolutely beautiful; there were sentences that I read again and again just to savour how delicious they were. When Oona is born, she is a great disappointment to her father and mother and is therefore neglected, being considered to be no more than a stupid, worthless girl. But Oona is far from stupid; she is determined, she is wise and she is brave. It is her heart's desire to set sail and to be loved. The story weaves tantalisingly between several tales - that of Oona; her loathsome sisters; Freyda the not-so-accurate fortune teller and the gentle, kind Haroyld. Whilst Oona does all she can to impress her father and to be liked, if not loved by him, she learns many valuable lessons. She sails to the North and proves herself to be as good as any boy but is she ever good enough to earn the love of her father? Oona's desperate need to be valued is so poignant, it makes the reader's heart ache. She learns important lessons on her journey, not just how to survive at sea and how to navigate by the stars but also about believing in who you are and valuing yourself. The theme of the story could be considered to be journeys; Oona journeys to the North in search of mythical Nardoos; her mother and sister journey South in search of husbands and wealth, and the fortune teller travels here and there in search of fame and fortune. As well as physical journeys, there are life journeys to learn about; Oona discovers the power of love and belief, her sisters learn a lesson about greed, and the fortune teller realises that the future is not as predictable as she may have thought. In addition, there is of course, the eponymous Navigator and the cat. Their stories are perhaps the most heart warming of all. This is a book that I would recommend to teachers as a Reading For Pleasure book, just for the sheer delight of sharing. I would recommend it for confident readers of 7+. I would recommend it to ...anyone. A gorgeous book that will touch your heart for so many reasons. Enjoy! 320 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Jo Clarke

The Girl, the Cat and the Navigator
Embassy of the Dead: Book 1
Will Mabbitt

Orion Children's Books

ISBN 9781510104556

Due to a case of mistaken identity (and really bad timing), schoolboy Jake Green has possession of a peculiar box (that he definitely shouldn't have), passed to him by a mysterious undertaker named Stiffkey. Curious, Jake decides to open the box and upon discovering a severed finger, suddenly lands himself in a world of trouble. Chased by the deadliest of grim reapers, hunted by the henchman of a villain trying to release the ultimate evil, all while trying to find the elusive Embassy of the Dead and clear up this life-threatening misunderstanding, Jake really has his hands full! Luckily Jake has some help in the form of a ragtag group of ghosts and the living but will any of them make it out alive (or at the very least, undead? Embassy of the Dead is the first in a new series by Will Mabbitt but is just as fast-paced and thrilling as a stand-alone novel. The characters are fascinating and well-rounded, the world of the Embassy is vast and intriguing, and Chris Mould's illustrations beautifully complement Will Mabbitt's spooky and humorous adventure. This is an excellent read for those aged 8+ who like a bit of horror in their lives. Highly recommended all year round but especially at Halloween. I can't wait for the next instalment! 297 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Rhiannon Cook, school librarian.

Embassy of the Dead: Book 1
A Dangerous Game
Malorie Blackman

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781128237

A touching story about long term illness and the effects it can have on all those around. This story tells the tale of Sam, a young boy who has a long term illness - Sickle Cell Anaemia - who desperately just wants to be treated like everyone else around him. Sam is treated poorly by his classmates who don't understand Sam's condition and believe him to just be lazy and slow. Coming up is the big School residential and Sam is desperate to go, but his parents refuse, knowing he could have an attack whilst under stress. Eventually, Sam persuades his parents to let him go and Sam is thrilled to be treated like a 'normal' child. However, due to the bullying of his classmates, things soon go wrong and Sam is left having his worst ever Sickle Cell attack with no one around to help him. This story is really heart warming as readers will empathise with Sam and the trials he must face in day to day life. His character is sweet and author Malorie Blackman has clearly researched this medical condition. This tale opens up a positive dialogue with young people about the medical condition and its symptoms, which aren't necessarily visible on the surface. It teaches young people to be kind and thoughtful to everyone, as you never really know what is going on in someone's life. A Dangerous Game is a delightful tale and I challenge you not to fall in love with Sam. Malorie Blackman is a talented and engaging author as she develops her narrative and unfolds a story of pain, youth and the desire to be 'normal'. Barrington Stoke publish their short stories on thick paper, larger font and lightly-coloured paper in order to support more reluctant or dyslexic readers. This novel is recommended for ages 8+. 80 pages / Ages 8+ years / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

A Dangerous Game
A Darkness of Dragons
S. A. Patrick

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474945677

Patch Bridgewater has fled Tiviscan Castle, the home of the Pipers' Council. After absconding in disgrace and failing to complete his training as a piper, he has to eke out a living with travelling musicians, never staying too long in one place. Patch is ashamed, Pipers are revered for their ability to use music to aid communities, but his future is now uncertain. Following the devastating case of the Piper of Hamelyn, communities now summoned pipers when in need and when an abandoned Patch stumbles into just such a community, they think their prayers have been answered. But with his training incomplete, Patch inadvertently puts the village in danger and draws of the attention of the Custodian Elite. In a world where an uneasy truce exists between the humans and dragons, Patch's actions set into motion an unstoppable chain of events. This is a wonderful fantasy adventure. Patch is a brilliant flawed hero and is ably assisted by the cursed rat Wren, and Barver, a fearsome Dracogriff. Attempting to solve the mystery of the Piper of Hamelyn, they encounter sorcerers, heroes and bloodthirsty brigands. The mystery is well-maintained and as the reader you are never quite sure who can be trusted. This is a lively and clever expansion of the Pied Piper tale and with several loose ends still to be tied-up, I am eagerly anticipating the sequel! 393 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by: Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

A Darkness of Dragons
The Afterwards
A.F. Harrold

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408894316

This is, as I fully expected it to be, a very special story. It tackles the tricky and complex issue of loss and bereavement from a child's perspective, but we are in safe hands with AF Harrold and Emily Gravett. That is not to say that it is in any way simplistic, patronising or even rosily reassuring. It is a story that is powerfully told, one that provokes almost as many questions as it answers; peppered with dark humour whilst offering a stark picture of loss, with real humanity and warmth at its heart. Ember (December) and Ness (Happiness) are inseparable. As best friends, they do everything together. That is, until a tragic accident leads to Ness's sudden death. Ember's grief for Ness is beautifully and savagely described. Suddenly, however, a strange turn of events leads to Ember stumbling upon the starkly monochrome and bleak Afterworld. Ember is determined to do whatever it takes bring her friend back home again, but things are not quite as straightforward as they seem. Emily Gravett's beautiful yet eerie illustrations really help to transport the reader into this strange afterlife experience. A real highlight for me is the charming and yet totally believable relationship between Ember and her father, Harry. Harrold's characters, as ever, grab your heart yet without a trace of saccharine sweetness. You feel like you could reach out and touch them. This book is a real thing of beauty and belongs in all school libraries. Highly recommended! 199 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian

The Afterwards
Alastair Humphreys' Great Adventurers
Alastair Humphreys

Big Picture Press

ISBN 9781783708413

Now this is a handsome package! The brightly coloured, embossed cover just invites you to turn the pages - it reminded me, with the font, of a retro comic cover, so it will have plenty of appeal to a range of readers. This book includes a range of 'great adventurers', hand picked by a living, modern day adventurer Alastair Humphreys, the author - a National Geographic Adventurer. What I loved about this book is the number of explorers, male and female, whom I had never come across before so this book is a great starting point for children looking to find out about some unusual individuals for their 'Heroes' projects. This is also a very inspiring collection of adventurers - from Ibn Battuta who is an explorer from the 14th century, right up to Sarah Outen - who spent four years travelling around the world - and astronaut Michael Collins from the Apollo Moon mission. Their missions are explored in small bites of text with generous diagrams, illustrations, maps and even some comic sections, so this will be very appealing to many reluctant readers as well as avid adventurers! For each adventurer, we find out why they inspired Kevin Ward, which makes it a personal and distinctive read, with 'lessons' extracted from each adventurers' failures as well as their successes, to hopefully help inspire a new generation of young adventurers! If I have one quibble, it's the absence of dates telling us when these adventurers lived and when their journeys took place - but equally, this might help inspire children to continue their exploration online. This aside, it's a fun, interesting and absorbing book that will attract a range of readers. 96 pages / Ages 9-12 years / Reviewed by Anna McCabe.

Alastair Humphreys' Great Adventurers
Warrior Boy
Virginia Clay

Chicken House

ISBN 9781911490371

Warrior boy is powerful, moving and addictive. London teenager Ben accompanies his mother, a documentary film-maker, on a trip to Kenya. She is filming a documentary about elephant poaching and Ben travels with her to meet his Kenyan family for the first time. He is anxious that he won't be able to overcome his fears or live up to the memory of his father, a great Maasai warrior. Ben feels relieved when his cousin, Kip, seems to share some of his challenges and they strike up a close relationship whilst tackling challenges set by their grandfather to prove they are the next generation of Maasai warriors. This is a powerful story that deals with many important issues: loss, identity, belonging, anxiety and friendship. The description of the Maasai Mara's stunning landscape will transport you there and make you desperate to visit! It sensitively deals with the issue of elephant poaching and the very real problem that our world's great animals face. This book has endless potential in the classroom and for families to share; raising awareness of important issues for further discussion. This book will stay with you. Recommended. 256 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Elizabeth Harris, teacher.

Warrior Boy
Race to the Frozen North: The Matthew Henson Story
Catherine Johnson

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781128404

Original and inspiring, this short historical story will capture your heart; it's a real page turner. Race to the Frozen North tells the tale of Matthew Henson - a young black child - who runs away from his violent stepmother and ends up becoming the first man to reach the North Pole. Matthew is young, sweet and enthusiastic. He finds work in a little cafe and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of travelling the world on a boat. Soon he finds work with a wonderful sea Captain who teaches Matthew to read, write and how to run a ship. Before long. Matthew meets Commander Peary who asks Matthew to accompany him on a treacherous excursion to be the first men to reach the North Pole. After many trials, will they be the first to reach the North Pole? Matthew is a true and honest character who is an absolute delight to read from start to finish. It is based loosely on the historical tale of the real Matthew Henson - the first man to reach the North Pole - but whose story was kept suppressed because of the colour of his skin. This story opens a positive dialogue with young people about racism, prejudice and discrimination. There are plenty of opportunities to discuss how Matthew is treated by others around him and also the context of the time period. Personally, I was found myself really routing for Matthew throughout the story; I wanted him to be succeed. The narrative is delightfully engaging and educational; a historical tale I wasn't familiar with, so found fascinating to read. Barrington Stoke publish their short stories on thick paper, bigger font and lightly-coloured paper in order to make their novels more accessible to young readers and to help reluctant and dyslexic readers unlock a love of reading. This is a true success for Catherine Johnson with another successful historical fiction text. 96 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

Race to the Frozen North: The Matthew Henson Story
Absolutely Everything!: A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention
Christopher Lloyd

What on Earth Books

ISBN 9781999802820

Absolutely Everything! A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Robots, Rulers and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention...is a great book for any child or adult who asks themselves lots of questions about all of those subjects and others. Did you know that approximately 1,000 cities and settlements were found in the Indus Valley? Are there 20,000 different types of bees in existence today? Did you know one of he biggest Viking settlements in Europe was near Rouen? There are so many different topics covered in this book that you can find out the answers to these questions and lots more! This book is a wealth of information. I liked the foreword which explained why the author decided to write the book. The information is logically organised in chronological order. The style of writing is conversational and easy to understand. I like the mix of photographs and illustrations which are colourful. Each section has a time line which I found useful. My favourite part described how civilisation began. There are many links to the KS2 history curriculum: Pyramids in Egypt, The Shang Dynasty, Ancient Greece, The Mayans and so much more. I really enjoyed this book and think anyone who is curious, loves history and learning will thoroughly love this book. 336 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Keranjit Kaur, teacher.

Absolutely Everything!: A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention
Snowglobe
Amy Wilson

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509885800

Snowglobe is a gloriously spellbinding fantasy adventure that shimmers and dances just like the contents of a festive snowglobe. Twelve year-old Clem knows that she is different. School is a daily ordeal as she struggles to control the bursts of mysterious magic that she finds herself producing on the frequent occasions when other students torment or threaten her. Then, when things look bleakest, she stumbles upon a magical house that is filled with strange snowglobes, and so begins her adventure which will challenge her in ways that she would never have thought possible. With a truly original idea at its heart, this is a tale of friendship, courage and hope which held me in its spell right from the off and Clem is a compelling narrator who sweeps the reader up in her magical story. The cover and interior illustrations really add to the appeal. Suffice it to say that a queue is already forming for my school library copy, which barely made it onto my desk before being snapped up by an eager fantasy fan! Highly recommended. 288 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian

Snowglobe