NEW TITLES

This month's selection of reviews for 11+ readers includes a range of non-fiction as well as some great fantasy, fairytales and real life reads.

Planetarium
Raman Prinja

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781787411579

Wow, what a beautiful book! This is the second in the Welcome to the Museum series I have read and they really don't disappoint. The vintage feel of the book really is like wandering around a museum. Each page is like an exhibit with an accompanying illustration. Planetarium is all about space and the universe. 'This book will take you on an intergalactic journey far beyond Earth's boundaries.' Covering everything from telescopes to constellations, star types to galaxy clusters and everything in between. I love the style of writing, it is easy understand and the topics flow easily from one to another. The book is beautifully illustrated with large full page pictures in engraving style drawings. The only issue is that the book is better aimed at older children as the appeal is probably not as wide as some children's non-fiction books. The topics are each touched upon but not always very detailed. A beautiful book that would look lovely on anyone's bookshelves. 95 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Jenni Prestwood, school librarian.

Planetarium
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 Publishing Ltd

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
Spellslinger 4: Soulbinder
Sebastien de Castell

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471406737

Soulbinder is book four of the fantastic Spellslinger series. Each book engages the reader in a journey of deception, magic, betrayal, loyalty and trust that the main character Kellen and his trusted 'business partner' Reichis ( who is a murderous squirrel cat) have to deal with in the search for a cure of the Shadowblack. In Soulbinder, Kellen is now alone (apart from Reichis) and straight from the first page he is in trouble once again, but this time there is no Ferius to come along and save his skin. He has got to think for himself for the first time in this series. On his journey to find the Ebony Abbey, Kellen gets into trouble. He ends up with people that have the Shadowblack, but gets separated from Reichis, and is desperate to find him. Kellen doesn't know who to trust or how to save what he loves the most. Soulbinder is much darker and slightly more violent than the others in the series. Kellen, as he is on his own, has now begun to develop and mature, but still manages to deliver his humorous one liners that constantly get him deeper into trouble. He ventures deeper than ever before into the Shadowblack and starts to understand what his markings mean and how he can use them. I can't say too much more as I will be filling the page with spoilers, but once again the story is so well written that you become totally engrossed in each page. My one gripe was the lack of Reichis, I was so concerned about this character as I could not imagine the books without him. I missed his grouchiness, his demands for butter biscuits and of course his constant threats to eat someone's eyeballs!! Ferius also only comes into the story this time through Kellen's thoughts and memories. I did miss this character but appreciated that it stops Soulbinder being a repeat of the previous books, just hopes she returns before the end of the series. In this part of the adventure some past characters re-emerge and we get introduced to some amazing new ones that I hope will also come up again later in the series. This author just knows how to keep his audience entertained and engaged. 432 well written, engaging pages that are suitable for 12+ readers of all abilities (and the occasional adult!).Would also be great for book clubs or reading aloud to reluctant readers who would like to escape into a world of wizardry and magic. Get a copy and get comfortable, as you will once again enter a rollercoaster of an adventure. 432 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Spellslinger 4: Soulbinder
Tangleweed and Brine
Deirdre Sullivan

Little Island

ISBN 9781912417117

Tangleweed and Brine is a collection of fairy tales but not as most people would recognise them. Retold without the usual happy endings, these stories have a dark and bewitching air with the females taking a lead and following paths quite contrary from the traditional tales. Written almost in staccato prose I must admit it took me a while to get used to the style, but I was soon hooked by the tales and mysterious happenings. Some of the original tales are easier to spot than others but I think readers will love working out which story they relate to and the twists that result in a very different outcome. The females in the stories are strong, determined and decisive, making a pleasant change to the princesses of old. I must add that the book is full of detailed, patterned, black and white ink illustrations that only add to the macabre and mysterious feel of the book. I looked forward to turning a page in the hope of finding the next one and would like more books to be illustrated in this way. 180 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian.

Tangleweed and Brine
Kerb-Stain Boys: The Crongton Broadway Robbery
Alex Wheatle

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781128091

Another novel in the Crongton series from Alex Wheatle, with the likeable but realistic characters and language we have come expect, a pacy story, and gritty setting. This one is published by Barrington Stoke, however, so it is shorter and more accessible, a story perfectly aimed at lower reading ability with a higher age interest level. You would hardly notice though, as the quality is no different from Wheatle's other YA books. The story is told by Briggy, who has problems at home with an unhappy unemployed Dad and Mum working hard to keep the family going. Briggy's friend 'Terror' comes up with a plan, partly to make some much needed money, but more importantly to impress his girlfriend Caldonia. She is a fiercely independent girl, and has the two boys running around to please and impress her; the story of how their plan to rob the local post office develops is all about lads doing something they know deep down is stupid, to impress a girl and not lose face. There is humour in the book, and it is a believable story with an ending that is not too predictable. The characters are well developed and likeable; we can see why they behave as they do, even if we know it can't possibly end well. The setting, in the tough fictional estate of Crongton, is believable and gives the characters some challenges, while never becoming patronising. This is a fantastic new story for fans of the author's Crongton series, and one which I am sure will win over some new, more reluctant, readers. 112 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Carol Williams, school librarian.

Kerb-Stain Boys: The Crongton Broadway Robbery
Dear Evan Hansen
Val Emmich

Penguin Books Ltd

ISBN 9780241361894

Evan Hansen has written a heartfelt private letter to himself - a task set by his therapist to help him deal with his anxieties. But when the letter ends up in the pocket of Connor Murphy - a fellow student who then commits suicide - it is mistaken for a suicide note to a best friend and Evan gets drawn into a white lie to comfort the grieving parents. And the lie helps not only Connor's family, but - thanks to a suicide awareness campaign that goes viral - people all over the world. One lie leads to another, and another... and soon Evan is so swept up by his own stories that he becomes a different person - popular, confident and happy. But how long can he maintain the fiction before the truth comes out and his new world collapses? Dear Evan Hansen - the official novelisation of the hit Broadway (and soon to be West End) musical of the same name - is an emotional read, and an intriguing one. I couldn't predict how Evan would be able to extricate himself from his web of lies, but I found the ending to be mostly satisfying. The story has two narrators - primarily Evan, but there are several short chapters narrated by the ghost of Connor Murphy, which added an interesting perspective on the situation. I found Evan's initial descent into falsehood believable - although some of his later lies did make me yell 'JUST STOP TALKING!' at the book! I also found his romance with Zoe - Connor's sister - lent a slightly creepy side to Evan that left me a little uncomfortable. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to fans of the musical, and to students who enjoy an emotional read. In fact, there is already a long waiting list for this book in my library! 358 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Daniel Katz, school librarian.

Dear Evan Hansen
My Heart Goes Bang
Keris Stainton

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471406829

Ella, Lou, Issey, Liane and Paige are all housemates in their second year at University and determined to have fun and also focus on work in equal measure. No time for relationships at all - or is there? After the discovery of a magazine article 'A list of guys to date before they're 21' - someone with tattoos, a waiter, someone older than you etc they decide to live their lives by this instead, with varying degrees of success. Each character is really likeable and they all gel together really well. Ella and Lou have always been close and always have time for each other, no matter what. Issey and Liane are friends but there's tension there until the very end - will they be more than best friends? And then there's Paige, no-one knows her very well and she's obviously got problems of her own but she is so glad of all her new friends and they are all so totally supportive of her and each other. You totally get the closeness of the group in this witty and heartfelt take on the university years. Being kind seems to be at the core of this thoroughly enjoyable novel. There is some swearing and also some sex scenes (nothing too graphic) but realistically it is what you would expect from the storyline. My Heart Goes Bang is about friends, housemates, lovers and broken hearts with a sprinkling of essays, hangovers, families and money problems. Thoroughly addictive and entertaining with lots of themes that older YA readers would enjoy. 320 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Lucy Georgeson, school librarian.

My Heart Goes Bang
The Hurting
Lucy van Smit

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781911077862

I devoured this book in a weekend. It is very well written and will keep you guessing right up until the last page. Nell is the main carer for her sister Harper who has cancer and needs daily medication. Their dad is strictly religious and in public, a pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, however, he is an alcoholic who simply cannot cope with Harper's illness and their mother's disappearance. Their mum abandoned them when Nell was young and somehow Nell feels that she is to blame for this. Nell feels trapped in a depressing existence. Her own life is on hold due to her sister's illness and she feels that she is unable to follow her own dreams of becoming a musician. Nell also feels guilty for wanting a life when her sister doesn't have one and she does love Harper dearly. She has also promised that she will not fall in love until her sister does - but then she meets Lukas. The enigmatic, adopted heir to a Norwegian oil fortune in a wolf coat. The attraction is instant, but is Lukas the escape she needs, or will she be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire? Her father has warned her off, declaring Lukas as evil. But has forbidding the relationship made Lukas all the more attractive? When Lukas suggests that the two of them run away together could this be her chance of happiness? This was a gripping read. Full of plot twists and turns. Set in the atmospheric Norwegian wilderness on 'Wolf Mountain', Where Lukas spent his early childhood being raised by a pack of wolves. I would recommend this book for older teenagers as it does touch on alcoholism, domestic and emotional abuse, bereavement and drug use. Nell is a strong female lead character who is incredibly resilient and a force to be reckoned with. 352 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Clair Bossons, school librarian

The Hurting

ISBN 9781785031076

The Girl in the Tower runs seamlessly from the end of book 1, The Bear and the Nightingale, into a fast-paced and even more engaging story. Vasya has grown in confidence and refuses to conform to the ideals of her gender during Russia's 14th century patriarchal society. The people of her village have been convinced that she is a witch so she must leave; she will not be married off or be placed into a convent. Vasya decides to travel on her own, against the wishes of her brother and the Winter King. For the sake of her safety, she disguises herself as a boy as these are dangerous times in Russia and young respectable girls do not travel on their own. With her travel companion Solovey, Vasya makes her way to Moscow, but not without encounters of the dangerous kind that will later come back to challenge her. As she enters Moscow, her path crosses with her older brother, Sasha, and older sister Olga, who she hasn't seen for many years. Vasya soon finds out that her niece, Masha, is much more like her than the world would want and needs to be protected. The reader is very quickly thrown into the world of Moscow, where political intrigue and betrayal are vast. Vasya is forced to keep up the pretence that she is a boy in a city that is unlike anything she's ever experienced while living in the safety of her forest. She soon learns that even the Winter King can't protect her, because spring will soon be on the horizon. This story gains strength from its atmosphere and strong sense of place. Once again, the author has magically painted a very vivid picture of this snowy and dangerous landscape, and I was able to put myself into Vasya's world without any trouble. This beautiful story has 384 well written, fast-paced pages. It is suitable for 14+ confident readers of fantasy and contains folklore, vampires, religion, death, demons, politics and a dash of romance. This would also be a good book for reading groups or a classroom read. There are so many discussions points that could be raised and discussed. There is a glossary at the end of the book which I urge any readers to use to help with the unfamiliar Russian terms. As you read The Girl in the Tower, it becomes an emotionally engaging experience, one that you will not want to end. Thankfully, Book 3, The Winter of the Witch, is out in January 2019. 384 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.