NEW TITLES

Stories from the past, fantasy, poetry and action adventures are highlighted by our reviewers in this month's selection of books for children aged 7-11 years.

A Year of Nature Poems
Joseph Coelho

Wide Eyed Editions

ISBN 9781786035820

This is a beautiful collection of nature poems, paired with exquisite illustrations. Each poem in the book corresponds to a new month with a new theme. Each poem or month focuses on an aspect of nature from flowers, insects, sea creatures and seasons. Every poem has an introduction either about the poem or the month or even an issue such as building and destroying habitats. I personally liked this as an introduction to the poem but also as a thinking piece for the reader. There is a small range of poems in both layout and length giving the reader a varied choice. I think this book could be enjoyed by all ages but would be more suited to older children and even adults. The illustrations and layout of each poem has been beautifully put together with images that make the pages come to life. As each page continues the seasons change, as do the animals and the colours which could be used as a really lovely talking point with children or a class or even using the art work to create their own. 28 Pages/ Ages 7+/ Reviewed by Lauren Maidman, teacher

A Year of Nature Poems
Voices of the Future: Stories from Around the World
Irina Bokova

Bloomsbury Education

ISBN 9781472949431

Voices of the Future is an anthology of stories written by children from all over the globe. They have been written as part of UNESCO's Voices of the Future Generations project. This is to help children make sure they are given the right of education and literacy globally. The book is a collection of eight stories written by children. Each story is written by a child allowing them to show off their creativity and imagination of how they see the world that we live in and potentially what might happen to it in the future. Each child's story is full of hope, love and compassion for the planet and how we should care for it. I think this book is incredibly poignant and beautifully put together, giving a small insight into each child, where they come from and what they have done for their local environment. This is a truly inspirational book for other children to read and would thoroughly recommend it. 144 pages / Ages 7+/ Reviewed by Lauren Maidman, teacher

Voices of the Future: Stories from Around the World
Fantastically Great Women Who Worked Wonders
Kate Pankhurst

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408899274

This is a lovely book about some crucial women who have made history. It has a double page spread about each woman giving details of their life and achievements, leading to why they are so important - including the London Matchgirls, disabled suffragette campaigner Rosa May Billinghurst and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson. Each page is set out beautifully with illustrations to bring the information to life and little chunks of text. As there is so much information, each page is quite busy which may mean it is overwhelming for less confident readers but it would be a great text to look at as a class or at home with parents, too. Any children who are keen to learn about historical people or have any topical links in school will find this a very useful and user-friendly place to start. Each page is covered in colour and illustrations to bring the stories to life and the text is split into handy sections. Speech bubbles and different fonts are used to attract attention to the most important bits of information. At the back of the book, there is a section to explain any difficult words that they may come across. It also ends with a lovely double page spread of them all, asking 'How will you work wonders?' 31 pages / Ages 6+ / Reviewed by Lucy Newton, Teacher

Fantastically Great Women Who Worked Wonders
The Dog Who Lost His Bark
Eoin Colfer

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406377576

The Dog Who Lost His Bark is a beautifully written and illustrated tale of friendship when people, and animals, need it the most. While the front design is unquestionably charming, with such a short blurb I believe I would have easily passed this by in a bookshop but I have to confess, I am so very very glad this wonderful piece of writing came into my life. It certainly will stay with me and is one to recommend to all KS2 children - not just Years 3 and 4 which I assume it was aimed at. When the loud man calls him Dog, the fragile puppy soon learns that not everyone is as friendly as his mum promised and sadly, when his time to be taken to his new home comes, his owner mistreats him in a way that causes him to lose his bark. (For every time he does make a sound, he is immediately silenced.) Thankfully, through patience, love and music, Dog begins to learn that not all humans are bad - in fact, his new best friend, AWESOME PATRICK, is the best owner in the world. As with all friendships at some point, theirs is tested and now Oz (he loves his new name) must help Patrick overcome his difficulties and show him that friendship means sticking together through thick and thin. The Dog Who Lost His Bark would be perfect as part of a series of PSHE lessons exploring subtle human emotions through both dog and human and would make a poignant class read. I would say all of KS2 need to hear the beautiful flow of words and emotions. While Year 3 might just be a little too young to really understand (and benefit from) the concepts, it would hold their attention and they would fall in love with the story. However, as a book study, Year 4 upwards would get the most from it as there's some real issues that could be explored with a slightly older set. If you haven't read it yet, do. I promise you, you will not regret it. 144 pages / Ages 7-10 years / Reviewed by Leanne Woolcock, teacher

The Dog Who Lost His Bark
Storm Hound
Claire Fayers

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509895045

Storm of Odin is on his very first hunt through the night skies when he finds himself separated from the rest of the hunt and falls to earth just outside Abergavenny. He is shocked to discover that, rather than fearing this magnificent specimen of sharp toothed hunter, people seem to treat him as a small and insignificant puppy; picking him up, locking him in cages, not treating him with the respect he thinks he deserves as a hound of Odin. It is a long time before Jessie, whose family adopt him from an animal rescue centre, comes to realise that Storm is not quite what he seems when the story introduces us to three strange professors, an odd boy and his even odder 'aunt'. The reader, of course, knows that Storm can 'talk', at least to other animals and is aware of his belief that obedience classes are for the humans rather than the dogs. Storm Hound is full of adventure as Jessie tries to save Storm from whatever it is the professors want him for and also tries to get him home. This theme of 'home' runs through the book - Jessie and her brother are living with their father in Wales while their mother continues to live in London and are not quite sure where 'home' is. Storm is offered the chance to return to Odin and the hunt but where is Storm's home now? This is a great read for a confident, independent reader looking for magic, adventure, dogs, family - all the important things in life! Equally, it would be a lovely book to share with a child at bedtime. It would also work well as a class novel with much to talk about and explore. 256 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

Storm Hound
The Train to Impossible Places
P. G. Bell

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474957410

Suzy Smith is an ordinary girl with a passion for science whose quiet domestic existence is thrown into unexpected tumult when a tunnel appears and a train bursts through her hallway! Improbable? Yes. Impossible? No! As her blissfully unaware parents continue to slumber under a spell, a stunned (but curious) Suzy, hitches a ride on The Train to Impossible Places and begins an unimaginable adventure. Roaming the amalgamated states of the Union, Suzy encounters strange lands and unlikely inhabitants as she becomes a postal operative under the tutelage of plucky Wilmot Grunt. Delivering packages to the far reaches of the Union as part of the Impossible Postal Service, Suzy soon finds herself in grave danger and a long way from home. PG Bell's debut is a triumph of fantastical world-building. I loved the beautifully-described Obsidian and Ivory Towers - the bookends of a staggering universe. Heroine Suzy, always trying to do the right thing, stumbles from one precarious situation to another, often taking her new friends and colleagues with her. There are some brilliant characters - the pompous but kind-hearted train driver, Stonkers and his Ursine fireman particularly shine and become Suzy's guardian angels. My only gripe (and it is a very slight one!) is that the ending was a little long-winded and might be slightly confusing for younger readers. Otherwise, a wonderful, action-packed read and a perfect 'next book' for fans of Nevermoor and The Wizards of Once. 346 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

The Train to Impossible Places
The Boy Who Flew
Fleur Hitchcock

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9781788004381

Athan Wilde is a boy with a dream. Working alongside the mysterious Mr Chen, he learns to use his imagination and skill to create an array of inventions. Here his inability to read does not inhibit his desire to learn. Together they work on a flying machine, the first of its kind. With the sudden and gruesome death of Mr Chen, Athan knows that he must protect the plans and parts of their machine. Working with those he can trust, Athan has to find a way to complete the project whilst fiercely protecting it from getting into the wrong hands. With a huge sum of money being offered for the first to fly, the stakes are high. Athan is pushed to the limits as he fights to protect his family, his life and his dream. The Boy who Flew is a fast paced book that races the reader through the twists and turns of its plot. Readers will be on the edge of their seats wanting to know what will happen next and whether Athan can finally achieve his dream or be thwarted by those that are out to stop him. This book would be good for age 9+. As a class teacher I found that the book provided an excellent resource to show characterisation with its wide array of strong characters portrayed through their physical description, mannerisms, movement and voice. A great way to teach children how to 'show' the character rather than tell the character. It could also link well to dealing with dangerous situations and who to trust. 256 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Donna Burket, teacher.

The Boy Who Flew
The Star-spun Web
Sinead O'Hart

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781788950220

Left on the doorstep of Ackerbee's Home for Lost and Foundlings under very mysterious circumstances, Tess de Sousa is not your average orphan. It's a good thing too because Tess will need all the courage, logic and scientific curiosity she can muster when the suspiciously evasive Mr. Cleat collects Tess, claiming to be a distant relative. Isolating Tess from all of her friends besides her trusty pet tarantula Violet, Mr Cleat, along with dreaded associate Mrs Thistleton, plot to use a device in Tess's possession - the Starspinner - for dark purposes. Will Tess have no option but to go along with the plan? What stands out the most in Sinead O'Hart's The Star Spun Web are the varied and well imagined characters. Tess is a heroine to be admired by girls and boys alike with her passion for science, bravery, loyalty and sense of justice, although Millie the maid, Thomas and her friends at Ackerbee's are just as tenacious! Violet the spider and Moose the mouse are equally delightful and full of personality so that readers will find themselves rooting for the animal companions just as hard as for the humans! It is also wonderful to see an orphanage in a novel that those living there truly call home with the loving, supportive and respectful Miss Ackerbee and Miss Whipstead, housemistresses that trust the children as much as they would each other. The Star Spun Web is an adventurous science-fiction story with historical elements that would appeal to any child aged eight and above. The wonderful artwork by Sara Mulvanny really brings the front cover to life. Hopefully Sinead O'Hart is planning a sequel! 384 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Rhiannon Cook, school librarian.

The Star-spun Web
Let's Perform!: Monologues, duologues and poems for children to perform
Cath Howe

Bloomsbury Education

ISBN 9781472957252

This exciting and original book introduces Key Stage 2 and 3 children to the world of performance by providing the reader with a selection of dramatic monologues, duologues and poems especially written for young actors. The author, Cath Howe has worked in schools regularly so these scripts are tried and tested. Pupils will love reading through this book to find their favourite themes: some of the scripts are funny (Rapunzel at the hairdressers), some are more thought-provoking (Foxes); some, such as Broken Leg, call for a range of performance moods, so there is lots of scope for developing a young performer's capabilities here. A particularly great feature of the book is the helpful 'Tips for Performance' guide on every page, with supportive guidance about how to realise the key aspects of the script. In addition to this, children's creativity is inspired too, with a section for each script on how to take the given story further, or ideas about making up their own dramatic scripts. I am delighted to see the publication of such a book as this. It is particularly aimed at the child who has some dramatic experience but with the support of a teacher, less confident children will still find much to engage them here. It will also be very much welcomed by teachers of Junior classes and drama clubs as a source book, and would also be well suited to planning for Drama classes in Key Stage 3. I very much hope there will be more to come from Cath Howe and that this book will encourage more publishing of similar material for children. Encore! 96 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Benjamin Harris, teacher.

Let's Perform!: Monologues, duologues and poems for children to perform
The Girl with the Shark's Teeth
Cerrie Burnell

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192767547

This book had me hooked from the very first chapter. Cerrie Burnell paints a clear picture of every scene with her amazing descriptive writing. She begins with 'the girl' herself, Minnow, as she lies beneath the surface of the sea and the silver-dark starry sky. Moving quickly on we meet Minnow's Mother, Mercy, with her blood red hair, jeans, cowboy boots and flowing silken shirt - her'fighting clothes'. This all-action story unfolds when Minnow's mother goes missing in the dead of night. Last seen running from three strange men, Minnow realises that her mum is in trouble and that if she is to help her then she must follow the call of the enchanted ocean, the Wild Deep. Minnow sets sail on her boat, The Seafarer, in search of answers and journeys to a hidden world where the fairytales of her younger years become reality. The Girl with the Shark's Teeth is a story of courage, friendship, magic and wonder. Its leading characters are both inspirational females who share a bond so strong that each would willingly risk their own life for the other. This is a great book, ideal for any upper Key Stage 2 reader but equally a fab story to be shared with younger less able readers. I would have loved to give this book 5* but the description of the sea carriers spotted in the Wild Deep just doesn't work for me... 240 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Samantha Phillips, teacher.

The Girl with the Shark's Teeth
Against All Gods
Maz Evans

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781911077008

To be honest, when this landed in the post, I still hadn't quite forgiven Maz for the tears and torment caused by book 3, the brilliant Beyond The Odyssey. So, I did the only thing I could. I locked myself in my bedroom with a loo roll to hand (I'd run out of tissues), tried to banish the title inducing Phil Collins ear worm that told me the loo roll would come in handy, and prayed my favourite characters would make it to the end. Elliot is still reeling from losing everything he has ever known, and feels betrayed by his Dad and the Gods. We find him with Thanatos, preparing to retrieve the final Earth Stone in a bid to get his Mum back. The Zodiac Council, along with Virgo, are locked up, and the Gods are back in Olympus desperately trying to come up with a plan to save mankind from the gathering daemon hordes. Can our mortal hero make peace with the Gods in time to save everyone, not just those he holds dear? What a rollercoaster of a story! I laughed and cried my way to the end of Elliot's adventure. Against All Gods is super optimal and totes emosh to boot. I loved the blend of real-life, tear-inducing trauma with mythological mirth and mayhem. The characterisation of Ancient Greek reinforcements had me howling. There is so much love and friendship throughout, and the power of forgiveness shines. Elliot, Virgo and friends have secured their place on the bookshelf in my heart, and I will spend an eternity putting this series into the hands of readers of all ages. There's a very good reason Who Let The Gods Out? Won the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards 2018, and every book in the series is just as deserving of the accolade. I love that every character's story has a satisfying conclusion. I hate that it's over. Maz, you are epic! Thank you for destroying me, again, with your hilarious, heartfelt writing. I can't wait to see what comes next. 320 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Nicki Cleveland, school librarian.

Against All Gods
The Truth About Martians
Melissa Savage

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781911490821

This book is set in 1947 in New Mexico and relates to the Roswell UFO incident; there are references throughout the book to specific aspects of the times, for example listening to Superman on the radio and reading about Martians in comics. Some of these may require explanation to the modern-day child. The story is told by Mylo, a young boy who is still grieving for his older brother who died the previous year; his response to this and the analysis of his resulting feelings are recurring themes throughout the book which provides a very personal and emotional aspect within the science fiction setting. He spends much time with his best friend Dibs and so there is a further analysis of personal loss by considering Dibs's home life, where his mother disappeared some years before, resulting in his father becoming an alcoholic and abusive. As a result, he spends much time living with Mylo's family for security and comfort. Mylo accepts Dibs for who he is and helps him to come to terms with his situation and so presents a strong element of empathy, which may help young readers to understand the effects of violence and personal grief. This also leads to Mylo questioning the role of God and his own faith. Mylo and his two friends Dibs and Gracie visit the site of a UFO crash where they believe Martians have landed. This then leads to them having a number of adventures in order to help alien life and develops to consider both their reactions and the responses of others to this 'exciting' event and the need to help others. The book therefore focuses on friendship, love and the need for family and friends' support whilst openly addressing different aspects of loss. The book uses simple vocabulary and short chapters (with humorous titles) so is easily accessible to children, but some of the issues addressed indicates that it would benefit from adult support whilst reading. 336 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Salliann Coleman, consultant.

The Truth About Martians
The Darkdeep
Brendan Reichs

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781529003949

Shunned by the local community because of his father and tormented by school bully, Logan, Nico Holland relies on the support of his best friends Emma and Tyler. When Logan comes across them testing Nico's new drone and sends it careering over the cliff, a reckless and angry Nico is determined to retrieve it. Even if this means descending into the swirling mists and darkened waters of Still Cove, a place that local folklore (and common sense) tells him to avoid at all costs. When Nico falls into the hostile waters below, Emma, Tyler and enigmatic outsider, Opal, throw caution to the wind and start a desperate search for him. But the Cove is not empty, and when they find an uninhabited island, an abandoned houseboat and a mysterious pool of glistening black water, they realise that they have stumbled upon an unnerving, ancient magic. This is an eerie and absorbing mystery that brilliantly twists and turns what starts as an unusual but fun scenario into a deepening nightmare. Playing on the children's worst fears, The Darkdeep makes them face their demons and trust in some fragile, new friendships. The characters of Opal and Nico are well-developed and Tyler, Emma and Logan form a strong supporting cast. The book is also fairly short and full of action so it rattles along at a very good pace. The high-stakes and strange happenings make this an ideal choice for fans of mystery, action and adventure. A really compelling and decidedly creepy read! 261 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

The Darkdeep
The Figure in the Shadows - The House With a Clock in Its Walls 2
John Bellairs

Piccadilly Press

ISBN 9781848127920

This delightful little book is the sequel to The House with a Clock in its Walls. Although it has its creepy, supernatural moments, it's not as sinister or dark, making it a wonderful thriller for younger readers. Lewis once again gets himself dragged into the world of black magic when he chants a spell over a coin that belonged to Grandpa Barnavelt; the coin his grandpa believed to be a lucky three cent coin from 1859. However, the magic that Lewis awakens is not lucky at all! At first it gives him the power to stand up to the bully Woody Mingo, but it all goes downhill from there. Lewis has a wonderful sidekick in this sequel in Rose Rita, who we briefly meet at the end of book one. Rose Rita is a strong minded young lady, quite the opposite of Lewis, who has weight issues and can be cowardly at times. However, he still is a very likeable character that some readers may identify with. As I previously stated this book is not as sinister as book one, the author seems to have toned it down a little as there is less magic, less of Lewis's wonderful guardian Johnathan and Mrs Zimmerman, and he no longer writes about the wonderful enchanted house that the characters live in. ( I personally would have liked Lewis to explore and uncover more of the wonders of the house). This book deals more with real life situations of school bullies, friendships, trust etc. The figure in the Shadows has 152 pages with 13 manageable chapters that are suitable for confident 9+ readers and older reluctant readers. I believe it would also be great for reading groups or for reading out aloud during tutor periods, keeping younger readers engaged and eager for more. Overall, it's enjoyable, it's good eerie fun. 160 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

The Figure in the Shadows - The House With a Clock in Its Walls 2
The Closest Thing to Flying
Gill Lewis

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192749482

Imagine a book that told the stories of two girls born one hundred years apart, explained the origins of the RSPB, touched on the suffrage movement, looked at life from a refugee's perspective and also brought in themes of bullying, domestic abuse, social class, courage in its many forms and the power of cycling. That, you might think, is an awful lot to pack into one book but Gill Lewis does just that in this book that draws in the reader from the very first few sentences. Semira is the Eritrean refugee intrigued by the strange hat. Life for her and her mother is ruled by Robel, who moves them from house to house as he tries to deceive the immigration authorities. She changes school too often to make friends but befriends Patrick, another outsider, and they bond over his knowledge of exotic birds and her natural talent for cycling. Henrietta is the writer of the diary hidden in the hat box. A typical young lady of her time, her life is ruled by the concept of acceptable behaviour for young ladies of her social class in the 1870s. Henrietta's Aunt Katherine, however, refuses to be corralled by social convention and campaigns for the end of the feather trade and women's rights, even though it estranges her from her family. As Semira reads Henrietta's diary, she draws courage and inspiration to stand up for what is right in her own life, just as Henrietta and Katherine did in theirs, and the power of the written word to inspire, console and strengthen resolve is well illustrated in this book. There is no happy ending to this book, tying up all loose ends, but there is a hopeful one. This would make an excellent class novel. The storytelling is superb, there are issues aplenty to stimulate discussion and further investigation and Gill Lewis is in command of all the various threads from start to finish. 240 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

The Closest Thing to Flying
The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods
Samuel J. Halpin

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474945660

I knew from the first chapter that I was going to enjoy this book. It has a wonderful way of mixing the very ordinary with the extraordinary. The story takes place in a village where the people 'aren't any kinder or meaner than any other town. The library doesn't have better books. The post doesn't come any faster, and the mutton pies are just as delicious as the ones two towns over.' So what is the secret of the little town of Suds? When Poppy first arrives to stay with her Grandma, we know that something is amiss. When making a cup of tea, she has to keep the sugar hidden. But why? Gran has a set of rules that must be followed: All washing must be done during the day; Bring your clothes in off the washing line (even if they are wet) before six o'clock every night; All sugar cubes are to be kept under lock and key; At night close your window, lock it, draw the curtains. NEVER, DON'T YOU EVER, dust the window sills. Poppy stays with Gran whilst Dad is away working. Gran has a pig, a pig called Churchill. He's adorable and seems to be the perfect addition to the story. Gran is a seamstress with amazing talents and Suds is the place to obtain the finest cloth in all the world. Mystery surrounds how such beautiful material is made in Suds and this is where traditional fairy tales take a slightly sinister twist. Children are vanishing, fading away, becoming mute and ghost-like. Poppy and her new-found, quirky friend, Erasmus, set out to find the truth. The details and descriptions in this book are simply delicious; characters are described with vivid colour and microscopic detail 'the pencil stuck like a hatpin through Eliza's silver hair, which looked like someone had dolloped a scoop of whiskery marshmallow fluff on her head.' Not only is the Peculiar Peggs a gripping tale of mystery and peril, it is a story that touches that heart. Poppy is dealing with the loss of her beloved mother and her grief is a theme that is the heartbeat of the story. The reader wants to comfort Poppy, to take away her fears and to reunite her with a Dad who has demons of his own. Erasmus is a conundrum, just like the puzzles he loves to solve. He is a bright, problem-solving boy who lives with a mother who neglects him. She is the only problem that he can't seem to solve. With gritted determination, Poppy and Erasmus set out to discover where the missing children have gone to. The power of their friendship and the strength of the love that they hold in their hearts proves to be the force that will overcome the evils that are clouding the lives of the Suds residents. This is a pacey, edge-of-your seat tale with a big heart - a film of it would be incredible, but, until that time, grab a copy and enjoy! 352 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jo Clarke, school librarian.

The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods
When we were Warriors
Emma Carroll

Faber & Faber

ISBN 9780571350407

This collection of three interlinked stories set in World War Two, is Emma Carroll's ninth book. The first tells of Stanley, evacuated to Frost Hollow Hall, the setting of Carroll's first book, together with his sisters, June and Maggie; the reader will need to know of Frost Hollow Hall to appreciate this story. Stanley becomes involved in a dare challenge which involves them going to the Lake where Kit Barrington drowned, despite being forbidden to do so. What the reader gets is a snapshot of life as an evacuee, although there is not a huge amount of supervision, which allows June to try to undertake a dangerous mission. In the second story Eddie, a black GI who makes a brief appearance in the first story, appears again when a lighthouse keeper is arrested after a body is washed up on the shore near Plymouth, and he reappears in a story of children wanting to find an air raid shelter for all the pets who are no longer going to be allowed into the main one. Somehow there seems to be three full length novels trying to get out of these stories and this does not make for a wholly satisfying read. The best of the three is the last one, when Velvet finds a link to Eddie because of their shared race, and also because the characters seem to have found more time to grow within the confines of the story. These stories would read aloud well, but the competition for stories of World War II has the bar set high, and it is a pity that Emma Carroll did not write three full length stories instead of restricting herself to this one book. Girls and boys of 9+ will enjoy them I am sure, but may find themselves wanting more. 256 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, librarian.

When we were Warriors
The Button War: A Tale of the Great War
Avi

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406380835

As a teacher, I am always on the lookout for gripping books to make my students think so when this book landed on my desk - based on the power struggle between the Russian and German armies during 1914 - I knew I had to make it a priority to read. Having never read any books by Avi before, I only had the promise of being an award-winning author to go on; however, the slow beginning and the introduction of a gang of boys to try and remember began to test my focus. Now, I'll admit, I can't remember the exact point in which I became so absorbed that I forgot about the outside world, but I can remember the feeling, of turning the last page knowing I had just read a book that was unbelievably real. Without spoilers, it is a tale of a group of ordinary Polish village boys who live their lives with Russian soldiers forever in their village. It is how they have always remembered it to be yet, one day a bomb drops and their whole world explodes with it. Soon, the German army arrive and to help escape the war, which is now firmly on their doorsteps, they dare each other to get the best button they can from a uniformed solider; the winner receives king status. Their adventure begins to rapidly spin out of control and soon it isn't just their reputations that are at stake. They quickly realise, their lives are now on the line as well. The Button War would be a brilliant book to coincide with any War related topic (both studied or as a class read) which explores how war and the politics of war can affect everyone, regardless of age. A tale of understanding how innocence can be lost even when war has 'nothing to do with you'. Year 6 children would be able to tackle it but Years 7+ would get the most from it. 240 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Leanne Woolcock, teacher

The Button War: A Tale of the Great War
AWOL 3: Last Boy Standing
Andrew Lane

Piccadilly Press

ISBN 9781848126671

This is book 3 of the AWOL series, and Kieron and Sam's accidental involvement with an offshoot of MI6 should be coming to an end. Bradley is now recovered from the injuries he sustained in the first book, and Bex is intent on moving the team away to allow Kieron and Sam to go back to their 'normal' lives - a prospect that Kieron, especially, finds massively unappealing. However, when it becomes clear that someone has set out to kill Bex and Bradley, an abrupt change of plans and a trip to Venice become necessary. This book is a development of the overall story arc around the traitor discovered but not identified in book 1 rather than a new mission, but continues with the same pacy style and overall feel as the first two books. At the same time, we learn more about Kieron and Sam's relationships, both with each other and with their families, and Bex's continuing ambivalence about involving the boys in the work she and Bradley do whilst recognising that she has come to rely on them at the same time. The descriptions of Venice are both factual and lyrical, explaining the layout and history concisely for those who may be unfamiliar with the city, but also evoking a sense of the place and atmosphere too. As I've come to expect, there are no 'filler' moments, and the choice of villains is again unusual and well thought out. I really liked the addition of the YouTuber who had the world at his feet yet saw next to none of it, and as in the previous books the tech is cutting-edge but never unbelievable. I'm very much looking forward to the June release of the next book in the series, not least because I have a strong feeling that this is going to be one of those series where I'm repeatedly asked for 'the next one' by the students! 272 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Karen King, school librarian.

AWOL 3: Last Boy Standing
The Haven: Book 1
Simon Lelic

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444947601

The Haven is perfect for fans of Alex Rider or The Cherub series. Ollie is snatched from his bed on the very first page so you are thrust into the action right away! He manages to escape and his rescue is ably assisted by Dodge. Dodge leads Ollie through the underground tunnels of London to The Haven. The Haven is an alternative to the other gangs in London where homeless and abandoned kids are actually cared for and educated. It is a secret organisation that is run by the children themselves. However, unrest is brewing as various prominent gang members or their relatives have gone missing and rival gangs are pinning the blame on each other. Can Ollie ease the tensions and prevent gang warfare by finding these missing teenagers? Will Ollie and his friends survive the evil Maddy Sikes and her guards? This is an exciting read and is set to be the first book of a series. It can be seen as a modernised take on Oliver Twist - although to be honest, other than the character names, this wasn't obvious as I was reading it. It will appeal to readers who enjoy spy/action/thriller/survival & adventure stories. 304 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Clair Bossons, school librarian.

The Haven: Book 1