NEW TITLES

Adventure stories, historical fiction, magical realism and funny stories are all included in this month's selection of books for children aged 8+, reviewed by teachers and school librarians.

Swimming Against the Storm
Jess Butterworth

Orion Children's Books

ISBN 9781510105485

Sisters in a small Louisiana village. A mythical creature. Swamps. Alligators. Hurricanes. This new offering from Jess Butterworth has so much to offer. Eliza and Avery are sisters living swamp adjacent in Louisiana. Independent and adventurous, they spend time with their friends hunting the mythical loup-garou in the wild swamps. During their search, they discover their beloved land is at risk from more than nature and their adventures take on another meaning. Well written and pacy, this book will be enjoyed by year 4 and up. Short chapters make it an excellent class reader and the environmental issues raised make for excellent discussion. The characters are well developed and diverse. The Louisiana setting was unfamiliar to me but an excellent map and incredible description enhanced my experience. I was looking forward to this book after Jess's last two and it did not disappoint. 288 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Byrony Davies, teacher.

Swimming Against the Storm
The Story of People
Catherine Barr

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781786032652

This is a fantastic book which summarises our Earth's journey through time, from the 'Big Bang' to now. A brilliant explanation of one theory of how our Earth has developed to the way it is today. Each page has a time tag on to show how many years ago each event happened and they are filled with colourful illustrations with handy annotations too. It explains how a huge rock crashed into the Earth, killing everything apart from some mammals. As it moves through time, it covers how homo sapiens developed in Africa, including how their bodies were different from humans now as well as how they adapted as a tribe through time. Beautiful illustrations show how the world warmed up, melting the ice and allowing people to begin to grow their own food and become hunter-gathers, allowing more children to survive and grow into healthy adults. Further information explains how different cultures and religions began to develop around the world including Muslims in the Middle East, explorers who discovered the Americas accidentally and the development of steam engines to power ships, machines and trains. This book really is packed with information and is presented in a user-friendly way to feed children's love of facts and finding out new pieces of information. There is even a handy glossary at the back to explain any unknown, useful words/phrases. 40 pages / Ages 7 + / Reviewed by Lucy Newton, teacher

The Story of People
Super Cats
Gwyneth Rees

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408894194

Tagg, the handsome young tabby cat, believes he has been born into a normal family, adventurous but ordinary. The day his mother reveals that the family has super feline powers, his life is thrown into crime fighting chaos. Tagg's mother Melody has super claws, his father has super strength and his uncle, Wild Bill, has super sharp teeth; but Tagg himself has yet to discover what his super ability will be. Just one kitten in very litter is gifted and young Tagg is eager to experience some of the crime fighting capers of his parents' younger days. When super cat Glamour arrives at Tagg's home, with her young kitten Sugarfoot in tow, desperate for help, Tagg's family leap into action. Tagg is curious and eager to investigate the mysterious goings on; if there are super cats, there must also be super villains. Tagg learns that once upon a time the super cats were organised and sent on missions but those days have passed and now super cats are going missing. Together, Tagg and Sugarfoot team up and follow their parents as they try to determine who might be responsible for the latest series of crimes. This super-powered adventure takes Tagg and Sugarfoot to kitty concerts, feline gangster dens and finally into the lair of Nemesissy Lilac Masquerade, the most powerful of the super cats. Facing up to ruthless and dangerous super villains may be just a stretch too far for the young kittens, whose super powers have yet to emerge, but when your family is in trouble, there's nothing Tagg and Sugarfoot won't do to help keep them safe. Super Cats is a fast paced super kitty adventure. Everyone loves a super hero origin story and this clever tale is purr-fect for kitty cat lovers. An engaging plot and clever characters will hold readers' attention and pull them through the story. High quality illustrations by Becka Moor bring the story to life, adding humour and a depth of understanding for character action and behaviour. The strong superhero story line will be loved, not only by fans of animal stories, but by young superhero fans. 176 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Emily Beale, librarian

Super Cats
Fing
David Walliams

HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN 9780008342579

Meet Myrtle Meek, well you may not really want to as she is the worst possible child anyone could imagine! Nothing pleases this girl, all she wants is more, more and if possible even more. Her parents are quite unassuming and go to extreme lengths to give Myrtle what she asks for. This is where Fing comes in... Myrtle wants a Fing, she doesn't know what it is, but she wants one, so there!! Poor Mr Myrtle goes into the Deepest,Darkest,Jungliest Jungle to find one, with hilarious and often disastrous results.. This new book from the creative author, David Walliams will once again prove to be a hit with its target audience of 8+ readers. It's full of toilet humour that young children adore - especially boys - silly made up, creative creatures, items being destroyed and quirky footnotes. Even though it's not the usual length of most of this author's books (I wish it had been longer, as it would have created more depth in the characters), it still has all of his wonderful trademarks woven into the tale which makes it a rollercoaster ride of fun for the young reader. What a way, to get into books. David Walliams proves he is a master at keeping readers engaged to the very last page. All of this is woven around the fantastic illustrations by Tony Ross, which help the reader to imagine the creatures and the chaos that Walliams has created. Fing contains 272 pages of fun which are suitable for 8+ readers and older less confident readers. Great for reading aloud to younger children at home or during tutor time in school. Would also be great for reading sessions with primary students and is well worth a read - it will produce lots of giggles from its young audience. Read it and enjoy. 272 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian

Fing
The Deadly Dinner Lady (Rory Branagan (Detective), Book 4)
Andrew Clover

HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN 9780008265922

Following on from Rory Branagan Detective, The Dog Squad and The Big Cash Robbery, this is the fourth book in the Rory Branagan series by Andrew Clover and Ralph Lazar. As with the previous titles, The Deadly Dinner Lady is everything a new or reluctant reader looks for in a book; large clear print, a few laugh out loud sentences on each page and fast paced action throughout. In keeping with the previous adventures and antics of Detective Branagan and his side kick The Cat Callaghan, - or should that be Corrigan - this tale is suitably supported by black and white, sketch illustrations on every page, ideal for helping the focus of those readers who still need visual clues when reading. This super sleuth adventure is set in Rory's school and my guess is this is why this particular book is dedicated to 'all teachers who go that extra mile to make their lessons interesting - and to the kids who listen to them'. Rory starts his adventure in the'lair of the Dinner Ladies' where it is hot and noisy, and the school dinner ladies 'snarl' like dragons! As each dinner lady is introduced I found it hard not to immediately link them to a dinner lady or MDSA, that I have met over the years, and I'm sure that every child or adult who reads this book will be able to identify with the different ladies serving dinner at Rory's school. It is during a school talent show where both staff and children are performing that the dastardly deed of this story takes place. Unimpressed by the Deputy Head Teacher's Grammar rap, thrilled by Mr Meeton's musical rendition and then blown away by Ms Rhodes - the Deadly Dinner lady's brilliant impersonations - the crowd are eagerly awaiting the results of the competition when a scream is heard... Rory's investigation of the crime is thwarted at each turn, his Mum and brother are both firmly against him being a detective, the school is closed while the police investigate what has happened and Stephen Maysmith, the REAL police detective most certainly doesn't want Rory anywhere near the scene of the crime! That said, he does side with Rory when faced by Rory's Mum, could it be that Police Detective Maysmith can see Rory's potential? This is the fourth book in the series and I am sure that this may just be the book that so many young readers, 8+ are looking for, and once hooked will eagerly await the arrival of Detective Rory Branagan's next adventure in The Leap of Faith. 288 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher.

The Deadly Dinner Lady (Rory Branagan (Detective), Book 4)
Kid Normal and the Shadow Machine
Greg James

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408898901

Having found himself as the only child without special powers at a school for potential superheroes, Murph's crime-busting skills and ability to lead a team have seen him become Kid Normal - a superhero of a different kind. However, in Kid Normal and the Shadow Machine, the third book in the series, Murph seems to have lost what it was that made him so special...and no one knows how to get it back. While his band of young superheroes are ready for the challenge of defeating and whole array of supervillains, Kid Normal seems to be sabotaging rather than helping their efforts... This is a slightly darker books in the Kid Normal series - funny, action-packed series for children aged 8+ - but there is still plenty of entertainment and slapstick comedy, with an array of eccentric villains that will have children giggling. Readers will also be turning the pages in anticipation of Kid Normal finally rising to the challenge to defeat a whole brood of baddies... I love these books and they are finding plenty of fans among young readers aged 7/8+. As well as their adventure-packed plots, humour and outlandish situations, the stories have at their heart a great message - that anyone can be a superhero. With their well spaced text and short, illustrated chapters - and not forgetting those fabulous sprayed edges - these are also a great choice for more reluctant readers. 400 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Ellen Green.

Kid Normal and the Shadow Machine
The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet
Martin Howard

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192767509

Alfie lives with his mother who works every waking hour in a fish factory supporting the two of them and paying off the debts left by Alfie's father. Life is difficult; the flat is small and sparsely furnished, clothes are threadbare and food is restricted to offcuts of fish brought home from the factory. Alfie and his mum, however, make the best of things and Alfie finds comfort in his books on adventure and derring-do. So, a true and sadly all too common scenario to begin with. Then Alfie speculates on the stock market with his birthday money in order to be able to afford a special present for his Mum's birthday and achieves the amazing sum of one hundred pounds. So, now not such a common scenario. Then he answers an advert for a day's work 'moving things about' which will make up the shortfall for that special present and encounters Professor Bowell-Mouvement and the Unusual Cartography Club. At this point, we depart with Alfie into the realms of the absolutely bonkers with its universe travelling stone circles, elves, dragons, knights on a quest and the search for a way home. This is an exciting, action-packed, imaginative rip-roaring ride of a book, full of Chris Mould's wonderful illustrations and maps of weird places. The other universes and their very strange inhabitants are described in great comic detail as the Professor and Alfie use the Cosmic Atlas to navigate their way to a stone circle that will allow them to get home. The character of Alfie will appeal to readers - he is kind and considerate, determined and imaginative, brave and clever. It is Alfie's plan, in the face of a fire breathing dragon, that saves everybody from certain doom, ensures the survival of the Unusual Cartography Club, keeps the promises he has made to various creatures along the way and buys Mum that super-duper foot spa. Independent and confident young readers will just love the mayhem, adventure, humour and imagination of this book. 336 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian

The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet
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
A Pinch of Magic
Michelle Harrison

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471124297

This is a lovely book, and it has been a delight to read and review it. Betty Widdershins lives with her Granny, and her sisters Fliss and Charlie, in the Poachers Pocket Inn in the village of Crowstone. Their mother is dead and their father is imprisoned in Crowstone Tower. Betty longs for adventure and yearns to explore the world beyond Crowstone. But, on her 13th birthday, she learns that a curse has been placed upon the Widdershins family which means that any girl who leaves Crowstone will die before the next sunset. Granny also tells the girls that she owns three magical objects - a travelling bag which can transport people anywhere they need to go, a mirror which enables the owner to speak to people who are in other places, and a set of wooden nesting dolls which can be used to make people invisible. Fliss, the eldest, is to inherit the mirror, Betty the dolls and Charlie, the youngest, becomes the owner of the magic bag. Betty is desperate to break the curse, and, with the help of her sisters and their trio of magical items, sets off to seek out a way to safeguard the future of the Widdershins family. So begins a wonderful adventure, filled with magic, mystery, escaped prisoners and danger. This is a beautifully written story; the author describes in detail the misty marshes around Crowstone and the mysterious islands of Torment, Lament and Repent, drawing the reader effortlessly into Betty's world. The characters are well drawn and interesting. Each girl has her own traits; Fliss, who at first seems to be flirty and self-absorbed turns out to be brave and feisty. Charlie is the animal lover with her pet rat, Hoppity, and her cat Oi. She is a very funny little girl who becomes a key part of solving the puzzle of the curse. Betty is a fabulous character, wilful and adventurous but with a huge love for her sisters and grandmother. There is a strong sense of family which shines out throughout the book. I especially loved the way the author weaves the story of Sorsha Spellthorn, the girl who was blamed for placing the curse on the Widdershins, into the story. The author also cleverly ties up all of the loose ends into a highly satisfactory conclusion. All things considered, this is a book to be savoured and I highly recommend it. The ending of the book hints that there are more stories about the Widdershins sisters to come, and I really hope that this is the case! I look forward to reading the further adventures of Fliss, Betty and Charlie. 368 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Beverley Somerset, school librarian

A Pinch of Magic
A Moon Girl Stole My Friend
Rebecca Patterson

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783447985

Rebecca Patterson's first middle grade book is a delightful tale of friendship and betrayal. Set in 2099, the book's main character, Lyla, lives in a world of robocats, flying sweets and instant snow. Lyla has been best friends with Bianca since nursery, but when a cool new girl joins the class, she finds herself pushed out. How can Lyla win back her friend, and why does no-one see just how mean Petra the Moon girl is? This relatively short story is packed full of laughs, while still addressing the more serious issue of upset and broken friendships. The black and white illustrations, also by Rebecca Patterson, support the story effectively, providing an excellent stimulus to encourage and motivate newly independent readers who may still lack reading stamina. A Moon Girl Stole My Friend would no doubt be a popular choice in any KS2 classroom or a great book to use for guided reading; providing plenty of opportunity for inference and discussion. This is a great story for young readers, ages 9+, who are looking for a fun read with a science fiction twist. 176 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher

A Moon Girl Stole My Friend
Halo Moon
Sharon Cohen

Quercus Children's Books

ISBN 9781786540102

Halo Moon loves her remote Yorkshire village. From her sky watcher's chair in the garden, she can fulfil her passion for star gazing, wondering about distant planets, feeling like a mere speck in the universe. In Ethiopia, Ageze Tadesse is running an errand when his inquisitive nature gets the better of him and he finds himself in possession of a mysterious, magical object. Their two worlds are destined to collide when Ageze realises that the Portendo device, as he christens it, can make startling and accurate predictions. Armed with this powerful knowledge and aware of a devastating prediction in Halo's village, he concocts an elaborate and dangerous plan to travel to England and avert the devastating repercussions. When Halo, her new friend Pedro and Ageze finally meet, they know their unlikely story will be laughed at and dismissed. Can they find a respected to adult who believes them? And can they win the race against time to save the village? I knew I would like this book almost from the first page! It has an immediate warmth and the countdown and dual narrative work brilliantly to create a sense of tension and destiny. The three friends at the heart of the story are very clearly defined, with distinct personalities and styles and there are a lot themes running through the story (friendship, bravery, inclusivity) that are deftly handled and should be appealing to readers. A highly recommended read - for geeks and adventurers alike! 324 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian

Halo Moon
Pog
Padraig Kenny

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781911490395

I have to confess to being almost frightened to read Pog. I loved Tin so much that I was almost scared I'd be disappointed by Padraig Kenny's next book. Whilst I think that Tin will remain one of my all-time favourite children's books, Pog is absolutely excellent and a cracking good read. One of the aspects of Padraig Kenny's books is that they remind you of other books you have read, whilst at the same time remaining completely original stories. This one made me think of A Monster Calls and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and yet is nothing like either of them. David and Penny move into their old family house after their mother dies. The house is situated in a forest and the house appears to have a small furry creature living in the attic. There are also other, rather less friendly creatures, lurking in the vicinty. The setting is gloomy and foreboding and the tension is palpable from the off. I also want to mention the beautiful cover and illustrations by Jane Newland. The cover exactly captures form the essence of the story, with the colours and the gloom in one gorgeous picture. Whilst this book deals with grief and sadness, it is still an exciting and thought-provoking adventure. The villain is one of the more terrifying creations I have read about and yet is still unlikely to scare children. My 11-year-old loved this book (he stole it from me as soon as it arrived) and I think he missed a lot of what scared me and just saw it as an exciting plot filled with rich characters. Whereas I would not suggest a Year 4 or 5 child should read A Monster Calls, I do think this book makes a similar topic more accessible. The element of fantasy is different and less troubling, mainly due to the character of Pog. Pog is the device to ease the tension, he is amusing whilst at the same time heroic. This book shows that Tin was definitely not a one off and the Padraig Kenny is an author to look out for in children's fantasy writing. I can't wait for the next one! 288 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher.

Pog
Asha & the Spirit Bird
Jasbinder Bilan

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781911490197

Asha and her family live in the foothills of the Himalayas. Surviving on wages her father sends from his factory job in the City, they manage their farm in his absence and yearn for him to return. But suddenly the money and Pa's letters stop arriving; and as the months go by Asha's desperate mother is forced to take out a loan she can never repay. With the threat of losing their beloved farm hanging over them, Asha and her best friend Jeevan, secretly hatch a plot to travel to the City and find her father. Strengthened by the mysterious presence of a magnificent Lamagia bird, which Asha takes to be a good omen for their journey, they set off on an arduous and dangerous trek across the mountains. When the bird re-appears at difficult moments, Asha senses that it is the spirit of her grandmother guiding them and believes that a magical connection to her ancestors will help them complete their mission. This is a spirited tale that takes the reader across mystical mountain terrain to the vibrant bustle of contemporary urban India. Wonderfully blending thrilling adventure, ancient mysticism, faith and friendship, there are so many things to enjoy in this enchanting debut novel. It would be an ideal read for fans of Jess Butterworth and Katherine Rundell and I sped through this fabulous book in a couple of sittings. I'm sure many middle-grade readers will do just the same! 288 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

Asha & the Spirit Bird
Scavengers
Darren Simpson

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474956024

Scavengers tells the story of a boy called Landfill who lives with Old Babagoo in Hinterland, surrounded by a big wall that separates it from Outside. Landfill's life is regulated by many rules, which are imposed upon him by Babagoo. The relationship between the two characters is a maelstrom of comfortable friendliness, parent/child and bully/bullied. Throughout the novel evocative use of language helps to set scenes without giving too much away, leading the reader to form their own opinions and discover what is going on. Landfill's days are filled with tasks and interactions with the many animals in Hinterland, all of whom have literary names. The names are explained in an appendix at the end of the book. These animals are his playmates since he leads such a solitary existence. At times there are gritty descriptions of the gulls that form the basis for meals in Hinterland and the whole novel has echoes of Lord of the Flies. Babagoo and Landfill communicate using made up and unusual language, giving the story a Dahlesque feel. The most important rule is to NEVER go beyond the wall and when Landfill does, it opens up a whole wealth of questions and situations that he had never dreamt of. When Dawn, an 'Outsider', comes into Hinterland, Landfill starts to develop an awareness that not all he has been told by Babagoo about the Outsiders may be correct. His innate sense that he is missing out on something becomes more profound and he starts to question Babagoo's ideas and decisions. At times a truly challenging read but one where the use of language is such that you can see and breathe the atmosphere within Hinterland; this is a superbly written novel. I especially liked the addition of the discussion questions. 322 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Sharon Bolton, School Librarian

Scavengers
A Crystal of Time (The School for Good and Evil, Book 5)
Soman Chainani

HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN 9780008292201

Oh, the drama of this book! As you read through this wonderful series it gets better and better. I only started this book a few days ago and I could not put it down. I thought book 4, Quests for Glory, was a rollercoaster ride, but Crystal of Time is all of that, with an added shot of an high energy drink!! Rhian is now King of Camelot and he is forcing Sophie to be his Queen, but she can't understand why he his so determined that they marry. He has imprisoned Tedros, Guinevere, and their friends in the dungeons, with Tedros's execution planned on the date of his wedding to Sophie. Japeth terrorises people across the Kingdom in order for their leaders to take his brother as the true king and destroy their rings, which keep the Storian writing in the School of the Ever and Nevers. They need the Storian to be destroyed so that their own pen, Lionsmane can write the tales of Camelot's people. This will have devastating consequences, especially after the wedding. Agatha is in despair, she is the only one to have escaped Rhian and she doesn't know who she can turn to or trust. What does she do first, go seek advice from The Lady in the Lake or somehow get back to the school for help? Agatha still has with her the Crystal that belongs to Dean Dovey but she has yet to learn how to use it. When she gains that knowledge, the crystal reveals the answers they are looking for, but they are not reliable as it is damaged. What is the Truth and what are Lies? The author has carefully and skilfully blended The Legend of King Arthur, Lady of The Lake and Robin Hood into this part of this magical fantasy story, giving these fairytale figures more character and depth. I love the addition of the gnomes and Gnomeland. Even though there is a major battle of good and evil going on above their heads, they provide such a lot of humour and fun. I also think Reaper, Agatha's cat, deserves a mention. I adore an evil animal character that acts 'all hard' but really has a heart as big as a lion and is not all he seems to be. I won't say anymore as I don't want to spoil it for any readers. Once again the chapters have illustrations at the beginning of them, which help make the book suitable for any level of reader of 11+, especially boys! It would also be great for reading groups as there are lots of discussion points. The Crystal of Time contains 640 well written pages that deal with death, violence, loyalty, friendship, trust, love, humour and of course lots of magic (but what has happened to Merlin?!?) Its main message, as in all fairytales, is our perspective on events, who is telling the truth or a lie? If you believe what you are doing is the truth, how can it be a lie? This is what the main characters have to deal with and work out. With the amazing cliffhanger ending, I believe there will be a book 6, and I can't wait to get my hands on it to see how Soman Chainani ties everything together, and to once again go on a wonderful adventure with these amazing characters. 640 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

A Crystal of Time (The School for Good and Evil, Book 5)
To Night Owl From Dogfish
Holly Goldberg-Sloan

Egmont Books Ltd

ISBN 9781405294836

Bett and Avery, two girls living on opposite sides of America, strike up an email correspondence. Initiated by outgoing, confident Californian Bett, who has discovered that their fathers are planning to send them to the same summer camp, Avery, living in New York City, is at first unbelieving. But when it becomes obvious that it is indeed the case and the fathers want them to meet because they are in a relationship, the girls resolve to ignore each other at camp. Having rather different characters and interests, this is easy at first, as they pick different activities to take part in. However, gradually they find themselves drawn together and a real friendship develops. The book charts their communications, and those of others involved in their story, as they navigate the highs and lows of family life, growing up and a second summer together, at a different type of camp. Heartwarming, touching and often funny, with a diverse and inclusive cast of characters who really come alive for the reader through their emails, texts and letters, this is a totally absorbing read. I was very pleased to make the acquaintance of Night Owl and Dogfish. Recommended for readers of 11+. 304 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, school librarian

To Night Owl From Dogfish