NEW TITLES

There is something for everyone in this selection of books for 8-11 years, reviewed by teachers and librarians, including adventure, fantasy and 'real life' stories.

Sea-ing is Believing!
Steven Butler

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471178733

I'm always wary of reading the second or third book in a series, particularly when I have thoroughly enjoyed the first book. And it is for this reason alone that I hadn't read the second Nothing to See Here Hotel book. Having guffawed out loud while reading about the antics of Frankie Banister and the magical guests at the Nothing to See Here Hotel I was certain that such humour and adventure could not be maintained. I am relieved to say that I have now been proved completely wrong and am looking forward to going backwards to read the second book in this 'humdefferous' series. Needless to say this is another brilliant read by Steven Butler. Sea-ing is Believing, the third book in the Nothing to See Here hotel series, is an absolutely splendiferous read. It truly has something for everyone; action, adventure, magic, fun, fairies and goblins. Not to mention Maudlin Maloney, an exceptionally bad-tempered leprechaun! An all round great read, brought to life by a collection of 'honkhumptious' illustrations by Steven Lenton. This fast paced third book in the series is jam packed full of magical twists and turns. The weird and wonderful are very much the norm at a hotel run especially for its magical, mythical clientele, but when the ghost of Frankie's great, great, great grandad Abraham turns up to his own 175th Birthday celebrations then things start to get even more than a little crazy. Abraham's ghost leads Frankie and the rest of the hotel's extraordinary guests to a yet undiscovered part of the hotel, way beneath the ocean, and it is here that most of the story takes place. What should be the grandest ever celebrations for Grandad Abe's birthday quickly becomes a battle of magic wands, spells, potions and a gargantuan village eating fish. This is a book that everyone would love to read, old and young, boys and girls, teachers and students. Butler's ability to mix and blend his own magic of language and word skills makes this a read aloud delight. Who wouldn't enjoy reading, 'Bog off, you bunch of Ninkumpoopers! I hope the snacks go off and you all get squittly!' to an unsuspecting audience? Ideal as an independent read for fun from 8 years up, but also a delight for a whole class or guided group text in a Primary Key Stage 2 classroom. 256 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher

Sea-ing is Believing!
Fabio The World's Greatest Flamingo Detective: Mystery on the Ostrich Express
Laura James

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408889343

Fabio, the world's greatest flamingo detective, is back and he has another mystery to solve. Fabio may live in a small town on the banks of Lake Laloozee in Africa, but his private eye skills are often put to the test. With a canny ability to detect and unravel mysteries and with his friend and associate, Gilbert, by his side, no crime is too big for Fabio and his shrewd detective agency. At the beginning of this story Fabio and Gilbert have decided to take a holiday to the Coconut Palm resort, traveling on the Ostrich Express. Before they leave they have a few errands to run, one of which is at Alfonso's Jeweller's. Whilst there, they bump into the sophisticated desert fox Zazie, who picks up a rather special package from Alfonso. When Zazie leaves, Alfonzo appears helpful but distracted. He seems to be in need of Fabio & Gilbert's services but with an important train to catch, our private eye heroes have little time to spare to be of any assistance. The world's greatest flamingo detective has to take a holiday sometimes. Once Fabio and Gilbert board the majestic Ostrich Express it seems as though they can finally relax. But can the world's best private investigators ever really rest from their super sleuthing and take a proper break? No, it isn't long before things take a terrible turn for the worse. It appears that Zazie, the desert fox, is on board their train and she is wearing the famous Laloozee diamond. A treasure of that value is too much of a temptation for local bandits and the infamous leopard Janice the Claw. The Lazoozee diamond may be destined for a charity auction but that doesn't stop mastermind criminals from doing all they can to steal it. Thank goodness Fabio and his trusty sidekick Gilbert are on the case! Though Gilbert never can match Fabio's quick thinking and bumbles along at his side, his endearing ineptitude always seems to be well timed and he often inadvertently helps to catch the bad guys. All ends well, as it always does when Fabio is in charge. Laura James & Emily Fox's bright and appealing detective stories balance pace and good humour. This particular edition is florescent pink and orange and really jumps out on the bookshelf. As with the other books in this series, readers will enjoy the short chapters and will wish to read more of the mysteries in Fabio's case load after the plot is revealed. Emily Fox's illustrations are full of character and really help the reader to interpret and predict how the mystery unfolds, bringing the story to life. Many readers will chose to pick up this books simply because the illustrations are so engaging. And they'll be glad they did, because it is another clever, must read mystery, from this brilliant story writing team. The perfect read for newly independent readers, with a vibrant plot that will catch the eye of even the most reluctant readers. 128 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Emily Beale, librarian

Fabio The World's Greatest Flamingo Detective: Mystery on the Ostrich Express
The Bolds Go Wild
Julian Clary

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783448043

I am often wary about children's fiction written by celebrities or retired sports stars, so this was a first for me. The Bolds go Wild, written by actor and comedian Julian Clary and illustrated by David Roberts, is the fifth in the series and proved to be a very amusing read. The Bolds are a family of hyenas who live, disguised as humans in Teddington, England. Mr Bold writes cracker jokes, Mrs Bold designs and makes extravagant hats and their twin children, Betty and Bobby, attend the local primary school. When Mr Bold's mother, Imamu, turns up out of the blue to visit her long lost son, she immediately finds his new way of life difficult to accept. Imamu's wild behaviour comes close to exposing the Bolds' secret, but with the help of their friends; Nigel McNumpty, Miranda, Minnie, and most surprisingly, the twins' Headteacher, Mrs Dobson, they not only manage to keep their secret but also help a long suffering teen in the process. I found The Bolds Go Wild entertaining and well written. I particularly liked the way the author writes as two narrators; the first tells the main story and the second, lesser used voice, chips in 'talking directly' to the reader. This would be a great example of the complexity of narrator for use in the primary classroom. Although written for the 7-9 age group, this book will appeal to both old and young, and would be a great book to share either at home or in the classroom. As a child's independent read, the fun, quirky illustrations throughout the story will no doubt help motivate a young reader who may still be lacking confidence. If you're looking for a laugh or can't get enough of corny cracker jokes, then The Bolds Go Wild is most definitely the book for you. 304 pages / Ages 7-10 years / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher

The Bolds Go Wild
The Sea House
Lucy Owen

Firefly Press Ltd

ISBN 9781910080825

The Sea House tells the story of young Coral, a nine-year-old grieving the loss of her parents in an accident. Whilst crying herself to sleep, Coral realises her house is full of water and magical sea creatures. She meets exotic creatures as well as some scary ones, who have a different motive. The majority of the creatures want to cheer Coral up, however, these terrifying ones want her to close her heart and accept the grief. Coral must learn to listen to her heart and accept the lessons her parents taught her to overcome this. This is a beautiful story; rich with vivid vocabulary and emotions. An unusual portrayal of grief in children, this is a super story to explore feelings of loss, sadness and joy. Short snappy chapters make is a perfect read aloud book or an excellent first chapter book for an early reader. The text is brilliantly given life through Rebecca Harry's stunning illustrations and creative page layouts. The fish fact section at the end also adds interesting tidbits of information for curious minds. A joyous read with a hint of magic. This will open discussions about loss, love and marine life and will be enjoyed by adults and children alike. 124 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Bryony Davies, teacher

The Sea House
We Won an Island
Charlotte Lo

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9781788000413

This is a jolly romp of a story with underlying seriousness and poignant moments. It has resonances of Enid Blyton and hints of The Durrells and is bound to be a hit with readers of adventure. Luna is the central character. Her boundless enthusiasm and never-ending optimism will earn a place in the heart of every reader. When life for Luna and her family is at its lowest ebb, Luna discovers that she has won an island! The family set off to one of the remotest spots on the globe and discover the power of determination, reslilience and most of all, love for one another. There are madcap adventures of slapstick quality - Mum's valiant attempts to run a yoga sanctuary, thwarted by runaway goats and camouflaged ice-cream vans for example, intertwined with heart tugging moments of the harsh reality of coping with grief and the impact of depression. Luna and her siblings are crazy, quirky and totally endearing. The reader will love and empathise with them whilst laughing out loud at their antics. You can't help but root for Luna in her attempts to make everything right and, when events seem to spiral completely out of control, you just want to roll up your sleeves, climb in a rowing boat and get out there to help them. I really wanted the secret festival to be a success, I desperately wanted the donkey sanctuary to become a reality. I had my fingers crossed that Margot would eventually fly a plane and above all, I really, really wanted Dad to emerge from the darkness of his depression to see how amazing his children are. This is a quick and jolly read. Children will relate to issues of sibling interactions, moving home and making new friends. They will be swept along by Luna's love of life and her positive spin on the world. This is a book that has a real feel-good factor and will delight readers of eight years and above. It will put a spring in your step and a smile on your face for a long time after you've finished reading it. 208 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Jo Clarke, teacher

We Won an Island
The Train to Impossible Places
P. G. Bell

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474957410

The Train to Impossible Places, now available in paperback, follows Suzy Smith - 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 8+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

The Train to Impossible Places
Bloom
Nicola Skinner

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780008297381

Sorrel tries really, really hard to be 'good'. She desperately wants to win the holiday promised by the headmaster, Mr Grittysnit, to the pupil who gains the most 'Obedience Points', but her life and eventually the lives of everyone around her are thrown up in the air by Sorrell's discovery of a packet of 'Surprising Seeds'. These seeds have a very strange effect on people and only old Sid Strangeways, with his story of the long dead Agatha, can offer an explanation for what happens to the town of Little Sterilis. If the reader is looking for the usual quirky adventure where plucky children pit themselves against the forces of usually misguided rather than evil, generally dim adults and triumph against all the odds, then this book will surprise and delight. There are indeed plucky children and some adults with very odd notions but there are also seeds that turn humans into walking, talking plants, a long-buried curse and a message about the importance of green spaces. Sorrel, our narrator, begins the book with a warning to its readers about the 'peril in its pages' and then leads them through the amazing events that she unwittingly unleashes on the town all the way through to a somewhat surprising, but happy, ending, The conversational tone will draw the reader in and the characters of Sorrel (brave, inquisitive) and Neena (adventurous, determined) are well developed, particularly in the moments when they don't behave well and risk their friendship. The minor characters are also well drawn, including their classmates and families. It is a long book at over 360 pages but the chapters are short and the story moves along at pace. Visually, the book is a treat - the colourful dust jacket conceals a striking combination of blue flowers on a yellow background on the hardback cover with further colour illustrations by Flavia Sorrentino. This is just a fabulous book all round; funny, thought-provoking, visually appealing and highly original. Suitable for both confident, independent readers and as a class novel, this is a must for the primary school library. 360 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian

Bloom
The Middler
Kirsty Applebaum

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9781788003452

Maggie is a middler, worst luck. Jed was born first and is destined for great things once he gets to The Camp to help fight the Quiet War. Trig was born last and is the baby. But Maggie Middler? There's no great destiny, no prizes, nothing. Just the knowledge that her life is laid out for her, a life toiling in the fields, probably. When she ventures close to the border of her town, she encounters a wanderer - the type of person she has been brought up to believe are dirty, deceitful and dangerous. She seizes her chance to make a name for herself, to show she can be just as courageous as a First. As mesmerising as it is menacing, The Middler is dark, dystopian fiction full of family, friendship and finding truths. Kirsty Applebaum creates a sinister, shadowy world built on propaganda and greed. The characters inhabiting her small town world are at best friendly, trusting and loyal, and at worst greedy, corrupt liars. It was compelling watching Maggie break the rules and learn the truth of her existence. There is much to learn from Maggie's tale for those brave enough to question their beliefs and search for the truth behind them. This is middle grade dystopian fantasy at its finest, and much better suited to primary readers than The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner. I very much look forward to more from Kirsty Applebaum in the future. As a huge fan of Margaret Atwood, this is exactly the kind of book I'd have wanted as a child. 272 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Nicki Cleveland, school librarian

The Middler
Becoming Jo
Sophie McKenzie

Scholastic

ISBN 9781407188157

Jo March is determined to become an author and spends hours reading and writing. However, living with three sisters, her father being away in Syria working as a humanist minister, and her new found friendship with Lateef who lives on the same street, mean there is not always a quiet place to hide away and create her masterpieces. Will she ever achieve her dream? Becoming Jo is a retelling of Louisa May Alcott's classic story, Little Women. Set in modern day England, the March sisters now have mobile phones, electric curling tongs and wear jeans, but Sophie McKenzie has brilliantly captured the original personality of each girl, allowing devotees of the original to recognise each one. She has also cleverly preserved classic scenes from Little Women - Jo still burns Meg's hair, Amy still takes her revenge on Jo in the most disastrous way, Beth still practises the piano at the big house - and yet there are many twists on the original which bring this tale right up to date. Most enjoyable! 336 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher

Becoming Jo
A Wolf Called Wander
Rosanne Parry

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783447909

A Wolf Called Wander is told from the point of view of a wolf on a journey after being separated from his family. His adventure takes him through various landscapes and introduces many other animal characters. Parry's writing is lyrical and allows the reader a full, rounded insight into the wolf's head. My reading group were fascinated by the way the road was described - it took some a while to work it out! The wolf's journey is interesting and varied and provides great interest. I particularly liked the non fiction section at the end where the reader is introduced to the wolf who inspired the story. There are other facts about wolves too and an awesome diagram of a life-size paw which we had great fun imagining! I wish I'd discovered this section first as it would be an excellent introduction to the book. This would be suitable for all of Key Stage 2 and would suit topics in animals. It is a glorious read aloud book - the chapters are short but eventful and the way words flow is perfect. The vocabulary would stretch in places but lots to discuss and debate too, with themes covered including nature, family, journeys and perseverance. Highly enjoyable and highly recommended. 176 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Bryony Davies, teacher

A Wolf Called Wander
The Letter, the Witch and the Ring - The House With a Clock in Its Walls 3
John Bellairs

Piccadilly Press

ISBN 9781848127944

This book is number 3 in the Lewis Barnevelt series, however he is only in it for a little while as this book gives his friend Rose Rita the starring role. While Lewis goes away to Summer Scout Camp to build his confidence, learn how to be a real boy and be more like Rose Rita!, she is left on her own, thinking about how unfair things are, boys have all the fun, it's all just because she is a girl. It's not all doom and gloom for her as she ends up going on an adventure of her own when Mrs Zimmerman takes her to a farm that she has just inherited from her cousin Oley. Just before he died, Oley sent Mrs Zimmerman a strange letter, telling her about a 'magical' ring he found. She dismisses his comments but Rose Rita is hoping the ring is real. When they get to the farmhouse, they find that it has been broken into and the ring is missing, then within hours of being there strange things happen: Mrs Zimmerman becomes ill, Rose Rita sees scary apparitions then Mrs Zimmerman disappears! Is this something to do with the ring? Who has it? What do they want with Mrs Zimmerman? Will Rose Rita be able to work all this out and find her friend? You are going to have to read this delightful book to find out. I felt that this book had an old fashioned feel to it. It was written during the 1970's and is set in America during the 1950's. It was like re visiting an old classic, like The Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton. It made a refreshing change to read a scary book that is not full of 'blood and guts'. The Letter, The Witch and The Ring is full of magical, almost innocent fun, which at one time and perhaps may still do, scare the socks off some children. At the beginning of the story it's clear that Rose Rita is struggling with her identity, she feels out of place and awkward. She is happier when she is climbing trees etc than wearing pretty clothes. Why do only boys get to do fun things? Why doesn't she want to go to dances and dress up? Quite a few readers will be able to relate to these kind of feelings, it's what coming of age is all about. Why do things have to change when you go into secondary school? She does end up doing a lot of very brave and courageous things in order to find her friend alongside making some very silly decisions as well, which make up for the fun in this short story. The book contains 248 pages that are suitable for 10+ confident readers or older non confident. Would also be a good book to read aloud to primary school students during tutor periods or for primary reading groups. The story does contain some scary moments, but nothing in depth or detail, that younger readers may dwell upon. All in all, it's just a fun, quick read, nothing as scary as the first book in this series. However, if you like the books in this series, then keep going - I think there are 12 books in all and I hope to read every one of them. 272 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian

The Letter, the Witch and the Ring - The House With a Clock in Its Walls 3
Treason
Berlie Doherty

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781849391214

Will Montague is brought up in an old manor house by the coast. A series of events sees him end up in London as page to the baby Prince Edward, son of Henry VIII. These are perilous times; the King is prone to rages that can see a person thrown in jail and even executed. Will has to navigate the Court, seething with intrigue and plots. Disastrously, Will's father, is accused of treason and Will is forced to flee into a Tudor London full of dangers he knows nothing about. There he meets a poor boy called Nick who, with his family, help Will to try and rescue his family. Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres and this does not disappoint. Whilst it is based upon real events and some real people, like King Henry himself, the fact and fiction are woven together so skilfully the period is brought vividly to life. The author, Berlie Doherty, undertook huge amounts of research in order to write the book and she was particularly concerned to bring the difference between rich and poor into stark contrast. The whole era is so detailed in the story, you can even smell the not so pleasant odours of Tudor London. As well as being a history lesson, it is also an exciting adventure which does not shy away from the darker side of life at the time, the deaths and fear that crossing the will of the king could bring. Whilst I do know about the period the story still kept me guessing as to what might happen next and how the characters would fare. There was an overwhelming sense that many of them were simply caught up in events and were completely powerless, regardless of rank or wealth. If you are studying the Tudors, then this is an excellent text to use as it brings the Court to life and recreates King Henry in all his aging moods. Even if you are not studying the Tudors, this is a great book to recommend to young readers as it is a masterclass in historical fiction for children. 272 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher

Treason
Night Walker
Ali Sparkes

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192749970

Night Walker is the third book in the Night Speaker series, featuring children who wake up at the same time, every night, and who can talk with animals. In this adventure, the intrepid Night Speaker trio investigate a spate of mysterious child deaths, all under the care of the same team at the hospital. They uncover an evil abduction plot and a web of intrigue fuelling an interplanetary black market. Thornleigh is in peril once more and this time the children and their animal allies are not only fighting to save the town, but also fighting for their lives. Spin, the nocturnal 'vampire' boy, also comes to the rescue at the eleventh hour, but pays a huge price. This is a brilliant adventure that has plenty to appeal to both boys and girls. I loved the further development of the characters from the previous books. Finding out Liam (the bully) and Spin's back-stories makes them more human and adds another valuable dimension to the book. 272 pages / Ages 9-12 years / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian

Night Walker
Galloglass
Scarlett Thomas

Canongate Books Ltd

ISBN 9781782119333

Galloglass is book 3 of the Worldquake series. The books follow Ellie Truelove and her friends, Max, Wolf, Raven and Lexy as they began to discover that they all possess a different kind of magic. The friends, with Ellie as their leader, have to once again defeat the evil Diberi as they plot to destroy the Otherworld at Midwinter. Ellie, during a visit to the Otherworld, gets imprisoned as she has been mistaken for a Galloglass (a selfish, dangerous islander). She has to use her powers, which are forbidden, in order to get out, making even more trouble for herself. Meanwhile, Lexy has to cope with Professor Jupiter Peacock, who is a visitor in her home. Professor Peacock is a vile, evil bully who physically abuses her. But Lexy is not as weak as he believes! Another twist in this plot is Wolf; he goes on a journey (through a book)in the hope to find his sister. During his journey he discovers his true powers/Kharakter and gets rewarded with another boon (magical object) but he has to work out how to use it. The light relief in this book is the School cat, Neptune. He gets bored and after an encounter with a mystical guinea pig (which he wanted to eat as it's his favourite food!), Neptune goes in search for the cats that have gone missing around town, which leads him on an adventure of his own and he finds his Witch at the end of it!! Galloglass has a much darker feel to it than the previous two books in this series. There are quite a few incidents of child abuse and animal cruelty (nothing described in detail) that the more sensitive of the intended target audience (8+) may find it a little distressing. Which leads me to believe that perhaps the author has aimed this book at the older end of this target audience. However, this is not the main focus of the story, the plot revolves around the confident but sensitive main characters who are learning about their new found skills and how to control them and use them for good not evil. As with the first two books in this series, the perspective changes quite a lot within a chapter, which can be a little frustrating at times. Especially when something exciting is about to happen!! However, this could be because of a questioning adult mind; younger readers will just enjoy the adventure as the author's ideas and imagination is inventive and unique. The plot has lots of twists and turns that the younger reader / older, less confident reader will find engaging and be eager to read on. Galloglass has 373 pages full of magic, witches, wizards and talking animals that is suitable for 9+ readers, due to the reasons I have mentioned above. This book would also be great for reading group/reading aloud during tutor periods for older primary students. There is a website for the series that has a handy resource pack for teachers along with a selection of other activities for readers to complete. I also believe book 4 will be out at the beginning of next year. I will be eager to see how these characters have progressed. 384 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian

Galloglass
The Umbrella Mouse
Anna Fargher

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781529003970

In war-torn London, 1944, a family of mice live in an antique umbrella in the window of the umbrella shop, James Smith & Son. The shop suffers a direct hit from a bomb and in an instant, life changes altogether for sole survivor Pip Hanway, young umbrella mouse. With the nearest family she is aware of living in an umbrella museum in distant Italy, Pip drags her - miraculously undamaged - antique umbrella with her on a journey to Europe, but plans change as she encounters brave animals and dangerous situations on the way. An adventurous story aimed at 9+ readers, The Umbrella Mouse is inspired by the true stories of animals caught in the conflict of World War 2, however it is unclear where the true elements appear, while the pacing/timescale of the book is also confusing, making it somewhat difficult to suspend disbelief. Perhaps an information page at the end of the novel would help with this. The animal characters were also slightly at odds in that sometimes they were portrayed as rather human - drinking tea, operating radios and in the case of pigeon Bernard Booth, wearing horn-rimmed spectacles and leaning on a walking stick - but in the majority of cases are standard woodland/city creatures. Pip does not reach her end destination, choosing instead to fight alongside her new-found friends in Noah's Ark, the French animal resistance. It should be noted that some content may not be suitable for more sensitive readers due to the graphic nature of some of the wartime themes. This would be an interesting novel to read alongside history lessons on the topic of the Second World War and perhaps in English as a comparison to the war/animal-themed works of Michael Morpurgo. 274 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Rhiannon Cook, school librarian

The Umbrella Mouse
The Golden Butterfly
Sharon Gosling

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781788950329

It's 1897 and Luciana is mourning the loss of her beloved grandfather. Returning from his funeral, Luciana and her grandmother are confronted by Thursby and his mob who ransack the house in search of - what? Luciana realises that her magician grandfather, the late, great 'Magnificent Marko' was the keeper of a much sought-after secret and she is determined to discover what it is. The Magnificent Marko was a magician unlike any other until he stopped performing with no explanation. He was also the father figure in Luciana's life, having lost both parents when she was only two. It is Marko who taught Luciana to perform mind-boggling card tricks - a skill considered to be most unladylike in an era where it was thought that women were unable to perform magic and therefore not permitted to. This injustice is a central theme to the book and Luciana is determined to prove that she is not to be held back because she is a girl. With help from her friend Charley, the son of a housekeeper, Luciana sets out on a quest to discover the mysteries that surround her. What is it that Thursby is looking for? Why did the Magnificent Marko cease to perform so abruptly and what is the secret of 'The Golden Butterfly'? Her adventures take her to grand houses, theatres and inns. She meets many people along the way, some whom she can trust, some who set out to deceive and some who are not quite as they would seem. Luciana is a girl who refuses to give up. She will not let anyone scare her off and she will not be defeated by the puzzles that her grandfather has set in order to secure his secret. It is a race against time and a battle of good over evil as others strive to claim 'The Golden Butterfly' before Luciana can truly understand it and all of its importance. This is a story with many themes. We see how Luciana has fears but learns to understand and overcome them. She lives in a society full of prejudice; she is dissuaded from being friends with Charley as it is perceived that he is beneath her, but Luciana loves him like a brother and will not let society's rules dictate her friendships. It is a story of love and loss and the power of grit and determination. It is also a story that chooses to dispel the myth that girls 'can't' just because they are girls. This is an exciting read with strong characters and a plot that twists, turns and slides into place just like one of the Magnificent Marko's puzzle boxes. It is a page turner which will appeal to readers who like adventure, mystery and intrigue. The Magnificent Marko would be proud - it's simply magical. 256 pages / Ages 9-12 years / Reviewed by Jo Clarke, teacher

The Golden Butterfly
The Last Zoo
Sam Gayton

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783447701

This story follows Pia, a zoo keeper in the world's last zoo, where the impossible is real. The zoo contains creatures like unicorns, genies, hummingdragons and megabunnies. There are also devils and angels; the latter being the most important, because after wars and destruction, the Earth needs a miracle to survive. All of these creatures were created when scientists detonated a reality bomb. Then one terrible day, Pia wakes to discover the angels are missing and she must follow the clues they left in order to find them and possibly save the world. With her friends and sometime enemies, she embarks on an adventure like no other, where nothing is quite as it seems, and anything could be possible. And what an adventure it is! Travelling with the help of genies and experiencing the many forms of life brought out after the reality bomb, Pia goes on a whirlwind of an adventure, racing at impossible speeds to try and find the angels, before it is too late. I have to confess I nearly stopped reading this book at the beginning; it was so strange and bizarre I did not want to continue. I am so glad I carried on as, whilst it is completely bonkers in places, it comes from an extraordinary imagination and once I got into it I was captivated by the out of this world Earth that had been created. It is full of puns and plays on words as well as amazing creatures, some mythical and others entirely made up by the author. And running all the way through is the thought of what humans are doing to the world and how it is all out of control. A mature reader in Year 6 would enjoy this book as they would chuckle at the jokes and understand the message. I now want to read other books by Sam Gayton as I feel I've made a discovery of an author who writes in a refreshingly different way. 320 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher

The Last Zoo
Scavengers
Darren Simpson

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474956024

I devoured this book in one delicious sitting. It was attention grabbing, gripping and so full of gutsy action (sometimes quite literally!) that I just had to know what was going to happen at the end of each tense episode. The story is based around the character of Landfill and at first it is a little difficult to deduce who (or even what) he is. And that's when you're hooked! Who is this character who leaps and runs and rolls in a haphazard environment of pipes and tubes and carpet rolls? Why is he there? What is he doing? As the story unfolds it becomes clearer that Landfill is a boy who is living in an environment outside of the 'real' world. He is looked after by Babagoo, a scavenger, a father figure, a man who survives within the walls of 'the Hinterland' and who is desperate to keep Landfill away from the Outside. Babagoo and Landfill have a vocabulary unique to themselves; amnals (animals) vegbles (vegetables), suggesting a simplistic naivety, and yet their animals are named after literary giants - Woolf, Orwell, Joyce, Kafka. It is quirks like these that intrigue and so, as when faced with a knotted ball of wool, the reader becomes desperate to unravel the twists and to make sense of it all. Babagoo has a set of rules that Landfill must abide by and when these rules start to be bent, tension between the two characters begins to develop. Landfill becomes more curious about the stories that he has been told and questions all that he has believed to be true. When Landfill dares to venture beyond the walls of the Hinterland, his eyes are opened, and his loyalties are questioned. Without giving too much away, Landfill discovers that Babagoo has not always been entirely honest with him and this brings Landfill dangerously close to the world that is 'The Outside'. The central characters are ones that make the reader really care and the story is so well-told that the tale becomes vivid and addictive. Darren Simpson has a way of making an alien environment one that the reader can picture in all of its complexities. His attention to detail, the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the characters - Landfill's habit of licking his wrist and rubbing it through his hair for example - make this a story that is brightly coloured and bold in the reader's imagination. There were moments when I found myself holding my breath and almost closing my eyes for fear of what might happen next. There were a few scenes which were quite graphic in their nature; necessarily so to reflect the harsh brutality of a scavenger lifestyle and some younger, more sensitive readers might be disturbed by these. I can only hope that a sequel is planned as I have to know what happens next. As soon as it is published, I'll be first in the queue to quench my appetite for more of Landfill's adventures. A truly great read which I highly recommend. 322 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jo Clarke, teacher

Scavengers