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A Coyote’s in the House

The coyote, Antwan, is one seriously cool dude. He runs with his gang, the Howling Diablos, in the Hollywood Hills. He is the main man, the soon-to-be leader of the pack, ‘the smartest and fastest of all the young coyotes’. Normally Coyotes avoid humans and their pets (unless a tasty kitten or delicious dog is…

Across the Universe

Godspeed, the largest ship ever built when it left Earth 250 years ago, hurtles towards its destination: a new planet another fifty years away, ready for colonisation by its cryogenically frozen passengers. Seventeen-year-old Amy – considered non-essential cargo and on board only because both her parents are considered crucial to the mission – is woken…

Along for the Ride

Auden is an atypical teenager from a family of high achievers. But, after receiving a letter from her brother who is travelling in Europe, she decides to spend the summer with her dad, his new wife and baby. As she readjusts to her new life, she finds herself thrown into a world of pink bikinis…

Angel Kiss

“When I like a guy, I tend to examine every word that comes out of his mouth with the determination of a profiler interviewing a suspect,” Jacki King notes in Laura Jane Cassidy’s debut novel, Angel Kiss. Angel Kissis a blend of suspense, crime, the supernatural, and contemporary realism – Jacki may be someone with…

Artemis Fowl – The Opal Deception

This is the fourth book about Artemis Fowl, the boy genius and his escapades in the fairy world. Like the other three titles, the sub-terranean world is a high-tech realm with high security and a cast of characters with varied talents and agendas. Artemis continues to be the only human who has a hope of…

Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code

This comic fantasy in the tradition of Terry Prachett is the third outing for Artemis Fowl, his bodyguard Butler, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Fairy police and the dwarf Mulch Diggums. The book has a strong line in the scatological humour so beloved of children, and Artemis Fowl translates as ‘Chicken Hunter’ – hardly…

Bad, Bad Darlings

In this second book about the Darling children – expert nannies and burglars – the family are sailing off for a life of luxury in Florida, aboard the Bad Ship Kleptomaniac. But their plans for leaving behind a life of crime suffer a setback when the ship runs aground on a desert island. With the…

Barkbelly

Barkbelly is a wooden boy who hatched from an egg shortly after he fell to earth. He was adopted by Gable and Pumpkin Gantry. Barkbelly believed himself to be invulnerable and indestructible so he wasn’t affected by initial attempts of ostracise him. Looking after champion urchins (hedgehogs) proved the ideal job for a wooden boy…

Being Billy

This review is an extract from Inis 35. To read the full extended review pick up a copy of Inis 35. Billy Finn is angry. Abandoned by his alcoholic mother, beaten by his stepfather, rejected by his adoptive parents, and restrained by his carers, his life is far from a barrel of laughs. His strong…

Ben’s Magic Telescope

This book tells the story of Ben, who lives on the nineteenth floor of a tower block in an unattractive and heavily industrialised city. The book opens by presenting Ben’s view from the balcony of his apartment. The reader can see both the boy and the surrounding industrial buildings. The colours used are dull and…

Black Heart Blue

The written text is rightly celebrated for its ability to bring us to places we wouldn’t otherwise visit, and experience emotions vicariously. This is what makes the ‘misery memoirs’ genre so popular amongst adult readers. Louisa Reid’s novel echoes this genre with Black Heart Blue, bringing teenage readers to somewhere they should never want to physically be,…

Blue Moon

The subject of teenage pregnancy is sensitively handled in this really enjoyable novel. Mia is only 15 and it is easy to see how the ‘mistake’ occurred. The sexual element is there of course, but it is not dwelt upon; the concentration is on Mia’s growing awareness of what has happened and the difficulties she…

Boy Overboard

I read this book feeling nervous all the way through. This nervousness was brought on by two factors. First, Gleitzman puts us on notice that he has never been a refugee and is not from Afganistan so he may have got some things wrong – an honest approach but not one that instils confidence in…

Bright Lights

Chapman’s novel is the juvenile equivalent of chick-lit, presenting to its audience of pre-adolescent girls a volume which is superficial, undemanding and founded on conventional and well-worn fantasies. Sophie, the 11-year-old narrator, longs to act, and fittingly, given this sub-teen romance, secures the leading role in a film version of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel, A…

Bright Penny

On pocket-money day Pa gives his children Bill, Bob and Penny a challenge: ‘If one of you can fill the barn for a penny, I’ll give you the farm and go sleep in the chicken coop, and that’s a promise!’ So begins this charming and unselfconsciously nostalgic picturebook. Pa greatly underestimates his children, who take…

Brind and the Dogs of War

The cover of this book, with its ‘fantasy art’ styled airbrushing of a boy in rags standing beside a fearsome hound, in front of the backdrop of a raging battle, excited me immensely. As did the subtitle – ‘Born a boy. Raised with dogs. Became a hero.’ Inside the cover, however, I was surprised (and…

Captain Jack and the Pirates

There can be little doubt that the most widely popular contemporary poetry is children’s poetry. The most popular examples of this poetry are hidden in plain sight as poetic works; in the form of richly illustrated picturebooks . The likes of The Gruffalo and the rest of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s collaborations must be…

Cartoon Kid

Durrr! Sploop! KLUNKK! On the first day of school Mr Butternut tells his pupils that they are secret superheroes and that if they believe in themselves they can do ANYTHING. When trouble strikes, Casper and his best friend Pete take on Masher and the Monster Mob. With people called Ethel Snufflebottom, Hartly Tartly-Green (aka Snotbox),…

Carwash

Over the summer holidays a disparate group of schoolmates living in a village interact, grow and learn. The young people tell their own version of the summer’s events in alternating chapters, allowing the reader to see odd, clever Bix, who spends her time up a tree watching all the comings and goings, beautiful Liv, geeky,…

Carwash

Over the summer holidays a disparate group of schoolmates living in a village interact, grow and learn. The young people tell their own version of the summer’s events in alternating chapters, allowing the reader to see odd, clever Bix, who spends her time up a tree watching all the comings and goings, beautiful Liv, geeky,…

Chronicles of Egg: Deadweather and Sunrise

Geoff Rodkey was the screenwriter for the films RV and Daddy Day Care, but his transition to writing novels brings forth a very different kind of story. There’s no Robin Williams or Eddie Murphy style characters here (hooray!). Instead, we have bloodthirsty pirates, heart-breaking romance and a cabin boy called Guts. Set in a world very similar to…

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles)

Meyer’s sci-fi fairytale sees Cinderella’s glass slipper translated to a too-small foot that has been outgrown by its teenaged cyborg owner, in a powerful and compellingly written reworking of the original that raises important questions about beauty, desirability, class and gender. Beyond this, through the figure of its protagonist,Cinder encourages its readers to engage philosophically with…

Cross my Heart

Laura della Scala has lived a sheltered life in a convent since she was twelve years old. That is until the night, her father unexpectedly calls for her to come home and the world that she knew gets turned upside down. Laura is to take her sister’s place in an arranged marriage. Initially blinded by…

Dear Dumb Diary: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

This is the first in Benton’s Dear Dumb Diary series, the twelfth of which has just been published in America. The protagonist, Jamie Kelly, is a preteen girl whose diary reveals her biggest worries: getting a nickname in school, her less-than-perfect hair, her mother’s undesirable cooking, and her place on the school’s popularity barometer. The…

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever

Everyone’s favourite cartoon diarist Greg Heffley is back with some seasonally appropriate diary entries in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever.  Easy to read with the usual winning mix of drawings and text on each page, this chronicles Greg’s winter adventures in the month leading up to Christmas. Readers of the previous books in…

Doctor Illuminatus

A timeless battle between Good and Evil (where genomes, quantum physics and medieval history coexist with an homunculus, alchemy and time- travel) lies at the centre of this exciting tale of three children (siblings Pip and Tim from the present, Sebastian from 1442) who spend their summer engaged in a battle of wits with the…

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Anthology

When asked to review this book I admit I squealed quite a bit, did a little dance, gushed out my yeses and did an even bigger dance as if no one was looking (luckily they weren’t). I say this to explain that I’m reviewing it from a certain position – that of a Whovian since…

Dog’s Colourful Day

This is an explicitly educational book aimed at the pre-school market. Dog, who begins the day as a white dog with a single black spot on his left ear, gets himself into such a mess that by bathtime he has ten spots of different colours. The book works well for the teaching of colours and…

Double Trouble

The second in Judi Curtin’s Friends Forever series, Double Trouble features a second trip back through time for Lauren and her cat Saturn. This time, however, her friend Tilly joins her for an adventure in ancient Rome. The girls become separated from Saturn, without whom they cannot return home, and they are sold as slaves…

Eight Keys

Eleven-year-old Elise has some growing up to do – and fast – as she starts out in sixth grade in a new school, faces bullying and mountains of homework and struggles to hold on to her oldest friendship. Elise is feeling lost in the small American town where she is being raised by her aunt…

Endymion Spring

Faustian pacts, arcane secrets and a ‘Last Book’ which holds the key to ultimate knowledge are just a few of the intriguing themes that propel the reader forward in the opening sequences of Matthew Skelton’s debut novel, Endymion Spring. With its dual settings in present day Oxford and Gutenberg’s Mainz of the mid-15th century, it…

Frank and the Black Hamster of Narkiz

An adventure story with hamsters as the main characters is fairly unusual – these gentle rodents are rarely blessed with heroic qualities. But these four hamsters, Frank, George, Elsie and Mabel, who live in separate houses along Bright Street, are very different. These hamsters are not only intelligent and resourceful but understand humans and have…

Gates of Rome (Time Riders)

Having not read any of the previous books in the series, the first 50 pages really felt like turning up at the end of a party where everybody’s talking about the great night they’ve had.  Well, everybody except you. Add to that the whole time travel paradox – you know the one – if you…

Ghost Detectives The Missing Dancer

This is a detective story involving four children, Abi, Sarah, Hannah and Grace, who investigate mysteries about the ghosts who appear to them in the Grainger Estate museum where all four girls volunteer. How they became ghost detectives is explained in the first book – Ghost Detectives The Lost Bride. The book is set at Christmas time in the Grainger Estate.…

Ghost Detectives: The Lost Bride

When Abi arrives in her new school after emigrating from the U.S., she wonders if she’ll ever fit in and make new friends. She needn’t worry. When she signs up for a historical project to restore the old town museum to its former glory she meets Sarah, Hannah and Grace. They  are very different individuals,…

Gladiator: Fight For Freedom

When his father is murdered by a dodgy debt-collector, Marcus and his mother are sold into slavery. Consumed with a desire for justice, Marcus escapes but ends up as a trainee in a brutal gladiator camp in Capua. The first volume in a new series, Gladiator: Fight for Freedom follows Marcus’ story as he learns…

Grace

Morris Gleitzman’s Grace is a first-person narrative that charts the struggles of a young girl coming to terms with her family’s membership of a theocratic religious sect. The kind of Christianity lived by this community is world hating, legalistic and ideologically bankrupt. The story follows both Grace’s questioning of the separatist ‘True Path’ advocated by…

Grumpy Frog

Ed Vere is a British author and illustrator and is the creator of one of my all-time favourite picturebooks, Mr Big. I’m a sucker for hat-wearing gorillas who love jazz. Vere’s latest book, Grumpy Frog, tells the story of a bright green frog who is definitely NOT grumpy. Grumpy Frog loves two things best: being…

I Can Only Draw Worms

The thing about counting books is that they rarely surprise. There’s a certain inevitability that means the ending can be predictable. While (spoiler alert) this book does end in 10, there are mishaps and uncertainties along the way. Yes, counting may seem simple, but these worms are unruly and Mabbitt can’t really seem to control…

If You Come Softly

Two 15-year-olds are in love. They meet when they are sent to a private school in Manhattan. The girl, Ellie or Elisha, is Jewish, the youngest of a large family and the only one still at home; the boy, Jeremiah, is black. Both have home problems – Ellie’s mother had walked out on her family…

Invasion of the Vampire Spiders

This is a zany, imaginative story about spiders, cobwebs, dusting and ghosts. The insect-loving reader who opens this book (with its cover illustration of a gross hairy spider) expecting a thriller about arachnids taking over the world should be patient. The reader first gets an interesting insight into what life was like for a young…

Jenny Q, Stitched Up

Best known as an actress and comedian, Pauline McLynn has tried her hand at writing for the teenage market with her YA debut Jenny Q. Jennifer Quinn deals with the teenage trials of having a horrendously embarrassing family, somehow navigating the emotional minefield of liking boys for the first time and dealing with the fallout of…

Jenny Q, Unravelled

In her first book in the series, Jenny Q – Stitched Up, Pauline McLynn introduced us to the endearing Jenny Quinn, with her self-deprecating sense of humour in evidence as she tackled the typical and not-so-typical dramas of a thirteen-year-old's life. Now that Jenny and a host of well-drawn, believable characters in the form of her…

Junkyard Jack and the Horse that Talked

Jack is a very small and bendy boy. So small and bendy that he can hide inside his own school bag! Jack’s mum is in prison for theft and he’s never met his dad, so he is forced to stay in a windowless cupboard in drippy Aunt Violet’s house with his smelly Uncle Ted and…

Kill All Enemies

I’ve always liked the power of Melvin Burgess’s writing – though not always his subject matter – and was accordingly satisfied by his latest book. Although at first, I disliked the three protagonists: they’re loud, aggressive and violent. In fact, they’re very similar to those who ran riot, wrecking the streets of London in August…

Lion Boy

The blurb states that ‘Zizou Corder’ is the pen name of a mother-and-child partnership, and so I had half an eye out for changes in gear, stylistic leaps that would indicate changeovers; but no, the narrative appears seamless. They must have had great fun writing it. This is an adventure which begins in a future…

Lionboy: The Truth

The mother and daughter writing team behind the ‘Lionboy’ books have produced a fitting finale to the trilogy. Charlie, the young hero, has just been reunited with his parents. They live on a futuristic/parallel earth, where a sinister capitalist firm, the Corporacy, has set up ‘Gated Communities’ to cater for the paranoid rich. The Corporacy…

Locomotion

Four years after their parents were burned to death in a house fire Lonnie (also known as ‘Locomotion’) and his younger sister Lili are now living, separately, with foster mothers. For Lonnie, 11 years of age, the trauma of the loss of his parents still hurts. It is his teacher, Ms Marcus, who, in inspiring…

Looking Glass Girl

Cathy Cassidy’s latest offering is inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. It’s a modern fable – the journey Alice has to navigate is from coma to reality, from victim to protagonist, from hapless enemy to wary friend. The Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland riffs spliced through her unconsciousness lacked the intrigue of…

Mad Dog McGraw

Mad Dog McGraw is a refreshing read, revealing the satisfaction of making a friend of a former enemy. Monks’s illustrations are full of energy and enhance the quirky tone of Uhlberg’s narrative as the story twists and turns through the book. She creates an effervescent combination of paintwork and collage taken from a range of…

Marshmallow Skye

The old adage, “Never judge a book by the cover”, is unlikely to be observed in the case of Marshmallow Skye, Cathy Cassidy’s latest book in The Chocolate Box Girls series. Both the brightly coloured dust jacket and the cover beneath, draw the reader into this confection. A lover of the colour pink? This book will…

Meg Goes to Bed

The sixteenth book in the Meg and Mog series, and the first new book in four years, Meg Goes to Bed follows the adventures of witch Meg, her pet cat Mog and their companion Owl on a typical evening. Meg attempts to cook up a spaghetti supper for her hungry friends, but her plans unfortunately…

Mighty Fizz Chilla

I really hate it when I don’t know whether I like a book or not! Even worse is not knowing whether the book is actually good or not. The trouble began with the cover – I just did not get it. But my confusion did not stop there: there was the chapter layout with the…

Mudlark

John Sedden’s Mudlark is, we are informed, a debut novel and, clearly, especially if judged with this fact in mind, it is one of considerable assurance and achievement. The characterisation, particularly of Reg and Jimmy, the 14-year-old-friends at its centre, is rich, rounded and humorous: the portrait of youthful male bonding which emerges is perceptive…

My Dad Is Ten Years Old

‘Better maybe never to love at all. Not even your mother and father. That way you have nothing to lose if they disappear or leave or go all weird on you.’ Teenager Eala struggles with these feelings as she comes to terms with a life in which the father she loved has changed forever. In this case, her dad has gone…

Once

Once a Jewish boy flees the relative safety of a Catholic orphanage in search of the parents who had hoped their only son would survive the horrors of occupied Poland. Once this 9-year-old escapes the notice of Nazi soldiers by lying next to a bookshelf and letting the books slide off and cover him. More…

One Small Suitcase

Only in recent years has the story emerged of the ten thousand unaccompanied Jewish refugee children from Nazi Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, who were admitted to Britain without visas in 1938-9. (Britain was the only country to take in significant numbers of Jewish child refugees.) By 1938 Jews in Europe were despairing and penniless –…

Pass It On

This is a gorgeous picture book by Sophy Henn who was the Official World Book Day Illustrator for 2015 and 2016. It is easy to see why she was chosen. Pass It On is a book with a strong message, yet it is also a book that manages to avoid being didactic. The message is…

Piggies

This disturbing novel is a fantasy that borders on extended allegory. Transported to an alternative world outwardly similar to his own, Ben discovers that its dominant inhabitants (‘beasts’) routinely share each others’ blood as both a form of nourishment and sharing knowledge and collective memory. On the edges of society is a group of ‘genetically…

Plague

Four books in and Michael Grant’s Gone series shows no sign of.  From a very simple ‘now why didn’t I think of that’ concept – everyone over the age of 15 disappears after a small American town is surrounded by a mysterious force field – Grant has developed a memorable, hard-hitting story with well defined…

Platypus

Chris Riddell is a very successful and experienced writer and illustrator of children’s books (and amongst other things he is the political cartoonist for The Economist, The Independent (UK), The Independent on Sunday and The Observer). The eponymous Platypus is an immediately endearing character, cute but not cutesy, somewhat in the vein of Mick Inkpen’s…

Popular

Gareth Russell’s debut novel, Popular, follows the ups and downs of the lives of the rich and popular clique of fictional Mount Olivet Grammar School in Belfast. Full of the mini-dramas we can expect from teenage life, Popular chronicles the parties, break-ups and relationships, social politics and lifestyles of the wealthy sons and daughters of…

Power and Stone

The setting is Hadrian’s Wall, AD 130, where Marcus, Telemachus and their mother Claudia have travelled to be reunited with their father, a Roman prefect. Set in the aftermath of the Roman conquest over the Brigante people, this meticulously researched book provides more than just a snapshot of Roman Britain. Its attention to detail is…

Raymond

Raymond is a small dog with a big idea. His family treat him like a human – they bring him to the hairdresser, they throw him surprise birthday parties – but he’s still very much their beloved doggo until, one day, Raymond decides to become a full part of the family and join them sitting…

Second Fiddle (or How to Tell a Blackbird from a Sausage)

Fans of Siobhán Parkinson’s earlier fiction – and, particularly perhaps, of novels such as Sisters…No Way! and Four Kids Three Cats Two Cows One Witch (maybe) – will know her ability to create complex plots which keep readers wondering right to the very last page about their resolution. It really is often a tantalising question…

See You in the Cosmos, Carl Sagan

Eleven-year-old Alex Petroski and his dog Carl Sagan are on a mission. A space mission. They have a rocket to launch at a desert festival and it will carry recordings of life on Earth so that aliens can learn about us. The fact that the novel is the record of these transcripts suggests that they…

Skinny B, Skaz and me

The ‘me’ of John Singleton’s novel is 13-year-old Lee Matthews, a young man going through what his mother refers to at one point as ‘the runningthe- gauntlet-stage of adolescence’. The obstacles to be encountered en route are to be found in his family, school and local neighbourhood environments. In the first there are parents, grandmother…

Something Invisible

In this book Parkinson returns to a simple third-person narrative form, with a single protagonist who remains the centre of our interest throughout the story, 11-year-old Jake, a clever and eccentric boy who discovers he is capable of friendship, courage and guilt. The novel is about his emotional growth in the course of a summer.…

Strike a Pose, Daizy Star

Cathy Cassidy is best known for her books for readers of 9+, but her Daizy Star series for younger readers is growing in popularity all the time. And with its realistic, lovable characters, charming plotlines and gentle humour, it’s not hard to see why. Daizy is a beguiling girl, smart and funny, and with her…

Tell the Moon to Come Out

Writers of historical fiction face the challenging question of how to combine accurate and necessary historical detail with an absorbing story. Joan Lingard succeeds in doing so in this book, which is set in the period directly after the Spanish Civil War. It tells the story of Nick, a 16-year-old Scottish boy of Spanish descent,…

The Arctic Incident

This second Artemis Fowl novel portrays the struggles raging under the earth which endanger the lives of Artemis, Butler his bodyguard and the fairy captain Holly Short, struggles which must be successfully resolved before the protagonist’s father can be rescued from his Russian kidnappers. But just as striking as the depiction of this unrest is…

The Burning Shadow: Gods and Warriors Volume 2

Hylas is a goatherd with a mission. Identified – somewhat against his will – in volume one of this series as the fabled ‘Outsider’ of a prophecy which states “If an Outsider wields the blade, the House of Koronos burns..”, he is marked out as the chief enemy of the despotic clan which rules his…

The Day Our Teacher Went Batty

There will always be an audience (an adult rather than a child one, perhaps) for the sort of verse in which teachers, or ex-teachers, nostalgically recall the details of classroom anecdotes and encounters. Such memories can have some claim to universality and timelessness since, of course, we have all been in classrooms as pupils, some…

The Dead

First, some bad news: anyone expecting a straight sequel to The Enemy, volume one of Charlie Higson’s zombie series, will be very disappointed. The good news is they won’t be disappointed for long. The Dead begins one year before the events of The Enemy and shortly after the first outbreak of the illness which has…

The Fault in Our Stars

Although themes of death and dying have long been regular features of young adult fiction, it is only comparatively recently that they have begun to shed the mawkish sentimentality and reverential awe by which they were earlier conventionally characterised. John Green’s remarkable novel, focusing on the story of two American teenagers with differing forms of terminal…

The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat

Well over a hundred years since they first appeared in print, who better to continue the tale of that infamous pair who sailed away in a pea-green boat, promised their lives to each other and whom we last saw dancing on the sand by the light of the moon, than the former UK Children’s Laureate…

The Glass Collector

Books that draw the attention of young readers to the exploitation of human rights and the unreasonable burdens placed on some members of society are always commendable; The Glass Collector is one of these. Perera’s second book, after her critically acclaimed Guantanamo Boy, is set in Egypt, among the Zabbaleen, a minority religious community of…

The Guggenheim Mystery

Ted Spark is an extraordinary young man, as readers of The London Eye Mystery will know. I haven’t yet read that book so had the pleasure of getting to know Ted, his sister Kat and their cousin Salim as they travel around New York trying to solve the mystery of who has stolen a Kandinsky…

The Last Castaways

The latest title in the ‘Last’ series continues Grandfather’s adventures with his dog Roo. Visiting Saltbottle with uncle Freddie, Roo and Grandfather happen upon the Unsinkable, the ship in which they had previously adventured. Roo buys it at auction but has no means of payment. The solution is obvious – a fishing trip to the…

The Legend of Captain Crow’s Teeth

As five brothers settle down to sleep, in their cramped holiday caravan, the eldest brother, 10-year-old Marty, retells the local legend of Captain Crow’s Teeth ‘with plenty of blood and guts’. The legend centers on a vicious pirate, who is reputed to wander the local rocks, searching for a 9-year-old cabin boy who sunk an…

The Lightning Thief

The young hero in this fast- moving fantasy novel, 12-year–old Percy Jackson, is a very troubled youngster battling with dyslexia, ADHD and a broken home life. He is frequently on the move from one school to the next, constantly getting into hot water. But these difficulties are insignificant compared with what’s in store for him…

The Little Gentleman

This is an engaging story of friendship between a young girl named Bet and an extraordinary mole who is hundreds of years old when Bet first makes his acquaintance. This mole was an exceptional and unusual specimen. He had language, liked to be read to and to talk. The story unfolds mainly in the present…

The Mystery Tour (Friends Forever)

In their third time-travelling adventure, Lauren, Tilly and Saturn the cat wind up in wartime Britain. Arriving in London 1939 during a blackout, the girls must try to blend into this very different world. What starts out as an exciting adventure becomes more serious as they see the impact the war is having on their…

The Puffin Mother Goose Treasury

Briggs’s solid, comfy country folk, at times Breughelesque, dance, leap and bounce their way cheerfully through the fun-filled pages of well-loved nursery rhymes. Tweedledum and Tweedledee gaze from under their saucepan helmets at the raggedy crow; Jack be Nimble leaps dangerously close to the candle flame; Moses with ‘his toeses’ smiles happily from the bulrushes;…

The Queen’s Lady: The Other Countess

How accurate a historical novel should be is a matter of debate, and readers are quick to spot anachronisms. It is essential to give some flavour of the time, and writers tend to do this through background descriptions rather than through their characters. Eve Edwards is no exception as she weaves various details of Elizabethan…

The Race for the Lost Keystone

The entirely ordinary family of Kate, Phil and their parents, Michael and Charlotte, is in reality very, very extraordinary. The family secrets begin to unravel on the arrival of Great Aunt Elizabeth, an elderly lady clad in bike leathers and riding a Harley Davidson. She takes the two children to New York, where she explains…

The Time Spell

When twelve-year-old Lauren adopts a mysterious cat, she finds herself travelling back in time from contemporary Ireland to 1912. She soon ends up on the Titanic, knowing full well the fate of the boat and its passengers. The Time Spell begins very believably in contemporary Ireland with Lauren telling her friend Tilly that she wants to…

The Whispering Road

This immensely ambitious book, part quest, part politicohistorical novel, has at its heart a savage critique of the inhuman treatment of the poor, more particularly of poor children in 19th-century England. Although not without its flaws – one thinks of the unconvincing nature of the protagonist’s direct speech – Michael’s literary skills, the depth of…

The Worst Witch Saves the Day

Little Mildred Hubble is a witch-in-training at Miss Cackle’s Academy of Witches where she has been the despair of her teachers and the delight of a loyal readership for over 30 years. Magically (of course), she remains a spunky schoolgirl entering third form with all the apprehension of a much more innocent time. In the…

The Wrong Pong

It all starts with a troll climbing out of a toilet. When Neville Brisket is woken in the night by a mysterious vandal, he ends up being dragged down the toilet and into an underworld inhabited by trolls and other fiendish creatures. He is quickly adopted by a well-meaning but hygienically challenged family.  A timid…

The Year the Gypsies Came

In the last issue of Inis, Mary Byrne reported that Puffin were very excited about this debut novel described as ‘How I Live Now meets The Poisonwood Bible’. Puffin’s excitement is certainly justified. The story is set in South Africa in the 1960s and is of a dysfunctional white family comprised of quarrelling parents who…

This is the Story of Alison Hubble who went to bed single and woke up double

Wouldn’t it be great to have another you? How about four yous? Eight? Too many? In this tale of quantum duplication, we find that a perfectly ordinary girl, Alison Hubble, wakes up one morning having cloned herself. This lively read is the perfect mix of poetry and prose, laced with Ahlberg’s renowned eye for the…

Time Bomb

This is the long-awaited new book from Nigel Hinton, author of the excellent young adult book Buddy. This is a work of some considerable length aimed at the older reader. Set in post-war London the book is somewhere between a coming of age book and a loss of innocence book. The narrative centres around the…

Toad Heaven

This book confirmed what this reviewer already suspected about Gleitzman: he’s not a children’s writer, he’s a children’s scriptwriter. The hero is Limpy, a cane toad who wants to find a safe haven for his colony, away from the highway and the dangers of civilisation. The clichés of the quest novel are cleverly subverted and…

Toby’s Funfair Fish

I really like this book. It does all that a picturebook should do. It tells a simple tale: Toby wins a goldfish at the funfair, names him Moby, takes him home and, seeing him unhappy, makes him a miniature funfair that makes them both happy. It is what the blurb says it is – charming…

Vernon Bright and the End of the World

The super-smart Vernon Bright is back for another scientific adventure where he saves the world (after almost destroying it). Yes, Vernon knows all about science, but is a bit short on common sense. His plan to triumph over his obnoxious PE teacher in a weightlifting contest works brilliantly, thanks to the anti-gravity machine he invents.…

WARP (The Reluctant Assassin)

A new Eoin Colfer series has just materialised and it takes off like a rocket – or maybe even a super speedy time-travelling machine. Whatever way you look at it, WARP 1The Reluctant Assassin is a tense, exciting thriller that grips the reader from the very first page. In a murky room in Victorian London a young…

What On Earth Can It Be?

This is a delightfully clever interactive picturebook by the popular children’s poet, Roger McGough. Each carefully designed double-page spread asks questions about a snippet of illustration that shows through the die-cut from the following page – beside a zebra-striped rectangle the author asks, ‘What on earth can it be? A ladder lying in the snow?…

Wheels

‘The crash. My dad, gone forever. Me in a wheelchair’: this is James’s nightmare – but of course it isn’t a nightmare, it’s a memory. A memory of the terrible rainy night a van ploughed into the family car, leaving James paralysed, unhappy and despairing. Months later, he is jolted out of his sullen bitterness…

Where Bear?

Some of the best picturebooks have a central idea that you feel sure must have been used before, it’s so obviously clever. Such is the case for Where Bear?, which follows the quest of a young boy to find a suitable home for his pet bear, now ‘just too big and bearish to be living…

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