Saturday, January 14, 2017

New Year! New Books! ....part 2

The last post featured those books out for the teen/YA readers among us. In this post I am focusing on the intermediate reading years, sometimes referred to as confident readers or 8 to 12 (roughly). I don't like to put age limits on books because, frankly, a good book is a good book. No one should feel they have to apologise for reading something 'beneath their age level.' But that is a discussion for another day. So here are some fantastic books out now or coming out in the next few months that I recommend.
Newly published now, Jake Atlas and the Tomb of the Emerald Snake by Rob Lloyd Jones is an incredible adventure tale that takes us to Cairo. Plumped as "Indiana Jones meets Mission Impossible", add a little James Bond and they are not wrong. Packed full of  danger and excitement, this fast-paced, high-octane read is my recommendation for Dubray Books Childrens Book of the Month. Jake and his twin sister Pan find themselves suddenly thrust into a world of high-tech tomb-raiding in a bid to save their (up to now, boring history professor) parents from being turned into mummies, while a secret society are robbing tombs of ancient artifacts with a bid for world-domination. But everything is not at all what it seems. (Full review on the What Are You Reading page) The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson is a gentler sort of story about 12-year-old Matthew, who has an extreme OCD condition that keeps him housebound. From his window, he observes the comings and goings of the residents of Chestnut Close, including the old man who lives across the street, an old woman who may or may not be a witch, the local bully and the nosy neighbours next door. But when a toddler vanishes suddenly and the police can't locate him, Matthew uses all his observation to figure out exactly what happened. (For those of a sensitive nature, don't worry, it all turns out well.) Written with genuine compassion and understanding, this gives a fascinating world-view and is great for fans of Wonder by RJ Palacio.
Welcome To Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird is one of the first childrens' novels to deal with the Syrian crisis and the plight of refugees. Omar has a completely normal life in Bosra; school, friends, a couple of jobs and his family. But one day, the unrest escalates into violence and war, his family has to flee with only the possessions they can carry. As they move from place to place, they deal with real and present dangers; getting shot at, hunger, cold, as they move on to a refugee camp. But, a near tragedy just might bring them an escape from the horrific life they are now living. Realistic and powerful, this is a very important book for our times. Something for the younger reader,  Trouble Next Door by Chris Higgins is an absolute delight! The author of the My Funny Family series gives us Bellas' story. She has just moved into a new house; old, creaky and dark, and possibly with a ghost in the attic. But she has a new best friend in Magda, who is funny and filled with imagination. But Madga is also trouble! She wrecks Bellas' room, breaks her Mums' tea set and covers the entire living room in soot! But somehow, Bella always gets the blame. A charming story, with wonderful illustrations by Emily MacKenzie, about friendship, family and telling the truth.
Julian Gough and illustrator Jim Fields have returned with The Pest in the Nest (Rabbit and Bear book 2). All Rabbit wants is some peace and quiet! But what with Bears' continuous snoring and the BANG BANG BANG from up above, he can't even hear himself think. Something has to be done...but, spring has sprung, so peace may be the last thing Rabbit will ever see again. This is a laugh-out-loud, soon-to-be-your favourite story as we continue to travel through the seasons with those great (?) friends, Rabbit and Bear!

As February rolls in (and we hope it will be kind), the books come along with some fabulous things to offer. In Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans, Elliots' life is changed forever when a shooting star crashes to Earth and a young Zodiac goddess arrives with it on a mission. With his mum ill and his home under threat, you'd think Maz had enough on his plate. But when the pair accidentally release a powerful death daemon from his prison under Stonehenge, they have to turn to the old Olympian gods for help. Trouble is...they're all a little tired after thousands of years of retirement. It's just brilliant!  
The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis introduces us to Aventurine, the fiercest and bravest dragon who, while very young, is determined to prove herself to her family. She sneaks out of their cave in search of the most dangerous prey of all...a human. But when the human she captures tricks her into drinking hot chocolate, she turns into a little, weak human girl with no way back. Being brave and bold, Aventurine makes her way to the city to pursue her new passion....chocolate! While she brings mayhem to the human city with her, she never suspects she will actually find real friendship. A warm-hearted adventure that I absolutely loved. 
A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson is the story of Owl...yes, that's her name. And it's bad enough having a Mum weird enough to actually name you Owl, but when you add a Dad you've never met, a best friend in trouble and a new boy at school that keeps looking at you in a weird way; it's almost too much! So when strange frost patterns start appearing across Owls' skin, she just wants to hide away. But it isn't that simple. A wonderful book filled with great characters, friendship, responsibility and magic. 11-year-old Olly receives a very special delivery in The Everything Machine by Ally Kennen. It's a 3-D printer! It's also stamped with "Property of M.O.D. AND BRITSH SPACE AGENCY" and "DO NOT TAMPER". It has a name, it speaks and, of course it has magical powers. And it seems very happy to print everything that Olly asks it to. But what Olly really wants is his Dad, who moved out of the family. Cue the DAD-BOT, who is almost exactly like his real Dad...but a bit more chaotic. The Night Spinner by Abi Elphinstone is the third, and possibly the best, in the Dreamsnatcher series. Moll ventures to the wild north; to a land of moors and mountains, goblins and witches with Gryff and their friends to overcome the last Shadowmask. There, Wormhook is spinning a quilt of darkness called the Veil. A masked figure carries it across the land, slipping it through the windows of children to poison their minds. Moll and Gryff are in the forest, awaiting a sign from the Old Magic that they may continue their search for the Amulet of Truth. Suspenseful and truly magical!
And, I am so excited about the release of  Polly and the Puffin: The New Friend by Jenny Colgan. (Again, this is for the younger reader.) The third in the series, it's time for Polly to go off to big school and she's not at all sure about it. She is determined to make it work, though. Along the way, she makes a new friend for herself, and possibly a new feathered friend for her puffin, Neil. As always, in the back of the story there are wonderful recipes and activities.
On to the March winds and let's see what they'll be blowing in.  The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop; illustrated by Ashley King is my kind of book. (Of course!) A magical and intriguing story about Property Jones, who was left in a bookshop at age 5 and taken in by the owners, Netty Jones and her son. Property has a huge secret. After 6 years of living in a bookshop, she can't read! So she can't make any sense of the newspaper article announcing the chance to win the most magnificent bookshop in the entire world, the Montgomery Book Emporium. And, as luck would have it, her book-mad family actually win! Soon, Property finds herself in the middle of a huge bookshop with rotating rooms and a bad-tempered cat. But, it doesn't take long before disaster strikes, for all is not well at the book Emporium and the Jones family find themselves in the middle of trouble and a book forgery racket. Plumped for ages 5 to 9, I loved it!  
The Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge is another great book from the author that gave us The Many Worlds of Albie Bright. Jamies' Dad is an astronaut on the International Space Station.Jamie should be thinking this is really cool, but he just misses his Dad. When Jamie is hanging out at his local observatory, he begins to pick up some weird signals on his phone. Could it be that alien life is getting closer? When his Dads' mission goes awry, Jamie seeks to prove that his Dad isn't the only hero in the family. Another science-based story, this mixes family drama, alien intrigue and a space-time element in a cosmic adventure for anyone who's ever looked and the stars and wondered, is there anybody out there? Speaking of space, See You In The
Cosmos by Jack Cheng is a brilliant debut about 11-year-old Alex who dreams of launching his iPod into space with messages for any intelligent life, just like his hero, Carl Sagan. With a long-dead father, a sister he never knew about, an absent big brother and a troubled Mum, Alex ventures off to a rocket-launching convention in a impromptu road trip with his dog (Carl Sagan) that brings him many new answers and a whole lot of questions. Moving, hopeful and a lot of fun, this is amazing! Jane Kerrs' The Elephant Thief visits the past. A young street urchin and pickpocket, Danny accidentally bids on for Maharajah the elephant in an auction and begins the adventure of a lifetime. Danny's new employer transform him into an Indian Prince as he rides Maharajah from Scotland to his new home in England and even Queen Victoria is captivated by his story. But when a rival zoo-keeper gets hold of Dannys' dodgy past story, his new life threatens to unravel. Wonderful historical fiction!
 Thunderstruck by Ali Sparkes is an fantastic , fast-paced ghostly drama with lightening...literally. During a thunderstorm, Alisha and Theo are huddling under a tree when they get struck by lightening. Having survived the strike, they now see life differently.... including being able to see Doug and Lizzie, who were struck by lightening under the same tree in 1975. Sadly they didn't survive the strike and have now been hanging out under that tree ever since. But Doug and Lizzie are funny, brave and very clever. They come to the aid of Alisha and Theo, who have noticed something sinister going on at their school...something no one else seems to see. Ragged, faceless phantoms are staring out through the windows and not all ghosts are friendly. And the four friends have to battle through when all they want is to get on with their lives...or deaths, as it may be.
That's a lot of information, and I'm sure in the upcoming months, there will be more. So...take this as a taster of great things to come.

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