For Younger Readers - A Really Good Book!

I felt the need for a new page; a separate page for books for newly competent readers. Roughly speaking, these are books for ages 5 to 8 years, and their friends...or for those who like a really good story. This can be a difficult reading level to find good books; ones that tell a great story, keep a reader engaged and don't let them down. See what you think! (Personally, I think they are great!)

KING COO
author: Adam Stower
David Fickling Books (4 May 2017)
ISBN: 9781910200605
When Ben Pole is running away from uber-bully and his arch-enemy Monty Grabbe, he accidentally falls into a secret forest right in the middle of the city. The forest is ruled by King Coo; a rope-swinging, tree-house living bearded girl with a pet wombat called Herb. Ben has finally found a friend! But Monty and his gang follow Ben into the forest one day, and come up with a dastardly plan to kidnap Herb, blame him for the sink holes that have been appearing in the city (kind of true) and destroy the forest along with Bens' friendship. But Coo is very clever and has a great plan. Ben is not going to give up on the best friend he's ever had!
Get ready for thrills, drama and loads of laughs in this utterly charming story. It is outrageous, chaotic, fast-paced and filled with fun. All the characters are well-drawn and thoroughly suit the action. Ben is wholly relatable and completely endearing. Coo is mad-cap (think Pippi Longstocking meets Peter Pan) and completely bonkers! Stowers' incredible, zany ink and wash illustrations bring real life to the tale, with plenty of substance and texture. An absolute joy to read, you'll want to read it again and again; and it's the perfect book to make developing readers into confident readers. I love, love, love it!

MAKING MILLIONS (Cass and the Bubble Street Gang)
author: Erika McGann / illustrations: Vince Reid
O'Brien Press (11 September 2017)
ISBN: 9781847179210
The Bubble Street Gang are back! Cass and her best friends, Nicholas and Lex are solving mysteries, investigating crimes from their secret clubhouse in the hedge at the end of Mr. McCall's field. (But keep the location to yourself...it's a secret.) With school back in session, Cass has discovered a doozy of a mystery. There's an invisible boy in her class! No one can see him, but Cass knows he's there and he's very, very clever at hiding his existence. The trouble with this mystery is Lex and Nicholas don't want to know. Cass is on her own to figure it out. In the meantime, the Bubble Street Gang really need money, so they pool their resources and come up with some absolutely genius ideas to start their very first business. It's Operation Make Loads of Money for Nicholas' Art Class and Probably Become Millionaires! Together, there is nothing the Gang can't do!
It is absolutely fantastic to get stuck in to another Bubble Street Gang story. Entertaining and filled with laughs and a great deal of heart, Cass and her friends simply leap off the page in this traditional style adventure for younger readers. It is action-packed and genuine; the kind of adventure every child can see themselves involved in. The illustrations scattered throughout the book add interest and life to an already lively text.The second in the series (review for the first on the Irish Books, Authors... page of this blog), I highly recommend it for ages 7-8 to read alone or for sharing with the whole family or classroom. Another big thumbs up from me!

TILLY AND THE TIME MACHINE
author: Adrian Edmonson illustrator: Danny Noble
Puffin (4 May 2017)
ISBN: 9780141372457
Tillys' dad has built a time machine in the shed and there is only one place that Tilly wants to go. More than anything, she wants to go back to her 6th birthday, when she ate too many cupcakes, her mum was still there and it was the best day ever. But, while her Dad is testing it out, something goes wrong and he gets stuck in the past! It's up to Tilly to rescue him. This would be hard enough, but with her teacher worried about her and government agents trying to steal the time machine (there are bad guys everywhere!), will Tilly be able to save him....and make it back in time for tea?
This is brilliant! Funny, poignant and packed full of action! Tilly is a great heroine and you really feel for her and her dilemma. As she travels back in time, she meets all sorts of characters... including Queen Victoria... all set in a hilarious, yet accurate depiction of their location in the past. The relationship between her and her Dad is warm and engaging. It is quite quirky and enjoyable with humour balanced very nicely with a touching back story. Easy to read for 6 -9 year olds and a great little book to share, you'll be taken on a great journey through time and in search of cupcakes.

SQUISHY MCFLUFF: THE INVISIBLE CAT
author: Pip Jones  illustrator: Ella Okstad
Faber and Faber (February 2014)
ISBN: 9780571032505
Ava has found her new best friend for life! Squishy McFluff was hiding in the cabbage patch, but as soon as they found each other, the fun and the mischief began. Of course, the mischief is all down to Squishy...
With clever rhyming text and full colour illustration throughout, all of the Squishy McFluff books are utterly charming, filled with character and absolutely delightful. What child hasn't wanted their own pet, and an invisible cat may be the best kind of pet/friend to have. The book(s) play with a childs' imagination as they lead the reader through adventure after adventure. Fantastic for those who are newly confident readers, they are also perfect for reading aloud. Well written, beautifully illustrated in a contemporary style, everyone will love these books. You have to read all five!


THE BOOKSHOP GIRL
author: Sylvia Bishop
Scholastic (2 March 2017)
ISBN: 9781407159690
Property Jones got her name because she was left in the lost property cupboard of a bookshop when she was five years old. Since then, she has lived in the bookshop with the owners, a mother and her son. It is very small and struggling to stay open, but Property loves it there...in spite of her terrible secret. Property Jones can't read and she mustn't let anyone know. So, Property can't read the newspaper article article announcing a raffle with the most wonderful prize. A chance to win the Montgomery Book Emporium; the most glorious bookshop in the entire world! When her family wins, Property finds herself suddenly transported to the Emporium, and wondrous, magical place with floor after floor of of books and one very bad tempered cat. All is not as it seems, however. The Jones family soon finds itself at the centre of a sinister plot and in a lot of danger...and someone seems to know her secret.
This is a good, old-fashioned mystery, filled with drama, intrigue and laughs written for a younger, yet confident reader. (Also, it's perfect for sharing.) There are echoes of such classic childrens' fare as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with strong characters, an impoverished family, very bad baddies and a rather befuddles old gentleman. Good-pacing drives the tale through some fascinating plot twists and sends the reader on a wonderful adventure that builds to a very satisfying solution. The addition of a central character, Property, who can't read echoes strongly throughout the book, adding a personal dilemma. Her cleverness and tenacity shines over her embarrassment. When the 'big reveal' is made, Property shows great courage and the reaction is pitch perfect and extremely reassuring. All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable story that deserves to be read over and over. It was plenty to offer every reader. I just loved it!

(RABBIT AND BEAR) RABBIT'S BAD HABITS
author: Julian Gough  illustrator: Jim Field
Hodder Childrens Books (Sep 2016)
ISBN: 9781444921687
Bear has woken up early from hibernation. She is really a gentle, artistic soul; loving and kind and always willing to see the good in everyone. Her unlikely friend, Rabbit is the exact opposite; grumpy, abrasive and frankly, a bit rude. Restless and unable to get back to sleep, Bear decides to make a snowman. And so Rabbit decides he must interfere. He's never made a snowman before, but surely he knows how to do it better. Bossy Rabbit starts telling Bear exactly what to do, and criticising Bears' efforts. It isn't long before Wolf shows up on the scene, and he doesn't want to build a snowman at all. Wolf is hungry...and he wants Rabbit Pie for his dinner. Can Rabbit count on Bear to save the day?
Very funny and very honest, this is a great read for new readers. Packed with action and lots of word-play, Gough and Field have created a story that begs to be read again and again. The characters are lively and their unlikely relationship is really touching. It is sure to inspire a lot of discussion about patience, friendship and kindness...and manners...and poo; lots of poo. It is well-written and wonderfully illustrated. Never patronising or simplistic, the story is also filled with scientific information that will spark real interest in both children and their parents. It will make you laugh and want more! Fortunately...the next one is on its' way....you'll have to wait until 2017, though.

CAPTAIN PUG: THE DOG WHO SAILED THE SEAS
author: Laura James illustrator: Églantine Ceulemans
Bloomsbury (May 2016)
ISBN: 9781408866368
Pug is heading out to sea. He's had his jam tarts for breakfast. He's wearing his smart sailor suit. What could possibly go wrong? Well...just one thing. Captain Pug is afraid of water. And he is still rather hungry. And that picnic basket looks so inviting. So he pops on the bus to find out what's inside the basket; more yummy jam tarts, perhaps? But suddenly, Pug discovers he has lost his beloved Lady Miranda...and where is he going?  The bus pulls up next to a river, and in his dapper sailor suit, he gets mistaken for a rowing mascot. So, after a trial run on the rowing team,will Pug be ready for the high seas?
Each chapter is full of action, laughs, big personality and cakes. The illustrations add great interest and charm to an already warm hearted, easy-to-read text. With a nice pace, there are many adventures and a mild bit of trouble and suspense. Captain Pug will delight children of all ages. After reading this, you'll be anxiously awaiting his next adventure; Cowboy Pug.

THE SECRET RAILWAY AND THE CRYSTAL CAVES
author: Wendy Meddour illustrator: Sam Usher
Oxford University Press (July 2016)
ISBN: 9780192745569
Leo and Ella find themselves on another mission to save the Kingdom of Izzambard when they ('accidently') discover another magical object in the old station house behind their home. So, it's back on to the 11:61 Izzambard Express for another amazing journey. The evil clockmaker, Griselda has sent her mechanically-eyed moles to shut down the Crystal Caves and stop the production of fairy dust. The Incredible Crystallator (a beautiful, shiny hammer-thingy) must be returned to the hobgoblins of the Crystal Mines immediately! But first, they have to make it across the Goblinora Bridge, past the Angerwick Giant, retrieve Ellas' hat from the ill-mannered fairies, defeat Cuthbert the Cave Worm...it never ends! All aboard for another incredible adventure!
I am really loving The Secret Railway! More adventure, fantasy, exciting twists and turns and wonderful characters are packed into these pages than you could have imagined possible. Leo and Ella are lively and likeable as a brother-sister team, and the inhabitants of Izzambard jump off the page. Everything I said about the previous book (below) has just doubled. And again...I can't wait for the next installment! 


JACK BEECHWHISTLE AND THE ATTACK OF THE GIANT SLUGS
author: Kes Gray
Red Fox (May 2016)
ISBN: 9781782953036
Don't Panic! Everything is under control. There's no danger whatsoever, because Jack Beechwhistle is here to protect us all from whatever alien monsters are trying to take over. From zombie sweet shop owners to exploding conkers, Jack has it covered, with a little help from his faithful sidekicks, Colin and Harry....as long as it's not past bedtime.Their missions are dangerous, daring and, yes, possibly deadly. And now, Jack has a new enemy threat... Giant Slugs are threatening to take over (EEWW!). Can Jack and the boys stop them before they reach the school? And it's right in the middle of maths class!!!! Oh, the horror!
Kes Gray, creator of the wonderful Daisy series, has come up with a new hero Jack Beechwhistle is brave, brilliant and absolutely hilarious! This is the beginning of a clever new series (possibly, but not necessarily aimed more at boys), which promises a load of new, dramatic, funny adventures for young readers. The large print and simple language makes it easy to read and the flow of the story is fast-paced, making the reader really want to continue. I love Kes Gray's books. They are perfect for starting a real love and enjoyment of reading. And Jack Beechwhistle is MY new hero!

THE SECRET RAILWAY
author: Wendy Meddour illustrated by Sam Usher
Oxford University Press ( March 2016)
ISBN: 9780192745545
Leo and Ella Leggit have just moved into an old railway station house in the middle of nowhere, a small place called Biddleshire. This could be really boring. But Leo and Ella are not ordinary children (no children are!) In the midst of boxes and moving in cleaning, they are sent out to explore and find an old workshop, filled with dust and cobwebs and old stuff left behind, including a wonderful red hat for Ella and a mysterious magnifying glass that behaves very strangely. When they make their way out the back door to the train platform, a strange and exciting adventure awaits as they board a train to another world; one that is bright and sparkling and filled with magic, clockwork creatures, a runaway Prince and an evil Clockmaker that is keeping all Izzambards' residents under her wicked spell. But Leo and Ella have the Snarkifying Glass in their possession, and it is the only thing that can save Izzambard and get Leo and Ella home in time for tea.
A story that will remind you of the books you read as a child, (ie: Enid Blyton Faraway Tree, etc.), The Secret Railway is packed with humour, mischief and unusual characters with a great and traditional story line that is bound to delight everyone. The black and white illustrations add a quirky charm that illuminate this fast-paced, off-the-wall adventure. Each chapter is laid out as a 'Platform' that draws the reader further into the plot, which has many twists and just the right amount of tension and drama. A doorway into a secret world, clockwork friends and foe, magical objects, an incredible journey and a race to get home; this book has it all. Just perfect for children to read by themselves or as a shared story for everyone! I just love it! Can't wait for the next installment.

POLLY AND THE PUFFIN

author: Jenny Colgan illustrator: Thomas Docherty
Little Brown Books for Young Readers (February 2015)
ISBN: 9780349131900
One night, a terrible storm rages outside, but Polly is cosy and safe upstairs in her bed. She hears a sudden and enormous CRASH downstairs! She rushes downstairs and finds a poor little puffin with a broken wing. As Polly nurses the puffin she has named Neil back to full health, they become the best of friends. Slowly, Neil's wing heals and the time comes when Polly must say goodbye to the little guy; but will she ever see him again?
I just love this charming story for young readers, and you will, too. Filled with joy, warmth and wonderful humour, it not only shows the developing friendship, but it teaches children that animals are not simply toys, but living beings. The little puffin must be free to fly...if he so chooses. Also, there is a strong under-current of decision making, choice and acceptance. Polly's character is so genuine and speaks to the heart of young children. Also, Colgan has included lots of extras, for example recipes, puffin facts and jokes! The story is peppered with wonderful, lively illustrations that add a whole other aspect to the story and allow those who aren't confident readers to explore alone. A perfect story for sharing or for younger to enjoy by themselves. (Also, there is a second Polly and the Puffin story: The Stormy Day!) Perfect!

DAISY AND THE TROUBLE WITH BURGLERS
author: Kes Gray illustrators: Nick Sharratt & Garry Parsons
Red Fox (2013) ISBN: 9781849416818
Daisy’s back and she’s in more trouble than ever! When a number of burglaries happen right in Daisy’s very own town, there is a lot of worry and excitement. Two houses on a nearby street have been robbed, not to mention the fish and chip shop. The burglars even got away with a lot of cod and haddock! What is Daisy going to do? She turns detective, of course. Daisy enlists the help of good friends Dylan and Gabby to form the DD&G Detective Agency. Armed with her detective kit (including a notebook, magnifying glass and Mum’s new box of powdered sugar for dusting for finger prints), Daisy sets off to catch the burglars. The trouble with burglars is… it’s really hard to catch them if you can’t leave your own street.
Kids love the Daisy books. Daisy is naughty and clever and pulls the young reader along through the story. The book is written with a keen awareness of a young child’s view of the world. The typeface is bold and easy to read, making it ideal for the newly competent reader. Peppered throughout with clear and expressive black and white drawings, it also makes a wonderful first novel to read aloud. As a character, Daisy is an absolute delight; funny, cheeky and innocent in understanding her own mischief. Her mum’s exasperation is something all parents have experienced from time to time, and provides a nice glimpse into mother and child relationships. Funny, fast-paced and well-written, Daisy will inspire great joy in reading.
(published in Inis Magazine 17/12/2013 http://www.inismagazine.ie/reviews/book/daisy-and-the-trouble-with-burglars)

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