What ARE You Reading???

author: Angela Woolfe  illustrator: Paola Escobar
Walker Books (7 May 2020)
ISBN: 9781406391374
Once upon a modern time, in a kingdom not so far away....
Roxy Humperdinck has moved to Rexopolis to live with her half-sister, Gretel, an office cleaner and life is...not what she expected. From the beginning, strange things are happening. She finds a movable panel underneath the bathtub that leads her into a secret vault beneath the Soup Ministers' office. There's a weird advert, supposedly from a witch who is looking for a tenant with really LONG blond hair. As it turns out, her half-brother and half-sister are Hansel and Gretel (yes...THAT Hansel and Gretel) and she's met a SMOG, a BOBI and a MOOOOOH. Add to that a new best friend named Jones who is on the run and looking for some weird ancient relic..and her head is spinning! It turns out that fairytales are not just stories, but actual history and the future of Rexopolis is in their hands. What could go wrong?
An off-the-wall, wacky modern fairytale, this book is both gripping and hilarious. In what seems to be a series of casual mishaps and coincidences, the reader is catapulted into an unlikely journey, full of weird revelations about the stories we know and love, quirky characters both old and new and twists and turns that keep us on our toes. A sinister plot is being carried out by villains; other villains are trying to foil it for even more sinister reasons of their own and to save the day, we are introduced to two sassy, bold heroines trying their best to stay under the radar. Crafty, clever and full of spark, Roxy & Jones are a heart-warming, fun-loving duo that find themselves navigating a mystery that can't be beat. Fast-paced, funny and a brilliant adventure...you'll never look at fairytales the same way again.

author: Eloise Williams
Firefly Press (1 May 2020)
ISBN: 9781913102180
Wilde got kicked out of school on purpose...again. She doesn't seem to fit in anywhere and can't make friends. Wilde knows it's because of the strange things that happen around her. She was hoping she would be sent home. Instead, she's sent to live with her Aunt Mae in Witch Point; her mothers' old home. Wilde will try; desperately try to be normal.  But the strange things follow her there and it seems they're getting worse. There is a deeply guarded secret about Wildes' mother and no one will tell her. The intense heatwave has everyone on edge and the land dusty and dying. Birds are following her, flocking around everywhere she goes. And Wilde is forced to join in the school play, telling the local legend of a witch called Winter. During rehearsals, the students all begin to get letters signed from "The Witch"; letters which curse them with their deepest fears. Small towns have long memories and dark pasts. And suspicion falls on Wilde. Can Wilde find out who has been penning these curses, or is she doomed to suffer the same fate as a witch called Winter?
A beautifully written, fabulously crafted story of mystery, history and belonging; Wilde is a tour-de-force of magical realism. Told in a first-person voice that is genuine and truly believable, the story builds with a deliberate pace that holds the reader firmly within its pages. Wilde herself is a wonderful character. Bold, determined, conflicted and clever, she seeks only to be 'normal', to fit in. But she discovers that winning the acceptance of those with suspicious minds is a near impossible feat...when you, like it or not, stand out. First, she has to accept herself. Atmospheric descriptions set a scene of increasing tension as her own story, and that of the witch called Winter, play out and old fears and truths are revealed. The background of Witch Points' long and troubled history adds an evocative note, causing the reader to wonder; to think of the impact the past has on our present actions and how we justify the things we do. But it is the thread of family and friendship, of being and belonging that binds the  tale and speaks of seeking, understanding and togetherness. Brave, gripping, magical and utterly wondrous.

author: Jennifer Killick
Firefly Press (19 March 2020)
ISBN: 9781913102203
It's the Year Six school trip and Lance, his friends and the rest of the class are off to Crater Lake Activity Centre. But something strange is happening at this place. Maybe it's the bloodstained man who tries to stop the bus entering. Maybe it's the lack of welcoming staff; or the nothing-but-soup dinners...or perhaps the fact that everyone is locked in their dorm rooms from the outside. Even Miss Hoche, assistant head teacher is acting more horrible than usual. Something is definitely not right. Within hours of their arrival, Lance, Chets, Katja, Adrienne and Big Mak find themselves on the adventure of their lives, caught in a mystery that landed with that meteor thousands and thousands of years ago and fighting a swarm of weird enemies for survival. They may not know much, but they do know that whatever happens, they must never, EVER fall asleep.
Packed full of the right kind of creepy, nonstop action and characters to which everyone can relate, this is one book you can't put down. The blend of sci-fi horror and fast-paced energy pulls you along on a roller-coaster race against time where the impossible becomes reality. Within it's pages, a nice touch of trust, friendship, personal conflicts and a sense of empathy are subtly developed while the mystery and tension build to a brilliant ending. Killick displays good use of realistic dialogue, genuine voice and humour that allows each character to come to the fore at exactly the right moment. There is a moment near the end where Lance shares his particular weakness; one that explains much about his personality 'quirks'; encouraging the others to open-up as well, tightening bonds and spurring them all on to make their weaknesses their strengths. She knows her audience well. This is one of those books that can grab the attention of even the most reluctant readers and create desire and encouragement to read more. Get ready for a spine-tingling adventure in the vein of the Goosebumps stories! Fast-paced, gripping, cleverly written; Crater Lake is amazing! Read it now!

author: Janae Marks
Chicken House (5 March 2020)
ISBN: 9781912626380
On Zoes' 12th birthday, she has the best day ever. She has her dream birthday party with her best friends; spending the day in Aris' Cakes bakery in a professional kitchen baking and decorating chocolate fudge cupcakes. Her special day is like a dream come true...and then she receives the letter. It's from her father; a father she has never known because he was sent to prison before Zoe was ever born. Her mom always said she was better off without him in her life. He was dangerous; convicted of murder. But when Zoe opens and reads the letter, he seems...nice and not at all what she expected.  She writes back to him sharing bits of her life with him and as their exchange develops Zoe finds she has so many questions that she needs answered. She begins to have doubts about her fathers' guilt, but no one will even talk to her about what happened. Zoe investigates in secret to discover the truth, even if it means losing a dream of her own. Is her father innocent? Or is he a liar?
This is such an intriguing book that explores big issues in a gentle way. Racism, social injustice and emotional prejudices are seen through the eyes of the young protagonist, Zoe as her world is turned on its' head and she fights to understand these things that have had an impact on her life, though she never really realised it. There are some nice side-stories to the main theme; family dilemma with its' secrets, struggles with friendship are neatly woven in and parallel Zoes' search for her fathers' story in satisfying and evocative storytelling. With a smooth, flowing pace, the tale is fascinating, gripping the reader and encouraging them to become part of the story and reflect a bit. Told in the first person, there is a strong, sincere voice that touches both heart and mind. Clever, heartfelt and full of little surprises.

author: A.M. Howell
Usborne Books (6 February 2020)
ISBN: 9781474959568
After her mothers' death, Helenas' father is appointed clock-winder to one of the wealthiest men in England, Mr Westcott. There is one catch, however. The clocks must never stop or Helena and her father will  lose everything. They arrive in Cambridge with her parrot, Orbit (the last link to her mother) in tow, leaving everything behind in London. Entering their new home, Helena discovers a sinister situation, indeed. A house filled to the rafters with clocks, a strange, almost ghostly child, drawings left pinned to the walls, a warning left inside a pocket-watch and a family about to end up in the workhouse and the Westcott family is not at all what they seem. Helena works very hard to help her father keep the clocks running perfectly, while sneaking around to find out what has happened in this sad, mysterious house. But when the winding keys disappear, it looks as if an act of sabotage will take everything from them; even her beloved Orbit. Helena bands together with her new-found friends to uncover the truth and save them all, but Orbit has escaped and time is running out.
Beautifully crafted descriptions of 19th century England, an eerie household and the ticking and clanging of the multitude of clocks within its walls set the scene perfectly for a tale of friendship and courage to stand up against authority with the feel of  a classic, historical mystery novel. With nuance and grace, it navigates through the many twists and turns, secrets and lies as the friendship between Helena and Florence unfolds and together they find the strength to fight for their families and for themselves. The character of Katherine Westcott adds an intriguing villainous element with her flamboyant hats, quick and sharp wits and care-free, determined outlook. She isn't exactly wrong, just too extreme and heartless in her deeds. The image of Orbit flying and swooping, his bright-coloured feathers lighting up a grey, dismal setting evokes a sense of joy and hope throughout. The story pulls you through on a fascinating adventure as timelessness meets time limits; deep, sorrowful loss meets the inevitable march of time, superstition meets science, giving a vision of how things were and how they had to change. Captivating, fast-paced, utterly charming with a keenly felt sense of friendship, family  ties and time.

author: Sara Pennypacker
cover illustration: Jon Klassen
HaperCollinsChildrensBooks (6 February 2020)
ISBN: 9780008371692
Ware is looking forward to spending the summer at his grandmothers', where he can be lost in his own world of knights and castles in his imagination. But when his grandmother has an accident, he's brought back home and signed up for the dreaded Rec camp so he can have the 'meaningful social interactions' his parents want him to have and participate in whatever activities 'normal' kids do. But Ware sneaks away from the group, over the fence into the grounds of an old church. There he meets Jolene, a tough girl growing a garden in the rubble and tending her secrets as well as she tends her papayas. And Ware also finds a space to build his own castle, recreating the space in his head, becoming the knight he always wanted to be and live the code of doing what is Right and Honourable. Jolene scoffs at Ware, calling him a dreamer and telling him he needs to live in the 'real world', not in Magical Fairness Land where everything works out. Despite their differences, the pair do have something in common. The old church grounds become a sanctuary away from the harsh realities they find themselves living through. When their refuge is threatened with destruction, Ware vows he will save it. But how can he step up and be a hero in the 'real world?'
Here In The Real World is a song dedicated to those who live life with a different point of view; to the introverts, the individuals. Ware is a bit of a mystery and a frustration to all those around him; misunderstood and frequently discounted as someone who just doesn't fit in; filled with a dreamy, artistic nature. Jolene is quite different; skeptical, tough and secretive. While the two clash, the find that they develop an unlikely bond and support system, accepting each other into their lives in spite of themselves. The story speaks of building something beautiful among ruins, of striving for something more. A sumptuous world of dreams and hope comes into being, and even when it doesn't last, it shows a flexibility; an ability to continue forward and find another way. The description of Wares' perspective and how it creates a tangible 'thing' and the determination to protect it takes the reader into the story convincingly, alongside characters that are realistic and recognisable. We feel every action and emotion; the physical work of building a dream and the anger and fear at its' imminent destruction. We have a clear view of the garden and the building of the castle. An adventure to make the ordinary world extraordinary and to be who you really are, Here In The Real World is quietly glorious and graceful. I loved it.

author: Alison Croggon
Walker Books (5 March 2020)
ISBN: 9781406384741
Pip is a clever, cunning young pickpocket using his talents to provide for himself and his sister, El on the streets pf Clarel.  But it seems he has stolen from the wrong man; definitely stolen the wrong object. He is now in possession of an old silver casket containing the heart is that of a young prince whose life was taken from him long ago in order to weave a dangerous spell. And now it wants revenge. Not only is the heart communicating with Pip, but a team of unearthly assassins is after him. Meanwhile, in the palace, young Princess Georgette is about to married off to an old King (much older than anyone thinks) with a sinister plot in mind. Pip, El and Georgette come together seeking help and solace with the Old Palaces' housekeeper, only to find themselves drawn deeper into a world of spectres, witches and the world of forbidden magic.
Alison Croggon (author of the phenomenal Books of Pellinor series) has woven a mesmerising story, the like of which I have been longing to read. With flowing, lyrical writing and complex world-building, you are thrown into a world of sinister schemes, impossible possibilities and ancient enchantments come to life. Fantasy? Oh yes; but every word is completely believable and fully real as it tells a story of loyalty, sacrifice and bravery. The setting of the story is so expertly described that the reader moves fluidly through, envisioning each space to such extent that it is filled with sights, sounds, smells. Each character is well-rounded; the heroes are indeed heroic, but very flawed. The 'bad guys' are full of evil and maliciousness, but there is also something...likable(?), understandable(?) about them. The whole book vibrates with a dark, delicious  tension relieved by bits of humour sprinkled here and there before tossing the reader back into the fray. Its' pace is pitch-perfect. It pulls on the readers' heart while causing you to think and see; really see; at the same time. Vivid, compelling, utterly, utterly magical.

author: Ross MacKenzie
illustrations: Julia Iredale/ cover by Amy Grimes
Andersen Press (6 February 2020)
ISBN: 9781783448319
Long ago, the Silver Kingdom was held in the grip of the Evernight and darkness and chaos reigned supreme, enforced by the Painted Men. It was only defeated by the Witches, whose courage and skill buried it in the depths of the earth. But the Evernight is returning. The wicked Mrs Hester, High Witch to the Silver King; she who has enslaved the White Witches by stealing their souls and has planted fear and terror of the Hags amongst the people; has released the Evernight, determined to find the only spell that can stop it and place the Kingdom firmly in her control.
In the meantime, orphaned Larabelle Fox facing the dangers of the sewers everyday, scavenging for bits and pieces that will earn her a crust. Lara keeps her head down, dodging the coppers, the gangs and the magic...and now, The Sewer Strangler; a man who has no shadow and kills quickly and effortlessly. Then one day, Lara stumbles upon a mysterious little wooden box. Now, the Kingdom plunged into the darkness of the Evernight, Lara is thrown into a world of wild magic, mortal danger and a destiny she had no idea even existed.
Dark and consuming, Evernight is an imaginative tale that does not let go. From the very first page, it weaves its' way into the reader, exposing a vividly described, unique world of witches and magic, orphans, chancers and kings. The surrounding sea and the use of water in general throughout the plot adds a sense of rhythm and a strong element of mystery and danger. This story could not have taken place anywhere other than a port town. The characters are beautifully drawn, alive with varied personality and idiosyncrasies that allow the reader to believe in them whole-heartedly. Lara is fabulously bold and audacious, full of spark and emotion while still maintaining a touch of naivety. It is her journey; she owns it and faces it with all the vigor, conflicting feelings and courage, even if that courage is born out of exhaustion. As the story unfolds, you are carried away with it. It's darkness, its' chaos, its' complexities and nuances make this an adventure that clutches at you, returning once you've put it down to haunt you in your dreams. Brilliant, gripping, thrilling and filled with friendship and heart.

author: Gerald Killingworth
Pushkin Childrens Press (24 October 2019) 
ISBN 9781782692362
A new baby sister and being forced to move mean things couldn’t get much worse for Edwin. But he accidentally makes a new pen-friend by sending a letter up the chimney smoke and things take a turn towards the more unusual. Lanthorne Hughes appears in Edwins’ wardrobe one evening, offering him an escape from annoying baby Mandoline.  Lanthorne leads Edwin into his own world; a world of strange creatures, the worst food imaginable and thrilling, if smelly adventures. However, Lanthornes’ deranged Aunt Necra discovers their friendship and kidnaps Mandoline, spiriting her away to “Out There” with a sinister purpose in mind. It’s time for Edwin to step up. Risking everything, Edwin and Lanthorne enter a dangerous world of cut-throats, thieves and villains to save his sister.
If you’re looking for a book that will scare the wits out of you and leave you laughing at the same time, this is it! An expert bit of world-building takes you on a journey into an un-earthly (or perhaps, under-earthly) realm with a writing style that is riveting and filled with curiosity and humour. Well-described settings paint a detailed map in the mind, while also causing you to question exactly where you are at any given moment. The characters are unforgettable; vividly created beings that fire the imagination and lend a genuine quality to a story of the importance of friendship and family. Discover what it means to set aside petty differences, forget fears and act out of courage. Creepy and hilarious.
(reviewed for Inis Magazine Issue 58; Childrens Books Ireland)

author: Miriam Halahmy
Alma Books, Ltd. (26 May 2016)
ISBN: 9781846883972
It's late August 1939. The summer holiday is nearly over and Britain is on the brink of war. Instead of getting ready to go back to school, London is preparing to evacuate the children to the countryside for their own safety. When 12-year-old Tilly and her best friend Rose discover they won't be able to take their beloved pets with them...and even worse, that their pets, along with hundreds and hundreds of other will be taken to the vets to be put down...they cannot abide this. Tilly and Rose come up with a cunning plan to save them. They have been using a derelict hut in the woods as a den throughout the summer and it will make the perfect hiding place! Before too long, the other children in the area discover their secret and begin to arrive, pleading with Tilly and Rose to hide their animals, too. Tilly and Rose find themselves in the care of guinea pigs, baby hamsters, rabbits, a snake; even a goat as well as their own dog and cat as their den becomes an emergency zoo.
This compelling gem of a book exposes an aspect of World War 2 that you never hear anything about; and it will make you wonder why. Based on actual events, it opens up a new perspective in historical fiction concerning this time period, telling the story sympathetically and concisely. The characters are realistic, filled with conflicting emotions, coming from a variety of backgrounds. Yet, they band together in a common cause, making unlikely friends and showing great resourcefulness and seek creative solutions in caring for a wide variety of animals. It displays courage, determination, compassion and acceptance. Well-written, it moves with a fast-pace and holds the readers' attention and heart throughout. The Emergency Zoo captures imagination and a sense of inventiveness. Heartwarming, full of everyday wonder, unusual; you won't be able to put it down. Truly remarkable.
(And for teachers looking for a different class novel about WW2, this is a must!)

author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Chicken House (3 October 2019)
ISBN: 9781912626076
Mila and her sisters live with their brother, Oskar in a small cabin in the forest, deep within the snow-covered landscape. They have been alone, taking care of each other since their father left years ago; since their mother died and the winter came to stay. One night, a stranger appears, huge and fur-covered, with a band of boys on ponies and strange, overwhelming powers. In the morning, the man had gone...and Oskar with him. Fearful, concerned for Oskars' safety, Mila and her sisters embark on a perilous journey; across the frozen wild forests to the city of their mothers' birth; north to the sea and strange island that exists only in stories to find Oskar and a way past the never-ending winter.
A magical, fairytale of a book, The Way Past Winter casts its' spell on the first page. With lyrical writing that wraps round the reader in a way that brings the frozen atmosphere, the sights and smells of winter, the hunger and the longing; it is intoxicating. Vivid description, characterisation and action evoke a sense of time-honoured tales and paint pictures that seem to come from inside the reader. It breathes life into our deepest dreams. This is an adventure that twists and turns in our imagination. Everything seems so familiar, yet so alien at the same time. The time and place seem both welcoming and repelling at the same time. The characters are courageous and bold in the face of great fear and danger. A tale of family, love and loss (of which the ongoing winter stands as a perfect metaphor, it is also a tale of determination, of understanding, of rescue and release. It may be a fantastical story, but it is also realistic; filled with texture and nuance. Beautiful story-telling, pitch-perfect pace, heartfelt and simply amazing!

author: Julie Pike
Oxford University Press (July 2019)
ISBN: 9780192771605
Spell Breathing is the only thing that keeps the village safe from the monster curse that plagues the world. And for Rayne, Spell Breathing does not come easily. Now her mothers’ apprentice, she spends hours upon hours learning the spells, transcribing scrolls and examining a spellbook imbedded with grotesques that snap and bite. Rayne hates it. She doesn’t want to be a Spell Breather. Just one wrong word; one wrong breath will mean disaster. The day her mother  journeys to the Great Library leaving Rayne alone, one clumsy, ill-tempered action breaks the fragile magic, bringing monster curse thundering in and endangering everyone. Rayne sets off across a treacherous landscape with the broken spellbook, Tom (who resents magic) and a fox conjured by the Spell of Finding to set things right. But when Rayne arrives at the Great Library, awaiting her is threat greater than she could imagine.  This book casts its spell from page one. It crackles with imagination and a well-paced plot filled with twists and surprises. With lyrically woven story-telling and wondrous attention to detail, the reader is sent into a dream-like world that is both fantastical and strangely real. Rayne is a marvellous character; young, energetic, flawed and determined. Care is taken with each character, allowing them to shine as individuals. Flawless writing, a unique and enchanted landscape, a touch of humour; all combine to tell a story that is truly magical. And it is an amazing testament to the power of words. I loved every word. 
(Originally reviewed for Inis Magazine online :https://childrensbooksireland.ie/review/the-last-spell-breather/ )

author: Edith Pattou
cover illustrator: Claire LeFevre
Usborne Publishing (November 2019)
ISBN: 9781474958585
Born into a large, poor but happy family, Rose is an unusual child. She is a North Child, born facing north and to wander far from home. Her superstitious mother does all she can to keep her safe, but destiny cannot be denied. Making a pact with an enormous white bear, Rose rides on his back to a cavernous castle far away. It is the work of the dark enchantment of the Troll Queen, who is waiting for the moment when Rose violates the terms of the enchantment, revealing the white bears' true self before its' time. The bear, now a handsome prince from long ago is whisked away by the Troll Queen, doomed to live as her husband in her dangerous, magical kingdom, the stuff of Northern myths and legends. Rose is grief stricken, but determined to follow the White Bear on his ill-fated journey. Navigating stormy seas, crossing icy, snow-covered lands, all the while facing hardship, loss, starvation and unknown perils, Rose musters all her courage and independence to right the wrong she created, save the White Bear from his fate and face her own destiny.
2003 edition
This has long been one of my favourite winter reads. First published in 2003, I quite literally wept with joy when I discovered it was being re-issued by Usborne with this glorious new cover.
North Child is an adaptation of an old Norwegian folktale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon. And the reader will recognise elements of Beauty and the Beast within its' pages. Expanded into an epic story with beautiful writing, the chapters are broken into the different characters' voices, as all give their perspective of the tale as it unfolds. This allows us to gain greater understanding of the characters and their motivations. The descriptive text reveals the landscape in all its' glory, to feel the calms and storms that set the scenes incisively and to create a picture of this magnificent journey through wild, unsettled lands. The story is compelling, exquisite, evocative...the perfect book to curl up with on long winter evenings. Moving, magical, enchanting.

THE VELVET FOX (The Clockwork Crow)
author: Catherine Fisher
Firefly Press (3 October 2019)
ISBN: 9781913102081
It has been a wonderful summer, and autumn is fast approaching at Plas-y-Fran. Seren Rhys, having rescued Tomos from the enchantment of the Fair Family, is now happily a member of the household and spends her time having the ordinary adventures with her friend. But Tomos' birthday is tomorrow. Feeling full of self-pride and excitement, he loudly boasts of the Fair Familys' defeat and declares his home safe FOREVER. Something you should never do. A swirling wind kicks up the leaves and unannounced, there appears a bright red carriage, carrying a new governess. This strange woman is intent on causing trouble for Seren. Eerie figures from a toy carousel are now stalking the halls of the great house; a soldier, a dancer, a juggler and most dangerous of all, the Velvet Fox. As Seren is painted in the worst light possible by the governess, she realises the depth of the threat to Tomos...and where it comes from. Seren calls on her old allie, The Clockwork Crow. Will her reach her in time to stop the magical creatures taking over Plas-y-Fran before the Velvet Fox traps Tomos and Seren forever?
This welcome return to Plas-y-Fran is as enchanting, gripping and eerie as its' predecessor, The Clockwork Crow. Fishers' gift for story-telling and lyrical writing weaves a tale that consumes. The location, its' residents and all that happens has an urgent, tangible that wraps around the reader and transports back in time and across a magical veil. There is all the suspense, emotion and just the right amount of humour to keep the story from slipping fully into a nightmare. Rather, it is a dream, an echo that sinks into your imagination and calls to you, entreats you to join in. Fantastic, bold, and courageous Seren is utterly marvelous, once again. The mystical creatures have real texture and personality, making them utterly believable. Once again; unusual, intriguing and thoroughly magical. In short, I loved everything about this book.

(A Freddie Malone Adventure)
author: Clive Mantle
Award Publications Ltd (4 July 20190
ISBN: 9781782703631
Connor is gathering supplies; chocolate raisins and strawberry rope or those sweet, delicious rectangular chews? They would be easier to pack. He's got to make a decision, because it won't be long before Freddie is off on another time-travelling adventure. Uncle Patricks' map is beginning to send signals again and this time, Connor is going with him! At least that's the plan, but it doesn't quite work out. Freddie is suddenly whisked away to 1328 BC and the reign of Tutankhamun. Saving the young pharaohs' life, Freddie soon becomes indispensable to him, staying by his side always and keeping his eyes peeled for the sinister danger stalking him. A twist of time send Freddie back to the present, though he knows he must return. He must fulfill a promise he made to the young king. As he makes his plans and relates the tale to Connor, the pair are discovered by his new next-door neighbour, Ruby. But Ruby thinks it's just a story Freddie has created for a school project. That is until Ruby finds herself pulled through the map with Connor and Freddie. There is grave danger at every turn. The friends need all their resources and all their wits about them before they get trapped in time.
In the sequel to The Treasure At The Top Of The World, Freddies' story explodes into an even more fast-paced, thrilling tale. This tightly-constructed book is a rocket-ride of adventure. The friendship between Freddie and Connor strengthens, and the addition of new friend Ruby adds a new dimension. Ruby is courageous and spontaneous. While both boys show concern for her impetuous nature, feeling that they must protect her, it is frequently Ruby that rescues them...but not in a showy, over-the-top way. Just as a matter of fact. The time-travel element is fascinating, of course. There is much that can be learned about history and the individuals that played their part in its making, with Ancient Egypt displayed to great effect. Dealing with issues of bullying, self-confidence and body image, this is a truly valuable read. And, as well as being educational and handling issues with sensitivity, this is a cracking tale. Book two in the Freddie Malone Adventures is even better than the first! Thrilling, intelligent and gripping!

(Book 2: The Stargold Chronicles)
author: Sylvia K Linsteadt
Usborne Publishing (2 May 2019)
ISBN: 9781474934992
On the island world of Fallarone, the Wild Folk are now is serious danger. With the City Brothers discovering that the Country, including the Wild Folk themselves, is filled with the powerful resource stargold, they will stop at nothing to obtain all they need. Destroying the land and capturing Wild Folk to extract stargold, the Country is fast becoming a waste land. Country girl Comfrey and City boy Tin are the only humans the Wild Folk trust. Teamed up with the leverets, Mallow and Myrtle, they must endure a long and perilous journey from  the depths of the Underground river to the highest peak of the Condor folk in hopes of saving their beautiful world. But the Brothers are not far behind and the Wild Folk are rising up to fight for their very existence. Not many will survive. As a crack in the roots of the world disconnects all of life, Comfrey and Tin can only hope they will make it in time...before everything is gone.
Weaving together strands of a stark dystopian future, environmental responsibility and an exquisitely crafted world, this book sings with adventure, imagination and the magic of the natural world. It also begs a question about the interconnectedness of all life and our individual responsibility within that. All the while, the reader is taken on an amazing and marvelous journey filled with dramatic circumstances, fantastical places and intriguing characters and friendships. Lush and vibrantly depicted landscapes add texture and a sense of reality to the fantasy world. While Comfrey and Tin struggle with understanding their roles and capabilities, there comes an overriding sense that, sometimes, they are simply going to have to believe in themselves, even when all is bleak and unlikely. And through them, so do we. There is so much to applaud about this story, the best I can say is please, please read it. Beautifully written, utterly captivating, timeless and so very wondrous.

author: Nick Tomlinson
cover illustrator: Kim Geyer
Walker Books (3 October 2019)
ISBN: 9781406386684
Molly Thompson has a passion for history and investigation, which takes up a lot of her time as Howlfair has a rich, colourful history...and ghouls...lots of ghouls. Well, legends of them anyway. However, not everyone is enthusiastic about her investigating. Molly tends to uncover a lot of personal, family secrets that most folks would rather not be made public. And now, Molly is in trouble for snooping, again. Banned from her beloved library and firmly told NOT to go snooping around the townsfolks private affairs; by her mother, I might add; Molly is confined to her home at The Excelsior Guesthouse, with Gabriel the Excelsior Cat keeping watch. But strange, eerie events are unfolding in Howlfair. The upcoming local election seems to have stirred an unusual amount of unrest; friends and neighbours are falling foul of something or someone unknown, Molly is threatened by the toughest girl in town and Mollys' best friend Lowry still needs her to find out if she's about to succumb to her familys' werewolf curse. When local author, Hectoria Fullsway is found dead, apparently from fright, Molly suspects that the mysterious are a bit more than just legends. Molly must find the truth about the Ghouls of Howlfair, even though it may well cost her more than she can imagine.
From the first page, this book grabbed me and would not let go. Molly is such a brilliantly painted character; clever, funny, inquisitive, determined, brave and with an very keen eye. Her sense of responsibility for others and for discovering the truth shine through at all times, even when she is at her most vulnerable. Set in a town made real through rich description and full of local colour and quirky residents, the reader can sense the atmosphere and settles in quickly to the surrounds of Howlfair. The ghouls and monsters at the heart of the tale are placed with such texture that we believe in their reality. In some cases, we even feel a bit of sympathy for their fate, particularly when we view them against the real baddie of the story. As each creepy event builds on the last, you are pulled through the story with perfect pacing, chills up the spine and dark-ish humour that will leave you chuckling aloud. The Ghouls of Howlfair invites the readers' curiosity, imagination and encourages a bit of belief in what seems impossible. An, intriguing, heartwarming story of friendship, community, family and ghouls; it totally captivates.

author: AM Howell
Usborne Publishing (13 June 2019)
ISBN: 9781474959551
In October 1916, Clara is sent away to stay with her aunt and uncle on a country estate. Her father is home from the war having suffered gas poisoning and is now sent to the Devon coast in hopes of recovery. But her aunt and uncle are not the people she remembers them to be; they are distant and austere and holding many secrets. In fact, the estate and its beautiful gardens seem to be rife with secrets; a locked room in the cottage she is staying in; the nightly theft of rare, prized pineapples; mandarins appearing in odd locations, as if placed there to be found; a mysterious boy who only appears in the gardens at night. And Clara is concealing a secret of her own; a letter from the War Dept that she is terrified to open. With her new-found friend, Clara begins to unravel these mysteries, but when a disastrous event happens, can she find the courage to speak up? And will she ever be able to face the secret she carries in her pocket?
Ripples of such classic gems as Toms' Midnight Garden and The Secret Garden run through a story that is simply beautiful and stands as a classic in its own right. Evocative and atmospheric, it takes the reader back to the WW1 time, and paints a picture of wonder, mystery, melancholy and hope. The descriptive writing evokes the times and surrounds with a texture and vision that allows the reader to actually see the garden; taste the fruit, feel the sogginess in the ground and the roughness of tree bark, hear the not-to-distant rifle fire. And the story itself is wonderful! With a pace that rises and falls in an almost magical rhythm, it takes the reader on a journey filled with feeling, mystery and excitement. Every character is written beautifully; we get to know them; really know them. In Clara, there is a real vision of her confusion, anxiety and determination to be brave, to face facts and to discover the truths no one wants to tell her. There is great relief and satisfaction in learning that the truth is actually not near as bad as the image fear has painted. Lyrical, heartfelt, thoughtful, brave and wonderful...just wonderful.

author: Kate DiCamillo
cover illustration: Amy June Bates
Walker Books (26 September 2019)
ISBN: 9781406390704
Beverly Tapinski has run away from home plenty of times, but that was when she was just a kid. Now, she's fourteen. Now, she has just buried her dog, Buddy; Buddy, the dog she rescued with her best friends, Raymie and Louisiana; Buddy, who saved her and Louisiana when they went into the lake. Now, Beverly doesn't see any reason to stay. Buddy is dead; Louisiana is in Georgia; her mother, Rhonda never cared about anyone but herself...Beverly just wants to get away and forget about everything. She doesn't want to depend on anyone and she certainly doesn't want anybody depending on her. She doesn't feel like she belongs here, and maybe she doesn't belong anywhere. So, she just leaves. But when she gets a new place to stay, a job and begins to form new friendships, Beverly starts to see that having no one isn't as easy as it sounds. There's always someone who won't let you stay alone. Like Iola, who puts a roof over her head and depends on her to drive her to Bingo and to come home every night to tuna melts; and Mr Denby, who depends on her to work in the fish restaurant and who will sort out that paperwork and make it all official one day...maybe even Elmer, who's off to college soon. As Beverly learns to see herself the way other people see her, maybe she belongs right here...wherever she is. And maybe having people to depend on isn't so bad.
A new Kate DiCamillo book is always something very special.In this one, we return to the world we first viewed in Raymie Nightingale and hear Beverly Tapinskis' story. This tough, bold brass girl has gone through much, but the loss of her beloved dog is just too much for her and she takes to the road to build a new life for herself at the age of 14. Beverly is competent and capable, but she really is just a kid and has a lot to learn about how things are in the world. And she learns that she can't hide her tender heart away forever, no matter how much she wants to. We see friendships blossom and discover, with Beverly, how important it really is to have people on your side; people to care for and stand up for; people who will care for you. In this simple story, we see how complex people really are. Beverly is strong and independent, but learns to be vulnerable and that's okay. Iola is a refreshing, funny, practical voice. Elmer is a character that shows a hope for the future and that you can't let the past or other people determine how you'll live. And when old friendships reappear, the urgency of having someone who really knows and loves you comes to the fore. Clear, eloquent and utterly beautiful, Beverly, Right Here will break your heart and give you hope. Simply wonderful.

author: Hilary McKay
MacMillan Childrens Books (5 September 2019)
ISBN: 97815290192261
When Abis' Dad, Tom marries Polly, she gains two brothers, becomes the middle child and realises her life will never be the same again. Her beloved Granny Grace has moved back to Jamaica, and though she writes to Abi all the time, it's not the same. And now, they have to move house. Finally finding an old, vine-covered house that offers space and privacy for them all, Abi  seeks refuge in a world of books, while Max and Louis seemingly find other ways to spend their time. But something is strange here...very strange; not quite right at all. Abi  can dive deeper into her books than ever before, apparently bringing little reminders back into her real life with her. Max loses his best friend, Danny in a stupid argument, but falls impossibly in love. And young Louis, feeling lost and alone much of the time, summons comfort from outdoors; is it an owl that comes to his window; is it a cat that climbs through; or is it something else entirely? Whatever it is, it is becoming far too real and much too large...and dangerous. With no one else to turn to, the three must find common ground and solve the problem...and fast. Before they run out of time to return the creature to wherever it came from.
A beautiful testament to blended families, understanding and the power of stories, books and pictures, The Time of Green Magic sings. Alive with characterisation, the reader is taken on a journey through a moment in time where three children are learning the intricacies of relationship.The descriptive quality of McKay's writing vividly paints a picture and wraps the story around the reader with cosy, warm comfort...but not too much comfort. You are pulled through with suspense and fascination; moved with emotion and empathy. And what a story! Full of wonder, impossibility and the textures of both imagination and real family life combining to create something that is truly memorable. Wise, considerate, and simply wonderful.

(A Murder Most Unladylike #8)
author: Robin Stevens
Puffin (8 August 2019)
ISBN: 9780241348383
After much intrigue and many adventures, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are back at Deepdean; and just in time for the most exciting event the school has ever seen, the 50th Anniversary celebration. With plans for a glorious weekend of plays, dinners, garden parties and performances, the girls are preparing to be thrown in to the festivities. But all is not well at Deepdean. After their extended absence, they have returned to find that the school has changed. There is an elusive and vibrant new girl who has stolen Daisys' place of honour amongst the students. Many of the Detective Societys' old allies are now sworn enemies. But Daisy herself has changed. With all the girls have witnessed, and all they've been through, Daisy and Hazel have changed as well. Then, when one of their number witnesses a shocking incident in the woods surrounding Deepdean and as the parents and past pupils begin to descend on the school, the Detective Society is thrown headlong into yet another murder investigation. This is a murder unlike the others; it seems to be linked to the anniversary and it MUST be one of the parents! It is a case the girls must solve! Not just for the sake of stopping the culprit from striking again, but to save their home and sanctuary, Deepdean School from ruin.
With all the intrigue and drama of a classic Agatha Christie, the girls are back! And I, for one, am delighted. The crafting of the plot is intricate and pulls the reader through a myriad of possibilities in the case. It snakes through the lives of the residents there with subtlety, weaving each into the mystery, giving hints and clues, but still making it impossible to guess the final outcome. The twists and turns are dizzying at times! There are also wonderful character studies, as we see the effects of the girls' past adventures; the changes in their personalities; the growth and changes in their personalities and how they long for simpler times, but have been too exposed to worldly things to go back there. And, the whole story is exciting, theatrical, sometimes confusing (as all good murder-mysteries should be!) Taking the story back to Deepdean School is a master-stroke which refocuses the readers attention and grounds us back into the story...we all love to expose what happens in school and see the teachers and students as they really are; ordinary and predictable? Well, to an extent. But also complex and unexpected. Psychological drama at its' best for any age! Thrilling, absorbing, entertaining and full of surprises.

author Katherine Rundell
Bloomsbury (13 June 2019)
ISBN: 9781526608130
When Vita and her mother arrive in New York City, fresh off the boat from England, they find her beloved grandfather Jack reduced to a shell of the man he once was. Her grandmothers' death took its' toll and now Vita discovers Jack has been swindled out of everything; his home, his possessions and it seems even his dignity by an infamous conman with deep organised crime connections. As there is no reasoning with the man, Vita sets off on a quest to set things right. She meets a young pickpocket on the streets and two boys who live with the circus now playing Carnegie Hall. Together, they devise a cunning plan to out-fox her grandfathers' enemies and take back his home. With their unusual talents and Vitas' own knife-throwing skills, they are drawn through the back alleys, speak-easies and train journeys across New York and into a sinister world that offers little hope or protection. But Vita isn't telling her new colleagues the whole truth. And before too long, they all find themselves playing a truly dangerous, if not deadly game.
Katherine Rundell never disappoints. With an exceptional eye for detail, the reader is transported back in time to New York of the 1920s, with all its' glitz and glamour, all its' seedy and dusty streets. The descriptions are vividly accurate and paint a picture that echoes in your dreams, bringing forth an outstanding, rollicking adventure. Her characterisation is positively perfect, with each player brought to life on the page with genuine voice and poignant realism. Vita is a most impressive heroine; determined, clever, vivacious; despite her having suffered polio as a child, she is truly unstoppable. The character descriptions that offer incredible insight; the building friendship development throughout leave the reader with absolute investment in the story. And the plot is gloriously laden with surprising twists and turns! We are left on the edge of the seat, chewing our nails down to the quick in this fast-paced, magnificent tale of vicious criminals, the dreams of young people and an impossible heist that will save them all from ruin. Amazing...simply amazing.

author: Anna Fargher
illustrator: Sam Usher
Macmillan Childrens Books (2 May 2019)
ISBN: 9781529003970
In 1944 London with the Blitz in full force, young mouse  Pip finds her safe and quiet world turned upside-down when a bomb completely destroys her home, Hanways' Umbrella Shop. Now utterly alone, Pip is determined to make her way to her mothers' family in Gignese in northern Italy, unaware of the peril that crossing Europe during wartime will place her in. Her only hope is to join Noahs' Ark, an animal resistance effort working under the feet of the Allied Forces. With the enemy closing in and mortal danger all around, Pip soon discovers she must risk everything; her journey to find her only remaining family, her precious umbrella home and even her life in order to save her new-found, loyal friends.
A compelling wartime story with a difference, The Umbrella Mouse is simply delicious. Packed full of action with a brilliant cast of characters, it tells a story that is at once exciting and charming, warm-hearted and riveting. Through the voice of Pip Hanway, a young mouse witnessing the war first hand, the reader has full access to the thoughts and range of emotion of a child caught in this horrific situation. In spite of her youth and her very small size, she shows a bravery and determination that leaves the reader cheering her on and gasping at her antics. With the humans staying firmly in the background, the entire story is carefully crafted around the animals and their actions. Each character embodies a different aspect of human kind; generous, kind, evil, practical. And all combine in a tale that is perfect for young readers to truly understand  the horrors of this piece of history. The crafting of the story is superb; the writing is well-paced and beautifully conceived. A phenomenal piece of world-building pulls the reader into this place and time. Sam Ushers' illustrations add the perfect touch to complement the book, as he always does. (I do need to mention the lovely little tribute paid to Judith Kerr in the very beginning, as she appears as a customer in the umbrella shop. She would love it!) All in all, a wondrous bit of story-telling that I highly recommend to all; adventurous, heroic, totally exceptional; a story of courage and hope.

author: Louie Stowell 
illustrations:Davide Ortu
Nosy Crow (6 June 2019)
ISBN: 9781788000260
Kit absolutely hates reading! Can't stand it!  She's rather be outside, playing games, getting muddy and doing anything except reading a book. I mean, what is the point, right? But her two best friends, Josh and Alita are book-mad! It's the beginning of the summer holidays and they drag her along to the library (bluuurgh!) so they can get their hands on a copy of the latest edition of their favourite adventure books; Danny Fandango and the Crown of Bones. While Kit roams around the stacks of the Chatsworth Library (BORING!), she opens a book on dangerous animals and makes a shocking discovery. She finds herself roaming around inside the book! Rescued from head librarian, Faith Braithwaite, Kit uncovers an uncomfortable truth about herself. It seems she is a wizard; maybe the youngest wizard ever. (You're only supposed to come into your magical gifts when you turn 18.) It also seems that there's a sleeping dragon under the Chatsworth Library and an evil property developer has a sinister plot to tear down the library; steal the magic from the dragon and, basically take over the planet. It's down to Kit learn everything about her magic powers she can, save the dragon, the library and the entire world. Who said books were boring?
An exciting story about the power of books, the library and friendship, this one is laugh-out-loud funny and totally gripping. The characters are brilliant; a diverse group of kids with a strong bond between them, who understand the strength of sticking together and valuing each others different outlooks. They have to be smart, brave and resourceful in their mission, and of course create just the right amount of mayhem to frustrate the adults and save the day. Filled with drama and suspense, it is fast-moving and well-written with amazing twists and turns along the way. The idea of books as portals to different worlds is cleverly introduced in a thrilling way that grabs the imagination. Fantastic read for newly confident readers, and I'm sure it's one that will make readers out of non-readers. Books, dragons and a really nasty villain (that is easy to outwit)...how could you ask for more? Fabulous fantasy fun!

author: Francesca Armour-Chelu
Walker Books (6 June 2019)
ISBN: 9781406384369
Gala Island is a place filled with wonderful circuses and exhibitions; and the most beautiful of all is The Butterfly Circus. It's stars; two sisters named Belle and Tansy, thrill its' audiences on the trapeze as they unfurl themselves from their silk cocoons, preforming elegant and death-defying feats high above the crowds without a net. One night, Tansy preforms a stunt she's never attempted before in a bid to impress her older sister and she falls. With her injured arm and her gut-wrenching fear of heights, all she can do now watch as Belle glitters and swoops above. But then, Belle mysteriously vanishes mid-flight. While the circus folk believe Belle has received a better offer from another circus, Tansy knows her sister would never leave her behind. Fearing she has been kidnapped, Tansy sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue Belle from the clutches of Pickingills' circus. She must undertake her mission alone until her shadow (Rosa) tears itself from her and comes to life; showing Tansy that the courage she needs may have been inside her all along.
From the author of Fenn Haflin and the Fear-Zero, comes this mesmerising tale of determination, courage and fear and the power of self-belief and self-confidence. The descriptive text gives the reader a clear and incisive image of the places, the people and the journey Tansy undertakes, carry you through on this gripping remarkable journey; not just across a landscape with all its' sights and textures, but through the inner world of a young girl. When Tansys' shadow comes to life (a nod in the direction of Peter Pan), it is not simply to provide her with a companion, but to give voice to her inner-most thoughts and feelings; to accelerate her forward to face her doubts and fears. As someone who has always been taken care of by others, Tansys' growth and movement toward self-sufficiency is powerful. But just as powerful is the notion that creeps in that you must remember to care for others while struggling to fulfill your own dreams and hang on to hope. The shadow also provides a deep and stirring idea; one that Tansy (and all of us) must ponder along the way; that people in general "only see what they expect to see. Except for maybe young children. They haven't learned what they expect to see yet..." The beauty and cleverness of the writing pulls the reader through a tale that is unforgettable and filled with magic. A story of hope and dreams; this is just wonderful.

author: Christopher Edge
Nosy Crow (6 June 2019)
ISBN: 9781788004947
Charlie and Dizzy head off into the woods one afternoon after school. Dizzy says he's found something strange there; some sticks that have been clearly arranged into some sort of sign....like a secret message left by a spy. But Johnny Baines tells them it's a signal left by Old Crony, a sinister monster that lives deep in the forest, eats children and makes his house from their bones. As Charlie and Dizzy walk along following the sticks, Johnny plays a cruel practical joke that send them all hurtling deeper and deeper into the woods. Lost and confused, Charlie gets hurt and they find themselves separated from time to time. When night falls, the group find themselves locked in a nightmare. Dangers, puzzles and a glimpse of a bombed out village lead them to an uncertain place; a place where time is playing tricks on them. It seems as though Charlie is seeing the world as a different person...no...the same person in a different time. Can Charlie solve this mystery, or are these three children destined to be trapped in the woods; trapped in time forever?
Edge plays with the concept of time and perception in this gripping, eerie tale. And he does so in a completely compelling way that causes readers, almost in spite of themselves, to think of time and space differently. Are these three children; very different in personality; simply lost in the woods, or are they lost in time? As the surrounding area becomes more mysterious, time seems to fold over on itself and reveals something of their own nature. Yet within the complexity of this concept, there lies a simple. clear childhood adventure. The wild, fresh imaginings of the young sit beautifully within Einsteins' theory of the past, the present and the future existing simultaneously. What is real? When is 'once upon a time?' And will cold, hard facts; will science and evidence ever be able to explain what is happening? Charlie shines as a clever, thoughtful character with much depth and a lot going on in life. The reader only has little clues to reveal exactly how much, but this allows for personal interpretation. Clues, and a glorious story to get lost in, leaving us with a satisfied smile and much to think about. Ingenious, imaginative and brilliant...I really love Christopher Edges' books, and this one is pure gold.

author: Fleur Hitchcock
Nosy Crow (7 March 2019)
Athan Wilde is clever; a real dreamer and longs to fly. He spends his days with his friend, Mr. Chen, working on engineering designs for a miraculous machine that will take him soaring into the sky...and possibly winning a small fortune. And his nights, he spends running across the rooftops of Bath, causing mild havoc with his friend Tod. But when Mr Chen is brutally murdered and the contents of his home are auctioned off, Athan realises that someone is desperate to get their hands on Mr Chens' flying machine. With strange and dangerous people looming all around, Athan soon finds that his family is in grave danger. His little sister, Beatty has been kidnapped, his mother is under the spell of Colonel Blade and even those who seem to be friends are hiding dark secrets. These folk will stop at nothing to get their hands on the flying machine. Athan must choose between flight and family before it's too late.
Rippling with drama and suspense, this is a fast-paced murder-mystery that will hold the reader in its' grip right through to the very end. The characters are sublime. Athans' drive and cleverness shines through the action. His dedication to his friends and family are palpable, particularly his best-friend Tod and his disabled little sister Beatty. With a mother struggling to keep a roof over their heads, an over-worked and reliable older sister, Polly and a grandmother who is filled with superstitious notions and wicked intent added to the cast of villains outside the family, the reader never knows which direction the ensuing mayhem will come from. As the mystery deepens, descriptions of Athans' world paint a vivid picture of the gritty, sooty side of Georgian life. And while it is historical fiction, there is a strong sense of the contemporary in this books pages. Lighter moments, such as Athan and Tod scuttling along the rooftops, irritating the neighbours give a moments respite to the weightier, darker action. But the pace never stops; the sense of danger permeates the entire story. I found myself holding my breath as I neared the end of this remarkable, thoroughly enjoyable tale. Hitchcocks' best book yet! Breathtaking, theatrical and really thrilling.
https://nosycrow.com/product/the-boy-who-flew/   https://fleurhitchcock.wordpress.com/

author/illustrator: Peter Brown
Piccadilly Press (9 August 2018)
ISBN: 9781848127517
Roz is not just an ordinary robot. She is a wild robot. For a time, she made her home on a small, rocky island where she learned to speak the animals language and adopted a baby gosling called Brightbill. But now, Roz has been taken far away from her home; deposited in a city and must work as a regular robot. Roz ends up on a farm, where she takes care of the cows and keeps the machines in good working order. And she has to pretend she is just like every other robot; following orders, taking care of all the tasks that keep the farm running;learning about the lives of the two children, Jad and Jaya and their father. Roz cannot let anyone know who she really is or it will be the end for her.  But Roz longs for her island home and she misses her wonderful, beloved Brightbill. She wants to go home; she needs to go home. So she begins to plot her escape. It will not be easy, as every moment she makes is monitored. The journey will be long and dangerous. She will need a lot of help. But how? Roz begins by telling the children a story...
With expert story-telling and charming black and white illustrations throughout, this sequel to The Wild Robot is simply stunning. A moving, compassionate tale of friendship and belonging, it acts as a "fable for our age" (Piers Torday). At the same time, it is funny, action-packed and dramatic.  Roz is a brilliant character. Torn between her desire to "do the right thing" and her longing to be who she really is, the bond between Roz, the animals and children on the farm is strong, but her sense of self  and bond to her island home is stronger. There are many truly touching moments as those around her show great understanding and reveal they will do whatever is needed to help. It is a fabulous study in empathy. Within the pages, the reader will find a thought-provoking story that encompasses environment and nature, technology, migration, along with a gentle tale that grips from the very beginning and holds attention right the way through. The short chapters make this an easy read for those with challenges in that area, but make no mistake. This is a book for everyone with exactly the right balance of joy and sorrow, triumph and tragedy, dark and light. Quiet, considerate, fascinating and poignant.
(And please, please read the first book, The Wild Robot...both are magnificent.)

author: Catherine Bruton
Nosy Crow (25 April 2019)
ISBN: 9781788004503
Aya, eleven years old, has just arrived in Britain from Syria. Having fled her war-torn home with her mother and baby brother, the journey has been long and hard and her father is missing; separated from them during their travels. Seeking asylum, they spend their days just waiting in the local community centre, trying to make ends meet and a roof over their heads and hoping...hoping their appeal will be heard and they can start to have a life. When Aya discovers a local ballet class, the stern and impressive teacher spots her exceptional talent and believes Aya has what it takes to win a scholarship to a prestigious ballet school. This would be a dream-come-true for Aya. At the same time her mother is not well, Aya must care for her baby brother, they are about to be made homeless and they must use all their strength to remain in the country. But help for them all may be closer than Aya could imagine.
A powerful story, filled with empathy, struggle and understanding, No Ballet Shoes in Syria shows a situation facing so many young people today. Bruton has clearly done her research, as the circumstances Aya and her family face are painted with an incisive and realistic brush. Aya is a wonderful character, easy to relate to while still revealing how it feels to be a refugee. Her courage and determination, intelligence and sheer pluck shine throughout the tale. The careful construction of the characters and their relationships lead the reader through a story that is difficult to put down. I found myself totally consumed by Ayas' plight. Miss Helenas' back-story balanced with Ayas' own creates an important juxtaposition between past and present and allows for a thought-provoking comparison. Deeply personal, extremely insightful, well-written and simply...kind; an important and beautiful book filled with adversity, friendship and triumph.

author: Thomas Taylor
Walker Books (2 May 2019)
ISBN: 9781406386288
The sleepy little seaside town of Eerie-on-Sea is a place you do not want to visit in the winter. Just ask Herbert Lemon, chief Lost and Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel. Herbie spends his days collecting lost items and trying to return them to their owners; not an easy task. Especially as he also spends his days trying to stay out of the way of hotel manager Mr Mollusc. Mollusc has other plans for Herbies' lost and found department, and they do not include Herbie. But he gets on with his job just the same and has become a very good detective as a result. But his skills are put to the test when the lost item is not an item at all, but a person. Violet Parma appears at his basement window one cold winters' night. She is hiding from her guardian and trying to locate her parents. It seems they disappeared from that very hotel some 12 years ago under mysterious circumstances. She engages Herbies' services to help her discover the truth; a truth that leads them through the towns chilling streets, towers and down to the old shipwreck on the coast...and into the lair of the legendary sea-monster, the Malamander. While Eerie-on-Sea has always held many strange secrets and characters, it seems that things here have just become even stranger.
Malamander plays on the ancient myths of things that lurk in the icy seas and haunt our dreams and legends. And it does so brilliantly. Combining this notion with a stirring missing persons investigation, it engages young readers from the very first page. The atmosphere of a creepy seaside community filled with odd characters and spooky happenings is painted with range and texture, as the plot and its' pitch-perfect pacing develop. You can feel the fog, taste the salt in the air and have no doubt that danger is lurking around every corner. But it also rings with humour and empathy. The desire to uncover, not only the mystery but the misunderstanding of the creature itself is infused throughout the tale. Herbie and Violet are great foils  and support for one another as they display a burgeoning friendship and genuine sympathy without becoming overly-sentimental. Their personalities and voices ring strong and true and shine brightly above and never fail to outwit the array of adult characters surrounding them. Quick-thinking, friendship and real tenacity combine to make this a riveting, quirky story that you will love. Gripping, magical with shivers down your spine in all the right places, fiercely imaginative and darkly funny; just read it.

author: Vivian French
cover illustration by Hannah Peck
Walker Books (7 February 2019)
ISBN: 9781406376319
In Victorian London, it is hard for the Pringle family to make ends meet and their mounting debts are putting their theatre troupe at risk of financial ruin. But Fred Pringle (father, lead-actor and director of the company) seizes an opportunity to take his show on the rails, bringing his version of Shakespeare  to the north of England by train! In the town of Uncaster, they find a warm welcome from Lady Arabella Poskett (who is herself at risk of losing the ancestral home.) But others are not so keen. It seems another performer, Little Baby Bubbles, child master of magic and escapology and his ne'er-do-well mother have arrived in Uncaster at the same time...and they do not want competition. With these two sabotaging the Steam Whistle Companys' every move and an evil landlord determined to do Lady Poskett out of her home, it seems all down to young Rosie and Charlie Pringle to save the day!
With a riveting plot and good old-fashioned story-telling, Vivian French brings to life the essence of a traveling Victorian theatre company. There is a real sense of time and place, with fabulous description and detail that gives a true picture of every scene without overburdening the story. The characters are wonderfully written. The comic depiction of the adults in the tale create the perfect background for each young character to shine with tenacity, cleverness and strong voices independent of their adult counterparts. There is a sense of empathy for the hard-working and the underprivileged, while maintaining a stalwart sense of self, regardless of their circumstances. But mostly there is a great sense of adventure and working together! Mystery, comedy, plenty of twists and turns and an extremely satisfying ending make this an outstanding read. Thoroughly enjoyable.

authors: Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder
Chicken House (7 February 2019)
ISBN: 9781911490906
A strange series of letters and packages have begun to arrive at Emily’s’ house around midnight, delivered by mysterious postmen, if that’s what they are. Her mother (a completely embarrassing woman, by the way) takes off to sort this out; her father runs off to bring her mother back and Emily is left alone. When they fail to return, it becomes clear that they have vanished into the secret world; a moment in Victorian London frozen in time and about which Emily knows nothing. Determined to recover her missing parents, Emily plunges herself into the city of the Night Folk; a place of magical beings and monsters of every description. With terrifying creatures haunting her every move and armed with only a few sandwiches, a rescued hedgehog, a big mouth and a hidden family secret, Emily has to save her parents, Big Ben and both her world and the land of the Midnight Hour.

Born of nightmares and daydreams, filled with humour, fright and a lot of heart; prepare yourselves for a marvellous journey. The Midnight Hour pulls together contemporary themes with a world of fairytales and legends flawlessly, with hints of A Wrinkle In Time, The Graveyard Book and more.  The characters and locations leap off the page in an incredibly descriptive style as it takes off running from the first page. Emily is a wonderful hero; bold, mouthy, clever, determined and extremely likeable.  A wondrous adventure/fantasy, this is the book I’ve been waiting for. Highly original and simply wonderful. 
(Reviewed in Inis Magazine, issue 56; Childrens Books Ireland)

author: Lindsay Eagar
Walker Books (4 April 2019)
ISBN: 9781406385434
12-year-old Miranda has been accompanying her mother on all her expeditions; searching for evidence of every Bigfoot sighting or rumour all across the country. Miranda used to believe it all, every stray hair or footprint, every screech, howl or series of knocks brought the mythical monster into reality for her. She believed every time her mother said, "We're so close..." But Miranda is older now. She wants proof, not belief. She is intelligent, gifted and ambitious. And her mothers' Bigfoot obsession is causing Miranda to become isolated from her friends and destroying her perfect school record. Miranda just wants a normal life...and a normal mother! And then, Miranda finds the unpaid bills. This has to stop. It's beyond embarrassing now. They could lose their home...they could lose everything. Using her keen, analytical mind, Miranda comes up with a plan. She will accompany her mother on one last hunt; one last journey into the wilderness. And she will use all of her scientific skills to prove to her mother, once and for all, that Bigfoot isn't real. But what if....
More than just a cryptozoology adventure tale, The Bigfoot Files explores the gap between reality and fantasy, normal and extraordinary and, most importantly, parent and child. It deals beautiful with Miranda as she comes of age and struggles with more stress than she's able to cope with. She is written with a genuine and strong voice and the reader can really get on board with her thoughts and feelings. Her mother, Kat is a supreme embarrassment to her, and this is well founded given the circumstances. She is unrealistic, flighty, obsessed with her quest and takes no notice (or seemingly, real interest) in how this may be effecting her daughter. But is she an irresponsible parent, or simply overwhelmed and seeking refuge in her fantasy? Still in all, this is too much for Miranda to take on and their story is written beautifully. Kat is frustrating and Miranda can be really bratty; and let's face it...this is a typical mother/daughter relationship. This aspect weaves itself smoothly into the story of the hunt for Bigfoot. As the journey unfolds, Miranda is thrown into a space where her grand plan to get her mother to see sense has to take a back seat to adventure, trust and belief. The events on their last trip truly bring mother and daughter together, and Miranda has to consider if she is actually going to believe what her own experience and her own eyes tell her is true. Moving, fascinating, dynamic; a wonderful read that brings that spark of magic into ordinary life.

author: Sharna Jackson
KnightsOf... (1 April 2019)
ISBN: 9781999642518
In the middle of a stifling heatwave; in n estate in South-East London, two sisters make a horrible discovery. One of their favourite residents, Hugh Knightley-Webb, antiques dealer and supervisor of the Art Club is found murdered. But these two aren't just your run-of-the-mill kids trying to stay cool in the blistering heat. Nik (age 11) and sister Norva (13) are detectives. They are clever. They are incisive. And they are now on the case! Rumours are running wild on the estate; the police are short-handed and under pressure. Using their fool-proof 'Triangle of Truth' method, they test one hypothesis after another, updating the to-do list to keep the investigation sharp and analysing every suspect for motive, means and opportunity. Nik and Norva will never, ever ignore the evidence; even when it leads them to a chief suspect that is a little to close to home for their comfort. On shoddy evidence, their own father has been taken in on suspicion. But could he have actually done it? Nik and Norva will are determined to get the truth (whatever it is) and no one will stop them.
In an outstanding debut (the first in the UK to feature young black girl detectives) Sharna Jackson shines with a story that will grab hold of the reader and not let go. This book takes the classic murder-mystery format and brings it up to date with fast-paced plot, true-to-life situations and refreshing, genuine voices. There are elements of humour sprinkled throughout the drama that keep it fresh and alive. The characters are engaging and clever; the setting, tangible and the action unfolds in carefully drawn layers that drive the reader through the story on a roller-coaster ride with excitement and intrigue every step of the way. Captivating, fast-moving, animated...this is just brilliant!

author: Jennifer Killick   illustrated by: Gareth Conway
Firefly Press (11 April 2019)
ISBN: 9781910080924 
Since his father simply vanished, Mo Applebys' life has changed drastically. And now, he and his mum have moved in with his new stepfather and two stepsisters, Lottie and little Sadie. Their new house is just across the street from his old one and Lorelai the new neighbour is, to put it lightly, a little strange. She wastes no time in making herself a constant visitor to Mo's new house. In fact, there are quite a few strange people turning up. There's Hector the lollipop man. Jax the new kid in school is identical to another student from years ago. Mr Gideon the gruff and somewhat frightening ice cream man, whose ice cream is irresistible seems to be stalking Mo. There's clearly something wrong going on and Mo is determined to find out what it is. With Lotties' help, he might even discover what really happened to his father...even if it leads them into a nightmarish danger.
A very original science-fiction comedy, Mo, Lottie and the Junkers is simply brilliant. With a background tale of a family situation, it is filled with feeling, drama and loads of humour. The story  unfolds in a typical fashion, with the added punch of absolutely everything not being as it should. Mo is an identifiable character; thoughtful, ordinary, confused and determined. Lottie is a brilliant 'step-sister' type; quite irritating and nosy, but has all the answers and a genuine interest in blending the families together. The parents are brilliantly clueless to any of the peculiar events surrounding them. And the 'baddies'? Well, they are just fabulous; full of texture and idiosyncrasies that keep the reader on the edge of their seats...and laughing out loud. The array of well-described characters and fantastic story-telling create a plot that pulls the reader along through hilariously sinister deeds and gripping action. The pacing is pitch-perfect. Mystery, excitement and energy are infused throughout, making this a book you can't put down. Funny, consuming and imaginative!

author: Marcia Williams
Walker Books (4 April 2019)
ISBN: 9781406388992
Harry Christmas and Angie Moon were born 2 days apart. They live next door to each other, have always been best friends and partners in everything they do, including eating sweets, listening to Grandma Gertie's stories, cloud-spotting and treehouse building. Their treehouse, named Artcloud, spans between their gardens and was designed so they can carry on cloud-spotting and designing all kinds of wonderful creations, with plenty of space for sleep-overs, picnics and having a private space away from prying parents and baby siblings. One day, Harry is taken to hospital because of the severe headaches he's been having. They just won't go away. And things between the two best friends change quickly...and fast. There are times when Harry doesn't answer the treehouse bell. They are times when Angie can't even go next door to see Harry. And there are times when Angie is so angry at Harry's behaviour, she never wants to see him again! But now is the time Harry needs Angie more than ever. And it takes Grandma Gertie, some letters from the past and a very special quilt to stitch their friendship back together again.
Cloud Boy is a very special book, filled with friendship, family, love, loss and the gift of memory. Harry and Angie are typical children with a bright and irrepressible friendship history. Their surrounding family builds a warm and loving background for the two to act out their story, full of day-to-day imagination, creativity and life. They are characters and a setting familiar to us all. But it is an emotional story. As Harry is diagnosed with cancer, and his health concerns take precedence over all else, the friendship between the two children is, of course strained. Angie shows all the frustration, confusion and anger you could expect of a child as she tries to come to terms with the events that are not only shattering Harry's life, but hers as well. Grandma Gertie is a very important addition; her quirkiness, her stories from the past as she brings an understanding, compassion, perspective and acceptance to the tale. The story displays the helplessness of both families trying to help and protect their children and the tremendous growth and struggle as the circumstances drift towards the inevitable outcome. But this is not a heavy, depressing story. It is filled with lightness and joy that shines even brighter for the story being told. Real meaning and feeling are brought to light in a gentle wash of prose, written in a diary still with a genuine and fresh voice. Moving, brave, heartfelt and simply wonderful.

author: Celine Kiernan
Walker Books (7 February 2019)
ISBN: 9781406373929
The Queen and her Raggedy Witches have run from the Witches Borough in the face of defeat, but she isn't dead...of that, everyone is certain. As Mup and her family prepare to make the castle their new home, their is a restlessness; a dread that still fills the rooms and corridors, in fact the entire land. The ghosts of the past are hurt and angry. And one of them is about to unleash a punishing rage on Mups' family. The people of Witches Borough expect a queen; a queen that Mam doesn't want to be. A heavy snow is falling, covering everything in a heavy, freezing blanket. And the Little Grey Girl, a dark, ash-coloured ghost, is determined that the pain and anguish of all the lost will not be forgotten. With her life, her family and an entire kingdom at stake, Mup must summon all her reason and all her magic to put things right...or it was all for nothing.
From the very first line, this book enthralls the reader, wrapping you in a tightly woven, beautiful tale that will move you beyond words. In fact, it had me from the dedication ("For all the forgotten children") Picking up at the exact moment 'Begone the Raggedy Witches' left off, the story continues seamlessly; its' characters alive and real; its' plot seeping with nuance and layers. The building tension is offset with wonderful moments of joy and humour. The relationships between characters and their personalities develop a wonderful warmth which does not deny the clashes and frustrations. The landscape is painted with so much care and attention that I could almost taste the snow and could certainly feel the cold. It continues the story of family, friendship and real compassion and understanding. It creates a world the reader believes in; a world so easy to stepWild Magic Trilogy, it is filled to the brim with drama and danger, true, heartwarming and heart-stopping, and magical...so very magical. Just read it.

author: Hayley Chewins
Walker Books (3 January 2019)
ISBN: 9781406379839
Delphernia Undersea has spent the entire 12 years of her life  in the cloisters of turnaway girls never knowing her mother or anything about who she is; hidden away from the sea and the sky under a rock dome on the island of Brightsea. In the outside world, while the Masters play their music, the turnaway girls weave that music into gold; making 'shimmer' as it is called. But Delpernia can't make shimmer; and rather than stay silent as the laws dictate, her songs well up inside her and bloom into glorious birds that want to fly free. Delphernia wants to fly free. When a Master who doesn't behave like a Master appears at the skydoor, it is her chance to break the bonds of the cloister. Outside, the world is filled with secrets and lies, A strange, sad tale unfolds before Delphernia; one that will lead her to discover her own story and a sinister deception that has held the whole island in its' thrall for far too long.
Told as a first-person narrative, this is an unusual, compelling book that has a 'stream of consciousness' feel to it married tightly to a clear, structured story. Extraordinary poetic writing weaves a tale that is heart-wrenching; bringing together intense longing with an equally intense fear of punishment and retribution. Delphernia is an intriguing character. Yearning for acceptance while holding tight to her own individuality, she is a ball of conflicting emotions. Surprising relationships unveil themselves in a constricted society. Themes of feminism, class conflict, rebelliousness, being true to oneself and facing responsibility to others shimmer through a fairy-tale that rolls like the waves of the sea. The story is simply fascinating. An astonishing debut; lyrical, gripping, enchanting and thought-provoking.
author: Anne Fleming
Pushkin Childrens Books (May 2018)
ISBN: 9781782692140
When a young girl named Kid moves into an apartment block in Manhattan from Toronto, she has no idea what awaits her. Shy and rather anxious, she misses her school, her friends and, most of all her cat. But New York City has a lot of unusual things to offer. In her building alone, there is a blind, skate-boarding writer in the penthouse, a man who can’t speak and his wife, a very smartly-dressed hamster-owning man and then there’s the mountain goat. Most believe the goat is just a rumour and don’t have time for such nonsense in their busy lives, but one or two know more than they will say. Kid is determined to find the truth. And the goat simply longs for freedom… and food.
This short novel is a real gem! A quirky story, an off-beat collection of well-drawn characters, a road trip or two, an unusual, yet typical family and yes, a goat combine to create a story that is, at its heart about healing and recovery. But it is light-hearted and fun, filled with joy, sorrow, frustration and laughter. The goat in the story becomes the centrepiece bringing these individuals together; creating a community accepting of one another’s differences. This mystery/adventure tale is gentle, yet filled with action and interest. The writing is fluid, painting images and emotions that are relatable and make the reader want more. Some characters find closure; others do not. As for the goat, you’ll have to read it to find out.
(Originally published in Inis Magazine online.)

author: Kenneth Oppel
Walker Books (4 October 2018)
ISBN: 9781406380583
Ethan's father is a comic book artist who hasn't been able to produce a single piece of work since his wife died. He just sits in his studio and does....well, very little. Now, 11-year-old Ethan has been chosen to draw the illustrations for his class project; a graphic novel. There is one problem, though. Ethan can't draw. His friends are depending on him and some of his classmates are just waiting for him to humiliate himself. He would ask his Dad for help, but... Then, one night something strange appears; a spirited, animated little ink blot that has climbed out of his Dad's sketch book and is now running amok in the house. Inkling thrives by sucking up ink; from newspapers, novels, flyers and when Inkling finds comic books; oh, the joy! He can also correct drawings and create stories. He seems like the perfect solution to Ethans' massive problem. But Ethan isn't the only one who sees the potential Inkling brings with him...
Filled with heart and humour, this quirky novel creates quite an impact. Centring on Ethan and his family, in enters this strange little ink blot that succeeds in changing their lives at a point when they really needed a change. The relationship between Ethan and Inkling is quietly extraordinary. As Ethans' view of Inkling changes from a thing of fear to a thing that can be useful to a being with needs of feelings and finally, to a friend; the growing sense of compassion and empathy is very effective and easily transfers from the printed page to the reader. While some of the issues dealt with in Inkling could be quite heavy (loss, isolation, difference, etc), here it is approached with a gentle humour and a sense of understanding. In dealing with the death of Ethans' mother, there is a distinct difference between Ethans' grief and his fathers'; a sense of the depth that both feel their loss, but on completely different planes. Also, the handling of Ethans' relationship with his little sister, who has Downs Syndrome is sensitively, but realistically written and her part in the story brings a fresh, direct quality. The story is illustrated throughout with a series of 'inkblots' that adds a certain believability to the action. Charming, engaging and wonderfully imaginative. One that must be read.

author: Jamie Smith
illustrator: Karl James Mountford
Chicken House (1 November 2018)
ISBN: 9781911077879
Being chosen to bond with a frostsliver, a fragment of the living glacier that towers over and sometimes consumes the lives of the people, is a great honour. It is also fraught with peril. Sabira makes the pilgrimage to the top of the mountain as the chosen one; a journey that escaped the grasp of her brother, Kyran. A huge avalanche traps her on the glacier, destroying the pass and making it impossible to return home. Sabira is determined and remembers stories told of another way...a way from long ago. But all of this has been far too coincidental. The Ignatians, people of fire and ash, are bent on war, lead by the cruel, perhaps mad Colonel Yupin. Negotiations have broken down. Could they be as responsible for the avalanche as they were for the attack on her mother, brother and herself years ago? In search of the alternate path home, Sabira must face the merciless mountain as she discovers truths behind old stories and the sinister plot to destroy her land.
This atmospheric fantasy paints a vivid picture of a land and a people that have echoes of old Himalayan tales, but with an eerie contemporary echo. It is also a tale of family, friendship and warring factions, while maintaining a tension-filled, fast-paced mystery. The flashbacks throughout build the backstory of Sabira, her family and the quest on which she now finds herself. With wonderful characterisation filled with depth, the reader is lead through Sabira's external and internal landscapes and see clearly through her eyes, feeling what she feels, thinking what she thinks. The voice of the frostsliver that Sabira bonds with acts as a marvelous addition of humour and relief. There is a big reveal in her brother's story (which I won't spoil for you) which is both shocking and amazing. The world-building is incredible; filled with texture and nuance. The cover and interior illustrations are stunning, intriguing and help to create a beautiful package. All in all, this is a fantastic book and an absolutely perfect read for the winter months...or any time, for that matter. Original, memorable, outstanding.

author: Anna James
illustrator: Paola Escobar
HarperCollinsChildrensBooks (18 September 2018)
ISBN: 9780008229863
Since her mothers' disappearance, Tilly has found comfort and adventure in books from Pages and Co, her grandparents' bookshop and the place she calls home. Now 11 years old, something strange has been happening. Her favourite characters, Alice from Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables have been appearing in the shop, leading Tilly into their adventures. Not only can Tilly travel into to these stories, but she can wander through any book she likes, whenever she likes. Tilly is a book-wanderer! Perhaps now she will discover what happened to her mother, as well as the identity of her father. But Tilly is being followed by a sinister man who came to visit her grandfather. He seems to appear in every book she wanders into. It would seem she is not alone and this new-found ability may bring with it new dangers; dangers she had never dreamed possible.
This is a real treat; a book that takes the reader into the world containing all the possibility, imagination and adventure of books. Not only is it written in a style that allows you to walk into the story and become part of it, but your reading is echoing what happens to the central character. Tilly is brave, determined and clever; a real risk-taker, even after she understands the exact nature of the risks. Her developing friendship with Oskar, the boy across the road who isn't really into books, makes the whole tale come alive. The world-building involved is superb! The texture and structure of each book-world entered is made with careful attention, so that it all becomes utterly believable. But this never takes precedence over the story itself, which wraps itself around you and carries you away. Even as you hold the book in your hands, the magical spell is cast. The small, silhouetted vignettes scattered within the pages lend it a truly 'classic' feel. Friendship, adventure, mystery, enchantment....you couldn't ask for more. If you weren't a bookworm before, you will be after reading Tilly and the Book Wanderers. This is a book to get lost in time and again. An utter delight.

THE BUTTON WAR: a Tale of the Great War
author: Avi
Walker Books (1 November 2018)
ISBN: 9781406380835
Patryk, aged 12, has lived in his small Polish village all of his life. He knows very little of the world outside and even less about the war, but that doesn't matter. His days are spent playing with his friends, making up competitions and exploring the local forest. The war hasn't come to his village and the Russian soldiers are there to keep a close eye. One day, while collecting wood for a fire with his friend Jurek, Patryk finds a button; a little treasure for his box. From this simple discovery, Jurek, who is competitive and has to believe he is the best; designs a competition. Whoever finds the best button will be the Button King. Soon after, the clatter-clatter of an aeroplane is heard over the quiet little village and the Great War explodes into their lives. As the Germans and the Russian fight for control of their home town, the friends' "Button War" escalates. What started as a dare, ends up with the boys trapped in a dangerous game with tragic consequences.
This enthralling novel reels the reader in, compelling you to go further and understand the heartbreak of war from the eyes of a child. The simple, clear text uses an observational style; the wondering and questioning voice of a young boy 'coming-of-age' to weave a powerful, emotive story. The scene is expertly set, so that the reader can easily visualise the time and place. The characters and their relationships are quite fully developed, well-rounded and believable. There are other issues hinted at; poverty, class distinctions, homelessness and mental health; along with the brutality and cruelty of war, played of the background of childhood naivety. And the story is amazing, wonderfully paced and filled with a subtle nuance that keeps you wondering, anticipating, as the sense of oncoming doom inches ever closer to fruition. Gripping, honest, forthright and very, very powerful.

author: Fleur Hitchcock
Nosy Crow Ltd (2 October 2018)
ISBN: 9781788000628
Viv and Noah have always fought and argued, very much as if they actually were brother and sister.. This last fight they had on the way to school, which resulted in Viv giving Noah a bloody nose and Noah threatening to get Viv's mum fired was huge. Viv just couldn't imagine that it would be the last time she ever saw him, though. But, when Viv returns from school, Noah is nowhere to be found and police cars are everywhere. As the dark and cold night creep in, Viv is still certain that Noah is doing it for attention when blood is found in her mothers' car. Her mum is taken taken in for questioning. Even in the pouring night rain with the flood waters rising, Viv decides enough is enough; this foul joke Noah is playing isn't funny any more and sets off on a search herself, utterly furious at Noahs' selfishness.When she finds him, Viv suddenly realises that the situation is much more dangerous then she could have imagined. 
With an addictive plotline, the reader is immediately thrown into the action in this great murder mystery. Viv is an engaging, genuine central character; clever, haphazard, mercurial, but with real heart. and determination. Her arch-rival Noah is spoilt and privileged and their relationship does come across as typical "sibling rivalry", but the unfolding of the mystery reveals much more about the complexity of family relationships. The 'chase scene' is well-executed and filled with tension and potentially lethal consequences. Fast-paced and gripping, there are so many well-crafted twists and turns that even the most hard-core fan of intrigue will remain riveted to the the story. Filled with tension, atmosphere and a thrilling, unexpected conclusion. An incredible winter read! (age 10 yrs +)

author: Alan Durant
Walker Books (1 November 2018)
ISBN: 1406374629
Daks' dad died suddenly of a heart-attack. Now his house is full of people shaking his hand and telling him how 'brave' he is. But Dak doesn't feel brave...he doesn't feel anything. And he can't stand all these people talking about what a tragedy it all is! Mum is depressed and doesn't want to do anything and that noisy neighbour, Mrs Baxter is always calling around. She thinks Dak should really go back to school. And she isn't the only one. Dak has to get out of the house. So he heads off to the local aquarium, a favourite place that he and Dad used to spend so much time. What a shocking, but brilliant surprise when Dak finds his Dad alive and well! And seemingly transformed into a clownfish. Filled with advice and so many of his old (bad) jokes, Dak is thrilled. Now he just needs to find a way to keep the aquarium open and explain to his Mum that Dad is still alive.
Grief takes many forms. This wonderful novel for young people shows us just how many it can take. Well-written and full of understanding, Clownfish is a wonderful read. In his grief, Dak really explores the depth and variety of feeling, the reality of loss and the inevitable truth that life does go on and so must we. With an adventurous spirit and desire to do the right thing for everybody, he takes us along on this extraordinary and ordinary adventure. The people he meets along the way teach us all a little something about finding common ground. The importance of friendship and pervasive quality of memory shines through. The story rings with humour and longing without ever being maudlin or depressing; it does not dwell on the pain, but shows how to cope with loss. And it demonstrates clearly that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Gentle, funny, genuine and warm, this is a hopeful, memorable book.

author: Paola Peretti (translated by Denise Muir) 
Hot Key Books (9 August 2018)
ISBN: 9781471407550
Malfalda is nine years old. She loves school, football and her cat; Ottimo Turcaret, named after a character in her fathers' favourite book. She loves reading and being read to. Malfalda loves the cherry tree outside her school and believes her grandmothers' spirit now lives in the trunk. But Malfalda is afraid of the dark. Not the usual dark that most people are afraid of from time to time, but the dark that is stealing her sight. Malfalda has something called Stargadt Disease, which is causing a mist to come across her eyes and will soon take her sight and many of the things she loves so very much...many of the things she wants to do will become impossible. Malfalda needs a plan for when she is in the dark forever. She comes up with a good one. She will run away from everything and live in the cherry tree.
Narrated by Malfalda herself, this is a beautifully written story that gives an intimate view of what it is like to being slowly going blind. It addresses the fears and anxiety with great compassion, while being quite upfront and direct. And it is filled with feeling. Each character gives insight; a perception of Malfaldas' experience. Malfalda herself is bold, childlike and mature for her age at the same time. She feels lost and frustrated, but is also clever and inventive. Excellent support for her plight comes from what may seem unlikely sources, but Estella the school caretaker and Filippo, a classmate with more to him than the obvious show  practical and much needed (in Malfaldas' life) raw honesty as her illness becomes more and more advanced. They believe in her and urge her on the show the courage and fortitude that is really inside. For all of us, this book acts as an important reminder of how precious sight, friendship and life itself truly is. With moments of heart-breaking realism offset with warm, gentle humour and joy, this is a story that reveals hope and light in the darkness. Moving, joyful and  and unique.

author: Eloise Williams
Firefly Press (12 September 2018)
ISBN: 9781910080801
Larks' life is overwhelming. Her mother is ill, her little sister, Snow has stopped talking and she doesn't have her best friend to act as a buffer. To top it all off, it's her 13th birthday and she's on her way to a Wales for a much needed break for it all with her family. As they await the arrival of her grandmother, more family and a few select friends, Lark and Snow have the time to explore and be free of the pressure. But soon, the freedom turns into a nightmare. There is a ghostly figure in the fog, an abandoned, ruined house in the woods and Snow has become obsessed by a girl in a green dress. And then there are the storms....storms the whip up ever more wild and dangerous. IN this isolated place by the sea, secrets are arising. Lark must face a long-buried secret from her grandmothers' childhood to save her family.
Seaglass builds slowing, like an oncoming storm. As the foundations of the story are laid, so too are the intricate family and social relationships upon which the entire tale rests. The reader will really get to understand Lark and her turmoil; the things that creep around inside her and the misunderstanding that is driving her. There are fleckles of social prejudice revealed and that add subtle colours in the background that explode into full view in the end. Beautifully written, carefully constructed, the wildness of the stormy landscape and intriguing descriptions of all things past and present allow the reader a full sensory experience, while inviting you in to the family itself; it's history and the history of the place.  It is a story that is as haunting as the ghosts that inhabit the book. Eerie, enthralling and totally consuming. I was completely captivated the whole way through.

author: Catherine Fisher 
Firefly Press (4 October 2018)
ISBN: 9781910080849
Orphaned Seren Rhys has been given a new home. On her journey to Plas-y-Fran, the remote country house of her godfather, late at night in a freezing Victorian train station, she is approached by a stranger and is given a newspaper parcel. She has no idea what it contains. The journey is long and Seren is very late, but all she can think about is the warmth, luxury and kindness that awaits her. What she finds is not what she expected, at all. This is a house deep in mourning, vacated by her new family, while she is left in the care of a severe and strict housekeeper. It is also a house full of mystery and strange, unearthly happenings. But armed with a talking crow (who may or may not be telling the truth), a magical snow globe and her own courage and feisty attitude, Seren undertakes a journey to an enchanted and dangerous world beneath the house itself to rescue the joy that once lived in Plas-y-Fran, whether it costs her her new home or not.
Catherine Fisher weaves a truly magical tale, filled with imagination; this is a perfect winters' tale filled with suspense and capturing the imagination. There is a sinister quality that is truly chilling. With perfect timing and a gift for storytelling, the reader is plunged into the deep end. The descriptions of place paint a vivid picture and you can almost feel the cold and taste the snow. The eerie magical happenings seep into your bones, giving the reader a full onslaught of feeling. To offset what could be an extremely dark tale, there is humour and promise flitting throughout. The effect is that you cannot put this book down. Seren is a marvellous character; determined, brave, clever and curious with a strong sense of self, despite her being an orphan. Incredible world-building, lyrical writing style and unusual, intriguingThe Clockwork Crow sings with enchantment and mystery.
http://www.fireflypress.co.uk/             https://www.catherine-fisher.com/

author: Jacob Sager Weinstein
Walker Books (6 September 2018)
ISBN: 9781406368864
This follow-up to The City of Secret Rivers is just as fascinating; just as hilarious as the first. With plenty of twists and turns, we are thrown back into the secret underground world that runs through centuries of history, knowledge and magic. The pace is effectively done, running in ebbs and floes throughout the book. While there is a lot of action (a lot!), there is also much subtlety. The reader finds themself building their own collection of clues right alongside Hyacinth and her friends. Each character is engaging and thoughtfully portrayed and you can't help but become entirely invested in the world. And, if you're not careful, you may just be sent off on an investigation of your own; fact-checking the historical evidence given in the book. It is a rollicking adventure, an exciting mystery and filled with determination and humour. Altogether, extremely clever and thoroughly enjoyable. (If you haven't read The City of Secret Rivers, you will want to...just brilliant!)

author: Kate DiCamillo
Walker Books (4 October 2018)
ISBN: 9781406384208
Louisiana Elefante's granny wakes her in the middle of the night and announces that the 'day of reckoning' has arrived. They have a curse on their heads and they must hurry! Granny bundles Louisiana into the old car and they take off, heading from their Florida home into Georgia. Louisiana isn't terribly worried. Granny has many sudden ideas, especially in he middle of the night. But something is different this time. Her granny intends that they will never return home. Ripped away from her home and her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana is struggling to make sense of her granny's insistence that they run and she does everything in her power to fight against her fate and make her way back. But her life becomes entangled in the lives of those in the small town they have landed in. Louisiana begins to wonder if 'goodbyes' are all she is destined for and if that is actually the curse on her head.
I'm just going to start by saying this...Kate DiCamillo cannot write a bad book. And this one is glorious! Louisiana Elefante appeared in the previous Raymie Nightingale; a captivating, endearing character filled with heart and kindness. It turns out, she is also very brave and a real risk-taker. Her Granny is mystifying and quirky, having raised her granddaughter, the only surviving member of the famous circus act, the Flying Elefantes. Written in a lyrical, moving text, this is Louisiana's story and we discover many truths that will cause the reader that heart-stopping moment and then pull them along. It is humourous, heart-warming, gripping and sad, breaking through the full range of emotions quietly and with quite a surprising facility. Thoughtful, compassionate, elegant and simply beautiful; you will never forget Louisiana's Way Home. An instant classic!

author: Susin Nielsen 
Andersen Press (4 October 2018)
ISBN: 9781783447213
Felix Knutson lives with his free-spirited, artist mother and pet hamster, Horatio. He's funny, very smart, memorises all kinds of facts and trivia and is nearly 13 years old. Everything is fairly normal in Felixs' life. Apart from one secret Felix MUST not let slip...they live in a van. His friends want to come over and the school needs an address for the records; they shower in the local community centre, their clothes are in storage and they have to move their van regularly. His mother has said its' only for a while; until she gets a new job. But his mother can't seem to keep any job going for more than a week or two, her depression overwhelms her and winter is coming. Then, Felix comes up with a plan...a plan that just might get them out of their situation. He has a chance to compete in a national quiz show; one he knows he can win. The final will be shown live...and some secrets are just too hard to keep.
A tale of what happens to those who simply 'slip through the cracks' of society, this book is just marvellous. Felix story unfolds with a clarity of vision and honesty. It captures the reality of living with someone who has mental health issues; the helpless and yet determination of being in that circumstance. And of being homeless and young and not knowing what you should do. But it is not without humour and hope, with some very witty dialogue that portrays real intelligence and understanding. The flow of the writing takes the reader on a journey that is typical of many 12-13 year-olds. Felix is a wonderful character and his relationship with his mother is filled with love and support, albeit with an appropriate helping of frustration, fear and desperation at the way they are living. And he worries; he worries about school, his mother, what his friends will think, whether he smells or is wearing dirty clothes...and about what he's meant to do. All in all, this is a beautiful book; fascinating, funny, empathetic and truly gripping. Susin Nielsen never disappoints, and in this very poignant and timely book, she exceeded all expectations. Written for 11+/YA audiences, this is one that transcends those 'age ranges and should be read by everyone.

author and illustrator: Cressida Cowell
Hodder Children's Books (20 September 2018)
ISBN: 9781444941401
We return again to the Bronze age, the Wildwoods and the lives of Wish and Xar.
As this story opens, Xar finds himself dangling from a home-made rope from the darkest tower of Gormincrag, the Rehabiltation Centre for Re-Education of Dark Magic and Wicked Wizards. And his escape plan really needs to work....again. Wish, in the meantime, is once again locked in a cupboard in Queen Sychorax's Iron Warrior Fort (can't have her causing chaos when there are important visitors, like the Witch Smeller coming) with her trusty enchanted Spoon, researching a spell to get rid of WITCHES. With the dark magic that has infected Xar threatening to take him over, Wish showing and incredible gift for magic (which she really shouldn't have), the Witch Smeller on their trail, Witches causing absolute chaos in the Wildwood and the ongoing battle between Queen Sychorax and the King of Wizards, Encanzo the Magnificent, the situation couldn't be more dire....or could it?
The second installment of The Wizards of Once is as  intriguing and funny as the first. Populated by delightful, engaging characters, this world is utterly amazing. The brisk pace and quirky story line give a lot for any reader to sink their teeth into, with puzzling situations and clever solutions at every turn. It is imaginative and adventurous, filled with its' fair share of death and destruction and the ever present threat of the King Witch, which will bring a chill to every reader...while they are laughing, for the humour is well-timed and constant. The multiple mysteries in the tale blend and separate in a steady rhythm, showing with great effect how they impact one another. But I still haven't figured out who the narrator is, have you? The black and white illustrations throughout give a wonderful visual sense of the action, characterisation and humour. Exciting, dramatic, hysterically entertaining...I love it! Cressida Cowell is a master storyteller!

author: Polly Faber  illustrator: Sarah Jennings
Walker Books (July 2018)
ISBN: 9781406378450
Polly has dreamed of every possible way to get a pony. She’s pony-mad and wants nothing more than to prove herself showjumping at Olympia. She can almost hear the crowds go wild! So, imagine her delight when she finds a plump, friendly pony munching his way through the flapjacks at the local supermarket. Polly really should walk him down to the police station and report him. But this could be her ticket to fulfilling all of her dreams. One problem, though. How do you keep a pony on the twelfth floor of a high-rise without Mum finding out? Determined to finally have a pony, Polly ignores all the little details and keeps Flapjack in her bedroom. What could go wrong?
Whether you’re pony-mad or not, this is a brilliant story of wish-fulfilment and following your dreams. Polly is clever, inventive and determined to keep Flapjack just a little bit longer. With unbridled eagerness, she manages to rope a diverse, amusing cast of well-described and completely believable characters into supporting her plan, in spite of the chaos that follows hilarious action throughout. Polly even gets them to reveal much about their own lives. Wonderfully diverse, the story is actually a realistic depiction of what it really means to be a community. The illustrations perfectly demonstrate the humour and feeling of a plot-line that is easy to follow and fun to read with pitch-perfect pacing. With a bit of drama and loads of laughs, this warm-hearted, hilarious story ticks all the boxes. (published in Inis Magazine online)

author: Vanessa Harbour
Firefly Press (1 August 2018)
ISBN: 9781910080764
In Austria during World War 2, Jakob is in hiding with Herr Engel after losing his family. An exceptional young horseman, he cares for and hides Lipizzanner stallions from Hitlers forces. Major Bauer appears, searching for Jakob but instead discovers the horses. Herr Engel and Jakob know they must take the stallions and flee across the mountains to a safe haven, but the only path is straight through Nazi territory. Joined by Kizzy, a Roma girl who is also on the run, the three make the dangerous crossing moving only by dark of night with Major Bauer and his men in pursuit. But if they manage to reach their destination, what will they find waiting for them?
Gripping from the very first sentence; "If Jakob sneezed he could die", this is a powerful, yet delicate tale that has all the impact of a classic while still being fast-paced, incredibly incisive and compelling. While there are many WWII stories, and many more emerging; while there is a huge canon of horse stories, this one stands head and shoulders above them. With richly described settings, the plot is carefully woven to reveal the peril of its' time and the courage and hope within its' characters at a time when hope was easily lost. The reader will feel the passion these young people have for the horses and the determination in themselves and belief in each other. It is filled with compassion and emotion. The entire book is written with such texture and nuance, it is like reading a painting. Powerful, beautifully conveyed, extraordinary and thought-provoking; story-telling that will be appreciated by children and adults alike.
author: Clive Mantle
Award Publications Limited (24 May 2018)
ISBN: 9781782703211   
It's Freddie Malones' birthday; a wonderful excuse for his best friend Connor to hang out with this incredible, warm family. Uncle Patrick gives Freddie what seems like a strange gift; an ancient map of the world...but Freddie is thrilled. Little does he realise that later that night, he is about to be dragged into an adventure he will never forget. When Connor returns later that week to sit with his very sick friend, Freddie tells him a story beyond belief! Freddie has been dragged through time, half-way across the world to Nepal to save a treasure from falling into the wrong hands. But Freddie is in danger in both worlds; from the local bullies in this one and an unscrupulous treasure hunter in the past. He must fight for what he knows is right... and for his life.
This is a fast-paced read, reminiscent of old-style adventure stories that will grab you from the very start and take you on a journey that is truly exciting. Plunged between times, Freddie demonstrates courage and resourcefulness as he has to navigate a strange landscape. The vast cast of characters and vivid description adds colour and texture to the tale and painting an expressive picture of the surroundings. The action is non-stop. There is an innocent 'love' story woven into the drama, but this adds incentive to the characters' behaviour. The dialogue with between the central character and some of the Nepalese folk is at times stilted and a bit difficult, some of the words being broken into syllables and presented in a way that leads the reader to believe it is done for effect. But it should not detract from what is a brilliant adventure, filled with tension and peppered with obstacles. There are bullies to overcome; questions of right and wrong and moments of indecision. With strong, true voices and a good eye for drama, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read for ages 8+. And, it's the first in a series! I look forward to more of Freddie Malones' adventures!
author: Gabrielle Kent
illustrators: Rex Crowle and Luke Newell
Knights Of... (1 August 2018)
ISBN: 9781999642501
Nothing exciting ever happens on the tiny, quiet little island of Penfurzy, in spite of legends of the Penfurzy Knights and their hidden treasure. Demelza spends her days daydreaming in the nearly derelict miniature golf course and her nights sleeping in her own caravan. The surprise appearance of new-best-friend Nessa, a girl of many talents, kicks action into her life. And when Demelza discovers that her home is going to be sold, the girls go into over-drive. Delmelza finds an old journal, belonging to her mother containing clues to the location of a long-lost castle guarded by the ghostly knights. Could the legend of the missing treasure be true? Demelza, Nessa and their faithful sidekick goose, Captain Honkers arm themselves with frisbees, water-balloons and a toilet plunger and take off on their bikes to solve the mystery. Nothing can stop them now!
Action, mystery, great characters (including a honking sidekick goose!) and a thoughtful back story permeate every page of a story that has everything you could want in a book. A quite dramatic beginning quickly into mad-cap exploits of boldness and daring. The soul of the story is the newly formed friendship between Delmelza and Nessa, a friendship that grows into an unbreakable bond. The details of their unfolding attachment draw the reader in until it becomes a part of their own story. For the older reader (and this is one you must share!), there are 1980s references that will take you right back to your own childhood adventures.  Fast-paced and hilarious deeds take the reader on a rocket-ride through the story with well-crafted world-building and energetic illustrations that bring Penfurzy and its' residents to life. Knights and Bikes really is the very best kind of adventure story. Filled with humour, heart and excitement, do not walk; RUN to the bookshop for this one, now!
(Knights and Bikes is the first book published by recently- launched publisher Knights Of. A new kind of publisher with one goal, to publish commercial kids books that are more fair, more inclusive, more diverse and more representative of kids' lives today. And they are off to a crackin' start!)
https://knightsof.media/         https://gabriellekent.com/

THE WILD FOLK (The Stargold Chronicles #1)
author: Sylvia V. Linsteadt
Usborne Publishing (31 May 2018)
ISBN: 9781474934985
On the island kingdom of Farallone, many years after the Breaking strange new dangers are rising up. The Greentwins have seen the omens and they send two young hares, Myrtle and Mallow to guide a dangerous quest. Tin, an orphan with a flare for invention is rescued from the walled City. Comfrey, a Country girl, is lured from her home. Together, it is their task to save the mysterious and extraordinary creatures called the Wild Folk, and stop the destruction of the entire island kingdom. The Wild Folk don't trust humans; who brought about all the division and damage in the first place. And the Brothers at the Fifth Cloister of Grace and Progress will stop at nothing to acquire more Stargold, the rarest of power sources; Stargold which is plentiful in the blood of the Wild Folk. The journey and tasks the children face are impossible. But they find they have no choice if they are ever to see the home they love survive.
Timeless, magical and utterly absorbing, this is a beautifully rendered fantasy tale of courage and challenge. Set in a fantastical, beautiful land, Farallone is incredibly drawn, yet holds so many parallels to our own. Filled with wonder, the descriptions of both place and character are vivid, yet leave the reader to invest their own imagination in the world-building. It sends a message of the magic imbued in every facet of the the natural world. The characters are unique and powerfully depicted; Comfrey is intrepid, emotional and curious; Tin, thoughtful and inventive and each creature demonstrates wisdom, but also long-held suspicions and righteous grievances. The creation mythology of Farallone is exquisitely built so that the reader has immediate understanding of its' current plight. There is a strong environmental message here, but the story loses nothing for it. It is a dazzling fantasy, brimming with action and feeling that will quickly and easily make its' way to the favourites shelf. Powerful, thought-provoking and spell-binding, The Wild Folk is a book to get lost in. Pure magic!

author: Jo Cotterill
Piccadilly Press (14 June 2018)
ISBN: 9781848126732
Angelica (Jelly) is the life of the classroom! Her impressions keep everyone laughing, even her teachers (most of the time.) She's also rather overweight. But Jelly has learned to cope with the insults and put-downs by pretending she finds it all very funny. You can't hurt her feelings....or can you? At home Jelly keeps a secret journal filled with her poems that show another side to Jelly; one that is very sensitive and thoughtful; one that expresses her worries and her true feelings. She isn't as confident as the Jelly the world can see. But things change with the arrival of Lennon, her beautiful Mums' new boyfriend. Lennon is really nice. Her treats her mother well, unlike other boyfriends she's had. And Lennon is the first person to see that Jelly is putting on an act. Jelly shares her poems with Lennon, who thinks they are so good, he sets one to music and encourages Jelly to perform it at the school talent show...to show the world her other side. But does Jelly have the courage to let everyone see the real her?
An open and heart-warming book about learning to believe in who you really are,  Jelly deals with a lot of issues while never being heavy-handed.  At it's core, it is a book about body imagery and the influence that has on the confidence of a growing girl. It is also about friendship, family, bullying and acceptance from yourself as well as others. There are many interesting vignettes of family life that reveal a poignant back story without adding too much depressing detail. Jelly is such a warm, wonderful character, full of life and kindness, but also full of confusion and deeper feelings. She is just an ordinary girl. The are moments when you can see her friends trying to get Jelly to open up and show more of her true self; a self they don't really know. The parallels between Jellys' sense of self and her mothers' bring another thought-provoking layer to the tale. Perhaps none of us are as confident as we appear. Perhaps we all need someone or something to allow us to reveal our hidden talents. The story is honest, expressive, filled with joy and laughs while delivering a powerful message. Inspiring, reassuring and completely lovable. (ages 9-12yrs, but one everyone would enjoy.)

author: Linda Davies
Chicken House (5 September 2015)
ISBN: 9781910002612 
Merry Owen is the longbow girl; part of an ancient family tradition that binds the Owens in service to the Crown to this very day. Each generation must have a champion archer, ready to defend the King and country or forfeit the rights to their land. She has been training all her life. But their farm is now under threat from financial ruin and Merry will not see it succumb, falling back into the hands of the de Courcy's of the neighbouring Black Castle. The de Courcy's are old enemies. While out riding her beloved Welsh pony, Merry stumbles across a fallen oak tree. Hidden beneath it's roots lies an ancient manuscript, one of the lost stories of the Mabinogion. The book holds a chilling prophecy; one that sees Merry traveling between two times to use her skills as an archer to save the family in both the past and the present. But Merry discovers she is not alone in her travels and the dangers she faces are more than she could imagine in her wildest dreams.
This is a simply wonderful book! It builds the tension deliberately throughout the story, but you are gripped by page one. At first, we have a tale of family dynamics and friendship set against a back-drop of old animosity. It shows eloquently how past builds itself into the present; how old wounds still bleed. Merry's character was formed by these things, set so deep that, while she knows the history, she learns its' effects on the present as her character grows through the story. Told from the point of view of Merry and her life-long friend, James de Courcy, we see the parallels as they 'come of age' in the present day; family challenges, finding their own paths. And their friendship is given to the reader in a voice that is genuine, truly believable. As we dip into the past, the reader learns much about history, geography, but also about character and loyalty and how facts become legends. The story is both time-honoured and timely. If you want a story that is fast and furious, than this probably isn't for you. But if you want a story that will fire you're imagination and understanding, pull you in and stay with you, read Longbow Girl. Bold, daring, riveting; fascinating fare!
(I also reviewed this book for Childrens Book Irelands' Bold Girl Guide.)

author: Onjali Q. Raúf
Orion Childrens Books (12 July 2018)
ISBN: 978151010501LONGBOW0
Where there used to be an empty chair at the back of the class, there's now a new boy. But he's very strange. He never smiles, never talks; he doesn't want to play with anyone. He doesn't even like sweets. At least that's what everyone thought until they discovered the truth. His name is Ahmet. Ahmet is a refugee and he's run away from a war. A war that has bombs and guns and bullies who want to hurt everyone.Ahmets' family were running for their lives, literally. He ran away with his family, but now he's all alone. Ahmet is looked after by a lady who doesn't look like his mum and doesn't speak English. To make matters worse, the school bully decides Ahmet is his newest target. Unexpectedly, Ahmet makes some new and very concerned friends. They are going to help him, even if they have to ditch school to go talk to the Queen. 
Told in a genuine childlike voice, this topical story reaches out in a way which children aged 9+ years will find easy to relate and understand. It covers many difficult issues (bullying, diversity, racism), but of course, at the heart is Ahmets' story. Empathetic and compassionate, it is also honest and direct as his new friends uncover, piece by piece, the complex set of circumstances that led Ahmet to where he is now. There is an earnest depiction of being uncertain of people you don't know, the difficulties children face when approaching an adult for information and of the openness and curiosity of children in that non-judgemental, concerned way they have. There are so many things to love about this book. But I think my favourite is simply the way it's told. Frank, humourous and sincere writing, the belief that we can do what is needed, and if we don't, the children will. There is an inbuilt sense of inclusiveness and diversity in the story that flows easily, in almost a matter-of-fact way. The characters are well-drawn and come to life in the mind of the reader. The voice of the narrator is that of a nine-year-old; real and textural, full of thoughts, wonderings and energy. You don't find out if the narrator is a boy or girl until much later in the story, and it works with great effectiveness. Warm, expressive, funny and thought-provoking, more great books like this please.

author: Jewell Parker Rhodes
Orion Childrens Books (19 April 2018)
ISBN: 9781510104396 
Jerome, twelve-years-old from a poor black family in Chicago, is a good boy. He doesn't get into trouble, tries to steer clear of the school bullies (without much success), does his homework, minds his sister and always tells his grandmother 3 good things a day to make her happy. Jerome makes a new friend, young Mexican Carlos from San Antonio who stands with him against the bullies; who only wants Jerome to have some fun and to play, to imagine. It was a good day. Then, on that same day, Jerome is shot and killed by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real one. He rises out of his body and tries to understand the scene around him. Jerome reviews the day, the last day he was alive and tries to make sense out of what happened; why it happened. He visits his family, listens to their pain and anger; their grief. Jerome is trying to understand what happened to him...and why. That understanding may be hard to reach...
This is a book you will love, but find disturbing and moving at the same time. Told from the perspective of our narrator, who has been shot and killed on the very first page, it weaves back and forth between Dead and Alive chapters to give a view of the very simple, ordinary day that lead to this tragic event, leaving Jerome (and thousands of other young black boys) ghost, helplessly watching on the side as his family and his community attempt to come to terms with his death. There are no obvious 'monsters' here, no genuine 'bad guys' (apart from the scene set in the past that reveals the murder of Emmett Tillman.) There is no sensationalisation within the story or of the topic; no overly grim depictions of death. It examines, with a very simple, clear view the prevailing mindset of racial inequality and injustice within the social structure. Ghost Boys is an eloquent read, expressively written and gives us time and material to examine ourselves; our beliefs of right and wrong, the things we turn a blind eye to and our own feelings of helplessness and what we do with them. No...it is not all-encompassing. But it is an emotional and consuming story that will haunt the reader and offers much thought and discussion. For ages 9+... and I can't emphasise this enough; just please read this book.

author: Sita Brahmachari  illustrator: Jane Ray
Barrington Stoke (15 September 2017)
ISBN: 9781781126950
There have been so many changes in Amy-May’s young life. The family has separated from her wonderful, yet troubled artist Dad; they’ve moved house far from her lovely cottage with a garden and fresh sea air; and now, she is so filled with anxiety, she can’t go to school. It’s just too much for her. So, Amy-May is sent to Grace’s art school, instead. There she can draw, garden and cook while Grace makes worry angels for all her students; angels created with kindness and care for them to take with them when they leave. But Amy-May still has trouble opening up; that is, until a refugee girl from Syria with little English arrives and changes Amy-May’s perspective.

This tender story addresses a number of complex issues that young people deal with every day. Family separation, relocating, the refugee crisis; but mostly it deals with anxiety and stress. With incredible story-telling skill, Brahmachari handles all of this seamlessly, gently while taking the reader on a journey towards peace and understanding. The expression of Amy-May’s state of mind is relatable and touching. The reader watches her grow and become better in herself as she helps others find a way forward. It is a real story of hope and healing, accentuated by Jane Ray’s expressive black and white drawings. A marvelous book to share with any child going through anxiety about family situations, starting a new school or world situations, this is particularly poignant. Wonderful for reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+.
author: Will Mabbitt  illustrator: Chris Mould
Orion Childrens Books (14 June 2018)
ISBN: 9781510104556
Jack"damned thing" (finger) and seek protection at the Embassy of the Dead without actually becoming one of them.  But the Embassy has a major crisis of its' own and with the Grim Reaper on Jacks' trail, staying alive isn't going to be easy.
 A case of mistaken identity leads to a fantastically funny ghost story combined with a cracking road trip in this new offering from Will Mabbitt (author of Mabel Jones.) It is fast-paced, irreverent and filled with brilliant action and amazing characters. The rolling, imaginative plot is well-developed for the word go and grips the reader and won't let go. With amusing plot twists, you never know what will happen next. Jack is a wonderfully likeable character that readers will have great empathy for as he is thrown into reliance on his own abilities in the most bizarre circumstances. His companions act as a perfect foil in the plot. Deliciously creepy and completely mad-cap, I laughed out loud all the way through. But there are also touching, poignant moments that lend time to consider and relate. A wonderful book to read together, as well. Witty, hair-raising and uproarious, you'll love it!

author: Christopher Edge
Nosy Crow (5 April 2018)
ISBN: 9781788000291
Maisie Day wakes up on her 10th birthday filled with excitement and happiness. She is ready to start opening her presents, hoping she has received everything she'll need to build her own nuclear reactor! But when she opens her bedroom door, she finds her house empty. In fact, Maisie isn't even sure it's her house. Looking down the corridor to sister Lilys' room...it isn't there. The only thing she finds is a seemingly endless flight of stairs. And a penetrating blackness that has consumed everything. Remembering Lily's words, Maisie steps into an empty Universe that shifts at every turn. Maisie is going to need all her scientific knowledge, and all the love and loyalty she can muster to put things back the way the were. She can only hope it's enough.
In this compelling and touching read, Edge plays with the concepts of time, dimension and shifting reality through a story about love and loyalty within the family. Essentially an exploration of the relationship between two sisters, he uses a solid understanding of science to give the reader a 'reality check' about how we exist with each other. The plot is filled with twists and turns, woven together in a way that holds it's pace and fascination. The scientific explanations are blended with great care and craft, so never feel 'teachy' and, in fact, add an almost magical element to the story. The back-story of the two sisters unfurls with great care and attention, leaving the reader with an impact that will last far beyond the last page. This is a very special book; intriguing, enjoyable and filled with questions and much to ponder. Dealing in both fact and fiction, it blurs the line of that reality just enough to stir the emotions and imagination. A very satisfying companion to Edges' other science-based novels; The Many Worlds of Albie Bright and The Jamie Drake Equation; I cannot recommend this one highly enough. It's not only suitable for ages 9-12. Everyone will want to read this one.

author: Sophie Anderson
Usborne Publishing (3 May 2018)
ISBN: 9781474940665
Embark on an extraordinary journey to places you've never even dreamed of...
Marinka lives with her grandmother in a house with chicken legs that never stays in one place very long. From time to time, in the middle of the night it will simply run off with no warning. Marinka is bound to the house, never venturing beyond its' fence. Exciting, yes; but she dreams of a normal life, where she can stay in one place long enough to make friends and play games and go to school... But when your grandmother is Baba Yaga
Based partly on the stories her own grandmother told her as a child, Anderson has built a vivid fairytale that is timeless, evocative and a quiet, heartfelt adventure. The personal attachment to this world of Eastern European folk tales and memories of her grandmothers' house, memories of those who have passed, feelings of lifes' celebration and times' steady march add an element of intimacy and comfort, combating the remoteness that often rears its' head in books of this nature. The characters boldly stride of the page and appear in colourful variety. Marinka is a wonderful, bold and fully realised young girl with dreams and longings to which we can all relate. Baba Yaga becomes the grandmother we all want to have. The House emerges as a unique voice in itself. The plot is steady, consuming and pulls the reader on an amazing journey, not just across the landscape, but through the inner world of life as well. Imaginative, enlightening, quietly humourous and adventurous and thought-provoking; this book promises so incredibly much and does not disappoint. A story to last a life-time.

author: David O'Connell
illustrator: Claire Powell
Bloomsbury Childrens Books (5 April 2018)
ISBN: 9781408887066
Following the death of his Great-Uncle Archibald, Archie McBudge and his mother are called to ancient Honeystone Hall with it's vast corridors and rooms. Upon their arrival, Archie discovers not only has he inherited a new home, but also the world famous McBudge Fudge Company! The small town of Dundoodle is a far cry from his small home in the big city, but it's worth it for a fortune, a new (huge) home and a chocolate empire. However, some of Archies' relatives aren't so thrilled at his good luck. And when he reads Great-Uncle Archibalds' letter, Archie finds himself involved in a hunt to uncover great mystery. Archie must solve the puzzle of Honeystone Hall in time to save the McBudge Chocolate Factory from ruin. Fortunately, he has a little help.
A thoroughly entertaining  tale, this book has just about everything and child would want. Action, mystery, a bit of espionage, a few ghosts and chocolate all combine in a rollicking, fast-paced and extremely funny adventure. The characters are engaging and Archie and his new found friends make a great team. The baddies in the story are diabolical and add to the hilarity with their perfectly timed, yet extremely misjudges feats of reckless ne'er-do-well. The supernatural elements, the addition of local ancient legends all add to the suspense and create an even stronger, even funnier reaction to the big reveal at the end. O'Connells' use of language are enhanced greatly by Claire Powell's illustrations. Scattered through the book, there are wonderful images of the dusty old mansion, creepy gargoyles, strange and wonderful machinery; all of which add a sense of atmosphere. Set in the Scottish Highlands, I can't wait for the next Dundoodle Mystery!

THE CHOSEN ONES (Worldquake Sequence 2)
author: Scarlett Thomas
Canongate (5 April 2018)
ISBN: 9781782119302
"...you can get lost can get truly lost in a book. You can. Especially you." (Dragons Green) In the world following the Worldquake, nothing has ever been more true.
Effie Truelove, who has learned to travel secretly to the Otherworld using the magic of books, has vanished. As has her friend, Maximilian, whose fascination with the Underworld may have just gotten the better of him. In the meantime, Effies' father Orwell Bookend is frantically searching the house for Effies' first-edition copy of The Chosen Ones by Laurel Wilde for a chance at free electricity for life. Eccentric billionaire Albion Freake is collecting every copy of the book in order to become the sole owner and last reader of the book, giving him unlimited power. Laurel Wilde has also vanished and daughter Raven is searching everywhere. As if that weren't enough, the dawn chorus is filled with the news that Effie Truelove will die on Friday. Raven, Wolf and Lexy are left with no one to turn to and a desperate bid to save their friends and both the magical Otherworld and this one.
This sequel to Dragon's Green runs deeper into the magical world of books with a sparkle and crack that sends the reader on a riotous, chilling and humourous journey. With pitch perfect timing and a cast of quirky, lively characters, The Chosen Ones places great priority of individuality, the value of personal perception and characteristics while weaving these together to create the strength of the whole. And, it's a cracking read with nefarious scheming baddies, incredible settings and sharp, incisive plot twists. The five central characters are unlikely friends, bound together by their pursuit of educationThe Chosen Ones a book to get lost in and return to again and again.

author: Abi Elphinstone
Simon and Schuster (4 January 2018)
ISBN: 978147148077
Erkenwald is a snowy kingdom where the animals roam free in the icy tundra; whales gliding beneath the surface of the frozen sea, wolves and polar bears stalking it's surface, golden eagles that glide through the skies. The people are not as easy to find. The children have gone into hiding to escape the cruel fate awaiting them at the hands of the Ice Queen. And the adults, those who haven't died raging a battle against her, are encased in her Ice Palace; their voices stolen as the Ice Queen makes her bid to sing the Sky Song, bring down the Sky Gods and obtain immortality. But there is one voice the Ice Queen must have. Eska has been imprisoned in an enchanted music box, twirling and dancing under a cruel spell...but she will not release her voice.When Flint arrives in a bid to save his mother, this young inventor who still believes in the magic of Erkenwald releases Eska from the music box and the chase begins. Across the frozen land they flee in an attempt to find the Frost Horn and its' forgotten song, unite the Tribes and free Erkenwald forever from the Ice Queens' grasp.
An exquisite book, Sky Song vibrates with magic, mystery and music. This is a story to immerse yourself in, with a landscape and characters so well described that you feel as if you have known them all your life.Eska and Flint are written with a genuine quality, such that the reader recognises their youth and vulnerability alongside their tenacity. A particular mention of one character, Blu, Flints' younger sister. It is rare to see a character with special needs written with such positive autonomy. With themes of friendship, tolerance, determination, courage in the face of impossible odds and hope told with such clarity and illumination, it takes the reader on a journey that feels real, even though the story is clearly fantasy. Few can write magic like Elphinstone, as is evident from her previous books, The Dreamsnatcher and the Shadow Keeper; with a fragile, quiet yet such strength that brings out an actual belief in the reader. But this one takes it up a notch. The plot holds you and carries you along with an iron grip. With a unique gift for world building that combines a magical realm with clearly well-researched factual knowledge, this is a completely mesmerising tale. While you will be pulled along through to the incredible finaleSky Song highly enough, whether you are a fan of fantasy or not. Simply amazing.
author: Robin Stevens
Puffin (8 February 2018)
ISBN: 9780141373782
Another installment in the Murder Most Unladylike series; this one sees Hazel Wong returning to Hong Kong after her grandfathers' death. Of course, best friend Daisy Wells is more than happy to accompany her. And Hazel wouldn't have it any other way. Immediately, Daisy is thinking of mystery and murder, and before too long it turns out she is quite correct. When Hazel's childhood maid is murdered and her baby brother, Teddy is kidnapped, it would appear Hazel is in the frame. But the girls step up, getting into trouble and doing what they do best... solving the crime.
Both Daisy and Hazel are strong and exciting female characters, but in this case, as we are in Hazels' home territory, it is her chance to come to the fore and shine. Much is revealed about Hazels' personality and background, with Daisy feeling 'out of place' at times. This added interest allows the mystery to develop and flow, giving pace and energy to an already intriguing and dynamic story. Clearly much research has been made in to the culture and social structure of 1930s Hong Kong, and it shows without taking over and becoming a dry element. There is a real sense of place and time, as the girls wend their way through the streets and alleyways, beating the local police at their own game. A creative mix of characters and settings add complexity and texture. This may be my favourite (so far) in what I consider an already brilliant murder mystery series worthy of a place alongside the classics. Reads like a fabulous combination of Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie, with much to interest the young mystery fan. Outstanding plot crafting and exceptional writing. My advice? Read them all!

author: Sinéad O'Hart
Stripes Publishing (8 February 2018)
ISBN: 9781847159410
While her scientist parents spend all there time off exploring the world (and bringing back all sorts of weird and frankly dangerous creatures), Emmeline Widget has never left the comparative 'safety' of Widget Manor. A strange letter left for her upon the mysterious disappearance of her Mum and Dad sees her whisked off on a ship to France, heading to a 'safe house' and a woman she has never met. Once on board, she immediately encounters an unusual stowaway boy named Thing and is taken in by his adventurous leanings. But everything is happening too quickly and Emmeline is now in more danger than could have been imagined! She is kidnapped by Dr. Bauer, a sinister man with plans to take her to Greenland and release one of the most legendary and lethal creatures of all times...the Kracken. And Thing finds himself entangled with OSCAR, a secret organisation attempting to stop Dr. Bauer, when all he wants to do is rescue Emmeline before it's too late. What neither of them realise is that  the fate of the world lies in their young hands.
Eye of the North is a rollicking fantasy that vibrates with life and excitement. Fast-paced and filled with marvelous, well-drawn characters, this is one not to miss. Emmeline is plucky, practical, somewhat confused but determined. Thing

BEGONE THE RAGGEDY WITCHES (Wild Magic Trilogy Book One)
author: Celine Kiernan
Walker Books (1 February 2018)
ISBN: 9781406366020
On the ride home from hospital, where Aunty lays dying, the Raggedy Witches follow Mups' family home. They have come for Mups' mother; to bring her back to Witches Borrow and to her mother, the cruel and evil ruler. And they will stop at nothing. When they kidnap Mups' dad, Mam and Mup cross the border from the mundane world to rescue him. But Mam becomes strange on this side of the border; more so as old family secrets are revealed and it is down to Mup to take on the Raggedy Witches and save her family and herself.
There have been quite a number of 'witchy' books published as of late, but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest. Every aspect of this book is expertly drawn to engage all the senses and you don't so much read it as you do experience it on a completely tactile level. From the first sentence, a timeless adventure unfolds as we are pulled into a world that is moody, atmospheric and yet strangely beautiful, and the reader is drawn into the tension straight away. The characters and relationships grow and unfold steadily throughout, revealing bit by bit the nuance and subtlety of the world we have entered. The interplay between action and reaction is perfect, particularly as we watch Mup balance her confusion and uncertainty with her intrepid nature and intelligence as she tries to figure out exactly what is happening and what to do about it. She may have no idea, but she is going to work it out. Reassurance is added by Auntys' ghost, who cannot interfere, but encourages and provides support. There is a wonderful amount of humour in the plot; as little brother becomes a puppy across the border, rhyming crows and a host of peculiarities; that keeps the tale from becoming overwhelming, adds little sparkles of joy and makes the journey amazing. I cannot possibly praise Raggedy Witches enough. Combining magic, adventure and a real family story, it is a rare and wondrous book; one that I will read again and again. Please just read it.

author: Emma Carrol (based on an idea by Neal Jackson)
Chicken House (4 January 2018)
ISBN: 9781910655535
Young pickpocket Magpie eeks out an existence on the streets of 18th century France, with only her pet rooster for company. One day, an encounter with Pierre (son and heir of the Montgolfier family) as he dangles from the sky by a mysterious object changes her life forever. Magpie becomes embroiled in the Montgolfier family quest to become the first to invent the first flying machine, lending her  clever, quick-thinking skills to their endeavour. But with spies, floating bloomers, old family drama and three unruly animals involved, there are more complications than she could have anticipated. And they have very limited time to bring their invention before the King and Queen of France, or risk the Kings' displeasure with deadly consequences.
With it's melding of real live events and expert story-telling, the story explodes with a brilliant narrative that pulls the reader through a marvelous, rambunctious

author: Alex Bell illustrator: Tomislav Tomic
Faber and Faber (2 November 2017)
ISBN: 9780571332540
Stella Starflake Pearl, foundling
Wonderfully rich and filled with texture, this is a winner! Yes, it may borrow heavily from a number of other childhood favourites, but it weaves them together so seamlessly; so lyrically and creates a fantastic and original tale all its' own. Bell is a deft hand at world-building, and as her characters traverse through this strange and rich environment, it all makes perfect sense. The landscape is easily visualised and entered on wings of imagination. The character development is spot-on, with recognisable traits and flaws and true empathy. And the pace of the plot ebbs and flows, as a journey through unchartered (inner and outer) lands would. Throughout the book, the reader will find Tomic's beautiful black and white drawings, which creates an illusion that what you are actually reading is an explorers diary. They add much interest. Exciting, dramatic, quirky and filled with delightful discoveries for each reader, the Polar Bear Explorers Club is a wonderful work of magic.

author: R. M. Romero
Walker Books (5 October 2017)
ISBN: 9781406375633
In Krakow 1939, magic has brought a little doll named Karolina from the Land of Dolls into the life of a toymaker, for that is where she is needed most. Karolina finds herself surrounded by toys that are not as 'real' as she is and a toymaker so damaged by the First World War that he cannot believe; cannot love. But for all the strife and destruction happening in her own land, the outside world is facing even a greater danger. With the Nazi's now occupying Poland and the world on the brink of another war, Karolina and the toymaker must use their magic to save their friends.
This is much more than another World War 2 novel for young people. Written in the style of a fairy or folk tale, it allows the reader to explore friendship during great peril and how you really are stronger and braver than you know when you need to be. It goes back and forth from the second world war and Karolina's memories of the Land of Dolls. Here we see parallels and nuances. It is a very emotional story, at times perhaps too emotional for more sensitive, younger readers. It offers the partial story of World War 2 in a diluted way, that allows young people to absorb the information and its' danger without trauma. But the beauty of the story and the timelessness imbedded in its' world view puts it firmly on my 'must-read' list. The use of language and development of, for lack of a better word, mythology is simply lyrical. The character development throughout is flawless, with real change and growth. On top of that, it is a beautiful book, filled with black & white illustrations that look to fairy-tale books and create a truly magical sense that flows all the way through to the end. (And the cover is stunning.) Rich, powerful and very visual in its' telling, I loved it. (9+ years)

author/illustrator: Cressida Cowell
Hodder Childrens Books (19 September 2017)
Once; long, long ago...there was Magic. And there were witches. And the Wildwoods were alive with all sorts of people and beings; all very magical. But then, the Warriors came. And now, the Magic is gone, apart from some Wizards living on the edge of the Wildwoods, trying to preserve themselves and protect their kind...and defeat the Warriors, of course.
Xar is a young Wizard prince with no magic who will stop at nothing to get it. He was raised to hate the Warriors with every once of his being. Wish is a Warrior princess (and not very good at it) who has come into possession of an ancient and banned magical object, and she will stop at nothing to conceal it. When they meet, they are thrown head-first into an adventure where they must put aside their differences and make it to the dungeons of the Warrior Fort...where something has been sleeping for a very, very long time...and it's about to wake up.
Cressida Cowell (of How To Train Your Dragon fame) is back with a mighty splash! The Wizards of Once is a thrilling fantasy, firmly entrenched in the ancient Wildwoods filled with memorable, well-drawn characters, vivid world-building and hilarious scenarios that will take hold and not let go...much like the magic that sits at the centre of the story. Xar is headstrong and arrogant, which leads to rash and foolish behaviour and the inevitable trouble it brings him. Wish is shy, uncertain, very kind and incredibly inquisitive, which leads her into the mayhem. The friendship that grows between the two is both touching and, at times frustrating. Surrounded by friends, family and foe, the journey they take, both through the outer and inner world is exciting, dangerous and madcap. Cowells' voice as the narrator throughout is perfect, addressing the reader in a suitably youthful voice, while never talking down to them. The illustrations in the book are scene-setting, dynamic and wonderful. The result is the first of a series that you won't want to put down. Magic, mayhem, friendship....you can't ask for more! This book was exactly what I've been looking for.
author: Kelly Barnhill
Picadilly Press (24 August 2017)
ISBN 9781848126473
Each year, the people of the Protectorate must make a horrible sacrifice; they leave the youngest baby born in the village as an offering to the Witch who lives in the forest. They pray that this will keep her from terrorizing their town and leave them in peace. But Xan, the witch in the woods is good and kind and has no idea why they would abandon a helpless baby in such a way. So Xan collects the child and whisks it away to a loving family in one of the Free Cities, nourishing the child on goats milk and starlight on their journey. But one year, Xan feeds a baby moonlight instead, accidentally enmagicking her. Xan cannot give her to an unsuspecting family...she must raise Luna herself. Meanwhile as the years pass, a young man in the Protectorate becomes determined to free his people of their horrible fate by killing the witch, strange birds flock with unknown intentions, an ancient volcano rumbles just beneath the ground and an evil woman with a Tiger's heart silently stalks the woods.
This book is absolutely brilliant! With expert character development and world-building, Barnhill gives the readers a fairytale that is both haunting and uplifting. It deals with the cost of secrets and lies, the importance of joy and belonging and the lengths and depths to which someone will go for love. Weaving together several plot lines, it seamlessly creates a poetic, exquisite fantasy that is moving, in fact heart-rending and completely unforgettable. The Girl Who Drank The Moon is the very essence of magic.

author: Katherine Rundell
Bloomsbury Childrens (10 August 2017)
ISBN: 9781408854877 
As Fred and his three companions fly over the Amazon in a tiny aeroplane, he dreams of being an explorer...of seeing his name and his discoveries alongside the greats; making his mark on the world. Suddenly, the engine fails, the plane plummets into the canopy of the jungle. When Fred awakens, he finds he has no choice. The pilot, the only adult with them has disappeared and the four children are left alone to fend for themselves in a vast wilderness. With no hope of a rescue any time soon, Fred, Con, Lila and little Max must struggle to survive by their own wits. But, it would seem, someone has been there before them.
What a triumph! The Explorer recalls exceptional classics such as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, a bit of Lord of the Flies, and The Little Prince, adding its' own style and boldness to the mix. It is a richly imagined  childhood adventure. The four children show great resilience and strength, while also giving way to doubts and arguments and a full range of experience that drives them forward. They just want to get home. Each character is fully conceived with an insight that lets the reader understand them and their motivations without having to struggle to do so. As the children work their way through the jungle, their back stories are unveiled with great skill and nuance. The added twist,  the appearance of 'the Explorer', who has been stranded in the Amazon for quite some time, creates a juxtaposition of desires and dreams, pitting the young against the old, adaptability against stasis. The writing is fluid, filled with texture. The building of tension with the story is steady and compelling. The descriptions are abundant in detail as sights, scents and sounds spill across the page with little effort. An amazing, exciting, incredible story.

author: Emma Carroll
Faber and Faber (June 2017)
ISBN: 9780571327584
It is 1941 London. A special trip to the cinema, a bombing raid, a mysterious man in the distance and her mothers coat with a coded message in the pocket. This is all Olive remembers about the night her sister, Sukie disappeared into the night. When London becomes too unsafe, Olive and her little brother Cliff are evacuated, along with many other children to the Devon coast, where the find themselves in the care of a private and grumpy lighthouse keeper. But Olive still cannot forget the coded note. Something there links Sukie to Devon, and she must find out what her sister was up to in the dark and dangerous times.
Letters From the Lighthouse is absolutely sterling historical fiction. There have been many books written about the fate of child evacuees during World War 2, but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest, with great care given to character and relationship development. The descriptive passages are completely unlaboured, but take the reader to the time and place with ease and believability. The characters and their rapport are genuine and gently handled, painted with a full sense of each of every person so that the reader really knows who they are. The mystery at the heart of the story holds ongoing fascination, absorbing the reader with each little 'reveal'. There is a beautiful unveiling of the story of the Jewish refugees and their search for safety at any cost to themselves; a story that has much impact in our current world; something we would all do well to remember. An intriguing and surprising twist at the end makes for a wonderful, moving read. Sensitive, captivating and filled with the magic of the everyday world, Letters From The Lighthouse ticks all the boxes. I recommend this to everyone, regardless of your age. Just beautiful.

MOONLOCKET (The Cogheart Adventures)
author: Peter Bunzl
Usborne (1 May 2017)
ISBN: 9781474915014
Months have passed since the drama unveiled in Cogheart, and Lily and Robert are now expecting a peaceful, in fact boring summer. But it is not to be. Criminal mastermind and escapologist the Jack of Diamonds has escaped from prison and is searching for the mysterious Moonlocket. But that's not all he's looking for. As dark secrets emerge from Roberts' past cast a long shadow, the two of them find themselves in grave danger. Robert is now part of Jack's sinister and cruel game. With the approach of Queen Victorias' Jubilee, Lily and Malkin, the clockwork fox, must stay one step ahead of Jack if they have any hope of rescuing Robert, solving the mystery of the Moonlockets' map and saving the celebrations.
A proper, old-school mystery with a fantastic Steampunk element, this kept me on the edge of my seat.It seamlessly picks up the Cogheart story and runs with it. Cogheart set out Lilys' story, intriguing and amazing heart-in-your-mouth kind of stuff with a badly behaved heroine that captures the heart. Moonlocket is Roberts' story, told with fascination and revelation that unpeels itself bit by bit throughout. Bunzl sets the scene perfectly, and also develops an emotional landscape within each character that the reader will feel as much as read. The combination of historical fiction, murder mystery, family drama and fantasy/science-fiction is effortlessly mingled in a truly gripping

author: Jess Butterworth
Orion Childrens Books ( 1 June 2017)
ISBN: 9781510102088
12-year-old Tash and her best friend, Sam must follow stringent rules in Chinese-occupied Tibet. There are two words that are banned in Tibet. And use of these two words will get a person through in jail without any thought. Dalai Lama. The soldiers are everywhere, guarding all aspects of life and curfews are set to keep the village under control.But when a local man sets himself on fire in protest and the soldiers take Tashs' parents and ransack their home, Tash and Sam must break every rule. They are determined to steal out of Tibet to India and seek the help of the Dalai Lama himself. So with a backpack filled with her Dads' secret papers and two beloved, trusted yaks, Tash and Sam begin a long, hard journey across the Himilayas. Pursued by the soldiers, confronted by nomads, smugglers and bandits, facing the bitter winter cold, will they make it in one piece? And can the Dalai Lama do anything to help them?
Fascinating and well-paced, this novel introduces the Tibetan situation to young people in the form of a riveting adventure story that anyone aged 9+ will enjoy enormously. It deals with incredibly difficult concepts, such as self-immolation protest, in a frank and forthright way without giving into spectacle or sensationalism. It reads very much like a mystery, as the children must reason out each and every circumstance they encounter. It is a tale of courage, determination and inner strength and is bound to fire many questions and much consideration. The characters have genuine voices. Their thoughts are feelings are easily recognisable. Tash is a brilliant character, drawn in such a way that it is easy to picture and understand her, filled with a dauntless sense of determination and expectation (which is also sometimes quite frustrating.) Powerful, without being overwhelming; wise without losing its' humour and hopeful without giving into a desire for facile answers

author: Jacob Sager Weinstein
Walker Books (1 June 2017)
ISBN: 9781406368857
Hyacinth Hayward has recently moved to London from America. With only her eccentric mother for company, she's finding it difficult to adjust to strange surroundings. When her mother is out one day, a workman comes by to fix the bathroom sink. This sets off a weird chain of events...her mother disappears, the even more eccentric neighbour, Lady Roslyn becomes Hyacinths' sole source of support and inspiration in the search for her mum and, somehow, it turns out that Hyacinth has unleashed a magically charged drop of water that threatens to create worldwide chaos and destruction. So, into the sewers below London they go, chasing the drop along with a cast of the most bizarre characters imaginable; the Saltpetre Men, responsible for her mothers' disappearance, the Toshers - collectors in the sewers
This is a rollicking, madcap, intriguing tale that demands the reader suspend their disbelief, buckle up and prepare for a bumpy ride. Fortunately, this is not difficult. Zany though it may be, the world-building here is so cleverly constructed that it is totally believable and consuming. The pacing is rapid-fire and accurate. The many twists are turns lead the reader on a magical tour through the depths of the sewers and through history. And the characters are simply wonderful. Hyacinth is bold and brash, seeking rationality in a world where there is none with clear thought and imagination. It has been a long time since I have a read a fantasy that is this ingenious, intelligent and compelling. Add to that the sheer hilarity of the story and I can't wait for the sequels! (First in a trilogy) Fantastic!

author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Chicken House (4 April 2017)
ISBN: 9781910002766
Ami was born on Culion. She has lived there with her mother all her life. Culion is an island for people with leprosy; alone and isolated at what seems to be the end of the world and her mother is one of its' victims. It's lush forests and deep blue seas, and her mothers' love and care, have given Ami an ideal life. But that all changes with the arrival of a malicious government official, Mr. Zamora. A strange man, he comes with a vicious passion for butterfly collecting and a plan that changes Ami's world forever... all the uninfected are to be sent away. Ami now faces life in an orphanage under the watchful eye of Zamora, like one of his butterflies. Ami must return to Culion before her mother dies, looking to the butterflies to lead her home.
 Absolutely everything about this book shines. The writing is beautiful, poetic and evocative. The story ebbs and flows like the tides surrounding Culion with a rhythm that is sometimes gentle, sometimes harsh. The characters are exquisitely drawn and complex; neither simply good or bad and the interaction between them is genuine. The coherence between the natural world and human nature is delicate and textural, and the reader does get a subtle clue about the interlocking nature of the two. Plot twists and turns are plentiful, but this does not lead to a tale that is overly complicated or hard to follow. Clear and straight-forward storytelling leads the reader through the book and you find yourself, sadly, at the end before you realise it. So...you read it again and discover there is another layer to be unveiled. But apart from all that, it is a story of family and friendship and figuring life out. It is a story of nature and butterflies and beauty. It is compelling, exciting, joyous and heart-breaking. It is wholly unusual and utterly human. And it is one that will stick with you...one you will return to again and again.

author: Maeve McMahon
a little book company (2010)
ISBN: 9781906077068
Jade Williams is an ordinary 12-year-old girl living with her grandmother in New OrleansBut the journey to safety takes Jade places she never thought she'd go. And 'home' becomes a foreign land that she may never see again.
McMahon gives us a vivid, dramatic picture of the aftermath of one of the most pivotal environmental events in recent history as seen through the eyes of a young survivor. With an accurate, genuine voice, the story is told with compassion, gently giving insight into the traumatic situations faced by thousands of children at the time. Jade is a believable character and her inner thoughts, fears and frustrations pull the reader into her life, riveting us to the page. This detailed account of the devastation and determination of the human spirit is expressed in clear language and storytelling, relaying an exceptional tale of faith and human endurance at a time when it is easy to lose all hope, to give up. And yet, there is humour and light-heartedness, which makes this book a compelling and, ultimately uplifting read with much to think about. McMahon was living and working in New Orleans at the time, and her experiences there add an insight that one could not possibly express without having lived through it. Winner of the Nautilus Award, Riding Out The Hurricane tackles big issues, such as racism, displacement, poverty and environmental catastrophe in an accessible way, as well as being a beautiful read. Ages 10+
( Sadly, a little book company is no longer in business. The book is available through the author or numerous Irish bookshops.) 

author: Scarlett Thomas
Canongate Books (April 2017)
ISBN: 9781782117025
Effie Truelove, student at Tusitala School for the Gifted, is late for school, again and her wicked English teacher accepts no excuses. Not even the fact that her grandfather has been brutally attacked and is languishing in hospital. Effie has promised to protect his vast library of magical books for him. But her father has sold them all to nefarious book-collector, Leonard Levar...all but one, Dragon's Green. As she falls asleep reading the book, Effie finds herself pulled into a magical realm of which she has no knowledge; one that holds her true inheritance. She must travel through the Otherworld and brave the secret organisation, the Diberi who's plans threaten the existence of everything. A daunting task, but Effie is not alone. Her new school friends are fighting with her as they, too, discover their new found powers. Together, they discover what it truly means to be 'lost in a book.'
This is Scarlett Thomas' first foray into the world of childrens' fantasy books, and it is marvelous! She clearly understands the impact of world-building and its' affect on the process of story construction. The world she has created is textural, carefully sculpted out of dreams, hopes and fears and a love of books. As the reader journeys through the tale, there is a balance of queries and solutions, logic and instinct, the hidden and the revealed. And each 'reveal' seems to pose another aspect to be uncovered. The story does wobble a bit from time to time, but it pulls itself back nicely and invites the reader forward. Her characters and relationships are strong and well-presented. Effie is a heroine who grows throughout the story, despite her confusion and lack of knowledge. She thinks fast on her feet, showing intelligence and empathy. This is not a perfect book, but it is enjoyable and compelling. It is a remarkable testament to the power of reading, books and magic!

author: Garth Nix
Picadilly Press (28 February 2017)
ISBN: 9781848126015
Princess Anya longs to be a sorcerer and can think of nothing better than spending her days engrossed in study. She DOES NOT want to go on a quest to defeat her evil stepstepfather (no, it's not a misspelling), Duke Rikard and restore proper order to the land. She definitely does not want to spend her time kissing frogs. But, that's the way it is, so off she goes with her loyal dog, across the land. Her quest involves retrieving ingredients to make a magical lip balm and finding the right frog to kiss so her older sister can have her prince. But....which frog is it? As it turns out, there are many frogs to kiss, and other creatures that need to be restored as well before justice and law can be reinstated and the Duke defeated. And, there is no guarantee Princess Anya will ever be able to realise own her dream. 
Frogkisser is a marvelous contemporary take on the fairytale/fantasy genre with colourful characters, quirky humour and suspense enough to pull the reader along across a varied and fascinating landscape. Princess Anya shines as a heroine with depth of character, inner conflicts, a genuine, relatable voice and a bold, quizzical approach to life. Her perspective changes and grows with her quest. She is open to learning as much about the world and herself as she can. With many morals and social themes scattered in the pages, the light-hearted take on these guarantees that this does not bog down the reader with unnecessary detail and information. It is a joyous read. Nix is an adept storyteller, able to weave plot twists and surprises into the tale with ease and aplomb. His world-building is unparalleled among fantasy writers, creating a world here that bends and fits to his purpose. The texture and nuance is remarkable. Nix has no issue demonstrating the difficulty of the quest and paints it with great texture and nuance, showing struggle, uncertainty and, yet, humour and ridiculousness, as well. The physical book itself is beautiful! It has the look of a vintage collectible volume and is a joy to hold and look at. It is the complete package. In the end, Frogkisser is a completely delightful read; one to be enjoyed by all ages. If you liked The Princess Bride, you'll love this one. Simply superb!

author: Cathryn Constable
Chicken House (5 January 2017)
ISBN: 9781909489103
Livy is struggling with a lot of changes in her life recently. Her best friend died and she is filled with grief. Her father has a new job as librarian for the prestigious Temple College, which means moving to a new (very old) house with a creepy history. And Livy has been given a place in the school; which makes her feel even more isolated and different. She comes home everyday to seek refuge in her attic bedroom, overlooking the towers and domes of the school. While it gives her some peace and quiet, Livy is hypnotically drawn to the statues on the rooftop and climbs out to discover they are perhaps a bit more than mere statues. There appears to be some strange connection with her family and Temple College, but will it help Livy deal with her loss?
A mesmerising tale set firmly in the present, The White Tower journeys into the past with wonderful characterisation and a considered unfurling of the mysteries surrounding old scientific experiments create an atmosphere of magic. It has an old-fashioned thriller/adventure quality, while maintaining a sense of a family drama. The present story is infused with the enigmatic past. Day-to-day life at school with all the typical concerns Livy faces (feeling different, fitting in, gossip and rumour, making new friends while grieving the old) is nicely placed alongside her evocative night-time wanderings across the rooftop and towers of the old school where ghosts stalk her movements and egg her on. A dream-like, eerie quality is infused throughout the book. While some of the links between the past and present, the motives of the former librarian and Livy, her family, how they came to be at the school remain a bit vague, it makes for a fascinating read that will haunt you for a long time. 

author: Jack Cheng
Puffin (2nd March 2017)
ISBN: 9780141365602
11-year-old Alex lives alone with his troubled mother after losing his father and his older brother moving to LA for work. While his home life may be turbulent, Alex has big dreams...and he's about to make them happen! Patterning himself off his hero, Carl Sagan, Alex is going to send his iPod into space with a series of audio recordings to show interstellar lifeforms what his life on Earth is all about. He takes himself off on an impromptu road trip across the southwest US to a prestigious Space festival in a bed to launch his homemade rocket, complete with iPod, into the cosmos. Along the way, Alex meets many new and strange characters, all of whom help him on his way and help him return home. He even ends up with a sister he didn't know he had. When the journey ends, a new one begins...one filled with difficulties, but great hope.
A poignant, warm, heart-felt novel, See You In The Cosmos is one you won't soon forget. Alex is  incredibly intelligent, obsessed with science and determined. But he also is quite naive and vulnerable to the world. He's a character that seems to bring out the best in everyone he comes across. His straight-forward, refreshing voice coupled with the narrative he places on his iPod tell the story with a unique perspective. Far from being simply about a road-trip, this is a life story; a story about friendship, family, overcoming difficulty and creating understanding. Filled with a special sort of real-life magic, it will definitely change your point of view.

author: Rob Lloyd Jones
Walker Books (5 January 2017)
ISBN: 9781406361445
For Jake and Pandora (Pan) Atlas, it was meant to be an exciting family holiday while their University professor parents attended seminars and lectures in Cairo. At least, that's what they thought. But while Pan is busy hiding her genius behind her headphones; Jake, who is always in trouble of the most extreme kind, can't help but notice that strange things are happening even before they get on the plane. Their parents mysteriously vanish the very night they arrive in Egypt, apparently taken hostage by a secret and lethal society. Jake and Pan find themselves teaming up with some pretty shady treasure hunters, learning to master high-tech gadgets and searching for a long lost Egyptian tomb in a bid to save their parents from being turned into mummies.
A carefully considered plot and well developed characters give us an action-packed, high-octane adventure. Think Indiana Jones meets James Bond meets Mission Impossible and you'll know what I mean. It is fast-paced, daring and filled with action and surprise. The twins relationship is a brilliant brother-sister dialogue and in the end, they prove themselves to be truly two sides of the same coin. Nothing is quite what it seems here. Wonderful escapism and a fabulous story that leaves you wanting more. I can't recommend Jake Atlas  highly enough.

author: Piers Torday
Quercus Childrens Books (6 October 2016)
ISBN: 9781848668621
Eleven- year-old Mouse is travelling to his grandparents house on Christmas Eve. But the snow is falling fast and heavy and visibility is very poor. The once familiar road is strange and alien; and now completely covered in a blanket of white. The car goes off the road and crashes, trapping his two sisters and mother inside. Mouse has been thrown clear. When he awakes, the world is not the world he knew
Piers Tordays' narrative spins a remarkable yarn of love, death, resilience and memory. It is a testament to the power of stories to change the way we see the world. The characterisation and plot ring true, and are easily relatable. Mouses' journey proves he is more than just his small size and the limits of his physical stature. The real central character of this story is Mouses' imagination; his ability to make his way in this world through a rapidly changing environment and many deep perils; his ability to think on his feet. On this surface, this is a simple, easy-to-follow adventure filled with the exploration of typical childhood iconography, but there are deep underlying themes. As the reader journeys across an icy, danger-filled landscape, they are actually exploring the emotional landscape of childhood and of growing up. Family life, inner strength, understanding ones' own self - both gifts and deficits shine through with an unusual clarity the reads easily. Dynamic, heartbreaking and insightful, it is still filled with humour and quirkiness that is reminiscent of Roald Dahl. While the more sensitive readers may find the ending emotional, this is a unique and magical tale that speaks of the triumph of one small boy. Fantastical and utterly mesmerising, this is a 'Christmas' story that will stay with you throughout the year...and over many of them.

authors: Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee
Walker Books (3 November 2016)
ISBN: 9781406372892
Jules and Sylvie are more than sisters. More than best friends. It is as if they are two parts of the same person, living with their father in a quiet, wooden area. Jules' favourite thing is collecting rocks, especially wish rocks, which they throw into the river for their wishes to come true. But Sylvies' favourite thing is running. And she is so, so fast. One winters morning, she runs. She runs too fast to the most dangerous part of the river to throw in a wish rock
A beautiful, beautiful book which is captivating and evocative. This takes us into the world of one familys' grief and expectations. The relationship between the sisters and how it bleeds out into the small community surrounding it is expressed in simple, yet stirring terms as we journey with Jules through the world after her sister vanishes. It holds us in that journey as understanding and realisation develops. It offers a unique portrait into the lives,  world view and thought patterns of all the animal residents in the nearby woods come to the forefront of this amazing tale. Written so that we see more, feel more and hope more, despite ourselves. The intricacy of the plot belies the simplicity of the story-telling. Maybe a Fox has a long-lasting and profound affect on the reader. Patient and compelling, with poetic language and vivid descriptions, while there is much sorrow, it is also a story that is quietly triumphant and filled with hope. Simply wonderful!

author: Megan Shepherd  illustrator: Levi Pinfold
Walker Books (13 October 2016)
ISBN: 9781406367584
It is December 1941 and Emmaline is one of about 20 children evacuated to Briar Hill Hospital to escape the bombing in London and receive treatment for the stillwaters, as tuberculosis is called. Emmalines' companions there a few; Sister Constance, Sister Mary Grace, Thomas, the caretaker and Dr. Turner, who comes to dispense medication and give medical care for the children. Then, the are the animals. Though seldom let to go outside, she loves the dog, Bog, and the sheep and the chickens. But a surprise discovery gives meaning to her existence...living in the mirrors, there are magical winged horses; horse only she can see and she draws them with increasing fascination and loving care. One day, Emmaline finds a winged horse has escaped into the sundial garden. She begins to receive letters from the Horse King begging her to keep Foxfire safe from the Black Horse, who hunts by moonlight. The Black Horse has only one weakness...colour. Emmaline must load the sundial garden with vivid, brilliant colour....but where will she find colour in a land ravaged by war and sickness?
Written in a classic style, with beautiful turn of phrase and a carefully crafted plot line, The Secret Horses of Briar Hill is sweet, compelling and utterly spell-binding. All the characters are meticulously drawn with genuine voices. Emmaline grows and blooms as the story progresses, giving the reader a strong and believable heroine that takes them on a compelling journey through the tale. It is magic of the best kind, the most certain kind. Pinfolds' magnificent illustrations are woven throughout the text, adding to the drama and charm of this compelling read. Each one is a beautiful work of art worthy of framing...but resist the urge. Reading this, other great childrens' books immediately came to mind, such as Charlotte's Web, The Last Unicorn, The Secret Garden and even Five Children and It; such is its' ability to draw the reader in and hold them firmly within the story. While the story itself is a somber one, there is gentle humour and some light-hearted moments which drive it well away from becoming morose. The finale is left open-ended, so that the readers' imagination plays a key role in making this extraordinary book personal and memorable. It is wonderful to find a book that ticks all the boxes in childrens' literature, as this one does! Timeless and timely, exquisite writing and illustration, this novel for ages 9+ gives the reader much to think about while exploring a wonder-filled landscape of both reality and imagination.

author: Lucy Strange
Chicken House Books (October 2016)
ISBN: 9781910655030
Shaken by the untimely death of her older brother, Henriettas' (Henry) family moves to the countryside. But Mama is ill, and seems to be getting worse. Father is away on business and Nanny Jane is too busy. Henry is left alone, with only the characters in her books and her seemingly vivid imagination for company. But are these strange fancies and imaginings so far fetched? One night, Henry seizes her courage, follows the flickering fire-light and ventures into the woods surrounding Hope House. The she meets Moth, a strange, witch-like woman. Moth encourages Henry to fight for her family, follow her imagination and save Mama from the clutches of the interfering Dr. Hardy. That one night, Henry's whole world changes...
A beautifully written debut novel. Henry is a marvellous character. Her surrounding environment and her situation is written with such detail and exactness that the reader enters into her life and believes every action, every emotion. There is a touch of such childrens' classics as The Secret Garden, Goodnight Mr Tom and timeless fairy tales. And these books and stories are acknowledged throughout as Henrys' inspiration and motivation. This shapes a story that is something really quite superb, without a false note throughout. Compelling, consuming and exceptional, The Secret of Nightingale Wood is a book to get lost in.

author: Jenny Nimmo
Egmont (September 2016)
ISBN: 9781405280877
Henry Yewtree lives with his Aunt Pearl and a terrible secret. Henry is twelve years old. Yet he hasn't grown an inch since he arrived there. From 100 years ago. Henry had been playing in his former home, when a mysterious marble rolled out of nowhere. He picked it up and gazed into it and was instantly transported. Now, in the future, Henrys' life is at stake. A bright yellow letter is delivered to his Aunt Pearl one Saturday, and suddenly, they are both on the run. His secret has put them in danger! Left in a strange town called Timeless, he is rescued by a group of very unusual folk who seem to know a lot more about his secret than Henry does.
From the author of the wonderful Charlie Bone series comes this wonderful spin-off. Jenny Nimmo has built a world where time stands still, being tiny does not mean you are powerless and, in order to survive, you must be clever, determined and believe in the impossible. A consuming fantasy for ages 9+, Henrys' plight also addresses many circumstances faced in our day-to-day world...friendship, prejudice, and refugee issues. The story contains much that is complex and illusive, yet it does so in a clear, concise and easy manner. To top it off, it is a completely enjoyable read; one the reader will get lost in and want to return to again and again. With exciting dialogue, a fast-paced plot line and sympathetic characters that the reader will want to take out of the book with them, this book shines! Simply great.

author: Peter Bunzl
Usborne Publishing (1 September 2016)
ISBN: 9781474915000
13-year-old Lily Hartman has been sent to Miss Octavia Scrimshaws' Finishing School for Young Ladies after having frustrating a number of governesses employed by her inventor father. Housed in this remote cluster of red-brick buildings, where no one asks questions about her, Lily is not happy. She longs for the life of an air-pirate, not lessons in posture, manners and conversational French. Lily has made no friends there, apart from the clock-work staff. Lily does not want to be there! Her wish is sadly granted after her father disappears following a zeppelin crash and her current governess, Madame Verdigris appears to remove her. With Verdigris threatening to sell off all her fathers' property, including the mechanical staff that Lily has known all her life, Lily finds herself on the run with her fathers' faithful clockwork fox, Malkin. Determined to uncover the truth behind her fathers' disappearance, she enlists the help of Robert, a clock-makers' son. Hiding from a strange and mystery army of shadowy creatures, they escape arson attacks, murder and treachery to find aid in the form of a salvage scavenger on board the airship, Ladybird. Their adventure leads them to the smoky landscape of Victorian London, and a shocking secret invention that will change Lilys' life forever.
Prepare yourselves for a thrilling, enthralling steam-punk adventure with a badly-behaved heroine that you will remember forever. The plot of Cogheart is truly ingenious.

author: Jennifer Bell
Corgi Childrens (June 2016)
ISBN: 9780552572507
Grandmother Sylvie has been rushed to hospital and Ivy Sparrow and her brother Seb cannot locate their parents. On returning to Sylvies' house, they find it has been completely ransacked by a band of unknown intruders. A strange feather begins to scratch mysterious, threatening messages on the wall, a strange policeman turns up to apprehend them with a toilet brush and Ivy and Seb just barely escape, only to find themselves thrown into a completely uncommon world that exists somewhere beneath our own...Lundinor. But the danger doesn't stop there, They are still being pursued by a very odd police force, ordinary, everyday objects have powerful magical properties and their is a strange family secret afoot that they must solve. But first, they have to find a way to get Grandma Sylvie to remember exactly who she is.
I think I may have found my new favourite fantasy adventure. With remarkable world-building and brilliant characterisation, and fabulous writing (full stop) The Uncommoners make for a thoroughly delightful, exciting and spell-binding read. Ivy and Seb are a completely believable sister-brother duo. Their bewilderment and their situation and exasperation with each other are palpable. The brilliant anti-hero and thief, Valian Kaye is remarkable and charming in every way. And the idea that, hidden amongst the everyday items of our lives, toilet brushes, belts, bars of soapLundinor. I completely loved it...and so will you.

author: Jo Cotteril
Piccadilly Press (May 2016)
ISBN: 9781848125117
Calypsos' mother passed away five years ago. Her  father, an editor and writer, spends his days in his private library working on his book, A History of the Lemon. And Calypso can usually be found with her head buried in a book. But then a new girl, Mae joins her class. Mae loves books and writing stories as much as Calypso. It isn't easy for Calypso to share her world, but the two girls develop a close, special friendship. As her father becomes increasingly distant, encouraging Calypso to 'find her inner strength', Calypso spends more of her time with Maes' busy, lively, noisy family. One
Beautifully written, without being sentimental or sensationalised, A Library of Lemons highlights the lives of young carers and gives a true portrait of grief and mental illness. It demonstrates the power of loss, loneliness, friendship and hope with a strong, true voice in a very gentle, yet realistic manner. Emotions ring true throughout, and the reader can easily see themselves as part of the story; it really does become less story and more actual events. The friendship between the two girls, the impact of others in a lonely, yet determined young girls' life and the way her view of life and what is 'normal' changes with subtlety and dexterity. There is also great joy and quiet humour within the pages. And the love of books, literature and the overt intelligence of these two main characters shine through. Lovely, powerful yet gentle...a wonderful book.

author: Lauren Wolk
Corgi Childrens (30 June 2016)
ISBN: 9780552574297
Annabelle has lived in Wolf Hollow, a small town in the Pennsylvania mountains all her young life. It is a quiet place, almost idyllic if it were not for the scars it still bears from the part two world wars; a close-knit community with it's one room school house and simple, earnest life-style. But when Betty moves to town with her cruel, manipulative ways, Annabelles' peace is shattered and everything she has learned about right and wrong are called into question. Betty is a bully, and Annabelle, her younger brothers and, ultimately, Toby, the itinerant drifter living in the abandoned smokehouse, become her targets. When Betty disappears, suspicion is cast immediately on Toby and Wolf Hollow rallies against him. Annabelle decides to do whatever she must to protect Toby and find Betty before it's too late.
Wolf Hollow is simply unforgettable. It's well-drawn characters and description of place draw the reader into the world echoed in the pages and allow you to sit there. But it is an uneasy place to be. There are characters throughout that grasp at the heart and mind....these are people you know, people you see everyday; but do you really see them. A portrait of a time not that long gone, the reader is filled with the sense of the place; the mountains, the trees, Annabelle and her family, the voices of the children, the barking of the dogs. Poignant and powerful, it shows how one person can knock an entire life off balance, how easily people can succumb to assumption and prejudice and how difficult it is to do what you know is right. And, yes, it's written for children (10 +). With echoes of the great To Kill A Mockingbird, it the reader to really think about things, to really consider yourself and your place in society. It gives an insight that is desperately needed in these times. Touching, quiet and profound, it wraps itself around you and you will see things rather differently after reading. Highly recommended.
author:D.D. Everest
Faber & Faber (June 2016)
ISBN: 9780571307418
Archie Greene's world changed drastically when he discovered he was a Flame Keeper - a guardian of magical books. Now living in Oxford with his Aunt, Uncle and cousins, magic is part of his everyday life. Now, at the Museum of Magical Miscellany, Archies' younger cousin, Thistle is about to start his apprenticeship. During his initiation, Thistle receives a very strange firemark brand. Stranger still, the same mark appears on Archie and Bramble, as well. The Golden Circle is the mark of the ancient Alchemists Club, a group of young alchemists who disappeared at the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666. Their disappearance was marked by a curse...a curse that now threatens the Museum, and indeed Archies' entire magical world. As more and more apprentices appear with the Golden Circle mark, it seems they have no choice but to reform the Alchemists Club. But with the Magical Book Fayre at the Museum, there also arrives a series of mishaps, accidents and dramatic, dark influences effecting protection of the magical world. Can this new, and somewhat uneasy alliance of young, inexperienced friends uncover the source of the curse but it destroys everything in its' wake?
Full of wit and wisdom. And filled with the kind of magic we all love.
Also, if you haven't read the first, Archie Greene and the Magicians Secret, please do so now! (For ages 10+)

author: Francesca Armour-Chelu
Walker Books (June 2016)
ISBN: 9781406363128
The world is ravaged by flooding, dirty, polluted toxic waters everywhere that has made land a rare phenomenon. Into this world was born Fenn; raised in secrecy but the gruff, grumpy and protective old Halflin to exist on scavaging the wrecked ships that come their way in the boglands. But when Fenn discovers the truth about his past, that he is the last of the true Seaborn and a threat to the Terra Firma and their ruthless leader, Chilstone, his life takes a dangerous turn. Seeking shelter in the overcrowded Shanties (that threatened to tumble into the sea at any moment), Fenn is taken in by child survivors in hiding. Chilstone appears in his ship, the dreaded Fearzero and Fenn must rise to a new challenge beyond mere survival. He must face his destiny as a true Seaborn in a stand-off between good and evil and save a sinking world while all his hopes of escape into a better life seem to drift away.
A fast-paced, chilling, well-written, this is one of the best fantasy (dystopian) adventures I have read in a long time. While it addresses issues such as global warming, environmental disaster, greed, migration and prejudice, it does so with an incredible, exciting adventure story that never lets up. The well-drawn characters ring true with genuine feeling and consideration. The descriptive passages do not linger too long, but they pack maximum impact and give a textural sense of time, place and action. Nothing here is two-dimensional. You can see it, feel it all.  Well done! The first of a two part story, I can't wait for the next installment.

author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Chicken House (May 2016)
ISBN: 9781910002742
Isabella lives in the land of Joya, an island from which she can never escape. She dreams of the foreign lands once mapped by her cartographer father in the times before Governor Adori arrived; of her mother and her twin brother, both lost to her now. Under strict regulations, she spends her life surrounding by beautifully detailed maps that hint at stories far beyond her reach. But when her friend, Lupe (the governors daughter) disappears, and another as been brutally killed by an unknown beast that attacks in the night, Isabella knows she must do something before they are all lost. Disguised as her brother, she ventures off on a dangerous journey into the lands beyond the wall; an dry and desolate wasteland where a fire demon stirs from its' sleep. Following a map drawn by her mother, Isabella must also follow ancient myth and her heart to save her life and the island itself.
Woven with all the magic of fairy tales and childhood memories, this novel is mesmerising. It is a tale of courage, magic and adventure. Isabella is a fierce and strong character, her instincts are bold and keen. The relationships with her father and her friend, Lupe, are held together by Isabellas' strong sense of loyalty and love, despite whatever differences exist. Intricately drawn, the entire story is pure magic itself and the reader is wrapped up in the maze. Utterly amazing!

author: Lindsay Eager
Walker Books (March 2016)
ISBN: 9781406368154
Rather than spending the summer with her friends, Carol is forced to move to her grandfathers' deserted sheep ranch
A beautifully complex coming of age story, Hour of the Bees makes exceptional use of magical realism to explore relationships across generations; the things we hide and how we build own own histories. The lines between truth and fiction are gradually intermingled and turned inside-out so that the reader is left wondering which is real...or if they both are. Carol is a genuine, real voice and the relationships within her family ring true. Serge is a compelling figure as the grandfather; someone who is caught in the past and struggling with the present. As their relationship grows, we see there is genuine interest in each other, and love. A truly stunning debut novel that will stay with the reader for a very long time. Magic! (11+)

author: Cathy Cassidy
Puffin (21 April 2016)
ISBN: 9780141371252
Andie, Eden, Ryan, Tasha and Hasmita have been been friends since they were tiny. Together, the form the Heart Club and make a vow to be best friends forever, to always be there for each other and to never let anything tear them apart. But things happen. Shortly after Andies' 11th birthday sleep-over, tragedy strikes. Now, two years later, they talk to each other...they barely see each other. Eden and Ryan are haunted by memories of that moment when everything went horribly wrong. They are both hurting and in trouble...and they need each other and the rest of the Heart Club. Andies' sudden reappearance in Edens' life causes her to rethink the past. Andie urges her to get the group back together again and to start by talking to Ryan. But can you really take back angry words? Can friendship last forever? What does it take to mend
In a unique and poignant tale of friendship, Cathy Cassidy gives us another moving, heart-felt novel. With believable characters, each one with a truly genuine voice, the reader is taken through the lives of Ryan and Eden as they attempt to move beyond a tragic moment in life. The entire book rings true. With a strong attachment to each character and their part in the story, it's one of those books you will read in one sitting; emotional and compelling, filled with day to day drama and how little it means in the face of true difficulty, but how important the day to day still remains. Don't get me wrong; the story is funny and joyous at the same time as being deep and, in places shattering. You will need the tissues to hand, but you will also feel happy and affirmed. It's quite a trick to write a book that has both sides of the emotional coin and is still a joy to read. And Cathy brings this to the table with great finesse and experience. Genuine, evocative, light-hearted and moving, Broken Heart Club is a gift to its' readers. I loved it!
p.s. Check out the back of the book to find Cathy Cassidys' Paper Crane Project learn how to make origami paper cranes!

author: Kate DiCamillo
Walker Books (April 2016)
ISBN: 9781406363135

Raymie Clarkes’ whole life changed two days ago. Her father ran off with a dental hygienist. Her mother is caught up in this “great tragedy.” Now, absolutely everything depends on Raymie. But she has a plan. If she can do a few good deeds and learn to twirl a baton, she’ll win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition! Her father will see her in the paper and come home. First, she has to contend with her rivals. Louisiana Elefante has a show-business background and is airy, flighty and faints a lot. Beverly Tapinski is hard-edged, bossy and is determined to sabotage the competition. But loneliness and unanswered questions draw the three girls into an extraordinary team, the Three Rancheros! Each one has an important quest of their own, but if they band together, they will be unstoppable. However, they discover good deeds can easily go wrong, adventures turn into disasters and what is lost doesn’t always need to be found. Then one night, when everything seems darkest, Raymie Nightingale finds a strength she didn't know she had and becomes a real hero!

Based (a bit) on the real life of author Kate DiCamillo, this is an incredible story of loss and friendship, dreams and reality. Raymie Nightingale is thoughtful and adventurous. With strong characters and just the right amount of detail, DiCamillo paints a picture that will bloom and grow in your imagination. It will make you laugh, warm your heart and never let you down!
Kate DiCamillo is one of the most imaginative and authentic authors for young people today. All of her books are very different from each other. Each one is magnificent and she is truly an author that has a little something for each and every reader. She simply cannot write a bad book. I love Raymie Nightingale, and can also highly recommend The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Magician's Elephant and, of course, Because of Winn-Dixie....to name just a few of her magnificent books.

author: Christopher Edge
Nosy Crow (January 2016)
ISBN: 9780857636041
After Albie Brights' mother dies, it is only natural for him to wonder where she has gone. Both his parents were scientists, so surely they would have the answer, but his father simply mumbles something about parallel universes. Albie takes it upon himself to research quantum physics. Now armed with a box, his mothers' computer,an old, rotting banana and an insatiable curiosity, Albie sends himself through time and space to find her. But traveling through alternate dimensions is not quite that straight forward. Albies' discoveries are truly extraordinary....
This is an amazing, wonder-filled novel that offers as many questions as answers.. Intelligent and genuine, ...Albie Bright is a book for the curious and the down-hearted. Humourous and lively, it also has a gentle quality that addresses grief, family life, friendship and so much more. The characters are priceless and as Albie travels from place to place, the reader is given a view of the possibilities that lie hidden in life. The worlds Edge has constructed are relayed with exceptional story-telling. It really touches the heart and excites the mind. More than that, it is FUN. Quirky, unusual, an exceptional read; I can't recommend this book highly enough. And, it's educational, too. In fact, it would be a wonderful recommendation to children whose reading is firmly rooted in non-fiction, as the exploration of science is superb. Christopher Edge and Nosy Crow have done it again! Ages 9-12 will love this...as will just about anyone who reads it.

author: Inbali Iserles
Scholastic (October 2015)
ISBN: 9781407147123
A young fox, out at play, returns home to find her whole world has shattered when  her family has been taken; completely disappeared. Now Isla is on her own in a world filled with the heartless furless and other creatures that look upon foxes as vermin. She travels far and wide to find her family and in her journey encounters cruelty, hunger and neglect. But she gains a strength and cleverness she never knew she had. And she finds a society of shape-shifting foxes known as the Elders; and her own legacy as one of lifes' most despised animals. Her own growing skill in foxcraft,  skills and cunning known only to foxes, lead her in a journey of discovery and peril. But in the back of her mind always is the lingering question; what ever became of her family? And why is she tormented, even among her own kind?
Iserles is a brilliant writer with a knack for totally inhabiting the world of animals completely, as she has proved before in previous books The Tygrine Cat and The Bloodstone Bird. Here, she creates a story that is utterly mesmerising. Well-paced and considered, the reader is plunged into Isla's world and her journey of discovery with a tangible, yet mythic quality. This is not simply anthropomorphising of animals; you feel like a fox...see the world as a fox sees it. The writing and plot line remind of Watership Down and Tom McCaugherns' Run Wild series, but with a more contemporary twist. Stunning details, intriguing characters and a story line that will hook you at the word go, Foxcraft: The Taken is the first in a new series. Beautiful, magical and completely engrossing. Perfect for ages 8-12...and older readers as well.

author: Anne Michaels illustrator: Emma Block
Bloomsbury Childrens (November 2015)
ISBN: 9781408868040
Introducing the utterly charming Miss Petitfour! She loves baking (as her name might suggest), dancing with her sixteen cats and her friends and surrounding community. But, Miss Petitfour loves
A truly enjoyable and warm debut childrens' book by poet Anne Michaels, this is a real "girl" book. Kind and gentle drama, it still gives a sense of self-sufficiency and being yourself. It is peppered with beautiful language, as it introduces many words (and explains their use) that are not typically used in young readers books, and does so in a way that thoroughly fits in with the story line. The narrative voice is wonderful; the characters are great fun and the scene descriptions are well-drawn, leaving the reader with a wonderful mental picture throughout. As I said, a "girl" book that will delight readers age 7 to 10, written with intelligence and imagination.

THE DOLDRUMS...a badly planned adventure
author: Nicholas Gannon
HarperCollins Childrens Books (October 2015)
ISBN: 9780008149390
Archer Helmsley has grown up in a house filled with curios and oddities. In fact, Archer appears to be a bit odd himself. Archer longs for adventure, like his grandparents, renowned explorers Ralph and Rachel Helmsley who disappeared on an iceberg during an expedition to the Antarctic. Since that time, his mother barely lets him leave the house. But along with his friends, Adelaide and Oliver, Archer concocts a plan that will set him on a whirl-wind adventure to rescue his grandparents involving parachutes, crocodiles, driving a teacher half-mad (by accident, really) and a lot of danger. And it's a great plan! Well, pretty good...not bad, anyway. Let's face it; nothing goes to plan and, of course, nothing involving Archers' family is quite what it appears.
What an incredible book! First of all, it's beautifully presented. Gannon's illustrations throughout the novel make it a thing of beauty, and they perfectly depict the life and adventure as it's story line builds. It is wonderfully and expressively written with heart and humour and has everything a proper adventure tale requires. he reader becomes completely entranced by the characters and their friendship and their mad plan. With flawless pacing, the writing guides you through the story, adding just the right amount of detailing to keep you invested, and to keep you guessing. Quirky, clever, in fact eccentric on every level , this is a charming, unique adventure story that never let's the reader down.You couldn't ask for more in a book! (ages 9=...and they'll love it for life!)

author: Abi Elphinstone
Simon & Schuster (26 February 2014)
ISBN: 9781471122682
12-year-old Moll lives in the Ancientwood with Oak, leader of the camp, his wife, Mooshie and a gypsy clan filled full of community spirit. Moll was discovered by Oak and Moosie as a baby, alone in the woods with no one to watch over her apart for Gryff, a wildcat or so the story goes. One night, she wakes from a recurring nightmare to find herself in the middle of the woods, lured there by the drums, rattles and chatting that infects the nightmares. She discovers a deep, dark magic at work. The Dreamsnatcher is coming for her. He has taken her dreams and now he wants her life in order to bring the darkest of magic out and let it lose in the world. The ancient bone oracle has foretold that she is the only one who can stop the Dreamsnatchers' magic. With Gryff, her best friend Siddy and a mysterious ally, Alfie, Moll embarks on a dangerous and mysterious adventure to retrieve the ancient Amulets and put an end to the Dreamsnatcher....but will Moll be strong and courageous enough to survive?
Moll Pecksniff is a fabulous character who, on her journey, learns much about herself, her life and where she comes from. Bold and brash, she faces her fears head-on. The twists and turns in this tale lead the reader down a crooked path, indeed. And it is a fabulous journey. A vivid picture if painted of this gypsy world, with it's superstitions and customs and a tale of ancient magic leaps off the page with descriptions that engage all the senses. The cast of quirky characters and the suspense and drama make this one of the best, most magical books I've read in a long time. Is it scary? Oh yes! But it's the right kind of scary, reading like a nightmare that you can face, along with Moll, with all it's uncertainty and drama. It is a nightmare that you know you can navigate through and come out on the other side. Written with energy and a clear love of her characters and their world, I highly recommend The Dreamsnatcher. It is heart-warming and filled to the brim with magic and suspense.

author: Katherine Rundell
Bloomsbury (September 2015)
ISBN: 9789781408872352
Living in an isolated, snowbound woods in Russia, Feodora has grown up wild, with her mother and their nearest neighbours, the wolves. Her mother is a wolf-wilder; one who takes in pet wolves that the aristocracy has grown tired of and teaches them to be wild again. Feo has become wary of people, with their noise and guns and threatening behaviour. Shortly before the Russian revolution, the soldiers come and take her mother. Feo goes on the run with an unlikely fugitive friend and her wolves for companionship. Along the way, they meet others whose lives have been destroyed by the same evil general that took her mother. People who are angry and afraid, but are willing to fight back and help Feo. And a daring plan emerges to rescue her mother, save the wolves and take back control of their lives forever....
The Wolf Wilder is true magic. A compelling, moving story, beautifully written and totally original, it has the familiar feeling of an old Russian fairytale with a ring of truth. The characters and their relationships with one another have texture and depth. Feo herself is precisely the type of lead character you want to read; bold and genuine and filled with humanity and all it's frailties. The landscape is painted with such vibrant description that, in the minds of the reader, it becomes real. The presentation of this novel is exquisite, with illustrations throughout by Gelrev Ongbico that sing. All in all, The Wolf Wilder is a complete triumph; mesmerising, convincing and utterly magnificent.
(If you haven't yet read Rundell's other books, you really should. They are equally brilliant. Girl Savage (also published as Cartwheeling In Thunderstorms) and Rooftoppers. Rundell is a genius!)
author: Andrew Lane
Macmillan Childrens Books (10 September 2015)
ISBN: 9781509810895
Sherlock is called away from his studies at Oxford due to the untimely, but not altogether unexpected death of his mother. His father has disappeared in India. His sister, Emma is acting strange and secretive, having fallen in love with a man the Holmes' know nothing about. The family seems to be falling apart and Mycroft, now the head of the family, can do nothing about it. A mysterious midnight break-in and ransacking at the Holmes estate sets off a chain of events that plummets Sherlock into the heart of another deadly conundrum. Emmas' fiance

Night Break is a triumph! Faithful to the tone and demeanor of the original Conan Doyle series (as always), in this book we truly begin to see Sherlock emerging as the Sherlock Holmes we all know so well. A young, immature Sherlock is further broken and rebuilds. The psychological examination of cause and effect on his personality is as gripping as the story itself. His keen eye for detail and subtle, logical grasp of events are further developed and honed in a perfectly paced drama. As seemingly unrelated facets slide together seamlessly, they build an engrossing tale filled with tension and danger. And yet, it remains an easy, flowing and sophisticated read with a complex and elusive central character the reader will want to stick with through to the end. There is more to come for Sherlock, and personally, I can't wait. Young Sherlock: Night Break offers much, and it does not disappoint. Highly recommended (for ages 10+.)

author: Matt Ralphs
Macmillan Childrens
ISBN: 9781447283553
Hazel has lived all 12 years of her life in the safety of an enchanted glade, protected from the cruelty and dangers of the outside world. But Hazel is desperate to venture outside; to meet new people and explore the world. More than anything else, she wants to be a witch, like her mother. At the time when her powers begin to emerge, Hazels' world changes drastically. Her mother is kidnapped by a hideous demon acting as servant to a powerful and corrupt with clan....and they are after Hazel, as well. She has no choice but to run. Determined to rescue her mother, Hazel and her dormouse familiar are thrust into the open world, where being a witch, once an honoured and trusted profession, is now looked upon with the utmost suspicion and fear. The Witch Hunters are everywhere. And Hazel must put her faith in a young apprentice, David, and his famous Witch Hunter master, Titus White to hunt down the demons and witches who are holding her mother. 
Written expertly with truly spine-tingly suspense in a richly textured world. It is frequently dark and sinister with vivid character development and descriptive elements that allow the readers' imagination to run wild with Hazel and Bramley, the dormouse. The landscape of 17th century England is alive with magic matched against some historical accuracies. The fast-pacing makes this read a real roller-coaster and, at times, the information and the drama comes a little too quickly for the reader to keep up. But, overall, for fans of fantasy and witches in particular, this is a compelling read that leaves you wanting more. Fortunately, there will be more to come. (I'd recommend this for ages 10 +)

author: Emmy Laybourne
Hodder Children's Books (2013)
ISBN: 9781444914702
They were on their way to school one morning when the hailstorm hit; and it was bad. Fourteen kids find themselves trapped inside a superstore in the town of Monument with no help and no adult supervision. They can do whatever they want... and it is brilliant! At first... But everything the storm hit was damaged, cars and buildings damaged, the Network was gone; all contact with the outside is lost. A chemical plant has been destroyed and the air is tainted. Monument is being evacuated and the kids have no way of knowing that the world outside is gone.
Fast-paced, tense, gripping, Monument 14 is one of the best dystopian novels for young people. The story is told through the eyes of Dean, the genuine voice of a 16-year-old boy, just an ordinary kid who has worked very hard to keep himself under the radar; nothing special until this happens. He catalogs the events with a straight-forward and honest approach. The writing is fluid and easy; filled with tangible characters and situations. The relationships between the characters move and change as the story builds. The emotions become raw and trust-worthy to the reader. The people are real. You readily become involved, wrapped-up in the story and find yourself in that superstore with them. The thing about Monument 14 that makes it so accessible is that it seems totally plausible. We can see his happening in the not-too-distant future and it is frightening. The reader believes it; every word. Gutsy, brave and yet still compassionate, Monument 14 (and its' sequel books Sky On Fire and Savage Drift) are important reads for anyone who loves a good dystopian tale. Simply amazing. (12 years +)


Author: Esther Ehrlich
Rock The Boat/Oneworld Publications (2 July 2015)
ISBN: 9781780748092
Naomi Orenstein (called ‘Chirp’ due to her passion for bird-watching) and her family live in a cosy nest of a cottage on Cape Cod, surrounded by sand, sea and fresh air. Every spare moment she has, Chirp can be found exploring the salt marsh and watching for the elusive red-throated

Nest explores the fragile bond of friendship between Chirp and Joey; two completely different characters, as well as the bonds between family members, juxtaposing these against the fragile, eloquent bonds that exist in the natural world. The descriptive quality of the text is tactile and rich, without over-burdening the story with unnecessary detail....rather it illuminates the book. As Chirp explores the salt marsh and forests around her home, she also explores her internal world, growing, grieving, coming to terms and learning joy and fearlessness. Apart from this, it is a wonderful adventure story, with echoes of such authors as Alice Hoffman and Katherine Rundell..Nest points out, in a subtle way, that children are not oblivious to the drama in the world, and that it, in fact, affects them deeply.  It is both thought-provoking and joyous, as Chirp and Joey wend their way through some of the most difficult of life's navigations at a delicate age. Dream-like, captivating, textural and simply beautiful, this is superbly written with wonderful, unforgettable characters…a story about healing, adventure and friendship that really touches the heart. Nest will stay with you always.

author: Katherine Woodfine
Egmont (June 2015)
ISBN: 9781405276177
Sophie Taylor has landed a job at the posh, elaborate Sinclair's Department Store. With her beloved father gone and left to make her own way in the world, she is well aware how fortunate she has been. But the evening before it's grand opening, one of Mr. Sinclairs' most precious display items, the famed Clockwork Sparrow is stolen...and Sophie finds herself accused of the theft. Her colleagues at work are gossiping about her, the manager will not believe she isn't involved and the police are, apparently, in league with one of London's most notorious criminal leaders. Sophie has only a few friends to help prove her innocence. Completely out of her depth, Sophie must rely on wit and cunning she never knew she had. 
A good old-fashioned 'who-dunnit' style mystery! In a Selfridges-meets-Sherlock Holmes' style novel, expert plot twists and sterling characterisation take the reader on a fascinating and gripping journey through Edwardian society. There are strong hints of Pullman's Sally Lockheart series (which I loved!). Sophie is a brilliant character; learning her own strength and determination in a world that expects little of her, short of failure and her companions populate a world that is palpable, textural and believable. A wonderful mystery packed with intrigue, vivid description and subtle humour; thoroughly enjoyable and wonderfully inspiring.

author: Emma Carroll 
Faber and Faber (July 2015)
ISBN: 9780571317578
When Alice's brother gets a longed-for chance for a heart transplant, Alice is suddenly bundled off to her estranged grandmother's house in the middle of a cold and rainy night. Nell is harsh, strict and not at all welcoming to her only granddaughter. The house is cold and dark. Alice hates staying with Nell and even tries to run away to be with her mother and brother in the hospital, but she is quickly spirited back to the dank, depressing situation. No phone coverage so she can't speak to her only friend, attending school as an outsider in a small community, uncertain about her brother's fate, there's nothing good about staying with Nell. Nothing except the magical Darkling Wood at the end of her garden - but Nell is determined to have it all cut down, in spite of the numerous failed attempts and reluctant workmen. Alice feels at home there, finally at peace, and even finds a funny, adventurous friend, Flo. But Flo doesn't seem to go to the local school and no one in town has heard of a girl with that name. Flo shows Alice the surprising secrets of DarklingAlice starts to wonder, what is real?  And what exactly is the secret that Flo carries with her? And can Alice find out in time to save the wood from destruction?
Evocative description creates a background, upon which a modern fairy-tale unfolds. With a real flair for story-weaving, Carroll has created a beautiful tale of the deep bonds of family and the power of belief (or not.) The characters sing with realism and a nod back to modern history (in the form of WW1 letters between a sister and her brother at the front) lead to suspense, clarity and understanding. An incisive mystery as well as a loving look at family secrets, this is a novel you will not be able to put down. An exquisite cover illustration adds to the charm of this must read for those who love fairies, deep dark woods and genuinely magical writing.

author: Frances Hardinge
Macmillan Childrens Books (7 May 2015)
ISBN: 9781447264101
Faiths' family takes an arduous journey to a small, remote island for her father, renowned natural scientists Reverend Eramus Sunderly to assist with an excavation and to escape a scandal about to break on the mainland. Faith is much like her father; quick-witted and inquisitive, in a time when it does not bode well for girls to be anything other them obedient and servile. When news of the scandal finally reaches Vane Island, the inhabitants are quick to isolate the family. But when her father dies suddenly and the truth seems to elude the authorities, Faiths' curious nature soon uncovers what really happened to her father and what he was actually hiding.
Frances Hardinge is a master at world building. Here, she explores Victorian mores and virtues, and in particular, the attitude towards women. Told in an 1860s setting, The Lie Tree explores issues of belief vs rational thinking, faith vs reason and the mysteries of nature. This is all wondrously executed; atmospheric and eerie in the use of description and perfection time and place setting. The story is quite gothic in its' telling, while maintaining a true sense of the Victorian era, its' social structure and its' fascination with cataloging and collecting. Each character is strong in their own right and the reader gets a very real sense of the personality and traits of each person. Faith is a remarkable heroine; a contemporary young woman locked in a restrictive society, wily and clever, but one who questions her own motivations and her own sense of right and wrong. But perhaps the most intriguing 'character' is the Lie Tree itself. An unusual specimen, it holds the key to revealing the truth, but only if it is fed enough lies and kept in complete darkness. This creates a remarkable dialogue within the tale about the nature of truth and the nature of belief. Complex and well-woven, exquisite in its' use of language and the textures and depth of its' descriptions and characterisations, The Lie Tree is one of the finest examples of historical fiction for young people, with a unique thread of mystery and fantasy flowing through the book. It flows seamlessly from one scene to the next, compelling the reader to turn the page. The Lie Tree places you firmly within the story and takes you away to another place and time. Thought-provoking, intelligent and utterly creative. An intriguing, stunning read for ages 12+.
author: Patrick Modiano
illustrator: Jean-Jacques Sempé
translator: William Rodarmor
Anderson Press (December 2014)
ISBN: 9781783443024
Catherine Certitude, a dance teacher in New York, recalls growing up in Paris with her gentle, daydreaming father, Georges, after her American mother returns home. She remembers the restaurant lunches, her mother’s letters, her father’s business partner, Casterade, and not quite understanding what it is her father does. But most of all, Catherine remembers her ballet classes, her friend, Odile, and how she and her father escape the ‘world as it is’ by taking off their glasses; how the world then becomes soft, gentle and time stops. She has questions that remain unanswered; why did her father change his name to Certitude; how did Casterade save her father from the law; and why did her mother move back without them? Catherine remembers things in images and snatches of conversation not fully understood, right up to the day they leave Paris behind to rejoin her mother.
Modiano engages the reader with his ability to capture childhood memory in all of its fragmented, shimmering, momentary existence. An elegant, warm little novel, its pacing is deliberate and thoughtful. Catherine’s voice is clear, genuine and filled with childishness, in the best possible connotation. There is understanding of the liminal, fragile, yet liberated state of childhood. The author never falters telling the story from this perspective, without adult embellishment. Sempes’s illustrations perfectly depict the text with delicate, jewel-like washes and wistful line work. Catherine Certitude will enchant any child or adult reader who loves Paris, ballet and childhood in general. A thing of beauty!
(This review is available online in Inis Magazine: http://www.childrensbooksireland.ie/node/514)
author: Cathy Cassidy
Puffin Books (2 April 2015)
ISBN: 9780141357829
Alice has always wanted to join  the popular girls. She's been lonely since going to senior school and her old friends don't seem to have time for her anymore. They certainly haven't been all that interested in drama and the plays she's been in. So when the 'queen of the school' Savvy invites Alice to a  "Mad Hatters Tea Party" sleepover, she is thrilled to be included, but confused as to why they would invite her. Finally, she decides to go, and real drama ensues. Now, Alice is lying unconscious in a hospital bed, surrounded by voices that come and go. Lost in her own wonderland of dreams and memories, can Alice find her way back?
Looking-glass Girl is an amazing addition to Cathy Cassidys' canon of books for young people. With Alice In Wonderland as it's inspiration, this story is powerful, meaningful and filled with heart.

author: Sally Nicholls
Scholastic Press (2 April 2015)
ISBN: 9781407124339
Holly, Jonathan and Davy have been trying to keep things together since their mother died. They live together in a small, dingy flat with Jonathan as their legal guardian. It isn't easy and they always struggle for money. When Great-Aunt Irene has a stroke, she gives Holly some old photographs that contain clues to an inheritance that may just solve all their problems. But they'll have to find it before anyone else does. Racing up and down the countryside, and with help from Jonathans' friends at Makerspace, Holly finds herself and her family in a real adventure. This is the story Holly tells...the story of everything that happened to them last year...
What a marvelous adventure/family drama and a breath of fresh air! Nicholls gives us a story with a little something for every age; and she does it with flair and style. Holly, the narrator of our story, is a wonderful character with a solid, genuine voice. In spite of all the difficulties in her life, she is dynamic, optimistic and very determined. In the beginning, we hear of her interest in Sherlock Holmes and his powers of deduction. As the story develops, we see Holly use her own powers of deduction to find a path to solve problems and dilemmas. Jonathan is solid, but overworked and tired, headstrong, but caring. In spite of his frustrations (and pride), he perseveres and takes opportunities to creatively weave his familys' story.  And Davy is a great little brother character; heartfelt, with the childlike belief in the good around him. Nothing trite or stereotyped in this fictional family situation...it all rings true. The story is filled with mayhem and unusual characters that pop up to help them on their quest, with a variety of perspectives that engage and add momentum. A story of family and friendship; a fantastic adventure and a very satisfying ending that is believable and fits the story perfectly, I smiled all the way through this novel. Sally Nicholls is an exceptionally gifted and varied writer. This book is simply wonderful.

author: Catherynne M. Valente illustrator: Ana Juan
Corsair (5 March 2015)
ISBN: 9781472119274
A young troll named Hawthorn is stolen from Fairyland and whisked away by the Golden Wind. He becomes a changeling; a human boy named Thomas, and grows up in the no less magical and strange city of Chicago. But Thomas has always had problems adjusting to life. Creating a varied and bizarre 'imaginary' world of his own, he pulls his school friends, parents...even the furniture, in to adventures and exciting realms. When he makes a fast and true friend named Tamburlaine, she recognises him for who he truly is and unleashes the magic of fairyland that dwells within his heart. Together they find a way back. But the Fairyland Thomas remembers as Hawthorn has changed a great deal. Now Tom Thorn, he and Tam embark on a quest to find the Spinster and set everything to rights once again. The results, however, are quite unexpected....in every way.
I love, love, love the Fairyland series! Valente has a talent for world building that completely turns all we recognise as fairyland on its' head. The rich, sumptuous world is evocative and compelling. The stories themselves are a pure delight for all ages. Valente is a master wordsmith; her writing and story-telling abilities are impeccable. In this installment, our young changeling is an unlikely hero. With a strong voice that carries through even his own frustration and confusion, Hawthorn/Thomas shines and is someone we want as a best friend...even though we know there will be times we think better of this. Along with him, we find ourselves traversing through strange and weirdly wonderful landscapes of the imagination that recall the traditional fairytale territories, while at the same time creating a completely new environment. All I can say is brilliant!
Oh, by the way, if you are looking for our dear friend from the Fairyland series, September, you'll need to be patient. She does make a brief appearance, but this is Toms' story....inextricably linked to Septembers', but we won't know how until next time.

author: Alice Hoffman
Simon&Schuster (5 March 2015)
ISBN: 9781471124211
As a small child, Twig returned to her mothers' family home, Sidwell, where they live a mostly reclusive life. Away from the centre of the small town, Twig grows up with her beautiful mothers' pink apple pies, lavender honey butter, loneliness, a taste for adventure and a deep family secret. The town itself is filled with rumours of a mysterious creature lurking in the night sky, stealing clothes and blankets and food. Twig doesn't take kindly to the rumours...you should be careful about the stories you tell. When new neighbours Julia and Agate move in to the abandoned cottage next door, they become Twigs' first true friends. But the links between the families run deep. Past magic rises to the surface and ancient curses reveal themselves...as do the broken hearts that have reeked havoc for generations in Sidwell.
Alice Hoffman returns with a tale embedded with magical realism for young people; I say young people...what I mean is everyone. Beautiful, elegant and dream-like, Nightbird is a story of love, friendship and magic that sweeps the reader away on a journey through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl who is held by an family curse. With the tenacity and hope that only young people have, not jaded by the burdens of life yet, and still aware of its' challenges and the pain the past will bring, Twig seeks not to change the past, but alter the hold it has on her family. She wants to be accepted, not to stand out and to give the gift of peace to all those affected by her familys' history, the towns history. Her character is thoroughly memorable; her voice strong and believable. She is typical of her age. In many ways, she is us. The characters that surround her are heartfelt. The story is evocative, filled with texture and nuance.This novel is exquisitely woven with a fairy-tale quality that is at once enchanting and gripping. And yes, there is a happy ending....which we all need to believe in. A gentle triumph, this is one I will return to again and again.

authors: Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis
illustrator: Todd Harris
Orion Childrens (4 November 2014)
ISBN: 9781444010541
Young schoolgirl Marrill Quite unexpectedly, Marrill boards a pirate ship in a car park and is whisked away to another world that exists along side our own. Marrill finds herself traveling the Pirate Stream; and she desperately needs to find her way home. Likewise, young Fin is a master thief with an unusual condition; the moment he is out of sight, everyone forgets he exists. And while this may be a useful occurrence for a thief, Fin would give anything to find his mother, the one person who might remember him. When he meets Marrill, they are off on a thrilling adventure to locate the Map to Everywhere. It's the only way they will find what they are looking for. Across the Pirate Stream seas, through jungles and across frozen wastelands, they pursue their goal; all the time followed closely by the Oracle, a dark wizard also in search of the Map...but for very different reasons...
An enthralling fantasy tale; fast-paced and filled with humour; The Map to Everywhere is one that cannot be missed. So absorbing, you will find yourself completely immersed (and sometimes submerged) in the story. The journey is thrilling, packed with adventure...there is tragedy and comedy and incredible escapes as our young travellers find their way through the most beautifully imaged  landscapes. Written with texture and depth, and beautifully illustrated, this is just the beginning of a new series that includes magic and mayhem. Stunning!

author: D.D.Everest illustrator: James de la Rue
Faber & Faber (4 Sept 2014)
ISBN: 9780571309054
On his birthday, Archie Greene receives a mysterious package. Within an old wooden box, lies a book written in a language Archie doesn't understand. As he puzzles about the mysterious book, he receives instructions to travel to Oxford to return the book to the Museum of Magical Miscellany. But the book given into Archies' care is dangerous and powerful; dark forces are seeking the book and will stop at nothing to retrieve it. In Oxford, Archie finds help in a family he didn't know he had and discovers his legacy...the Flame Keepers; a community of magical people devoted to the protection and preservation of magical books... and an academy where the bookshelves are enchanted, the librarians are sorcerers and the books come to life. But does Archie have what it takes to unlock the books'
This book has everything in it that I love in a fantasy. Everests' world is one of tangible magic and mystery, with clear characterisation and a compelling plot. The idea that the librarians and bookbinders are the keepers and protectors of magic strikes a strong, clear note (giving a parallel to what it is writers and books actually do in a childs life.) While the story is a familiar one, the writing is fresh, powerful and loaded with both mystery and humour. The text is peppered through with wonderful black and white illustrations that accent the tale. The only argument I have with this book is the presentation; the cover seems cheap and somewhat unappealing...but do not let that put you off. This book is an absolute joy and highly, highly recommended! Perfect for fans of fantasy, Harry Potter and anyone who loves books about books (like me!) I can't wait for the next Archie Greene book!

author: Michael Morpurgo
HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks (2014) 
ISBN: 9780007339631

Alfie and his fisherman father find a lost girl on an uninhabited island in the Scillies. She is injured, alone and has no memory of who she is or where she came from. She can only say one word; “Lucy”. There is only one thing they know about her for sure…she loves music and moonlight. As she listens to the gramophone, something of the girl she once was begins to appear. But with WWI raging, suspicions are all around. Some of the Islanders even believe she could be a German spy! A chance encounter with a kind German soldier lights the flame of memory within her, and it is then that her story comes pouring out.

This is Morpurgo at his very best, doing what he does best. A story of love, family forgiveness and memory, with memorable characters exquisitely drawn, Listen to the Moon is positively gorgeous. Filled with emotional impact, intricately crafted, the tale is woven in around a quiet island life during WW1, with the added interest of the sinking of the Lusitania. There is a quiet, sensitive study of human nature, where black and white, good and bad aren't quite so defined in the hearts and minds of people. There is always a reason for peoples' actions, and those are complex and varied; often confusing. The description of the life of this small island community is rich and full of texture; the setting written so that it is easily visualised. Exceptional historical fiction with surprising revelations, I highly recommend this book for ages 10+.

author: Toby Ibbotson
Macmillan Childrens Books
ISBN: 9781447271031

The ghosts of today have lost their ‘spook’. It’s been ages since anybody has been frightened to death, and no one really believes in ghosts anymore. The Great Hagges have just the answer: Mountwood School for Ghosts, where a magical staff instruct the students back to the highest levels of haunting. But it’s not so easy for some. These spirits have issues! They spend more time hiding and shivering in fright than in terrifying the human world.  Even Vera the Banshee is having trouble finding her voice. As for the Stinking Druid, well, he just stinks.

Then, two human children arrive in search of help. Daniel and Charlotte are desperate to save their community from destruction by an evil, money-hungry developer and his cronies. They have made powerful enemies who will stop at nothing to destroy homes and lives, all in the name of ‘progress’.  And Daniels’ Great-Aunt Joyce isn’t quite what she seems to be, either. Can a troop of oddball paranormals rise to the task and save Markham Street…or will they only make things much, much worse?
Written by Tony Ibbotson, the eldest son of renowned childrens' author, Eva Ibbotson, Mountwood School for Ghosts bears all the hallmarks of his mothers' work. It is funny and poignant at the same time. Dealing with issues such as loss, rejection, bullying and the urgency of friendship and community, this book is never heavy or overwhelming in its' presentation. Filled with memorable characters (there's even one character clearly based on Eva Ibbotson), it is an absolute delight! Intriguing, exciting, and completely enchanting, Mountwood School for Ghosts will keep you spellbound! Highly recommended for ages 9 +

author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Piccadilly Press (1 May 2014) 
ISBN: 9781848123823
Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius. She is obsessed by the number 7, diagnosing medical conditions and nature. Willow is the adopted daughter of two loving parents who have always accepted her unique qualities; in fact, they have adored her for those same qualities. They have even allowed Willow to turn their back garden into a veritable nature preserve. But, their sudden, unexpected death in a car accident turns Hollys' entire life inside out. Left completely on her own, with no other family to support her, Willow finds herself having to rely on people she barely knows to help her rebuild a life. She must finally face a world in which she can no longer avoid the challenges of human relationships and emotions.
There have been quite a few books written in the voice of someone with Aspergers' or a similar condition in recent years, and I have to say, this is one of the best. It is written with great empathy, but never falls into the trap of being overly sentimental or trite. The relationships depicted are fraught with genuine concern and challenges. The characters struggle with everyday 'rights' and 'wrongs'. The voices are strong and genuine; they are real, tangible people. The relationship between Wilow and her friends' brother, Quang-ha is surprising, as he learns tolerance and she begins to grasp at something about human nature and reliance. As Willows' story unfolds, the reader is taken on a journey completely open to possibilities, both good and bad. As the process of growth and healing takes place, you feel the confusion, sometimes desperation and sometimes exasperation of all in the story. But this isn't a heavy, depressing story. It is moving and thought-provoking. Sings with life.

author: Katherine Rundell
Faber & Faber (2013)
ISBN: 9780571280599
Sophie was orphaned in a shipwreck, or so she's told. She was discovered floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel by fellow survivor, Charles Maxim. Charles became foster parent to Sophie, and in his own free and easy way, raised her to 'never ignore a possible'. The possible that Sophie cannot ignore, in fact that she is convinced of, is that her mother is still alive. When the authorities decide that, at age 12, Sophie must be sent to an orphanage, she and Charles go on the run....to Paris to find her mother. There she meets Matteo, a boy who lives on rooftops and walks in the sky. Unbeknownst to Charles, who is busy arguing with authorities to gain access to ship records, Sophie and Matteo dash across the Parisian rooftops in a desperate attempt to find Sophies' mother before it's too late.
What an exceptional book! Beautifully written, crafted in a most imaginative way, Rooftoppers is a truly unique and spell-binding story. The central character, Sophie, well and truly deserves a place alongside other children's books heroines, such as Matilda and Pippi Longstocking, as a bold and strong girl character. The relationship between Sophie and Charles is at once touching, heartfelt and amusing. As the story progresses the characters develop, becoming more and more tangible. The settings and pacing are descriptively revealed with a genuine appreciation for time and place. This book is absolute gold-dust, completely deserving of every accolade it's already received. I can't recommend Rooftoppers highly enough. Stylish, memorable, exciting.... simply amazing!

author: Tom Moorhouse illustrator: Simon Mendez
Oxford University Press (2013) 
ISBN: 9780192734808
A family of young water voles is living happily in their burrow with their mother, when one night a deadly danger appears outside. When their mother is taken by a mink, they have no choice but to set out on their own to find a territory where they can live safely. Sylvan
This novel features unforgettable characters on a journey to, not only a new home, but self-discovery. The river itself stands out as a character in it's own right, and the natural world is portrayed in all it's beauty and savagery. A tale expertly told, The River Singers has shades of a true classic while maintaining a thoroughly contemporary feel. There is humour as well as sorrow, family life and friendship as well as individuality. Think of a combination of Watership Down and Wind in the Willows. Throughout the book, the black and white illustrations beautifully accent the tone and feel of the writing, and the presentation of the book is wondrous. A strong environmental message runs through without overwhelming an exquisitely crafted story. This is not just a book for children; adults will love this as well. A real gift; you will hold The River Singers dear in your memory. 

author: Tone Almhjell illustrator: Jan Schoenherr
Little Brown Young Readers ISBN: 9780349001661
Lin knows that something is horribly wrong in the house her family has rented. The clocks are ticking too slowly and frost covers everything, even in the pouring rain. The loss of her beloved pet, Rufus, seemed to have set off a chain of events that is causing chaos in her world. One night, Lin receives a mysterious Twistrose Key... a key that leads her through a gate in the cellar of her house and into the mystical land of Sylver. Here is where every beloved animal goes when they die. But all is not well here, either. The Winter Prince is missing and dark forces loom everywhere. Together again with Rufus, Lin must seek out and find the Winter Prince to restore order to the land of Sylver, and to her own world or risk being trapped forever.
Almhjell has created an amazing, textual world that sparkles and shines with all the lustre of the best childrens' fantasy writing. The characters are well-defined and their dialogue and relationships are well-conceived and very natural in their depiction. The storytelling sings with life. The further along you read in this book, the deeper you enter this world. The descriptions are full and wondrous. The pace is perfect, never over-burden by detail. Each chapter brings new surprises. Sylver becomes a world very real and vibrant. It is reminiscent of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and the Scandanavian feel to the writing is fresh and exciting...but it also has the rare gift of standing strong in it's own right. I couldn't put this book down! The Twistrose Key is my children's book of 2013. An absolute must-read!!! Magical, insightful and a pure joy.

author: Christopher Edge
Nosy Crow (2014) ISBN: 9780857630544
It's London, 1902, and everyone is preparing for the King's coronation. With the threat of war looming from across the sea), a new mystery is weaving it's way into the capital citys' streets as the population gleefully focus on this most celebrated event. And, wouldn't you know it, behind the editors' desk of The Penny Dreadful, Penelope Treadwell is suffering from writers' block. With the magazine in desperate need of funds to stay afloat and the public clamouring for a new tale of intrigue from Montgomery Flinch, she comes up with the brilliant idea of asking her readers. A competition is born and it doesn't take long before story suggestions come pouring in. One catches her eye. A letter comes in confessing to an impossible crime; the theft of the Crown Jewels and a thief who simply disappears. Unbeknownst to Penny, this isn't simply a story. The Crown Jewels have indeed been stolen, 'ghost thieves' abound in Londons' streets and a sinister plot is looming.... and Montgomery Flinch is about to take the blame for it all.
Another cracking mystery story from Christopher Edge! The third is the series involving Penelope Treadwell is just as strong a read as the other two. The author has created a central character that is admirable, wilful and extremely sympathetic. The plot is truly imaginative and written in a deletable style with a strong balance of suspense and humour. It tips it's hat to the mysteries of the Victorian and Edwardian era, while keeping the action well suited to the present young reader. Intrigue, mystery, impossible crimes and an impossible detective.... what more could you ask for? Very suitable for good readers aged 9 to 12 years.

author: Philip Ardagh illustrator: Alex Scheffler
Nosy Crow (2013) ISBN: 9780857630711
Mr Grunt is bestowed with a secret mission. He has to deliver a Person Of Great Importance (POGI) to  Mrs Bayliss on a certain island by the twenty-fifth; alive and well. He can’t tell anyone more than that; not even his beloved Mrs Grunt. There are people who are trying to stop him. There are people who want to snatch the POGI; to use the POGI for their own purposes. So, the POGI must be transported in secret. It’s lucky the Grunts live in something resembling a caravan which can be pulled along by Fingers the elephant. There are many mysteries and questions. Why is the POGI wearing a barrel? Who is this Mrs Bayliss? Will Fingers the elephant sink the boat? But all Mr Grunt is concerned with is the excitement, the adventure… and the silver coins he’ll receive if he completes his mission.
Ardagh is an absolute master of humour, word-play and just plain daftness. Combine this with Scheffler’s hilarious illustrations and what you have is absolute genius. The Grunts are so memorable; so enjoyable; so… um… revolting... but lovable… or likeable… or something. There are a number of similarities in style and content to Roald Dahl’s The Twits, but Ardagh’s own particular narrative style gives the reader a thoroughly unique experience. As well as being completely entertaining, the use of language broadens the reader’s comprehension abilities. The Grunts All At Sea is funny, being at once subtle and bold in its humour. It keeps you hanging on from the first page to the last. Fabulous!
(published in Inis Magazine 20/12/2013 http://www.inismagazine.ie/reviews/book/the-grunts-all-at-sea )

author: Maria Parr
Walker Books (2013) ISBN: 9781406341362
Trille and Lena are best-friends; at least that's what Trille thinks. He isn't so sure what Lena thinks. They live in a small village in Norway beside a fjord. Idyllic and friendly, it's the perfect place
A wonderful and gentle read about the trials of friendship and family life, Waffle Hearts shares many of the best attributes of Scandinavian children's literature. Pippi Longstocking has come up as a comparison, but I'd liken it more to Lindgren's Ronia the Robber's Daughter. No matter, Parr is sitting right alongside the best. The story is warm, delightful and moving and the characters and their relationships are beautifully drawn. You will love bold and funny Lena! Trille is thoughtful and a willing companion to all her ideas. The writing is descriptive and gives a perfect image of time, place and action. This book is simply a delight. Beautifully presented, it makes a great gift.

author: Mark Steensland / illustrator: Kelly Murphy
Yearling Books (reprint edition 2013)  9780385740722
Sarah is dragged along to grandmothers' house and it is the last thing she wants to do....especially now that Grandma Winnie has died. The plan is to sell the house
Steensland created an amazing and mysterious world in this journey about facing your fears. There are parallels to the Narnia books, but with a difference. Behind the Bookcase explores the world of shadows, the world of Light and the question 'what happens when you die.' Well-written with a love of language and story-telling, it is never heavy. The plot has a certain darkness to it, but never so dark as to become burdensome to the young, competent reader. A wonderful book for lovers of fantasy and fairytales.

THE LOST GODS (Sleeping Army)
author: Francesca Simon  
Profile Books 2013  9781846685651
As we revisit  Freya from the earlier The Sleeping Army, we recall how she went to Hel and back to restore youth the Norse Gods and preserve Asgard. Now, the Norse Gods have crossed the Bifrost Bridge and they are back, walking among us again. But who cares? Their popularity has been waining for some time. It seems human life is far too busy and far too important for regular worship any more, and the Gods' powers are disappearing. But the Frost Giants are awakening and the effect on earth is just as strong as in Asgard. So the Gods conceive
The Lost Gods takes up where The Sleeping Army left off. It is wonderful! Hilarious and thrilling with memorable characters and a story that has real staying power, I challenge you to ride along with this fast-paced journey in a contemporary Britain, where the old Viking religion never lost its' sway. A great read from the author of Horrid Henry. (Review of The Sleeping Army is below on this page.)

author: Annie Dalton  illustrator: Charlie Alder
Barrington Stoke  9781781122006
(First published online in Inis Magazine; October 2013)
Have you ever felt like you were part of the wrong story? That’s exactly what it’s like for Mia, Billy, Juno and Kyle (who is a different story altogether). Stuck
A contemporary twist on the Arabian Nights, Cherry Green Story Queen takes us on journey through the lives of children in a foster home, but it is a journey that children can relate to regardless of their situation. We all want a happy ending; we all want friendship; and this book opens up the possibility of just that through the world of stories. Barrington Stoke has done a brilliant job of bringing reading skills to those reluctant or dyslexic readers, but it’s books like this one that have also earned the publishers a strong reputation throughout the business. Entertaining, easy to follow and leaving the reader wanting more, Cherry Green Story Queen is remarkable. It builds the story with each page and pulls the reader along on the adventure with humour and understanding. Its reference back to the Arabian Nights adds to the intrigue. Its convincing story-line peppered through with apt illustrations make this one a real winner! Perfect for children with literacy challenges.
author: Andrew Lane
Macmillan Children's Books 9781447248828
After sailing away from his last adventure on board the Gloria Scott, young Sherlock is heading for home. Arriving in Galway, he disembarck's to find Mycroft waiting for him. But Mycroft is not simply there to welcome Sherlock back and see him to London safely. Having been sent to Galway by the British government, Mycroft needs Sherlock's assistance in investigating a sinister psychic who claims to have genuine abilities to contact the dead. But someone, or something is trying to silence the psychic. A servant found dead...Mycroft brutally attacked... another mystery for young Sherlock to solve.
Like all the other in the series, Knife Edge is a fantastic read! Filled with adventure, and well-crafted mystery, there are many puzzling details upon which young Sherlock can hone his skills. I couldn't put the book down! The plot line in this (and the others) closely follow the work of Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes writings. The feel and tone of the book fits neatly in with the originals, as well, while giving the young reader today a language is contemporary, but stills sounds as if it could be written by Conan Doyle. And the story....wow! I strongly encourage you to read read Knife Edge if you are a fan of adventure, mystery or Sherlock Holmes! You will love it.

FLORA AND ULYSSES: the illuminated adventures
author: Kate DiCamillo illustrator: K.G. Campbell
Walker Books 9781406345186
The poor squirrel never saw it coming. He was sucked up in a vacuum cleaner. Fortunately, Flora Belle Buckman; self-described cynic who has read every issue of the comic Terrible Things That Can Happen to You, did see it and flew to his rescue. What neither the cynic nor the squirrel could have imaged is the the squirrel, now named Ulysses, emerged from the vacuum born anew... with powers of strength, flight and misspelled poetry.Flora also learns that perhaps being a cynic isn't all it's cracked up to be. Flora learns hope and to believe in the promise of a capacious heart.
Kate DiCamillo couldn't write a bad book if she tried. This book is quirky, wholly original and filled with strong implications of friendship, loneliness and faith. Flora is an amazing character who faces an fairly ineffective family life with cleverness, tenacity and keen observation. The humour throughout allows the over-riding themes to come forth without ever being heavy-handed. The illustrations, or illuminations (they truly do shine) give the story an instant appeal for every reader, young or old. This book is an absolute treasure!
Do read more from Kate DiCamillo: try Because of Winn-Dixie (of course, you must!), The Remarkable Journey of Edward Tulane and The Magician's Elephant. Remarkable.. every single one!

(Children of the Fae: Book One)

Author: Maria Moloney

Our Street Books; 2013; 9781780994055
Tara has strange experiences whenever she enters water; her feet and hands begin to web and she finds she has no trouble breathing. But then, there has always been something unusual about Tara’s family. Her younger sister, Niamh is a changeling, a fairy child exchanged for a human baby 10 years earlier. That same night, their father disappeared. Now, on Halloween night, Tara, NIamh and friends Lucy and Jared make their way to the ancient burial mound near their house, completely unaware that it is actually a portal to the other realm; the fairy world. In a flash of blue light, they find themselves transported. It seems it is time for Niamh to return to her own world and her real sister to return home. But things are not as simple as this. In the fairy kingdoms, there is someone who is not so happy to see the changeling’s return. Evil Queen Marvaanagh will stop at nothing to retain control over the changeling and the kingdom.

This is a marvellous tale, filled with adventure, danger and magic. While she uses a firmly rooted understanding of time-honoured folk tales, Moloney has brought the changeling myth forward into the modern world that reads true to life. The textures of both worlds blend together to give a haunting picture in a story that will stick with you. The characters are realistic and their plight puts any reader in the middle of the story. Well-written and completely enjoyable, this is one in which to immerse yourself. Can’t wait for the next instalment!

author: Leena Parkkinen illustrator: Katja Wehner
Little Island  ISBN: 9781908195319
Eight-year-old Milena is brushing her teeth, when she hears a sudden splashing coming from the tub behind her. As she peers around the curtain, she can't help but notice that a cow having a bath...scrubbing it's back with the loo brush and blowing bubbles. And so begins an amazing and hilarious friendship. Not only does Semi-Skimmed takes baths; she climbs into Milena's bed (it's cold outside!), she prefers chocolate biscuits to grass (who wouldn't) and Semi-Skimmed has her heart set on winning the tri-annual Cow Belle Beauty Pageant. Not only does the winner receive the title of 'Cow Belle Beauty Queen', but her photo is printed on every Milky Ray-bar wrapper during her 3 year reign! But does Semi-Skimmed really have a chance? Can she win over her arch-enemy, Hefty Hoofington (the current champion)? Especially after wander into a field and coming out covered with nettle rash and needing to use a cream that turns her GREEN! And.... how long can Milena hide her bovine friend from her mum? Mum must be suspicious by now.
Cow Belle Beauty Queen is an absolute joy to read! Funny, poignant and completely entertaining, it's Finnish author write in a style quite reminiscent of The Moomins books. With memorable characters, great pacing and peppered throughout with lively illustrations utterly suited to the story, this is one book to read alone or share with the whole family for laugh-out-loud moments. A book you won't soon forget!

Author: Bob Burke
Friday Project   ISBN: 9780007364039
Harry Pigg is back….and not a moment too soon! When Matilda Muffet turns up at the Third Pig Detective Agency, she is at her wits' end. Giant spiders are over-running the Curds and Whey B&B, spinning webs everywhere and eating her guests’ breakfasts. Is someone trying to run her out of business in the name of progress? Or is something even more sinister afoot….or is that a-trotter? (Sorry…bad pig pun.) As the investigation
Clever twists on the old-school hardboiled detective novels and old childhood favourites meet once again in this, the third instalment of the Third Pig Detective Agency
(published in Inis Magazine June 2013: http://www.inismagazine.ie/reviews/book/the-curds-and-whey-mystery )

Author: Debbie Thomas/ illustrator: Stella MacDonald
Mercier Press    9781781171165
Get ready for another ‘hair-raising’ adventure with those quirky characters from Dead Hairy! Abby is thrilled to be on the adventure of a lifetime with best friend, Perdita. So off to the Ecuador they go, accompanied by the whole family, including Squashy Grandma and her pet wig, Chester. Their mission? To reunite
Another delight from the pen of Debbie Thomas, this book is hysterical. The fantastic, unlikely characters are well drawn and carry on consistently from the first book. While they are completely off-the-wall
The descriptions carry a lot of hilarious impact, and the pacing and rhythm of the story, as it bounces from home to school to the jungle, is fast, but never rushed. The reader is swept along on a mad-cap mission with danger at every turn, laughing all the way. The simple black and white illustrations throughout complement the plot and give the reader a moment of rest and focus, before spinning off again.
As with its predecessor, Jungle Tangle is utterly delightful, laugh-out-loud funny and leaves the reader wanting more.
(review first published in Inis Magazine:  http://www.inismagazine.ie/reviews/book/jungle-tangle)

Wendy Quill is a Crocodile’s Bottom            
Author: Wendy Meddour/illustrator: Mina May
Oxford University Press       9780192794635 
Wendy Quill really wants to be ‘a little bit famous’, but her plans don’t always work out. Still, nothing can stop her from trying… and having the best time ever. First, she’s absolutely sure she’ll get the lead part in her school production of Peter Pan and Wendy. She has been Wendy all her life, after all. When that doesn’t work out, she stuns the audience with her performance as the crocodile’s bottom! Then, she gets dragged along to her best-friend Florence’s tap-dancing class, and manages to land a part as a tap-dancing munchkin in their show…. and she didn’t even know she could dance! But fame finally comes her way when she dresses up for a class project on the Plague and saves her teacher, Miss Pinch, from Kevin, the escaped school rat. Her heroic deed makes the front page, where everyone can see her!
Loosely based on the author’s own childhood experiences, it is relayed in the voice of the central character, nine-year-old Wendy Quill. It is genuine, fast-paced and truly funny. The book is segmented into three ‘stories’, all of which flow together with ease, making this book a brilliant choice for newly confident readers, or to be shared. All of the characters are well-drawn and memorable. The situations they find themselves in are easy to relate to and filled with humour and heart. The ‘message’ is simple; be yourself and never give up!
Peppered throughout the book are delightful, lively illustrations by Mina May, the author’s 11-year-old daughter. They are dynamically rendered and add real punch and excitement to the story, pulling the reader through and giving even more to laugh about.
Well-written, really funny, a great story and exceptional illustrations, this is the first of a series of Wendy Quill’s adventures. Highly recommended, I just loved this book. They were very excited about this book at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and it’s obvious why. It is full of warmth and candour and is an absolute delight in all ways. Personally, I can’t wait for the sequel.
To be published: May 2, 2013

author: Piers Torday
ISBN: 9781780878287
The world has drastically changed. Animals no longer exist, due to a deadly virus called Red Eye; and any animals that have survived will be killed to control its' possible spread to the human population. In the meantime, twelve-year-old Kester James is locked away in Spectrum Hall, a 'school' for challenged children, and told there is something dangerously wrong with him. The truth is that Kester is unique. He has a great gift. He can talk to animals, and understand them when they speak to him. When he is approachedgether, the venture out into the world. The animals saved Kester. Now, it's only fair that he save them.
This is a quiet, evocative story that is loaded with cliff-hangers and fast-paced action.The descriptive quality of the text is thoughtful and exquisite... but it is never boring or tedious. In fact, it is wonderful. The character of Kester is beautifully drawn and thoroughly believable. You find yourself willing him along the way throughout this quest. Engaging, heartfelt and totally amazing, this is one not to miss. For ages 9+... The Last Wild is a book for everyone.

author:Tom Banks
Hot Key Books
ISBN: 9781471400889
The Great Galloon is the biggest, grandest, finest airship in existence; manned by Captain Meredith Anstruther and his faithful, even if a bit dopey, crew. But all is not well. On the eve of Cap't. Anstruthers' wedding to the beautiful Lady Isabella, his evil brother appears on board and kidnaps her! While giving chase, the Captain and crew have to fight off BeheMoths, angry sea eagles and prevent the Great Galloon from plummeting out of the skies... and restore Captain Anstruthers' good name in the eyes of Lady Isabella. Fortunately, on his side, he has the extremely clever young Stanley  and Rasmussen, a countess-to-be, who would rather be a writer sailing the skies with the ship.This is a hilarious, sassy and brilliant adventure story made for read-aloud story times (with "goodnight" breaks built in... and instructions to ignore them if you like) or for reading on your own. I had such great fun with this book, and you will, too! Everything about it is fun and well thought out. A perfect journey that ticks all the boxes!

 author: Liz Kessler
Orion Childrens Books
ISBN: 9781444001532
Mia's wonderful grandad has vanished and no one, not even her grandmother, knows what happened or why. So Mia and her mother head off to Porthaven, a sleepy little seaside village, to support her grandma and help her run the pub until Grandads' return. Mia makes friends with local girl, Dee, but only by reading and writing messages in Dee's secret diary! This is her only consolation, as her Spring half-term has been completely wrecked by landing in Porthaven. But Porthaven hides a deep, stormy mystery... one that is fifty years old and has Dee, Mia's Grandad and a young boy named Peter right at its' heart. Will time and tide wash away every trace of all three?
Told in Mias' voice, the story rings strong and true, and weaves a time-spell magic from the very start. An adventure/mystery that is also a family drama, North to Nowhere pulls the reader through the story page after page by maintaining the tension and creating a tangible atmosphere. The descriptions of both character and place are believable and textural. You become lost in this small village. You become entangled with its' people and with the sea. Liz Kessler, author of he Emily Windsnap series, is clearly no stranger to the sea and her secrets; and this beautifully told stand-alone novel is one not to miss. (for ages 9+)

author :Catherynne Valente
We return to Fairyland with September (as she has been longing to do), but all is not well there. Magic is being rationed and all the shadows are routinely disappearing. When September left fairyland, her shadow remained behind her and has become the queen of Fairyland-Below. In her own somewhat selfish and somewhat heartless way, September's shadow is responsible for all that is wrong in Fairyland. September must journey into Fairyland-Below, for it seems it is only she who can restore the magic and save the shadows (and all her dear friends) and, of course, retrieve her shadow. This follow-up to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a slightly darker in tone to the first, but we are exploring the shadow world. It is absolutely marvellous! It continues September's journey flawlessly as it delves into the confusion and disorder of Fairyland-Below, and as such reveals something about the shadow side of people. September is nearing 13 in this story, and many changes are afoot for her in the near future. We see a bit more about her parents and their story begins to reveal itself. The characters are strongly consistent with the first book as the journey deepens into fairyland... and September grows a heart! All of this makes it sound  as if the story may be too clever for its' own good, but not so at all. It is brilliant, entertaining, deeply moving and thought-provoking. A totally absorbing tale; one of the best "fairytales" written in contemporary times, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland... is not a childrens' book... it is a book for everyone of all ages.

author: Martin King
Razor Sharp
ISBN: 9780957102118
After solving the ancient secret of the King, Jack Hunter's life has been brilliant. Finding a centuries-old key and unlocking mysteries dating back to the time of King Richard, as well as being integral in unveiling dangerous criminal activities and rescuing long-lost treasure have earned Jack and his friends a French holiday. But nothing is ever easy. Jack finds himself in the middle of a robbery, and nothing is what it seems. Russian gangsters, stolen jewels, a famous movie star.... and another historical secret. What is going on? And how do they even know about Jack? With his family in danger, Jack can't even be sure who the good guys are. This second installment of the Jack Hunter series is even more thrilling than the first. The characters are now familiar, and not only do they solve this mystery as well, but they go through arguments and turmoils typical of every twelve and thirteen year old. Strong family and friendship ties, cryptic clues and drama all combine to make an exceptional read; a contemporary 'Enid Blyton' or Hardy Boys' type adventure, I highly recommend this series for anyone who is a fan of adventure, excitement and intrigue. (See review below of the first book: Jack Hunter: Secret of the King)

author: Rebecca Stead
ISBN: 9781849395076
Georges (with a silent 's') has a lot to be worried about. He gets plenty of attention from the boys at school...the wrong sort of attention. His father has lost his job and now his mum is working at the hospital all the time. And they've had to sell their wonderful house and move into an apartment block with some really unusual neighbors. Like Safer, for example.... he lives upstairs, is home-schooled and runs a spy club.As Safer enlists Georges help to solve the case of the mysterious Mr. X, the distinction between games, lies and reality starts to crumble. This brings Georges face to face with some home-truths he really didn't want to deal with.
Rebecca Stead is a wonderful writer! The story builds and twists with nuances and pulls the reader aptly through the plot. As the story develops, realisations hit in stages; minute moments of clarity; without overburdening the plot. With a certain ease and economy, the inner thoughts and feelings of a young boy caught up in a changing social dynamic are revealed. The effective use of language and detailing, unusual characters and intriguing relationships are hallmark in Stead's writing. It takes what appears to be a simple, obvious story of family and friendships and spins it into something truly special. A warm and startling novel from the author of When You Reach Me, Liar and Spy is highly recommended.(for ages 10 years +)

author:Cornelia Funke
Orion Childrens; 12 October 2012
ISBN: 9781444008234
When 11 year old Jon Whitcroft is packed off to attend his (dead) fathers' old boarding school, he doesn't expect to enjoy it. He expects that his mother will finally miss her only son and bring him back home, in spite of his bearded dentist of a step-father. But he certainly never expects to be greeted on his 6th night there by a band of vengeful ghosts, intent on seeing him meet his death. Even with the help of his new friend Ella, her very odd grandmother and the spirit of a long-dead knight, Longspee, Jon has extreme doubts regarding his survival and his ability to finish a task only the last descendant Hartgill can complete...to send the evil Knight Stourton and his henchmen back to Hell. Cornelia Funke is my favourite children's author. She truly knows how to spin a yarn that keeps the read completely engaged and on the edge of their seat at all times. This book is no exception. It advertises itself as 'a perfect English ghost story' and it certainly is that.The historical references are well researched and explained, yet the story is utterly contemporary, making it a perfect blend of past and present.With striking characters throughout and fast-paced, yet descriptive writing, Ghost Knight is magnificent. Written for the 8 to 11 age range, this is one that will be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone who likes a riveting, creepy story.

Author: Rachel Van Kooj
Translated by: Siobhan Parkinson
Little Island Press; 17 September 2012
ISBN: 9781908195265
In 17th century Spain, life is run by a strict code of conduct and appearances dictated by the Royal House. It is not a place of kindness or understanding, especially for a dwarf like Bartolome Carrasco. When his father, coachman to the Infanta Margarita, moves his family to Madrid for a better life; Bartolome is kept hidden from the world in a back room. But Bartolome is clever. He hears that a dwarf, just like him, has a position in the Royal household, he begins to educate himself in order to follow his dream and make his family proud. A sudden coach accident brings Bartolome to the attention of the young Infanta, and she demands that he be brought into the court as her pet. Forced to dress and behave as a dog, it seems life is destined to be one humiliation after another. Then, Bartolome meets the artist, Diego Velazquez, court painter who is working on Las Meninas, a portrait of the Royal family centring on the Infanta. A plan is hatched that may free Bartolome for his life of servitude and fear forever.
This novel was inspired by the painting Las Meninas, which hangs in La Prado, Spain’s national art gallery in Madrid. Van Kooj has lovingly, yet realistically, given a portrait of life at the court of Philip IV. The characters are expertly drawn and the relationships within the hierarchy of the court and outside it are easy to follow. With clear insight, we are also given a view of inner struggles, not just of Bartolome, but of the rest of his family as well, as they navigate through a world with little compassion for those who are different, or who remain on the lower rungs of life’s ladder. Those surrounding who see the wrong being done seem helpless to do anything, due to the power and position held by the Infanta. The cruelty displayed, even by Bartolome’s own father, is horrendous, making Bartolome’s position even more heartfelt. It is outrageous to get such a clear view of how the whims of a small, spoilt child has such a profound effect on the lives of all those around her. And yet, the courage and hope held within the story are prevalent, even when it seems there is nothing but despair. The descriptive quality of the story gives texture to the tale, as the sights, smells and sounds of 1650’s Madrid come to full life. Historical fiction may not be the most popular genre in children’s literature, but Bartolome: the Infanta’s Pet is certainly argument that it is one of the most important and steadfast. This novel is wonderful, poignant, dramatic and thought-provoking. It takes us on an amazing adventure written with true warmth, while at the same time giving pause for thought as it reflects many issues which remain with us in the 21st century. I highly recommend it.
authors: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm / introduction by Cornelia Funke
ISBN: 9780141343075
Puffin Books
Celebrating the 200th anniversary of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's collection of fairy tales, Puffin Books has produced this absolutely beautiful volume. Accentuated by illustrations from some current award-winning artists at work in picture books today (Oliver Jeffers, Raymond Briggs, Helen Oxenbury and more), the collection reproduces

THE LAND OF STORIES: the wishing spell
author: Chris Colfer/illustrator: Brandon Dorman
ISBN: 97819074411762
Atom Books; July 2012
Life has changed drastically for twins Alex and Conner Bailey since their father died. They've moved out of their beautiful, cosy
I read this book with some trepidation and wondering if the author, Chris Colfer from GLEE, could actually pull it off. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised and delighted by what followed on it's pages. This is a wonderful adventure story that revisits most of the old fairy tales we knew as children... Sleeping Beauty, Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and, of course, Snow White. While there are a few ( very few) pacing issues and some of the concepts have been skewed, it is a well-written and thoroughly enjoyable read. It takes these old tales and turns them on their sides to bring a fresh look. Within, there are some interesting views of human nature; why we do the things we do and what motivates human behaviour, which is what fairy tales are to do in the first place. I really couldn't put it down! It is an absolute delight for children ages 9 to 12, or to be shared

author: Maile Meloy/ illustrator: Ian Schoenherr
ISBN: 9781849395069
Andersen Press; July 2012
When 14 year old Janie Scott moves to London from California, she finds it cold, dreary and endlessly dull. She doesn’t fit in at her new school, St. Bedens, and getting used to life in 1950’s London, a life so different to the one she left behind, seems impossible. Then she meets Benjamin Burrows, another misfit. Benjamin wants to be a spy, and at the height of the Cold War, opportunities for espionage abound. But when Benjamin’s father, the local (and mysterious) apothecary is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin get pulled into a world they could only imagine. Entrusted with the apothecary’s book of ancient knowledge, they must use it to track down Benjamin’s father, all the while keeping it from the hands of Russian spies with nuclear weapons. It seems the only chance to save the world may actually be magic.
Meloy has given us a unique glimpse into a uniquely textured world. The era of the Cold War seldom features in children’s literature, and the times are described with an unerring accuracy from the views on either side of the Atlantic. Add to this the injection of the strange, impossible world of the apothecary and its accompanying alchemy and magic, what you have is a compelling, poignant novel of loyalty and responsibility
The Apothecary is peppered throughout with stunning illustrations by Ian Schoenherr. These black and white renderings appear every few pages and exquisitely create a sense of mood, timing and place. Their inclusion was essential to the book, as it gives atmosphere and helps pull the reader along, creating a strong sense of being present to the story.
The pacing of this novel is a thing of beauty. No, it is not the fast-paced, roller coaster ride of a story that we have become accustomed to in books of this type. It’s better. Meloy slows the pace at just the right moments to allow the reader to relax and absorb the action, its circumstances and possibilities before the next round starts. So, the timing of the plot is expertly handled with a lot of finesse. And the writing itself is simply beautiful; no airs or graces - just a clearly written text with very strong descriptive passages giving exactly the right amount of information without over-killing its content. With well-defined characters and circumstances in a tangible world, The Apothecary is a gripping joy to read.
http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=The_Apothecary_by_Maile_Meloy )

 ALL FALL DOWN...a story of survival
author: Sally Nicholls
ISBN 9781407121727
It’s the summer of 1349. Isabel lives her young life as a villein, tied to the land which the family rents from the Lord of the small village of Ingleform in Yorkshire. Leaving is not an option.  Life as a villein is hard, but nothing has prepared Isabel for the all-consuming Black Death decimating everything in its’ path as it sweeps across Europe. But when the plague runs riot across all of Britain, finally reaching her town, life there is devastated. It seems the world will end in a wave of fear, pestilence and horror.
Told in the first person, Isabels’ account paints a picture of life and death during the time of the plague, the most infamous ‘apocalyptic’ event in European history. After the death of her father, much-loved step-mother and baby brother, Isabel is left to fend for herself and her younger siblings. She and the remains of her family are taken to Yorkshire town to live with a kindly (and wealthy) stranger, whose own family has been wiped out by the Black Death. She is unhappy there; the family does not fare well in their new life and tragedy is not far from reaching them. But the long road home is not easy, and once they do return to Ingleform, will they find a new life, a new world? An absolutely gripping read that not only stands out among historical fiction, but holds it own alongside the current crop of dystopian literature. Brilliant!

author/illustrator: Chris Van Allsburg

In order to properly look at this book, we must first consider the picture book that it’s taken from; The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, first published by Chris Van Allsburg in 1984 and re-released in March 2011.
“Thirty years ago a man called at Peter Wenders’s office, introducing himself as Harris Burdick. Mr. Burdick explained that he had fourteen stories and had drawn many pictures for each one. He’d brought with him just one drawing from each story, to see if Wenders liked his work........ The artist agreed to bring the stories the next morning. He left the fourteen drawings with Wenders But he did not return the next day. Or the day after that. Harris Burdick was never heard from again……”
What follows in ‘The Mysteries of Harris Burdick’ is a collection of those fourteen drawings and their captions. Intriguing, finely detailed and sometimes bizarre, it is hoped that the children pondering this beautiful and unique book will write stories of their own to accompany the drawings.
In ‘The Chronicles of Harris Burdick’, fourteen of the most prominent authors (both children’s and adult authors) have turned their hand to illuminating the drawings with stories of their own, creating a magical journey through the imagination. Jon Scieszka, Gregory Maguire, Lois Lowry, Kate Di Camillo and even Stephen King have contributed to a book that is incredibly unique and memorable. With truly a little something in it for every taste, it is difficult to evaluate in typical literary terms. But the tagline on the front, 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales, says it all. This collection is a pure celebration of storytelling. It is exquisitely produced with the original drawings accenting and acting as inspiration for stories that are funny, frightening, intriguing, intelligent and unpredictable. It takes the picture book concept and turns it on its’ head, especially when considered next to its’ predecessor, expanding and proving the concept that picture books are not just for young children. And, of course, the writing in each story is impeccable as each contributing author shows what a master they are at the art of the short story form. In a few pages only, each one fully develops character, relationships and scenario with perfect description and texture.
An absolute gift to all of us who love a good tale, this book will be treasured for generations to come.
author: Catherynne Valente / illustrator: Ana Juan
September has grown tired of life in her parents’ boring Nebraska home. She is twelve years old, “somewhat grown and somewhat heartless” and she is dreaming of adventure. So when a friendly Green Wind and a flying Leopard of Little Breezes blow past on morning, inviting her to Fairyland, of course she accepts. Upon arriving, September finds that Fairyland is under the iron rule of the cruel and relentless Marquess. But September is bright and bold and fearless; and she has certainly read enough books to know what a girl on a quest must do. September must fix things, and put everything back the way it should be. September makes her way across the strange and wonderful (and dangerous) Fairyland-scape with a book-loving Wyvern (a Wyverary) and a Marid boy named Saturday. Making new and very odd friends, many, many mistakes, losing both her shoes and her shadow, September wends her way with courage, adventure, a very special spoon and a key that never loses sight of her…. And she finds so much more besides…..
I’m going to admit

author: Sue Monroe / illustrator: Birgitte Sif
Princes PJ Petulant is pampered, spoiled and always gets her own way, like when she asks for a pet dragon and it appears almost instantly at great risk to servants and knights.The dragon is named Sandra (even though he's a boy) and PJ immediately tires of him and asks for the Moon Hare. Her wishing causes him to appear (feeling a pull on his ears) and he whisks her off on a rollicking adventure that is more than PJ had in mind.... but you can't have everything you want! Can PJ and Moon Hare rescue King Winston before he has his head cut off by a rather cross (and somewhat crazy) King Rupert? Can they get Sandra the dragon to stop eating knights and servants long enough to fly them to the rescue? And where does Moon Hare get all the things he keeps pulling out of his (PJ's, really) stripy tights?
Filled with quirky, lovable characters; packed full of action and complemented throughout by lyrical, energetic illustrations, The Magnificent Moon Hare is positively wonderful! It manages to be entertaining, humorous and touching all at the same time. It's engrossing story line pulls you through to a beautiful, moving conclusion. In short, I LOVED this book and highly recommend for ages 7 to 10.

author: Christopher Edge
ISBN: 9780857630506
The year is 1899. Each night at twelve minutes to midnight, the inmates of Bedlam (London's Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane) rise up from their sleep and begin scribbling strange words and messages, and turn them into what would be her best-selling and most famous story ever, Penny finds that she's uncovered a sinister plot controlled by a very real, very evil, very unlikely villain, and she may well be the next victim. 
Suspenseful and brilliantly written, Twelve Minutes to Midnight is an exceptional introduction to the mystery genre in childrens' literature. Packed full of intrigue, this book reads like 'Sherlock Holmes' for kids and all the characters are well-drawn and memorable. Never didactic, never boring, I highly recommend Twelve Minutes to Midnight. It will keep you on the edge of your seat! (for ages 9-12)

author: Martin King
ISBN: 978095710201
When 12 year old Jack Hunter is forced to move to a town in the middle of nowhere, it seems his life couldn't get any worse. Away from all his friends, it's the beginning of the summer holidays in this weird little town where he doesn't know anyone and has nothing to do, apart from visit his aging and ill grandfather. But when Grandad gives his an ancient, solid gold coin and tells him a fantastic story of it's discovery, Jack concocts a plan to discover the rest of the treasure. But can he get his new friends to join in without revealing the secrets as they unfold... and the bad guys in this story mean serious business. They'll stop at nothing to get their hands on this ancient treasure. 'The Secrets of the King' is a cracking adventure story. The characters are well-drawn and easy to relate to. You'll find yourself pulled right along through many fascinating twists, solving the cryptic clues along with Jack. As added intrigue, built into the book are a series of of clues that lead to a secret message for the readers to solve. This is a great book for ages 9 to 12, packed full of drama and excitement. The beginning of a new series, I can't wait for the next installment!
There's also a brilliant website with activities and everything you need to know about Jack Hunter and the author, Martin King!

by Wendy Meddour

It was a quiet night in Cinnamon Grove, with all its’ residents settled in for a peaceful night sleep. But all is not well with everyone. At number 32, there is a sudden crash and Ramzis’ dad is on the move… looking for a hen in the wardrobe! But that isn’t all. So far, Dad has been chasing frogs across the pantry floor, searching for a leopard in the back garden and sailing to the moon in the bathtub. Dad is sleep-walking again, because he is homesick. The only solution is for the family to take off for an extended visit to his home, a Berber village in the mountains of Algeria. While there, Ramzi encounters Boulelli (a giant spider in the forest), the Wise Man of the mountains and the native Tuareq in the desert in an effort to solve Dad’s problem for good. But will any of it work? Or will it be up to Ramzi and his secret plan to save the day?

This funny, exciting adventure takes the reader on a cross-cultural roller-coaster ride that joyfully examines what it means to be ‘at home’. With Dad’s nocturnal wanderings creating havoc in the Ramadan family life, it quickly becomes clear that something must be done for everyone’s sake. The attention is turned to the wider collection of relatives in an easy, accessible way that adds broader definition to ideas of family and community. While the story is grounded in a background of Islamic culture, terminology is explained in a brief dictionary (written by Ramzi) at the end to alleviate confusion. Meddours’ enthusiasm and joy towards her subject matter and in the telling of the tale are evident throughout as she leads the reader on a journey that she clearly knows well herself. The characters are pure delight, and the dynamics of their interaction in the story are both hilarious and deeply meaningful.

This is a story of a young boy and his family taking off on an adventure and trying to solve a problem in a way that is beneficial to everyone. The descriptions of both action and setting are vivid. Told with heart, warmth and a great deal of fun, ‘A Hen in the Wardrobe’ is marvellous to read. A great laugh with exceptional characterisation and a touching resolution, I recommend it to any and all!

by R.J. Palacio
August Pullman was born with a rare genetic defect that has caused extreme facial disfiguration. He has undergone 27 surgeries since he was born and has always been vulnerable to illness. In order to deal with his medical needs and to shield him from the staring and cruelty of the world, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents for his entire life. But Auggie is stronger now and all of that is about to change.  Auggie is about to enter school for the first time – and he’s petrified. ‘Wonder’ is the story of Auggie’s first year at Beecher Prep and his first journey alone into the outside world. But can he confront the challenges that wait for him there and convince his classmates, new friends, family and himself that, underneath his unusual appearance, he is just the same as everybody else?

Palacio gives us a poignant and honest portrait. Auggie is genuine, tangible and written with amazing attention. He is never presented as a figure of pity, but one of respect and delight. His frankness and honesty about himself and the world around him is refreshing. While he is a young boy of incredible wisdom, it is the innocent wisdom of a child, full of certainty and hesitation at once. Auggie is a voice that speaks of the need to belong and to fit in. His story causes us to really reflect on how we are with each other; how we look at and treat other people and ourselves and why we act the way we do. We are never given a detailed physical description of Auggie’s face. That is left solely to the imagination of the reader. While Auggie’s facial deformities are the major cause of the conflict in the story, they become secondary to the reason for telling the story. It reveals much about not only strength and bravery, but vulnerability and acceptance.  

                “…I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

‘Wonder’ is told not only through Auggie’s voice, but through numerous others as well. Through the voices of Vida (his older sister) and his new friends the reader gets insight into the effect Auggie’s condition on the people around him. Vida particularly stands out as she reveals all sides of her character; her love for her little brother and desire to protect him, as well as the subtleties and complexities of finding her own place in life. Her struggles with relationships, friendships and family as she wades through her own emotions are particularly poignant. As Vida uncovers much about herself, it is easy to relate with her internal dilemmas.

‘Wonder’ is not fast-paced, packed full of action or suspense. It is a gentle, totally mesmerising book written in a compelling, realistic style that invites the reader into the intimate daily life of this marvellous, genuine boy and his family and holds them there.  It is a powerful story that gives us the world we live in with a clean set of eyes; one you will return to again and again, with voices that will stay with you for a very long time. It is also about being yourself, even if the odds are against you, because in the end, that’s all you can be. For ages 10 and up (through adult readers), ‘Wonder’ is a thoroughly wonderful gift and a book that you must read.

author: Anne Fine
Daniel Cunningham has spent his entire childhood as a bedridden invalid. Constantly reminded by his mother of his ‘condition’, Daniel has seldom seen the outside. He has no friends and no experience of the world, of life. Indeed, we discover that Cunningham isn’t even his real name. His mother is clearly not right. Manic, frightened and keeping a secluded existence, one day, Daniel is rescued by Doctor Marlowe and his mother is carted off to the local asylum, where she dies tragically. Marlowe discovers that there is nothing wrong with Daniel and soon finds his uncle, Captain Jack Severn. But Uncle Jack is a psychopath and a serial killer… and young Daniel is his next intended victim. But only after he surrenders the one thing Uncle Jack desires the most. Daniel must quickly develop cunning and worldly wiles to save himself.
Anne Fine has created a perfect, old-style Gothic horror story. The timing, characterisation, location descriptions and chilling atmosphere hearken back to Poe, Conan Doyle and the like. The voice and tenor of the entire book is perfect, and it is not at all difficult for the young reader to follow or understand. It is simply a stunning, riveting introduction to the classic style horror genre for young people (aged 10+). But more than this, The Devil Walks is immediately a classic in and of itself.

author: Francesca Simon 
When Freya blows an ancient Viking horn, she is suddenly transported to Asgard, the home of the old Nordic Gods, along with three unlikely companions. Face to face with the gods, she is shocked to find them feeble and old, Valhalla crumbling and Yggdrasil, the world tree dying. All of this is part of wicked trickster Loki’s sinister plan to rid himself and the world of them forever. Freya, slaves Roskva and Alfi and Snot the Berserker are charged with a treacherous mission to restore the gods to their former power and glory. The only weapons they have been given are some vague directions and one magical gift each from the addled mind of the once great Odin. With ancient dangers all around and Loki causing them nothing but trouble, Freya and her companions have nine days to save the gods, and herself. Running out of time and beginning to change to ivory, Freya has one thought…..This cannot be happening. 
A rollicking journey with four unforgettable heroes through the world of the Norse gods brought into the present day…and modern family life from the pen of Horrid Henry author, Francesca Simon.

author: Helen Moss
Scott and Jack are sent off to Castle Key in Cornwall. They are to spend the summer with Aunt Kate on the small island and are none too happy about it. There’s no mobile reception, an ancient computer, and from what they can see… nothing to do. Then they meet Emily, who, as it turns out, is a ‘spy’, and Drift, the dog. They learn of the famous Whistling Caves and they’re legend. When the caves fall silent, the castle shall know no peace. Then, for the first time since 1385, Whistling Caves do fall silent and there are a series of thefts from the island museum. It’s up to Scott, Jack and Emily and Drift, to find the culprit and solve the crime.
Reading very much like a contemporary Enid Blyton 'Famous Five', this book is a great, exciting and quick read for the 8 to 11 year old set. The characters are very believable and the story is told in an easy, readable, compelling style that allows the reader to feel they are right there. For those who like a good, solid mystery, the Adventure Island series is a fantastic reworking of this formula. Six books in the series are now available, each one is just as good as the first. The retro-style cover makes them appealing to both adults and children alike. Highly recommended and thoroughly enjoyable!
author: Mikael Engstrom     translator: Susan Beard
published by: Little Island
"Mik has been skating on thin ice his entire life." He lives with his drunk father in a lonely flat. His life there is only bearable when his brother, Tony, is at home. When the social welfare people intervene, Mik is taken for a short time to live with his Aunt Lena in a small northern village. There, he makes friends at the small school he attends, his cranky old neighbor teaches him to ice fish for fish that look like dragons and a hawk owl keeps watch over the house at night. But just as MikMik find himself at home again at last?
Thin Ice is a marvellous eloquent read, with remarkable characterisation. Mik's voice shines clearly thoroughout, allowing the reader to have true insight into the mind of a troubled, desperate child seeking the only thing he really needs... a loving home with those capable of caring for him. Though the cruelty and bureaucracy threaten to overwhelm him at every turn,  Mik's bravery and humour make this a compelling story with genuine impact. Shortlisted for the German International Children's Book Prize, Thin Ice is a book that will stay with you. This is a 'must read' and another triumph for the wonderful Little Island publishers!

author: Frances Hardinge
publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Run-away orphan, Mosca Mye and her mentor, the silver-tongued Eponymous Clent are in trouble again. They are on the run through the Fractured Realm, a highly superstitious land in which everything, including your name, is determined by the time of day you were born and the saint governing that time. They have escaped the long arm of the law, thanks to Mosca'sMosca finds herself trapped in Toll-by-Night, where mercy is in short supply, and embroiled in a perilous kidnapping plot and with no ally, apart from Saracen, her homicidal pet goose, and her quick, agile wits. Surrounded by dubious companions on all sides, Mosca uncovers deadly secret after deadly secret. While in Toll-by-Day, Eponymous talks his way into the good graces of the mayor in an effort to win their safe passage. But everything is not as it seems, and it falls to Mosca to reveal the sinister truth.
In Twilight Robbery, we revisit the world that Hardinge so deftly introduced us to in 'Fly By Night'. Her trademark love of language shines through, as Mosca cleverly uncovers layer upon layer of intrigue. It is an incredible treat to visit the Fractured Realm once again. Hardinge's storytelling skills are so adept, that even if you haven't read the previous novel, this story line is easily followed and the characters and their motivations are well described. Pure brilliance exudes in this rollicking alternative history adventure.

VARJAK PAW    by S F Said
Varjak Paw is a beautiful, doted on kitten who longs for adventure and to escape the confines of his pampered, pure-bred family life. Sooner than he thinks, the adventure begins, along with sinister happenings and Varjak finds himself having to fight, not only for his own survival, but for that of his family. He learns all too abruptly, that not every cat has food served up in a bowl, they don't all have cozy and warm beds to sleep in, that all people are not friendly and some are not at all interested in the welfare of beautiful kittens... and not everything (including dogs) is what it seems. And, more than anything else, Varjak Paw learns what it means to be himself, who he really is. With it's vivid descriptions and exciting action scenes, this became one of our family favourites very quickly a few years ago. The story-telling ability of Said is engaging and Varjak (As is it's sequel : 'The Outlaw Varjak Paw'.)
                                     WHEN YOU REACH ME     by Rebecca Stead
When Miranda's best friend, Sal, gets punched in the stomach for no reason, her life begins to unravel. Sal stops hanging around with her, she has to get a whole new set of friends, the key that Miranda's mother keeps hidden for emergencies disappears... and then there are those mysterious notes she keeps receiving. The first one reads...." I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own. I ask two favours. First, you must write me a letter..." As  the notes keep arriving, Miranda realises that whoever is writing them knows things they shouldn't; things you would only know if you came from the future. How is any of this possible?
This book is the second novel from Rebecca Stead, and it's completely wonderful. The voice is genuine, the relationships and characterisations are well developed and the entire situation is completely believable. 'When You Reach Me' is a puzzle that sucks you in and keeps you totally enthralled. The ending is a real surprise! There is also an under riding theme about giving, receiving and how holding back on small acts of kindness can have great consequences. A gentle, engaging read, 'When You Reach Me' is also a homage to Madeleine L'Engle's classic 'A Wrinkle In Time', which, if you haven't read already, you will certainly want to by the time you finish this book. A true gem!
An old friend of mine, The Phantom Tollbooth sells consistently well. I'm sopleased to know that yet another generation of young readers is having the experience of this marvellous, thoroughly unique story. Milo is a young boy who can't see the point of anything. One day, when he returns from school, he finds a mysterious package waiting for him; 'one genuine turnpike tollbooth' that takes him on a fantastic journey and changes the way he sees things forever. From the time it was first published in1963, 'The Phantom Tollbooth' gained a reputation of making readers out of non-readers. Milo's story is thoughtful, intriguing, adventurous, and, at times, truly hilarious. A must for every family bookshelf.

Fly By Night     author: Frances Hardinge
In an alternative 18th century England, the 'Fractured Realm' is controlled by the craftsmens guilds. Twelve-year old Mosca Mye leaves home after her father's death, entering a world of thieves, cut-throats and highwaymen. She encounters scandal, corruption, murder, hidden schools and a secret plot to destry the government. Mosca is accompanied on her journey by Eponymous Clent - a noted thief, liar and conman - and her beloved, yet homicidal, goose, Saracen, who always gets the better of everyone.
This brilliant first novel by Frances Hardinge is an absolute must-read. Hardinge's love of language and it's use, an astounding ability to create characters, relationships and a unique world, all of which are incredibly consistant during the entire story, gives a rich and eloquent story. First published in 2005, this is one I return to again and again.



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