NEW TITLES

Goblin Secrets
William Alexander

Much-In-Little

ISBN 9781472108753

This is one of those stories that lingers with you after the reading, an intriguing, subtle and adventure-laden story set in a magical town, Zombay, where children can become goblins, soldiers have clockwork legs and where masks are dangerous.... Rownie lives with Graba - a chicken-legged witch - and her 'grubs', all orphaned or mislaid children, in the disorderly 'south side' of Zombay. The story is about his search for his brother Rowan who was arrested and disappeared several months earlier after taking part in a play, something that is severely forbidden in Zombay. When he meets a band of travelling goblin players, Rownie hopes that they will help him discover the fate and whereabouts of his missing brother. The town created by the debut author William Alexander is a tantalising blend of magic and machinery, order and rebellion. We catch glimpses of the everyday and bizarre facts that go to make up the town - characters with clockwork limbs, machines driven by coal made from people's hearts, masks that give you a new identity. There are some fabulous characters such as the unpredictable Graba, 'an urban sort of Baba Yaga' says the author, and some wonderful moments as when the masks carefully stored by the goblins come to life. Goblin Secrets tackles, on many levels, our ideas around identity and belonging, discrimination and power, so there is much to explore, but above all it is an enchanting read for children aged nine years plus - and will intrigue many older readers, too. 240 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

Goblin Secrets
Agatha Parrot and the Thirteenth Chicken
Kjartan Poskitt

Egmont Books Ltd

ISBN 9781405265744

Agatha Parrot doesn't go looking for trouble, but it does seem to find her and in this story, Agatha and her friends have managed to lose one of the 13 little chicks that they were looking after for school - but they don't know which one of the friends actually had the chick in the first place! Author Kjartan Poskitt, who credits himself with 'writing down Agatha's adventures', is probably better known as a maths whiz and the name behind the Murderous Maths series but Agatha Parrot is his latest foray into fiction for children and the series is attracting many young fans. Agatha Parrot's adventures are many and varied, and take place in the small world of Odd Street where she and her three best friends live, and their local primary school. Like the latest story, they tend to revolve around Agatha's penchant for attracting trouble, and trying to get out of it again.... The stories are written as if she has told the author about her adventures, so they have an immediacy and character that is very engaging. They are also brilliantly illustrated by Dave Tazzyman, the Mr Gum illustrator.

Agatha Parrot and the Thirteenth Chicken
Cartoon Kings
Alan Silberberg

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9780857071934

Best friends Matt and Craz love cartooning. Craz has the wacky, imaginative ideas and Matt has the talented drawing skills which is a perfect mix to create any wild adventure on paper. The pair are desperate to become the cartoon artists of school's newspaper but Skip Turkle, the evil editor of the newspaper, will simply not let it happen, saying their cartoons are not good enough. When the boys seek a new and exciting spark for their cartooning, adventure and trouble arises. They order a mysterious new pen from a website and discover that whatever they draw comes to life! Living the dream, the boys have fun drawing and living the lives they have always wished for but sometimes when you have the power to change the future; it doesn't always turn out how you planned... From teleporting their teacher away on an island to turning footballers into an army of vicious bees, the real life and the magical aspects that this story combines are thrilling and send the reader into an exciting magical world. The two very different boys each have their own skills and personality, and their compatibility as best friends is put through its paces throughout the story. As well as a humorous tale about two funny best friends getting up to a crazy adventure, this book also tackles issues such as bullying, friend troubles, families and divorce. This book is aimed at confident readers and those aged 9+ and is best suited to individual reading. In the classroom, extracts could be used to invite children into creating their own comic strip - if you had a magic pen, what cartoon would you draw? As well as it having 329 pages, it also includes some language that lower readers may not understand and is quite a fast paced book. Personally, I think reading this book out loud is not ideal, reading alone would be far more effective. 329 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Lauren Barber, KS2 teacher

Cartoon Kings

ISBN 9781849920520

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat has recently won the main award for debut writers, the Branford Boase Award. It is also now available in paperback. Shelton's book was also shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, and the Costa Children's Book Award. As the title suggests, the story is about A Boy and a Bear in a Boat who find themselves at sea together, equipped with a suitcase, a comic book and a ukulele. Their journey doesn't quite go to plan; surprises include storms, sponges, and a starring role for a disgusting (possibly radioactive) sandwich, but there are also acres of boredom to contend with. We never find out where the boy and the bear have come from, nor where they are going to; so the book is very unusual in focusing on the central part of the story - there is no beginning, nor and ending, which could prompt some interesting discussions among pupils taught how a 'proper story' is structured. Indeed, the book could be read as a metaphorical journey of a creative talent, not knowing where his characters will go or how his story will end. What the story delivers is a warm and intelligent look at two characters, isolated in a small boat, who need to get along. Gradually, the boy and the bear come to understand each other and to accept who they are and whatever, and wherever, this journey will take them. 304 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

My Friend the Enemy
Dan Smith

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781908435811

Chicken House loves to encourage readers into their books with the 'Try It! Read Page x' on the bottom of the book blurb. In this case they recommend page 82. Why? It could be because this is the page on which Peter and Kim think more deeply about the war, about enemies and about family. If I were to recommend a page to try, though, it would be earlier in the book, probably page 6. Why? Because it is exciting and you are not quite sure exactly what has happened to Peter, the narrator. Best of all though is to start from page 1 and work your way through the story. Dan Smith writes with a compelling voice. There are a number of characters in the book - 12 year-old Peter and his mum, his absent father (away at war), Kim and her absent brother - also away at war, Mr Bennett, the soldiers. I could go on. Despite all these voices, characters all wanting their say, Peter and Kim stay at the forefront of the action, they get up to typical childish mischief and yet take their role - that of the protectors of one who could be the enemy but is more likely a friend - very seriously. Peter and Kim are genuinely good and strong characters. Dan Smith writes about them in such a way that we can all imagine being them. We can also begin to touch upon the surface of imagining just how frighteningly real the war was for children, even those who were able to stay at home and for whom the north of England may have been considered safe. This is not a safe story. It is about having trust, having friends and taking risks. It is compelling, believable and exciting. It tells the story of the war and how the war affected those left at home as much as those who were sent away. It is tough, exploring moral issues but with a gentle style that will appeal to children and encourage them to address difficult questions with maturity. An excellent story for lovers of action, adventure and war, and a good story to use alongside studies of World War 2. 368 pages / Ages 9-10+ / Reviewed by Louise Ellis-Barrett, school librarian

My Friend the Enemy
Mouse Bird Snake Wolf
David Almond

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406322897

Previous collaborations between the author and acclaimed illustrator David McKean have found themselves upon a Greenaway medal shortlist and this utterly beautiful creation is very likely to do the same. We have the vivid colour and textures of the created world juxtaposed with wonderful line drawings of the gods in their heaven. I really believe that McKean is the perfect artist to extend the lyrical language of David Almond, an author who is not afraid to explore the darker side of myth and imagination. If children have been looking at creation myths from around the world they will relish the multi-layered allegorical interpretations of this tale. The children who recognise the gaps in creation and decide to give their imagination free reign, while the gods eat and sleep, have to learn that all actions have consequences and so the idea of the wolf, once created, cannot be un-thought. The joy of creation has to be tempered with responsibility. I love the images and descriptions of the indolent, self-satisfied gods and for children these must be so redolent of authority figures that refuse to listen to young people and they will enjoy the celebration of the inventiveness and imaginative power of young minds. Almond is the epitome of a writer who gives the reader space to think, his stories are never didactic, but always rewarding. 80 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Joy Court, SLS librarian

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf
Magic Ink
Steve Cole

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9780857078704

Magic Ink is the story of an ordinary boy (Stew), with ordinary parents and the obligatory annoying little sister. Once his family moves into his Grandfather's old house following his death, however, things become far from ordinary... On their very first night there, they are surprised by the sight of a pig in a top hat but, naturally, no one quite believes what they have seen! Stew, a lover of comics, then discovers his Grandfather's drawing studio up in the attic, sealed up for over twenty years, and finds out about his secret life as a creator of comic books characters. His biggest discovery is the bottle of Magic Ink which enables him to draw cartoon characters who come to life. Before long, we are knee deep in superheroes, villains, cartoons, time travel, wizards and all manner of mayhem. The book is narrated by Stew and the author has done an excellent job of writing from the perspective of a ten year old boy. There are lots of jokes and some of the passages are hilarious, especially those concerning the team of newly-drawn and magically brought to life cartoon superheroes. Readers will enjoy following the adventures of Stew and Posho Pig as they attempt to rescue Merlin from the clutches of an evil sorceress. The book is written very much in a comic book style, with cartoon illustrations, ink splats and the use of different fonts. For readers who find being faced with page after page of unbroken text off-putting, this book is perfect. For those who prefer to read comics, this book may just inspire them to try something new. 300 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, librarian

Magic Ink