NEW TITLES

A Room Full of Chocolate
Jane Elson

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444916751

Jane Elson's debut novel is a very accomplished one. It covers a range of themes, including cancer, separation and bullying, but the author's lightness of touch with her characters - and the antics of a pot-bellied pig called Claude - ensure that the issues never swamp the story. That said, it is an emotional and engaging story about ten-year-old Grace who is sent to live with a grandfather who she has never met when her mum develops breast cancer. Grace isn't told how ill her mother is but soon works things out for herself and this leads to an adventurous journey back to London to find her mum. In between her arrival and departure at her grandfather's house, she makes a best friend, uncovers some family history and confronts some school bullies. The novel is written in the first person and Grace's voice is one of the main strengths of the novel as we share Grace's journey, her concerns about her mum and simply not knowing what to do about the school bullies. She often finds it hard to express herself and pours out her feelings in her special 'Blue Book'. The book will be loved by fans of Jacqueline Wilson and Cathy Cassidy and we're looking forward to seeing what she writes next. 256 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

A Room Full of Chocolate
The Executioner's Daughter
Jane Hardstaff

Egmont Books Ltd

ISBN 9781405268288

It can be hard to find strong historical fiction for younger readers aged ten years plus but Jane Hardstaff's tale about The Executioner's daughter delivers an engaging and atmospheric story that will one hopes entice readers to explore more historical fiction. Set at the time of Henry VIII in Tudor London, the story is based in the Tower of London where 12-year-old Moss lives with her father, the executioner. Her job is to catch the falling heads in her basket! Moss longs to escape life in the Tower and runs away from her home and her father when she discovers that they are not prisoners of the Tower, as her father had lead her to believe. He had been trying to protect her from the Riverwitch, who laid claim to Moss when she was born, and when she leaves her home, Moss has to face this danger as well as all the daily hardships that life in London at that time brought. During the course of her adventures we get to meet Anne Boleyn, traverse Tudor London and get a glimpse of the mighty Thames when it is frozen over. There are some dark undertones to the novel, including the executions (although there is little detail here) and the fate of some kidnapped children in the story. The fantasy element in Moss's story, in the form of the Riverwitch, takes it away from being a straightforward historical fiction but it adds an intriguing twist to the story. Altogether, an enjoyable story for those aged ten years plus that will linger after its reading. 368 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone.

The Executioner's Daughter
The Legend of Frog
Guy Bass

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847153883

I loved this story from the moment Frog bounds out of the first page with his handwritten account of his history to the very end when he saves (for now) an entire kingdom. Frog turns out to be a human-sized frog who is brought up to believe that he should have been a royal prince, except for the End of the World getting in the way. He is hidden away on a safe but very dull island with his nursemaid until he decides to head off with his Catastrophe Pants and his trusty stick, Basil Rathbone, to seek his true destiny. Sure enough, Frog discovers that the world hasn't actually ended and there are plenty more twists, turns and unexpected happenings as his destiny unfolds - including finding an alien spacecraft at the bottom of a fairy tale lake! With 'newnicorns', alien invaders, a talking wolf and a sheep called Sheriff Explosion (who baa's a lot), there is plenty to keep young readers hooked. It is also very, very funny. Highly recommended - and I can't wait to see what Frog gets up to next! 240 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by L Voisey, teacher L Voisey

The Legend of Frog
The Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates: Magic Marks The Spot
Caroline Carlson

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9780857078278

A fast-paced, exciting read, this novel combines pirates, magic, high society and a talking gargoyle! Hilary Westfield’s father is the Admiral of the navy of the kingdom of Augusta, and Hilary, educated by her governess, is to be sent to finishing school - her worst nightmare as she desperately longs to train as a pirate. When Hilary runs away and is successfully recruited by Jasper Fletcher, freelance pirate and Terror of the Southlands, Hilary finds herself embroiled in a thrilling and truly piratical adventure to retrieve the stolen magic of the kingdom. However, no gore or serious violence here-this is a light hearted take on the pirate world, where Hilary must overcome the obstacle of being a girl by wearing a beard knitted by her friend Claire, and where her governess possesses a magic crochet hook. Packed full of plot twist and turns, the reader will be gripped until the final pages. There is plenty of depth in the plot, and while most of the text is presented in straightforward narrative, there is clever use of correspondence between the different characters, newspaper reports and extract from pirate manuals to expand the story. Characters are warmly portrayed, with even the villains being mainly mild, and relationships between them humorous and realistic -Hilary's loyal gargoyle is a particular delight. It is a shame that the text was not edited for the UK market - Carlson is an American author and some vocabulary grates a little - fishsticks, gotten etc distract slightly from the flow of the narrative. Although the content is perfect for 8+, the length of the book at 344 pages means most readers will probably be a little older. 344 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Lucy Russell, teacher

The Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates: Magic Marks The Spot
The Impossible Boy
Mark Griffiths

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9780857075390

What is the connection between the events of a particular Saturday in 1976 and the arrival of a new boy at Blue Hills High School? That is the mystery at the heart of The Impossible Boy and one which Gabby and Barney, the only two members of Geek Inc, set out to solve. Gabby has noticed that strange things happen around Chas Hinton, the new boy at school and believes this warrants the attention of Geek Inc, a group dedicated to the investigation of weird and wonderful things. She and Barney, a great admirer of Sherlock Holmes,set out to follow Chas and discover his secrets. They are ably assisted by Mr and Mrs Abbott, an elderly couple with a tragic secret and a mysterious past. Their investigations lead them into dangerous situations where they meet a number of improbable characters, from this world and from somewhere far, far away, but can they possibly come up with a happy ending for all concerned? This is an exciting and entertaining read, full of action and adventure, not to mention amazing coincidences. The story moves on at a great pace and will keep the reader absorbed as Gabby and Barney realise that Chas Hinton’s secret threatens to destroy the whole world. This book will appeal to both girls and boys. Gabby, the cleverer of the two, is also brave and resourceful while Barneyreveals himself to be kind and sensitive in his dealings with the Abbotts. Both are adventurous and curious but work well together as a team. This is the second in the series of books about the investigations of Geek Inc. and the epilogue sets things up nicely for a third book. 264 pages / Ages 9–11 / Reviewed by June Hughes, School Librarian

The Impossible Boy
Red
Libby Gleeson

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444917307

A cyclone has hit Sydney and a young girl wakes up battered and bruised and unable to remember who she is or indeed anything at all of her former life. Peri, a boy, offers to help her but is reluctant to seek help from the authorities. Sheltering in a school he finds a photo and recognises her face. They leave a note on the refuge noticeboard after which Red as he calls her is recognised by a friend whom they contact and whose family give them shelter. But the father is a policeman and after Red finds round her neck a locket containing a memory stick with a message from her father not to contact anyone except the judge at a Royal Commission hearing in Sydney, she decides she must do as her father wishes. This leads to an exciting and credible denouement and to Red/Rhiannon finding her father. In the experienced hands of Libby Gleeson this story has pace and tension. Although the cyclone is not described, its aftermath would be familiar to most children from tv reports, and the awful feeling of not knowing who she is or where she comes from is well drawn so that the reader identifies with Red's plight. This dramatic beginning is followed by encounters with well meaning adults all of whom wish to help her, apart from her frightening encounter with the young man at the bus station. Her friend, Jazz, does not realise how dangerous things are which leaves Peri who alone understands and supports Red even though his reluctance to discuss his own background is left a mystery, maybe for a sequel? Readers of ten and up would enjoy this credible adventure with its topical background of a cyclone. This book won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for 2013 in Australia. 192 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, consultant

Red
Boy in Tights
Kate Scott

Piccadilly Press Ltd

ISBN 9781848123496

Joe discovers his parents are spies, forced to leave their homes and identity behind as they flee home for their safety. Joe thinks this is exceedingly cool until he finds out he too must go undercover... as a GIRL...! Complete with blonde wig, pink frilly dress and a new name of Josephine, he starts a new school and tries to avoid getting his cover blown. However, the spy gadgets are too irresistible for Joe/Josephine and when he inadvertently borrows a recording football and finds out one of his teachers is clearly up to no good, Joe must do some spying of his own and foil the dastardly plans of Mr Caulfield. This is a light-hearted story with plenty to keep readers amused and engaged: from spy gadgets of all kinds, parents rather preoccupied with their own spy dramas, a warm and realistic portrayal of the ups and downs of friendship and a gentle nudge to some gender stereotyping, plus a mild mystery to be solved, what’s not to like? Joe is a pleasant character with a convincing voice, especially when dealing with impersonating a girl all day at school, who will draw sympathy from girls and boys alike. Smoothly narrated by Joe, this will be enjoyed by readers of 7+. Coming soon - Spies in Disguise: Boy in a Tutu. 185 pages / Reviewed by Lucy Russell, teacher

Boy in Tights
Blackberry Blue: And Other Fairy Tales
Jamila Gavin

Tamarind Books

ISBN 9781848531062

Blackberry Blue is the title story of one of six magical fairy tales in Jamila Gavin's inventive new book of the same title. Drawing on the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, these adventurous tales interweave the traditional with the culturally diverse, to give them a more modern flavour. With royal balls, enchanted forests, magic fish and evil witches a-plenty, each story introduces us to unusual characters in some very surprising locations: meet Blackberry Blue, born in a bramble patch,'with skin as black as midnight'; ride with Abu, a boy on a city bus, who must rescue his sister Leyla from The Purple Lady who captures children in her limousine; follow Chi as he outwits his wicked stepfather's greedy son Lu to reclaim his rightful inheritance from The Golden Carp; applaud Emeka the Pathfinder as he defeats a wicked sorcerer who morphs from tiger to dragon to writhing snake; follow Oddboy with 'skin as dark as India, his eyes as black as Africa' whose fiddle playing is just too enviable to bear; run away with The Night Princess as she leads you from 'The Tower of the Winds, which spiralled upwards into the Milky Way', into a journey past the Taj |Mahal and the Great Wall of China. Each story illustrates a moral in favour of kindness and justice over deceit and greed. The evocative pencil illustrations by Richard Collingridge are detailed and subtle. While the imaginative range of these stories is evident, a clear narrative drive is less so. In the end, Blackberry Blue feels more like a hotchpotch of cross fertilisations than purposeful story telling. 225 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Charlotte Eilenberg, librarian

Blackberry Blue: And Other Fairy Tales

ISBN 9780141350820

If you've ever wanted the chance to know just what goes on in the mind of Beanotown's biggest prankster, then you need look no further! As punishment for not doing his summer holiday homework of writing a diary, Dennis the Menace now has to keep one for the whole of the school year. His teacher Mrs Creecher wants him to write down everything he does, but how can he find time to do that when he's out menacing all the time? Then inspiration strikes - it won't be an ordinary boring type of diary; it will be his kind of diary, a guide to being naughty. In fact, a Menacing Manual! And indeed that is just what it is. Discover Dennis' 10 Rules of Menacing; take the quiz to find out if you a Menace or a Softy and find out what happened after Dennis got his hands on Walter's diary! This is sure to be popular with fans of Dennis the Menace and those children a little too young for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but who would like to read something similar. It is an attractive package, with lots of line drawings and a variety of type-faces as well as assorted smudges, dirty marks and ink blots! Steven Butler's first novel, The Wrong Pong, was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2009. As an actor he has played that other perennially popular naughty boy, Horrid Henry, on stage, which no doubt gave him some inspiration for Dennis' diary! 160 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, librarian

Fortunately, the Milk . . .
Neil Gaiman

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408841761

This is a riotous tale of what happens when dad goes out to buy some milk and comes back after rather a long time. A whirlwind of explanation ensues, taking in aliens, pirates, dinosaurs, a volcano, pretty ponies, and the defeat of a plot to take over the planet amongst other things. This is packed full of craziness: be warned, if you expect a serious story you will be very disappointed, as well as confused. Chris Riddell’s black and white illustrations appear on most pages, complimenting the fantastical far-fetched story telling perfectly. This book is sure to be highly popular with children (and adults) aged 8 and upwards. 150 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Lucy Russell, teacher

Fortunately, the Milk . . .
Falcon Travis

ISBN 9781409562917

Republished as part of Usborne's 40th anniversary, this ever-popular title still appeals today. It is full of information that any budding spy will find invaluable. There are explanations of how to spot clues, make disguises and communicate secret messages. A large portion of the book is devoted to different codes and methods of communication, clearly explained, with plenty of examples and practice codes to decipher. Fully illustrated throughout with plenty of diagrams and illustrated explanations, there is a ‘retro’ flavour to the art work, which enhances the cold war era spy feel. It is possible that today’s youngsters may expect more gadgets and gizmos in a book about spies: but the is the craft of ‘traditional’ spying portrayed with convincing authenticity. Ages 8+ / 48 pages / Reviewed by Lucy Russell, Teacher

Jemmy Button
Alix Barzelay

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781848776159

Based on the true story Jemmy Button this is a most interesting and unique subject for a picturebook. In the early nineteenth century Jemmy Button, a Fuegian native from islands near Tierra de Fuego, at the very tip of South America, was brought back to England by Captain Robert FitzRoy, the captain of The Beagle. In good faith Captain Fitzroy believed that he could socialise and educate Jemmy. The picturebook, through its lyrical prose and atmospheric images, tells the story of how Jemmy was transported to England: re-clothed, educated and even introduced to William IV and Queen Adelaide. The story ends with Jemmy being returned to Tierra de Fuego and his original life. The picturebook deals with challenging issues of transportation of people by others and the resulting alienation of Jemmy in a new and different country. Because of these issues this picture book would be better shared and discussed with older primary age pupils possibly linked to the life of Charles Darwin as he met Jemmy on the return journey to Tierra de Fuego.

Jemmy Button