NEW TITLES

Series have taken a strong hold on fiction for children and the following have all caught the attention of our reviewers. This month we see the launch titles for some great new series, from the Steampunk Pirates for young readers and Elen Caldecott's new mystery books, to the highly anticipated Darkmouth and Young Houdini series that are packed with adventure. Enjoy!

The Leaky Battery Sets Sail
Gareth P. Jones

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847155931

Shiver m' timbers! This was a good book! For those not in the know, Steampunk in a new type of fiction that puts a science fiction twist on Georgian/Victorian history. The twist is that there is crazy technology all powered by steam engines. In the case of this book: steam-powered robots who become pirates. This is the first in a new series from establish author Gareth P. Jones and it is a stonking good start. The action starts right on page one and the simple little blurbs that start each chapter are a great way of teasing the reader in. The list of main characters at the front of the book mean that there is no story wasted on explaining who each character is; we just dive right in and head for adventure! I'm not going to tell you the plot, as I want you to read the book, but I will warn you that is it a proper pirate story: there are cutlasses and cannonballs, mischief and mutiny, parrots and plank walking and, most importantly, heaps and heaps of gold!! What is really cleaver about this book, though, is the amount of things you will learn, without evening knowing that you are being taught. 160 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Hayley Nicholson, librarian

The Leaky Battery Sets Sail
Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Evilness of Pizza
John Dougherty

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192738257

This, the fourth book in the Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face series, sees the eponymous siblings facing another hilarious and silly adventure involving badgers, spies and pizzas. When Ketchup-Face and Stinkbomb agree to take on the role of secret agents for the King of Great Kerfuffle, they expect adventure and excitement. This they get in spadefuls when they discover the badgers have begun mining pizzas under the floorboards of Kerfuffle Library and they are all about to go down a very big hole... Fans of Mr Gum will enjoy the quirky characters, the meandering plot and the frequent author interjections. The story is well-paced and illustrated by David Tazzyman - the Mr Gum illustrator - so there is plenty of appeal to reluctant as well as more confident readers. 177 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Alison Hume

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Evilness of Pizza
Elen Caldecott

ISBN 9781408847527

Elen Caldecott (How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant, Operation Eiffel Tower etc) is known for her well-crafted, stand-alone novels about 'ordinary children doing extraordinary things'. So it's great to see her moving into series with Diamonds and Daggers, the start of The Marsh Road Mysteries, which follows a group of friends as they try to solve various cases that emerge in the streets where they live. Among the group is Piotr, whose father is Polish. In Diamonds and Daggers, Piotr's father is accused of stealing a valuable necklace from the theatre where he works as a security guard and as a result, Piotr is told the family will be returning to Poland. Piotr's friends decide to discover who really stole the necklace so that Piotr can remain in England. Many twists, turns and red herrings follow. The Marsh Road Mysteries will provide a great introduction to detective stories for children and, as you'd expect from Caldecott, Diamonds & Daggers has plenty of heart and emotional depth as well as a great plot line. 215 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

The Mighty Frog
Guy Bass

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847155115

This is the third book in the series of adventures featuring Frog, an alien prince raised in ignorance of his origins. In the first book he left his humdrum existence on The Island, where his only companion was Buttercup, a vaguely human housekeeper / nursemaid. By book 2, he was fighting the forces of King Kroak, (who revealed himself as Frog's father) and thwarted his ambition to destroy the world and everyone in it. In book 3, things are still not going well and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Joining Frog in his endeavours are Basil Rathbone (a grand name for a very ordinary stick that Frog fondly imagines is a sword) and Sheriff Explosion (a sheep). Clearly, Frog needs help but is that what he is going to get from Princess Rainbow and the rest of the Defeat All Foes Team (DAFT)? The battles and perils come thick and fast and matters often look hopeless for our valiant crew, but somehow they look like they are going to survive until Frog finally meets his father, King Kroak, and learns the truth of his origins. Will Frog's innate goodness triumph over his equally innate badness and can he choose his own destiny? Readers who enjoyed either of the first two books in the series will be keen to read on and those that are unfamiliar with the world of Frog will find a short recap at the back of the book to help them on their way. The adventures are exciting and the cast of characters very funny. My favourites are Sheriff Explosion and the Bragon Army (dragons who indulge in competitive bragging) and, by the end of the book, the scene is set for Frog to do battle with his nine hundred and ninety nine alien frog brothers. 225 pages / Ages 7 - 11 / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian

The Mighty Frog
Circus of Thieves on the Rampage
William Sutcliffe

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471120251

The second Circus of Thieves book by William Sutcliffe, Circus of Thieves on the Rampage, is filled with revelations, rampages and revenge! When Hannah discovers that she is adopted, she is thrilled, and even more so when she discovers the identity of her real mother. In the meantime, circus master Armitage Shanks is looking for revenge for his failed circus act from book one. He decides to blame trapeze artist Queenie, a long-time enemy who is making a come-back. As Armitage, Queenie, Hannah and her granny descend on the Oh, Wow! centre (an enormous tent built for no reason in the middle of nowhere, now converted to an entertainment centre...) to find the answers they are seeking, more revelations - and adventures - follow. This is a brilliant series to introduce to children who have moved on from Mr Gum but who are looking for something equally as funny, anarchic and odd. The humour ripples easily through the pages along with the frequent author interventions, and the plot buzzes with action. I also loved the illustrations by David Tazzyman (Mr Gum illustrator). 275 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Anna Wilde

Circus of Thieves on the Rampage
Shane Hegarty

ISBN 9780007545766

Darkmouth, which has already been optioned for a film, is named after the town it features where strange, mythical creatures occasionally burst through from their world into the world of humans. The town is guarded from the these beasts by 'Legend hunters' who have, for centuries, fought off the invading threats. A boy called Finn is the latest in a long line of illustrious Legend hunters and he is, naturally, expected to follow in his forebears' footsteps and to fight the invading creatures, protected only by some ill-fitting homemade armour and some strange devices, and his wits. Unfortunately, Flinn would rather be a vet and the start of the series sees him facing his graduation into the ranks of Legend hunters with little enthusiasm. Flinn also comes to discover that those he had counted on as friends to help him in this overwhelming task don't have his best interests at heart.... Packed for of action and humour, and with some truly terrifying - and some vaguely irritating - Legends scattered through the pages, Darkmouth has a huge amount of appeal for readers aged eight years plus. This is the first in the series and I can't wait to read what happens next! 411 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Penny Hale

Young Houdini: The Magician's Fire
Simon Nicholson

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192734747

We have all heard of Harry Houdini, the great magician and escapologist, but how did he come to develop his amazing skills, showmanship and bravado? In his Young Houdini series, Simon Nicholson sets out to answer that question in a story that is packed full of action, drama and excitement. We meet the boy Houdini and his friends as they begin to engage in performing magic tricks - but things become a lot more serious when a well-known magician and Houdini's inspiration disappears. Together, Houdini and his friends must discover what has happened to him and in doing so, put themselves into far more danger than they imagined. The story is set in Manhattan at the turn of the twentieth century so offers a glimpse of a different time and place although the cut and thrust of the action will rightly occupy most of the reader's attention. This is a pacy story with plenty of appeal children aged 8+ who enjoy adventure stories. 240 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Anne Sharpen

Young Houdini: The Magician's Fire
Dan Green

ISBN 9781783420445

Attractively presented in hardback landscape format, this book is packed full of character profiles of scientists and their discoveries across the length and breadth of science and history. From ancients of old to the modern day, readers will find bitesize biographies of scientists from a range of disciplines. Organised by topic - for example, the atom, genetics, forces and microbes, each chapter contains several pages, detailing the roles of different scientists in the 'journey' of key discoveries, which are summarised in a helpful side bar at the end of each chapter. The scientific concepts and discoveries are also explained in accessible terms, giving a broad overview of an area of science and its development. Several chapters also contain a 'face-off', dealing with disputes, competition and surprising discoveries that changed the course of understanding of science. There is a wealth of information presented ingeniously in the book, in a variety of contexts such as a rap conversation between Sir Isaac Newton and Robert Hook, and an 'atomic bake-off'. Layouts are appealing, with full-colour, stylized illustrations and text boxes on every page. Probably most useful as a reference book, there is also a comprehensive glossary and thorough index. In addition, subjects are cross-referenced under the heading 'routefinder' on many pages so that readers can follow their interests within the book. A fun look at a meaty topic, packed with a wealth of information, this will be a useful research tool and enjoyed by boys and girls aged 10-14 with an interest in science. Reviewed by Lucy Russell, teacher

River Daughter
Jane Hardstaff

Egmont Books Ltd

ISBN 9781405268325

Moss and her father have left their old life in the Tower of London behind them. He has swapped his executioner's axe for a blacksmith's forge, whilst Moss and her friend Salter thrive in the country air. But when an old enemy returns, Moss has no choice but to leave everything she loves and set off on a deadly journey to put an end to evil which is threatening London. For Moss has been promised to the Riverwitch; a child born in water, she must return to the water. Deftly weaving history and fantasy, Jane Hardstaff continues the story she began in The Executioner's Daughter. Moss felt as much as prisoner at the Tower as those poor souls locked up in the dungeons, destined to meet their fate and the axe of her father on Tower Hill. She was not allowed beyond the walls unaccompanied and forbidden to go anywhere near the river, but that didn't stop her exploring. Her adventures took her to Hampton Court where she met a doomed queen and found the reasons for her father's protectiveness. Now they have made a serene new life for themselves, until the Riverwitch appears again, with a way for Moss to earn her freedom. Something is being brought forth from the muddy depths of the Thames, something which will envelop and suffocate London, bringing immense power to one cruel man. Plunged back into the stinking, crowded streets of London, Moss and Salter find themselves at the dark heart of a plot centred on the Beast House at the Tower. Authentic and vivid historical detail combines with a supernatural layer lurking just below the surface, to produce a gripping tale which transports the reader to Tudor London. Recommended for readers of 10+. 352 pages / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, librarian

River Daughter
Would the Real Stanley Carrot Please Stand Up?
Rob Stevens

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783442287

Assumptions - how wrong they can be! Like many teenagers, Stanley Harris is uncomfortable in his own skin and assumes that others are always thinking the worst of him. He struggles to communicate his feelings thus compounding the misunderstandings. Adopted as a baby, Stanley is curious about his birth mother and is elated when she gets in touch on his 13th birthday. But Stanley thinks that she'll be disappointed in him, so with the help of his cousin Chloe he sends a 'model son' substitute, the complete antithesis of Stanley, to meet his mum. Rob Stevens cleverly keeps the reader focused on Stanley's worsening predicament with the added angst of a school talent show. The story has a satisfying climax and Stanley learns to let go and celebrate who he is. The story would make a very funny and poignant coming-of-age film. 265 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Sue Gillham

Would the Real Stanley Carrot Please Stand Up?