NEW TITLES

This month's selection covers a range of stories from animal-based stories for younger readers to fairy tale retellings and contemporary and historical fiction. But we haven't forgotten Halloween either, with the wonderful Spooky Poems for KS2.

Spooky Poems
James Carter

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781447272588

What a wonderful collection of spooky poems, perfect for Halloween - but also much too good to be brought out just once a year. There are poems that draw on the terror of teachers(!) - 'Ever Wondered What's in Your Teacher's Cupboard?' (Be careful - ' Children don't / return from there...') and the X-Factor style 'How Spooky is your Teacher?' - but also lots of more traditional subjects including pumpkins, graveyards and things that go bump in the night. Some of these conjure dramatic images like James Carter's The Gathering ('What souls sat here, what hoofs, what claws / what feral friends came dine...') and there are those that quietly build up the tension, like Brian Moses's 'Abandoned Theme Park at Midnight'. There are plenty of set patterns and rhythms that children could be encouraged to try - 'Night Soup (A Simple Recipe)' ('A slither of moon / A nip in the air / A sprinkle of stars / A creak from a stair'), for example, and 'Have You Ever Met a Wolf' (A white wolf / at night wolf / beneath a moon / so bright wolf / did you have a fright wolf'), both by James Carter. As well as inspiring children to write their own spooky poems, poems like 'Above the Pit' and 'Alone at Night' would be great story starters for Years 5 / 6, and there's plenty of material for Year 7 students to get their teeth into as well. A great spooky collection. 85 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone.

Spooky Poems
A Brush with Danger
Adam Frost

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847156167

This is an animal based, humourous crime book.... how do you categorise that?! Adam Frost has written a series of Fox Investigates , and I've read two of them - this one and A whiff of mystery. I found them both fast-paced, witty and funny whilst also being easy for children to access. The story follows Wily Fox, a detective, who solves crimes and mysteries in a variety of settings around the world. This particular story features France and Russia (or Venice and China in A Whiff of Mystery) - and includes references to the scenery and landmarks in both! The characters are all animals, and all amusing - from Albert the Mole, who provides Wily with gadgets and gizmos, to Dimitri Gottabottomitch, the Russian criminal - this story had my giggling and I'm sure it would amuse many children. The story is well illustrated and well written - the language is appropriate for children but quite formal, it contains lots of description and it was nice to read a children's story that didn't feel like it had dumbed itself down or tried too hard to make children laugh! A good read, that will appeal to both boys and girls - and capture the imaginations of wannabe detectives everywhere! 128 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Lizi Coombs, teacher.

A Brush with Danger
Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig (Book One)
Clara Vulliamy

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406361438

This is a collection of short, quaint stories about a young girl (Mango) who discovers a Tapir trying to hide himself on a zebra crossing. The text is easy to follow and has some good, old fashioned themes - of friendship and bravery - set in a more modern, humorous background. The book reminded me a little of the Milly-Molly-Mandy books I enjoyed so much as a child; this felt like an up-to-date version, with a funny little animal as one of the central characters. Mango lives with her father and the stories follow her life after discovering her Tapir and trying to integrate him into her life. It's a charming tale which is very simple and would appeal to a wide audience of children, probably being more popular with girls who like characters who have gumption! Aesthetically, the book is wonderful! It's delightful to hold in your hands; it's smooth, beautifully illustrated and the candied purple and white stripes reminded me of old fashioned sweet shop bags! I enjoyed reading this book, there's nothing ground-breaking about it, but it's just enjoyable. It makes you smile and would make a wonderful gift for a reluctant reader - there's not too much text on each page and the pictures are wonderful. 144 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Lizi Coombs, teacher.

Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig (Book One)
Puppy Academy: Scout and the Sausage Thief
Gill Lewis

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192739209

Scout is a German Shepherd puppy at the Sausage Dreams Puppy Academy for working dogs in Little Barking. Her parents are both well-known working police dogs and Scout hopes to follow in their paw prints when she grows up. The story is set on an important day for Scout, as she gets ready to take her 'Care in the Community' test at school. Unfortunately, helping reunite a little girl with her lost teddy makes Scout late for school and causes her whole day to go terribly wrong. She fails two tests and is put on guard duty at the Food Shed, however, when the treats inside the shed mysteriously disappear even her best friends doubt her innocence and she runs away from school. Gill Lewis, the author of this book, is more well-known for her beautiful and thought-provoking fiction for older children but this book demonstrates that she can translate important messages for younger children too. The book is a fun, fast paced read and the reader is presented with lots of moral issues and happy solutions. The lovely, simple, black and white illustrations by Sarah Horne, which feature on each double page spread will keep younger readers entertained and reading on. The facts pages at the back of the book were interesting and informative too, I'd never even heard of the charity Sniffer Dogs UK and International until reading this book. I read the first three chapters to a Year 3 class during their library session at school, it only took 15 minutes, and they were all enthralled and wanting to know more about Scout's adventures. I am sure that Gill's latest series of books will be a success and will definitely be getting more for my younger readers! The books have large print with simple black and white illustrations. 112 pages / Ages 6-8 (but my 10 year old loved it as a quick read!) / Reviewed by Kerra Dagley, school librarian.

Puppy Academy: Scout and the Sausage Thief
Katy
Jacqueline Wilson

Puffin

ISBN 9780141353968

This book is a clever reworking of Susan Coolidge's classic What Katy Did. The story is set in a thoroughly modern combined family where the father is still a doctor, but Aunt Izzie is now a stepmother and there are of course the five younger siblings. But these children are 21st century children with mobile phones and texts, although Dr Carr still prefers healthy outdoor play to sitting and watching television indoors. The first half of the story sets the scene and very closely follows the original. Katy Carr is much like the original Katy, strong willed, headstrong but well-meaning; the eldest sister who tries very hard to look after the younger children but somehow always seems to make mistakes. She suffers pangs of remorse, but is nevertheless irrepressible and feisty. But, as in the original, Katy is disobedient, and on the first day of the summer holidays she is left at home alone as a punishment. She decides to amuse herself by setting up a rope swing in her favourite tree but she has a terrible fall, and it is from now that the stories differ. She is taken to hospital but her injury is serious, and she has to face a life in a wheelchair that is going to be very different from her previous, active tomboy existence. She has to cope with grief and frustration, the difficulties of the family adapting to her disability, and the reactions of her friends. She is helped by a visit from her father's friend Helen, another wheelchair user who encourages her to try to keep positive about the things that she can do. Katy's irrepressible courage finally sees her going back to school despite all the difficulties and determined to still be the Katy that she wants to be no matter what anyone else thinks of her. Katy is portrayed as a very believable character who faces up to a terrible life changing experience with real courage, and who is positive about the future. 480 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Caroline Gosden, school librarian.

Katy
The Wild Swans
Jackie Morris

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781847805362

Eliza lived in a castle beside a forest with her parents, the king and queen, and her eleven brothers. Life is idyllic, full of love, laughter and stories, especially those shared with her mother each bedtime, read aloud from the beautiful volume of tales which is a special gift from her. But the queen is ill, and when she dies everyone is grief stricken. Gradually they come to terms with their loss and the king rides out hunting one bright spring day. Chasing a white hare, he becomes hopelessly lost, encountering an old woman who promises to show him the way home if he will marry her daughter. Whilst the king falls in love with her daughter, he does have some misgivings about the bewitching young woman and hides his family from her, sending them to live deep within a maze in the heart of the forest, visiting them secretly. Thinking that he has a lover, the new queen finds her way there and determines to be rid of this family kept from her. Weaving enchanted shirts, she turns all the boys into swans, birds that must follow their nature and fly south. When Eliza is rejected by her father, through yet more perfidious magic, she determines to find her brothers and free them from the spell. Her deep love and determination sustains her through the making of shirts knitted with thread from nettles, which Eliza has picked and prepared with her bare hands. And all must be done in total silence or the magic will not work...Jackie Morris has woven a truly spellbinding, lyrical tale around the Hans Christian Andersen version of this story, adding depth and nuanced characterisation. From page decorations to spreads full of quiet intensity, the distinctive, glowing illustrations, seemingly imbued with gold, conjure up a beguiling, small jewel of a book. 176 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, librarian.

The Wild Swans
Oxford Reading Tree TreeTops inFact: Level 18: The Misadventures of Charles Darwin
Isabel Thomas

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780198306771

An accessible biography of Charles Darwin with chapter headings to entice and interest children. From stinky schoolboy to seasick sailor, Darwin's life is told and the importance of his discoveries in the context of the time explained. This latter is important as children will not necessarily be aware of the controversy Darwin's theory caused. This book is longer as it is aimed at slightly older children, but is broken down into chunks so would not need to be read solidly. Facts are made interesting such as, 'Had Darwin been alive today, he'd have loved social media!'. Much could be made in the classroom of getting children to write blogs or tweets from Darwin from his voyage. The cover on this book looks just like a nature journal, with the well known portrait of Darwin as an old photograph. This theme continues inside with Darwin's notes sometimes as he wrote them, sometimes a mock up of a journal. Drawings of various personalities feature as comic characters. 48 pages / Oxford level 18 / Ages 10/11 years / Reviewed by Dawn Woods, librarian.

Oxford Reading Tree TreeTops inFact: Level 18: The Misadventures of Charles Darwin
Oxford Reading Tree TreeTops inFact: Level 14: Explorers: Then and Now
Rob Alcraft

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780198306627

Explorers: Then and Now starts with the historical facts, but brings the subject completely up to date by comparing today's explorers and the tools and technology they have available to study their craft. All kinds of exploration are covered, over land and over sea, under the oceans, in forests and on ice and also into space. This book can almost be used as a careers guide I found it so interesting to discover the different jobs that investigate history under the sea, over land or sky. This is an excellent new perspective on exploration which offers interesting snippets of information for children without becoming bogged down in detail. This title is probably limited to upper key stage two because of the subject level. Illustrations and photographs are used appropriately. As so much of the text is about current exploration, photographs are easily obtained, but drawings of maps and portraits of older explorers are well used to show the history aspects. 40 pages / Oxford level 14 / ages 9-11 years / Reviewed by Dawn Woods, librarian.

Oxford Reading Tree TreeTops inFact: Level 14: Explorers: Then and Now
SandRider: A TodHunter Moon Adventure
Angie Sage

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408865194

Angie Sage's Septimus Heap series, about a boy who grows up to be an 'ExtraOrdinary Wizard', has engaged a huge and loyal following so it's wonderful to see the spin-off TodHunter Moon trilogy emerging for readers aged nine years plus, and not forgetting older fans of Sage's writing. Children won't need to have read the Septimus Heap books to enjoy the TodHunter Moon adventures. The books follow Alice TodHunter Moon (known as 'Tod'), who is a PathFinder. In the first book, PathFinder, we meet the villainous Oraton-Marr who will stop at nothing to steal the magical Egg of Orm to increase his own powers. This includes kidnapping Tod's entire PathFinder community, to force them to help him reach the egg. In SandRider, the second TodHunter Moon book, Tod and her PathFinder friends attempt to retrieve the Egg of Orm and they travel to distant countries through the 'Ancient Ways' - 'magykal' pathways that criss-cross the world - as they try to discover its whereabouts. Naturally, Oraton-Marr's baneful presence lingers and he continues to disrupt the world through his relentless pursuit of power. As well as the obvious morals in the story, Angie Sage is also reminding us that we all have a duty of care to the Earth; being greedy with its resources can have devastating results. Sage's powerful storytelling skills are very evident in the TodHunter Moon books and she threads together a number of different storylines while never losing touch with the pace of the storytelling or over-complicating the plot. Highly recommended. 384 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone.

SandRider: A TodHunter Moon Adventure
The Blackthorn Key
Kevin Sands

Puffin

ISBN 9780141360645

It is 1665 and a dangerous time in London. There has been a wave of mysterious murders targeting apothecaries and young apprentice Christopher Rowe is concerned about his own master, Benedict Blackthorn. Life spent learning how to mix potions and powders is very different from the orphanage where Christopher grew up and Mr Blackthorn is a kind master, encouraging his apprentice to read and use his natural talents. Even when these involve him mixing gunpowder and experimenting with a home made cannon, he is not too angry! Benedict is fond of puzzles and codes and he writes his recipes and mixtures in this way to prevent rivals from stealing them; and Christopher is a quick learner. All too soon, however, Christopher finds himself on the run, with one last message from his master to decipher, and a cryptic warning to "Tell no one". Who can he trust as he attempts to find the key to the mystery of the Cult of the Archangel? This is an exciting race through Restoration London, both above and below ground, introducing a new, likeable young hero. With a gripping storyline, codes to crack and a warning not to try any of the experiments at home, this should appeal to readers of 9+ who like fast paced, historical or otherwise, adventure. I hope we meet Christopher again; as this story closes, plague is already on the outskirts of London.... 320 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, librarian.

The Blackthorn Key
Rick Riordan

ISBN 9780141342412

This is the first in a new trilogy from Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan. In the first book, Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer, we dive into a world of Norse gods, magic and sword fights - all of which takes place in contemporary Boston! In the first book, we meet teenaged Magnus Chase, living rough on the streets of Boston following the death of his mum, who was killed in a wolf attack two years previously. But it is not until his 16th birthday that Magnus begins to realise that there is more to Boston than meets the eye. Boston, he discovers, is where the world of the Norse gods and modern humans meet, and however unwilling he is, Magnus has a role to play in the future of humans and the gods. It all begins the day he pulls the Sword of Summer from the river, battles a fire giant, and dies.... I don't want to give too much away, but after his death Percy finds he has been taken to the Halls of Valhalla (now a rather plush and extensive hotel for warriors), and has to discover if that is where he really belongs - and he identy of his dad - in between trying to retrieve various Norse god's lost magical items. Riordan brings his trademark humour and dazzling plotting skills to the story and gives us an accurate (and funny) look at the world of the Norse gods, made contemporary. It is a delicious, packed read, although at 512 pages it will demand stamina. But it's well worth it - and I can't wait to see what the next adventure brings! 512 pages / Ages 10/11+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone.

Lockdown
Peter Jay Black

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408851470

In this, their third adventure, the Urban Outlaws head to New York to track down Hector, who betrayed them. Having stolen the most destructive computer virus in the world, he is now setting up other hackers and planning to cause mayhem. Supported by the mysterious 'Shepherd', the Outlaws pursue Hector across the Atlantic and must prevent him achieving his goal. Will they succeed? From page one, this book is packed with excitement. Full of high-tech gadgets, crazy plans and danger, the plot moves at a great pace, keeping the reader completely engaged. The book has its gentler moments as well, for example exploring Slink's devotion to his invalid mother, which create calmer sections in contrast to the action. As well as their undoubted talents in hacking, breaking and entering, street running, acting -all the qualities that make them the Urban Outlaws - each is member of the group is well developed and likeable. A real sense of affection between them is conveyed as is a strong sense of social conscience - from Random Acts of Kindness to total strangers, to correcting their mistakes and caring for each other. However, there is more to recommend this series than the layers of action; carefully constructed plot and quality writing make each book a pleasure to read. I look forward to the next Urban Outlaws adventure with great impatience! 304 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Lockdown