NEW TITLES

There is a wonderful range and quality of fiction selected by our reviewers this month, including some fact-packed non fiction that will entice today's young readers and researchers.

Matt Haig

ISBN 9781782117896

If you have ever been asked by a curious child what Father Christmas was like before he grew up, then this is the book that you (and they) need to read. Matt Haig's A Boy Called Christmas takes a step back from our modern day Father Christmas and other Christmas traditions and explores how these traditions - the flying reindeer, the red hat, even gingerbread - might have come to be. We follow the journey of a kind-hearted boy called Nikolas (naturally) who eventually, after many adventures and a bit of magical help - and interference - from elves, reindeer and a 'truth pixie', grows up to become the mythical and revered Father Christmas. The illustrations by Chris Mould are spot on - both magical and a little dark. The story's huge appeal at this time of year will make it a 'must read' for children aged eight years and over, but this is by no means a saccarine Christmas tale; the Dahlesque darkness, the flawed (and downright evil) characters, and some wise insights on happiness also make it a wonderful story to share in classrooms in the run-up to that very special time of year. Highly recommended! 272 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone.

The Adventures of Miss Petitfour
Anne Michaels

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408868041

A delightful book beautifully presented in hardback form. Elegant, gentle, refined Miss Petitfour's world is far removed from the hum drum and rush and bustle that so many encounter today. She lives peacefully and serenely in her own immaculate little cottage with her sixteen cats, cooking delicious cakes, reading poetry and adventure stories, singing and playing music. Yet, she is ready at the flick of a tablecloth to take advantage of the slightest breeze to fly into the air, cats trailing paw to tail, for an adventure of her own. Five little stories beautifully illustrated with delicate, pastel drawings that echo the quiet themes. Anne Michael's love of words is evident; it's the language of the stories that lift them and make them such a delight. Anne often speaks directly to the reader about the choice of words, their meaning and function to 'stop a story in its tracks', to slow it down, make it change direction or even digress. Occasionally, she uses long unusual words instead of the common and familiar; these are introduced and explained and then printed in orange. However, they are carefully placed and enhance the story rather than intrude. This book could be a great teaching aid to inspire young children's creative writing; with lists, alliteration and lots of describing words, it's a great stimulus. I'd recommend it for ages 5 to 11; younger children would enjoy listening to the stories, more confident readers could read it for themselves. 132 pages / Ages 5-11 / Reviewed by Sue Gillham, librarian.

The Adventures of Miss Petitfour
Jem Packer, Duncan McCoshan

ISBN 9781408337745

Life can be messy, especially when you have a madcap family like Beth's! Mum is a teacher and a stickler for rules, dad is cheerful and optimistic but oh so embarrassing, big sister Mabel is annoying and little brother Bertie is very energetic. As for Beth, chaos seems to reign wherever she is. Just how did she end up surrounded by crocodiles, holding a briefcase full of fish fingers, wearing a swamp monster mask with Miss Primula about to call her parents?! The answer involves a barbecue to impress dad's boss, his boss's horrible daughter Clarissa, a school trip to the safari park and Granny's evil parrot. Told with verve and humour, liberally illustrated with cartoon style pictures, Beth's adventures will appeal to readers of 8+ who like diary style books. And in case you're wondering how Beth came by her nickname - that's what Mabel decide to call her after spotting some self-portraits in Beth's art book! 240 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, librarian.

Moone Boy 2: The Fish Detective
Chris O'Dowd

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781447270973

Martin Moone lives in Ireland and shares the house with his mum, dad, three sisters and his imaginary friend Sean. It's 50 sleeps until Christmas, but Martin's family are on a strict budget. Everyone is given a task to help save Christmas; Martin needs to find a Christmas tree but all he really wants is a Gameboy. Sean provides moral support as Martin sets out to find a job to make some real money to buy his Gameboy, and perhaps presents for the rest of the family. Finally, he is hired as a Butcher's boy but business is bad. Martin decides he must get to the bottom of the secrets of Francie Feeley's Fabulous Fishatorium and his low prices that are luring customers away. Chris O'Dowd is better known as an actor (Bridesmaids), he co-writes this book with Nick V. Murphy, a writer and screenwriter, apparently in an attempt to get back at his sisters for putting makeup on him as a kid. The book is laid out well with large, clear text and lots of lovely childlike, black, white and red sketches (from Walter Giampaglia) detailing Martin's antics. The characters and settings in the story are described in hilarious detail, I particularly enjoyed the description of Bridget Cross the butcher, 'she had slightly fluffy sideburns and a faint ginger moustache above her thin, cracked lips'. I also enjoyed the funny Moone dictionary definitions which help the reader understand some of the terms used and also fill in the reader on music (Pet Shop Boys) and TV programmes (The A team) brought up in the story. I found that, coming from the same era as Chris O'Dowd, I recognised his references but am unsure whether those details bring anything to the target audience, just their parents. 321 pages, large print / Ages 7-10 / Reviewed by Kerra Dagley, school librarian

Moone Boy 2: The Fish Detective
Clare and her Captain
Michael Morpurgo

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781124352

Clare is dreading the long summer at Aunty Dora's with Mum and Dad arguing all the time. But then she meets isolated old Thatcher Jones and his retired horse Captain, and a friendship develops that she will never forget. There is nothing much to do in the depths of the countryside, so when Clare stumbles across Thatcher Jones and is allowed to make friends with his horse, she is delighted. However her aunt and father are against her seeing the old man who keeps himself apart from the local community. But Clare is nothing if not determined and carries on visiting. His deep bond with his horse is clear and Clare is surprised and delighted when she is allowed to take him for a walk, down the road and across the field to the river. But the next day, she is devastated to find Thatcher Jones in the barn with a dying Captain. Despite his explanations that Captain was very old for a horse, Clare is convinced it is her fault, that the walk was too much for him. She determines to make things right, with a gift found with the help of her mum and the local newspaper editor. Exquisite pictures, suffused with sunlight, illustrate this small format picture book in which Michael Morpurgo has woven memories from his wife Clare's childhood into an evocative story of friendship and the countryside. Despite the sadness, the book is full of love and hope, with the yellow cover and endpapers giving a real feel of summer. The Conkers imprint features illustrated gift edition hardbacks from Barrington Stoke (ages 8-12 years), who specialise in producing dyslexia friendly books. Like so many of their titles, this is one to be enjoyed by every reader. 104 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, librarian.

Clare and her Captain
Scarlet and Ivy: The Whispers in the Walls
Sophie Cleverly

ISBN 9780007589203

The Whispers in the Wall is Sophie Cleverly's atmospheric and page-turning follow-up to her debut, The Lost Twin. They form the Scarlet and Ivy series about twin girls who are sent to board at Rookwood, a creepy and restrictive school. The stories are set around the early Edwardian era when strict regimes, harsh corporal punishments and unappetising meals were what you would expect from school life and which Rookwood School amply delivers. In the first book, Ivy is sent to Rookwood to 'replace' her twin, Scarlet, who the family believes has died at the school and the story uncovers what might really have happened to the lost twin. In the latest book, The Whispers in the Wall, Ivy has been reunited with Scarlet but when the sadistic and autocratic head Mr Bartholomew returns to Rookwood, terrible secrets from the past begin to emerge and the twins are determined to uncover what happened to former pupils at the school; could one of them have been murdered? Although they are twins, Scarlet and Ivy couldn't behave more differently and the siblings' relationship is as important to the story as the mysteries they explore. Cleverly gives a real sense of what it might have been like to be a schoolgirl at this time and the friendships and environment she describes feel very realistic - and a real contrast with today's world. Readers will relish the adventures the girls get up to in this atmospheric page-turner! 288 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Anna Hunt.

Scarlet and Ivy: The Whispers in the Walls
Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright
Chris Riddell

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781447277897

This is the third book in the Goth Girl series, sequel to Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse and Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death. Ada Goth and her friends in the Attic Club investigate strange goings on at Ghastly-Gorm Hall. Though, they must be strange indeed, at a house where two ghostly Annes playing Tudor cricket on the first floor landing is considered perfectly normal. First, there are chewed shoes in the servants' quarters, then there are mysterious footprints in the snow, sightings of something hunched and hairy creeping across the stable yard, and strange howling at night. With authors and their dogs arriving to compete in Lord Goth's Literary Dog Show it isn't certain whether a wayward hound is to blame after escaping from the Whine cellars. In this book Ada is joined by new friends, the Vicarage sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne) and their brother Bramble, in a thoroughly entertaining adventure. Chris Riddell is not only an incredible illustrator but he is also amazing at playing with names. He adapts the names of historical characters and that adults (and some children) will be aware of, with a humorous twist. For example, the great novelists entering the Lord Goth's Literary Dog show include Sir Walter Splott, Plain Austen, William Timepiece Thackery, Georgie Eliot and Homily Dickinson and Fancyday, the lady's maid, reads Nonsense and Nonsensibility about two sisters falling in love with a couple of clowns. The Cogwheel Foot Notes (written by a calculating machine invented by Charles Cabbage) provide excellent, extra (and often quite silly) explanations throughout the story. I also love the funny take on grand houses, the staff and the rooms all have quirky titles. 219 pages, large print / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Kerra Dagley, school librarian.

Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright
Hilda and the Troll
Luke Pearson

Flying Eye Books

ISBN 9781909263789

I've fallen in love with Hilda - and so have my students! Hilda is the hero in Luke Pearson's Hildafolk series of graphic novels: a gloriously quirky girl with huge eyes, blue-green hair and stick-thin legs. She sets off on various adventures, encountering mythical creatures and scary situations along the way, but always approaching them with courage and verve. The muted colours of the artworks are lovely, and the book design is superb, with good paper and all the qualities that make you want to keep and treasure a book. I handed over some of Hilda's stories to my students - all girls from Year 7 to Year 9 and either struggling or reluctant readers - and asked them to dip in and let me know what they thought. And silence fell. Twenty minutes later, I asked the girls to take a break and give me their first impression. All I got were a few comments along the lines of 'I really like it&', before they buried their noses back in the books. Not another word was uttered before the bell rang. They all asked if they could read another book in the series, and some girls wanted to take the books home to enjoy again. I can't give a finer recommendation than that! 40 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Camilla de la Bedoyere.

Hilda and the Troll
The Person Controller
David Baddiel

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780007554522

Fred and Ellie Stone are twins. They like all the same things, especially video games, which they are very good at. Though they are not much good at many other things, including football and dealing with the school bullies. When they receive an unusual game controller, and they understand what it can do, it seems to be the answer to all their problems... The Stone family all have their obsessions - for Fred and Ellie it is computer games, for dad Eric it is bacon sandwiches, while mum Janine watches constant re-runs of Cash in the Attic. They tend to do these things separately rather than together as a family should. Life at school is also rather fraught for Fred and Ellie, what with being targeted by bullies Isla and Morris [also twins and the children of the head teacher], and Fred's desperation to get into the football team, despite being very bad at playing. So when a Mystery Man pops up on the school computer and offers them a free trial of an amazing new Controller, they are overjoyed. The Controller comes with a bracelet; the blue lights on both pulse perfectly in time with each other. It doesn't take long for Fred and Ellie to discover that the person wearing the bracelet can be controlled by the one with the Controller. They only have to think of the appropriate game, press the right buttons and amazing things happen. Fred's new found talent at football puts the school team through to the inter-school cup final and attracts the attention of a top club scout. Thinking about Street Fighter allows Ellie to give Fred the skills to take on Isla and Morris at the same time and defeat them, at least for a while. Elle's wish is to look different, and with Fred's expertise at creating avatars, she is transformed whilst wearing the bracelet. But when they realise the power is running low, they know that they must make some difficult choices. A funny, fast moving and thought-provoking read which explores modern family life and ultimately proves that the power to transform your life comes from within. A great story to tempt game players from their consoles. 384 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, librarian.

The Person Controller
The Seal's Fate
Eoin Colfer

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781124314

With school out for the summer, Bobby Parrish is joining his father on his fishing boat. Seals are threatening the fishermen's livelihood and a bounty is offered to anyone bringing in a flipper. Bobby knows that, deep down, he hasn't got it in him to club a seal, but how can he let his father down? The moral dilemma that Bobby faces is one that may seem incredible to young readers as no-one today would consider clubbing seals for a bounty. Fishing communities were of course hugely dependent on their catches and anything threatening that had to be dealt with. Eoin Colfer has based his story on events which his father remembered from when he was a boy. The question 'Would I be able to do it?' remained with Eoin and here he explores how the split-second choices people make every day can change their lives for ever. Bobby knows that killing a seal will propel him into adulthood that little bit faster, and he wants more time to be just a boy. But he also knows that his father needs his help. Faced with a baby seal and a club in his hand, he hesitates for what seems a long time. In the end he doesn't have to make the choice as a shoal of sprats and mackerel arrive in the harbour and there is more than enough fish for all. Victor Ambrus' evocative and expressive pictures help to bring the story to life. The book is targeted at 8-12 year olds, but personally I think it is better suited to the upper end of this age range, with readers given the opportunity to discuss the issues raised. The Conkers imprint features illustrated gift editions from Barrington Stoke, who specialise in producing dyslexia friendly books. 96 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, librarian.

The Seal's Fate
Discoverology: Tutankhamun's Tomb
Jen Green

QED Publishing

ISBN 9781784933821

Tutanhkhamun's Tomb, from the coffin on the cover that slides aside to reveal the mummy beneath, to the pop-up shrines, death masks and information flaps, is a real feast of exploration. Many schools cover Tutankhamun and this would be a wonderful addition to their existing topic resources as it takes us through the story of how Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun's tomb and explains what Carter found inside it, which is provided in the form of a diary entry on each spread. It also explores the high regard that pharoahs were held in while on Earth, and what was anticipated for them during their journey into the afterworld - there's even a pop-up boat on the back pages, representing the model boats that the pharoah would have needed in the afterlife. It's a very physical book - you want to delve into the layers of shrine and unwrap the mummified corpse as you turn the pages - and the information is provided alongside the images and novelties in easily-accessible chunks of text. The book covers a huge amount - from Ancient Egyptian gods and the process of mummification to hieroglyphics and the Rosetta Stone, to objects from everyday life - but it never feels overwhelming, rather like something you want to delve into and explore. 40 pages / Ages 7-11 years / Reviewed by Louise Gahan, teacher.

Discoverology: Tutankhamun's Tomb
National Geographic Kids Infopedia 2016 (Infopedia )
National Geographic Kids

National Geographic Kids

ISBN 9781426322440

Infopedia 2016, created by National Geographic Kids, is a wonderful information book that can be used across KS2 and up to KS3. The subjects it covers include science, geography, culture, animals, nature and climate change, among others. There is a 'fun and games' section full of quizzes and jokes, but the book's real value is in its layout with an exciting design and bite-sized chunks of information that will keep readers aged happily browsing. The magazine-style format comes with the kinds of headlines you'd expect - fun but informative, taking a slightly different approach to the subject matter, for example 'Secrets of the Spirit Bear' and 'Freaky Frogs' which are bound to catch readers' attention. The format, a rather chunky soft-back, is easy to handle and carry around. This is the kind of book that you want to leave on library tables to encourage browsing as it has bags of appeal. 352 pages / Ages 8-13 years / Reviewed by ReadingZone.

National Geographic Kids Infopedia 2016 (Infopedia )
Diary of a Time Traveller
David Long

Wide Eyed Editions

ISBN 9781847806369

This gorgeously-designed, large format book takes us on tour through history, from 1 million BC (our ancient ancestors) to 1969 and the first landing on the moon. We travel with a boy, his history teacher and a time-travel diary, meeting some famous faces from history on the way. The teacher has given him the time-travelling diary after he complained history was 'boring'. The book is an attempt to bring history to life for children, choosing significant periods in human development to showcase including developments in medicine, printing and space exploration. Each spread is dominated by the illustrations, with short and punchy text explaining what is on the page. including a useful timeline on the front page. 64 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Alice Hughes.

Diary of a Time Traveller