NEW TITLES

This month's selection of books includes some great discussion-starters, like The Orange House, and also some brilliant adventures in other worlds (The Secret Railway, Hamish and the Neverpeople) or some very realistic settings that still have a touch of fantasy in which children face real challenges, like Time Travelling with a Hamster. These are our chosen highlights for this month.

The Orange House
Nahid Kazemi

Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781910328118

This picture book for slightly older readers describes in muted colours and text a neighbourhood of colourful, smart modern buildings all around a solitary Orange House. At first the modern buildings think that Orange House doesn't want to talk to them because she doesn't like them; but when they hear what the neighbourhood used to be like, full of houses like Orange and with large gardens, they vow to protect her instead from the oncoming builders: "The Orange House keeps our alley more beautiful," says one. "Without her, we can't breathe easily," says another. It is a fable about change, remembering one's cultural heritage and taking care of the environment. The book is translated from Arabic.

The Orange House
There's a Dragon in my Dinner!
Tom Nicoll

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847156716

I can already think of many young readers (aged seven to nine years) who will really enjoy this new series by Tom Nicoll. Eric loves Friday night takeaways but this particular week the bean sprouts come with more than he'd anticipated - a Mini-Dragon, called Pan, which has lost its way (it should be in Mexico) and ends up in the UK under Eric's care. Pan loves reading comics, and flying, but still has many things to learn about human life, while Eric has lots to learn about Mini Dragons. Unfortunately, Eric finds that there is also a lot that can go wrong with a Mini-Dragon in the room and he ends up being blamed for most of it, but through their ups and downs, a firm bond develops. The text is easy to read, the story moves quickly and it's very funny - in short, it has bags of appeal for young, independent readers. I'm looking forward to reading more about this duo! 160 pages / Ages 7-9 years / Reviewed by Ella Reece.

There's a Dragon in my Dinner!
The Secret Railway
Wendy Meddour

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192745545

When siblings Leo and Ella move house, the last thing they expect to find at the back of their new home is a secret railway station. It gets more peculiar when they get on board the magnificent steam train passing through and on board discover a prince under a curse, a table that can stop time and strange mechanical birds. They soon learn that the prince has been forced to drive the train by his wicked stepmother, Griselda, and the only way to free him is to return some magical objects to their rightful owners. The story moves at a gallop and each page brings a strange new creature or thing, so will keep young readers entranced. The relationship between Leo, the older brother, and Ella is also solidly drawn; he patiently extracts Ella from trouble each time she jumps into it head first. The story is peppered with energetic black and white drawings and the text is nicely paced. In all, there's lots to appeal to young readers. 145 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Stephanie Black.

The Secret Railway
Hamish and the Neverpeople
Danny Wallace

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471123917

Hamish and his friends are back in action again! Having saved the world once, they now need to face a new threat. Something strange is happening. When the Prime Minister comes to Starkley (one of Britain's most boring towns) to film an episode of Question Me Silly, he suddenly announces to the nation, 'I really like my little blue pants'. Hamish notices a strange blank look in the Prime Minister's eyes and realises something is wrong. It's time for the PDF (Pause Defence Force) to swing into action! This is a very funny, very readable book that will appeal to younger readers looking for a longer read, older readers looking for a quicker read and everybody in between! Full of jokes and word play, the story moves at a pleasing pace and keeps you laughing throughout. What I particularly liked about this book were the characters. Hamish is essentially a very 'normal' little boy- he misses his dad; he has worries; he has good friends. He is a hero because he wants to do the right thing even though it is not easy for him. Alice is an excellent friend, supportive and feisty- and 'always prepared!'. Hamish's family are also appealing personalities - I share many of his mother's worries! (Or so my son would tell you!) & A fun read with plenty of humour and plenty of action - and someone else who struggles to spell tarquise/torkoyz- a sort of aquamarine colour!

Hamish and the Neverpeople
Time Travelling with a Hamster
Ross Welford

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780008156312

When Al Chaudhury discovers his (dead) father's time machine, he is set a challenge which involves going back to the 1980s. He quickly finds himself involved in breaking and entering, setting fire to a school, lying, stealing, and trying not to lose his hamster, Alan Shearer. This is a very clever story, combining lots of science, interesting facts, humour and a very well-plotted story. Full of twists and turns, plenty of adventure and wonderful characters, the book leads to a very satisfying conclusion. Family relationships are at the heart of this story, particularly those between the male figures. Without wishing to give too much away, the relationship between Al and his father is cleverly explored and developed. Al's grandfather, Byron, is a delightful character who adds much humour and love to the story. A challenging read, this will appeal to anyone who likes a read that keeps them on their toes and offers plenty to think about. 400 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Time Travelling with a Hamster
Beetle Boy
M. G. Leonard

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781910002704

This gorgeously-produced book (there are colourful beetle images down the outside pages) is a strong adventure story that will also probably tell you more than you ever knew about beetles. It was in wondering what beetles really are and what they do that got the author, MG Leonard, putting pen to paper to write this story, and there are lots of judiciously-used facts about beetles throughout its pages. Beetle Boy begins with a locked room mystery; Darkus Cuttle's dad has disappeared from a looked beetle collection room at the Natural History Museum and no one knows how or where to start looking for him. Darkus, with the help of two friends - and a very special rhinoceros beetle called Baxter - begins to realise that beetles are the clue they need. When he discovers a 'beetle mountain' in the house next door to them, and discovers that the sharply-dressed villain of the piece, Lucretia Cutter, wants to get her hands on these beetles, Darkus realises that there is more to this mystery and that these beetles are being specially bred for other means... First, however, he needs to find his dad. While there is a well-rounded ending, we still haven't got to the bottom of the mystery around the beetles leaving plenty to follow up in the next two books. This is an appealing story for readers aged 9+ that moves quickly and has lots of humour as well as engaging characters and some deftly-drawn villains. You should also expect lots of beetles! 322 pags / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone.

Beetle Boy
Dreaming the Bear
Mimi Thebo

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192745880

Darcy has been taken from the shopping streets of London to live with her naturalist father in the wilderness that is Yellowstone Park. Surrounded by snow and with no mobile phone signal she feels totally isolated. And to make thing worse she has some mystery illness that means she is tired and unable to move most of the time. Nothing redeems the place apart from a boy in her brother's class and since she hardly ever goes to school, that doesn't mean much. Under doctor's orders, she tries to take some exercise but she goes too far and gets wet as she tries to climb up to a cave; in freezing conditions, that is not a good thing. She saves herself by sleeping in the arms of a hibernating bear. She forms a connection with the bear and tries to save it but just as she comes to love the wilderness and her surroundings, she has to come to terms with the reality of living in the wild with wild animals. This is a beautiful and sometimes dream-like book. The narrative switches between Darcy and the sleeping bear, which somehow gives it a depth of feeling that could easily be missed. We understand how Darcy becomes so enamoured with the bear and local culture that invests so much meaning into the spirits of the animals. Although the end is sad, it is also uplifting as Darcy comes to terms with her surroundings, the expectations of her family and her mystery illness. A good read for animal romantics and serious naturalists alike. 192 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Caroline Downie, librarian.

Dreaming the Bear
Beasties in My Backyard
Camilla de le Bedoyere

QED Publishing

ISBN 9781784934361

This factual book about common garden bugs is really well presented with large, labelled close-ups of the featured 'beastie' with fact files and box outs alongside. While we may all be familiar with snails, ladybirds and cockroaches, this book gives useful background on their family name, habitats and habits, much of which I didn't know, and the range of creatures it explores is wide, from snails and grasshoppers to flies and beetles. A useful book to have alongside nature topics and for individual readers who enjoy factual books. 80 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Louise John.

Beasties in My Backyard