NEW TITLES

There is a wide range of fulfilling and imaginative stories for KS2 children in this month's highlights, including action adventure books as well as quieter books that beautifully explore some challenging situations for child protagonists.

The Journey
Francesca Sanna

Flying Eye Books

ISBN 9781909263994

It can be hard to find books that adequately explain to children what lies behind the stories of migrants now featuring on our news reports and television screens, but The Journey, a picture book by Francesca Sanna, does this in a deceptively simple and heartfelt way. The story, an account by a child, describes how the two siblings and their mother are forced to leave their home 'when the war began' and their father is killed. They must travel to an unknown place, 'A country far away with high mountains', which they hope will provide a new home, and safety. The text is simple but the dangers and fears the family face is in the imagery - dark hands reaching out for them from the night, towering figures of angry border guards, threatening eyes peering at them from the trees they hide among, and, as the child says, "The further we go...the more we leave behind". We see the strength and bravery of the mother, pedalling her sleeping children through the night, or weeping only while they are asleep in her arms - for the children, she is 'always brave'. But they travel on, over the threatening seas, to a land that is safe and our last glimpse of them is on a train heading to a place where they hope to find a safe home. When I spoke to my eight year old daughter about the story, she felt it was hopeful and positive at the end although she understood the dangers they faced earlier in the story. The Journey can be used across KS2 - and even into early KS3 - to explore the stories behind the migrant images on our televisions, what individual families must go through to reach safety, and how children are affected by war. The opportunities for exploring visual literacy are stunning and in writing, children can complete the story - where might the family have ended their journey and what might it have been like for them in that new country? 48 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Julie Brown.

The Journey
Mick Manning, Brita Granstrom

ISBN 9781847807595

The life of William Shakespeare, from birth to grave, is a brilliantly told in words and pictures. Simon Callow's quote on the cover says it all; this is 'a perfect introduction to the real Shakespeare'. Packed with information about Elizabethan life as well as the man himself, Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom manage to inform and entertain the reader in equal measure. Quotes from Shakespeare's writing introduce each section and the use of the present tense in the main body of the text to tell Will's story is very effective. Other sections of text using the past tense add details or further explore some of the hazier details, making it very clear when information about Shakespeare's life is sparse or confusing. The section on the 'Lost Years' is very well handled, covering lots of the theories, but leaving it to the reader to decide. The book also summarises some of Shakespeare's plays, keeping true to their story whilst making them accessible and (easier!) to follow. It also briefly touches on the sonnets with part of Sonnet 18 being read by Shakespeare himself!& A must for school libraries (primary and secondary), this is an invaluable resource for teachers as well as being an excellent read! 48 pages Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Phil Earle

ISBN 9781444013887

Superhero Street is the second novel from author Phil Earle, his first was Demolition Dad. Illustrations by Sara Ogilvie really bring the action to life with hilarious accuracy. Fans of Roald Dahl, Liz Pichon and David Walliams will love this! In the story, Michael J Mouse is so desperate to be a superhero that he catches spiders in the hope that one of them will bite him with their radioactive teeth. Unfortunately, no matter how many comic books he reads, he still hasn't developed any powers and remains an awkward 10 year old who wears glasses. Life at school is miserable as Mouse is plagued by bullies and it isn't brilliant at home either. His parents are both too busy working and looking after his five younger brothers (yes five! One set of twins and one of triplets) to pay him any attention. Mouse retreats to his attic room and draws superhero adventures that he wishes would come true for him. To make matters worse, his dad literally disappears in the middle of his magic show leaving a note to explain that he is too tired to continue to be a part of the family. It is shortly after Dad disappears and whilst on duty as a lollipop lady, that Mum (accidentally!) foils a bank robbery and both she and Mouse leap to fame on the local news. Mouse announcement that 'sometimes being normal can be extraordinary and people should stand up, be proud and unite' brings a number of unlikely superheroes to his front door and the Z List are formed. Little do they know that one of their group is seeking revenge for their meddling..... This is most definitely a laugh out loud book and would make a great class read in KS2 schools. I loved all the characters and will definitely seek out Phil Earle's other books now. 192 pages / Ages 7/8+ / Reviewed by Kerra Dagley, school librarian.

Witch Watch
Sibeal Pounder

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408852699

The third book in the series, Witch Watch, sees our witchy heroine Tiga Whicabim ready to set off in search for her missing mother in the Silver City. However, just as she's getting ready to leave, colour starts to return into the black and white world of Sinkville. First, in the shape of a green apple and then in the less than perfect shape of Miss Heks, Tiga's old guardian. Miss Heks returns from 'Above pipes' wearing a horrible orange dress and plonks her entire house next door to Miss Brew's. She takes an abnormal interest in Tiga's pet slug and when Tiga and her friends travel to Silver City, they find out there's more to Sluggfrey than his slimy appearance would suggest. As usual the story ends with good witches battling with the evil ones. The WARWOP continue to advise everyone to panic responsibly and Fran the Fairy is more of a hindrance than a help. Finally, Felicity Bat has an important decision to make, will she battle on the side of good or evil? A good, fun, easy read recommended for girls who like their adventure stories served with a dash of humour. I loved the hats that Fran's fairy fan club had made up - read it to find out why! 272 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Kerr Dagley, school librarian.

Witch Watch
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
Perijee & Me
Ross Montgomery

Faber & Faber

ISBN 9780571317950

When Caitlin, a very lonely young girl, discovers a strange prawn-shaped creature on the beach, she decides that she must look after it just like she did the seagull, otter, and lobster she has taken in as pets before. However, this animal is not quite what it seems and despite Caitlin's best intentions near apocalyptic chaos ensues. Caitlin soon discovers that this is not a run-of-the-mill prawn as it changes shape and colour - even mirroring her appearance. It glows, has strange symbols all over it, and grows larger all the time. As she struggles to deal with its ever-demanding hunger, she feels more isolated from her serious parents - a marine biologist and an astrobiologist - who she feels are disappointed in her lack of academic success. Her dyslexia is hinted at often but is never spelt out or brought to a conclusion, which I did expect it to. The book ends with her still thinking she is stupid because she has trouble reading and not understanding why letters move and twist shape on the page. As Caitlin grows closer to the creature, whom she names Perijee, she becomes convinced that her dad will be able to help him get back to his home planet and by teaching him all about the world she will prove herself to her father in particular. However, her plan fails as Perijee becomes very frightened when her parents do not react as she expected them to when she presents them with this strange being. This is disastrous because Perijee's emotions are embodied by a gigantic monster with far-reaching tentacles which cause devastation to the world. In her attempt to reunite with Perijee, Caitlin goes on an epic journey across the country where she meets many unusual characters, and ultimately discovers that she is not as alone as she once was. Montgomery, author of 'Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door' and 'The Tornado Chasers', has produced an original, entertaining and deadpan novel which is both a gentle and down-to-earth story about a lonely little girl desperate for a friend and an over-the-top drama of aliens, monsters, and a quest through apocalyptic destruction. 233 pages / Ages 8-12 years / Reviewed by Natalie Plimmer, librarian.

Perijee & Me
Raymie Nightingale
Kate DiCamillo

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406363135

Raymie's father ran away with the dental hygienist and didn't even say goodbye but Raymie has a plan to get him to come back. While carrying out the first steps of her plan, she meets the sickly but inspirational Louisiana Elephante and the fearless, talented Beverly Tapinski. The three girls build an unlikely friendship as they keep meeting for a baton twirling class that never actually happens. Their adventures as the Three Rancheros involve animal rescue, breaking and entering, a near drowning, lock picking and sneaking around in the middle of the night, not to mention terrifying car rides with Louisiana's Granny. They learn how the world works; the disappointment, betrayal and heartbreak that people bring. They also learn that friendship, love and support can be more powerful. The beautifully simple storytelling style disguises the complex themes of the tale. It covers issues such as family break up, bereavement, poverty and loneliness as well as the strength of true friendships. 269 pages / Age 8-14 / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian.

Raymie Nightingale
The Thing about Jellyfish
Ali Benjamin

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781447283836

Suzy Swanson is fascinated by jellyfish. Traumatised by the death of her friend, Franny, Suzy stops talking and becomes obsessed with jellyfish, convinced that a sting caused her friend to drown. Suzy and Franny used to be inseparable but had lost their friendship and when Franny's life is lost, Suzy finds it all too difficult to cope with and retreats into a world of silence and obsession. She sets out to prove that a rare jellyfish sting led to the drowning and feels she needs to consult the world's greatest jellyfish expert. This leads to a grand plan involving a trip to the other side of the world. Suzy's coming to terms with loss is chronicled in first person narrative, flashbacks to before Franny's death and extracts from notes and letters, each appearing in different fonts, helping the reader distinguish between different strands of the story. These are interspersed with beautifully intricate drawings and fascinating facts about jellyfish. This is a story about grief, coming to terms with loss, friendship and growing up. It is tenderly told and Suzy's thoughts and feelings are convincing and believable. The sadness is interspersed with some lighter moments too and I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to readers of 10+. 344 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Karen Poolton, college librarian.

The Thing about Jellyfish
Boy X
Dan Smith

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781909489042

Summed up in three words by the publishers as 'Action', Survival, Terror', I'd have to agree. I read this book in one sitting, I just had to find out what would happen to Ash before I put it down. The book opens with Ash McCarthy, returning home after his dad's funeral, before he wakes up in a strange, white room with no memory of how he got there. The only familiar thing he finds when he wakes up, are his dad's identity discs on the table next to his bed. These and the mantra his dad taught him 'I am Ash McCarthy. I am strong. I can do this', are all he needs to find the strength to look for his mum and a way out. Wandering through the corridors, he works out that he is in a Biomesa facility (the company his mum works for) in a jungle. He also finds out that his senses have gone into overdrive; he can see, hear and smell things that he has never noticed before. Ash meets Isabel and she helps him to piece together how and when he got to the island of Isla Negra, near Costa Rica. For the rest of the story Ash has to find out why he is on the island. That turns out to be the key to saving himself, his mum and the rest of the world from a group bent on wiping everyone off the face of the planet. This would be great for older reluctant readers, being short with loads of action and adventure. I would also recommend it for more able readers who want a quick read. 352 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Kerra Dagley, school librarian.

Boy X
Counterstrike
Peter Jay Black

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408851494

In their latest adventure, the Urban Outlaws continue to use plenty of gadgets and cunning plans to thwart their arch enemy, Hector's attempt to obtain a deadly, but mysterious weapon. Tested to the limits of their ingenuity, they also face dealing with personal old scores which are still painful. Will this adventure take them to breaking point? As with every Urban Outlaws story, this is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure with great characters. There are gadgets galore and the groups' antics are ever more daring, pushing their skills to new levels. The challenge of retrieving the weapon from its location - locked behind five levels of security challenges under an oil refinery - exposes more of the characters to the reader. Jack, the meticulously planned, highly organised leader of the pack, finds his focus drifting as he worries about other issues and forms a dodgy alliance; the events around Charlie's father's death are explored, showing her in a different light; the indestructible Slink is wounded. Everything about this book makes it appealing to children: the lurid covers, the gadgets, the action, the pace, the very diverse and equally strong characters - even the font used and the spacious feel to the page layout invites the reader to read on! This is a great series- well worth investing in! 315 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Counterstrike
How to Look for a Lost Dog
Ann M. Martin

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474906470

Homonyms play a large part in this book telling of Rose Howard who has Asperger's. Author Ann M. Martin is probably best known for her Babysitters' Club books. It is quite a tour de force and as the reader gets to know Rose she grows in stature and becomes a friend one can admire and love. Rose lives with her father (her mother has disappeared and all she has is a box of objects that she looks at secretly), and goes to school where she has an adult with her all through her day to help her control her outbursts, and learn. Her father's brother Weldon gives her immense support, taking her back and forth to school and interceding with her father from time to time. She also has Rain, a rescue dog her father brought home. During a huge storm her father lets Rain out into the yard and the dog disappears. Rose is devastated and blames her father for letting the dog out without the collar which would identify her. But Rose is not to be cast down by this and works out a system of contacting all the animal shelters in the area. Weldon helps her and while they find Rain, they also discover the dog is micro-chipped and belongs to someone else. Courageously Rose determines to return the dog to its rightful owner, helped by her teacher. In a sad scene Rose returns Rain, and then her father decides to leave her and hand her over to Weldon and the story ends with the two of them discussing getting another rescue dog. To make the story of a girl who is very different from her peers readable and sympathetic is due to the skill of Ann M. Martin. Rose's obsession with homonyms, and her inability to sometimes control what she says, particularly to her father, who is not an easy man but who is grappling with a child who is different and whom he does not really know how to manage and love, are described with care, but does not obscure Rose's story. This is the story of a girl who loves her dog but when she finds out things are not right has the courage to make things so. Girls of 10 + will read this and learn much, and this will be useful to teachers and parents to explain about children who are different but the same in so many ways. 234 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, librarian.

How to Look for a Lost Dog