NEW TITLES

There are some strong books this month that would make great 'transition' books as readers progress into Year 7, and lots of adventure and drama in the books for older readers included in this selection.

Knights of the Borrowed Dark (Knights of the Borrowed Dark Book 1)
Dave Rudden

Puffin

ISBN 9780141356600

An orphanage perched on a wild and windy hillside is the only home that Denizen Hardwick can remember. Life is bleak and difficult, but the gloom is alleviated by Simon, their friendship forged through 'furtive book trades at night, an inquisitive nature in common and a shared dislike of sports'. Out of the blue, around the time of his thirteenth birthday, Denizen's previously unheard of Aunt sends for him, despatching a car and driver to bring him to the city. The journey, however, is complicated by an encounter with something in the dark and Denizen receives his first introduction into the lives and battles of the Knights of the Borrowed Dark - a band of brave and fearless fighters against the forces of evil known as the Tenebrous. Though marked out from birth as potential knights, each one does have a choice; to take up the challenge and pay the price, or to walk away from the battle. This is the choice Denizen is faced with as he learns about his family and the enemy that confronts the human race. So, a story about good and evil, heroes and monsters, magic and duty? Yes, all of those things, but also the story of a young boy taken out of the (admittedly not very pleasant) environment that he has known all his life and dropped into a world that he cannot understand, his only defence being his sense of humour and his curiosity. Readers of Derek Landy and Rick Riordan will instantly feel a bond with the world that Dave Rudden has created and enjoy that mix of horror, magic and humour that can produce a foe like The Clockwork Three. 368 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

Knights of the Borrowed Dark (Knights of the Borrowed Dark Book 1)
Pax
Sara Pennypacker

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780008124090

This is a story of how a boy and his abandoned fox reunite against all the odds. Despite his father, a 300 mile trek, a broken leg and a war zone, Peter proceeds with unwavering determination to find his fox, Pax. He is reluctantly helped by Vola, who has been damaged by her experiences as a soldier in a previous conflict and has difficulty trusting anyone including herself. The bond of friendship between Peter and Pax is remarkable and it is this that makes Pax equally determined to find his boy. Pax doesn't know how to hunt or protect himself and has never been left on his own in the wild before. He braves starvation, a minefield and an attacking pack of coyotes to reach his boy. He is reluctantly helped by a female fox, Bristle, whose whole family was destroyed by humans except for her young pack brother Runt. She can't understand why Pax would want to find Peter as all humans are untrustworthy. I loved the parallel stories and how each of the two main characters, the boy and the fox, developed and grew throughout the book and the way they learned much about themselves and their place in the world. Vola and Bristle made great supporting characters; the portrayal of the complicated nature of them both in such a simple way was superb. Runt was delightful. A great story just to enjoy, but has plenty to keep a class or group going with discussion too. Good readers from age 10 would enjoy it, and would also have something for teenage readers too. Unusually for serious book for this age group, we are also treated to some great illustrations. 276 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian.

Pax
Trickster
Tom Moorhouse

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192743992

I have to say that I never thought I would write that I was excited to read a story about rats! But having read Tom Moorhouse's two previous novels, The River Singers and The Rising, I knew I would not be disappointed. Both of these were about rodents, and this story tells of the world of rats, of three clans, and of two brothers; Ash who is an albino rat, and Gabble who tries to protect his foolish sibling. Ash goes further than the other rats on his name raid as he knows of a place to find an egg, and Gabble who has always protected his brother follows him. The egg is of course in the chicken house and the scene where the chickens attack the two is quite ferocious. But Ash has eaten something he should not as it was not marked for rats to eat, and when they return he is very ill and only partially recovers. On this raid Gabble and Ash have met another clan in Notratlan, who this time let them go. Further beyond them are the Damplanders and it is to them that Ash makes his way. Gabble follows has a frightening encounter with a cat, and tracks Ash to the Damplanders burrows where the Raithir rules with fear. The clan think Ash is the Taker, who gives names as they die fighting, but the other clans get their names before that to enable them to pass through the Taker's Land of Bones. In a magnificent denouement to the story, Ash is rescued and finds his voice, rescues the Damplanders from their fear, but is killed by the cat, and Gabble finds he is not welcomed back by his own clan but forms his own with Feather who has stood by him. This is an amazing story, telling of a complete world with its own rules for living, for bringing up the young rats, for passing to adulthood. Violence is not what they want and the picture of the clan ruled by fear is mirrored in many societies in our world. The other two stories had lovely black and white drawings decorating the pages and these are missing from this story which is a pity, but the cover is very good. Tom Moorhouse is an ecologist at Oxford University, and his love for his animal characters shines through this story. Surely the Carnegie Medal judges should be looking at this title for 2017? Young people 10+ will be engrossed in this story. 256 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, librarian.

Trickster
Head Over Heels (Geek Girl, Book 5)
Holly Smale

HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN 9780007574629

Harriet Manners is back with a fresh set of problems and a fresh set of lists and bizzare facts. In her own unique way she sets about helping Wilbur with his bankruptcy problems, her dad with his jobless situation, the tooth-achingly cute Japanese Rin with her love life and all her friends to be happy. Many colour-coded binders and plans later, after much sneaking about and lying to her step-mum, Annabel, she manages to complicate everyone's lives beyond recognition. In the usual Geek Girl style, she ends up having the most tremendous adventures and mishaps along the way. She plays her historical heroine Queen Elizabeth I for a day and has a whirlwind secret and near-fatal trip to India. She gets to know her baby sister Tabitha better, cuddles an elephant and falls flat on her face in front of the most important people at Vogue. With the unflinching love and support from her friends almost everything turns out for the best in the end, mostly in spite of rather than because of her meddling. She even starts to dare to love again after her last romance. Very funny, with a great supporting cast of colourful characters, with foreign travel, romance and many misunderstandings and mishaps it should appeal to any young teenage girl. While you could read it without reading the others first, this is the fifth book in a series that still has plenty of life in it. 446 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school libarian.

Head Over Heels (Geek Girl, Book 5)
A Dark Trade
Mary Hooper

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781125168

Set in Victorian London, Dark Trade has a feisty female main character, Gina, who at the start of the book is brought from an orphanage to be a kitchen maid in a wealthy household. Her delight at getting a job, rather than being in the workhouse, fades when the son of the house starts paying her unwanted attentions. She, and we as readers, has no illusions as to what this means for her, so takes the bold step of running away and disguising herself as a boy to survive in London. She finds a job in a second hand clothes shop, only to discover her employer is involved in the trade of dead bodies, robbing corpses from recent graves to sell for medical research. The story has a realistic edge to it, not romanticising the past, and Gina is a likeable and believable character. The dangers and inequalities of Victorian life for a young lower class girl are well portrayed. My only disappointment was the ending, which unlike the rest of the book seemed too glib. Gina and the friend she has met, who was forced by her father to beg as a blind girl, steal a horse and cart, and set off for Dorset, Gina no longer disguised as a boy. Their chances of making it seem remote, but the author presents this as a happy ending. Dark Trade is in the usual Barrington Stoke style, dyslexia friendly, and a short 85 page read. It will appeal to those who like historical fiction, and is a well written, enjoyable addition to their list. 85 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Carol Williams, author.

A Dark Trade
Maladapted
Richard Kurti

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406346299

Cillian, a 16 year old maths genius, is on his way to university in Foundation City when terrorists strike the Metro. Showing superhuman strength he didn't know he had, Cillian survives and brings his father out from the destruction around him. His father dies soon afterwards, but manages to pass on a mysterious message to his son, the single word 'Gilgamesh'. Tess follows The Faith, whose followers looked after her as an orphaned child, and is against everything that the high-tech world around Foundation City stands for. Fiercely loyal to The Faith, she belongs to Revelation, the group behind the attack. Appalled and confused at the loss of life she has helped cause, she is asked to target Cillian and find out more about him. Tess engineers a meeting with Cillian and they become firends. As they set out together to find out the truth about Cillian's father's mysterious message and about Cillian's true identity, they make disturbing discoveries which lead them both to question their beliefs and backgrounds. This is a fast-paced, exciting book set in a futuristic world, which is made believable by being recognisably our own 21st century world with scientific advances which are easy for us to imagine. Lots of action and chase scenes would easily translate to the big screen. The two main characters are caught between two powerful and dangerous factions and the reader is led to consider the science versus religion debate whilst enjoying the twists and turns of the plot. This would appeal to 12+ readers who have enjoyed other dystopian fiction like The Maze Runner. 307 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Karen Poolton, college librarian

Maladapted
Cecelia Ahern

ISBN 9780008125103

I have always enjoyed Cecelia Ahern's novels and was intrigued about what her first teenage/young adult novel would be like. It turns out that it is a brilliant, absorbing, thought-provoking read, which I foresee becoming one of the next big teenage series. There may be many other dystopian series are out there already but this one, I think, is a very welcome addition to the collection. Set in a world very recognisable to ours today, Celestine and her family live in a country which has two sets of rules to abide by, firstly, the ordinary criminal laws and secondly, the directives issued by The Guild. After having suffered a major economic crisis caused by those in power who, it is felt, got away with their poor decisions and the devastating consequences, The Guild was developed to weed out such Flawed individuals from powerful roles. However, over time its reach has extended into all areas of society, all demographics; nobody is untouchable. The head of The Guild, Judge Bosco Crevan, boasts that they will soon have a 'morally, ethically flawless society'. But is this at all possible and how far is too far in the desire to get to this ideal? Crevan, for many, is a scary figure, but to Celestine, he is a friend, the father of her perfect boyfriend, somebody who she respects and admires. She is logical, sees things in black and white, trusts the system, and never questions it. The Guild and Crevan are always right and those that they have deemed Flawed deserve all that the non-Flawed society can throw at them. This includes everything from wearing an identifying armband and having a curfew right up to being branded, their skin seared with an F. One day an event occurs which shocks Celestine to her core and her certainty in the system is shaken. As events escalate she finds herself on the wrong side of The Guild. It is from here that she begins to question everything and sees society, The Guild, and the Judge as they really are. As she becomes more aware and questions her society more, she begins to realise that she holds all the power and it is up to her how she uses it. This novel is engaging and thought-provoking. It has intense moments, and many parallels with our world (both historically and contemporary), including media manipulation and political deception as well as how the Other in society is treated. I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment. 416 pages / Ages 13+ / Reviewed by Natalie Plimmer

Phoenix Burning
Bryony Pearce

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847156709

This is action and adventure at its swashbuckling best (and no, I still have no idea what a swash is and why it requires buckling in times of adventure). The solar panels the Phoenix crew had fought so hard for are effectively 'expensive ornaments' without an inverter. Without the solar panels the Phoenix cannot possibly hope to find the island. Without the island there's no sanctuary for the Phoenix, no end, a continuance of sails, sea, salvage, survive. Repeat. So when Ayla turns up on the Phoenix with a plan to get inverters, she finds an audience willing to listen...even when the plan involves deception, danger and theft from a sect of sun worshippers; should be easy for pirates. Success hinges on Toby and Ayla's ability to be crowned Sun and Moon; but only as the selection trials progress do they fully understand the implication of failure. Phoenix Rising, the predecessor to this book set the tone and landscape as the crew ventured to survive and track down solar panels, a precious commodity vital to their dream of finding the safe island. Phoenix Burning again follows the crew as they move another step closer to their dream. Despite being the second book you could understand Phoenix Burning even if you hadn't read Phoenix Rising, but why would you do that? You'd be missing an excellent read! Other great characters, the sunblind Father Dahon and cruelly devout Mother Hesper, add an austere chilliness to the proceedings. Hunger Games meets Mortal Engines, and it would appeal to fans of both. 416 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell

Phoenix Burning
The Bombs That Brought Us Together: Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2016
Brian Conaghan

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408855744

Raw and foul-mouthed, this is a perfect book for teenage boys! It is set in Little Town - where Charlie Law lives - and where life is not great and there are plenty of rules and people to stay on the right side of, but the alternative is over the border in the Old Country where things appear to be worse. Into Charlie Law's life comes Pav, who with his Mum and Dad is a refugee from the Old Country. Pav's command of English is not great, and he is going to be a target for the bullies when he joins Charlie at school but Charlie befriends Pav and together they make a den in an old shed, and Charlie starts to teach his friend English. Then they encounter the Big Man and things start to come unstuck. Charlie's Mum needs an inhaler to keep her breathing, and the Big Man supplies that, but of course he wants something in return. When the Old Country bomb Little Town and then occupies it, Charlie then finds out what the Big Man wants him to do; hide a gun and kill. There is a terrific twist at the end which I won't spoil! The author has got inside the head of a teenage boy, a boy who reads and wants to learn, loves his parents, wants Erin F for his girl, befriends an unlikely boy, is afraid of bullies, and is caught in a dreadful trap. Does he do what the Big Man wants and save his mother's life and his friend's family? Or can he work a way out that he can live with? The writing is short, sharp and powerful, and has an immediacy that cannot be denied and would read aloud so well. It would also make a terrific film! It is a quite unique novel. 368 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, librarian.

The Bombs That Brought Us Together: Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2016