NEW TITLES

There are some beautifully-illustrated and presented stories for younger readers this month, while humour, the environment and mystery stories are among our selections for older readers.

Dotty Detective (Dotty Detective, Book 1)
Clara Vulliamy

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780008132491

This is a witty little book told first hand by 'Dot', a zainy girl with an obsession for stationary and solving puzzles! This story follows Dot as she starts at a new school, makes a friend and then sets up a detective agency. Together they help the school talent show to run smoothly (though it's not without hiccups!). The story is laid out like a scrap book, the text amount on each page is quite little and its a very visual book, supported by illustrations that look like Polaroids stuck in! This book would be great for under-confident readers who want a humouous story that isn't intimidating. It's friendly, easy to read and easy to follow. Dot is a lively girl and I think many children will relate easily to this character - from living with her chaotic younger siblings, to planning up a new design for her bedroom, this story is friendly and funny..but also very real! 176 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Lizi Coombs, teacher.

Dotty Detective (Dotty Detective, Book 1)
Sarah Lean

ISBN 9780008165666

A genuinely lovely book; this story follows Tiger Days as she goes to stay with her Grandma, who has returned form looking after animals in Africa. At the start of the story, Tiger is timid and reluctant to stay in a tent in the garden of the rambling old house her Grandma has bought but as the story develops, Tiger grows to love the place, the people and the animals that she comes to contact with. One of the stars of this story is 'Monday' the warthog that Tiger helps to train; it teaches her about bravery (something her Grandma highlights to her everyday) and, reading the story, I think I'd like a pet baby warthog! This is a charming story that is easy to read and not complicated. It's a heartwarming read, that will be popular with many animal-loving children. I think the story is more aimed at girls than boys, but don't doubt that nearly all children will love Monday the Wartie and laugh at Tom, the boy who is staying next door who makes friends with Tiger. I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to loan it to some of the animal-loving children in my class - it's a non-threatening read that will appeal to most abilities of readers, whilst not being too informal. It sets a good example of tone for young writers (An issue that, as a teacher, I have with some children's books!). 144 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Lizi Coombs, teacher.

There's a Dragon in my Backpack!
Tom Nicoll

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847156761

Pan the miniature dragon is back and he's up to even more mischief! There's A Dragon in my backpack is the hilarious fast paced sequel to Theres A Dragon in my Dinner, where we were first introduced to the loveable minuscule prawn cracker-guzzling dragon, when he is delivered to Eric's house with the beanspouts in his Chinese takeaway meal. They instantly become friends and find themselves getting into all sorts of trouble. In the sequel, Pan hitches a ride to school in Eric's backpack to beat the boredom of staying home alone. Unfortunately, he is spotted by the Eric's evil and heartless cricket bat wielding teacher Miss Biggs and only narrowly escapes extermination. Eric doesn't get off quite so lightly and his actions concealing the whereabouts of a 'rodent' who is actually a mini dragon result in a detention. The following day Pan again decides to stow away in Eric's backpack again: you'd have thought he had learnt his lesson by now and matters only get worse! Eric's backpack - with Pan inside - is misappropriated by Toby the spoilt boy next door for his show and tell assembly at his 'La-Di-Da' school. An ingenious master plan unfolds as Eric and his friends attempt a daring rescue mission whilst still serving detention. Eric again discovers that whilst mini dragons make terrible pets they do make the best kinds of friends! You do not have to read the first book to be enthralled by the second. With an equal measure loveable and loathable characters this is a funny calamitous riot of a tale. Sarah Horne's illustrations bring the story to life and the injection of Eric's side notes make fantastic additions to the book and a rest from the dialogue of the story. The pace and length of this book make it ideal for both the 'reluctant' reader and the emerging independent reader. Readers will love the discovering what happens when you take a mini dragon to school with you in your backpack! 144 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Emily Beale, primary school librarian

There's a Dragon in my Backpack!
Dave Pigeon
Swapna Haddow

Faber & Faber

ISBN 9780571323302

Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a peanut in my eye - the daring tale of best pigeon friends Dave and Skipper, as they attempt to rid themselves and their new home, from 'Mean Cat'. The feather-filled story begins with the friends recalling their first meeting during a failed croissant heist. Life doesn't get much better for pigeons Dave and Skipper as they struggle for their meagre existence on leftovers and when tempted by a crumby treat, Dave is attacked by fiery ginger Mean Cat. Fortunately Dave is rescued by a nice human lady (also the owner of Mean Cat) and taken back to her palatial shed to recover. Things seem to be on the up - if only they can rid themselves of Mean Cat! The story then follows of the mostly failed plans of our bantering heroes as they plot the demise of the cat that threatens to destroy the future of generations of pigeons (slight exaggeration) and seal for themselves a golden future of biscuits - the nice ones with the jam in the middle. Written in 'Pigeonese' (no translation necessary) on the typewriter of Swapna Haddow this hilarious story will have you laughing from cover to cover. It is refreshing to find such a witty book that does not need to resort to toilet humour to be incredible funny. The occasional breaks in the story as Dave and Skipper converse back and forth in speech bubbles is cleverly done and the evolution of their plan to expel Mean Cat resulting in lots of revisions and crossings out is another clever additional to the book. Sheena Dempsy is an incredibly talented illustrator and has added additional life and humour to Swampa Haddow's terrifically funny, characterful pigeons. Her double page spreads add brilliant comic timing and literally make the story a real page turner. The only downside of this book is that it ends so abruptly and we are left desperate to find out what happens next, there are so many unanswered questions- will Dave and Skipper live happily ever after with tummies full of biscuits (the jammy ones)? Have they finally rid themselves of Mean Cat? And how did they manage to get hold of Swapna Haddow's typewriter in the first place? Recommended to anyone who loves a giggle. This book will be adored by newly independent readers as it promises 'no boring bits'. Readers will love this action packed story about friendship, bravery and the lengths a pigeon will go to to secure themselves a crumbly treat. Review by Emily Beale, primary school librarian.

Dave Pigeon
My Little Book of Gems, Rock & Minerals
Claudia Martin

QED Publishing

ISBN 9781784934545

We're fans of the My Little Book Of.... books, although this one is aimed at a slightly older age range than some of the books in this series. The books give a great introduction to using non-fiction books, with clear and nicely illustrated layouts, informative text broken up with photographs and captions, an index and glossary. The subject matter in this - rocks, minerals and gems - also provides a more enticing look at what's 'under the ground' than many such texts and is a great resource for this topic. As well as the basics - how rock is formed, fossils, limestone and clay, gems etc - it provides more detail about how metals, carbonates, silicates and other minerals developed and are all around us. Colourful and user-friendly. 64 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Louise White.

My Little Book of Gems, Rock & Minerals
Violet and the Smugglers
Harriet Whitehorn

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471122637

Violet Remy-Robinson is all set to solve her third mystery, in this action-packed adventure. Violet and her best friends Art and Rose are invited on a summer sailing trip in Europe with Uncle Johnny on board his boat Il Taratuga. The adventure starts in Greece when Violet, always on the lookout for a new mystery to solve, notices a strange parcel delivered in the dead of night to the captain of the old tourist boat moored nearby. They have read about a gang of diamond smugglers bringing gems from North Africa into Europe, could they have stumbled upon something? The sailing trip arrives in Venice, where Violet meets up with the rest of her family including Grand-mere, who is a wonderful ebullient and resourceful character. The trail leads them to the Opera House and La Bellissima, a very famous Italian opera singer, who has set a trend of pet diamond-encrusted tortoises. Could she somehow be the ringleader of a tortoise smuggling gang? When their friend PC Green lets them down, only having eyes for the beautiful La Bellissima, the children have to try and solve the mystery themselves. Going to see the Opera becomes a real adventure, and a fast dash to the station to rescue Rose brings the culprits to justice. This is a charming mystery for young readers with fast pace and exotic settings. Venice is described beautifully with the Opera, Ice cream parlours and singing gondoliers. Violet is a wonderfully brave and determined heroine, ably assisted by her friends Art and Rose. There is a strong cast of other well described characters including Grand-mere with her dog Alphonse, the bumbling but well intentioned PC Green and of course truly excellent villains. This story is perfect for younger readers with beautiful illustrations by Becka Moor that help to guide them through the story. The book is an attractive package that will appeal to fans of Goth Girl, Ottoline and the Witch War books. 208 pages / Ages 7/8+ / Reviewed by Caroline Gosden, school librarian.

Violet and the Smugglers
Tamsin and the Deep
Neill Cameron

David Fickling Books

ISBN 9781910200773

Tamsin and the Deep is a graphic novel, excellently illustrated by Kate Brown and published by David Fickling Books in partnership with The Pheonix Comic. As a prolific reader of comics and graphic novels (Calvin and Hobbes was a particular favourite) when a teenager myself I can honestly say this is a great read for all ages if you like modern stories with fantasy and mystery. The story moves along at a fast pace and will appeal to reluctant teen readers as well as younger year groups. 96 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian.

Tamsin and the Deep
Splat!: The Most Exciting Artists of All Time
Mary Richards

Thames & Hudson Ltd

ISBN 9780500650653

This book traces artists through history and how different artistic movements have been influenced by what came before. I like the way it has been laid out with a full page for each artist - enough for children to create their own text and poster, say, for individual artists - and I think the book is well categorised and managed. However, its real strength and where it comes into its own, is the timeline of artists it provides - rather than describing artists against the usual historical timeline. This way, you can see which movements or artists have influenced those who came later and you can learn about the political landscapes of art. If you're covering the Victorians as a topic, you can discover a number of artists other than William Morris to cover in that period. Also, if children need another way of tapping into history, this is a great way to do so. Really useful and interesting. 96 pages / Ages 7/8+ / Reviewed by Louise Gahan, teacher & artist.

Splat!: The Most Exciting Artists of All Time
Wolves of Currumpaw
William Grill

Flying Eye Books

ISBN 9781909263833

In 1862, New Mexico, a lone pack of wolves roams a dramatically changing landscape. The notorious mob of grey american wolves have terrorised the region's livestock, desperate for food due to the loss of their natural habitat and food sources. They are led by Old Lobo the king of the Currumpaw valley and a 1,000 dollar bounty has been placed on his head. What follows is a true and moving story retelling the original account of Ernest Thompson Seton as he attempts to hunt and kill the infamous Lobo. Time and again the wolves evade capture and demonstrate their intelligence and considerable skill against the wiles and enticements of the hunters. Undeterred, Seton works for months poisoning, baiting and laying traps for the wolf pack. He finally reaches a breakthrough moment when he discovers Lobo's weakness - a mate, a beautiful white wolf named Blanca. The capture and death of Blanca is the bait he has needed to lure Old Lobo to him. Tragically the grieving wolf is caught and like 'a lion shorn of his strength, or an eagle robbed of his freedom' to fly he dies of a broken heart, mourning the loss of his beloved mate Blanca. Having achieved what he set out to do, Ernest Seton realises he is not proud of his actions. In the process of hunting the wolf pack he has developed an understanding of their true nature and it fills him with remorse. He embarks upon a life changing course, vowing to protect the wolf species and the conservation of all American wildlife that has become so threatened. Seton's passion for animals spreads and influences many of our modern day environmentalists including Sir David Attenborough - holding together the shared belief that the hunting of animals is not only unethical but damaging to our naturally balanced environment. The Wolves of Currumpaw story ends with the poignant and contrite words of Ernest Seton - 'Ever since Lobo, my sincerest wish has been to impress upon people that each of our native wild creatures is in itself a precious heritage that we have no right to destroy or to put beyond the reach of our children'. This is a stunningly beautiful book by award winning author William Grill. As with his last book 'Shackleton's Journey', Grill effortlessly tells a detailed and moving story through carefully crafted pencil drawn pictures and simple, thought-provoking text. In The Wolves of Currumpaw William Grill's use of earth tones magnificently reflects the beauty of the Currumpaw landscape and the animals that inhabit it. The changing plains of the American Wild West are captured in all of their forms, as are the emotions of the wolves and hunters. At times the story board styled illustrations wordlessly take over the role of storytelling, evoking the reader to ponder and reflect. This book is a exquisitely draw visual journey, at times it almost feels as though the pictures are moving. It could be argued that William Grill's greatest story telling prowess in this book, is in his ability to make a harrowing story accessible to a young reader. The simplicity of Grill's style aids the reader through a difficult journey of discovery - the unapologetic destruction of a delicately-balanced ecosystem, the unethical slaughter of animals fighting for their own survival and the remorse of a hunter vowing to never again kill an animal for sport or monetary gain. Readers will not be traumatised by this books content, however, but hopefully they will be moved to a deeper understanding of the plight of the endangered grey wolf. Highly recommended to all - budding environmentalists, animal lovers and anyone who enjoys a well told tale of the power of regret to change a person's nature from hunter to conservationist. A must for every classroom, library and child's bookshelf. 88 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Emily Beale, librarian.

Wolves of Currumpaw
The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat
Paul Tobin

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408869970

A fantastic, madcap adventure, featuring Nate (the genius) and Delphine (his only friend) on a race against time to capture Nate's invisible cat, Proton. Invisible I hear you say? Well, yes, thanks to Nate's regular attempts to challenge his genius mind, every Friday 13th doing three 'not-so-smart' things, with interesting results. This time he's made the cat, not only invisible, but enormous and now it's up to him & Delphine to stop the cat destroying the town. However, they soon find themselves up against the Red Death Tea Society, suitably villainous bad guys, who want to destroy super-genius Nate. The excitement doesn't stop with all sorts of unusual situations requiring, not just Nate's genius, but Delphine's common sense too, as well as a whole host of fantastic inventions. The question is, how clever do you have to be to rescue your hometown from inevitable destruction? I thoroughly enjoyed this story, laughing out loud on numerous occasions! The more inventive it got, the more I loved it. From talking dogs to friend-ray guns; I love the imagination, every moment you think there can't possibly be anything else, but there is! Nate's logic that sometimes 'a bit of chaos makes life better' runs throughout the story, as does the wonderful Delphine's wit and wisdom. And as for the evil Red Death Tea Society; could there be a better name for bad guys? I think not, and as a regular tea drinker, what better past time?! On a more 'serious' note, the theme of friendship is wonderfully evident throughout and how some kids just find it hard to fit in. I like the ending too, leaving you expectant for book two but also reflecting on the difference finding a new friend can make. 272 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Victoria Dilly, consultant librarian

The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat
Little Bits of Sky
S. E. Durrant

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9780857633996

It is the late 1980s and nine year old Miracle, known as Ira, and her younger brother Zac, have been in care since their mum disappeared when Zac was very small. Now they have been moved from their foster parents to a children's home, Skilly House, which they hope will be only be temporary. Ira knows that Anita, their social worker, will do all she can to find them a new family, but that they will probably be at Skilly House for a long time. The book opens with an adult Ira looking back and deciding to write down their story from the diaries she kept at the time. As a child, she felt that they were almost invisible and she wanted to make sure their story was told. She hoped that life would get better, and if it didn't then she could at least make it sound more interesting with some imaginative additions. But she didn't need to, as life got exciting all by itself... The story is set against the background of national and international events of the time, one of which, the poll tax riots, has a major impact on the lives of Ira and Zac. Skilly House has been a children's home for many years and Ira discovers a link to the past which she eventually realises is very much part of the present as well. Touching, believable, with moments of real sadness but with the ending all readers will hope for, this is an impressive debut novel by S.E. Durrant which gives real insight into the lives of looked after children. A book to recommend to readers of 9+ who want an alternative to Tracey Beaker.

Little Bits of Sky
Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth: Tom Fletcher Book Club Selection
Frank Cottrell Boyce

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9780230771376

This is a wonderful and brilliantly funny story about the importance of family and home. Prez is a kid from 'The Temporary', sent to stay with a warm noisy foster family for the summer. But Prez does not speak, not since his grandfather started to behave oddly and was taken away. He is very good at listening though, which is useful when a small noisy alien named Sputnik arrives on the doorstep. The problem is everyone else sees Sputnik as a small dog. Sputnik is on a mission to save the earth from destruction and he needs Prez to show him ten reasons why the earth is worth saving. As granddad says, start by making a list, so over the course of the summer Prez and Sputnik get into all sorts of scrapes and mad marvellous adventures trying to list the best things about our planet. We may think of the natural wonders, Niagra Falls, The Grand Canyon or the diversity of life on earth, but Sputnik is looking for simpler answers, the TV remote control, High-Vis jackets and Fish and Chips outside. After all, lots of planets in the Universe have amazing natural features and Sputnik has seen them all in his travels. Sputnik teaches Prez how to surf gravity waves, and the importance of always reading the instruction manual, but there is one lesson that is more important than all the rest. The tenth item is the most elusive of all, but when Prez and his granddad are reunited, Prez finally discovers what the answer is. This sad, funny but fantastic story, with a resemblance to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for children, will appeal to boys and girls alike. It is highly creative and will hopefully lead children to discover Frank Cottrell Boyce's other amazing books. 352 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Caroline Gosden, school

Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth: Tom Fletcher Book Club Selection
Jolly Foul Play: A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery
Robin Stevens

Puffin

ISBN 9780141369693

This is my first Wong and Wells mystery and it certainly didn't disappoint! I was quickly hooked by the goings-on at Deepdean and was not too disappointed when Elizabeth, the ghastly and obnoxious Head Girl, was found murdered! Elizabeth's death is quickly dismissed as a careless accident by the unsuspecting teachers of Deepdean. Experienced detectives Hazel and Daisy are not so easily convinced and begin making their own enquiries. What follows is an exciting 'who-done-it' as Wong and Wells try to eliminate people from their suspect list. Only for this case, they are being helped by the rest of their dorm. To add further chaos, someone starts letting out horrible secrets around school. This feels like the work of Elizabeth and her prefects, who like to rule by fear. The Detective Society have their work cut out trying to now identify two culprits. Meanwhile, Hazel and Daisy's friendship looks to be in jeopardy when Daisy catches Hazel sharing society secrets. Readers will root for Hazel as she struggles to manage her friendship with the dominant Daisy. Everyone has a friend like Daisy and readers will be willing Hazel to find the courage to stand up to her - I know I did! I'm a Detective Society convert, I can't wait to find out how Daisy and Hazel's detective careers started. At 350+ pages there's a lot of detecting to get through, but its division into six parts should make it manageable for most readers at this age. It does deal with some mature topics so I would recommend it to mature 10 and 11 year olds. This book definitely deserves a place in all primary school libraries and is a welcome addition to this genre. Finally, I loved the inclusion of 'Daisy's Guide to Deepdean' and did have to refer to it on occasion! 353 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Elizabeth Harris

Jolly Foul Play: A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery
The Girl of Ink & Stars
Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781910002742

This is a beautifully produced book from the silhouettes on the covers to the lines on every page of compass pints and latitude lines. Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a poet and the language is rich and the imagery is of a writer who loves words. The story tells of Isabella, daughter of a cartographer who has lost her mother and brother, and lives alone with her father in a dictatorial regime. Isabella is friends with the Governor's daughter, Lupe, but when Cata, a girl whom Lupe has sent into the orchard to find dragon fruit, is brutally killed, and her father will not look for the killer, Lupe goes to find the killer herself. After a rebellion in which his ship is burnt and his animals destroyed, the Governor sets off to find Lupe, but not without first arresting Isabella's father. Isabella, remorseful at the words spoken to Lupe in anger, decides to join the expedition to find Lupe who has gone off into the Forbidden Territory. Isabella has the map her mother made and uses that, pretending to be a boy to join Pablo, the horse boy and her dead brother's friend, and search for Lupe and also take the chance to update the map of the island. This proves to be a perilous mission, meeting mythical beasts and Yote the volcano at the heart of the island. The beginning of this story is confusing, there is too much crammed into the first few chapters, but it does settle down to be a quest, a journey not only to find Lupe, but to update the map her mother left Isabella. Her father's words about maps being a tool for life are employed over and over again, making sense of Isabella's search. It is a pity it was necessary for both her mother and brother to have died and Cata to have been so brutally murdered and there are other deaths too, as the story does not need them, and along with the very busy beginning chapters these could put young readers off. But the imagery of the volcano at the heart of La Gomera, an island I know well having holidayed there, is powerful and the descriptions of the tremors, the smell and the effect it has are vivid. Stronger editing would have made this a better story, but readers of 10+ who get past the first chapters, will find a rewarding and enjoyable tale, enhanced by the care that has gone into its production. 228 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Janet Fisher.

The Girl of Ink & Stars