NEW TITLES

We're settling into some 'Winter Magic' with Christmas just around the corner - as well as some fabulous non-fiction for National Non-Fiction Month - in our latest reviews.

Pinball Science
Ian Graham

Templar Publishing

ISBN 9781783705894

What a brilliant way to introduce children to the science of forces - and to have a lot of fun along the way. This boxed set includes all the parts you need to make your own pinball machine, together with a 32-page booklet explaining the science behind making it work. The text, supported by clear diagrams, covers the main forces - gravity, velocity, mass etc - and touches on the forces that make machines (levers, screws etc) work. The fun bit is definitely in creating the pinball machine, which is fairly straightforward although an adult will need to help with the fiddly bits. Once it's build, the theory is there to help show how the pinball machine will work, together with some other simple but effective experiments around forces that can also be used in the classroom. The explanations are simple and clear and the fun part is in seeing actual demonstrations of the science using the pinball machine - and the other experiments. This would make a great gift for any curious child aged 7 - 10 years, but it would also be a really useful classroom tool for helping to explain forces in a fun and accessible way. 32 page book plus pinball kit / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Carol Lloyd.

Pinball Science
Lesser Spotted Animals
Martin Brown

David Fickling Books

ISBN 9781910200537

While there are many books about endangered species, what makes this new book by Horrible Histories illustrator Martin Brown stand out is that these are the 'brilliant beasts you never knew you needed to know about'. And the humour - there are some lovely, funny moments throughout the book, lightening what is otherwise a serious subject. This is a book to dip into - don't expect to find zebras or pandas, do expect the 'dagger-toothed flower bat', the 'lesser fairy armadillo' and the 'zorilla' among others. These endangered animals come from all corners of the world and each spread is dedicated to a different one. Alongside a depiction of the creatures is text explaining why it is special and why endangered, as well as a fact box telling us its size, habitate and status - together with a final fact that brings in the funny or remarkable things that are so often what children will remember! There is lots of humour in the illustrations, too; check out the long-tailed dunnart that is crunching on a mouse paw or the sleek southern right whale dolphin. This is the kind of book that will have children returning again and again - there are so many interesting facts and touches of humour that will appeal to them. Definitely one for the class or school library! 54 pages / Ages 7-11 years / Reviewed by Alice Green.

Lesser Spotted Animals
The Girl Who Saved Christmas
Matt Haig

Canongate Books Ltd

ISBN 9781782118572

This is a joyous novel celebrating Father Christmas, and as someone who still has a stocking and whose family all do too despite our ages, I loved it! I always wondered how Father Christmas managed to get all those presents to all those children all over the world and now I know - he stops time! Amelia appears in Matt Haig's A Boy called Christmas which I had not read, but this story stands alone and tells of poor Amelia's sad route to the Workhouse run by Mr. Creeper. A world away in Elfhelm lives Father Christmas where he and his workers get ready for the big night of the year for millions of children. But the trolls attack and destroy Elfhelm, Christmas is cancelled and Amelia's sad letter to Father Christmas asking him to cure her sick mum is ignored. Amelia's mother dies and she flees only to be caught by Mr. Creeper and taken to the workhouse. In the meantime Elfhelm is rebuilt, Father Christmas is given a new sleigh and sets off to deliver the presents. His first call is intended to be on Amelia for he has found her letter, but she is not there and he has to do some detective work, aided by Charles Dickens. He tracks her down and rescues her along with Mary from the kitchens; the mystery of the trolls is finally solved on their return to Elfhelm. The word play in this story is very clever and raises a smile if not a laugh each time, and full of lovely details like the invention of the telephone. Amelia is a feisty heroine, and Father Christmas is just as we believers would imagine. There are plentiful illustrations in black and white which really add to the appeal of the story. The only criticism I have is that the death of Amelia's mother is depicted and seems to me unnecessary in a book aimed at 8-10 +. Surely Amelia could have been an orphan without that detail? Avoid pages 52-3 as they do detract from the story. But this is a minor point in a life-affirming novel. 303 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, librarian.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas
Winter Magic
Abi Elphinstone

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471159800

This fabulous new short story collection, curated by Abi Elphinstone, features a sparkling selection of stories by some of today's finest children's authors. Adventure abounds as a dazzling cast of heroines bring to life the magic of the snow-sprinkled landscape. The stories leap from the lost wonder of Thames' frost fairs enchantingly captured by Emma Carroll to Geraldine McCaughrean's haunting ice-clad fable, The Cold-Hearted. Each story has its own distinct charm but I particularly loved Michelle Harrison's, The Voice in the Snow. Her stories are always intricately-woven and this story from the world of The Other Alice is a beautifully-written and romantic tale of Gypsy and Piper and their quest to find her stolen voice. A gruelling journey takes them to unknown danger and a horrifying encounter with Gypsy's evil mother. After crossing a fortune-teller as a child, Gypsy's mother Lydia knows that she will meet her fate at her daughter's hand. After failing to kill Gypsy as a child she flees and steals Gypsy's voice, trapping it in the body of a bird. Years of silence have made Gypsy desperate and she almost kills her mother before treacherous mountain cats do the job for her and break the enchantment that bound her voice. Finally, Gypsy and Piper are free to reveal their feelings for each other in an uplifting ending to a dark and complex tale. This really is an exceptional and thoroughly enjoyable collection of stories. It's hard to pinpoint a 'weak' story and the book works as a wonderful starting point for discovering or re-visiting high-calibre middle-grade authors. Unlike some collections, this anthology feels well-rounded and substantial. It's a book to be returned to every winter and would be a fine addition to any bookshelf. Pages: 385 / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

Winter Magic
Mistletoe and Murder: A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery
Robin Stevens

Puffin

ISBN 9780141369723

This is my favourite A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery yet! Hazel and Daisy are in Cambridge for Christmas to see Daisy's older brother Bertie. Of course, murder has a habit of following Hazel and Daisy so it's not long before the bodies start piling up! The detectives are fascinated by Bertie's friends Chummy and Donald; twin brothers who passionately despise each other. Donald, the eldest brother, is set to inherit a fortune on Christmas day. There have been a series of dangerous pranks occurring, some of which Daisy and Hazel witness first hand. The detectives are convinced that someone is trying to hurt Donald. They suspect Chummy of being the culprit, jealous of his brother's pending inheritance. When they are woken in the middle of the night, they are convinced that Donald has been murdered. However, what actually occurs changes the whole case. Can the Detective Society catch the killer before anyone else is harmed? Although there is a change in proceedings as the Detective Society has the help of the Junior Pinkertons, Alexander and George, who are also in Cambridge celebrating Christmas. Will they be able to beat the Junior Pinkertons in solving the mystery? Hazel and Daisy are growing up! The reader gets to explore their friendship in a whole new light as Hazel falls in love, much to Daisy's disgust. However, readers will be just as interested in the relationship between Daisy and George. Has Daisy met her match? Family plays a huge part in this story. The conventional family model is explored as Hazel, a long way from home, clearly feels a part of Daisy's family. I loved the Author's Notes section, which I would definitely share with a Year 5 or Year 6 class as it importantly discusses historical immigration. Hazel meets a long-lost acquaintance from Hong Kong, Alfred Cheng, who is studying at Cambridge so it'd be interesting to hear students' discussions about how his peers treat him. A jolly good 5 stars! 349 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Elizabeth Harris, teacher.

Mistletoe and Murder: A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery
The Song from Somewhere Else
A.F. Harrold

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408853375

This is a story that starts and ends with a cat. The disappearance of the family cat starts a series of events for Frank when she runs into the group of boys who have been bullying her for months while putting up missing notices in the local park. Help comes from an unexpected quarter, when she is rescued by Nick Underbridge, an equally sidelined and lonely character. Nick is strange, different from everybody else at school, not someone that Frank would want to be seen with. But gradually as her friendship with Nick develops, she realises that Nick has secrets that have been kept hidden for a long time. There is something unusual about his house, a strange music playing there that she has never heard before but which makes her feel special. The music leads her to discover a window into a strange fantasy world that is bumping into our own. But where worlds collide, there is danger, and unscrupulous beings that do not always have good intentions. Now there are bigger issues than just Nick and his secret, real danger, and Frank has to make the right decisions to prevent disaster. There is a fairy tale quality to this story, as it deals with some big themes of friendship, loyalty, betrayal, acceptance and being true to yourself. It is about dealing with moral dilemmas and having to make choices, realizing that you can make changes if you have the courage and determination. The beautiful, evocative black and white illustrations by Levi Pinfold throughout the book create atmosphere that help to transport the reader into this magical world. There is a realistic portrayal of persistent, low level bullying that is believable and the impact on the victim can be understood. It is very satisfying that Frank's courage finally overcomes her fear of the bullies and she learns to stand up to them. This is a very satisfying read, and will appeal to readers of Neil Gaiman but also of Rebecca Stead. 240 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Caroline Gosden, school librarian.

The Song from Somewhere Else
50 Things You Should Know About: Prehistoric Britain
Clare Hibbert

QED Publishing

ISBN 9781784933050

Covering events in Britain from the Old Stone Age to the Roman invasion, this title looks at the development of the human race and every day life during this period. Full of fascinating facts, this book offers an excellent starting point for work on this period of history. As well as explaining the different periods during this time and their characteristics, the book looks at the archaeological evidence available, comparing sites in Britain to those in other countries. For example, the pages on Skara Brae offer an excellent starting point for further research with a labelled picture of a home, making these people from long ago seem much more real to us. Similarly, pages on people from the past - The Amesbury Archer, Otzi the Iceman, Cheddar Man - show the reader how archaeologists have pieced together evidence about our ancestors. A very useful resource for teachers as well as an interesting read for children, this title will be a great support to those teaching or learning about this period of history. 80 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

50 Things You Should Know About: Prehistoric Britain
Lesser Spotted Animals
Martin Brown

David Fickling Books

ISBN 9781910200537

While there are many books about endangered species, what makes this new book by Horrible Histories illustrator Martin Brown stand out is that these are the 'brilliant beasts you never knew you needed to know about'. And the humour - there are some lovely, funny moments throughout the book, lightening what is otherwise a serious subject. This is a book to dip into - don't expect to find zebras or pandas, do expect the 'dagger-toothed flower bat', the 'lesser fairy armadillo' and the 'zorilla' among others. These endangered animals come from all corners of the world and each spread is dedicated to a different one. Alongside a depiction of the creatures is text explaining why it is special and why endangered, as well as a fact box telling us its size, habitate and status - together with a final fact that brings in the funny or remarkable things that are so often what children will remember! There is lots of humour in the illustrations, too; check out the long-tailed dunnart that is crunching on a mouse paw or the sleek southern right whale dolphin. This is the kind of book that will have children returning again and again - there are so many interesting facts and touches of humour that will appeal to them. Definitely one for the class or school library! 54 pages / Ages 7-11 years / Reviewed by Alice Green.

Lesser Spotted Animals
The Secret Horses of Briar Hill
Megan Shepherd

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406367584

It is December 1941 and Emmaline, along with a number of other children, including Anna, has been evacuated to Briar Hill Hospital in Shropshire, an establishment run by nuns with the aid of Thomas, the one armed handyman /gardener. Anna is very sick and cannot leave her room so Emmaline tells her stories to amuse her but she will not tell her the biggest secret she has. This is revealed to the reader on page 1; there are winged horses living in the mirrors at Briar Hill Hospital. Things get more complicated for Emmaline when one of the horses appears in the hospital grounds, along with a note from the Horse Lord asking Emmaline to protect it from the Black Horse which is seeking to destroy it. Saving Foxfire will involve creating a rainbow of colour to so bedazzle the Black Horse that he cannot detect Foxfire's presence. Thus begins Emmaline's quest to acquire items of all colours of the rainbow to shield Foxfire until he is well enough to go back to his own world. This is a beautiful book, full of Levi Pinfold's exquisite black and white illustrations. Told in the first person and in the present tense throughout, there are sad elements - the fate of Anna, the unhappiness of the other children, the dark events in Emmaline's own past, which all become tied up in her fight to save Foxfire. Rooted in historical fact, this is a book of great imagination but the issue of whether the horses are real, or real only to Emmaline, is never resolved . As the author writes in the afterword; 'I think each reader is entitled to believe what he or she wants to believe'. 240 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill
The Giant's Necklace
Michael Morpurgo

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406357127

A beautifully presented, glossy hardback with both the dust jacket and the book binding illustrated by Briony May Smith. Inside, Briony's simplistic style captures a wealth of emotions on the family's faces. The comic style storyboard is expertly used to clearly illustrate events; no words are needed, it's all in the pictures. I loved the double page picture of the family enjoying their last day together on the beach. It truly captures the bond and fun this family have. It's the last day of their holiday and Cherry has spent days collecting pink cowrie shells for the longest necklace ever. She needs just a few more to finish it but it's time to pack up. Parents and brothers return to the cottage; Cherry will follow soon. However, tides do not wait and Cherry suddenly looks up to see that she's been cut off from the path which would take her back up the cliff. The sea roars in and Cherry is hit by a huge wave, later she's able to clamber higher up the cliff to a ledge and she finally enters a cave. Here she meets the ghosts of two miners killed in a disaster years ago. They tell her of their lives in the village up above and lead Cherry out of the cave. The blurb states 'a tense and thrilling ghost story' and 'ghostly secret of those who've gone before'. I was beguiled by the happy story and lovely illustrations; there was nothing to alert me to the sudden, devastating twist in the last few paragraphs. I find it very difficult to recommend a reading age for this book; death is a very sensitive subject and needs careful handling rather than being thrown in in the closing lines. Adults need to read this story first and be sure it is an appropriate book for the child. 80 pages / Reviewed by Sue Gillham, librarian.

The Giant's Necklace
AJ Wood and Mike Jolley

ISBN 9781847807519

This is a gorgeous book, perfect for browsing, and I can see it being a magnet for children in the library - especially those who prefer non fiction and reading chunks of text over fiction chapters. The book is colour coded into three main areas: Habitats, Species & Adaptations and is full of interesting facts about different habitats and the creatures you'll find in each habitat. This book is a delicious treasure-chest of facts for browsing; on the section about Honeybees, I found out that the food that is given to a honeybee lava and the size of its cell will determine what rank it will become; on other pages, that beaver houses are so strong that not even bears can break into them; and that owl eggs are almost round in shape. Children love details like these and there is plenty to keep them occupied. The illustrations, too, really stand out in this book; each page is carefully laid out and the stylish design and illustrations bring the sections to life. Illustrations are so important in attracting children to books and these do the job beautifully - but I think that adults will enjoy reading this just as much! 112 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Alison Hopper.