NEW TITLES

Funny, atmospheric or adventurous - children aged 7-11 years will enjoy these books which are reviewed for us here by teachers and librarians.

Radio Boy (Radio Boy, Book 1)
Christian O'Connell

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780008183325

Radio Boy, by radio presenter and stand-up comedian Christian O'Connell, is a funny and also very real story about friendship, homework, and following your dream. 11-year-old Spike's favourite hour of the week is when he's running his hospital radio programme, so when he loses his programme, he's devastated. His friends and father step in to help him realise his dream - and Spike ends up with his own radio studio in the garden shed, from where he runs his programme as Radio Boy with two friends. The programme is a huge success - but Spike has kept his identity hidden, so the big question is - who IS Radio Boy? When the radio show goes too far in lampooning the school's headmaster and foments rebellion among the pupils, things get serious and Radio Boy has to make decisions about the kind of friend he wants to be. This story has plenty of heart and the scrapes that Spike gets himself into are both funny and realistic. I liked that O'Connell shows that following a dream - Spike and his radio show - takes hard work and commitment as well as flair, and I'm sure that all the extra details he gives about setting up a studio (something he'd know all about) will have many children wondering about starting their own broadcasng projects! I look forward to finding out about what Radio Boy gets up to next. 360 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Jane Allen.

Radio Boy (Radio Boy, Book 1)
The Snow Cat
Holly Webb

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847156631

This is a beautifully presented hardback , just perfect for winter reading with its snowy scene and silver lettering. It tells the story of 9 year old Bel whose grandmother has just moved into some sheltered accommodation which has been converted from an old Victorian mansion with extensive gardens. Bel is feeling a little sad and unsettled about Gran moving out of her old house and we get the feeling that Gran, too, is trying hard to adjust to her new home. They come across some old photographs reproduced in the accommodation brochure, including one of a sad faced girl in old fashioned dress, holding a big white cat, and also a brief history of the house. During a stay with her Gran while her parents go away before Christmas, Bel encounters a strange white cat in the gardens and is led into a delicious time shift adventure in which she meets the girl in the photo and finds out why she looks sad. This is a great read for girls Y3/4 and possibly older who love animal stories with added mystery. It is strongly redolent of Philippa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden and would be a perfect 'gateway' story to this classic. Excellent for reading aloud and for stimulating creative writing. 160 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Rosaleen Palmer, school librarian.

The Snow Cat
Lyttle Lies: The Pudding Problem
Joe Berger

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471146244

I was not sure whether I was going to enjoy this book as I find that there are so many 'we're like diary of a wimpy kid' type books out there that they all seem to blend into one. The other problem with some of those types of books is the amorality within them, where the lead character seems to be justified in behaviour I would not like in my own children, because they are 'goofy/funny/nerdy'. Perhaps I am just a tad old fashioned?! I was pleased to find that this book exceeded my expectations. The illustrations for the book are engaging and funny. I particularly like the cat with it's huge eyes. The story was funny but not too knowing. Some of the 'cartoony' books aimed at children have a word count that younger children can read but a sense of humour or references that go over their heads. This story was clear and well told, although it took me a moment to realise who his imaginary alter ego was. I think the story would appeal to those aged seven years upwards and equally to boys and girls. It would make an interesting basis for work in PHSE on lies and truth, even if his story turns out not to be true in the end. It also deals with the issue of bullying as he has to 'look him in the eye' and stand up to Feeny. You could also do some nice creative writing around what you might ask someone to do if you hypotised them! Both of my children (7 and 10) enjoyed the story although the 7 year old did ask what 'iffy bladder control' was! I predict it will be a popular addition to the KS2 library for those who want a funny, diverting story but still like a good number of illustrations to guide them through the text. 240 pages / Ages 7/8+ / Reviewed by Alison Urquhart, school librarian.

Lyttle Lies: The Pudding Problem
The Fox and the Ghost King
Michael Morpurgo

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780008215774

The foxes love football, and foxes in every part of the country support The Foxes; Leicester City Football Club. Win or lose, they love them, and all the food scraps left behind by the human fans. When returning home from another defeat, across a car park that is being excavated, Dad and son fox hear a voice, a noble voice, that seems to be coming from underground. The voice makes them a promise, if they will dig a tunnel to him, so that he can be found by the archaeologists, he will make their dream come true! With facts any football fan (especially Leicester City fans) will enjoy, and historical links to King Richard III and William Shakespeare, this is a lovely story of trust and believing that dreams can come true. The newspaper excerpts and further information provided as background to the historical aspects of the story are a real bonus. Michael Foreman's illustrations are beautiful, as always. An utterly charming modern fairytale. Great for fans of Michael Morpurgo, football and foxes. 144 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Miss Cleveland.

The Fox and the Ghost King
Able Seacat Simon: The True Story of a Very Special Cat
Lynne Barrett-Lee

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471158919

When an orphaned kitten is found hiding on the docks in Hong Kong, he is smuggled aboard HMS Amethyst to become the ship's cat, with the very important job of being chief rat-catcher. Based on real events, this is the story of what happened to the ship and its crew while on a peace keeping mission during the Chinese Civil War, as told from Simon's perspective. A heartwarming tale of courage and companionship, highlighting the bravery of the men and animals of the British Navy, without ever feeling like a history lesson. The glossary at the end provides explanations of all the Naval terminology used throughout the story. 272 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Nicki Cleveland.

Able Seacat Simon: The True Story of a Very Special Cat
The Midnight Gang
David Walliams

ISBN 9780008164614

The Midnight Gang is about a group of children suffering from various forms of illness/ailments residing in a run down, badly managed hospital called Lord Funt Hospital. It starts with Tom, who gets hit on the head by a cricket ball, knocking him unconscious. He wakes up on a rickety trolley, being taken to the children's ward by a scary looking Porter. The Matron on the ward is doesn't like children and is quite horrible to them. The children make sure that the Matron eats chocolates filled with sleeping tablets so they can go on thrilling adventures around the hospital at midnight each night. Each child is given the opportunity to live their biggest dream, which is planned very imaginatively but ends up with some unexpected twists. As you can imagine, things don't always go to plan. The Midnight Gang is a heart warming story about unconditional friendship. It's funny and lighthearted in typical David Walliams style. Definitely worth a read! 480 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Janet McCarthy, school librarian.

The Midnight Gang
Goldfish Boy
Lisa Thompson

Scholastic

ISBN 9781407170992

Suffering from severe obsessive compulsive disorder, Matthew hasn't been to school in ages. He confines himself to his home - mainly his bedroom where he feels he has complete control over germs which mean illness and illness which means death. To keep himself busy, Matthew watches his neighbours from the upstairs windows, noting what is going on and when it happens. Although the residents of the cul-de-sac don't appreciate his observations, when the toddler from next door, Teddy, goes missing, Matthew was the last person to see him and becomes the focus of the police enquiry. What follows is a mystery which Matthew is determined to solve- but to do so, he must face his own fears and leave the safety of his home. This is a book which works in so many ways. Matthew's street is full of very 'normal' people yet, as we see them through Matthew's eyes, we learn that they too are harbouring a multitude of secrets. Everyone's story develops as the mystery unravels, showing how wrong first impressions can be. The 'upstanding', the bully, the 'weird' and the reclusive all have a story to tell. The book is funny and sad in turns, encouraging the reader to think more deeply before judging others. Matthew's condition is handled skillfully, without patronising or shying away from the realities of his condition and its crippling effects on not just Matthew, but those around him. A very satisfying read, The Goldfish Boy is one to add to the must have list! 320 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Goldfish Boy
A Poem for Every Night of the Year
Allie Esiri

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509813131

This sumptuous, beautifully-produced volume contains 366 carefully chosen poems which take the reader on a journey through the seasons, around the world and across history. Festivals and traditions, cultures and religions are all celebrated through poetry from writers whose names will be very familiar to those perhaps less so. There are funny poems, elegies, nonsense verse and extracts from longer, narrative poems. Each poem is prefaced by a few lines of introduction, with an explanation of the background and the poet's inspiration. The illustrator uses the motif of a tree at the beginning of each month, showing the changes from bare branches to full leaf, echoing the cycle of the year. In keeping with this, the page numbers are printed on a picture of a leaf. The glowing cover, in shades of blue, red, silver and gold, featuring animals, plants, the sun, moon and stars, begs to be picked up. My first thought on receiving the book, which I'm sure many others, particularly children, will share, was to turn to the poem for my birthday. As this is at the beginning of September inevitably it was one about school - a humorous lament from Jack Prelutsky about horrible homework! This is a wonderful collection to share with a class of any age and perhaps perfect for a [belated] new year's resolution to read more poetry! 544 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, school librarian.

A Poem for Every Night of the Year
AniMalcolm
David Baddiel

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780008185145

Malcolm's family are quite fond of animals - you could say they are obsessed. They have two cats, a dog, a hamster and an iguana. They go to the zoo every week. It's the primary topic of conversation. Malcolm, however, is not a big fan (especially since the infamous 'Monkey Incident'). So when Malcolm is given a chinchilla as an 11th birthday present (instead of the 'fastest and coolest and baddest laptop on the planet' like he wanted) he's had about enough of his family. So he is relieved to be allowed to go on the three day Year 6 school trip, until he discovers that this year the destination is an organic farm where they get to help look after the animals. Just when he thinks that things can't get any worse, Malcolm gets hypnotised by a cranky old goat and wakes up to find himself in a very troubling situation indeed. This was a light, silly, funny, enjoyable book with lively illustrations, likeable characters and imaginative world building - the inter-species communication was particularly fun (do you speak Goat?). The plot was not exactly original or groundbreaking, but it was ridiculous, incorporating elements of A Christmas Carol (Malcolm's anti-animal agenda challenged by supernatural intervention) and The Sword in The Stone (valuable life lessons learnt while spending time as a variety of animals). AniMalcolm is sure to appeal to fans of David Walliams, Roald Dahl, Rachel Renee Russell and Jeff Kinney. David Baddiel was a comedy superstar in the early 90s (he and Rob Newman pretty much invented Stadium Comedy in the UK), and with this, his third book for children*, he'll be cementing his reputation as a comedy legend for a whole new generation. *Not counting his World Book Day title last year. 368 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Dan Katz, school librarian.

AniMalcolm
Who Let the Gods Out?
Maz Evans

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781910655412

Elliot is finding life difficult. His mother is ill, they have no money, final demands are piling up and the next door neighbour is after their farm. School is no better either as Elliot turns up in less than perfect uniform and falls asleep in lessons, but dare not tell his teachers of the difficulties at home. Then suddenly, one night, there is an almighty crash in the cowshed and Elliot comes face to face with a strange girl who insists she has been sent to earth to deliver something important to Prisoner 42. Elliot, not surprisingly, is somewhat sceptical, until he actually meets Prisoner 42 and from then on, his life becomes even more complicated. His visitor, it turns out, is Virgo, a Zodiac goddess, and between them, they unintentionally free the evil daemon, Thanatos. The only way to put things right is to enlist the help of Zeus and the other Gods, a task that will take them and the reader on a romp through the major characters of Greek mythology. This is a fast paced fantasy teamed with a lot of humour and the very real heartbreak of the illness suffered by Elliot's Mum. The book ends not with a solution to Elliot's problems but with the knowledge that he has friends to help him, whatever life throws at him. It also ends with a hint of further adventures to come. 368 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

Who Let the Gods Out?
Welcome to Nowhere
Elizabeth Laird

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509840496

Omar is happy, growing up in his homeland of Syria. Bosna, his town, is a vibrant place to live and Omar is determined to become a successful businesman, like his cousin, Rasoul. On the other hand, his older brother, Musa, who has cerebral palsy, is starting to become interested and involved in politics. When students in Daraa write an anti-governemnt slogan on the wall of their school, the backlash is swift and harsh and trouble quickly spreads to Bosna. Life for Omar and his family changes dramatically. Forced to flee their homeland with what little they can carry, Omar and his family find themselves refugees. Life will never be the same again... Elizabeth Laird is an incredible author. In Welcome to Nowhere she has created, first and foremost, a believable family. We come to know and understand the characters as people - people like you and me with hopes, dreams, family and lives. When this is then taken away from them and they find themselves in inhuman circumstances, we still know them as those people we care about - exactly how we should view all refugees - as people like ourselves. This is a poignant, special book which is beautifully written. Essential reading. 352 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher.

Welcome to Nowhere
The White Tower
Cathryn Constable

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781909489103

When her father gets his dream job as librarian at Temple College, Livy finds herself struggling to fit in. Still lost in the grief of her best friend's death, the prestigious school and its elite students are completely alien to her. Drawn to the roof and the mysterious Sentinels, huge statues lining it, Livy becomes obsessed with a strange desire to fly. Mystery surrounds events in the past of the college and Livy becomes sucked into the secrets and lives of others as she comes to terms with her loss. Original and beautifully written, The White Tower is about feelings of loss and self discovery. The story opens with Livy trying to fulfil her promise to her best friend, Mahalia. Her sense of loss and lonliness is vividly portrayed and only the hardest heart could fail to feel for her. As her story develops, she is shown to be vulnerable, yet resourceful, loyal and brave. Catheryn Constable skillfully brings Livy's world to life, describing Temple College with an eye for detail and a richness of language which is so appealing. The old-fashioned institution, the sense of mystery and magic, the atmosphere of anticipation all combine perfectly to make this a charming read. 272 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

The White Tower
What Not to Do If You Turn Invisible
Ross Welford

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780008156350

Twelve-year old Ethel only meant to cure her spots, not turn herself invisible. The combination of a supposed Chinese herbal cure for acne and sessions on a second-hand sun-bed has a very unexpected effect on Ethel. For a few hours she becomes totally invisible. This is not without its benefits, but when the class bullies suspect something unusual is going on, they turn to blackmail. Alongside their threats, Ethel is trying to deal with finding out the truth about family secrets and who she really is. New boy at school, Elliot Boyd, comes to her aid and although Ethel is at first reluctant to trust him with her dilemma, their friendship deepens. This is an entertaining and humorous exploration of identity, family and friendship with a very likeable heroine. The vulnerabilities and angst of early teenage life are covered with a light touch and some genuinely funny moments; this is a book I will be recommending to Year 5 and 6 pupils. Not having yet read Ross Welford's first book, Time Travelling with a Hamster, it has now gone to the top of my 'to read' pile and I certainly look forward to his next novel. 400 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, school librarian.

What Not to Do If You Turn Invisible
Maybe a Fox
Alison McGhee

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406372892

Siblings Sylvie and Jules are both dealing with the death of their mother in their own ways. Sylive runs, always wanting-needing- to be faster whilst Jules orders and organises her collection of rocks. Further tragedy strikes when Sylvie rushes to throw a wish rock into the Slip - a dangerous spot on the river which is linked to a local legend - and falls to her death. Meanwhile, Elk, their best friend's brother, mourns the loss of Zeke, his friend who did not return from Afghanistan, turning to the woods he knows and loves for solace. A female fox cub is born with a special link to Jules and what unfolds is a beautifully crafted story which links the mystical and real worlds, exploring grief and how people cope with loss. Both the animal and human worlds are evocatively drawn, each voice engaging the reader. Maybe a Fox offers something different - and challenging. The different layers and elements of the story combine and overlap beautifully, offering a very satisfying and emotional read. 272 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviwed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Maybe a Fox