NEW TITLES

Here are some great adventure stories, selected for readers aged seven to 11 years, including the concluding Dreamsnatcher book and the start of a strong new series, Who Let the Gods Out, while detective stories go from strength to strength.

The Moonlight Statue
Holly Webb

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847156600

When my husband heard I was reviewing a Holly Webb book, his first question was 'Does it have a cat on the front?'. Holly Webb is know for featuring animals in her stories and this is no exception. The key difference is that the dog in this story is a sort of ghost who inhabits a stone statue at a stately home. The story opens by briefly setting the scene regarding the lead character's back story, a girl called Polly whose dad recently died. She and her mum move to live and work at a place called Penhallows Hall, where the adventure takes place. I was concerned that the ghosts in the story might be scary but the level of peril is quite mild: enough to keep the pages turning but not really frightening. The ghost dog acts as a vehicle for the author to explore the emotions that Polly is experiencing but also adds a bit of mystery to the plot. As part of her adventure, Polly meets other 'ghosts' and tries to find out why they are there, leading her back to the history of the hall. The illustrations are beautiful and add to the atmosphere of the story. The characters are delightful and engaging. The description of the house makes me think back to imagining the professor's house from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was a child. Even as an adult I was engaged and enjoyed the story immensely. It is well crafted and takes you on a journey with the characters. I would imagine that the book would appeal to girls more than boys, due to the female lead and the cover of the book but there are other male characters in the story. Both of my children (girls aged 7 and 10) want to read the story - my elder daughter has read practically everything Holly Webb has written. It would appeal to those who enjoy animal stories, adventure stories or could act as a safe introduction to ghost stories. There are clearly going to be more books to follow and I will be keeping an eye out for them to see what happens to Polly next. 192 pages / Ages 8-10 years / Reviewed by Alison Urquhart, school librarian.

The Moonlight Statue
The Night Spinner
Abi Elphinstone

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471146053

The final book in Abi Elphinstone's adventurous Dreamsnatcher trilogy sees Moll and her friends travelling to the great Northern Wilderness for their final confrontation with the last two Shadowmasks, who are trying to bring 'eternal darkness' to the world. During this adventure, Moll confronts trolls, goblins and giants, who seem to grow from the landscape she travels through, all the while moving towards a final showdown with the evil Shadowmasks. Meanwhile the Shadowmasks are bringing an evil to the world, a quilt of darkness known as the Veil, which travels through people's dreams and sends them mad with fear. It is her own fears that Moll has to confront as the story progresses, both of losing her good friend Alfie and of not being strong enough to defeat the Shadowmasks, but she comes to realise that you can still be brave, even when you are afraid. With its strong central characters, an array of glittering supporting cast and a fight of good against evil, this trilogy has garnered lots of young fans and deservedly so. Friendship and loyalty win through against darkness, but the danger is never far away and children will read each book at the edge of their seats. Great storytelling, with plenty of heart. 336 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jenny Penner.

The Night Spinner
A Rocketful of Space Poems
John Foster

Frances Lincoln Childrens Books

ISBN 9781847804860

This energetic collection of space poems has been compiled by experienced poetry anthologist John Foster who has teamed up with the talented illustrator Korky Paul (probably best known for his distinctive Winnie and Wilbur illustrations). Their choice of children's art work for the end pages is inspired. What great fun they must have had assembling and illustrating these poems and what fun their young readers will have with the book! There are narratives: what happens when a Martian meets an earthling (well, actually it's a petrol pump) in 'Dumb Earthling' (p.35)? And what do we think will happen to Percival Pettigrew who en route for Pluto: 'steered left at Saturn / roamed right at Uranus / but missed the last signpost, / got lost in the stars' ('A Space Odyssey', p.13)? There are games to be played. How about a game of 'Squibble-Ball' whose pitch 'must be at least four hundred swardblatz long / And at least twelve thousand / windycrunchwallops wide'? For sheer inter-galactic nonsense and word play (as well as appealing links with Quidditch), look no further. There is food to be had at Peter Pluto's Fast Food Superstore (p.18). Enjoy such delights 'Sixty-legged space squid / From the Galack Sea' washed down with 'Lazorade and Comet Cola'. The final double-page spread consists of mini-poems: a joke, a limerick and a riddle (which takes the form of a mesostic with the letters from 'pluto' embedded in each line). Word play abounds. David Harmer's 'The Worst Monster in the Universe' (p.24) is a lovely example with the reader being warned 'beware the giant ants of Nurdleskip' and 'The dreaded Drob of Droobie'. I have the smallest of reservations that maybe, sometimes, the colourful illustrations that sprawl all over the pages could overwhelm the text. But then, if they invite a reluctant reader in to pore over the book, maybe that's no bad thing. This will become a favourite in the book corner, a worthy companion to the many excellent picture books about space. In fact, maybe it could be recommended reading for Bob, man on the moon (Simon Bartram)!' 42 pages / Ages 6-9 years / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

A Rocketful of Space Poems
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?
Lots
Marc Martin

Big Picture Press

ISBN 9781783704651

What an enticing way to explore the different landscapes our world offers, and how humans have left their footprint on it. From the wilds of Antartica to the deserts of Alice Springs and the bustling neighbourhoods of Cairo, this descriptive and evocative book brings the corners of the world to life. It is constructed like a scrapbook, with each spread focused on one city or region with highlights of images, facts and colours. The Cairo spread, for example, focuses on the bustling traffic, cats and doorkeepers - not just the pyramids (although they are present) and there are notes about favourite dishes, the market place and traffic - over 4.5m cars! The Amazon Rainforest spread focuses on the wildlife and the different kinds of trees - a wonderfully colourful spread that takes us from the electric eels in the rivers (shock their prey with 600 volts of electricity) to the monkeys in the treetops (16,000 different species of trees here). A book for dipping into, exploring, and coming back to - a treat for any library shelf. 40 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Alice Bold.

Lots
The Connie Carew Mysteries: The Ship of Spectres: Book 2
Patricia Elliott

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444924718

A Connie Carew Mystery. Connie, an aspiring anthropologist, and her cousin, Ida, are travelling to New York on board the luxury Princess May in 1909. As special guests of the ship's owner, Mr Bamberger, they are regular attendees in the 1st class lounge along with their fellow passengers. On the first day of the voyage, it becomes apparent that someone is playing tricks on the passengers. Members of the crew are initially blamed, but the ever curious Connie is not satisfied by this explanation and makes it her quest to uncover the truth of what is going on. To her horror, she soon discovers that these tricks may be more sinister than she initially realised. Could someone really be at risk of being murdered? Connie finds help from Elmer, another first class passenger, even though she is a little reluctant to accept this at first as she finds him terribly annoying. He is actually quite useful! As well as Elmer, Bobby, a roller-skating bell boy who knows all of the ship's passages, helps Connie to access the passenger's rooms to carry out her research. Connie realises that one of the ship's passengers is in grave danger. She has several suspects and her detecting uncovers someone's grave plan. But is the murderer one step ahead of Connie? This is a fun and lively mystery that amateur sleuths will love. The descriptions of the Princess May's voyage through storms and the associated sea-sickness were so accurate, I actually felt a little queasy myself at times! This would be a great addition for primary school libraries for children aged 9+. I also enjoyed reading The Author's Note, which would be interesting to share with children before they start writing their own historical fiction, for an insight into how writers carry out their research. 320 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Elizabeth Harris, teacher.

The Connie Carew Mysteries: The Ship of Spectres: Book 2
The Painted Dragon
Katherine Woodfine

Egmont Books Ltd

ISBN 9781405282895

A crime detective thriller set in Edwardian London featuring Sophie who works at the prestigious department store Sinclair's and Lil an aspiring young actress. This is their third case in the brilliant series. It's October 1909 and the story opens with a female being followed through the dark, wet streets of the West End towards the underground station where she is pushed onto the tracks, but it's not until 130 pages later that we find out who she is and what events led to this attempt on her life. Instead, the story switches to the privileged but restrained and unhappy Leonora Fitzgerald, a skilled artist desperate to make more of her life than a providential marriage and children. It's now September and Leo, her preferred name, is starting at the acclaimed Spencer Institute of Fine Art. Here she meets unconventional young people and makes friends with Connie, Smitty and importantly, Jack, Lil's brother. Readers will need to keep alert at the beginning as the story moves between the lives of the artists and those who work at Sinclair's department store. Lil is the link and soon all are working together to discover who stole the priceless painting from the Spencer exhibition held at Sinclair's. Like any good detective writer, Katherine Woodfine drops clues and hints but in my mind there really was only one suspect for the theft and murderous attempt. However, alongside this mystery is the deeper and continuing query over the notorious criminal The Baron and his involvement in Sophie's life. I suspect that he is going to be a thread through the series; learning more within each individual adventure. A great read, attractively presented and a winning series. 333 pages / Ages 9-13 / Reviewed by Sue Gilham, librarian.

The Painted Dragon
Alice Jones: The Ghost Light
Sarah Rubin

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781910002872

Alice is back to solve another mystery - this time in the theatre her sister is performing in. Spending the summer helping her mother and sister at the Beryl Theatre isn't Alice's first choice of things to do - there's a copy of Fermat's Last Theorum that needs reading for a start. But things start to get interesting as odd accidents happen and there is talk of a ghost haunting the show. Ever logical Alice doesn't believe in such things and, with the aid of Kevin, sets out to solve the case. As she investigates, Alice finds out more about another unsolved mystery connected with the theatre - the missing diamond - The Midnight Star. But is it a ghost or someone living that is causing the problems at the Beryl? Every bit as enjoyable as the first book, The Ghost Light offers mystery, excitement and adventure. Alice continues to be a great heroine - intelligent and individual - leaping into action when the need arises. Using logic and clean thinking, she works her way through the clues and the evidence until she reaches the final conclusion - taking the reader with her every step of the way. Alice makes an excellent 'role model' for girls - she is independent, has her own interests and faces her fears - but this is not a book 'for girls'. The plot and characters are strong and engaging, appealing to everyone. Kevin, Alice's friend, continues to charm his way across the pages and I really like the fact that very different characters are shown to be such good friends. You don't have to have read the first Alice Jones book (The Impossible Clue) to enjoy this one, but you'll want to by the time you have finished The Ghost Light. I can't wait to see what Alice gets up to next! 352 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Alice Jones: The Ghost Light
The Jamie Drake Equation
Christopher Edge

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9780857638403

Jamie Drake's dad is famous. He's an astronaut, and he's currently orbiting the earth on the International Space Station, about 400kms above the planet's surface. Soon he will launch a series of tiny interstellar probes, which will search the galaxy for signs of alien life. What could possibly go wrong? Back on earth, Jamie misses his dad. Not only is he not around to help Jamie prepare for his algebra test, but he'll also be missing Jamie's 11th birthday. While his dad is in space, Jamie, his younger sister and his artist mother are living with his ex-rocker grandfather. To get away from the noise and chaos of his home life, Jamie goes for a walk and finds himself at a seemingly abandoned observatory. That's when things start to get weird. Despite having a very contemporary setting (smartphones, laptops and Skype are all key plot elements) I had a strong sense of nostalgia while reading The Jamie Drake Equation. This family drama/sci-fi-from-a-child's-eye-view story reminded me of classics from my own childhood - especially Chocky by John Wyndham and the film E.T. There is some real science and maths in here, too (Fibonacci sequence, golden ratio, how astronauts got to the toilet) as well as some big sci-fi ideas. It also addresses themes of responsibility, parental fallibility, family cohesion and growing up. The Jamie Drake Equation could be enjoyed by readers who like tales of science fiction, space travel, aliens, maths, defunct heavy metal bands called Death Panda, science and family drama, probably in the 9-12 age range. 208 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Dan Katz.

The Jamie Drake Equation
Mark of the Plague (A Blackthorn Key adventure)
Kevin Sands

Puffin

ISBN 9780141360669

I had no idea the world of apothecaries was so exciting; ciphers, plague cures, dangerous recipes, exotic ingredients all make for a fast paced, action-packed adventure! It was fascinating to read about how the plague affected the city of London through the eyes of Christopher, an apprentice apothecary. Christopher, with his friends Tom and Sally, is trying to make ends meet in London but their money is running out fast. A message from his deceased master gives him hope but will he be able to crack his master's code? London is full of 'quacks' and travelling apothecaries who claim to have plague cures. But is there something different about Galen, who claims to have a real cure. He is incredibly secretive of his recipe - does he really possess a way to stop the sickness? Alarmingly, a prophet called Melchior predicts where the sickness will strike next; he claims to be able to communicate with the angel of death. Melchior has developed a strong following and has even taken over a church to preach from. Christopher is suspicious of Melchior's abilities but ends up caught up in this world when Melchior makes a chilling prediction about someone Christopher loves. As more and more people are struck down with the sickness, Christopher and his friends don't know who to trust. Can Christopher prevent Melchior's prophecy from coming true? This is the second book in The Blackthorn Key Adventure series and I have just ordered the first one so I can catch up! This would make a very interesting guided reading text for Year 6 children. Children could be set independent research of their own to learn more about the plague epidemic. 5 stars - perfect for children age 10/11 years old looking for something different. 448 pages / Ages 9/10+ / Reviewed by Elizabeth Harris, teacher.

Mark of the Plague (A Blackthorn Key adventure)
A Girl Called Owl
Amy Wilson

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509832460

Owl know she is different, a silly name and a dippy mum don't help. She feels that if she could find out more about her past it would help her move forward and believes that finding out about her father would help her do this. Her mum will tell her nothing about her father beyond the magical fairy stories she would relate when Owl was little. As Owl grows older things begin to change; why, even in summer, is she always cold? And why are strange frosty patterns appearing on her skin? Owl decides to find out the truth and believes she must seek out her father do so but when she finally meets him, he is not at all what she imagined. With the help of her friend Mallory and strange new boy, Albrech, Owl finds herself between two worlds, that of mortals and that of fairy folk. This is an enjoyable read focusing on young teenagers and their friendships as well as the magic of folklore and legend. It is an easy read that moves along at a good pace with elements of folklore and mythology and has a wintry charm all of its own. A good read for younger teenage fantasy lovers. 336 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Sue Gilham, librarian.

A Girl Called Owl