NEW TITLES

This month's selection of reviews includes books for children aged 11+ through to 14+ titles, ranging from poetry and humour through to fantasy and real life scenarios.

Running on the Roof of the World
Jess Butterworth

Orion Children's Books

ISBN 9781510102088

Once in a while I read a book which totally grips me and is so unusual in its setting , and most importantly full of passion, and this book is one such experience. Many young people will not have heard of the struggles in Tibet and of the power of the spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, but this story will lead them to find out more. Tash and her friend Sam live in a village in Tibet where the Chinese have an iron grip on the people. Their leader the Dalai Lama has been in exile in India for many years and mention of his name is forbidden. Tash's father is a member of the resistance and helps to produce an illegal newsletter. When a man sets himself on fire as a protest, the clampdown on the village is immediate and Tash's parents are arrested and taken away. She escapes and decides to travel across the Himalayas to India to seek the help of the Dalai Lama. Sam decides to come along with her and they are lent two yaks, Eve and Bones. The journey is arduous, the weather closes in and there is the ever present danger of capture. There is also the mystery of a letter in code which does seem to be very important and indeed is so. The concept of freedom of thought and deed is so far from the lives of our children but this story reminds them how precious it is and that people are prepared to journey and even die for it. Tash's faith that the Dalai Lama will help her parents to be released is not even shaken when it does not seem possible. The scene where those Tibetans who have arrived in India are greeted by the Bhuddist leader is very moving and beautifully described. The journey across the mountains comforted only by the warm presence of the yaks is powerfully told, and the reader can feel the cold and hunger the young people experienced. There is a realism about the danger and the shooting of Sam, his blood leeching on the white snow, which makes the reader afraid. There are many details of Tibetan life, of the food they eat, the butter tea which does seem difficult to imagine, and the feeling of a nation not giving up, all combine to make this a memorable read. It is, too, a beautifully produced book. Each chapter has black and white patterns which must be Tibetan or Bhuddist but we are not told. There is no map which would have helped place Tash and Sam in the world, and the cover with its child and yak depicted does not hint at the seriousness of this story, but these are small criticisms of a memorable and powerful book. 288 pages / Ages 9-12 years / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, librarian.

Running on the Roof of the World
Lost Magic: The Very Best of Brian Moses
Brian Moses

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509838769

Brian Moses sees this compilation of his work as 'signposts along the road .... travelled' as a poet. Tackling the habitually asked question, 'What's your favourite poem?', he has assembled his own favourites in this rich celebration of his work over the last twenty years. There is so much to enjoy! Here are the opening lines of the title poem (p.108): 'Today I found some lost magic - / a twisty-twirly horn / of a unicorn lying at my feet.' It is a touching and simply written poem but with powerful resonances for today's uneasy world: 'the edge of the world was miles away, / there was nothing to fear./ And none of the unicorns we know ever / changed into dangerous strangers./' Characteristic of Moses' work are the humorous and rhythmic poems that lend themselves so well to performance: 'The SSSSSnake Hotel' (p.4), (to which you can return! p. 24). I particularly like 'Walking with my Iguana' (p.11) written for two voices. For sheer lighthearted nonsense turn to the 'Improbable or Impossible?' section. Here you'll find spider swallowing (p.80), fish ventriloquism (p.82) and what happens if you try to take a lobster through security (p.84). Don't even ask! As Moses says in the short, child-friendly introduction, there are also poems that are 'more thoughtful, because poetry shouldn't just make us smile or laugh - it should make us think and wonder'. 'Last time' (p.57) with its environmental theme, certainly provides food for thought. A section titled 'What do you do now you've been to the moon?' is typical Moses with its combination of humour ('Aliens stole my underpants', p.34) with thought provoking content. ('Space Dog'; p.30)/ If I had to choose a favourite poem, it would be 'Only a Wardrobe'. (p.119): 'In the end, it was, unfortunately, / only a wardrobe, / although hopes had been raised / that it could have been / an alternative route to Narnia.' For the children in this poem (Sharon, Tracey, Gavin and Isaac), there is only a disappointing empty space (They'd hoped for snow, a few flakes / at least to show they were on the right track'). With its empowering intertextuality, it taps into children's love of secret places. I would read this alongside Mirsolav Holub's powerful 'Go and open the Door' to offer children powerful ideas and models for their own writing. 224 pages / Ages 9-12 years / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.

Lost Magic: The Very Best of Brian Moses
Boyband of the Apocalypse
Tom Nicoll

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847158314

Sam has been persuaded, on the promise of a new phone, to take his younger sister, Lexi, and her friend to a concert by the world's most popular boyband, Apocalips. He is expecting things to be bad, but then he discovers that the four bullying Heatherstone sisters are also at the concert and his reputation will be in tatters on Monday morning when they all go back to school, though he will need to extricate himself from the cupboard they have locked him in first.... That is when things go from bad to really, really bad. From his cupboard, Sam can see and hear events in the band's dressing room and is shocked when the other members of the band gang up on one person and 'dispose' of him, when he expresses a wish to leave the band. What is worse, it becomes clear that they do actually have plans to destroy the world and Sam is the only person who knows. But it is OK; his friend Milo, the only person who believes him, comes up with a plan. Sam will just have to audition as a replacement for the departed Steve. This is a big problem, as he can neither sing nor dance, but wait; it turns out his accountant parents have a more interesting history than he ever suspected and the plan to save the world begins in earnest. This is a very funny read with an exciting, but daft, adventure. Sam is an engaging narrator, well aware of his own shortcomings, and will appeal particularly to young male readers. That is not to say that this is a 'boy' book. All young readers looking for an amusing read will enjoy this book and look forward to the next one. 320 pages / Ages 9-12 years / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

Boyband of the Apocalypse
Coyote Summer
Mimi Thebo

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192759436

Mimi Thebo's follow-up to Dancing the Bear is another atmospheric tale that cleverly sets coming-of-age dilemmas against the stark and heat-drenched landscape of Kansas. Wayward teen Jules Percy has gone off the rails since failing a ballet audition. In trouble at home and school her despairing, but largely absent, mother sends her to stay with her aunt and uncle in Kansas in an attempt to shock her out of her stubborn stupor. Forced to work on their farm and stripped of the privileges and luxuries of her London life, Jules decides to act the part and count the days until she can see her mother again and escape. But Jules's careful plan is thrown into turmoil when a chance encounter with a coyote changes everything. Transfixed by the animal, which seems to be watching her, she finds herself continuously drawn back to the patch of land it patrols. Eventually, inspired by her new audience, she tentatively begins to dance. Her moves are stilted and rusty, her body unused to the exertion but Jules realises how much she has missed dancing and begins to feel alive again. This is a lovely book and one that will probably find a greater audience amongst girls than boys. Jules has a really authentic teen voice - she's confused, hurt, angry, with others and herself - and the issues she has to deal with are believably portrayed. An excellent read that should appeal to anyone in the 10-14 age group. 276 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

Coyote Summer
Never Say Die
Anthony Horowitz

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406377057

Alex Rider is back in another action-packed, gadget- filled adventure. Living in America with Sabina and her family since the events of the last book, Alex has the chance of a new settled life. However, still haunted by the death of Jack Starbright, the closest thing to family he has, Alex cannot settle and an email suddenly fills him with the hope that there might have been a mistake. This is enough to set him off on his adventures again - this time on a very personal mission to seek the truth about Jack. From the first page, this book pulls you headlong into Alex's world. His quest takes him from America back to Egypt to the south of France and back to England as he searches for clues about where Jack might be. As ever, he finds himself up against some super villains and has to escape from some sticky situations, but he's ready for anything and always rises to the occasion. It is very hard to review a book like this without giving away all the action. Suffice it to say, fans of Alex Rider will not be disappointed! 368 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Never Say Die
Alex Sparrow and the Really Big Stink
Jennifer Killick

Firefly Press Ltd

ISBN 9781910080566

Overview: Alex responds to a pop up add on the computer to purchase a lie detector but it turns out that the catch is he is the human lie detector. Whenever he tells a lie or hears someone lie, his ear lets out a very smelly fart and the bigger the lie, the worse it smells! Armed with this new superpower and having made friends with a girl who has also gained the power to talk to animals, they set out to investigate who is brain washing people into being good at their school. This book is very funny and is sort of a cross between a gross out comedy with fart jokes, and the demon headmaster. The character of Alex is not your standard fodder for a 'hero' in the story as he is not always nice, makes some terrible decisions and definitely loves himself a bit much! However, in a way that is the best thing about his character. He is flawed but more normal. As I read his attitudes and actions in the book I can picture certain pupils being exactly the same! (and they are not the kinds of boys who normally use the library) Therefore I think this book would be a great way in for reluctant readers. HOWEVER: All this said, there was something incongruous about the characters, the setting and the language in the book. I had a dilemma in deciding what age bracket to put this book in as we have a reasonably strict policy regarding swearing in books available and accessible for younger readers. The complexity of the plot and the reading level of this book makes it an accessible read for reluctant readers and thus also younger readers but it does contain a surprising amount of swearing. I couldn't work out the target audience for the story, given the language. If it is aimed at KS2 then there is too much swearing for us to allow it in out library (others may view it differently) but if it is aimed at reluctant lower KS3 readers then why not set it in Y7 rather than a primary school? I would certainly advise parents or primary school teachers to read it before deciding if you want to allow the children to read it. Our school is a church school so that may affect the views of staff. My daughter in y6 read it and was unfazed by the language but did say that her teachers would not necessarily approve. In summary, if the language does not bother you, a great entertaining read that reluctant boys may find engaging and funny.

Alex Sparrow and the Really Big Stink
The Nearest Faraway Place
Hayley Long

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471406263

Heart breaking and heart-warming, The Nearest Far Away Place explores the effects of bereavement on young Griff and Dylan who were in the car when their parents were killed in a tragic freak accident. Dylan is the eldest and takes his role as older brother very seriously. He tries to look after Griff and make sure he's OK, despite the fact that neither of them has ever been any good at the mushy stuff. As if being orphaned is not complicated enough, they find themselves alone in New York with no family and have to stay with the school Principal, Blessing. Blessing lives up to her name and she, along with her dog and neighbours, start the long healing process with the boys. Other great supportive characters are Cousin Dee and Owen in Wales. As the book progresses, and time passes, we see Griff slowly taking steps out of his shell and re-connecting with the real world. Dylan, the narrator, shows us glimpses of their lives before the tragedy so we get to know their amazing parents and his German friend Matilda. This is a welcome and important addition to teen literature about bereavement, as well as a good story. 320 pages / Ages 13+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian.

The Nearest Faraway Place
Spellslinger: The fantasy novel that keeps you guessing on every page
Sebastien de Castell

Zaffre Publishing

ISBN 9781785761317

This is the first time I have read anything by this author and I can honestly say it will not be the last as Spellslinger is so wonderfully written. Spellslinger follows 15 year old Kellen, who is an apprentice mage, as he tries to pass his trials to become a spellcaster but is frustrated as his magic seems to be disappearing and he has to rely on his wits and cunning to get through. Add to that he has an overachiever of a sister, parents that are extremely powerful and rival clans who have it in for him. Kellen's not having a particularly good time of it as we follow his struggles to find his magic while watching his friends move on as mages and eventually turn on him. However, along the way, he meets a colorful cast of characters, including an eccentric western-style woman Ferius Parfax who has mysterious qualities and sets of semi-magical playing cards that are used as weapons and storytelling devices. They proceed to fight for their lives under constant attempts at them by the ruthless enemy family, and in the process end up discovering a large-scale plot by members of the Shar'tep to overthrow the magic users. The other powerful character you meet in this book is a squirrel cat named Reichis, who is the best familiar - but I think he would prefer the term business partner - I have come across in a story for a while. He is a bad guy who wants to tear out your eyeballs and call you names. I thought he was awesome. A small warning before you read, there is some mild torture and animal abuse in the story but nothing overly gruesome, or crude language. Castell's writing is full of humour and excitement and I found it really hard to put the book down as it was so enthralling. The magic system in this book is very well done and interesting to read about. I love the way Kellen isn't amazing at magic and is suffering because of it - just as in real life when people often envy those who are better at something than them. I'm really looking forward to reading the second book in the series when it comes out in October. The hardback copy has 416 pages that will keep all fantasy readers interested. I recommend the book for 12+ readers and like me, the occasional adult. 416 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Spellslinger: The fantasy novel that keeps you guessing on every page
One Silver Summer
Rachel Hickman

Old Barn Books

ISBN 9781910646298

This is a book for fans of Lauren St John. It is perfect for the younger teenager who loves horses and enjoys a good romance. The main character Sass has come from America to live with her uncle in England following the loss of her mother in a tragic accident. She finds comfort in the outdoors walking her Uncle's dog, Harry. It is on one of these walks that she discovers the most beautiful silver horse in a meadow. Trespassing on private land to retrieve her dog she meets Alex, a royal prince who has come to Cornwall in order to escape the pressures that his title brings. Initially he isn't keen on having his space intruded upon but since Sass believes Alex to be an estate worker, and Alex enjoys the feeling of being a commoner, he decides not to enlighten her. They soon strike up a friendship through their mutual love of horses and Sass dares Alex to teach her to gallop across the beach in less than a week. This is a modern fairy tale set in a beautiful location with a lot of horse riding thrown in but sadly true love doesn't run smoothly. This is an innocent romance, suitable for younger readers, and an entertaining light read. The story also deals with the grief of losing a mother and could prompt a good discussion on media intrusion. 282 pages / Age 11+ / Reviewed by Clair Bossons, school librarian.

One Silver Summer
One Of Us Is Lying
Karen McManus

Penguin Books Ltd

ISBN 9780141375632

This mystery is one where the reader can play an active role in trying to figure out who committed the crime. Five students report for detention, but by the end of it one of them is dead. Who committed the murder, and how?? A working knowledge of American schools and some culture would be useful, and doesn't detract from the story, but it may make it tricky for readers with less awareness. The story is a quadruple narrative - told from the perspectives of the four main suspects, and as the narrative unravels the reader finds out clues at the same time as the character they are following, and sometimes before other characters. The characters are likeable, and the split narrative adds to the pace of the novel, meaning it is hard to put down. I had to flick back to the beginning of the chapter a few times to check which character the story was following, but by and large they are well defined and developed as the book progresses. The narrative is believable, and you root for the characters - having four leads means you may connect with some more than others, which is part of what I enjoyed about the book. A rip-rolling mystery that had me gripped from the very beginning. 368 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Alison Tarrant, school librarian.

One Of Us Is Lying
Who Runs the World?
Virginia Bergin

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509834037

I loved Virginia Bergin's Rain so was looking forward to reading this. Like Rain, Who Runs the World? is one of those books that takes an idea - a future world that is run by women, after a disease has killed most of its men - and really delves into what it would mean for those communities. It's a real exploration of gender, identity and confronting the unknown, as well as looking at power and abuse of power. There is so much that can be questioned and explored with teenaged readers, and many adult readers. 14-year-old River lives in a world dominated by feisty women, including the older generation that saw men virtually wiped out when a virus swept the world. River believes that all the men died - until she meets a sick teenaged boy on the road one day and begins a journey of discovery that what she has been told about men isn't the whole truth. But how do you understand gender if you have no idea what gender means, a question that applies both to River and to the boy, Mason, who she and her community try to rescue. There are so many astute insights, for example how Mason believes River to be a boy because she looks so unlike the highly feminised versions of women he has seen on video games. We also see a confrontation between River and one other older, violent man, so there are plenty of questions around being male and female, and what this means for the best and worst in each of us. Gradually the questions around why no other men are seen by the communities of women and girls start to build and we learn about the abuses of power that lie at the heart of this apparently well ordered and just world. Ultimately, River and Mason point to a future that offers hope and a more balanced world. This is a powerful and intriguing read that stayed with me long after I had read it and which can lead to many questions about our present world and how we define gender. A stand-out book. 352 pages / Ages 12/13+ / Reviewed by Amy Ward.

Who Runs the World?

ISBN 9781444788983

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way round. Lazlo Strange, orphan brought up by monks and now a junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly in choosing him. As a young child, he was enthralled by tales of the mythical city of Weep, lost to civilisation for over two hundred years. Using any spare moments from his work at the library, he pieces together fragments from documents and stories, certain that the city is there to be found, though the journey would be arduous and seemingly impossible. Then one day an incredible opportunity presents itself and Lazlo must seize his chance or lose his dream forever. Interwoven with Lazlo's story is the tale of another, a blue-skinned goddess who has the power to control the dreams of all those whose minds she can enter at will. Their fates are irrevocably linked but will they be able to dream their dreams together? Hypnotic, lyrical prose draws the reader into this mesmerising tale of a lost city overshadowed by its terrible past, haunted by the ghosts of murdered gods, and their vengeful survivors. Epic in scale, the first of two parts, this is a novel to lose yourself in, to dream its nightmares and wonders, to weep at the injustices and the unexpected joy. 544 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, school librarian.

Naondel
Maria Turtschaninoff

Pushkin Children's Books

ISBN 9781782690931

Naondel (the prequel to Maresi, the first of the Red Abbey Chronicles) is the story of how the Red Abbey came to be founded by the First Sisters. They are briefly mentioned in Maresi but in Naondel their stories are explored. Weaving together the Sister's stories, it is the history of the Abbey's founders, through pain and hardship, from isolation to understanding, until their eventual escape to the island of Menos. What secret knowledge (alluded to in Maresi) did they carry with them, and who was the man who tried to hunt them down?Initially we are introduced to Kabira, a young and naive girl from a wealthy family who, eager to impress the charming and handsome Iskan, reveals to him the secrets of Anji, her family's sacred spring. Enslaved by her desire for him she shares everything she knows about this powerful natural force which he then perverts for his gain. Before long, the thin veneer of charm slips like a mask from Iskan as he isolates Kabira and seeks to control the only thing she truly had, Anji, shamelessly betraying her. Kabira's is the first story we hear but we soon learn of Askan's cruelty, his grotesque bullying, the constant raping, through the stories of the other women that come to share Kabira's lonely world. The rape is not graphically depicted but it does happen a great deal. This is a story of the great escape from Iskan's misogynistic patriarchy, from his abuses and influences; a story about the power of nature, both physical and spiritual; about the insights, intuition and adaptability of the First Sisters, their strength and humanity despite the despicable abuses metered out to them. It is very much fairytale in its style, by which I mean Grimm not Disney, with a richness of language that allows you to smell the spices and feel the textures of the fabrics. Harsh and brutal and at times difficult to read, the story never the less urges you on, I felt I needed to read until the end as I couldn't abandon the women before they had resolved their situation. 480 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell, school librarian.

Naondel
Black Moon
L. A. Weatherly

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781409572046

Black Moon is the final book in the Broken trilogy and we re-join Amity as she plots with the resistance to overthrow Kay Pierce's brutal and corrupt regime. Collis, meanwhile, is closer to Kay than ever while continuing to work with the resistance. The question is, can they trust him? As events progress and the resistance struggle to evade capture, Amity realises her feelings for Ingo and wonders if they will both survive. Even if they do, will there ever be peace? The author has once again written a compelling and harrowing story about the dreadful effects of power, corruption and war on ordinary people. As with both previous books, there are twists and turns along the way, coupled with a hefty dose of romance and loss. Quite a long book at 651 pages but worth the effort to see if peace and justice can ever be restored. The content of this book is once again harrowing in places and of an older content in parts, hence the 14+ recommendation. 651 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian.

Black Moon