NEW TITLES

This month's highlights covers a broad range of 11+ titles, including non-fiction to help celebrate National Non-Fiction Month, as well as horror, sci-fi, contemporary and historical fiction.

Escape from Hotel Infinity
Kjartan Poskitt

QED Publishing

ISBN 9781784938512

Part of the Maths Quest series, Escape from Hotel Infinity combines a 'create your own adventure' book with maths problems in this brightly coloured, engaging book. Professor Function has been kidnapped and you need to find him but Hotel Infinity sets you puzzles to test you along the way. I really enjoyed my trip to Hotel Infinity and think that the engaging characters would keep maths enthusiasts entertained, especially if they were fans of the 'create your own adventure' genre. A good way to practice maths skills, but probably not something a student who struggles with maths would enjoy as much. When a question is answered incorrectly, a clue is given at the bottom of the page but if the question was right, the story continues at the top of the page. This could be a little confusing for more reluctant maths students. Nice addition to school library stock though. 48 pages / Ages 10 - 14/ Reviewed by Jenni Prestwood, school librarian.

Escape from Hotel Infinity
Jack Fortune: And the Search for the Hidden Valley
Sue Purkiss

Alma Books Ltd

ISBN 9781846884283

Jack Fortune is an orphan being brought up with his aunt in eighteenth century England. He is such a trouble to her he gets sent to live with his Uncle. Uncle Edmund does not really want him either, as he is about to embark on an expedition to the Himalayas to find rare plants. So, Jack goes with him to India and then on to the Himalayas. On a terrific adventure Jack meets Maharajas, princes, and villains, as well as seeing places one can only imagine take your breath away. My 10-year-old son took this book to read before I had the chance and his verdict was, 'absolutely brilliant'! I have to say I completely agree with him. This was so exciting and unusual in its theme that I was completely hooked from the first few pages. The combination of historical travel and adventure is so fascinating that as soon as I'd finished, I wanted to read more. (I hope Sue Purkiss is writing more!) It is also so exciting that the story cracks along at a pace that leaves you slightly breathless. Sue Purkiss writes in a very visual way, I could see the scenery and imagine the scenes playing out like a film in front of me. This seems like the ideal book for a reluctant reader; not because the text is simple or over easy, but because it is so exciting - this is going on my list of books for boys - though I can imagine girls will enjoy it just as much. Covering History, Geography, Botany and Art, this story lends itself well to using in class. I have already started thinking of ideas of how to use it with children as well as how much fun it would be to read aloud to a class. 224 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, education consultant

Jack Fortune: And the Search for the Hidden Valley
Eloise Undercover
Sarah Baker

Catnip Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781910611135

This wonderful adventure story is set in Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War and it tells the tale of young Eloise, whose father and best friend have disappeared. Eloise's world is becoming unrecognisable, with troops patrolling the streets of her small town, curfews in place, townsfolk disappearing and terrible rumours circulating about their fate. With some people collaborating with the occupying forces and a courageous few working secretly for the Resistance, Eloise is unsure whom to trust, yet she is determined to find her missing father and her friend before it is too late. I was utterly gripped by this story to the very last page. The pace of the plot kept me on the edge of my seat, desperate to find out whether Eloise would be successful in her mission. The first-person narrative is skilfully woven to draw in the reader and I loved the central character of Eloise whose bravery, tenacity and resilience shine through. We get to experience danger alongside her and I am sure not the only reader to have found myself holding my breath at some points! Far from being a straightforward adventure, this book has much to tell us about what it must have been like to live in Occupied France. Fear, suspicion, loss and hunger were a daily reality for people and this story shines a light onto an important and dark part of European history, in a way that is appropriate for a Middle Grade audience. It is also a period that holds enduring fascination for many young readers and I for one will be delighted to recommend this book to those readers who regularly return to the library requesting 'another book about the war, please'. I feel sure that they will devour this very special tale, just as I did. 347pp / Recommended age: 9+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian

Eloise Undercover
La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One
Philip Pullman

Penguin and David Fickling Books

ISBN 9780385604413

After much fanfare and anticipation, Philip Pullman's 'equel' to His Dark Materials is finally here; and as expected it's a superbly crafted and compelling story. Young Malcom Polstead lives at The Trout Inn on the banks of the Thames. An affable and helpful boy, he gleans much from the Inn's clientele but lives a pleasant and relatively uneventful life. All that changes when a baby is mysteriously placed with the nuns in the Priory where Malcolm performs odd jobs and spends much of his free time. Whispers and rumours surround the infant and, when a flood of almost biblical proportions swamps the city and destroys the Priory, Malcolm knows he must take the baby to safety. Hunted by the sinister CCD, a church court with far-reaching powers and unable to trust the police, Malcolm absconds with kitchen-maid, Alice, and baby Lyra in his trusty canoe La Belle Sauvage. With scholastic colleagues of Lyra's father, Lord Asriel, a secret agency and a convicted criminal also conducting a desperate search for Malcom, Alice and Lyra, the intrepid hero is unsure who to trust as he continues his epic journey down the swollen and dangerous river. Malcolm and Alice are wonderful characters and fitting heroes for the beginning of this epic new series. Readers of His Dark Materials will find much that is pleasingly familiar but this can easily be read by newcomers to Philip Pullman's alternative world. The story builds nicely and with plenty of heroes, villains, witches and fairies there is so much to enjoy here. A light word of warning for younger readers as there are some mature themes and language but this a truly wonderful book and I can't wait for the next installment! 546 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One
Witchborn
Nicholas Bowling

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781911077251

A lovely debut novel by this author and anyone who likes historical fiction that includes real life characters, witches and evil physicians will really enjoy this book. The year is 1577 and our main character, Alyce, is a witness to her mother's death - burned at the stake for practicing witchcraft. Alyce flees to London with the witchfinders hot on her tail. The witchfinders know what powers Alyce has got, but as of yet she is unaware of it and struggles to understand what is happening to her and how to control her emotions. Her journey through London is a colourful, dangerous experience which is full of lies and secrets. The only person she can truly trust is Solomon, a young boy who saved her life and looked after her at the beginning of her confusing journey in the city. There is not only a war between the two queens of this era, but also a war with the living and the dead. The book is 320 pages long with short chapters that even a reluctant reader would be able to manage. I would have recommended it for 9+ readers to be honest, but there are a few references to the 'dark arts' that could leave them a little worried. The book gives an insight into Elizabethan England, which at times is so well written you can really imagine the sights and definitely the smells!! The ending, without giving things away, leaves our characters on a cliffhanger. I'm not sure if there will be a follow up but hope there will be as I would like to see how Alyce develops her skills. Worth reading and asking your librarian to get a copy in. Would also be a great little book for group reading for reluctant readers as there are quite a few interesting discussion points to be had.

Witchborn
The Story of Life: Evolution
Ruth Symons, illus Katie Scott

ISBN 9781783706822

What a beautiful book, the illustrations are truly wonderful. I especially enjoyed the timeline on page 10. The cover states 'welcome to the museum' and how true that is, the whole book is as if you have stepped straight into the National History Museum. It is set out as if you are learning from exhibits at a museum, so we learn about each period in Earth's history and are introduced to an animal living at that time. You are lead through the book, from first life to early man, as if you are going through a real museum. However, as much as I rate it, I'm not sure that it would have wide appeal in schools; its beautifully antique feel could put some younger readers off. Having said that, I think it would make a lovely addition to a project box for Science departments. 79 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Jenni Prestwood, school librarian.

The Story of Life: Evolution
Satellite
Nick Lake

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444936773

Nick Lake is a prolific author of YA fiction who is not afraid to tackle a range of different subjects. His books are well-plotted with well developed characgters. Satellite is no different. It is largely told from the point of view of Leo, a 16 year old who was born and lives in space on a satellite station. Leo, alongside his friends Orion and Libra, is preparing to visit Earth for the first time. It is a classic coming of age tale, with a mystery or conspiracy at the heart of the story. What is the mysterious company Leo refers to? The book is largely written in text speak and as a device, this works well, although I appreciate it could be off-putting for some. It helps create a sense of Leo as a character and helps to identify with his thoughts. This is a wonderfully imaginative sci-fi book, which is character-lead. I would recommend it for those who like character driven novels or books with a mystery at the heart of the story aged 12+. 464 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Kay Hymas, school librarian.

Satellite

ISBN 9781447292296

Here is a selection of fairy tales with some Hilary McKay magic sprinkled on them! Ten traditional tales have had her special treatment and have been re-told to offer the reader a glimpse into a character's background or the 'what happened next?' stage of the story. Some are well known favourites (Snow White or The Pied Piper); others less known (The Swan Brothers or The Twelve Dancing Princesses). All have been reworked with humour and love. I really enjoyed 'Straw into Gold' (Rumpelstiltskin) where the little man's point of view is considered and the selfish actions of others called into question. There is a real satisfaction in seeing him rewarded in the end - in an unexpected way. 'Chickenpox and Crystal' is Snow White's story, cleverly reworked to challenge the notion of 'who is the fairest in the land?' and what is really important in life. Each story weaves the original with new threads, challenging the reader to think again about the tales of childhood, beautifully illustrated with atmospheric silhouettes. 292 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

My Side of the Diamond
Sally Gardner

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471406430

My Side of the Diamond is beautifully presented to resemble the moleskine notebooks that Becky writes in/ wrote in. You see, Becky and Icarus jumped off a tall building. Twenty years earlier, Skye and Lazarus also jumped off a tall building. Not one of them landed. They just sort of 'disappeared'. Now the quiet Mr Jones is here to interview witnesses. Each has suffered since the events and each is willing to answer Mr Jones's quiet questions. No-one has really listened to them before; Mr Jones offers them the first chance they've had to fully recount, without judgement. Their recollections of the event are so at odds with rational explanation that prior to Mr Jones they've been dismissed and ridiculed. He listens. For them it's a cathartic process. Each articulates a tender love - whether for a child, a brother, a friend, a boyfriend - and that is what the quiet Mr Jones wants to understand. Love. What it means, what we'd do for it, the power of it to construct and destruct. The witnesses all linked together through their relationships with the disappeared and each had a different account of love; through their narration, Sally Gardner masterfully exposes the events. So hold on to the idea that we're all about love and the conduit to discovering it is the quest of Mr Jones - and aliens. Yes, aliens. The aliens are a useful tool to the exploration of love. Surprisingly, I was OK with the aliens, it was the Frankenstein construct of the humans, the alien-cyborg hybrid Doubleday, that unseated me. He was the antithesis of love, an innocent corrupted by human meddling and while he added a frisson of mystery and thriller, Doubleday didn't really have enough of an explanation. I would have liked to have loved this book more. 240 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell, school librarian.

My Side of the Diamond
Charlotte Says
Alex Bell

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847158406

Miss Black, a recently orphaned 17 year old, arrives at Dunvegan School for Girls to take up her post as assistant schoolmistress. Unwelcomed by the staff and horrified at the punishments meted out to the frightened pupils, she is determined to make their life better and help Estella, a supposed compulsive liar. Reunited with her oldest friend, Henry, Miss Black feels she may be able to turn her life around after the horrifying events of her past. Unfortunately the arrival of a box of Frozen Charlotte dolls soon brings chaos, horror and death to the school and back into Miss Black's life. Charlotte Says is the prequel to the brilliant Frozen Charlotte, and does not disappoint. If anything it is even more horrifying and brutal. The book is told with interspersed chapters about the past as Miss Black tries to figure out the terrible events she has left behind. The Frozen Charlottes and how they affect the children are horrifying as is the past, once it is revealed. I am sure students will find this book compelling reading even if it may scare them half to death! It is definitely an older read due to the nature of the horror and although there is a hint of romance, this is a supernatural thriller through and through. Recommended. 353 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian.

Charlotte Says
Encounters
Jason Wallace

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783445288

Encounters by Jason Wallace is a multi-layered story that focuses on a group of young people whose lives are changed forever by a UFO sighting at their school in Zimbabwe during the 1990s. Yet this is no typical science fiction tale. From the very beginning, the reader is swept up into the complex and unsettling reality of these children's lives and we get to know each of them well, as each takes a turn at telling their own story and giving their perspective on the events surrounding the UFO sighting and its aftermath. Each individual, deftly drawn by Wallace, is troubled in his or her own way. There is angry, bigoted Gary whose mother has fled the family; little Chloe for whom trauma and fear are a daily reality; Tendai who lives in the shadow of his dead brother; Karl, the headmaster's son, who cannot live up to parental expectation; young Sixpence who lives on his wits in a world of poverty and violence, and finally teenage Holly whose psychologist parents have flown in from the USA to interview those who claim to have witnessed the UFO event. The short interview extracts that precede each section of the book give a documentary feel that pervades the text, as we examine events through six different characters, just as Holly's parents are examining the testimonies of the children involved. The author throws light on the deepest and darkest aspects of these young people's lives and is unflinching in his portrayal of their struggles. This book does not make comfortable reading. The theme that struck me most of all was that of the children's desperate sense of isolation and powerlessness in the face of adults who choose not to listen or to connect with their experiences. I particularly enjoyed the layers of plot that are built up as the story progresses, gradually adding new dimensions to events as additional perspectives are introduced. This is a challenging and thought-provoking read that I would recommend to teenagers of 14+. 320 pages / Age 14+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, School Librarian

Encounters

ISBN 9781444936735

This book is an emotional roller coaster ride, that is written in the first person, which deals with so many Young Adult emotions that are often presented in the news today. Eg: mental illness, PTSD, self harming, sex, amnesia, drug and alcohol abuse, parental relationships and an act of terrorism. The story is about a girl called Lux who attends a boarding school for artists who lives a privilege kind of life that a lot of teenagers dream of. She loves to write and party too hard, and take recreational drugs. Lux has been looking forward to her final year before she gets to go out into the real world but she's a little sad to leave everything she knows behind. She loves her life... until she wakes up in the hospital with no recollection of what happened. Her memories have been erased, she has complete amnesia. What's left is a Lux who feels empty and who is lost, she gets migraines, her sight and dreams are sometimes filled with the colour red, and she has no idea why or how her life took such a huge turn. I did have a few problems with the story at first as I thought it to be set in the USA not England, this type of school doesn't seem to fit our English environment, but hey, I can be wrong! I thought that Lux came across as an over privileged, arrogant young woman who was rude to her parents and friends. However, as I travelled with her through her panic attacks, nightmares and general struggling to cope with not knowing what had happened to her, my views softened and I found her to be a likeable young woman who my heart went out to. The discovery of what made her so vulnerable was unexpected but explained well and I also thought the ending of the book was appropriate as everything wasn't dealt with and tied up in a pretty bow, much like real life. It left the reader thinking, 'this is going to take time before she really heals'. This is a very emotional read, definitely for 16+ readers or mature, confident 14+ due to the issues that the story tackles. It is well written and fast flowing and would make an alternative discussion book for 6th form students studying English. So, If you're looking for a book that tackles tough subjects well, or just want to read a beautifully written contemporary novel, then I highly recommend giving this book a go! 338 pages / Ages 16+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Otherworld
Jason Segel

Oneworld Publications

ISBN 9781786073693

This book really had me hooked from the first page. It is the first book in a new YA sci-fi/thriller series and has already intrigued several students who have spotted me reading it and asked me about it. They can't wait to get their hands on a copy! Milo Yolkin is the creator of Otherworld, a fully immersive virtual reality game in which there are no screens or controls. The CGI is incredible and with the haptic gloves and boots you don't just see things but you can taste, smell and touch too. Simon is an avid gamer who 'borrows' his mother's credit card and orders a headset for both himself and his friend Kat so that they can meet up in virtual reality. Simon finds Otherworld addictive and the first time that he logs on, he plays for 17 hours straight. He discovers that there are no rules in Otherworld. You can live however you would like to, there are no limitations. However, with the morals of some gamers, Otherworld becomes a very dark place to be. A new disc version of the game is also being trialled on patients that are locked in a coma-like state. It is sold to relatives under the misconception that it allows the patient to live a better and fuller life. With all your needs taken care of in real life, it becomes possible to live permanently in a virtual world. However with the new game there are 'bugs' and this virtual world is a very dangerous place to be. Simon must risk his life to rescue Kat. This book is action packed and crosses several genres - sci-fi, romance, action and thriller. It will appeal to gamers and those that read and enjoyed The Maze Runner or The Hunger Games. Contains violence and occasional swearing. 355 pages / Ages 14-18+ / Reviewed by Clair Bossons, school librarian.

Otherworld