Chosen by Year 7, 8 and 9 (11-14 year old) pupils from Immanuel College, Bushey, Hertfordshire.
by Year 7 and 8 pupils (11-13 year old) at Humphry Davy School, Penzance, Cornwall.
Immanuel College, Bushey, Hertfordshire
Hello? Is anybody there?
Jostein Gaarder, Orion/Dolphin, 1 85881 623 8, £3.99 pbk
Two main characters in this book are Mika, a child from another planet, and the narrator, an eight year old earthling called Joe. Mika saw the earth from his spaceship, opened the window to peer out and see it. He fell out and landed upside down in an apple tree in Joe’s garden.
Mika does not know about earth and does not take things for granted that we do. He wants to know why fish can breathe underwater and humans cannot. He was born in an egg and therefore does not have a navel, and finds the fact that humans do fascinating.
Joe rescues Mika from the apple tree. Together they go fishing and Joe explains about the process of evolution. Later Mika reveals that he is telepathic and can read people’s minds. When Joe says he cannot do this, Mika remarks ‘Every planet has its advantages and disadvantages.’ On Mika’s planet they do not need telephones and he gets such a shock when he hears one ring that he bursts into tears. When he is tickled he stops. From this they begin thinking why they are so similar.
I would recommend this book to others because it is funny at points, but most of all because it makes you wonder why things are the way they are. Is it all part of a big plan or would it make no difference if minor things were changed?
Sam Rickman, Year 8
Terry Pratchett, Corgi, 0 552 13106 7, £5.99 pbk
Two characters I found interesting were Death and Mort.
Death is the Grim Reaper. His job is to bring people who are dead to the Afterlife. Unlike I expected, he was not mean and really did not care who he was taking to the Afterlife, as long as they did not talk too much and they had to like cats. Death is a skeleton of about seven foot, he wears a black robe and has blue flame for eyes. When Death talks he is saying the words, but they do not go through your ears, they are just in your head.
Mort is a very odd person. He is Death’s apprentice. He is one of the only people in his time who can read and ever since he has gone slightly mad pondering thoughts such as, ‘Why does not the sun come out at night, when it would be more useful?’ Mort is tall and has ginger hair. Unlike Death, he has a human form. Mort is slightly absent-minded.
This is a brilliant fantasy book that will leave you laughing every time you think of it.
Nigel Hikmet, Year 8
The Machine Gunners
Robert Westall, Macmillan, 0 330 33428 X, £2.95 pbk
This is a very exciting Second World War story. On every page new things happen and you can’t put the book down until the end. You can’t skip any pages because afterwards you won’t understand what has happened.
Chas McGill, a very important character, has the second best collection of war souvenirs in Garmouth until he finds the machine gun in the woods on a crashed German airplane. He always wants to be the best and be the leader of whatever is going on.
Chas and his friends discover Rudi, the pilot of the German plane. I think Rudi is a bit stupid because he puts his hands up to kids who are holding a broken machine gun and then he gives them his gun, because he thinks the machine gun is not broken at the time. Before he is caught he has not eaten, but now he is getting three meals a day and he still wants to escape. When he tries he is caught and tied to his bed. If he stayed until the war was over he would not get hurt or killed.
I think a very sad part in the story is when Nicky’s house gets blown up. He is the only one left alive because his father comes to him in a dream saying, ‘Get out!’.
Adam Zeitlin, Year 8
What happened to Heather Hopkowitz
Charlotte Herman, Jewish Publication Society, 0 8276 0520 X, £7.50
‘We’re Jewish. Only not in the way the Greenwalds are. No two Jewish families could be so different. The Greenwalds observe the Sabbath and keep kosher. We never went in for any of those things!’
Heather Hopkowitz is a fourteen year old whose life consists of bowling on Friday night, bacon and cheeseburgers. Her family is not observant, but when she spends a month with an Orthodox Jewish family, her life changes drastically.
Heather likes that way of life and secretly keeps kosher and the Sabbath – but how can she confront her family and friends? Heather loves her parents, but being observant means so much.
This book shows the warm atmosphere of Judaism and a young girl’s struggle to become observant. Beautifully written and told in a humorous way.
Abigail Ifield, Year 7
And more GOOD READS from
Chosen by Year 7 and 8 pupils (11-13 year old) at Humphry Davy School, Penzance, Cornwall.
Thanks to Sue Plummer, Librarian.
Johnny and the Bomb
Terry Pratchett, Corgi, 0 552 52968 0, £4.99 pbk
This is about a boy named Johnny Maxwell. He finds the local bag lady semi-conscious in an alley behind a dustbin. The lady’s name is Mrs Tachycon, but there is more to her than meets the eye. Somehow in her dubious black bags she holds the key to different times, different eras – including the blackberry blitz in 1941.
My favourite part of the story is when the book says ‘There was a flash of light, the air flickered…and the world changed to May 21st 1941. Thought Johnny – “it’s war”.’
I thought this book was generally good but lacking in excitement near the beginning. It would be best for teenage readers and I would give it 8 out of 10.
Josh Robinson, Year 7
Robert Cormier, Puffin, 0 14 130200 3, £4.99 pbk
A very personal war story unlike any others I have read. The hero – Francis – is badly disfigured when he returns to his American home town. He has a secret and is determined on revenge: to kill the man who is also hailed as a war hero whom he feels betrayed him as a boy and has forced him to live with a feeling of guilt ever since.
I found the book easy to get into, with a very striking first paragraph. Little was left to the imagination as lots of graphic sometimes gory detail was added. Characters were strong and believable, which made me feel as if I was reading a book based on a true story. I could almost feel Francis Cassavant’s emotions: fear, shame, frustration. I felt as if I was experiencing them myself. The book is well written with a good storyline.
Although the ending brought all the loose ends together, I felt it was a little abrupt. Maybe a finishing chapter would be helpful. I would recommend Heroes to anyone above the age of 13 who enjoys a good read.
Lucy Higgins, Year 8
Lord of the Rings
J R R Tolkien, various editions from Collins
Sauron, the Dark Lord, has gathered to him the rings of power – the means by which he will be able to rule the world. But he lacks the one ruling ring which has happened to fall into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.
In a sleepy village in the shire, as he is trusted with the care of the ring, a young hobbit – Frodo Baggins – must journey across the realms of middle earth to the cracks of doom to destroy them and foil the Dark Lord’s plan to rule the world.
As I followed Frodo and his companions through danger, meeting monsters, magic, wizards and orcs in the struggle between good and evil, I could never put the book down. There were moments when I thought it was all over and I was sitting on the edge of my seat then…they would just scrape through it.
I would recommend the book to older children because it is very long. It has millions of lists of names and songs and the story tended to get spread out which sometimes made it difficult to follow and I found it annoying. The book is split into three parts and despite its difficulties is well worth the effort it takes to read it.
Harriet Wood, Year 7
David Almond, Hodder Signature, 0 340 71600 2, £4.99 pbk
The story mainly focuses around a boy – Michael – who has just moved house much against his will, who finds a ‘thing’ (Skellig) in his garage that is neither human nor angel, but a bit of both. Michael also becomes friendly with a girl that lives near him called Mina. She doesn’t go to school and has a low opinion of those who do.
The story is quite repetitive at the beginning, particularly when the author is describing the half human, half angel thing. The words ‘He laughed but he did not smile’ seem to come up a little too often. Also a little annoyingly we never find out how or why ‘Skellig’ lives in Michael’s falling down garage.
The story has two strands to it – the first is Michael’s relationship with Skellig and Mina, and the second is his relationships with his mum, dad and baby sister. All are dealt with sensitively and with considerable insight into the sometimes difficult world of a young teenager.
However, despite some initial reservations, I found the book does become surprisingly readable. Although it relies on a shaky plot, it all comes together to make a very good read. It really opens up some interesting insights into human psychology. All the characters are well thought out and developed throughout the book. Towards the end, Skellig’s transformation is a trifle predictable and not completely understandable but the whole idea is most unusual and it was this that kept me reading and made me feel that it was time well spent.
It is a bit difficult to put an age range on this type of book, but I would say about 9-14 years.
Jack Connah, Year 8