Chosen by Year 7-10 (11-15 year-old) pupils from Broadwater School, Godalming, Surrey.
Thanks to Linda Goldsmith, Learning Resource Centre Manager
Just In Case
Meg Rosoff, Penguin, 978 0 14 138078 0, £10.99 hbk
Just In Case is a thought-provoking story about a boy named David, who after his brother attempts to fly, changes his name to Justin. Justin Case. Believing fate is out to get him, he tries to hide from it by changing his entire identity. In doing so, he meets a girl named Agnes. Agnes enjoys photography and becomes increasingly interested in the confused Justin, ending up making an entire gallery of photos which show him in different moods. She appropriately entitles the gallery ‘Doomed Youth’.
During the story Justin becomes exceedingly troubled and confused, what with destiny out to get him and girl problems he very strangely ends up living at Luton airport. However, fate (which is cleverly portrayed by Meg in bold writing) is one step ahead of him and almost gets him killed.
Now living with Agnes and having lost his imaginary dog, he is forced by his family and friends to pull his socks up and get his life back on track. Just when things get back to normal, he catches a rare disease and readers are left to puzzle at Meg’s cryptic ending as to whether or not he survives.
Meg Rosoff manages to cram romance, humour, philosophy and drama into this compelling read, accurately describing the hormones of a teenager. She kept me interested right up to the end and I would gladly recommend this book to all young readers.
Ash-Lynn Tavener, Year 10
My Swordhand Is Singing
Marcus Sedgwick, Orion, 978 1 84255 183 7, £9.99 hbk (978 1 84255 558 3, £6.99 pbk, May 2007)
In My Swordhand Is Singing , Marcus Sedgwick tells a sinister tale of a woodcutter and his son who fight the legendary undead in seventeenth-century Romania, and he tells it with such skill that the reader is transported to the desolate, wintry birch forest along with the young Peter, as he slowly uncovers the truth behind the folk tales of Nosferatu and learns the real reason why he and his father have been outsiders for his whole life.
Sedgwick’s elegant, concise prose creates just the right slightly menacing atmosphere for this moving story, of how a person who has lost himself can remember what he once was and find the courage to be it once again. Perfectly paced, with every element (particularly the device of the song), spot on.
They have spent longer in the village of Chust than they have in any other place before and Peter is finally beginning to put down some roots. He has even begun to fall in love with the draper’s daughter, Agnes. However, secrets bristle the air at home, creating a large and painful barrier between Peter and his father, but family tensions are the least of Peter’s worries. Strange and menacing things are happening in Chust. A man who recently died in mysterious circumstances is said to be visiting his wife at night. Something is very, very wrong.
There are many old vampire legends, all telling different stories, some contradicting others. My Swordhand Is Singing is inspired by these varied and ancient Eastern European legends of the Nosferatu, and it makes a fine modern addition to them.
Marcus Sedgwick writes with concise precision. He doesn’t waste a word and with broad and elegant strokes, he paints a chilling and irresistibly Gothic picture of the fight of good against evil. My Swordhand Is Singing is tense, unnerving and well-structured. Every required element is woven into the tale in a wonderfully seamless manner. There is love, loss, regret, courage, bad and good things. It is a book for children though, and so you can expect gore, but not too much gore. You can expect menace and threat, but you can also expect faith and hope. It’s a fine line and it’s one Sedgwick has trodden with consummate skill.
This story of wintry forests, family secrets and the ancient threat of the undead is highly recommended as it is amazing.
Sophie Berry, Year 8
The Dangerous Book for Boys
Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden, HarperCollins, 978 0 00 723274 1, £20.00 hbk
The Dangerous Book for Boys is a read that every man, young or old, should have. The easy step-by-step building guides provided, make the book instantly accessible to anyone and everyone. The contrast the authors give between the set out rules and their own points of view, steers the book away from typical factual books. Of course, it isn’t just a D.I.Y. book. It gives you basic useful knowledge that will constantly come in handy. As everyone knows, the key to a good book is a good story, and this book doesn’t just give the reader one, but many true and not so true stories. From survival miracles to epic battles there is something for every boy.
In conclusion, I would recommend this book to any boys I know, as they would be able to share with me the many fruitful resources discovered in one book.
Kieran Taylor, Year 8
The Fourth Horseman
Kate Thompson, Bodley Head, 978 0 370 32890 4, £10.99 hbk (Red Fox, 978 0 09 949503 1, £5.99 pbk, June 2007)
The first time Laurie and her dad see the white rider, watching them from the deep, cool shadows of the trees, he is alone. Laurie is convinced that his appearance has a meaning, that somehow he is trying to tell them something – something her dad needs to pay attention to. Is the rider somehow linked to the genetic research into squirrels, that Laurie is helping her dad with in the lab? When a second rider with a bloody sword appears alongside the first, and then a third and a fourth, Laurie knows she must try to understand who they are and what they represent. With the help of her brother and his best friend, she discovers what the riders mean, but will it be too late to stop the inevitable chain of events that has been set in motion?
This is a thrilling adventure which you won’t be able to put down. I definitely recommend it. 5 stars.
Daniel Oakey, Year 7