Our Good Reads were chosen by young people at Latymer Upper School, West London. Thanks to these young critics and thanks and congratulations to Head Librarian Terri McCargar. Terri is one of the outstanding librarians on the SLA’s 2020/21 Honour List.
The Bear and the Nightingale
Katherine Arden, Del Rey, 978-1785031052, £9.99. pbk
The Bear and the Nightingale (and the Winternight trilogy overall) has to be one of the best books I’ve ever read. Set in medieval Russia, the story follows the free-spirited Vasya as she grows. After her mother dies, Vasya’s father is remarried to a fiercely devout Christian who forbids them from honouring the household spirits. Misfortune begins to plague her village, and as danger circles Vasya must defy the people she loves and call upon her magical gifts. The novel is intertwined with folklore and is written in a rich, enchanting style. I found Arden’s ornate fairy-tale world captivating, and I love how she combines historical fiction with elements of fantasy. While some might find the book slow to start, I assure you that it only gets better. I would recommend this to anyone who appreciates a beautiful writing style and is interested in Russian history and folklore.
Reviewed by Tessa, Year 9
Six of Crows
Leigh Bardugo, Orion Children’s Books, 978-1780622286, £8.99 pbk
Six of Crows is a heist fantasy young adult novel written by Leigh Bardugo that follows six gang members as they attempt to break into a stronghold that has never been breached before. The plot is full of surprising twists and turns that keep you guessing until the last page – and into the sequel as well, so I can’t reveal much about the story without spoiling anything. However, I can tell you that it is full of cleverly written characters that are both realistic and easy to empathise with, and it also covers a few deeper ideas as well, such as fighting back against abuse and discrimination. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading adventure or fantasy novels aged between twelve and seventeen, and I would rate it nine out of ten.
Reviewed by Amelie, Year 8
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs
Steve Brusatte, Picador, 978-1509830091, £9.99 pbk
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs is an extremely informative book on the history of the dinosaurs. Today, it is harder to learn the full history of the dinosaurs, their predecessors and successors because oftentimes, the information will be slightly twisted. This book goes into the details of the author’s analysis of data using modern technology to explore fossils. He explains how the pictures and knowledge of prehistoric creatures has built up over the years, and how some of the greatest beings ever to roam the earth got to their massive sizes. He delves into the quirky features (such as the unique claws on Therizinosaurus), while also explaining some of the myths about dinosaurs (for example, it was assumed the oxygen content in the air was higher which made the dinosaurs bigger). Overall, I would recommend this book and give it a 10/10.
Reviewed by Jai, Year 8
The Hate U Give
Angie Thomas, Walker Books, 978-1406372151, £7.99 pbk.
The story is about a girl who is the only eyewitness to her friend’s killing by a police officer. She knows exactly who the officer is but is afraid to speak out. Eventually she feels as though she is not able to live up to her father’s black power philosophy and begins to feel alone.
The author, Angie Thomas, talks about the struggle of being able to speak out on topics that could have detrimental effects on someone’s life. She makes us realise that some things aren’t as easy as they seem and we can’t beat ourselves up about it.
Overall I think the book is a very accurate representation of police brutality and the BLM movement currently. The book is a modern classic and will continue to be relevant for many years to come. 10/10
Reviewed by Adeline, Year 7
The Book Thief
Markus Zusak, Black Swan, 978-1784162122, £8.99 pbk
The Book Thief is a book about life in Nazi Germany, with Death as the idiosyncratic narrator. The main character is a girl named Liesel, who is sent to a foster family after her communist father is thrown into a concentration camp. There, she struggles with trauma and recurring nightmares. She finds refuge in books stolen from the mayor’s house, and in her friendship with Max, a young Jewish man hiding in the basement of her foster parents’ house. It’s a powerful account of life and the stories of different people, all of whom resist the Nazis in their own way. It is especially compelling because it retells real events from the war, such as parading Jewish people through the streets of German towns. I recommend this novel to children aged 12–16; it’s a harrowing and thought-provoking depiction of life during the war and how humanity – despite grief – always perseveres.
Reviewed by Daler, Year 8