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In Reviews

19

Grandpa Frank’s Great Big Bucket List

Like Pearson’s very successful debut The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates, this story describes a series of silly and humorous events, but it also explores themes of family, friendship and forgiveness. Frank’s dad is called Frank, and so is his grandfather. Yet, apart from their names, the three members of the Davenport family share […]

20

The Queen in the Cave

From the illustrator who gave us the acclaimed The Liszts and Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein comes an authorial debut rich with otherworldly delights and a strong sense of childness. With a brief narrative prologue in which our protagonist, Franca, is found creating collages from richly-illustrated magazines, we espy a floating arm tapping her on the […]

21

The Runaways of Haddington Hall

Author Vivian French is well-known for her fantastic characterisation and this book is certainly no exception. As the book begins, we are immediately thrown into the hot and steamy Victorian home of Minnie O’Sullivan, as she ‘helps’ her mother with her laundry business. Minnie’s life, along with her family, is a tough one, with money […]

22

The Hunt for the Nightingale

Sarah Ann Juckes walks a fine line between high emotion and sentimentality but never wavers in this intense and entertaining story. Jasper is 9 years old and his twin passions are birds – especially nightingales – and his 18-year-old sister Rosie, with whom he listens to and watches them. They are always together and the […]

23

Stuntboy: In the meantime

This illustrated novel packs a punch, visually and emotionally. It features the one and only Stuntboy, whose special power is, rather unusually, to help other heroes do their stunts. This is no fantasy novel, nor is it a generic superhero comic book. Stuntboy’s true identity is Portico Reeves – a young boy who lives in […]

24

Tripwrecked! Tempest Terror

In Ross Montgomery’s ingenious light-hearted fantasy, a school party is shipwrecked on a desert island, where the children gradually realise that their situation has uncanny parallels with Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Frank, the narrator, and Rianna, the quiet ones who are used to being ignored, form an alliance; and their sensible ideas, even if appropriated by […]

25

The Wind Child

Mara is the granddaughter of Striborg, the Slavic god of winter winds and has grown up in his castle, but when her human father falls ill, the family are sent back to the human world.  After her father’s death Mara finds it impossible to accept and decides to rescue his spirit before it is caught […]

26

Big Dance

Poppa tells Pippa that everyone ‘has a dance inside them’ even Pippa, and she must find her dance before the Big Dance takes place.  Pippa is a bit perturbed at this idea because she has not danced before.   Poppa shows her what all the other animals are doing in their dances, and each one is […]

27

The Mermaid in the Millpond

Lucy Strange combines historical fiction with mysterious folklore in this tale of a young mill worker’s encounter with a mermaid. The language is sparse and compelling and immediately seizes the reader’s attention with its powerful description of the titular mermaid, not the sort of mermaid that sits on a rock but rather ‘a monster – […]

28

Grandad’s Camper

When they were young, Gramps and Grandad travelled the world in a cosy pink camper van, a ‘little home on wheels’ that brought adventures to their door. These days, Grandad lives all alone in a cottage, but his stories about Gramps bring him to life for their grandchild, who likes listening to tales of days […]

29

Daydreams and Jellybeans. Poems to Read Aloud

The subtitle of Alex Wharton’s first collection of poetry suggests that these are poems to read aloud. But if you thought that this means they might be loud and insistent, you would be wrong. In fact, it is the quietest poems that I find most impressive, poems that have a dreamy, bated breath quality. The […]

30

The Ship of Cloud and Stars

Nico Cloud is fascinated by science and fossils much like her famous explorer aunt Ruth. But this is 1832 when girls are supposed to stay at home doing embroidery and remain uneducated.   When Nico’s natural curiosity leads her father to confiscate her natural history books she decides to run away to see if she can […]

31

Escape Room

Booking in to a large but silent property for what is advertised as the ultimate in an Escape Room experience, teenagers Ami and four others soon find themselves in real and present danger. Moving from space to space, trying to work out cryptic clues against a background of ever-increasing peril, their journey reads like a […]

32

When Shadows Fall

In this ambitious and passionate novel, Sita Brahmachari charts the course of the friendship of four London teenagers. Kai is the main focus of the novel. His desperation and grief at his sister’s death and his father’s depression result in behaviour that gets him excluded from school and involved in drug taking and petty crime. […]

33

Big Boned

Lori Palmer is 17 years old. She has just moved from Johannesburg to Cape Town, South Africa. Lori is a very talented artist. Back home she was enrolled in a school for arts. In Cape Town however she is enrolled at Baywater High School, where Lori who is plus sized and insecure feels as out […]

35

Kemosha of the Caribbean

‘Weary of all the Pirates of the Caribbean films where no black characters play a significant role, and outraged by the depiction of Friday in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, I set to work creating a black heroine fit for modern times.’ And in this story Alex Wheatle triumphantly does just that. His heroine Kemosha is […]

36

My Pet Goldfish

Undoubtedly this is one of the very best non-fiction picture books I’ve seen this year; it’s based on Catherine Rayner’s own goldfish, Richard; the very same name the young narrator chooses for the gift received herein. Little by little, through careful observation of this very first pet, the child learns a lot about goldfish, sharing […]