Book reviews - fiction 5 to 11 (page 11)

Stargazing for Beginners by Jenny McLachlan

Poor Meg - it seems that her ambition must always come second to that of her mother. Now Meg is left to look after her little sister for ten days after mum leaves suddenly to follow up yet another of her Big Important Causes. Science is an open book to Meg - but looking after her little sister is far more of a challenge. Mum's hosen the worst time: Meg is desperate to win a competition to get the chance to visit NASA headquarters, but to do this she has to beat close rival Ed. Can Meg pull off this double life of caring for Elsa and following her own dreams? Meg is a superb character - I really fell for her and was rooting for her throughout... and as for her Mum! An excellently written story that gets right to your heart.

Forever Geek (Geek Girl, Book 6) by Holly Smale

 How sad that this is the last in what has been a really exceptional series. I have loved following the ups and downs of Harriet's life, and seeing her develop as a wonderful character. Harriet Manners may be a know-all - but what a likeable one she is.She knows modelling isn’t a sure-fire route to popularity and neither is making endless lists. And importantly, statistically you are more likely to not meet your Australian ex-boyfriend in Australia than bump into him there. So on the trip of a lifetime Down Under on a modelling trip with Nat, Harriet’s to-do lists are gone and it’s Nat’s time to shine! Yet with nearly-not-quite-boyfriend Jasper back home, Harriet’s completely unprepared to see supermodel ex Nick. Is the fashion world about to turn ugly for Geek Girl? An amazing and totally satisfying conclusion to a wonderful series.

Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr

Take an exciting and atmospheric journey into the Bronze Age with this gripping tale. Is Aissa the miracle girl who escaped the raiders or is she the cursed child who called the Bull King's ship to the island? When luckless Aissa is abandoned at the gates of the Great Hall, anonymous and mute, she is called No-Name, s raised a slave, not knowing until she is twelve her true name. She must escape, but the only way is the dangerous one of being one of the thirteen-year-old children to brave the bloody bull dances in the Bull King's royal court. Aissa's life has made her resourceful, brave and determined - but can she survive this gruelling test? Superbly written, this is a compelling read.

The Pumpkin Project by Katie Smith

The Pumpkin Project was the winner of ITV Lorraine's Top Tales 2016 children's book writing competition. When Lottie and her class are given an end of term project competition called Big and Small, Lottie knows that class show-off Penelope Pembleton-Puce will probably win - she always does. But with help from Gramps, and the plan to grow a giant pumpkin, perhaps Lottie can win. Gramps has a few tricks up his sleeve.. but the pumpkin seems to have a mind of its own. This is a lovely story about friendship, family and believing in yourself, perfect for newly confident readers.

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpurgo

1940. It's wartime and Barney and his mother are on the train, travelling away from their ruined home in the devastated city of Coventry. The train is under attack from German fighters. In the darkness, sheltering in a railway tunnel, the stranger in the carriage with Barney and his mother tells them a story to pass the time. It's the story of a young soldier in the trenches of World War I who did what he thought was right but which turned out to be a mistake; it's told in an adult voice to a young child which heightens the dramatic quality and makes it equally readable by child and adult. Did the soldier really spare Hitler's life in the trenches? Powerful story-telling, gives a vivid picture of wartime life, both at home and in the front line. Based on a true story, as are so many of the author's greatest stories, this is a moving and thought-provoking story; the end of the book puts it all into context, as the author tells us the true story of Henry Tandey. The book is superbly illustrated with pencil drawings by Michael Foreman.

The Pocket Dog by Holly Webb

Another lovely story from best-selling and highly popular author Holly Webb. Kitty and her family have a new puppy, Frank, as well as Shadow, their very elderly dog - and they have an important lesson to share with Kitty. There is a new girl in the class, and Kitty is jealous - Erin has a phone and seems much cooler than Kitty. Kitty starts to be mean to her, and then her feelings take over and it seems she just can;t stop being unkind. It takes the love of her little dachshund puppy, Frank, to show her that bullying isn't the answer and that friendship matters. A well-told story with a strong emphasis on friendship and loyalty - and no bullying.

Daisy and the Trouble with Vampires by Kes Gray

Daisy is a great character - lively and somewhat disaster-prone, but she means well so you just have to like her. It’s Halloween and Daisy is rather scared, as Jack Beechwhistle is full of scary stories about werewolves, ghosts and vampires... so going trick-or-treating for the very first time is very scary. It's dark and it's foggy and all Daisy has to protect her is a torch and some silly string... The layout of the book is a real treat - especially the black pages that tell of Daisy's exploits in the scary darkness. Short chapters, plenty happening and lots of illustrations make the book perfect for children starting to read alone. A super series.

The New Girl (The Witches of Fairhollow High) by Ariana Chambers

Magic and friendship combine to bring us a spell-binding novel, perfect for readers of 9+. Nessa has recently moved to the little town of Fairhollow to live with her aunt. She is really lonely without her dad and her best friend - and she is being picked on, too. Things start to improve when a new friendship grows, with Holly - but what is Holly's secret? Like the sound of this? The second book in the series is published January 2017.

Alistair Grim's Odditorium by Gregory Funaro

This atmospheric novel starts deep into the underworld of Victorian London where 12 year old Grubb is a chimney sweep with a cruel and demanding master. Determined to escape from trouble at an inn, he hides in a guest's trunk and finds himself whisked away to Alistair Grim's Odditorium. The Odditorium is a fantastic flying house full of incredible mechanical features powered by an enigmatic substance called animus. Now with a completely different kind of apprenticeship, Grubb begins to settle into his new life with a new family. It seems ideal but suddenly his new world comes under attack from the evil Prince Nightshade and he is propelled into a perilous quest. Superb characters abound in the book and the story is well-paced but with time to absorb all the nuances; the realistic and the impossible are beautifully combined.

Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum (Odditorium) by Gregory Funaro

Grubb faces an uphill task, as all of England is convinced that Alistair Grim is a villain. It's up to Grim expose the real villain, Prince Nightshade, a wicked necromancer who wants the Odditorium's power source for himself. With the evil prince hot on their trail, Grim, Grubb and the rest of the Odditorium's crew are off to the otherworldly realm of Avalon, home to Excalibur - the only weapon that can defeat Prince Nightshade. The quest gets more and more tricky, and more and more exciting. Readers will enjoy the line drawings which start off every chapter and give a hint of what is to come. Wonderfully written books which combine elements of fantasy, plenty of merriment and enough reality to keep the stories grounded.

The Midnight Foxes (Tiger Days, Book 2) by Sarah Lean

This is the second in a super series which is ideal for girls who love animals. Nine year old Tiger Days loves staying with her grandmother at Willowgate House, where needy animals of all sorts are cared for. There are always adventures in store. This time, someone or something, has been digging up plants, burying eggs and even taking socks from the washing line; and a mysterious tunnel has appeared under the shed. What could it be? It's time for Tiger and her friend Tom turn detectives and solve the mystery. Beautifully written stories with a genuine love for animals at their heart; realistic without being sentimental.

The Halloweeds by Veronica Cossanteli

Newly-orphaned Dan,whose scientist parents died on a jungle research trip, promised them he would look after his siblings. The children go to live in Daundelyon Hall, home to the mysterious Aunt Eg reigns supreme. Why do Aunt Eg and her servants each have a finger missing? What are the hungry 'Cabbages' in the greenhouse? There are mysteries galore in this engaging mix of spookiness, humour and family; it's a story that engages the reader on many levels and which will appeal to a wide range of readers; Chicken House sum it up as funny - scary - grotesque.

Princess Smartypants and the Missing Princes by Babette Cole

Princess Smartypants has been delighting readers of picture books for 30 years, and now here she is in her first full length novel. This hilarious story is packed with fairytale favourites - there are princesses, a troll, a giant, a witch and hundreds of frogs. They all form part of a story which includes a rescue mission and a royal wedding. Princess Smartypants is a very unusual princess, and a very likeable one. Lovely line drawings embellish the pages and combine with the short chapters to make the book a great way to encourage readers who love her picture books to move on to full-length fiction.

The Case of the Girl in Grey: The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency by Jordan Stratford

The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency was supposed to be a secret, but after the success of The Case of the Missing Moonstone, everyone in London knows that Lady Ada and Mary are the ones to go to if they have a problem. Their new case is a puzzle indeed. It involves a horrible hospital, a missing will, a hasty engagement and a suspiciously slippery servant. Set in 19th century London, the story combines a number of elements which will give it widespread appeal - mystery, adventure, the supernatural and humour with an authentic historical background. Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley are, of course, real people but here they are set in fictional situations. Superbly written, with great characters and plenty of excitement.

The Enchanted Wood Gift Edition (The Magic Faraway Tree) by Enid Blyton

Join Joe, Beth and Frannie as they climb to the top of the Faraway Tree, meet Silky, Moon-Face and the Saucepan Man, and enjoy fantastical adventures. Such fun to read, and those who loved the books as children will really enjoy sharing them with their own children - or grandchildren. The Magic Faraway Tree series is arguably less well-known than Enid Blyton's other series, but the whimsical approach makes the stories a delight for younger readers and they make perfect bedtime stories. Wonderfully imaginative and timeless in their appeal. This is a beautiful keepsake gift edition, with delightful colour drawings by

The Magic Faraway Tree Gift Edition (Magic Faraway Tree 2) by Enid Blyton

When Joe, Beth and Frannie climb up to the top of the Faraway Tree, they meet Silky, Moon-Face and the Saucepan Man. Their new friends show them an exciting secret – how to visit lots of strange and magical lands, where they have many thrilling adventures. Join the children in the Land of Topsy Turvy, the Land of Do-As-You-Please, the Land of Goodies and many more magical places. Another lovely hardback book, beautifully produced with high quality paper and delightful illustrations by Mark Beech, including the colourful cover. Both these books would make ideal gifts, ones to treasure and to hand down from one generation to the next.

Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx by Laura Wood

In the first story, we met Poppy Pym who was thrust from the unconventional world of the circus into an ultra-conventional boarding school; despite her fears, she soon finds her niche, and it's great to see her back solving another mystery. It's Halloween at Saint Smithen's. When the Brimwell town hall burns down, the amateur production of Macbeth is moved to the school and it's all hands on deck. But when the play is struck by a series of mysterious attacks, it's up to Poppy, her friends and her circus family to save the play and unmask the culprit. Poppy is a very engaging character, who narrates her story with zest and humour.

Young Bond: Strike Lightning by Steve Cole

Steve Cole's Young Bond series is perfect to introduce children to James Bond; the stories are fast-paced, tense and exciting, juts as you would expect. When James stumbles upon a horrific sight, he knows things are not what they seem. His school is determined to make him believe what happened was an accident, but James believes what he saw was murder. The significance of the events at school only come to light in the course of an adventure that takes James across Europe and puts him within range of a warmongering villain. Has James got what it takes to triumph over this man, the worst kind of enemy, who boasts a new kind of weapon? Excellently written, the character of the young James is perfectly conveyed to show us the man to come. The story is well crafted and a worthy homage.

The Genie's Curse (Little Legends) by Tom Percival

I love the current popularity of books which feature well-loved fairytale characters, but with different twists on their stories. Now it is the turn of Rapunzel to feature in this new book in a series. Everything goes wrong when Rapunzel breaks a magical urn and blames it on her new friend, Ella (here's a moral!). It turns out that the urn was home to a very cross (and now very homeless) hermit genie, who casts a spell making everyone blame Rapunzel for everything that goes wrong in Tale Town! With the help of her friends and a mysterious green monkey called Alphege, can Rapunzel 'undo what she has done' and lift the curse? Many other favourite characters appear in the tale, and children will love to spot them all as they enjoy the lively story.

The Magic Looking Glass (Little Legends) by Tom Percival

There's been a robbery in Tale Town! Someone has stolen a cutting from the magical Story Tree, and it's up to twins Hansel and Gretel to get it back. With the help of their new friend Wolfie, a not very big or very bad wolf, they discover a secret fortress in the forest, containing a Magic Looking Glass that promises to help them. But things are not always what they seem, especially when the Magic Looking Glass starts causing trouble! Can Wolfie and the twins find the Story Tree cutting and save the day, or will the Magic Looking Glass have the last laugh? Perfect for older readers who still want to enjoy the fun of fairytales, but who perhaps feel they have grown out of them, these are perfect to read alone or for adults to share with children. The distinctive story-telling style with all the familiar characters makes reading a joy, and the generous amount of illustrations will really appeal.

Spynosaur by Guy Bass

Spynosaur is the first in a new series from comedy story author Guy Bass. Spynosaur is secret agency Department 6's not-so secret weapon; created by mysterious science rays, Spynosaur has the mind of a super spy and the body of a dinosaur - an enticing combination! With his daughter Amber, Spynosaur is here to protect the world from villains. But when they are sent to rescue a captured fellow agent, Spynosaur becomes embroiled in a plot to frame him. Can he and Amber clear his name in time to save the world? A great deal of the appeal of this book lies in its lively presentation, with lots of illustrations, comic strips and other visual material.

Our House 2: Time to Shine by Tom Easton

Dad's extended family are coming for Christmas and the house is going to be redecorated in anticipation; Dad's taken a job in Germany to pay for it. As the builders start work they uncover more serious problems with the house... will Dad ever be able to move back home? Chloe has landed a starring role in her school play, but Imogen is the lead, and being as insufferable as ever. With all this going on, can the family cope? This is another wonderfully warm story about family life with plenty of laughs and some great characters to enjoy. An excellent read in the tradition of the best children's fiction.

Furry Friends: Sophie's Squeaky Surprise by Holly Webb

A prolific author, Holly Webb's animal stories are huge favourites, especially with young girls. Sophie isn't happy about moving to a strange new country and starting at a new school. But then she meets Josephine - a macaroon-eating, tutu-wearing guinea pig, who lives with her furry friends in the centre of Paris. Josephine soon shows Sophie that living in a new place is exciting and being friends with a guinea pig is the best adventure of all. A heart-warming story with plenty of humour which will be popular with all children who love animal stories; ideal for independent young readers.

Song of the Deep by Brian Hastings

Merryn, the narrator of the story, lives with her fisherman father in a cottage by the sea; daily, her father sets out to sea and returns for dinner. But one stormy evening, he doesn't return. In this magical story, Merryn has a vision that her father been dragged underwater by a terrifying sea creature so she builds a tiny submarine and embarks on a journey through the undersea worlds she has only heard about through her father's lullabies. As she faces the dangers and wonders of the world below the waves, she realises that her father's stories were all real. Readers can also experience Merryn's daring journey firsthand in the new 'Song of the Deep' video game from acclaimed developer Insomniac Games. This is a lovely hardback book, beautifully produced with a striking dust jacket which reflects the beauty of the story. Published by Sterling, September 16, 978-1454920960.

Henry and the Guardians of the Lost by Jenny Nimmo

Jenny Nimmo is one of the best current writers of children's fantasy and this new story certainly does not disappoint. The reader is immersed in the mystery right from the start - how come Henry's father died 100 years ago, yet Henry is only 12? And what is in the mysterious letter in the bright yellow envelope? Just 10 minutes after the arrival of the letter, Henry is on the run with his Auntie Pearl, possibly never to return home. Henry has a secret. It is Henry's secret that has put him in danger, his only hope the protection of the Guardians of the Lost. Compelling and dramatic, this is a superbly told story.

Hannah in the Spotlight: Star Club Book 1 by Natasha Mac a'Bháird

Hannah loves acting and she wishes she could have gone to drama camp rather than being a babysitter to her younger brothers and sisters. But when Meg moves in next door, together with friends Ruby and Laura, they decide to form Star Club, their very own drama club. Maisie’s birthday party is to be the occasion of their first performance - but disaster strikes. Not only does Hannah find herself required for childminding, but Meg has problems too. Can the friends pull together so the show can go on? A very enjoyable light-hearted read - a good start to the series.

Time After Time by Judi Curtin

Best friends Molly and Beth love spending time together... but their families moving in together is a step too far. To avoid an embarrassing situation shopping one day, they hide in a shop they had never noticed before... and when they leave by a side door, they find themselves back in the past. They realise that they have a chance to see the world through their parents’ eyes - a fascinating concept to explore and one that should stimulate plenty of discussion by readers. Before finding their way home, can they see what their own pasts looked like? An excellent read which explores the issues that face families, as well as exploring an age without today's technology. Highly recommended.

The Demon Undertaker by Cameron McAllister

The Demon Undertaker is terrorising 18th century London in this chilling and atmospheric novel. His latest dastardly deed is to kidnap Lady Grace Dvenport - right from beneath the noses of her family. Even a barrage of bullets could not stop the blood-thirsty ghoul from escaping in his black hearse; is he man or monster? The Bow Street Runners were London's first professional detectives, founded by Henry Fielding, uncle to the fictional Thomas Fielding who encountered this villain and determined to capture him before another victim was snatched. A thrilling mystery story, with an excellent historical background and well-drawn characters.

Timmy Failure: Sanitized for Your Protection by Stephan Pastis

Timmy Failure is trapped on a road trip with notorious criminal Molly Moskins; not a great place for the founder, president and CEO of Total Failure Inc, the world's greatest detective agency. His business partner is Total - a polar bear! Timmy is quite sure that he knows who stole the money from a school fund; he has a case to solve, and he will let nothing stand in his way. There's plenty of humour, with some clever word play and, of course, amusing cartoons. Timmy speaks directly to the reader, really engaging the attention; this combines excellently with the 'notebook' style approach which is such a hit with children.

Lockwood & Co: The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud

Can Lockwood persuade Lucy to return to the fold? Lucy has left Lockwood & Co. and is working as a freelance. When Penelope Fittes of the Fittes Agency wants Lockwood & Co. to locate and remove the ‘Source’ for the legendary Brixton Cannibal, they need lucy. What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving their closest rivals may just do the trick. Soon, a shocking revelation rocks Lockwood & Co. to its very core... This is a totally compelling series with a high level of tension maintained throughout; it's certainly spooky, but the characters are so well depicted that you feel you are right with them through their adventures; it's not bedtime reading!

Rowan Oakwing: A London Fairy Tale by E. J. Clarke

When the gates to London's parks close at night, there is still life around; magical life. Tiny winged creatures come alive and you can only meet them if you are one of them - and there's no going back. Rowan's mum disappeared seven years ago and Rowan cares for her dad and her little sister. One day, she visits Hyde Park alone and cries herself to sleep in Hyde Park. She wakes up to find herself in a gigantic world, about to go on an adventure in the hidden world of fairies and foxes. A perilous quest lies ahead, with enemies all round. If she wants to get home, she'll need to summon all her courage. A beautifully crafted story with a strong heroine.

Enid Blyton's Summer Stories

Perfect for summer holiday reading, this is a super collection of 27 holiday stories by an author who remains enduringly popular, despite sometimes being out of favour with adults. Deservedly popular, Enid Blyton has brought pleasure to generations of readers, often setting them on a path of future reading. This collection of short stories is perfect for reading alone or for reading aloud, with plenty for boys and girls to enjoy. There is adventure and magic in this enjoyable collection, all with a lovely summery there for summer fun or to liven up the dark days of winter.

King Flashypants and the Evil Emperor: Book 1 by Andy Riley

Edwin is no ordinary boy. He is a king with a throne, a suit of armour and his very own castle, complete with secret passages. Every Friday, King Edwin buys lots of chocolate for the peasants - but one sad day, the money runs out. Quick to take advantage is evil Emperor Nurbison, who has had his eye on Edwin's kingdom for a while. Soon, King Edwin has to flee his castle and it's time to come up with a cunning plan to get things straight again. This book had me in fits of giggles, it really is very, very funny and so cleverly written; the jokes will appeal to young and old. All this hilarity coupled with amusing black and white drawings add up to a book which will be absolutely loved by children.

Magisterium: The Bronze Key (The Magisterium) by Cassandra Clare

Following the excitement of The Bronze Key, with The Enemy of Death dead, it should be time to celebrate - but readers of this gripping series should know differently. Despite that, the magical world has no reason to believe otherwise, and Callum, Tamara and Aaron are celebrated as heroes. This is short-lived though as at a party held in their honour, things go horribly, brutally wrong. A fellow student is callously murdered, and it seems Call’s worst fears are confirmed: there is a spy in the Magisterium. Now, using the powerful magic they’ve been taught, the trio must risk their lives to track down the killer. But magic is dangerous – in the wrong hands it could bring terrible destruction. Once again, the authors have brought us a story which twists and turns, meaning the reader can't even guess at the outcome... and there are two more books to follow before the final resolution.

Miraculous Miranda by Siobhan Parkinson

Miranda has a vivid imagination and when her sister Gemma is taken into hospital, Miranda escapes into her own imaginative fantasy land.The city of Splendiferous is on the island of Magnanimous; there you will find giraffe police, sandwiches growing on trees, the sweet sounds of piano music and a Crystal-Clear Glass Hospital for Getting-Better Children. As her sister gets worse, things Miranda writes seem to trigger small miracles she has been asking for: her gran stops smoking, horrible Darren Hoey is nice to her... Can Miranda write a miracle for her sister? A lovely celebration of the power of the imagination, and of determination, with a strong lead character whose voice shines through the pages of the book, encouraging us all to think more creatively.

The Great Fire Dogs by Megan Rix

In London after the Great Plague of 1665, people fear any animals may carry the plague. It's now 1666 and we meet two dogs who are the best of friends despite their very different stations in life - Woofer is a lovable stray who works in the palace kitchen and Tiger Lily is the pampered pet spaniel of King Charles II. When Woofer finds himself in trouble he has to escape the palace grounds and Tiger Lily isn't far behind him. Soon they are caught up in a new danger - a great fire sweeping across London destroying everything in its path. Can these two brave dogs survive the blazing fire and make their way to safety? This lovely tale of animal friendship has an authentic Stuart background, giving children an insight into the period - a good way to encourage them to enjoy history.

Frank Einstein and the Evoblaster Belt by Jon Scieszka

Frank Einstein is a young genius who loves to find out how things; he creates amazing contraptions that are part science, part imagination and totally different. Frank and and his best friend, Watson, along with Klink (a self-assembled artificial intelligence entity) and Klank (a mostly self-assembled and artificial almost intelligence entity), are again in competition with T. Edison. Their task this time is to unlock the power behind the science of life with Frank's newest invention the EvoBelt, which allows the user to evolve into other forms of life. Two-colour illustrations are generously sprinkled throughout the book, and help us visualise Frank's marvellous machines. Great characters, amusing text and some simple science wrapped up into a neat and highly enjoyable package.

Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade (The Last Kids on Earth) by Max Brallier

Jack Sullivan is back for another zany adventure set in a post-apocalyptic world. Despite the chaos, things are looking up for Jack, who has a gang of friends to help him. There's science genius and best friend Quint, super-strong Dirk and all-round coolest girl ever, June - and don't forget Rover, Jack’s awesome monster pet! Plus the treehouse is more souped up than ever, chockablock with defensive gizmos and ready to withstand anything that the monster apocalypse can throw at it. Which is just as well, because there’s something extra-big and extra-monstrous marching right around the corner. Packed with cartoons, this is a book which will have huge appeal for children, especially boys, with its fast-paced action and great group of characters.

Farrah the Shy Fawn (Superfairies) by Janey Louise Jones

Set in Peaseblossom Woods with a big focus on nature, Superfairies combines two topics that girls enjoy - animals and fairies. In each story, the fairies must use their skills, teamwork and a sprinkling of magic to save animals in danger. The Superfairies, Rose, Star, Berry and Silk, are feisty, independent and work as a team to solve problems. The books are ideal for readers age 5 - 8. Farrah, a shy fawn, is determined to make herself beautiful and she has found a magical plant she thinks will help; the Superfairies know it can make her sick, so they need to find her quickly. Jennie Poh's coloured illustrations, many full page, are full of intricate detail and are so pretty to look at - a real feature of the books.

Sonny the Daring Squirrel (Superfairies) by Janey Louise Jones

In this story about the band of fairies who work together to solve problems and help others, young squirrel thinks jumping from a tall oak tree will impress the bigger boys, but he's just jumping into danger! It's time for the Superfairies to come to the rescue. These are very sweet stories, with lots of lovable animal characters and all beautifully illustrated. A very collectable series.

How to Update Your Parents by Pete Johnson

Topical indeed, and a very interesting topic that will produce plenty of debate in families. It's a while before the story at the heart of this book actually starts, but never fear - you will be royally entertained in the meantime with one of the funniest openings to a book I have read in quite a while. And then... when Louis's parents decide he spends too much time 'glued to screens' they come up with their worst idea ever - a total ban on tablets, computers and mobiles! Louis needs a plan to fight back, and fast! Can his girlfriend Maddy come to the rescue? Louis narrates his story brilliantly and he will have his readers in fits of laughter throughout. Parents might like to volunteer to read this to their children - that would be a great excuse for reading this hilarious book!

The Curious Kitten by Holly Webb

Holly Webb writes the cutest animal stories, almost guaranteed to make your child ask for a pet! This story is no exception. Amber's parents are having building work done and her kitten is very curious about all the new people coming and going. Then the little cat climbs into one of the builders' vans and its owner drives off without noticing. The kitten escapes to find herself in a strange new place. Will she ever find her way home to Amber? Sophy Williams' gorgeous illustrations perfectly capture the feel of the story, which young girls will love. A heart-warming story, perfect for newly confident readers.

The Secret Railway and the Crystal Caves by Wendy Meddour

The first thing about this book that will capture children's attention is the clever use of layout, drawings and typography, which have been used to excellent effect to offer an enticing read. And it's a highly enjoyable read too. Brother and sister Leo and Ella are on an incredible journey on a magnificent steam train. Their quest? To save the Kingdom of Izzambard. Evil Griselda has sent her mechanical moles to shut down the Crystal Caves, and fairy dust production is at an all-time low. Will Leo and Ella be able to help the hobgoblins re-open the caves, and bring magic back to the kingdom? Well written, with a pleasing blend of reality and fantasy.

The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall by Karen McCombie

Ellis' mother's has just married a famous rock star, and moved to a crumbling old mansion in the wilds of Scotland. It's always been just her mum and her, and now Ellis' life has changed totally. Being away from her friends and familiarity, anxiety takes its toll, threatening to overcome her. Then Ellis finds herself whisked back to the world of 1912, a world in which she feels strangely at home. She meets lonely servant girl Flora... but life in the past brings its own problems; maybe the present isn't so bad after all? A vividly described book, with a strong central character who is highly likeable. The switches in period are deftly handled, and the sense of place remains strong throughout this excellent story.

There's a Dragon in My Toilet by Tom Nicoll

If you want to attract children to a book, put 'toilet' in the title and you're halfway there! Pan the little dragon may be very small but, oh boy, he can cause a whole heap of trouble. Pan is missing his parents in China and is delighted when Eric helps him to speak to them over the internet. But his joy turns to despair when his parents announce that they are sending his aunt and uncle to bring him home. Travelling through the sewer system, Pan's relatives show up in Eric's house via his toilet ...and they're not going back without him! Full of humour which appeals across a wide age range, this really is a laugh-aloud book which will be thoroughly enjoyed by girls and boys; and Pan is such a great character.

My Embarrassing Dad's Gone Viral! by Ben Davis

Embarrassing parents - hands up who has got one? Well, that's a lot of people who will find this book hilarious. But Nelson's dad is right up there among the most embarrassing of all time. His mum has disappeared, his dad has moved the rest of the family to a wreck of a house in the middle of nowhere, so Nelson's answer is somewhat unexpected - to secretly launch his dad on the internet as the Next Big Thing. This hilarious up-to-the-minute story will have instant appeal to a YouTube-watching generation, and the contemporary telling through a series of vlogs hits just the right note. Mike Lowery's super illustrations combine perfectly with the text to bring a hilarious read.

Freedom for Bron: An Anglo-Saxon Adventure by N. S. Blackman

Good historical fiction is a brilliant way to immerse children in a period, and thereby to enhance their knowledge and appreciation of the times; this excellent story links well with the current KS2 history curriculum. Bron is a slave, subject to the will of his master, the disagreeable village blacksmith. Bron however, is ambitious, so when a Saxon lord passes through the village on his way to an important war council. Bron escapes and proves that a young boy can have a big impact on outcomes for the village, for the lord and ultimately, for the whole kingdom. A tale of friendship and the desire to belong, this is an excellently written narrative that really evokes the period, bringing the reader an excellent cast of characters to relish. The historical background is authentic, and the excitement of the period is conveyed really well, to draw in the reader.

Fire Witch (Fire Girl 2) by Matt Ralphs

Hazel Hooper is a Fire Witch, and she is on a mission. Her mother, Hecate, sacrificed herself to the demon world in order to stop a demonic invasion, and Hazel is determined to get her mother back. It's a dangerous mission and help can only come from Nicolas Murrell, the man responsible for the disappearance of Hecate. But he is in prison, and to reach him, Hazel must disguise herself as a boy and get deep inside the Order of Witch Hunters to gain an audience with Murrell. But can he be trusted? Or will Murrell reveal to his captors that their newest apprentice is a witch? One of my favourite aspects of the book is the lovely little dormouse Bramley who is Hazel's familiar - I love the way their relationship is depicted. Hazel is a brave and well-drawn character who has not been deterred by her isolated background.

The Hunting of the Princes (The Queen of Dreams) by Peter F. Hamilton

Taggie is no ordinary girl - she is the queen-to-be of a magical realm, and that means she must learn to use magic. Frighteningly, royal heirs in the magical realms have been the victims of assassins. Are the Karrak invaders responsible? War seems inevitable - but Taggie has learnt that the Karraks come from a completely different universe, and that there was once a gate to this universe, which is now lost. If Taggie and her friends can find the gate, perhaps they can also stop the war? But to do so they need to find a Karrak who will take their side. Rohan Eason's illustrations are the perfect complement to the story. A compelling fantasy; I'd recommend reading the books in order, though.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Swallows and Amazons has to be my favourite childhood book and I still, as an adult, reread it Swallows and Amazonsregularly. This classic tale of the adventures of the Walker and Blackett families in the Lake District has all the elements of a perfect children's book and its appeal is timeless, as we enjoy an idyllic world where children were safe to play out their adventures on water and land. It's a book that lingers long in the memory, as the reader revisits the scenes and imagines him or herself enjoying the adventures; the children are so real and the freedom they enjoyed is a revelation to today's children. Reality and imagination are blended to perfection and the characters are all so very different that most children will soon identify with one as being most like them. A book that every child should read. Now children can enjoy this wonderful world in a new film, release date 19 August 2016.

Chaos Descends (Darkmouth, Book 3) by Shane Hegarty

Darkmouth is a great fantasy series, cleverly written and well plotted with plenty of touches of humour. You might be scared, but then you are brought back to reality by the quiet wit. Finn thinks that, perhaps, he has had enough of excitement and adventure - and certainly, he hasn't had an easy ride as a trainee Legend Hunter. But fate decrees otherwise and now he's going to be made a proper Legend Hunter. But then suddenly people start disappearing, Legends are appearing where they shouldn't, Broonie's complaining, and an attack so big is coming that Finn has the weight of the world on his shoulders. It's chaos. Is Finn up to it? Finn is a wonderful character and the book fairly races along, keeping the reader hooked.

Sword in the Stone (Collins Modern Classics) by T. H. White

This classic fantasy story remains one of the best ever written. It tells the extraordinary story of a boy called Wart who went on to become King Arthur. Schoolwork was never such fun as when Merlyn the magician came to tutor Sir Ector's sons Kay and the Wart. After all, who wouldn't enjoy being turned into a fish, or a badger, or a snake? But Meryln has more serious plans in store for Wart. Superbly drawn characters play out the story against a fascinatingly vivid historical background. A story not to be missed. This edition includes a special "Why You'll Love This Book" introduction by bestselling author, Garth Nix; a great way to generate enthusiasm and there is also interesting extra material at the conclusion of the book.

The Anti-Princess Club 3 Grace's Dance Disaster by Samanatha Turnbull

Feisty heroines who refuse to be stereotyped star in their own story in this series. This time, it's the turn of sports-mad Grace Bennett who is ecstatic when her teacher arranges a training session for her with a famous football team... but it's far from being the sort of training she hoped for. How can she and her anti-princess sidekicks teach their teachers that there's more than one way to be a girl? This is a great series - although the girls are not princessy, they are imply quite ordinary girls who each have a special talent; a talent not always associated with girls. They are still well-balanced all-rounders who have a great friendship.

The Anti-Princess Club 4 Chloe's River Rescue by Samantha Turnbull

Although one of the girls is the central character in each book, they all have an important part to play in the stories, so there is a real sense of continuity as we reach the last book. It's aspiring scientist Chloe Karalis's tun to come to the fore. Her favourite person in the universe is her grandmother - so she's thrilled when Yiayia joins Chloe and her three friends for the summer holiday. But when Yiayia goes missing on her daily walk, the foursome know that they're faced with their biggest mission yet. Can they combine their unique talents to rescue their beloved mentor? All the books are highly enjoyable reads with very likeable characters whose friendship is strong. It's a good series which will make an excellent basis for discussion around stereotyping and standing up for what you believe in. Short chapters and relatively simple vocabulary make the books a good read for girls who are newly confident at reading alone.

Matchbox Mysteries: The Fourth Case by Sally Gardner

This is an excellent detective series for young readers - it may well set them off on a lifelong love of detective fiction! It's Hallowe'en and mysterious things are happening in the town of Podgy Bottom. Cars are being shrunk to the size of a matchbox in the blink of an eye; a giant purple bunny rabbit is running riot and a strange-looking broomstick is causing chaos and calamity. It's time to call in Wings & Co, the famous detective agency with its intrepid detectives Emily and Buster (and Fidget the cat, of course) put a stop to this magical mayhem? Those of an enquiring mind will enjoy the detective case notes, character profiles and clues. The story is light-hearted, full of fun and with a sprinkling of magic and mystery as well as great illustrations - what more could you ask?

Spots, Stripes and Zigzags: Book 4 (Knight in Training) by Vivian French

Sam J. Butterbiggins has a big ambition - he wants to be a Very Noble Knight. He's discovered a magical scroll and in it are the six quests to be completed so he can become a knight... and he's now up to number four in this fun series that will be loved by newly confident readers, especially boys. Next on the list is that knightly essential - a shield. Cousin Prune knows that Puddlewink Castle is the place to find armour - but how are they to get past the fearsome beast? Luckily, our young hero is just a resourceful as a knight needs to be. Lively illustrations add to the reader appeal, as well as the use of a variety of type faces. Very enjoyable.

Ever Never Handbook (The School for Good and Evil) by Soman Chainani

This is an unmissable book for all followers of The School for Good and Evil. In case you don't know, The School for Good and Evil is a children's fantasy book trilogy set in a world where every four years two children are chosen to attend a prestigious school where fairy tale heroes and villains are made. Now you, the reader, can step right inside that world with this exceptional companion book. It tells you everything students at the School need to learn in order to survive their own fairy tale. There are masses of full-colour illustrations as well as character interviews, diary excerpts, brand-new short stories and much, much more. The book is amazingly detailed with huge amounts of background information, entertainingly written and a must-read for when you finish the series.

Journey to Jo'burg (Collins Modern Classics) by Beverly Naidoo

This powerful story tells of love, commitment and the strength of the human spirit, set against the background of South Africa's apartheid. Fearing for their baby sister's life, Naledi and her younger brother Tiro run away from their grandmother to Johannesburg to find their mother, who works there as a maid. As they travel, the grim realities of life under apartheid are vividly brought to life. Opulence on one hand - the white "Madam's" house contrasts with the poverty Naledi and Tiro face - that their baby sister is suffering from starvation. The book is quite short but it packs a strong message and gives a real insight into life under apartheid; it's still a very relevant book today. I like the fact that the books in this series all include includes a special "Why You'll Love This Book" introduction (this time, it's by Michael Rosen, the Children's Laureate); these introductions would be excellent for classroom or library use, to encourage children to read the books, and to spark discussion.

Kingdom by the Sea (Collins Modern Classics) by Robert Westall

Harry is left alone when his family disappears and his home is destroyed during an air raid. He goes on the run to avoid being sent to live with fussy Cousin Elsie; his only friend a stray dog. The story vividly depicts the effect of war on the people and landscape of north-east England. As he journeys, Harry meets many different people and receives help from unexpected places. It's a hugely emotional and moving story about a very resourceful and brave boy; the background (Robert Westall's own) is evocatively pictured and we see the civilian side of war very clearly. A beautifully crafted story; highly recommended.

Tales from Schwartzgarten: 4: Marius and the Band of Blood by Christopher William Hill

Marius Myerdorf is the newest recruit to Schwartzgarten's most secret of societies. His is a tale of adventure and abduction, friendship and fearlessness, as The Band of Blood race against time to unmask two of the foulest fiends in the history of the Great City. It's a story with twists and turns every step of the way; it's all brilliantly described and has the reader on tenterhooks. If you love the unexpected, revel in gruesomeness and don't yearn for a happy ending every time, these darkly funny Tales from Schwartzgarten are for you.

Dotty Detective and the Pawprint Puzzle  (Dotty Detective 2) by Clara Vulliamy

Detective stories are very popular at the moment for young readers, and this series is becoming one of my favourites in the genre; Dot and Beans are great characters who interact well together - and not forgetting McClusky the dog. Dot is hearing strange noises at night she’s convinced there must be something spooky afoot. But before they can prove there’s a ghost on the loose, Dot and Beans have to follow Ace Detective Fred Fantastic’s golden rule - to get proof. Easier said than done when the suspect is invisible! The writing style is just right for the age group - it really does feel as though it's Dot's notebook, complete with doodles, thoughts and pictures. Great fun.

The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison

This is a very special story, magical indeed. Midge loves riddles, his cat, Twitch, and stories; he loves stories because he grew up being told wonderful stories by his sister Alice. But then Alice disappears and Midge is sure that the clue to her disappearance lies in her stories. He discovers that her secret book, The Museum of Unfinished Stories, is not just a story; in fact, he finds two of its characters wandering around town. Like all great stories, Alice's story has a villain, and if Midge can find the villain he may well be able to find Alice. This is a true page-turner, and the reader is drawn in to try and solve the riddles that show how the story ends. It is full of imagination but with characters whose realism brings them leaping from the pages; a beautifully crafted story.

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

Rich people in Russia would keep wolves as pets - but they would find they couldn't cope with them, so they were returned to the wild. Here's where Feodora and her mother come in; Feodora's mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder teaches wolves to look after themselves, to fight and to be wary of humans. When the murderous hostility of the Russian Army threatens her existence, Feo must run from her old life. What follows is a story of revolution and adventure, set in a superbly depicted Russia of around a century ago, although in many respects the story is timeless; the descriptions of Russia make you feel you are right there. Feo is a strong and positive character with excellent character traits; she stands up for what she believes in and the story celebrates loyalty. The wolves are the other stars of the story, depicted with love and compassion.

Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa

Giraffe is bored. Giraffe is always bored. He’d love a friend to share things with, so when he sees an advert for a delivery service, he decides to send a letter. He sends his letter right beyond the horizon and finds a pen pal called Penguin. Giraffe knows nothing about penguins and his letters are full of questions, and the letters fly back and forth. The simple drawings and the handwritten letters combine with a gently amusing text to make this book an absorbing read - and what a lovely character Giraffe is! All the animals have their own unique voice and they tell a lovely story.

Cats and Curses (Marsh Road Mysteries 4) by Elen Caldecott

Piotr, Minnie, Andrew, Flora and Sylvie are the Marsh Road Mystery solvers, and this is their fourth adventure. Finally, a year after her accident, Andrew's mum is getting better - and how superbly Andrew cares for her. But things begin to go badly wrong when she signs for a mysterious package containing an ancient Egyptian mummified cat. Did it bring a curse with it? The five friends must get together to stop the mysterious events happening. This is traditional story-telling at its best, with a strong cast of characters, a sprinkling of suspense and oodles of adventure.

Puppy Love (Dork Diaries) by Rachel Renee Russell

Nikki's diary record has reached the month of May, and springtime is sure to bring more fun - and problems - for Nikki and her friends Chloe, Zoey and Brandon. Nikki has offered to look after a litter of puppies as the animal shelter is too full to take them. But Nikki's mum won't have dogs in the house, so she must keep them a secret - and that's a bigger problem than Nikki ever envisaged. This is a great series for tweens - well written characters and entertaining scenarios, all presented in a diary format, make for a great read. Witty and amusing but grounded in enough reality to be very believable. Download your own virtual puppy app here.

The Castle of Inside Out by David Henry Wilson

This magical tale is one which carries an important message; it homes in on inequality and on the environment. When Lorina is led by a black rabbit through a wood she finds a race of green people, ill-treated by the Insiders who force the Outsiders to live in appalling conditions, treated as slaves. Lorina decides to turn the tables and force the Insiders to let the Outsiders access the castle. She finds herself pitted against the bureaurat, the superviper, the farmadillo and, eventually, the awful Piggident himself.; as you read about these people, you will find yourself identifying their traits in people in our world. Will she be able to save the green people from the cruelty of these Insiders? With superb illustrations by Chris Riddell, this is a superbly written story with a wonderfully compassionate heroine who deserves our respect.

Future Ratboy and the Invasion of the Nom Noms by Jim Smith

A book that will capture children's attention through its zany humour and jazzy, highly visual presentation. When a bolt of lightning hit Colin Lamppost he shot forward millions of years into the future and turned into a half boy, half rat, half TV - yes, that is three halves but the whole book requires you to suspend normal rules, so don't worry about it! With new superkeel powers and a real life sidekick in Not Bird, Future Ratboy was born, and we met him in Future Ratboy and the Attack of the Killer Robot Grannies. In this new adventure, can Future Ratboy and Not Bird save Shnozville from the bitey little insects that are turning everyone into zombies? Will they defeat the evil Mr X? And how will they ever find their way home? The humour is absolutely spot on for children (especially boys) from 7+; Jim Smith perfectly captures everything children love and even reluctant readers will find Colin's adventures totally addictive.

The Great Flytrap Disaster: Book 3 (Pocket Pirates) by Chris Mould

I really enjoy the Pocket Pirates books - to me, they have the same appeal as The Borrowers, which I adored as a child. These miniature beings live on a shelf in an old junk shop, in a dusty ship in a bottle. When all is quiet, these little adventurers come out to explore. Tiny they may be, but they are fearless, just as pirates should be. It's summer and it's hot on the Pocket Pirates' shelf. Flies are swarming around Button's pirate ship in search of food... and Mr Dregby, the house spider, is looking for a meal too. With lovely illustrations that bring the pirates and their world to life, this is a great read that children will love.

Tally and Squill in a Sticky Situation by Abie Longstaff

Ten-year-old Tally is a servant girl at Mollett Manor. It is a beautiful house but Tally sleeps in the scullery sink, and spends her days scrubbing, polishing and ironing. Tally is a great reader and books take her away into wonderful worlds. Then Tally and her squirrel friend, Squill, find a secret library hidden under the manor - a magical library where the books come to life! When Mollett Manor is burgled, can Tally use the knowledge she finds in the books to catch the criminals? Can they even help her solve the mystery of her missing mother? Charmingly illustrated by James Brown, this is a delightful story, full of imagination and peopled with a good cast of characters who come alive through their conversations.

Lupo and the Lost Pirate of Kensington Palace by Aby King

Lupo, the mischievous royal dog, has escaped from his apartment in the royal palace, closely followed by his ally, Prince George. When they meet a ghost, a new adventure is about to start. The action takes place in the royal residences of Balmoral and Hampton Court as Lupo and his friends untangle a Tudor riddle of the lost Golden Hind. A legendary monster of the deep will help lead the way to a lost palace and treasure galore. Lupo will have to hurry though or else he may miss the Coronation! A treasure trove of a story with excitement, danger and heroics. The background is great - interestingly set in royal residences and with snippets of history about the Golden Hind. A highly enjoyable series.

The Land of Stories: 4: Beyond the Kingdoms by Chris Colfer

This is the first I have read in this series, and I love the combination of classic stories and fairytales; they are brilliantly melded together. The Masked Man is on the loose in the Land of Stories, and it's up to Alex and Conner Bailey to stop him . . . except Alex has been thrown off the Fairy Council, and no one will believe they're in danger. A group of well-known characters come to the rescue - Goldilocks, Jack, Red Riding Hood, and Mother Goose and her gander, Lester and the Bailey twins discover the Masked Man's secret scheme: he possesses a powerful magic potion that turns every book it touches into a portal, and he is recruiting an army of literature's greatest villains. The story takes us through the magical Land of Oz, the fantastical world of Neverland, the madness of Wonderland, and beyond. Will Alex and Connor get there in time? A beautifully crafted story which takes classic characters and settings and gives them a fresh new feel - excellently done.

Swimming to the Moon by Jane Elson

Bee (don't even ask what her full name is!) stumbles through life in her stripy socks with her head in the clouds, trying to keep out of the way of her bickering parents and avoid Crystal Kelly who makes her life a misery. But when Crystal double-dares her to volunteer for a sponsored swim in honour of her great grandmother Beatrix's memory, Bee can't back down. Trouble is, Bee is terrified of water and can't swim. In a surprise twist, new boy Moon-Star gallops to Bee's rescue on his horse and takes her to meet Old Alice, who lives in a beautiful painted wagon. As Bee enters this wonderful world, her life is changed for ever. At last she has an ally - Moon Star will teach Bee to swim if Bee will teach him to read. A strong friendship is made and both lives are transformed in this uplifting and motivating story.

A Ghost Called Dog by Gavin Neale

In the garden of Abby and Chris' new home is a playhouse and old tree, which promise them hours of fun. But they hide secrets... who are the two spooky old women from down the road? Why can only Abby and Chris see the dog? Something sinister is lurking and When the children's mother disappears, the children are forced to confront an ancient evil. Can they defeat the Fairy King through a series of dangerous challenges - or will he destroy them before they can rescue their mother and escape? Mystery, magic and spooky enough to send a gentle shiver down the spine, this is excellent story-telling.

Invisible Inc. (Magic Ink 4) by Steve Cole

A hilarious story which can be enjoyed as part of a series or read as a stand-alone - once children read this, they will be keen to seek out the previous stories. Noah’s mum’s new invention can turn anything into a ghost of its former self - it will be there but invisible and untouchable. When the sinister ‘Seerblight Solutions’ steal her invention, Noah is zapped – and finds he is one of many. With mankind in terrible danger, Earth’s last line is defence is one you’ve never seen or heard of: Invisible Inc. Boys especially will relish the story and the boy-friendly presentation; they will laugh aloud and find the book unputdownable.

Life According to Dani (Gecko Press Titles) by Rose Lagercrantz

It’s an exciting time for Dani - it's her first summer holiday and she's staying on an island with her best friend Ella. Despite the fact her Dad is still in hospital, Dani is still having a wonderful time. But her emotions are thrown into turmoil when Dad turns up... with his new girlfriend, his nurse. Things don't go well at all; the emotions Dani feels as well as the adults around her, are expressed with great understanding and the book will help all children in a similar situation. Happily, all is resolved in the end - but very much on Dani's terms!

Bicycling to the Moon by Timo Parvela

This entertaining book is essentially a collection of short stories (although they read well as a chapter book) about an unlikely friendship between about Purdy and Barker, a cat and dog who are opposites in all ways. Despite that, they think highly of one another, so their pranks never get out of control. Purdy the cat is full of bright ideas - it was, of course, his idea to cycle to the moon. Barker the dog is the practical one who has plenty of patience to deal with his friend. The two animals are beautifully depicted and the short chapters are perfect for reading aloud. The colour illustrations are lovely.

Through the Mirror Door by Sarah Baker

For a first novel, this is exceptional - it really takes you into another world, and had me hooked from the first page. This holiday is Angela's last chance - her chance to be part of a family again, with her aunt, uncle and cousins - she must behave herself. But how can she not explore the crumbling French holiday home where forbidden rooms draw her in. Intrigued by night-time footsteps, flickering candlelight and shadows in windows, Angela finds a boy who needs her help. Secrets from the past, both Angela's and Julien's, must be uncovered before resolution can be achieved. Angela must balance this with trying to fit in with the family, despite opposition. A compelling story that keeps the reader on tenterhooks.

The Adventures of Bottersnikes and Gumbles by S. A. Wakefield

In the depths of the Australian bush live some very strange creatures. The Gumbles are dear little beings who are rather silly at times (when they go giggly) but the rest of the time they are clever and resourceful. The strangest thing about them is that they can be squashed into any shape without being hurt. The stories are great fun as the reader enjoys following the adventures through the engaging text and the entertaining pictures. The book is published to coincide with a new CBBC series, so it would be great if children could be encouraged to read (or be read) the fun stories alongside their viewing.

The Invincible Tony Spears: Book 1 by Neal Layton

Does your child dream of travelling to space? If so, they will love this book, the first in a promising series for younger readers who are enjoying reading alone. When Tony moves to a new town and school mid-term, he finds it hard to settle and make friends. But when he finds a round red button hidden in a cupboard, all his worries are forgotten. The button transforms his dull kitchen into a spaceship, called The Invincible. There's nothing more exciting than cruising the universe for adventure, but what about school and his mum? When problems crop up in both of Tony's worlds, what is he to do? The layout and presentation of the book is ideal to capture children's attention; the illustrative material forms a key part of the story and really helps children move on from picture books. It's a fun and lively read.

Belle and Sébastien: The Child of the Mountains (Alma Children's Classics) by Cecile Aubry

Sebastien, son of a Gypsy woman, is found as a newborn baby in the Alps and brought up by Guillaume and his grandchildren Angelina and Jean. Belle is a beautiful white Pyrenean Mountain Dog who has been neglected and passed on from owner to owner, until one day she escapes from a kennel. When Sebastien rescues the runaway Belle from the wrath of the villagers, the boy and the dog form a lifelong friendship and embark on exciting adventures in the mountains. This charming story of adventure and friendship is now translated from French for the first time.

Letter to Pluto by Lou Treleaven

Jon’s teacher wants to keep the art of letter writing alive and to make it interesting, she starts an interstellar penpal programme. Jon is not impressed - he thinks the dying art should be left to die! And then things get worse - not only is his penpal Straxi a girl, she is from Pluto, the most boring, smelliest and far away place in the whole solar system. The story is told mainly through letters between Jon and Straxi and these make for very entertaining reading as we get to know the penpals better, and their friendship blossoms. Interspersed are all sorts of other amusing extracts which add greatly to the fun of the book. A super read.

Rickety Rocket by Alice Hemming

This book, with its short chapters and plentiful illustrations, is perfect for children just starting to read on their own. The three short stories (Rickety Rocket, Jetpack Jelly and Picnic Planet) are all about Spacey Stacey and her friends who live on Planet Five Ways. Their planet links to five other planets we can visit, giving lots of potential for more stories. The characters are great and there is plenty of excitement for children to enjoy; of course, space is always an appealing topic. I like the inclusion of three stories in one, as children will happily set out to read one story at a time and get a real sense of accomplishment when they have enjoyed all three. Maverick Books are one of my favourite publishers of picture books, and it's great to see the same high quality in their fiction range. I am looking forward to lots more!

Binny Bewitched by Hilary Mckay

Hilary McKay is one of those authors who knows exactly what children want - and she delivers it. Her characters are always highly credible and have the reader sharing in their story with the greatest enthusiasm; her portrayal of family life is always spot-on. Binny Cornwallis has lost something. Something that wasn't really hers in the first place. With her best enemy Gareth and her beloved dog Max she turns detective to track it down, but the her family are anything but helpful. Little brother James and his friend Dill are having an adventure of their own and big sister Clem is acting very strangely. And on top of all this, Binny suspects their next-door neighbour may be a witch ... Superbly told with a wonderful lead character; a gem of a story.

The Eagle of Rome a Lottie Lipton Adventure by Dan Metcalf

The British Museum is home to Lottie Lipton: nine-year-old investigator extraordinaire, who lives there with Great Uncle Bert. When a collection of Roman treasures comes to the museum, Lottie, Uncle Bert and Reg discover the legendary code of the Ninth Legion's Golden Eagle. Can Lottie and her friends (and young readers) break the code and find the treasure before a ruthless treasure hunter gets his hands on it? In The Catacombs of Chaos a Lottie Lipton Adventure (The Lottie Lipton Adventures), Lottie finds herself locked in a tunnel deep inside the museum and once again, a code must be cracked to help her. These short stories are perfect for developing and newly confident readers, and they have the added draw of offering puzzles for the reader to solve, which really help with comprehension and concentration, as well as being great fun.

Marvellous Mix-ups by Alexander McCall Smith

Two great stories in one offer a double treat for fans of this popular author, whose children's books are just as good as his adult ones. In Spaghetti Tangle, John and Nicky live with their weird aunt who will only let them eat raw food. One day they sneek out and slurp down a plate piled high with spaghetti... but they want more. So when they find out about a competition to visit the spaghetti factory, they just have to enter, despite Aunty. Teacher Trouble is the story of Jenny's first day at a new school. Of course, she looks very smart... so smart, in fact, that the rest of her class think she is their new teacher! Soon Jenny finds herself in all sorts of tricky situations. How long will it be before Jenny is found out? And what will happen then? Two marvellously entertaining stories.

Grandma Bendy: and the Great Snake Escape by Izy Penguin

Only when she is burgled herself did Grandma Bendy realise how much suffering she caused to other people by being a burglar.  Grandma Bendy's life changes as she realises that she can use her very special talents to help other people. And so, when there is a deadly snake on the loose in Pumperton Lucy and her brother, Max, along with their favourite grandparent, Grandma Bendy, must go on a quest to find the snake, capture it and clear Lucy’s name. But can they do it before the whole town of Pumperton descends into chaos? I love the illustrations - they are such fun and make the book really enticing for readers moving on from picture books, as they almost tell the story by themselves.

Treasure Hunters: Peril at the Top of the World by James Patterson

The Kidds are still on their quest for stolen treasure - this time, they journey to exotic Russia and the dangerous Arctic. After their adventures in China and Germany, the Kidd family is ready for some rest and relaxation. But when you're an ace treasure hunting team, there's always another adventure waiting around the corner! This time, the Kidds head to Russia where a set of priceless paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt has gone missing. Hot on the trail of the daring thieves, the Kidds race through the sinister streets of St. Petersburg and the wild Arctic tundra to track down the stolen treasure. The action never stops with more chases, sneak attacks, spy missions, and doublecrossing than anyone can handle...except the Kidds!

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