Book reviews - fiction 5 to 11 (page 15)

The most recent reviews are at the top of the page, so these are generally the most recently published books.

Against All Gods (Who Let the Gods Out?) by Maz Evans

Epic - Hilarious - Finale is how Chicken House describe the fourth and last book in the bestselling Who Let the Gods Out? series. As you'd expect from the final book in the series, things get darker and more dramatic than ever. Things are looking worse than ever for Elliot as he must get the final Chaos Stone - Fire. So much is at stake, not only on a personal level but the very future of mankind. Despite the way it sounds, this is a hilarious book, starring an eclectic mix of misfit gods, a lost constellation and a mortal boy. It's one of those series where you really need to start at the beginning of this emotional series though, so to get the full impact I'd recommend you go back to the start (Who Let the Gods Out?) to get the most from this adventure.

Even More Pongwiffy Stories by Kaye Umansky

The Pantomime, The Spellovision Song Contest and Back on Track are the three stories in this bumper bind-up (with new illustrations by Katy Riddell) starring the witch Pongwiffy and her friends. Pongwiffy is (if you hadn't guessed!) a smelly Witch, who lives at Number 1, Dump Edge – a hovel perched on the edge of a rubbish tip in the middle of Witchway Wood. When she and her friends need to earn some money, they decide to put on a pantomime, with hilarious and chaotic results. In the second story, the witches are fascinated by spellovision and can't be persuaded away - until Pongwiffy decides on a song contest to liven things up. In the final story, Pongwiffy decides it's time to clean up her act - but can a witch who prefers sludge to sprouts really get back on track? These are fun, feel-good books about an unlikely group of witches, that are great to read aloud and will have both adults and children chuckling aloud.

The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read

Vividly written and full of quirky humour, this is the story of Emily, whose parents have vanished into the secret world of the Midnight Hour - a Victorian London frozen in time. Emily must find them in the city of the Night Folk - but our unusual heroine is armed only with a packed lunch, a stowaway hedgehog and her infamously big mouth. In a London which is home to monsters and magic Emily has to discover the truth to rescue her parents. What family secret connects her to the Midnight Hour? And can she save both worlds before she runs out of sandwiches? As well as summarising their books in three words (in this case Magical - Thrilling - Funny), Chicken House also highlight, on the back cover, a suggested page to read to get a feel for the book - a great idea which in this case really does give a good feel for the hilarity and expressively depicted characters to be enjoyed in this book.

Cuddle the Magic Kitten Book 3: Princess Party Sleepover by Hayley Daze

This is the sort of series that's perfect for encouraging newly confident readers to really enjoy books. They enjoy the familiarity of a series and it offers a good incentive to persevere with reading, increasing confidence and ability as they go. Cuddle is a cute kitten who brings a touch of magic wherever she goes. When Cuddle appears, friends Olivia and Grace nkow it is time for another magical adventure. This time, Cuddle takes Olivia and Grace on an royal adventure where they go to a masked ball, along with a reluctant young princess who needs their friendship and help. It's a sweet story and readers will enjoy the taster for the next book which is included.

Muddle the Magic Puppy Book 3: Ballet Show Mischief by Hayley Daze

Another series which is perfect for young girls enjoying their first forays into independent reading. Muddle is a magic puppy, but he's also a bit naughty, which leads him and his friends Harry and Ruby into some fun adventures. When Muddle jumps into a magical puddle he takes Ruby and Harry on a ballet adventure. The kindly trio set out to help a nervous young performer to perform on stage. It's a lovely story about friendship and helping others. The short chapters and simple text are perfect for young readers.

The Adventures of Anatole by Nancy Willard

This is a trilogy about adventurous Anatole and Plumpet, his orange cat. Anatole's world is a magical one where everyday objects are imaginatively transformed. This is an anthology of the author's trilogy of fantasy tales: Sailing to Cythera, The Island of the Grass King, and Uncle Terrible.  Anatole is determined to right the wrongs he finds in each of the lands he enters.  David McPhail's pen-and-ink illustrations throughout are beautifully detailed reflections of the author's world of make-believe.  A wonderfully imaginative blend of reality and fantasy.

The Usborne Complete Dickens

This is a beautifully illustrated collection containing all Charles Dickens' novels. They have been engagingly retold for young readers to give them a succinct introduction to the novels. All Dickens' works are here, including Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol. I especially like the introductions to the characters which preface each adaptation. These illustrated pages summarise each key character and are an excellent way to help children keep track of who is who as they enjoy the stories - an excellent feature. Other lovely illustrations accompany the stories and can be used as a basis for discussion. There are links to websites to find out more about Charles Dickens' life and times. This is a beautifully produced book which will make an excellent gift and encourage children to enter the world of Dickens.

The Secret Diary of Kitty Cask, Smuggler's Daughter by Philip Ardagh

The Secret Diary series is an excellent blend of fact and fiction and a great way to excite children's interest in history. Kitty Cask is a smuggler's daughter and the book is set in the 18th century in the village of Minnock. The Cask family, like many in Cornwall, make their living from the sea. They are smugglers, or "free traders", bringing contraband goods into the country to avoid the high taxes. Kitty's an enterprising girl, strong-willed and determined and she has no intention of being left out of the family 'business'. Soon, she is in the midst of the excitement - and danger. Told from Kitty's perspective, this is an exciting and superbly illustrated story, studded with amazing facts and historical trivia - an excellent read.

The Dog Who Saved the World by Ross Welford

Laughter and tears mingle in this unusual story. Mr Mash is Georgie's adopted dog and he really is the hero of the story. When Georgie befriends an eccentric retired scientist, Dr Pretorius, she becomes the test subject for an experiment: a virtual-reality 3D version of the future. But a deadly disease threatens the life of every dog in the country and Mr Mash is one of its victims... and more trouble follows. Georgie and Mr Mash must embark on a desperate quest: to save every dog on earth, and maybe even all of humanity... without actually leaving the room. This is time travel with a difference, very credible and an exciting read which has the reader guessing.

The Perfect Kitten by Holly Webb

Holly Webb's books are hugely popular and her loyal followers will welcome another book. Abi's always wanted a kitten but sadly, the local animal shelter say that the busy road where Abi lives would make it too dangerous. Then the shelter rescues a deaf white kitten that needs to be kept inside; just right for Abi. Trouble is, Flower doesn't understand she is being kept in for her own good and she sees a whole exciting world outside the window... A cute and heartwarming story.

Poison Potion (Star Friends) by Linda Chapman

Maia and her friends believe in magic and, along with the Star Animals, a whole world of magical adventure unfolds. Children will enjoy getting to know the characters through the series - it's a good way to build enthusiasm for reading. The Star Friends still don’t know who is using the woodland plants to create dark magic potions. Perhaps it's the grumpy new school secretary? Meanwhile, Lottie’s friend Essie is being mean at school, and none of the adults want to go to work! The girls must combine their powers to unmask the potion-maker – and defeat them once and for all. Perfect for those who enjoy a touch of magic along with friendly animal characters and strong and supportive friendships - and for those who enjoyed Linda Chapman's previous books when they were younger.

The Star-Spun Web by Sinead O'Hart

Orphan Tess de Sousa from Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings is passionate about science, and about her pet tarantula Violet. When a stranger shows up, claiming to be a distant relative come to adopt her, Tess hopes to find some answers to her mysterious origins. But as she adjusts to her new life at Roedeer Lodge, it becomes clear that Norton F. Cleat knows more about Tess – and the strange device left with her when she was abandoned as a baby – than he’s letting on. And when Tess discovers that the Starspinner is the gateway between her world and a parallel world in which war rages, she realizes she may be the key to a terrible plan. A plan she must stop at all costs... Tense and gripping -  a good read.

Sara's Dream Role by Holly Webb

Perfect for fans of traditional-style stories about stage school and ballet school, Shine is a super series, and this is the second book. Sara is thrilled to be called back for a second audition for the part of Jane in a West End production of Mary Poppins - but her mum has other concerns, namely, the impact on Sara's schoolwork. Also in contention is Lizabeth, and she will do anything to get the role. Can Sara overcome these obstacles? A lively and enjoyable story about determination, delightfully illustrated by Monique Dong.


Far away and long ago, a young boy yearns for adventure. When Ryo sees a lone warrior chase bandits away from his home, and learning that the man is from a secret group of warriors known only as the `Hidden Ones', he determines to train as a fighter Setting out on his journey to find his way in the world, Ryo will meet brave warriors, wise hermits, and heart- breaking tragedy. His quest and the people he meets along the way lead him to an understanding of what it means to follow his dream, and where his place in the world truly lies. Superb story telling with a wonderful narrative style that keeps you hooked, this is a stirring read. The poetic writing style ( the author is a poet) is dramatic and compelling.

Double Dork Diaries 5: Drama Queen and Puppy Love by Rachel Renee Russell

These humorous books are the personal diaries of 14-year-old Nikki Maxwell. Embellished with drawings, doodles and comic strips, they chronicle the daily dramas of her life in a lively way, and fans are in for a treat with a double edition. In Drama Queen, mean girl Mackenzie has stolen Nikki's diary; will she reveal what Nikki has written? This is Dork Diaries with a twist and makes a great read. In Puppy Love, 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. Perfect for tween girls, these stories are superbly written and very enjoyable. A brilliant series which puts this writing style firmly in place for girls.


Floyd is a young tennis star and his world revolves around training and winning matches. But his focused world is thrown into turmoil when a boy called Mike - a boy nobody else can see - keeps appearing when Floyd is playing, putting him off and making him lose his games. Superbly written, this is a story for anyone who doubts their course in life. A relatively quick read, it's a book with a powerful and singificant message, with a fascinating look inside a boy's mind.

Dr KittyCat is Ready to Rescue: Bramble the Hedgehog by Jane Clarke

This is a lovely friendly and reassuring series about Dr KittyCat and her helper Peanut the Mouse, who are always ready with their First Aid. Firstly, there are lessons to be learnt about safety when unpacking and putting things away, all explained in a very child-friendly way. Then it's off to the funfair, where Bramble the Hedgehog has been on too many funfair rides so his tummy starts to feel very wobbly - just like his wobbly tooth! Luckily, Bramble is the perfect patient, and children can learn from this. With familiar contexts to which children can relate, and an enticing blend blend of photography and hand-drawn elements these are lovely stories with a useful message too.

Night Zookeeper: The Penguins of Igloo City by Joshua Davidson

This is no ordinary zoo story! Will Rivers, the Night Zookeeper, has created a mysterious portal. With friends Sam and Riya, Will journeys through a new portal and arrives within the high walls of Igloo City. Here, the animals follow strict rules put in place by their leader, Circles the owl. But should Will help Circles, or should he be on the side of the rebels? An imaginative story, suitable for young readers but giving them an interesting taste of fantasy worlds.

Watership Down by Richard Adams: Gift Picture Storybook Retold by Frank Cottrell-Boyce

This picture edition is ideal to introduce younger members of the family to the classic story, perhaps sharing it with older siblings who will enjoy the illustrations that bring the tale to life. The quintessentially English story of Watership Down tells the tale of a ragtag band of rabbits fleeing the destruction of their warren in search of safety and a new home. Their adventure is brought to life in this stunning gift picture storybook, which will be treasured by fans of the original novel, as well as new readers introduced to this epic tale by the television mini series.The illustrations have a sombre nature which reflects the style of the images from the new TV animation.

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow Book 2 (Nevermoor) by Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor is a magical world, so skilfully portrayed that you will feel you have really been there by the end of the book. Following on from the first in the series, Nevermoor, when Morrigan joins the Wundrous Society, she expects friendship and appreciation for her special talents but she is only taught that all Wundersmiths are evil and she must suppress her mysterious ability at all costs. Nevermoor is no longer a safe haven but a place of danger. Society members are going missing, someone is blackmailing Morrigan's new friends, turning them against her. And Ezra Squall, the most evil man who ever lived, is determined to lure Morrigan from the Society by promising to reveal the true nature of the Wunder that calls to her, which is becoming ever harder to resist... Superb storytelling, a touch of humour, fabulous characters - what's not to love? Stunningly presented too - take a peel at the wonderful artwork under the jacket.

Super Cats by Gwyneth Rees

Here we can enjoy animal stories with a little more oomph than usual - perfect for those who want more excitement. Tagg thought he was just an ordinary cat, but then he discovers that his parents have superpowers and his life will never be the same again his life is changed forever. What superpower will he have? But cats are disappearing from the streets - cats rumoured to have special abilities of their own. And when a new cat arrives in town, things aren't quite what they seem. Nemesissy is a sleek lilac Siamese with the power to hypnotise humans. Unfortunately for Nemesissy she messes with the wrong cats when she targets Tagg and his new friend, Sugarfoot - they may be kittens, but they are special.

Asha & the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan

Magical - Indian - Adventure; this winner of The Times Children's Fiction Competition summed up in three words. To support his family, who live in the Himalayan foothills, Asha's father works in the city... but his family hardly hear from him and eventually, lose contact and the money dries up. Asha's mother turns to moneylenders, with disastrous consequenses. From her den in the mango tree, Asha makes a pact with her best friend, Jeevan, to find her father and make things right. Their journey is fraught with danger and it's brilliantly described: they must cross the world's highest mountains and face hunger, tiredness - even snow leopards. Indomitable Asha never loses heart, bouyed up by the sense that the spirit bird of her grandmother - her nanijee - will be watching over her. This is a superbly told story that draws the reader in to the hardships of Asha's life.

Bee Alert! by Barbara Rustin

The author is concerned about the plight of bees (as we should all be) and she has crafted an exceptional story to bring this to our attention - it would be excellent used in schools as part of cross-curricular work. When Ben goes to stay with his grandpa in the country for the summer, he knows there's something wrong. Gramps is miserable and Ben soon finds the reason - Colony Collapse Disorder. Over three quarters of Gramp's bees have died and the rest are struggling - can Ben find out what is happening? Jospehine Birch's simple sparse illustrations reflect the theme of the story and its sombreness. Ben is a true product of our times - a young eco-warrior who sets an example for aus all. A gripping mix of fact and fiction, this is an important book.

Lightning Chase Me Home by Amber Lee Dodd

This is a moving and compassionate novel for readers of 9+, which addresses some significant issues in a sensitive and compelling way. Amelia lives with her dad on the island of Dark Muir; her mum has disappeared and Amelia and her dad are struggling to come to terms with that. On top of that, she has to start at a new school, where she becomes a target for bullies. Touches of magic appear through the book, as Amelia makes a birthday wish which finds her disappearing when things get stressful, to discover herself elsewhere on her remote Scottish island, where there are echoes of her parents' past. It's good to see dyslexia tacked in such a positive way, with a heroine who is strong and courageous. Named after famous heroines, Amelia is a strong character and the storyline interweaves the different elements excellently to bring a well-rounded story with superb characters.

In the Mouth of the Wolf by Michael Morpurgo

Once again Michael Morpurgo returns to the setting of the Second World War, a period which he evokes so vividly and realistically, never failing to totally engross the reader with his captivating use of language and charismatic characters. Brothers Francis and Pieter but they see the world from very different standpoints - Francis is a fierce pacifist but Pieter signs up to fight. What happens next will change the course of Francis’s life forever . . . and throw him into the mouth of the wolf. This is the the true story of Michael’s uncles against the epic backdrop of World War Two, and evocatively illustrated by Barroux. Courage, fear and hope combine in another superb narrative which dpesn't shy away from the harsh reality of war. Stimulating and thought-provoking, as we expect, of course. I enjoyed the photos at the end of the book which really made the characters come to life for me.

War is Over by David Almond

1918, and war is all around John's life, with his father fighting in France. and his mother working in the munitions factory. But John doesn't understand why, when he is just a child, his teacher says he is at war too. John wants answers. Will he find them during a visit to the munitions factory? Central to the book is a mysterious meeting between John and Jan, a German boy. As the story progresses, we are drawn into John's story, sharing his emotions and desire to understand. David Litchfield's dark illustrations epitomise the story and reflect its drama. This moving and touching story shows the futility pf war as seen through the eyes of a child, with an ultimate message of hope.

Alienated: Grounded at Groom Lake by Jeff Norton

If you think your school is weird, you should try Groom Lake High! It's the high school for aliens at Area 51, filled with cliques and bullies. The pupils are far from ordinary - Sherman Capote soon makes friends with a bunch of misfits: Octo, a quick-witted Ventitent , Houston, a moody robot, Sonya, a rebellious lizard, and Juliet, an omnipotent goddess; a disparate group indeed, but well portrayed interesting characters. When the school bully, Ned, initiates a War of the Worlds, Sherman and his new friends must set aside homework, first crushes and high school proms to save the world. Despite the strangeness of the school though, Jeff Norton really captures with understanding and compassion. the essence of the issues that children face today.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown (book 13) by Jeff Kinney

Greg Heffley, one of the most popular characters in children's fiction, is back again in another hilarious story to entrance readers old and new. Snow Day! - what could be better? The area becomes a snowy battlefield, as rival groups fight over territory, build massive snow forts, and stage epic snowball fights. It's all serious stuff, as Greg and best friend, Rowley Jefferson fight for survival. When the snow clears, will Greg and Rowley emerge as heroes? Or will they even survive to see another day? Brilliant to encourage reluctant readers, the diary format coupled with engaging line drawings, make the book great fun and very rewarding to read.

Dog Diaries: Happy Howlidays! by Steven Butler and James Patterson

Junior Catch-A-Doggy-Bone and his doggy pals would like to invite you, their furless friend, to join them on the poochiest, most barktastic journey through the Howliday Season. There's Fangsgiving, crisp-mouth and Saint Lick to be enjoyed in this riotous book. The book tunes in perfectly to children's sense of humour and is pretty well guaranteed to have them giggling throughout, at both the story and Richard Watson's entertaining illustrations. Great fun, drawing the reader in right from the start.

Magical Kingdom of Birds: The Ice Swans by Anne Booth

Maya is the proud owner of a very special colouring book, The Magical Kingdom of Birds. When she colours it in, she is transported to a beautiful realm filled with magnificent birds and their fairy friends. But the Kingdom needs her help, as wicked Lord Astor has frozen the Diamond Lake and turned its beautiful swans into ice statues. Can Maya, with the help of her friends Willow and Patch, break the enchantment and save the day? A magical and fantastical story, beautifully illustrated by Rosie Butcher.It includes information on the real birds that inspired the story, and a special colouring page, plus lots more activities and an enticing preview of the next book.

Rocky Road to Galileo: What is Our Place in the Solar System (The Curious Science Quest) by Julia Golding

Harriet, Darwin's pet tortoise, and Milton, Schroedinger's indecisive cat, continue their time-travelling quest in this story. I loved the first books in this series, so I was really pleased to see the third. The books pose the question - can science explain everything, or does faith help us to find the answers too? This time, they investigate our place in the universe, taking a long, informative and fascinating journey from the Islamic Golden Age to the Renaissance, meeting Galileo along the way. The books really encourage children to think and reason on the big questions in life, and provide a different perspective on them. The story is enjoyable and informative in its own right too.

The Truth About Martians by Melissa Savage

Chicken House can always be relied on to bring us great fiction, and this story - aliens, friends, adventure - is no exception. The story is based on facts and eyewitness reports of a UFO in Corona, New Mexico. Mylo knows there's no such thing as Martians, but then a flying saucer crash-lands next to his family's New Mexico farm. He starts to hear the voice, as though someone's trying to communicate with him, asking for help. Desperate to be as brave as his older brother Obie - who sadly passed away over a year ago - Mylo has to investigate the crash. Along the way, he ends up discovering more about the universe than he ever could have imagined. A gripping story with a strong period feel and ethos.

Shadow of the Centaurs: An Ancient Greek Mystery (Flashbacks) by Saviour Pirotta

It can be a chellenge for children to clearly visualise the worlds of ancienty history; I am a huge fan of books with historical; settings as they really propel young readers back in time, making history and its people come to life. Scribe Nico and his friend Thrax are back in Athens. Nico's excited about the spooky festival of Anthesteria and the lavish feasting at Master Lykos's house. But when the boys suspect a plot to assassinate the general of Athens, they must put the fun aside and infiltrate the Society of Centaurs. Will they discover the true identity of the society's leader, and will they stop the assassination? As KS2 children will study Ancient Greece, this book will fit perfectly and would make a super class reader. The great characters, exciting narrative and excellently portrayed picture of life in ancient Athens are highly enjoyable, enhanced by Freya Hartas' excellent imagery.

Horace and Harriet: Friends, Romans, Statues! by Clare Elsom

Perfect for younger readers (age 5+), this is a superbly illustrated story, full of humour and with really appealing characters. Lord Commander Horatio Frederick Wallington Nincompoop Maximus Pimpleberry the Third (that's rather a mouthful so he's Horace for short) has been a statue on a plinth in Princes Park for hundreds of years. But his 'life' changed when he became friends with Harriet, and now adventures await when he leaves his plinth. This time the two meet up in Rome where Horace poses as a gladiator, impresses as a statue, and is reunited with a long-lost relative. The short chapters and high proportion of illustrations make the book perfect for the intended age, who will thoroughly enjoy the story, whether they read it for themselves or share with an adult. Harriet is such a lovely character!

First Prize for the Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

Some things are worth waiting for... and a new Worst Witch story definitely is! Mildred, the worst student at Miss Cackle's Academy, has somehow made it through to Year 4. Despite her reputation, ever-enthusiastic Mildred has set her sights on winning the school's highest honour... being Head Girl. But her nemesis Ethel Hallow stands in her way... can Mildred stay out of trouble and prove to everyone that even the worst witch can turn her fortunes around? Mildred's love for animals is a strong part of the book. Another very enjoyable story that will be welcomed by fans... and which will gain lots of new fans for Mildred too.

Max Einstein: The Genius Experiment (Max Einstein Series) by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

This contemporary story is perfect for today's readers, reflecting their interests and viewpoints. Is Max Einstein a typical girl? Well, she's not exactly... she hacks the computer system at NYU in order to attend college courses,, builds homemade inventions to help the homeless, and plays speed chess in the park. An interesting character indeed. Her skills (along with others from around the world) are recognised by a mysterious organisation with a mission to solve some of the world's toughest problems by using science. They are looking for new ways to power the farthest reaches of the planet. But that's only if the sinister outfit known only as The Corporation doesn't get to her first... Max is a superb role model, feisty and determined and super-intelligent. Science, mystery, friendship, creativity - this book has so much to offer.

Jack Dash & the Great Custard Cake Off (Jack Dash 3) by Sophie Plowden

The title and the humorous cover image immediately tell us this will be a hilarious story. Jack Dash has a magic quill pen that makes drawings come to life... what a wonderful theme for a series of stories. This is highly topical - Jack's mum is taking part in the local Cake-Off Competition at Castle Custard. She's up against the unbeaten champion, Dr Spleen. But Jack and Coco can t keep away from trouble, causing more chaos than you'd think possible... or perhaps not, if you've read the previous stories! And just where does the herd of hairy yaks come in? Fantastic characters abound and they get better with each book in the series. A hilarious story, with equally hilarious drawings by Judy Brown, this is just the sort of book to encourage children to enjoy reading.

Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange

This story brilliantly evokes wartime life and living in fear, starting at the outbreak of the Second World War in autumn 1939. England is at war. Pet grew up in the strange world of a lighthouse, so her life has never been ordinary, and she has faced fear, with storms, secret tunnels and stories about sea monsters the background to her childhood. Now the clifftops are a terrifying battleground, her family is torn apart... and her fears are unrecognised. But Pet has a destiny - to become part of the strange, ancient legend of the Daughters of Stone ... Can she overcome her fear? Described as wartime - family - adventure, these elements combine to bring us a story that engages the reader right from the start; it's superbly characterised.

Birthday Drama! by Rachel Renee Russell

Nikki Maxwell has gained a huge army of followers and they are going to be thrilled with the latest addition to the series - we're up to number 13! Nikki's friends have some very ambitious plans for her birthday, but Nikki is scared that things might go wrong - planning a party for a hundred people is a big undertaking. Especially when the girls plan a pool party with a cake, a DJ, and the perfect invitations, all on a VERY limited budget. It starts to look as though Nikki's dream party will be a disaster unless the plans change very quickly... You have to warm to Nikki and feel for her through all her anxieties, and it's great that she has such wonderful friends. Another hilarious story, presented in lively diary format with lots of entertaining illustrations.

Armadillo and Hare by Jeremy Strong

Armadillo and Hare are two friends who live in the Big Forest. Hare loves all sorts of things but Armadillo loves just ... cheese sandwiches - and his best friend Hare. This joyful collection of short chapter stories is great fun and is well illsutrated by Rebecca Bagley. It's a little different from the author's normal stories but equally enjoyable, with wonderful humour and quirky stories that will engage children's attention.

The Girl, the Cat and the Navigator by Matilda Woods

The glittery gold-foiled cover sets the scene for this mesmerising story of adventure in the icy seas. Inquisitive and adventurous Oona Britt, the odd one out in her family, dreams of setting sail with her ship's captain father for a life of excitement on the waves - but her father says ships are not places for girls. She has read stories of the magical Nardoo - who swims through the stars at night. Oona stows away on her father's the Plucky Leopard and sets sail for an adventure full of myths and marvel. Superbly told, the story is full of atmosphere and the characters spring to life; there's excitement and mystery at every turn.

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding: Book 1 by Alexandra Bracken

Prosper belongs to an exceptional family, but he is very ordinary... or is he? Imagine his surprise when he discovers that an 800-year-old demon called Alastor (responsible for the luck of the family) - and that this demon is currently living inside him - he's more than a little surprised. Alastor isn't keen to be banished back to the demon realm and will do anything to try and trick his unwilling host into a contract - from nasty insults to wild promises. And even more unnerving, his power over Prosper seems to be growing with each passing night. Prosper has only days to break the curse - a feat that seems impossible. But with the help of a feisty witch-in-training, maybe he can do it? A story full of twisted humour, one that will have the reader guessing to the very end; well written with great characters.

The Skeleton Coast: Quest of the Sunfish 3 by Mardi McConnochie

This is the third and final part of an exciting trilogy, in the course of which we have got to know the bold and enterprising twins Annalie and Will., whose father has disappeared. Helped by friends, Essie and Pod, and with the unlikely assistance of the talking parrot, Graham, it has been a dangerous quest, compounded by their old enemy Beckett. Will they ever catch up with their father, who always seems one step in front? The challenge is to cross the Outer Ocean which lies between the Sunfish and Spinner. But their destination, Sundia, is a land forbidden to all outsiders. Tension mounts as the children strive to reach the end of their quest - but who can they trust and will the family be reunited? Gripping and with some very unusual aspects.

There's A Yeti In The Playground! (Baby Aliens) by Pamela Burchart

This hilarious series has real child-appeal. Izzy and her friends are really excited when it starts snowing and school is going to close early. The children are sent out to play... and then they hear weird noises in the playground, and find a big footprint in the snow. They just know that there's a YETI in the playground and it's hungry... is it going to get them all? The combination of reality and sheer nonsense works really well, and the engaging layout with plenty of lively illustrations by Thomas Flintham, and a variety of fonts suits the theme of the book to perfection. A hilarious read with great characters.

The Children Who Smelled a Rat (Gaskitt Stories 4) by Allan Ahlberg

In this thrilling, thunderous (and longer than usual) Gaskitt story, Mrs Gaskitt finds a parcel, Mr Gaskitt loses a baby, Horace has mixed feelings about a bird, and the twins' teacher, Mrs Fritter, is - ooer! - not herself. Why? How? When? Why? (again). There's certainly a lot going on - but don't worry - it all gets resolved in this hilarious story. Single page chapters and plenty of illustrations make this book ideal for helping children to build confidence in their reading skills. The illustrations are by Katharine McEwan and they form an integral part of the story, which is told as much in pictures as in words, with lots of clues to help with reading. A rewarding read.

One Snowy Night: Animal Anthologies

This is a lovely collection of short stories, ideal to snuggle up with on a chilly winter's night, and perfect for bedtime reading. The authors include many much-loved names from Stripes Books including Holly Webb, Candy Gourlay, Jeanne Willis and Linda Chapman. There are 10 stories altogether, ranging from the snow leopard, through woodland animals and a yeti, and on to a family cat. The charming drawings by Alison Edgson add to the warmth of the stories. Children starting to read alone will enjoy these tales and they will build reading confidence.

Dear Professor Whale: Dear Professor Whale 2 by Megumi Iwasa

Now that Professor Whale has retired, he writes many letters, and Seal and Pelican are busy delivering the letters; Penguin is now teaching. Whale is lonely now he is the only whale left at Whale Point and wants a special friend. Then he gets a letter from a young whale, called Wally, who has heard about the Porofessor's exploits at the Whale Point Olympics. Perhaps this is the answer to his loneliness - reestablishing the Whale Point Olympics. Soon, correspondence is flourishing. The letters bring penguins, whales, and seals together in the famous Whale Point Olympics. A charming short novel, ideal for newly confident readers (the cream paper helps with this), and with delightful illustrations.

A Case for Buffy (Detective Gordon) by Ulf Nilsson

This is the final story in the popular series starring Detective Gordon, but each can be read as a stand-alone. This story is all about the most important case ever investigated in Detective Gordon's forest - where is Buffy's mother? Gordon faces his old nemesis, the fox, in an investigation that leads to the edges of the forest. Children who are reading competently for themselves will enjoy this story as they follow along and see if they can help solve the mystery. With colour illustrations on every page, and fold-out jacket flaps, it's an attractive book and an engaging story.

Frost by Holly Webb

Foxes aren't always welcome in urban areas and Cassie's neighbours complain about the foxes around the flat where Cassie lives. Cassie loves to see them, though and one little fox is her favourite. She takes him some food but it seems that the fox wants Cassie to follow him, so she does and finds herfelf at a 17th century Frost Fair on the Thames. But then the fox, who she has named Frost, wants her to follow him again. Can she find a way to return the fox to his countryside home? A beautifully written winter story, evocative and atmospheric, with delightful line drawings and a striking cover.

Lavinia and the Magic Ring by Bianca Pitzorno

This is a modern-day fairy tale which is far from being like the fairy tales of old... definitely not for the squeamish as pee and poo feature liberally! Lavinia is a modern-day little match girl in Milan facing a cold and hungry Christmas. When a fairy gives gives Lavinia a ring with peculiar magic powers, Lavinia s fortunes could be changed for good... or for something definitely stinky! It's up to Lavinia to use those powers wisely... Children will, naturally, love Qientin Blake's hilarious and very apposite illustrations which feature plenty of the aforementioned poo. A hilarious modern-day morality tale.

Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters (Questioneers) by Andrea Beaty

Rosie Revere is an engineer and this is the debut story about Rosie and her fellow scientists Iggy Peck and Ada Twist; together, they form The Questioneers. Rosie’s Aunt Rose and her friends, the Raucous Riveters are a group who built airplanes during World War II; now they need help to invent something new and who better to help than Rosie? Things keep going wrong but Rosie is used to that; she's a determined character who refuses to give in. With some help from her fellow Questioneers, success finally comes, and along the way, they all rediscover the meaning of home. David Roberts' wonderful illustrations and diagrams bring the story alive and give readers plenty to look at and think about. A brilliant and inspiring way to dismiss stereotyping with a clever, strong and feisty female lead who, along with her friends, sets a great example to all girls.

Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief (The Amelia Fang Series) by Laura Ellen Anderson

There's plenty of the mildly macabre in this laugh-aloud series, brilliantly tempered by the touches of humour (and the fairies from Glitteropolis) - and all full of imagination. Winning a competition that requires selling as many cookies as possible sounds great fun - and when the prize is a visit the the superb Pumpkin Paradise Park, it's well worth the effort. But when Amelia and her friends take part, the creatures of Nocturnia start to act very strangely . . . No one can seem to remember anything – including their own names or even Amelia’s big birthnight party - even Amelia herself. The story is cleverly written, with lots of plays on words - new readers will be kept on their toes! Gorgeous illustrations and thoroughly likeable characters make this a great read for 7+.

The Afterwards by A F Harrold

Ember and Ness were neighbours, and best friends - but Ember's world crumbles when the unthinkable happens and Ness dies. When Ember finds a way into the Afterworld, where the recently dead are, she determines to bring Ness back. Because that's what friends do isn't it? They rescue each other; friendship is forever and friends never give up. But the Afterworld is a dark and dangerous place; how far will Ember go in her quest? Moving and poignant, with touching illustrations by Emily Gravett that reflect the sombre nature of the book.

How To Raise Your Grown-Ups (Hubert Horatio, Book 1) by Lauren Child

The Bobton-Trents are a very unusual family, that's for sure. They know how to make the most of their extravagant wealth – socialising, doing things, buying things and generally being somewhat silly. But someone needs to be sensible, and their son Hubert Horatio is the complete contrast - an exceptionally intelligent, talented and sensible child. Unluckily for Hubert, this tends to mean that a lot of his spare time is spent steering his rather unruly set of grown-ups out of trouble. Hubert Horatio is one of the author's most popular characters and it's great to meet him again in these brand-new, laugh-out-loud stories which will definitely tickle children's sense of humour. The highly visual presentation adds hugely to the appeal of the book.

Corey's Rock by Sita Brahmachari

Hoping it will help them come to terms with the death of Isla's young brother, Corey, the family has moved from Edinburgh to the Orkney Islands. Isla's discovery of the old Orcadian legend about the selkies, half human, half seal people, becomes the key to adjustment and acceptance. This is a complex and thoughtful story, handling many issues in a relatively brief text. The author has interwoven the strands skilfully and compassionately, bringing us a book that appeals for many different reasons. Ultimately, it is about learning to handle grief, with help from others. Jane Ray's sensitive and beautiful illustrations capture the emotion of the story and show readers the beauty of the Orkney Islands, through rich colour and emotive protrayals. The book is endorsed by Amnesty International for illuminating the human rights values of family, friends, home, safety and refuge.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Everlasting life - a blessing or a curse? The Tuck family, a family of pioneers in the early 19th century, have found eternal life after drinking from a magic spring, the Tuck family wanders about trying to live as inconspicuously and comfortably as they can. When ten year old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks kidnap her and explain why living forever at one age is less than a blessing that it might seem. A stimulating read, a complex subject somehow simply handled, and one that poses more questions than it answers - it would be excellent used in the classroom to stimulate discussion. This is a reissue of a book first published in the 1970s.

The Curious Lobster by Richard W Hatch

This collection of stories is unlikely to be familiar to British readers - but they have been missing a treat! Mr. Lobster is learned and charming... and doesn't he know it? He's canny enough to evade the fisherman's trap but his life has become very boring. Maybe dry land is more exciting? Dry land is of course perilous for a saltwater-dwelling creature, as are the folks you can meet there, like badgers, bears, birds, and snakes. But Mr. Lobster has a way of turning every enemy into a dear friend and of escaping the scrapes his curiosity gets him into. I found there is an almost breathless style to the writing, racing you through the book - slow down to apprecaite the descriptive text fully.

Death in the Spotlight: A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery by Robin Stevens

Just as adults love to read a series of stories about fictional detectives and their sidekicks, so too do children, who enjoy seeing characters develop through the series. Fresh from their adventure in Hong Kong, Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells of the Detective Society have just returned from Hong Kong and now face the challenge of acting at the Rue Theatre in London. This was supposed to keep them safe and away from dead bodies, but true to form, jealousy, threats and horrible pranks abound and soon a body is found. It's up to Hazel and Daisy to take centre stage and solve the crime. This is a wonderful series in the true tradition of detective stories, with excellent plots and intriguing characters. I really like the inclusion of maps and plans, so readers can follow the plot visually.

The Littlest Witch by Bianca Pitzorno

When Alfonso Terribile's Great-Uncle Sempronio dies, Alfonso expects to inherit his millions. What he doesn't expect is that a condition of the inheritance is marrying a witch... within the deadline of thirteen months. But who would want to marry such a horrible person? Now the eccentric Zep family appear on the scene - but what is their relationshio with Alfonso? Could one of the sisters be the answer - maybe the seventh daughter, who is certainly behaving rather strangely... An unusual and quirky adventure with a little magic and a and a lot of heart. The author's books are considered classics of children's literature and I very much enjoyed reading my first of her books.

The Wizards of Once Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell

Cressida Cowell writes exceptional fantasy novels, full of atmosphere, and this is another great story. Witches are creating havoc in the Wildwoods and there's danger everywhere... it's time for Zar and Wish to unite again. Wish the warrior is in possession of a powerful, Magic Spelling Book. Xar the wizard has a dangerous Witchstain on his hand. But Wish and Xar are separated by the highest wall imaginable and time is running out ... Will they meet again and can they overcome the witches? Wonderful illustrations by the author are key to the story and work really well to keep children's attention, as well as setting the scene. To get the best from this book, please do read The Wizards of Once: Book 1first though.

Treasure of the Golden Skull (Maudlin Towers) by Chris Priestley

The wonderfully named Mildew and Sponge are pupils at the gruesome Maudlin Towers School - and they don't much like their school. Until, that is, they are told the school might close... better the devil you know! Maybe they can find the treasure from The Golden Skull, whose timbers line the Headmaster's study. That's not the only problem to solve though - who is the strange new boy who has hypnotic powers? And why have the teachers been replaced by pirates? Can Mildew and Sponge rescue the school... again? The book is superbly illustrated by the author - there's always something special about a fiction book illustrated by its author. There's a clever mix of boarding school story, mystery and adventure. It's clever, it's witty, it's packed with humour and a superb cast of characters who are quirky and unusual. What's not to like?

Iguana Boy vs. The 30 Second Thief: Book 2 by James Bishop

Iguanas are unlikely superheroes but Dylan needs their help to make a lasting impression on the superhero collective, run by Ron Strongman. Will they become a laughing stock? Dylan has already proved himself - this is the hilarious sequel to Iguana Boy Saves the World with a Triple Cheese Pizza, and it's equally funny. His task? Just to save the world... but he has to reckon with Ron Strongman. If Dylan wants to be a true superhero, he will have to find his own way to get to the top - and his chance comes when a new villain, Repeat Offender, hits London. The book is illustrated in a lively comic book style by Rikin Parekh, and this breaks up the text nicely, making the book very accessible for even reluctant readers. Unique characters and a clever plot make a very enjoyable read with a twist.

Witch Girl by Jan Eldredge

The spookiness is nicely counterbalanced by the light-hearted fun writing - but maybe it's not bedtime reading for the easily scared, nonetheless. Evangeline Clement is apprentice to her witch grandmother, and she's keen to get to work on her own, despite a series of disasters. When they are called to a creepy old mansion to solve an unusual case, Evangeline encounters an enemy unlike any of the terrifying monsters she has faced before. and a secret about her own family that will shake her to the tips of her silver-toed boots. There's much more to the story than appears initially - as well as solving the case, it has stronh overtones of loyalty to family and having the courage to face fears. It's compellingly written - luckily the chapters are relatively short, as it's definitely a case of "just one more chapter..."

Mr Penguin and the Fortress of Secrets: Book 2 by Alex T Smith

Right from the start, children will be laughing aloud at the antics of Mr Penguin and Colin. They've crash-landed on a snowy mountain and need to solve the mystery of the missing pets and the abandoned fortress? Mr Penguin is a gorgeous character, superbly depicted through the text and also in the stand-out orange, white and black illustrations; the presentation of the book is really striking and it's good to see a hardback. Children will warm to the slapstick humour and be drawn in to the wonderfully descriptive story as they too try to solve the mystery alongside Mr Penguin and Colin. It's the ideal way to enthuse young readers, whether they read it alone, or share the fun with adults.

The Grerks at No. 55: Book 1 (Nelly the Monster Sitter) by Kes Gray

Nelly is a monster-sitter - it's a job nobody else wants to do, but even monsters want to go out! She never knows what will happen when she goes to a new monster family's house, but fun is guaranteed and there are plenty more in the series to enjoy. A well written story which quickly engages the reader; the illustrations by Chris Jevons are perfect and new readers will find the lavish number of pictures a good transition from picture books. This story now comes with brand-new illustrations; it was previously published in a collection entitled: Grerks, Squurms & Water Greeps.

The Magic Misfits 2: The Second Story by Neil Patrick

Carter, Leila, Theo, Ridley, Izzy and Ollie ate The Magic Misfits... and readers can become magicians themselves by reading this entertaining story which has lots of magic tricks for them to try out for themselves. That's a great way to engage children. Leila grew up in an orphanage and was bullied for being different. But she has a trick up her sleeve - she is an escape artist. When a famous psychic comes to town Leila and the rest of The Magic Misfits realise they won't be able to escape the big mystery coming their way. Will their magic skills be able to save the town? It's an enjoyable story of magic, mystery and adventure, with some great characters who we get to know better through each story.

Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony by Chris Riddell

This is the fourth book in the series about Ada Goth. Lord Goth is holding a music festival at Ghastly-Gorm Hall and famous composers are due to take part. Ada can't wait, but it's quite distracting when her grandmother is trying to find her father a fashionable new wife, there's a faun living in her wardrobe and Maltravers is up to his old tricks. Ada must make sure everything goes to plan, and luckily help is at hand from a very interesting house guest. There's plenty going on in the story but it all interweaves perfectly with a satisfying conclusion to enjoy.

Wiggott's Wonderful Waxworld: Terror Train by Terry Deary

Terry Deary's books, most notably his Horrible Histories, are hugely popular with children, and once again, he has scored a real hit with this intriguing mystery story. Just what goes on in the mysterious building, whose workers won't talk about it? The Boy has managed to steal the very special new phone but now things aren't going too well... Not only are the police looking for him, but the even more worrying Arfur Loaf (get it?) is on the warpath too. Going to Wiggott's Wonderful Waxworld to lie low for awhile might be the worst decision he's ever made... or maybe getting on the Terror Train was worse, as now the infamous Burke and Hare are after him as well! Full of humour, this time-travel book has plenty of historical facts, as you'd expect, all tied up in a pacy and exciting plot.

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret (Explorer Academy) by Trudi Truett

This inspiring book is published by National Geographic and it's a brilliant way to encourage children's curiosity and interest in the world around them. 12-year-old Cruz Coronado has joined an elite school for explorers, training along with others to become the new generation of explorers. But Cruz is set apart when he finds his family have mysterious links with the academy... and he learns that his mother's death was no accident. What's more, his own life is in danger. With the help of his classmates, Cruz puts together pieces of a complicated puzzle and finds himself the only one who can decode a missing formula... the future of the world may just depend on Cruz. The story really involves the reader as they enjoy the puzzles and codes which are embedded throughout. The hardback book is a joy to read with wonderful colour illustrations enhancing the text. Fast-paced and action packed, this is an inspiring read.

Witch Tricks (Witch Tricks) by Sibeal Pounder

This is a thoroughly enjoyable series, with some lovely witchy characters who you can't but like. Why does Felicity Bat's big sister Idabelle suddenly invite Tiga and Fluffanora to join her secret clique, The Points? She has plans to make use of them to bring back the infamous outlaw witch gang, the Ritzy Six. Tiga and Fluffanora need help to return these notorious witches to the past where they belong - but they have alienated Felicity Bat and Fran has other things on her mind. A series like this is great for engaging children, as they get to know and love the characters and enjoy the familiarity. Magic and friendship are at the heart of this enjoyable story, which is well written with nice touches of humour.

Night of the Living Ted by Barry Hutchison

There's bound to be a catch when Lisa Marie and her step-brother Vernon find that the Create-a-Ted shop is offering free Halloween bears! And sure enough, there is. They make bears for themselves and choose an Elvis bear named Bearvis for Dad. That night the shopkeeper brings the bears to life for his own purposes; and Vernon’s bear, Grizz, wants to rule the world! Converting the shopkeeper’s Stuff-U-Lator into a machine for turning living matter into stuffed bears, he begins to prowl the streets. Can the children and Bearvis save themselves – and the world – from being stuffed? Who would have thought teddy bears could be so wicked? With lovely flashes of humour and plenty of excitement and adventure, teddy bears will never seem quite the same!

Midnight Fright (Vlad the World’s Worst Vampire) by Anna Wilson

It's that time of year again, and stories about witches and vampires aboubd as we move towards Halloween. This is the second in a popular new series, full of fun and with credible, likeable characters. Vlad is struggling to do all the things a vampire should so he's not looking forward to his vampire cousin, Lupus, coming to stay; Lupus can do everything! How can Vlad shake Lupus off so he can get to human school without him? Lupus seems to be able to make everyone like him, but play auditions show who really has talent... and real friends. Kathryn Ourst's lively illustrations add an extra element to this gently spooky story.

Frights and Bites (Dirty Bertie) by Alan Macdonald

Fangs! Scream! Zombie! are the three books brought together to make one hilarious volume which will have children in fits of laughter. Dirty Bertie is a boy with THE most disgusting habits, so children love him, of course. Dirty Bertie is always full of mad ideas which inevitably lead to trouble and mayhem... and lots of laughs. This time, he and his friends are syping on the caretaker who might be a vampire, "enjoying" a weekend in the country with his family, and much more. With nine short stories in all, all illustrated with great humour by David Roberts, this is perfect to encourage children to read.

Pages & Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James

I was immediately intrigued by this book, with its promise of celebrating the magic of storytelling and imagination - and I wasn't disappointed. After her mother disappeared, Tilly finds comfort through the stories she reads in her grandparents' bookshop, Pages & Co. Her favourite characters are Anne of Green Gables and Alice from Wonderland, and wonderfully, they appear in the shop and Tilly’s adventures become very real. She discovers she can bookwander into any story she chooses. Just imagine - how wonderful would that be? And maybe Tilly’s new ability could even help her solve the mystery of what happened to her mother all those years ago. But things are seldom that easy, even in a magical fiction world. I love this book and the way it brings much-loved characters to life (Anne of Green Gables was one of my favouite childhood books), inspiring the imagination and encougaring reading. A brilliant celebration of the wonderful world of story. A series is promised - the possibilities are limitless and I am really looking forward to seeing who Tilly meets next.

Frostfire by Jamie Smith

Icy - Fantastical - Adventure. That's how Chicken House describe this book, so children will readily know if it is the sort of story they enjoy; reading page 51 is also recommended to get a feel for the book - there are great ways to lead children into the book. Sabira has been chosen for the honour of bonding with a frostsliver - a fragment of the sentient glacier that crests her icy home, so embarks on the dangerous pilgrimage to the top of the mountain. But when a huge avalanche traps her on the glacier and destroys the pass, Sabira is determined to find another way home. In order to survive, she must face up to the merciless mountain - but there are dark and fiery secrets hiding in its depths ... This is a dramatic fantasy novel, vivid and compelling. After your child has enjoyed the story, see which three adjectives they would use to describe it.


Baker Street Academy: Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Curse by Sam Hearn

Children will love the highly visual approach of this book which tells the story through an engaging mix of text and diary, comic strip, cartoon-style illustrations and many more graphic devices - perfect for even the most reluctant of readers. Baker Street Academy is home to Sherlock and associates and there's always a mystery to be solved. It's a great introduction to Conan Doyle's famous creations and children will really respond well to the lively interpretations of the characters. No crime is too big, no villain too cunning - especially if it's James Moriarty. This time, Sherlock and the gang are up against a centuries old curse... Fast-moving, superb presentation, lively characters - thoroughly enjoyable.

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