Titles for Younger Readers
Meet the Weirds
Written by Kaye Umansky
Illustrated by Chris Mould
This is an excellent reprint of Kaye Umansky’s first story about Pinchton Primm and the wonderfully strange family called the Weirds. Printed on cream paper with a carefully chosen font and clear spacing, it has a ‘dyslexia friendly’ sticker on the cover and has been tested by young readers. Pinchton leads a sedate and organised life with his parents who only eat fish and a lot of radishes and are very tidy. When a new family moves in next door Mrs Primm is dismayed to see the garden full of boxes and crates and even more concerned to learn that Ott and Frankly’s mother is a stunt woman and their father an inventor. Pinchton meets Ott over the garden hedge and is surprised by her strange clothes. She is very persuasive and he finds himself next door eating chips from newspaper, wedding cake and pink custard. But, when he sees that his mother’s flowers have been picked, the gnomes’ fishing rods have been broken and worse of all, the two goldfish are missing, Pinchton begins to worry. The language is clear and unambiguous and is lively and descriptive too, whilst the illustrations are full of detail and humour and compliment the story well. The ending leaves the reader, and Pinchton, guessing about many of the weird goings on next door but thankfully there are more stories in the series to be enjoyed.
Written by Kaye Umansky
Illustrated by Chris Mould
If your friend next door has a mad inventor dad, a stunt woman mum and a grandma who never stops cooking chips over an open fire in the kitchen they may be a little unusual themselves. If their last name is Weird and their house is a mess, they may not be the safest houseguests when your parents are away for the day, especially if your parents like things ‘just so’ with not a speck of dirt on the cream rugs. This is just the situation that Pinchton Primm finds himself in. In no time there’s a pile of mud in the kitchen and a hole in the ceiling. Kaye Umansky has years of experience writing funny stories for children. Here, most of the humour is derived from the contrast between Pinchton’s rigid home life and the relaxed attitudes of the Weirds. Chris Mould’s style of illustration compliments the story perfectly as his line drawings add to the eccentricities of the characters. Published as it is by Barrington Stoke, the Weird series is printed in a dyslexia friendly font on buff paper with the text well-spaced. Good fun for newly independent readers that can work their way through the series.
Leave it to Eva
Written by Judi Curtin
O’Brien (eB) £6.99
Eva wants to help everyone who might need her to sort out their lives. This book recounts two, seemingly separate, stories about Eva and her efforts to help her friends and their families. At the beginning, each story stands alone and flows along with barely a pause for breath, but there is a tenuous link which becomes clearer as the book progresses. It is a very enjoyable book to read, but it also touches on issues that are very much current in our society today; care of the disabled and separated families.
Written by Jonathan Rock
Red Fox (eB) £5.99
Connor and his friends are members of the Sixth Matfield Scout Troop’s Tiger patrol, and they love adventures! This story is about their cycle trip to
they camp overnight and get involved in foiling a gang of sheep rustlers. Although
this is one of a series, it stands alone as a simple adventure story for young
readers who are gaining confidence and can manage a book with proper chapters.
It is told with a racy and rather breathless style, which keeps up the interest
and constantly pushes the reader on to find out what happens next. The patrol is a mixed group of boys and
girls, each with a distinct character, and a contribution to make. Some are
more confident than others, but even Priya, who hasn’t ridden a bike before and
is nervous of sleeping under canvas, manages to rise to the occasion and
actually enjoys the adventure. This is a fun adventure story that will be
popular with children. Despite the simplicity of the plot, the language is rich
and varied without being too demanding, and the dialogue is well crafted. Wales
The Snow Queen
Retold by Sarah Lowes
Illustrated by Miss Clara
Another beautiful book from the Independent Reading Series; one of the great traditional tales of Hans Christian Anderson is retold here for confident readers. Gerda’s best friend Kay is enticed away by the evil Snow Queen and Gerda sets off across the world to find and reclaim him. Sarah Lowes rises to the challenge of the inevitable constraints imposed by a scheme. Her style is lyrical and understated, and she keeps the old-fashioned, storytelling tone of traditional versions. French illustrator Miss Clara gives us beautiful pictures to match the power of the text. The doll-like characters have the air of not quite connecting with the sumptuous, vibrant warmth of their backgrounds – echoing, perhaps, the tensions between the Snow Queen’s icy world and the warmth of Gerda’s love. This is, all round, a lovely book to put into the hands of a young reader, to take off into a quiet corner and be transported.
Written by Nancy Hartry
Tundra (R) (eB) £6.99
The narrator of the story is Carolyn, whose friend Jimmy has been brain-damaged due to an ‘accident’. Weekly visits of Jimmy’s Uncle Ted haunt Carolyn, as she knows Ted’s secret and shares it with the reader at an early stage in the story. Eventually the truth emerges and Uncle Ted is discredited. This is a great little story, set in
after the Second World War, and filled with compassion and understanding. Jimmy and his mother Jean are ordinary
people, down on their luck, while Carolyn is a loyal and faithful friend. She shows real bravery in confronting Ted’s
bullying behaviour. The story is well written with excellent characterisation
and strongly observed detail which brings the book to life. The style is
economical, yet vividly conveys the plot and moves it forward. Carolyn’s
original approach to problem solving is an object lesson in strength of
character and the whole book has a calm determination which echoes Carolyn’s
own attitude and behaviour. An enjoyable and thought-provoking read. Canada
In Too Deep
Written by Tom Avery
Frances Lincoln (eB) £6.99
This sequel to Too Much Trouble follows both Prince and his brother, Emmanuel, who together have escaped from danger in the Democratic Republic of Congo and are trying to adapt to life in the
their parents. Kindly social workers and genial foster parents try to help the
boys adjust but nothing can replace a parent and there is relief and happiness
when their mother arrives in the country. They settle down with her and their
baby sister, Grace, but still miss their father who is now in impossible debt
to ruthless gangsters in UK .
The two boys come up with a plan to rescue him! Tanzania
Written by Malachy Doyle
This is a new ‘dyslexia friendly’ title from Barrington Stoke and it is yet another book written with an Olympic theme. Pete is a gifted young man. He can run, then jump, then fly, but he has kept his astonishing jumping ability secret until now. As the London Olympic Games approach, Pete dreams of being the youngest ever athlete to win a gold medal, or even three, and so he starts to get himself noticed at local athletic events and then at regional and national level. Other more experienced athletes have their own dreams and, after years of training, they are not about to let a young lad from nowhere spoil their chances of glory. This short tale about sporting ambitions is easy to follow and, if the Olympic theme isn’t already out of date, it may well appeal to teenagers with dreams and ambitions of their own.
Retold by Kathy McEvoy
Book House £12.99
This volume contains graphic versions of Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Story panels include excerpts of original Shakespearean dialogue with accompanying captions to interpret the action. These captions act almost as a translation, and helpful footnotes explain the more challenging language. Each play has an illustrated cast list at the beginning. All these factors combine to make these stories an accessible route into the plays proper. All in all, this could prove to be a useful aid to students who need help understanding Shakespeare.
Task Force Delta: Rogue Predator
Written by Craig Simpson
Franklin Watts (eB) £5.99
This book is one of a series of four created around the fictional Task Force Delta, a Special Operations force whose work involves counter-terrorism, hostage rescues and other covert operations. We are introduced to the Delta Force crack team, and their first high-risk mission to locate a stolen Predator drone aircraft. Complicating the mission is the promise that Major Nathan Connor made to his old Afghan friend Assif to protect his son in the event of his own death. Assif is indeed now dead, murdered for being seen to collaborate with the occupying
book contains a mix of factual information on Special Forces, weapons and
tactics with a thrill-a-minute adventure story set in the current war in US .
With its graphics and jargon-heavy dialogue, it will appeal to readers in
search of a short, exciting read. It covers the ground with spare efficiency,
and contains just about enough political complexity to avoid falling into the
trap of presenting the Afghanistan
forces as the ‘goodies’ and the Afghans as the ‘baddies’. This is a good book to stir the enthusiasm of
those reluctant readers. US
Titles for Older Readers
Written by Nick Green
The Cat Kin is an after-school club whose members possess ancient and peculiar powers. In this third book, Tiffany is determined to stop the illegal trade in big cat parts which threatens the survival of tigers worldwide. Ben doesn’t want Tiffany to put herself into danger alone, but his parents have just got back together and he does not want to put his family at risk, either. As Mrs Powell, their teacher and mentor, is dead, Ben reluctantly joins Tiffany to take on the followers of the ancient god Set, with the other club members supporting. A dark and troubled tale ensues with action moving swiftly and threats menacing the teens as those skilled in Pashki, the art of moving like a cat, prowl the streets, warehouses and
in the form of
big cats themselves, the cats’ eyes description here oddly compelling. port
Operation Kick Butt
Written by Niki Daly
Hodder (eB) £4.99
The suggestion of community service, as part of a holiday project for school, raises groans from Al and his friends, Sophie and Julian. However, at the suggestion of Al’s grandmother, the trio volunteers to work at a local Care Home, the Lady Buxom Home for Seniors, where Al’s Gran already teaches art. The three arrive full of ideas and meet such a range of interesting and idiosyncratic characters that they throw themselves whole-heartedly into the task. However, all is not well at the Lady Buxom Home, with the main problem being Mrs Black, the owner of the home. The dreadful Mrs Black is intent on cutting care and food to the minimum and appears to be systematically robbing the residents. Developing very strong attachments to the residents, the trio decide, with the help of Gran and her very particular skills, to come to the rescue. This fast moving and exciting book is a classic story of good conquering evil. The reader becomes very involved with the characters and is always willing for Al, Sophie and Julian to triumph.
Written by Abby Grahame
Simon & Schuster £6.99
This story is very reminiscent of Downton Abbey, with all its Upstairs and Downstairs characters and their very different, individual concerns. The Darlington Family has lived at Wentworth Hall for generations, but money is very short so Downstairs are thinking about job security and trying to make plans for the future. Upstairs, however, have different problems: shortage of money, trouble-making, but very rich, guests, relationships, children, and rich potential marriage suitors. They also have their secrets which need to be closely guarded, for, in addition, someone is writing an insider view of the family, and although they are not named, it is clear which family is the subject of the resultant gossip column. The book tackles such issues as the impoverished gentry, illegitimacy, and the relationships between upstairs and down, all happening at a time when the world is just about to be torn apart by a World War.
Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact
Written by A. J. Hartley
Razorbill (R) (eB) £7.99
On reflection, Darwen’s new life was not what he expected! Following his parents’ death, Darwen Arkwright moves to
with his aunt. He feels out
of place there, especially at his new school, but at least he has his two new
friends, Alexandra and Rich, who are also incongruous. When Darwen is presented with a strange old
mirror by the mysterious Mr Peregrine, he quickly discovers that his gift is no
ordinary mirror, but a portal to Silbrica, a beautiful world full of enchanting
creatures. Darwen cannot resist the temptation, but every time he visits, Silbrica
changes and evil creatures gradually take over. Can the Peregrine Pact save the
day? A. J. Hartley’s first children’s book is a dark fantasy adventure story
that will enthral confident readers. Although a daunting 425 pages, the
constant excitement means that the story flies by and the three children have
the admirable traits of bravery, compassion and loyalty. The subject of loss is
handled well, with it adding to the children’s resolve to defeat evil.
Hartley’s imagination is in full flow with Grobblers and Dellfeys from
Silbrica, while some of America Hillside’s teachers
are not as they seem! Pre-teens will enjoy this thrilling adventure story.
Written by Emerald Fennell
Shiverton Hall, Emerald Fennell’s debut novel, is an extremely likeable, well-written adventure story set in a creepy old school where extremely odd things are happening. When Arthur Bannister unexpectedly receives a letter offering him a scholarship at the boarding school Shiverton Hall, he feels he can’t turn it down, despite the fact he really doesn’t want to go there. He had had a dreadful time at his previous school so going to Shiverton Hall would mean a fresh start. What he doesn’t know is that Shiverton Hall is not an average boarding school. When he gets there he does not see the nice welcoming place he saw in the school prospectus but ‘a Gothic, turreted behemoth, all ridges and spines and gargoyles.’ It is a really hair-raising place, full of surprises and he’s glad to quickly make some friends, despite the fact that one of them, George, delights in telling him stories about the schools extremely gruesome history, which make him feel a bit spooked. Soon it’s not just Georges’ stories that are making him feel scared. Something bad is happening and Arthur seems to be at the centre of it. Shiverton Hall is great fun. A fast paced exciting school/ghost story with engaging and credible characters. I hope there will be more from Emerald Fennell.
Time Riders: City of
Written by Alex Scarrow
This outstanding episode of the Time Riders sequence begins with the 9/11
Maddy and Sal, are charged by the shadowy agency to prevent time travel
destroying history. They themselves are hunted by a remorseless cyborg team of
assassins from the future which utilises security services in order to track
them. The story moves expertly between Jack the Ripper’s Twin
constantly juggling present, future and past while the reader is drawn into the
characters’ loyalties, puzzlements and moral dilemmas. When their nature is
revealed the bleak emptiness of their lives and problems of purpose and
existence become moving and utterly absorbing. When, if ever, is a human murder
justified, and how can they watch it happen, even if it could prevent future
catastrophe? Intriguing questions and very human social and moral dilemmas are
expertly handled by a master storyteller. Irresistible reading! America
Written by Sally Prue
O.U.P. (eB) £6.99
It has long been the bane of youth that grown-ups don’t listen. Go back to the era of living in caves with flint tools and it was just the same. No! It was even worse! Dare to challenge the way it was always done and your very life was at risk. Being the leader meant being obeyed. For Mica this situation was intolerable. She could see that without change there could be no future for her little community. Starvation would surely come during the coming winter. Her problem was that she had ideas and wanted to try something different. She was also becoming aware that there were other people close by; people that used their voices to make melodic sounds and people that used their hands to create tiny creatures in stone. Such practices were totally alien to her own experience and yet she was memorised by the possibilities of something different. Sally Prue imagines a world in which imagination itself has no part. Why did the Neanderthal die out while Homo Sapiens flourished? Adaptability and creativity were always the keys to survival and, somehow, Mica instinctively knew this. In a world where there was no scope for imagination, Sally Prue has created a story that fully utilizes imagination to delve into a past so very long ago.
Written by Cathryn Constable
Chicken House (eB) £6.99
This book promises to be an exciting read, with a cover design that suggests a snowy Russian landscape together with prowling wolves. The story revolves around Sophie, an orphan who feels strangely drawn to join a school trip to
. Together with two school friends, she finds
herself in a remote Russian palace, home of a ‘princess’ who turns out to be
less than they thought. It’s March and the palace is still enfolded by the cold
snows of the Russian winter. The wolves of the surrounding forest are menacing
and as the plot unfolds, the violent history of the palace is reflected in a
modern twist that brings the story to an exciting climax. This is a great
setting for a romantic suspense thriller. The plot keeps up the suspense, and
the characters retain our interest through the story, which is likely to appeal
to readers. Russia
The Last Wild
Written by Piers Torday
Quercus (eB) £9.99
Kester is captive in a prison-like institution while outside a viral apocalypse has apparently taken place. He finds it difficult to talk to humans but he discovers that he can have conversations with a cockroach. Yes, a cockroach. One day a whole army of cockroaches help him to escape from his cell. Outside the ‘prison’ he is carried away by a huge flock of pigeons to where a small band of creatures, led by a stag, seem to have avoided the virus which has wiped out almost all animal life. They can all talk to him. Now, if the cynic in you is saying “Oh come on now!” – don’t listen. This epic tale is enchanting and totally captivating. The narrative rattles along from exciting crisis to breathless crisis and Kester is a convincing young hero whose interaction with the animals is so well handled that disbelief is totally suspended. I raced headlong through the book, thirsting for the denouement, only to reach the last tantalising line: “And I realise my story has only just begun”. It’s a story which deserves to go on!
Written by Sheila Rance
Orion (eB) £9.99
What is young Maia to believe? Is she the Silk Weaver’s daughter, washed up with him to live a quiet life with the Cliff Dwellers, or does her flame-red hair tell her that she belongs to a different people? Maia must overcome man fears and challenges to find the answers she craves. The first of the Storm Catcher trilogy, this fast-paced, original tale, set in the
East in a bygone age, will please all who love fantasy and high
Written by Margaret Buffie
Tundra (eB) £8.99
This is a fascinating book from
Teenage Cassandra’s mother has died and her father has now re-married. New wife Jean and daughter Daisy have moved
into Cass’s historic house in a small community in central Canada . The
house was part of the 19th century Canada Red River
settlement of the Hudson Bay Company.
It’s full of atmosphere, and one day Cass discovers a journal written in
1856 by a previous resident, seventeen year old Beatrice Alexander. Beatrice had also lost her mother, and her
father had remarried, and her future was uncertain. The story unfolds through
alternate chapters telling of Cass and Beatrice’s parallel lives, and their
growing awareness of each other as they occasionally time-slip between the
centuries. The historic episodes give a marvellous picture of life in a remote rural
colony with difficult communications and very different attitudes from today. The
story skilfully draws us into both households, showing family tensions and
problems as an array of well-drawn characters interact with each other in each
domestic setting and time. This carefully researched story illuminates the past
and demonstrates that while history changes, the human emotions that bind us
and our families, remain very much the same.
Clockwise to Titan
Written by Elon Dann
Hot Key £5.99
Mo spends his life in the Institute trying to avoid a “squeeze”, but when Mo is caught between the opposing demands of a guard and the inmates, he’s in a squeeze with only one answer – escape. He takes with him the one thing of value he has, his friendship with Moth who was imprisoned to silence his parent’s political protests. The two boys, and Moth’s other friend Harete, devise a daring escape over the barbwire to follow a line of pylons north to safety. As their plans unravel, so does the truth about Mo’s involvement in the squeeze that has them running for their lives. This is a smartly written survival adventure that crackles with word-play, sharp characters and friendships tested to the very end. Elon Dann balances the tension of escape with a careful flashback structure that gives older readers a more satisfying read than a conventional narrative. He also weaves many classical and storytelling references that add further layers to the story.
Written by Anne Cassidy
This is a sequel to Dead Time, where the story of Rose and Joshua and their missing parents began. They were briefly step-brother and sister after their respective parents married, but family life was brutally interrupted after their parent’s disappearance. As Katherine Smith and Brendan Johnson were both serving police officers with the Cold Case Ops Team, it seems that there disappearance may be linked with the case they were working on. The official view is that they were killed by a hired assassin, but Rose and Joshua believe that their parents are still alive, convinced that the story of their disappearance is a smoke-screen for more sinister activities. The story intertwines with the death by apparent suicide of Rachel, an old friend-turned-enemy of Rose’s at the boarding school she attended after her mother’s death. Solving the puzzle of Rachel’s death provides further clues to their ongoing quest, and sets up for a further book in the series. This story balances the overarching theme of The Murder Notebooks with a look at the darker realms of friendship between teenage girls.
Written by Gina Blaxhill
Macmillan (eB) £6.99
When Sophie finds a memory stick belonging to her cousin in an old pair of jeans, it brings back all the horror of Danielle’s suicide. Sophie and her best friend Reece were visiting Danielle on the weekend she jumped from the balcony of her flat, but, having seen her only minutes before the alleged suicide, Sophie has never been able to convince herself that her cousin took her own life. This pacey, exciting read for younger teens flirts with danger without ever getting too serious. The romance between Sophie and Reece, including the adolescent misunderstandings which have lead to a breach in their friendship, is nicely drawn, and it’s good to have an intelligent and resourceful leading character who lives in a cared-for environment.
The Power of Five: Oblivion
Written by Anthony Horowitz
My initial response to Oblivion was that it was a huge piece of work with five key characters, each with their own story to tell. At that point I had no idea that it was indeed written as five separate books and that this was the conclusion to so much that had gone before. Knowing nothing of the background I read it as a standalone and, as such, it stood up brilliantly. Of course, questions came to mind about where it all started and what were the origins of the evil ones and powers of the five. How had the world fallen into such a mire of corruption? But, not knowing didn’t really seem to matter as the adventure was immediately gripping, with the horror, brutality, carnage and the fight against impossible odds all holding together as a work of shocking darkness. Now that I know it is the thrilling culmination of a much longer story I am intrigued to return and discover the whole package.
Written by Darren Shan
Simon & Schuster (eB) £12.99
Darren Shan’s 25 million sales worldwide testify to his appeal to horror-loving teenagers. This, the second in a projected series of twelve, is a gore-fest which should sate even the most rabid fan’s lust for blood. Heads are severed, eyes are gouged, arteries spurt, flesh is burned, and intestines slurp onto the floor. One of the less traumatic moments in one scene is reported thus – “Cathy digs the head of her chainsaw into a man’s stomach and grinds it around. Blood and guts spray everywhere….. He shudders and spasms like someone being electrocuted.” In the middle of all the mayhem, though, Shan crafts our intriguing heroine, Becky Smith, a zombie who has been ‘re-vitalised’ and needs to eat people’s brains to stay alive (or dead!). Though she is literally heartless she has a conscience and wrestles with moral dilemmas. Like all good sci-fi/horror, the book deals with the big issues: what makes us human, what is life worth? Add a dash of conspiracy theory involving mysterious controlling mutants, and a terrifying monster called Mr Dowling and you have a recipe for another very successful series.
Written by Marianne Curley
Told in the first person by two characters in alternative chapters, this is a complex and complicated storyline complemented by a simple structure. Because of her unnatural strength and hearing, her beauty, and her violet eyes, Ebony knows instinctively that she’s different. Her confusion and anguish throughout the careful unravelling of her real identity are very understandable when you realise she is a stolen angel, hidden on Earth! Her friend Amber is a best friend in the true sense and
human, holds important middle ground with a special role to play between the
two worlds because of his heightened spiritual awareness. A great read which is full of action and is
beautifully imaginative throughout.
There must be more! Jordan
Written by S.J. Kincaid
Hot Key Books (eB) £6.99
Tom Raines is a 14 year old drifter and scammer who looks set to follow the burnt-out career of his gambling-addicted father. However, his exceptional skills in virtual reality game playing have brought him to the attention of the state, and he is recruited to become a Combatant, one of a group of elite teen soldiers who fight virtual wars in space. Set in a future but familiar earth, the story follows Tom’s progress from raw recruit to graduating Top Gun. Its set-piece descriptions of VR game playing will thrill aficionados of computer games. The novel contains some entertaining comic scenes illustrating just what happens when you let teenagers loose with the ability to infect each other’s neural processors with viruses, but it also makes some telling and serious political points. In this world, the Combatants rely partly on corporate sponsors, and must make devilish deals with them. The ethics of wars fought in space, virtually or otherwise, wars fought at the behest of governments who are effectively corporations in thin disguise, wars fought by teenagers with computer software which belongs to the military installed in their brains are all issues raised in this satisfyingly complex read. There is a planned sequel, and I look forward to finding out what the author makes of these darker, more thought-provoking strands.
Written by Sarah Naughton
Simon and Schuster (eB) £6.99
A serial killer known as the Wigman stalks an impoverished riverside community in a murky part of
His target is young children, and their deaths are gruesome. Titus Adams and
his young sister Hannah live with their drunken parents in the Wigman’s
stalking ground. Life is cruel enough, but when their home burns down and their
parents are killed, there is no place for Hannah to go except the dreaded
workhouse. Titus finds shelter and a job with Inspector Pilbury which will help
him secure Hannah’s release. Pilbury successfully apprehends the murderer and
Titus sees him hang. So why do the murders continue? This is a dark, dark tale
with many of the themes from which childhood nightmares are woven. The story
itself is well paced, carefully constructed and absorbing, with a real air of
suspense and characters that you find yourself rooting for. It was a book that,
once started, I did not want to put down. London
Edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Such an exciting and varied anthology makes me wonder why more short story collections aren’t aimed at Young Adults. With a varieties of length, style and subject matter, older readers can explore exciting, relatively new genres as well as discovering more about their own personal reading tastes: whether they lean more towards the dark, with Libby Bray, the romantic, with Holly Black, or the historical, with M. T.
. Cory Doctorow
tells the story of a care home for injured orphans where a revolt replaces an
oppressive guardian with a Clockwork Fagin and a co-operative business. Delia
Shema brings a world of deceit, debit and the latest mechanical automaton to a
sleepy Welsh village and a family ghost. Garth Nix delivers a short but punchy
story of assassinations. Steampunk!
is a distinct, vibrant and rich selection of narratives which includes two
graphic artists as well as twelve authors. Any fantasy or science-fiction fan
will find this a rewarding and stimulating collection. Anderson