Tag Archives: children’s fiction

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

A boy spends every day looking out his window. He sees the people in his street going about their business; leaving for work, watering their gardens, and chatting over the fence. One day though, the neighbour’s grandson goes missing and this boy is the last person to see him. Soon the police turn up and they need to know anything that would help their investigation. The reason this boy watches everything from his window is that he has crippling OCD. This boy is Matthew in Lisa Thompson’s amazing new book The Goldfish Boy.

9781407170992Matthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn’t been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac.

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child’s life… but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?

The Goldfish Boy is an absolutely gripping mystery with an incredible young boy at its heart. I knew from reading the blurb that this book was going to be unlike anything I had read before and I wasn’t disappointed. Lisa Thompson grips you from the first page and doesn’t let you go until the last sentence. She keeps you in suspense trying to figure out what has happened. There are so many questions that pop up as you read (What is wrong with Matthew and what is the connection to the death of his brother? What has happened to Teddy?) but Lisa ties up all the loose ends.

I loved this book not just because of the gripping mystery but also because of the intriguing character of Matthew. At the start of the book he hasn’t been out of the house in several weeks, he washes constantly and stares out of his window at the people in his street.  The story is narrated by Matthew and as the story progresses we get to know more about him and his crippling fears.  Lisa Thompson takes you inside the head of a boy suffering from OCD and you really get a sense of how terrifying it must be for him.  There are times that you think Matthew makes some progress and starts to get better, only for him to break down and need to clean himself furiously.  I loved that this story wasn’t just about the mystery of Teddy going missing and who did it, but about how Matthew manages to overcome his condition to find the answers.

The Goldfish Boy is one of my favourite middle grade reads so far this year.  It is a perfect read aloud for Years 6-8, the only problem being that the kids won’t want you to stop reading until you’ve reached the end.  I can’t wait to read whatever Lisa Thompson writes next!

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See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

Sometimes a book comes along out of the blue and blows you away. The blurb sounds interesting but it’s not until you start reading it that it grabs you and won’t let got. Jack Cheng’s debut children’s book, See You in the Cosmos, is one of these books. Once I started reading it I fell in love with Alex and this unique story.

33282947All eleven-year old Alex wants is to launch his iPod into space. With a series of audio recordings, he will show other lifeforms out in the cosmos what life on Earth, his Earth, is really like.

But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions. Where do I come from? Who’s out there? And, above all, How can I be brave?

Determined to find the answers, Alex sets out on a remarkable road trip that will turn his whole world upside down.

See You in the Cosmos is an amazing story that sent me on an emotional rollercoaster.  One minute I would be laughing at Alex’s funny world view and the next I’d be biting my nails wondering what would happen to him next. It’s one of those books that I couldn’t stop thinking about and I really didn’t want it to end. Alex is a character that will stick around with me for a long time and I’ll keep wondering how he is doing.

Alex is one of the most interesting characters I’ve come across in a long time. He wants to send his golden iPod in to space for alien life forms to find, just like his hero, scientist Carl Sagan. The story is narrated by Alex who is making recordings on his iPod to send in to space in the rocket that he has made. He has saved his money and prepared everything he thinks he needs to get him to a rocket festival, where he will launch his rocket. Alex records all his thoughts and feelings on his iPod so you experience everything alongside him.  He is 11 (with the responsibility of 13 he tells us) but he’s also quite naive. As the reader, you can tell that things aren’t quite right with his home life but he doesn’t see this. The more I learnt about his home life the more I just wanted to hug him and tell him everything was going to be OK. Despite his home life Alex is full of hope and his dreams are big. He is determined to follow in his hero’s footsteps no matter what gets in the way. It is this hope and determination that made me want to keep reading so I could see if Alex achieved his dreams.

Apart from Alex’s voice the other thing I really liked about this book was the range of characters that Alex met on his journey. Jack Cheng shows readers just how kind and caring strangers can be. Alex meets a boy who pretends to be his brother to help him, makes new friends at the rocket festival (SHARF) and discovers a family member he never knew about him.  All of these people help Alex to achieve his dreams and get to where he needs to go.  They put their lives on hold to make sure that Alex is safe and to help him get home.

I can’t recommend See You in the Cosmos highly enough.  You need to read this book!

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New Dinosaur Trouble series from Mewburn and Bixley

I’m always on the lookout for great series for young readers who are just starting chapter books.  Sally Rippin’s Billie B Brown and Hey Jack series and James Roy’s Chook Doolan series are always flying off the shelf.  I was really excited to hear that Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley were releasing some new adventures of Arg, the brainy caveboy from their Dinosaur Rescue series, but aimed at beginner readers.  The Great Egg Stink, the first book in their new Dinosaur Trouble series is out now and it is a whole lot of disgusting fun!

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Arg is bored waiting for his mum to bring home some food.  When his mum returns with armfuls of eggs Arg discovers that one of the eggs might hold something he doesn’t want to eat.  Things are about to go from boring to exciting and a bit dangerous, especially if Arg’s sister Hng finds his egg.

The Great Egg Stink is a great intro to the wacky prehistoric world of Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley.  It’s the perfect chapter book for beginner readers, with a simple but entertaining text and heaps of Donovan’s wonderful illustrations.  Like their Dinosaur Rescue series, this new series is full of disgusting details that boys will love and plenty of laughs.  There are farts, vomit and  (my favourite part) an exploding mastadon.

The thing I love the most about the books that Kyle and Donovan create together are the puns.  They don’t disappoint, starting with puns about the ‘web’ and Arg’s ‘tablet.’  They don’t dumb anything down for these younger readers, which makes this series a perfect one to hook kids on reading.

We need more of these clever, engaging early chapter books for young readers so I hope that we see more series like Dinosaur Trouble.  I can’t wait to promote Dinosaur Trouble to the young readers at my school.

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Frankie Fish and the Sonic Suitcase by Peter Helliar

What is your worst nightmare?  Trapped in a pit of snakes?  Trapped in a room full of clowns? Being forced to listen to Taylor Swift songs over and over?  Frankie Fish’s worst nightmare is being stuck in the past with his grumpy grandad.  He may hate it but it is certainly hilarious for readers of Peter Helliar’s new book, Frankie Fish and the Sonic Suitcase.

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Twelve-year-old Frankie Fish hates visiting his grandparents. Grandad Fish is cranky, and yells a lot, and has a creepy hook for a hand – plus he NEVER lets Frankie go inside his shed. But after a teensy tiny prank goes wrong at school, Frankie is packed off to Old-People Jail for the whole holidays.

What Frankie doesn’t know is that Grandad has been building a home-made TIME MACHINE in the Forbidden Shed, and the old man has big plans to get his missing hand back. But when Grandad goes back in time, he changes history and accidentally wipes out Frankie’s entire family – Nanna, Mum, Dad, even his annoying sister Saint Lou. Somehow, everyone is gone but Frankie and Grandad! And it’s only a matter of time until Frankie disappears too…

As the last Fish men standing, Frankie and Granddad must race back in time to undo this terrible mistake. But can they stand each other long enough to put the past back together again? And even if they manage the impossible – will Grandad’s wonky time-machine ever get them home?

Frankie Fish and the Sonic Suitcase is a wacky time-travel adventure with a cool new character.  There is something in this story for everyone – pranks, time travel, family secrets, a weird grandparent with a hook for a hand, magicians, strange transformations, the Water Tank of Death and plenty of laughs.  Peter Helliar’s other career as a comedian shines through in this book as he certainly knows what makes kids laugh.  Peter hooks you right from the start and makes you need to keep reading to find out what happens.  Like any good time travel story this one asks ‘if you could go back and your past would you do it?’

Frankie Fish is a character that kids, especially boys, are going to love.  Frankie is a mischievous kid who loves playing pranks with his friend Drew Bird.  When Frankie starts poking around in his grandad’s shed he finds himself stuck in a place and time unlike the one he knows, with his grumpy grandad.  Suddenly, Frankie is the sensible one who must keep his grandad on the right track and stop him from making even more of a mess of his life. Thanks to his grandad’s meddling Frankie finds himself changing more than he could ever imagine.

Lesley Vamos’ illustrations add some extra fun to the story, especially when there are several different grandad’s involved. The cover is fantastic and the title literally jumps off it.

It’s good to know that Frankie Fish and the Sonic Suitcase is only the first book in a planned series featuring Frankie.  I certainly want to read more of Frankie and Alfie Fish’s adventures!

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Spy Toys by Mark Powers

When the world is in peril and villains are running amok who do you call?  James Bond? Alex Rider? The Ghostbusters?  No, you call the Spy Toys.  They’re a rag-tag group of toys whose faulty machinery makes them the perfect crime fighting team.  Dan, Arabella and Flax are the Spy Toys and their first mission, in Mark Powers’ new series, is to protect the prime minister’s son from the clutches of Rusty Flumptrunk.

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Dan is a teddy bear.  He’s made for hugging.  Aw, so cute, right? WRONG!  Dan’s so strong he can crush cars.  But what makes him a faulty toy could make him the perfect spy.

Together with a robot police rabbit and one seriously angry doll, Dan joins a top secret team designed to stop criminals in their tracks.  And just in time!  An evil elephant is planning to kidnap the prime minister’s son.

Spy Toys is a hilarious story filled with action, adventure and characters that kids and adults alike will love.  Every kid will wish that they had toys as cool as Dan, Arabella and Flax.  Once you start reading Spy Toys you won’t want to stop because it’s a really fun and clever read.

There are lots of toys that feature in the story and everything is made by the Snaztacular Ultrafun company.  Their toys aren’t just your average toy though.  They create teddy bears that hug you when you need a hug, footballs that return to you after kicking them and bikes that take you home if you are too tired to pedal.  Clearly Mark Powers needs to be working with toy companies to make these awesome toys.

I loved the characters in the story, from the Spy Toys themselves to Auntie Roz, the Spy Toys’ boss who doesn’t take any nonsense, to the villain of the story, Rusty Flumptrunk, a genetically engineered cereal company mascot who has turned to a life of crime.  My favourite characters though are the McBiff Triplets, the children of a circus strongman and strongwoman, who are sent to test the Spy Toys.  They are destructive toddlers with huge muscles and their fight with the Spy Toys is hilarious.

Tim Wesson’s cover and illustrations throughout the book are fantastic.  He makes the Spy Toys look so cool and tough, the kind of toys that nobody messes with.  I especially love his illustrations of Rusty Flumptrunk who looks absolutely nuts.

I am hooked on the Spy Toys and I can’t wait for their next adventure.  If the sneak peek at the end of the book, featuring a hedgehog villain called Professor Doomprickle, is anything to go by, Spy Toys is going to be my new favourite series.  I would especially  recommend Spy Toys for any fans of Aaron Blabey’s Bad Guys series.

Check out the awesome Spy Toys website for heaps of activities and info about the series – http://spytoysbooks.com.

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Frankie Potts is back again!

Frankie Potts is the village of Tring’s number one girl detective.  She has flaming red hair, a questioning mind and an addiction to gobstoppers.  And she is REALLY good at solving mysteries. Frankie’s first two adventures saw her trying to solve a whole pile of mysteries including:

  • What’s my (sort of) new dog called, and where’s he from?
  • Why is my grandma acting so oddly?
  • Why are random pink items of clothing going missing all over the village?

Frankie Potts is back in two new adventures – Frankie Potts and the Postcard Puzzle and Frankie Potts and the Wicked Wolves.

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Frankie’s list of mysteries to solve is getting longer by the day. Firstly, her mum is acting very strangely – she’s tired, grumpy and feels sick all the time. And then there’s Grandma M, who keeps dropping hints about expanding her troupe of performing greyhounds: Tinkerbell, Titania and Tiramisu.

With her detective sidekick Mac, Frankie travels to Giggleswick to find out about the mysterious Gideon R. Best, Animal Trainer Extraordinaire, and why he sent a postcard – with two kisses on it – to Frankie’s mum. How can Frankie work out what an overweight donkey, a cuddle-obsessed pig and a pooing parrot have to do with anything? And why has Tinkerbell started to waddle?

Kaboom! Things are getting explosive in Frankie’s family. She had better start solving.

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A band of dancers with bells and blue painted faces have come to Tring, and Frankie can smell a mystery. Who are these Wicked Wolves? How come Grandma M knows them, and wants to pick a fight with them?

Meanwhile, Tinkerbell and Sparkplug’s seven adorable puppies are causing chaos at Frankie’s house. Grandma M is planning to give away four of them, and Frankie and Mac must make sure that they go to good homes. Ralph Peter-McGee, Frankie’s arch-enemy, seems to have his eye on her favourite pup Kettle Thomson. Can Frankie stop Kettle going to the wrong home? And why are those Wicked Wolves sniffing around the puppies?

The Inaugural Tring Talent Contest is rapidly approaching, and Frankie has some serious detecting to do. But maybe not all the clues are quite as they seem.

I can’t get enough of Frankie Potts!  She is a wonderful character that kids, especially girls, will love.  She is really inquisitive and mysteries seem to follow her wherever she goes.  Naturally she needs to solve them and you just know that she’ll find the answers.  She carries a notebook everywhere so she always has a list of mysteries that she needs to solve.  I like the way that these lists are included in the story so that the reader can try to solve the mysteries too.

One of my favourite features of the Frankie Potts series is the design of them.  Phoebe Morris’s illustrations and the bright colours make the covers stand out and look really appealing to the target audience.  I also really love the alliterated titles which sound really cool (Postcard Puzzle, Bikini Burglar).

Get the Frankie Potts series into the hands of any young fans of a good mystery.  I think they would be a good ‘next step’ for fans of Geronimo and Thea Stilton and Billie B. Brown.  Once you’ve read one you’ll be hooked!

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My Top March Kids & YA Releases

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Frogkisser by Garth Nix

Princess Anya needs to see a wizard about a frog. It’s not her frog, it’s her sister’s. And it’s not a frog, it’s actually a prince. A prince who was once in love with Anya’s sister, but has now been turned into a frog by their evil stepstepfather. And Anya has made a ‘sister promise’ that she will find a way to return Prince Denholm to human form…

So begins an exciting, hilarious, irreverent quest through the Kingdom of Trallonia and out the other side, in a fantastical tale for all ages, full of laughs and danger, surprises and delights, and an immense population of frogs.

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Hotaka: Through My Eyes – Natural Disaster Zones by John Heffernan

When the tsunami strikes the Japanese coastal town of  Omori-wan, the effects are utterly devastating. Three years later, much of what happened on that day is still a mystery. As Hotaka sets about convincing local performers to appear at the town’s upcoming Memorial Concert, he finds himself increasingly haunted by memories of his best friend Takeshi.

When strong willed Sakura initiates a controversial anti-seawall  movement, there is danger at every turn for Hotaka and his friends. As the town and its people struggle to rebuild their lives, can Hotaka help Omori-wan look to the future – and let go of his past?

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We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan

Jess would never have looked twice at Nicu if her friends hadn’t left her in the lurch. Nicu is all big eyes and ill-fitting clothes, eager as a puppy, even when they’re picking up litter in the park for community service. He’s so not her type. Appearances matter to Jess. She’s got a lot to hide.

Nicu thinks Jess is beautiful. His dad brought Nicu and his mum here for a better life, but now all they talk about is going back home to find Nicu a wife. The last thing Nicu wants is to get married. He wants to get educated, do better, stay here in England. But his dad’s fists are the most powerful force in Nicu’s life, and in the end, he’ll have to do what his dad wants.

As Nicu and Jess get closer, their secrets come to the surface like bruises. The only safe place they have is with each other. But they can’t be together, forever, and stay safe – can they?

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Nowhere Near You by Leah Thomas
Ollie and Moritz might never meet, but their letters continue, chronicling their lives in fascinating and often hilarious detail. Ollie is headed to Ohio on the first road trip of his life (no easy feat for a boy allergic to electricity), and Moritz is trying to decide which school would best suit a depressed, eyeless boy. Things are never easy for either of them: Ollie grieves the loss of his mother, and is constantly at risk of seizing or sending out electromagnetic pulses that could cause power outages or traffic accidents. Moritz still struggles to find his place in a world that wants to label him and limit him.

As their worlds widen, both boys meet other children like them–other Blunderkinder who are living complicated and amazing lives. But when Ollie and Moritz see that their new friends are in danger from serious health complications they realize that only one person could save them: Moritz’s mother. Finding her won’t be easy, but if Moritz can attend a new school and Ollie can leave his home in the woods, then surely anything must be possible.

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The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis
Aventurine is the fiercest, bravest kind of dragon, and she’s ready to prove it to her family by leaving the safety of their mountain cave and capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human.

But when the human she captures tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, she finds herself transformed into a puny human girl with tiny blunt teeth, no fire, and not one single claw. She’s still the fiercest creature in these mountains though – and now she’s found her true passion: chocolate! All she has to do is walk on two feet to the human city, find herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she’ll be conquering new territory in no time … won’t she?

Wild and reckless young Aventurine will bring havoc to the human city – but what she doesn’t expect is that she’ll find real friendship there too, along with betrayal, deception, scrumptious chocolate and a startling new understanding of what it means to be a human (and a dragon).

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This is a Serious Book by Jodie Parachini and Daniel Rieley
A serious book is black-and-white, and it informs the reader. So why are a donkey in a flowered hat, a laughing zebra, a hissing snake, a marching penguin and cavorting monkeys in this book? Join the fun as the animals take control, effortlessly and with great style and humour.
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Triangle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
Meet Triangle. He is going to play a sneaky trick on his friend, Square. Or so Triangle thinks. . . . With this first tale in a new trilogy, partners in crime Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen will have readers wondering just who they can trust in a richly imagined world of shapes.
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The Turnkey by Allison Rushby
Flossie Birdwhistle is the Turnkey at London’s Highgate Cemetery. As Turnkey, Flossie must ensure all the souls in the cemetery stay at rest. This is a difficult job at the best of times for a twelve-year-old ghost, but it is World War II and each night enemy bombers hammer London. Even the dead are unsettled. When Flossie encounters the ghost of a German soldier carrying a mysterious object, she becomes suspicious. What is he up to? Before long, Flossie uncovers a sinister plot that could result in the destruction of not only her cemetery, but also her beloved country. Can Flossie stop him before it is too late?
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Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee
Sylvie and Jules, Jules and Sylvie. Better than just sisters, better than best friends. Jules’ favourite thing is collecting rocks, and Sylvie’s is running – fast. But Sylvie is too fast, and when she runs to the most dangerous part of the river one snowy morning to throw in a wish rock, she is so fast that no one sees what happens when she disappears. At that very moment, in another part of the woods, a shadow fox is born: half of the spirit world, half of the animal world. She, too, is fast, and she senses danger. When Jules goes to throw one last wish rock into the river for her lost sister, the human and shadow worlds collide with unexpected consequences.
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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
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Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.
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See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

All eleven-year old Alex wants is to launch his iPod into space. With a series of audio recordings, he will show other lifeforms out in the cosmos what life on Earth, his Earth, is really like.

But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions. Where do I come from? Who’s out there? And, above all, How can I be brave?

Determined to find the answers, Alex sets out on a remarkable road trip that will turn his whole world upside down.

 

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Dinosaur Trouble: The Great Egg Stink by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley

Some times a big brain means big trouble! There is a surprise inside Arg’s dinosaur egg. His food is too cute to eat. But saving his new friend gets mega-messy! Step back in time to meet Arg and Krrk-Krrk. It’s where the trouble begins!

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Busting! by Aaron Blabey

Lou is BUSTING for the loo. But the loo has quite a queue. So what on earth is Lou to do?

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Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, shell realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasnt ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. As Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive, one of the adults with dwarfism who’ve joined the production’s motley crew of Munchkins, and with her deeply artistic neighbour, Mrs Chang, Julia’s own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesnt want to fade into the background and it’s a good thing, because her director has more big plans for Julia!

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Torty and the Soldier by Jennifer Beck and Fifi Colston

Meet Torty! Shes one tough little tortoise with a beat-up shell and some missing toes. Torty survived a great war that raged in Europe 100 years ago. Torty was rescued back then by a young Kiwi soldier. She is a World War One survivor.

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Shadow House #2: You Can’t Hide by Dan Poblocki

Shadow House will find you …Poppy, Marcus, Dash, Dylan, and Azumi are all trapped within Shadow House, a sinister estate where past and present intertwine. As they fight to find a way out, the kids think the ghosts of the house are the greatest danger they face. Little do the kids know it’s the secrets they’re each hiding that will prove even more lethal. They’re going to have to come face to face with their fears if they stand any hope of escaping the house alive. Is there anyone or anything in the house they can trust? Or is all hope disappearing, too …Enter Shadow House …if you dare.

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Who Let the Gods Out? by Maz Evans

Elliot’s mum is ill and his home is under threat, but a shooting star crashes to earth and changes his life forever. The star is Virgo – a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. But the pair accidentally release Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge, and must then turn to the old Olympian gods for help. After centuries of cushy retirement on earth, are Zeus and his crew up to the task of saving the world – and solving Elliot’s problems too?

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Marge and the Pirate Baby by Isla Fisher

Prepare yourselves for more fantastical adventures with your new favourite babysitter, Marge.  She’s back again in Marge and the Pirate Baby.

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Marge is back and exploring the neighbourhood with the kids! With some help from Jemima and Jake, can she stay in charge and keep ‘pirate’ baby Zara under control? And can the children make sure Marge behaves at Uncle Desmond and Annie’s wedding?  Anything can happen with Marge around!

I love Isla Fisher’s Marge stories.  Marge is bursting with energy, stories and surprises and you just never know what she’s going to get up to next.  Jemima and Jake always look forward to Marge turning up to look after them and I look forward to her visits too.  She brings joy and excitement in to the Button house and plenty of colour too (especially with her rainbow hair.  Eglantine Ceulemans’ illustrations are delightful and add some extra humour to the stories.

The Marge stories are perfect for reading aloud, especially for 7-9 year olds, and they will certainly have kids laughing.

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What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible by Ross Welford

If you had really bad acne you would want to do anything you could to get rid of it.  You would try every possible remedy you could, possibly even resorting to less scientifically-proven methods.  Imagine, though, that you had tried everything that you possibly could and were feeling pretty downhearted, until one day you wake up and you’re actually invisible!  Not only can nobody see your spots, they also can’t see your whole face or the rest of your body.  This would be enough to freak anyone out and you would have to figure out how and why it has happened.  This is the weird situation that Ethel finds herself in in Ross Welford’s fantastic new book, What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible.

y648Turning invisible at will: it’s one way of curing your acne. But far more drastic than 13 year-old Ethel Leatherhead intended when she tried a combination of untested medicines and a sunbed.It’s fun at first, being invisible. And aided by her friend Boydy, she manages to keep her extraordinary ability secret. Or does she…?When one day the invisibility fails to wear off, Ethel is thrown into a nightmare of lies and deception as she struggles to keep herself safe, to find the remedy that will make her seen again – and solve the mystery of her own birth.

What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible is a weird and wonderful story full of mystery and marvels.  There is something for everyone in this book, from an invisible girl and her family secrets to unexpected friendships and secret missions.  I loved Ross’ first book, Time Travelling with a Hamster, so I was really looking forward to this book and Ross doesn’t disappoint.  There are plenty of mysteries to keep you guessing and some really tense moments too.  I was holding my breath in anticipation in several parts of the story, wondering whether Ethel’s invisibility would be noticed.  Ross also lightens the mood with some funny (and embarrassing) moments.  Ross captures both the excitement and the terror that I’m sure you would experience if you found yourself invisible.

Ross shows us that people often aren’t who we perceive them to be.  Almost everyone in the story has an aspect of themselves that they keep hidden.  Ethel herself buys strange medicines online without her grandmother knowing,  her Gram and her Great-Gran have secrets of their own, Elliot Boyd (or Boydy to his friends) is different from what she’s been led to believe, and the school bullies Jesmond and Jarrow are quite different when they’re in their own home.  Ethel discovers that the life that she knows is a lie and sets out to uncover the truth, with the help of Boydy.

The thing I loved most about this book is the friendship between Ethel and Boydy.  Ethel is initially skeptical about being friends with Boydy, who is an outcast at school.  He doesn’t seem to care what people think though and Ethel starts to warm to him.  He may seem a bit strange to Ethel but he becomes a loyal friend who will do anything to help her.

Like Time Travelling with a Hamster I think What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible would make a great read aloud for Years 6-8 as it would create some good discussions.  I can’t recommend Ross Welford’s books highly enough.  I can’t wait to see where Ross Welford takes us next!

 

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My Summer in Verse

I’ve had the chance to catch up on loads of books over the summer school holidays, which has been so great.  One of the books that I had wanted to read for a while was Kwame Alexander’s Booked.  I’d heard so many good things about this book and I had it on reserve at my public library for ages.

Not only was Booked totally brilliant, it also got me hooked on verse novels, a way of telling a story that I had previously thought wasn’t for me.  Kwame Alexander’s Booked opened up this door for me.  I loved the way that Kwame’s characters came alive using such few words.  Booked is about football and The Crossover is about basketball and, even though I’m not a sporty person, I loved the way that Kwame weaved the gameplay in with family issues, friendship and girl problems.  I especially enjoyed Booked because there is a really cool librarian called Mr Mac who always talks about books with Nick and keeps trying to give him books to read. I highly recommend both of Kwame’s books for Year 7 and up, especially boys who are super sporty but don’t really like to read.  These books might just switch them on.  I think boys would find them especially appealing because each of the poems is short so there isn’t too much reading.

Here are the verse novels that I have enjoyed recently and completely recommend.  Paper Hearts and Coaltown Jesus are aimed at teens but the others are perfect for ages 8+:

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

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“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood.

Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

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Booked by Kwame Alexander

In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel THE CROSSOVER,  soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.
This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action and emotion of a World Cup match!

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Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

“I guess it does
look like a poem
when you see it
typed up
like that.”

Jack hates poetry. Only girls write it and every time he tries to, his brain feels empty. But his teacher, Ms. Stretchberry, won’t stop giving her class poetry assignments — and Jack can’t avoid them. But then something amazing happens. The more he writes, the more he learns he does have something to say.

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Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech

February 25

Today the fat black cat
up in the tree by the bus stop
dropped a nut on my head
thunk
and when I yelled at it
that fat black cat said
Murr-mee-urrr
in a
nasty
spiteful
way.

I hate that cat.

This is the story of
Jack
words
sounds
silence
teacher
and cat.

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Moo by Sharon Creech

When Reena, her little brother, Luke, and their parents first move to Maine, Reena doesn’t know what to expect. She’s ready for beaches, blueberries, and all the lobster she can eat. Instead, her parents “volunteer” Reena and Luke to work for an eccentric neighbor named Mrs. Falala, who has a pig named Paulie, a cat named China, a snake named Edna—and that stubborn cow, Zora.

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Apple Sauce Weather by Helen Frost

When the first apple falls from the tree, Faith and Peter know that it’s applesauce weather, even though Peter is getting a little old for such things. It also means Uncle Arthur should be here to tell his stories, with a twinkle in his eye as he spins tales about how he came to have a missing finger. But this is the first year without Aunt Lucy, and when Uncle Arthur arrives, there’s no twinkle to be found and no stories waiting to be told. Faith is certain, though, that with a little love and patience, she and Peter might finally learn the truth about that missing finger. Paired with warm, expressive illustrations by Amy June Bates, this heartfelt tale by award-winning poet Helen Frost highlights the strength of family and the power of a good story.

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Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

When Billie Jo is just fourteen she must endure heart-wrenching ordeals that no child should have to face. The quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring.

Written in free verse, this award-winning story is set in the heart of the Great Depression. It chronicles Oklahoma’s staggering dust storms, and the environmental–and emotional–turmoil they leave in their path. An unforgettable tribute to hope and inner strength.

(This was one of the verse novels mentioned in Kwame Alexander’s Booked so I had to read this one.  It is heart-breaking but so wonderful!)

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Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott

A novel in verse, Paper Hearts is the story of survivial, defiance, and friendship. Based on historical events about a group of girls who were slave laborers at the munitions factory in Auschwitz.

(This is a story of the holocaust unlike any I have read before.  Telling this story in verse somehow makes it more powerful)

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Coaltown Jesus by Ron Koertge

Walker shouldn’t have been so surprised to find Jesus standing in the middle of his bedroom. After all, he’d prayed for whoever was up there to help him, and to help his mom, who hadn’t stopped crying since Noah died two months ago. But since when have prayers actually been answered? And since when has Jesus been so . . . irreverent?

But as astounding as Jesus’ sudden appearance is, it’s going to take more than divine intervention for Walker to come to terms with his brother’s sudden death. Why would God take seventeen-year-old Noah when half of the residents in his mom’s nursing home were waiting to die? And why would he send Jesus to Coaltown, Illinois, to pick up the pieces?

 

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Filed under books, children's fiction, poetry, young adult, young adult fiction