Sometimes a story can come along at exactly the right time. It can mirror something that is happening in your own life and really strike a chord with you. Back to Black Brick is a story about a grandfather who has Alzheimer’s Disease and his grandson, Cosmo, who tries everything he can to stop him losing his memory. My nan has early stage dementia so I can completely understand how Cosmo feels. Cosmo, however, does something that I can’t do – he travels back in time to meet his grandfather as a young man.
Cosmo’s brother Brian died when he was ten years old. His mum hides her grief and Cosmo lives with his grandparents. They’ve been carefree days as Granddad buys him a horse called John and teaches him all he knows about horses. But the good times have to come to an end and although he doesn’t want to admit it, Cosmo knows his Granddad is losing his mind. So on one of the rare occasions when Granddad seems to recognise him, Cosmo is bemused that he gives him a key to Blackbrick Abbey and urges him to go there. Cosmo shrugs it off, but gradually Blackbrick draws him in… Cosmo arrives there, scared and lonely, and is dropped off at the crumbling gates of a huge house. As he goes in, the gates close, and when he turns to look, they’re rusty and padlocked as if they haven’t been opened in years. Cosmo finds himself face to face with his grandfather as a young man, and questions begin to form in his mind: can Cosmo change the course of his family’s future?
Back to Black Brick is a captivating story about families, the secrets that they keep, and the pain they hold inside. Sarah Moore Fitzgerald wraps this all up with plenty of mystery, a dash of history, and time travel. It’s a time-slip story but quite different from similar stories I’ve read. When time travel is involved the characters generally have to think about how their actions in the past will affect the future, but Cosmo does everything he can to try and change the future. He wants to try and stop his grandfather’s memory from fading when he’s older, so he tells him about things that he’ll need to remember for later in life.
As soon as I heard Cosmo’s voice I knew I would really like this character. Cosmo is a loner who has been affected by the death of his brother, the abandonment of his mother, and his grandfather’s worsening condition. From the first few paragraphs you know how much Cosmo loves and admires his grandfather. He wants to do everything he possibly can to help stop his grandfather losing his memory and would hate for him to have to go into a home. So when Cosmo gets the chance to meet his grandfather as a young man he believes this is his chance to change the future and make things right.
There were several things that I really loved about Back to Black Brick. I thought the characters were very well developed and you felt like you were part of their gang. I especially liked the way that you could see the personality traits mirrored in both the young and old version of Cosmo’s grandfather, Kevin (like the ‘Ah, fantastic’ when he’d drink tea). The other thing that I loved about the story is the way that Sarah explains how the time travel happened and the way that Cosmo’s visit to the past affected the future. I like the way that this explanation rounds off the story but still leaves you with a sense of mystery.
4 out of 5 stars
Do you love history with all the horrible bits left in? Have you ever wondered where Christmas carols came from or why we have Christmas trees? Well all your Christmases have come at once with the latest edition of Horrible Christmas by Terry Deary and Martin Brown.
Horrible Christmas is a fantastic book from the pair that have brought us the Horrible Histories series. It’s a book ‘filled full of the foulest facts you can find on this festive folly.’ Terry and Martin dispel the myths about Christmas and give you the cold, hard, horrible facts. You can discover:
- the truth behind some popular Christmas carols
- who invented the Christmas cracker
- what people used to eat for their Christmas dinners
- the things they never tell you about Santa
- Christmas entertainment from the past
- Christmas customs from around the world
There is so much in this book that I didn’t know about Christmas. Did you know that Father Christmas comes in down the chimney because Saint Nicholas was the saint of chimney sweeps or that Christmas pudding in the Middle Ages was spicy porridge? There are also lots of quizes and a game so that readers can test their knowledge about the different topics. Martin Brown’s illustrations always make me laugh and this book is chock-full of his Christmasy characters from through the ages. I especially like the illustration of a very fat Father Christmas trying to figure out how to squeeze back up a very small fireplace.
Horrible Christmas is a great addition to the Horrible Histories series that boys just seem to gobble up. They’re hugely appealing because they’re interesting, funny and gross. If you know a kid that says they don’t like reading, put Horrible Christmas under the Christmas tree for them and they’ll be hooked on this fantastic series.
A Mutiny in Time, the first book in Scholastic’s new interactive series, The Infinity Ring is released today. Like the hugely popular 39 Clues series, the story doesn’t stop when you close the book. It’s one of those books that comes with extra bits and pieces so that you can find out more about the story and the characters. The Infinity Ring series is all about time travel so you follow the characters through different time periods. Each book comes with a Hystorian’s Guide, a collectible map that includes a special code to unlock exclusive content on the Infinity Ring online game. The multi-dimensional game on http://www.infinityring.com allows readers to play as the main characters from the books, as they travel back in history to fix the “Great Breaks,” key events that have gone wrong, altering history as we know it. Players can interact with characters and explore key events in history alongside Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln, and other figures featured in the books.
Book 1 is called A Mutiny in Time and it’s written by one of my favourite authors, James Dashner (author of The Maze Runner series).
History is broken, and three kids must travel back in time to set it right!
When best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste stumble upon the secret of time travel — a hand-held device known as the Infinity Ring — they’re swept up in a centuries-long secret war for the fate of mankind. Recruited by the Hystorians, a secret society that dates back to Aristotle, the kids learn that history has gone disastrously off course.
Now it’s up to Dak, Sera, and teenage Hystorian-in-training Riq to travel back in time to fix the Great Breaks . . . and to save Dak’s missing parents while they’re at it. First stop: Spain, 1492, where a sailor named Christopher Columbus is about to be thrown overboard in a deadly mutiny!
Reserve your copy of The Infinity Ring: A Mutiny in Time at your library now or grab a copy from your bookshop.
Enter my competition to win one of two copies of The Infinity Ring: A Mutiny in Time.
Scholastic NZ are also running a really cool competition to celebrate the release of the series. All you have to do is register and play the Infinity Ring game on http://www.scholastic.co.nz/assets/pdf/tileE.pdf and you go in the draw to win iPods and iPads.