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Zoe and X are soulmates, even though she’s a 21st century teenager and he’s a bounty hunter from the Lowlands, ie Hell. They were brought together in The Edge of Everything, but separated at the end when he sacrificed himself for her and returned to the Lowlands. But never say forever – in this equally torrid and thrilling episode the two are reunited, Zoe recklessly plunging into the underworld to find X, now involved in a search for his missing mother. The book’s appeal lies not just in its steamy romance; Zoe is a sharp, appealing character and readers will love the supporting cast too. Despite being set in Hell, there are a surprising numbers of laughs while the ending will satisfy everyone.
Pity the poor McScurvy children, Vic and Bert – they used to sail the ocean with their pirate parents, until they lost their ship. Now they have to wear shoes and do homework. And their baby sister Maud is an absolute terror, a blue-eyed, golden-haired tyrant! Maud it is who sparks the adventure, one that will bring the children – and some newly made frenemies – up against Captain Guillemot the Third, aka the Hipster Ripster. At stake is their ship, their future, and the family treasure the Blighty Bling. It’s fast and funny, and a great example of kids versus adults adventure: the junior McScurvys may squabble a bit, but they are loyal, brave and determined. Great fun, and Eric Heyman’s black and white illustrations add to the sense of excitement and adventure.
Anthony Horowitz’s announcement that he was writing a new Alex Rider book was one of the best bits of literary news of the last year. Now the book is here, and Never Say Die sees Alex Rider at his daring best. After the shocking climax to Scorpia Rising Alex is living in San Francisco with his friend Sabina’s family. When he receives a cryptic email implying his guardian Jack Starbright may still be alive Alex is on a plane to Cairo in no time following up the lead. The adventure brings him back up against his enemies the Grimaldis, and Mrs Jones of MI6 reappears too. To describe the action as fast-paced is an understatement but there’s always time for sardonic humour. The fight scenes of course are superb. For adrenaline-filled, addictive adventure, Alex Rider is unbeatable, and it’s great to have him back. There are nine other Alex Rider books, all excellent, and readers should also look at Steve Cole’s Young Bond books.
July 2018 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2018 Swept along by the wind and sea and suffused with magic and mystery this is an ebullient adventure story that compels its readers to believe just as the young hero Fionn begins to do. Sent to stay on the wild Arranmore Island with his reclusive grandfather, Fionn enters a world dominated by the forces of magic – and by water which has always terrified Fionn. Gradually, Fionn begins to understand his grandfather’s now fading power as to accept and embrace his own new destiny. Catherine Doyle has a lightness of touch as a story-teller that makes the impossible convincing. J
David Solomons is a simply brilliant writer for children and his My Brother is a Super-Hero series is consistently funny, entertaining and true. Indeed, the further-fetched the stories get, the more rooted they are in real life. As fans know, Luke was cruelly robbed of the super-powers that should have been his when Zorbon the Decider bestowed them on his swotty big brother Zack. But now the situation is reversed (sort of) because on their way back from a parallel Earth, Zack and Luke swapped bodies – Luke’s 11 year old mind is in Zack’s 14 year old body, and vice versa. The stage is set for another hilarious but properly exciting story, situation comedy and mistaken identity gags sitting alongside super-hero in-jokes. It all comes to a climax at the wonderfully-named Great Minds Leisure Park, where Luke confronts a worthy arch-enemy!
How I long to sail! said the tiny snail. One little snail longs to see the world and hitches a lift on the tail of an enormous whale. Together they go on an amazing journey, past icebergs and volcanoes, sharks and penguins, and the little snail feels so small in the vastness of the world. But when disaster strikes and the whale is beached in a bay, it's the tiny snail's big plan that saves the day. The Snail and the Whale is a delightful tale of adventure and friendship by the unparalleled picture-book partnership of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, creators of The Gruffalo. Also available in board book format with redesigned covers are The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo's Child, Room on the Broom, The Smartest Giant in Town, Monkey Puzzle, Charlie Cook's Favourite Book, and A Squash and a Squeeze. The Snail and the Whale is a delightful tale of adventure and friendship by the unparalleled picture book partnership of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, creators of The Gruffalo. The Snail and the Whale 15th Anniversary Edition features the classic story alongside never-before-seen drawings from Axel Scheffler's sketchbook, a letter from Julia Donaldson, and a shiny foil cover.
A week in the life of Eric Doomsday contains more chaos than most 7 year old boys could possibly achieve..but what fun! After a disastrous magic show which descended into a food fight Eric really needs to improve his reputation at school or he'll never be invited to another party again. Cue the school Talent Show and Eric sees the perfect opportunity to win back some credibility. Unfortunately for Eric the judges turn out to be aliens, here on a voyage to inspect and destroy UUURRTH. And unfortunately for the aliens Eric has a few tricks up his sleeve. This is a great early reader, with short chapters, lively artwork and the jokes keep on coming. Bonkers and brilliantly entertaining.
Interest Age 5-8 | Norman the Norman from Normandy is rapidly becoming my favourite Philip Ardagh character (and there’s a great line up to choose from). Small and accident prone but with a remarkable knack for being in the right place at exactly the right time, Norman is always at the centre of the action and his adventures are very funny indeed. In this story he’s invited to accompany William of Normandy on his ‘conquest thingy’, as the Duke’s wife calls it. Tempted to the Duke’s castle by the thought of its tea-room, Norman’s not actually that keen on the invasion idea and ends up going home to his mum instead. The words and the full-colour pictures will both have readers laughing, and there are some great long-running jokes about the Bayeux Tapestry. Perfect reading for anyone who appreciates the silliness of existence.
July 2018 Book of the Month | Lydia Monks’ new series is perfect for little children particularly those just starting nursery or reception. Frog is the star of this story which recounts his adventures on the school trip. He’s a very bouncy character and is so excited at the prospect of the day out that he can’t keep still at all. Wise Miss Hoot tells everyone to hold hands to avoid getting lost, but Frog can’t resist heading off on his own… All ends well though and the final page shows Frog and his daddy hopping home together very happily. There’s no mistaking the range of emotions felt by Frog, they are so clearly depicted in the illustrations, and his little friends are just as engaging and characterful. An excellent first book, lovely to look at, with a real story and lots to discuss throughout.
Mirror Magic is perfect for children who like their stories full of magic and excitement. Orphans Ava and her big brother Matthew move to the town of Wyse, the last place in Britain with a working connection to the magical fairy Underworld. Access between the two worlds is through mirrors but according to the autocratic Lord Skinner the magic is fading away and fewer and fewer mirrors are working. Ava suspects Lord Skinner is not be trusted and her suspicions are confirmed when she meets a fairy boy, Howell. What follows is a story of conspiracy, intrigue and adventure, some genuinely creepy adversaries balanced by magical hats, a somewhat caustic talking book and entertaining transformations. Clever and lots of fun it comes with a reminder too that it is better to be shaped by our kindness than our fears. Readers who enjoy this book should also read Howl’s Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci series by the incomparable Diana Wynne Jones.
Any young person faced with family break-up will understand the frustration that Ned, hero of Emma Fischel’s new book feels. They’ll sympathise too with the hurt he experiences when his best and pretty well only friend chooses to spend time with others. But no-one – at least as far as we know – has ever developed Ned’s magical ability to ‘wallboggle’. Driven into a fury by the walls that divide his home into two houses (one for Mum, one for Dad), Ned literally barges through them, passing through the bricks and mortar as though they’re not there. Initially his new ability is just another way to vent his anger, but eventually he turns it into something positive. It’s an original story, funny and exciting too, and Ned is a complex, interesting character. The moral choices presented by his ‘wallboggling’ are subtly explored and leave readers with much to think about.
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