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Reviews

Willow Wildthing and the swamp monster

Willow Wildthing and the swamp monster

Gill Lewis
Oxford U P

This is a great start to a new JF series to suit readers moving on from short chapter books to more involved reads. The writing is excellent and manages somehow capture a nostalgic time when kids would spend endless days in the summer playing in woods with no boundaries and absolute freedom but also feels wholly contemporary. The reader is never talked down to and the imaginative world that our heroine finds herself is left ambiguous but still rooted in a real experience  - even when our narrator imagines  that a local author who lives in the woods is actually a witch (and she does nothing to contradict the children's notions!) The woodland space and her newfound friends provide Willow with some escape from her 'real life' problems as her parents are preoccupied with her seriously ill brother who is in and out of hospital. The story  leaves us with an unsolved mystery and no neat happy ending for Willow's family so readers will be intrigued to learn more in further volumes.

Laura Hayward Reviewed by Laura Hayward on 21st February 2020
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Demelza and the spectre detectors

Demelza and the spectre detectors

Holly Rivers
Chicken House

Eleven-year-old Demelza Clock is an accomplished inventor, looking to rational scientific explanations for the events in her life. But when she stumbles upon her grandmother's secret skill of being able to summon ghosts, her world is turned upside down. Just as Demelza begins to accept that this supernatural world is real, and that she too can talk to the dead, her beloved Grandma Maeve is kidnapped. 

Demelza is a really engaging character, unconventional and totally unafraid to be herself. The plot takes a intriguing concept and fairly rattles along, with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader interested. This is proper old-fashioned storytelling, with the supporting characters being lively and relatable too. 

A great series start from a promising debut author, this is a really enjoyable read for fans of slightly spooky, action packed junior fiction. 

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 14th February 2020
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The pure heart

The pure heart

Trudi Tweedie
Chicken House

In The Pure Heart, the author has given us a compelling plot which builds up a growing sense of foreboding right up to the end which will leave the reader agape. The mid-16th century Scottish setting lends itself well to the gothic supernatural horror which the heroine finds herself ensnared in. A strong debut title and an author to watch out for.

Deborah Bradley Reviewed by Deborah Bradley on 14th February 2020
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The diddle that dummed

The diddle that dummed

Kes Gray
Hodder

Laugh-out-loud funny story, ideal for reading aloud. The over-the-top, frustrated musician is a great comedic foil and the little diddles are surprisingly endearing. Crescendoes with a great surprise ending. An ideal blend of comedic repetition and toilet humour. Marvellous!

Lucy Forrester Reviewed by Lucy Forrester on 10th February 2020
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Wranglestone

Wranglestone

Darren Charlton
Stripes Pub

In a community struggling to survive fifteen years after a zombie outbreak destroyed modern life as we know it, sensitive homemaker Peter sticks out like a sore thumb from his tough, unsentimental neighbours. He watches Cooper, the rugged and practical darling of Wranglestone from afar, convinced Cooper doesn't know he exists. 

When Peter makes a deadly mistake, he is forced out into the wilderness surrounding the survivors' compound, and Cooper accompanies him. The two boys realise they adore each other, and their romance begins. However, the pair uncover an earth-shattering secret, one that could destroy their way of life. And when one of the boys is bitten, it seems like their love is finished before it even gets started...

This beautifully written, completely gripping novel takes a fresh approach to the well-worn zombie outbreak trope. Offering more than enough stomach-curdling descriptions of zombie-bashing to keep horror fans happy, the love story between the two leads is gently and romantically portrayed, giving Peter and Cooper a chance to develop and mature throughout the book. With an appealing set-up and some genuinely heart-stopping moments, this is a fantastic debut with good shelf appeal. Essential for any teen collection. 

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 7th February 2020
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Good dog!

Good dog!

Sean Taylor
Frances Lincoln

The titular protagonist tries VERY hard to be a good dog, but his exploits don't always result in a happy owner...

This simple, brilliantly funny picture book takes a look at an aspect of dog ownership that will be familiar to many. Gorgeous, expressive illustrations help to show how our hero's efforts at winning the accolade of 'good dog' result in absolute chaos! Simple, and yet expertly illustrating the bond between a dog and his owner, this is a heartwarming treat. 

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 7th February 2020
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The ice bear miracle

The ice bear miracle

Cerrie Burnell
Oxford U P

An exciting, beautifully written story with characters that grow on you and you root for.The unusual setting in frozen Northern Canada adds to the fascination, but it may need to be promoted as a worthwhile read. The rich language may be a stepping stone to bridging the word gap! Definitely worth having in any library. 

Dawn Franklin Reviewed by Dawn Franklin on 31st January 2020
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We catch the bus

We catch the bus

Katie Abey
Bloomsbury

Another glorious outing for the cheeky monkey and his companions. Transport theme has stacks of appeal & Abey's vibrant, witty illus are a joy as ever. Lots to look and at and discuss which makes this a great for language development. More please!

Hannah Middleton Reviewed by Hannah Middleton on 24th January 2020
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The kid who came from space

The kid who came from space

Ross Welford
HarperCollins

A real treat of a book that well contrasts the emotional and mental health impacts of a missing child with the ludicrousness of an alien abduction and makes it believable and relevant.

There are many elements to this book: sibling love and rivalry; the nature of friendship; and the frustration of not being believed. It also touches on the environmental and the zoological.

Without exception, all of the characters - even the most minor - are well drawn and are engaging. 

It also has the best chicken character in all of literature!

An absolute must for all book shelves.

Lucy McConnell Reviewed by Lucy McConnell on 22nd January 2020
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The day I started a mega robot invasion

The day I started a mega robot invasion

Tom McLaughlin
Walker Bks

Plenty of joyful hilarity with a deftly slotted in message about the perils of fake news. Kids will love the embarrassing parents in cycling lycra who leave their daughter at home to do her homework, under the supervision of the nosy neighbour.

No one wants to do their homework, right? So why not build a robot to do it for you? And what if that robot gets ideas of its own and doesn't want to do the homework it was programmed to do, and then the media gets wind of what's happening...

Madcap in the funniest of ways with Tom McLaughlin's trademark humour, this is perfect for newly confident readers to really get their teeth into, and with some challenging ideas and vocabulary at times too! 

Lucy McConnell Reviewed by Lucy McConnell on 6th January 2020
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Ali Cross

Ali Cross

James Patterson
Arrow

Engaging mystery, well-pitched for the age range with just enough jeopardy to keep the pages turning. It's no great literature but worth having plenty.

Catherine MacKenzie Reviewed by Catherine MacKenzie on 16th December 2019
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Bunnies on the bus

Bunnies on the bus

Philip Ardagh
Walker Bks

Has a slight US feel in places but wonderfully lively illustrations with loads to look at and hilarious subplots. A bubbling refrain carries you along with glee. Totally nuts but well worth having!

Diane Gill Reviewed by Diane Gill on 9th December 2019
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The vegetarian cookbook

The vegetarian cookbook


Dorling K

An excellent one-volume resource that could suit children, parents or just a generally clueless cook (me!) with really appetising recipes that all seem very achievable. There's great coverage of some basics like what equipment you need and key cookery techniques, and there's some standard classics as well as more unusual and wide-ranging recipes - avocado and banana ice cream anyone?? A sound buy for schools use or for leisure collections in libraries.

Laura Hayward Reviewed by Laura Hayward on 6th December 2019
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Blood heir

Blood heir

Amelie Wen Zhao
HarperCollins

A cracking debut fantasy using a skillfully depicted world to examine the issues of human trafficking and indentured labour. The female lead is sensitively drawn and her personal relationship and struggle with the structure of her society follows an enlightening path. A touch of romance softens the gritty themes! A good read that can also be used to spark debate on many levels. First in a trilogy

This is a debut novel for Korean American for Amelie Wen Zhao which caused much controversy before it was published, and caused her to pull the book from publication for a while. Some voices argued that Zhao’s depiction of slavery was racially insensitive, others argued that the novel dealt insensitively with race and the legacy of slavery, and was an affront to nonwhite communities. However an equally vociferous group argued that the online Y.A. community had become too cutthroat, even intolerant, in its attacks on first-time authors who tackle challenging social issues or write outside their immediate cultural experience. Some of the criticisms came from those who had not actually read the book.

Diane Gill Reviewed by Diane Gill on 3rd December 2019
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Hidden wonders

Hidden wonders

Nicole Maggi
Lonely Planet Pubns

A beautifully produced volume with great appeal on shelf, easy to pick up for browsing and hard to put down. The variety and breadth of places chosen are huge, and the light style is very absorbing. Well worth adding to any leisure collection, and will have you searching for more information on your favourite enties.

Lucy Forrester Reviewed by Lucy Forrester on 25th November 2019
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