Archives for category: For 9 – 12 Years

Image result for mirror magic claire fayers

 

Published by Macmillan

‘It’s better to be shaped by our kindness than our fears’

Two worlds separated by mirrors. Mirrors are strange things. Recently watching Flog It Trade Secrets (6 am M-F BBC 2) I was informed that you can check whether a mirror is old, by applying the tip of a pencil on it. If there is a little space between that and its mirror image, then it is an older piece. If they meet, it is a modern mirror. I haven’t tried this yet – and I have been wondering why this would be the case. Where is the reflection? What makes it? They are fascinating.

Of course there is the famous ‘mirror’ book by Lewis Carroll – Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there, which was published in the 1871 a few years after Alice in Wonderland. This though, is a thoroughly modern story. 

This is the story of two towns. Wyse and the magical town of Unworld.

There’s a covenant between the two worlds, and people can move from one to the other, when invited.  Except some of these mirrors are failing, and are no longer portals. Things are changing and not for the better.

The book is full of somewhat eccentric characters, enchantments, skeletons, traitors and a book – a book that can foretell the future; sentient and full of opinions. Ava meets Howell, on the other side of a mirror, and they begin an adventure to find out about why the magical mirrors are no longer working.

This is a new title by Claire Fayers – she has written three others, but this is perhaps the darkest.  The cover doesn’t, I think reflect this – a book of evil doings if there ever was one…

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Image result for child i tasane

Published by Faber and Faber.

Camps. There are camps across the world, in all sorts of different places. Filled with displaced adults and children. Of those there are too many children unaccompanied by an adult. Children on their own, surviving with just their wits and their friendship with other children also struggling to live on their own. They have lost their families; siblings and parents have died, or are just missing. Their papers too are mislaid; stolen, lost, left behind, or have disappeared into the seas as boats have turned ‘turtle’.

They are trying to live in a world that doesn’t acknowledge them. If you have no papers, then you don’t exist. Names are lost too – and unless you can prove who you are, the children in these camps become an integer, a letter, a component – certainly not a person. They go to bed hungry more often than not, but still, there are the opportunities for play, if you search for it.

This is seems to be the story of I, however, it is also the story of O, L, V and C – these characters (and others), make up this tale, this glimpse into a world that most of us ignore, or hardly acknowledge. This is the story of refugees, who just want to belong, to have somewhere to call home, someone to care.

Thought provoking.

 

 

 

Image result for the ravenmaster's boy

Published by Greystones Press

The Tudors. I once informed a year of Sussex House pupils that History begins with the Tudors. There was silence for a few minutes and then a tentative hand went up. ‘Mrs Barker…there was lots of history before the Tudors… wasn’t there…?’ So I had to explain to the boys (and Mrs Barker), that to me my interest in History began with the Tudors.

This is set with the back drop of the death of Queen Katherine (‘divorced’), Queen Anne Boleyn (‘beheaded’) on the throne, and Henry the VIII beginning to take a serious interest in Jane Seymour (‘died’). Kit’s parents died in the plague, and by a stroke of good fortune he now works with the Ravenmaster at the Tower, at one of its darkest times in history.

I have only reached page 80 – but I am thoroughly enjoying this layered story – history with a good seasoning of fantasy. The Tudor story – is (perhaps) the best of English History – this mix is wonderful.

There is no question, in my mind, that Queen Anne Boleyn was innocent of what she was accused. No-one would surely have chanced such a thing in her position. Then again, perhaps it was only after ‘her’ history, that the warnings were so clear… It rather depends on the people, the characters…the intrigue was knotted so much, that I am sure that some of the finer details of what actually happened, disappeared in the mists of time.

Kit is favoured by Queen Anne Boleyn, just when she needed friends. A dangerous position to be in….particularly when he begins to pass on messages around the tower…

This is a wonderful mix of fact and fantasy – enjoy it.

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Image result for the house with chicken legs

Published by Usborne

This reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones’ book Howl’s Moving Castle – after all there aren’t many buildings that move about in literature and I certainly recommend both.

A tale with a Gothic flavour – a young girl is in training. She lives a life almost alone, with just her grandmother as a human companion, and she is never allowed to move far from the sentient house, the house with chicken legs, which keeps an careful eye on her. Her only friend is a jackdaw – however, Marinka dreams of changing her destiny. She doesn’t want to follow her Grandmother and continue her life and help the dead. She wants her own, and she wants to have friends, live friends who aren’t just there for one evening -before they move through to the world beyond.

Clever, well written, and a story of dreams and hopes…marvellous.

Enjoy it!

Image result for Buried crown sherrick chicken house

Published by Chicken House

This is another wonderful historical story by Ally Sherrick, this time set in 1940 in England.

George has been evacuated to the country after his parents’ deaths, not far from where his brother is based, as a novice RAF pilot, flying spitfires.

He is working on a farm, caring for the animals, and has made friends with the farmer’s dog. The farmer, however, is more likely to give George and Spud, a beating than give them a meal – he works hard, but always with an eye to the farmer’s fist. When he finds a way to escape, with the dog at his heals, he tries to make his way to his brother’s base, only to be caught and brought back to the farm…

This is an historical tale, mixed with a little fantasy, magic and mythology – super reading. Ally Sherrick also wrote Black Powder, (also reviewed on this blog); she seems to be taking high points of history and wrapping a story around the events, that are all her own.

Superb.

 

Image result for clownfish

Published by Walker Books

This book is about grief, and fish. In particular a specific clownfish. They are the Nemos of the fish world. Dak’s father has recently died from a heart attack. His mother is trying to do her best, however, she is really too ill with grief to support her son very much and he finds himself drawn to the local aquarium. He and his father had spent many hours just watching the fish, and its there he feels closest to him.

It is a small aquarium, run by a friend of Dak’s father and he runs it with help from a young man, Johnny, who gives the talks to the public. It is when Dak is gazing into one of the coral fish tanks that he hears his name being called from behind him, and things begin to change.

Dak visits everyday and is relieved to be asked by the owner whether he would be happy help with the fish; it gives him a very good excuse for his visits. His first public appearance results in his being soaked by some rather exuberant sea bass, but also gives him some quiet satisfaction, and he begins to enjoy working around the fish, in particular the tanks with the clownfish.

This is a touching, simply written rather wonderful book about grief, and the sometimes strange roads that grief can take you down.

Sadly the book hasn’t been given its final cover, it is due out in November and I read one of their proofs – so I have raided the Internet once more for a suitable picture for this and since pipefish are also mentioned in the book, I thought this one would be most suitable.

The picture is credited to Pxleyes; I hope they don’t mind my using it – much the best I thought.

 

 

Published by Bloomsbury

Mary was the daughter of Katherine of Aragon and  Henry VIII.

Katherine was Henry’s first wife, whom he set aside to marry Anne Boleyn with whom he had Mary’s half sister, Elizabeth. Both girls were ultimately to rule England. This though is Mary’s story, the story that made a young girl into the Queen she was.

It is a story knotted and entwined in her father’s desperate need to sire a son, with his drive and determination to marry Anne Boleyn, and when that resulted in her death, with his marriage to Jane Seymour.

The Tudors, for me, start English history. From them, my knowledge of history spreads, a little like a poorly made spider’s web.

They weren’t perfect. Then again, history was a different place. They did things differently then…so differently.  Their knowledge and beliefs were diverse too.

This story covers the period before Mary or Elizabeth had ascended the throne. The courtiers, and Henry VIII had nothing to compare, they didn’t know the strength, knowledge and forethought that a woman can have. Hindsight is a marvellous thing. Then again, when you look at our more recent history, perhaps it isn’t so different.

There are gaps in our knowledge about the Tudors. They are the people I’d like to meet from the past – there are so many questions. Not just of this period, but of Elizabeth’s time on the throne, and Mary’s too.

Lucy Worsley, of whom I am quite jealous, lives and works around Hampton Court, amongst other palaces, as their Chief Curator. She knows her history. I hope she will go on to write the other two stories, that of Elizabeth I and that of that much desired boy Edward VI – whose lives were so tied to the need to ensure there was a prince to follow in Henry VIII’s footsteps.

Our history would be so bland if it weren’t for this extraordinary family…

Lucy Worsley has written three books, so far for this age group, though this, perhaps, is my favourite.

 

 

 

Published by Harper Collins

This series has been on my radar for some time, but I never picked one up until today. I borrowed the first volume from our shelves to read with my lunch. I haven’t put it down. I am presently reading a book on Madagascar (too heavy to carry to work), Alison Weir’s new paperback biography/fictional account of Anne Boleyn, a book on venom and now this – which I suspect will be my ‘main’ read until it is finished.

I’m only up to page 82. My favourite quote though, so far, was on page 28:

“Stuffed dogs, Miss?” I wondered aloud.

“Can’t stand the things. I like to see them dead.” replied Miss Fox

You can tell she’s not on the good side…immediately. Someone to watch.

This is something I am really enjoying. I should be having some time off soon (if all goes to plan), and if I do, I have a feeling I will be wanting to read all the other titles by Sophie Cleverly – The Whispers in the Walls, The Dance in the Dark, The Lights Under the Lake, and The Curse in the Candlelight.

Even the titles are intriguing.

What have I been doing?

I feel this series has been overlooked by the publicists, and the reading public. To my shame I have overlooked the books. They have not given the attention they deserve.

The Lost Twin (book one in the series) is a superb story. Scarlet has gone. Scarlet was brave, outspoken, determined and everything Ivy is not. Ivy though, has been enrolled in Scarlet’s school…to replace her…to become her…

It’s quite a thing to be told that you don’t exist anymore…

Its brilliant!

For twins and for people who are not twins – everywhere…

Published by Piccadilly Press.

I love rain. I was staying with my uncle on his farm in Laikipia, Kenya some years ago and my cousin complained that the ‘rains’ hadn’t come. I offered to encourage the weather with a rain dance. George was a pragmatic farmer and African, and he laughed at me. The next day he complained that though it had rained, it hadn’t rained on his tomatoes. So, I promised him more for that night, and danced a dance in the middle of the courtyard…like I have never danced before… or since, to be truthful. I don’t do much in the way of dancing.

The thunderstorm that occurred that night was like nothing I have ever experienced. Loud, all-pervading, and glorious! I couldn’t hear my Mum when she spoke directly into my ear…and the smell was, well – quite sumptuous.

I have always liked the rain, in preference to the sun – so much more going on.

This is a new dystopian volume from Zillah Bethell (author of A Whisper of Horses) – in an era where water is the rarest commodity in the world and as a result those who have water, or are able to use distillation plants to obtain fresh water are at war with those who don’t. This is the background to this multilayered story of a young boy with achromatopsia, a condition which results in the suffer being totally colour blind. They see the world in a spectrum of greys and whites – a rainbow means very little to them.

At the beginning of the story Auden’s father is away fighting in the war. His uncle, a scientist has recently died and left his cottage to his family and Auden’s mother has moved them from London to the country.  Which is when this really begins.

The book raises various questions and ideas, beliefs and thoughts: Does everything have to have a purpose? Is that why things exist? What makes a thing a living entity? What makes us human?

The ideas include the fact that for the most part, humans are kind and truthful and wise and decent and that we should recognise difficulties for what they are, and press on regardless.

Achromatopsia is a real condition – though suffers, the Internet informs me, not only have an inability to see colour, but other aspects of their sight are also affected. Particularly when in bright sun light, and though this is something that Auden also has to deal with, the idea that he is able to see better than someone without it, in poor light, seems not to be the case.

This is a story about doing what is right. Believing in yourself. Friendship, bravery and sacrifice.

 

 

 

Published by Chicken House

I once had a balloon flight. I was a member of a group called S.P.I.C.E. (Special Programme of Initiative Challenge and Excitement, if I remember correctly), and had become rather ‘hooked’ on anything to do with flying: I skydived, flew a helicopter, a Mark 2 (I think) Provost Jet, experienced a basic aerobatics flight, followed by a second that was to competition standard, flew a glider, a tiger moth (including doing a loop the loop), and had a lesson in a small plane. I also had the flight in a balloon. It was remarkably peaceful and as though the world was turning beneath, rather than we flying above it – it was most peculiar.

This is about the race to construct and fly the first controlled balloon flight. Its about a young fingersmith (pick-pocket) who is employed to steal a box at the start of this intriguing and rather wonderful story. Which seems a simple enough proposal…initially.

Her adventures, though, are just beginning; as a result of a spur in the moment decision she becomes caught in the ropes dangling below a balloon and finds herself being carried above the trees and a barn…the river below a silver slither of brightness.

When she recovers, (which takes a while) she is offered a job working for the family from whom she was to steal the box…and its not long before her disappointed previous employer appears on the scene…

This is (remarkably) the story of the Montgolfier hot-air balloon -which was unveiled before King Louis XVI of France in 1793. I’m afraid I knew nothing of the two Montgolfier brothers, however, the Internet (the modern day encyclopedia), makes this reference:

On 19 September 1783, the Aérostat Réveillon was flown with the first living beings in a basket attached to the balloon: a sheep called Montauciel (“Climb-to-the-sky”), a duck and a rooster. The sheep was believed to have a reasonable approximation of human physiology. The duck was expected to be unharmed by being lifted and was included as a control for effects created by the aircraft rather than the altitude. The rooster was included as a further control as it was a bird that did not fly at high altitudes. The demonstration was performed at the royal palace in Versailles before King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette and a crowd. The flight lasted approximately eight minutes, covered two miles (3 km), and obtained an altitude of about 1,500 feet (460 m). The craft landed safely after flying.

I don’t know what has happened, but 2018 looks to being a quality year for Children’s writing. This is superb – I have even had to put it down at intervals, because I have been too scared to read what happens next.

Out now. Buy it, read it, and pass it on.

NB – I note two authors. Neal Jackson won The Big Idea Competition in 2014 – and Emma Carroll was asked by Chicken House to write the story based on his idea. So you have two authors. Magic.