Managed to squeeze 12 books in this month – a mixed bag but enjoyable nonetheless.
36. G.R. Gemin – Cowgirl
This is Gemin’s first book, and, if you liked Sweet Pizza, you’ll probably like this too. There are similar themes: a community crumbling around its inhabitants (in this case the Mawr Estate); a determined central character (Kate – the ‘Cowgirl’); and a surprising agent for change in Gran. A fairly straightforward, well-meaning story that would be a good read for Y4.
37. Katherine Rundell – Rooftoppers
A wonderful story of hope. Sophie was left in the care of Charles after the ship she was on sank, and, as the only female survivor, realises her mother must have died. Charles – a brilliant, eccentric character full to the brim of the finest moral code – has his paternal methods questioned by the authorities, which leads the two to abscond to France, where Sophie has a hunch that her mother may be living.
Here, Sophie meets Matteo, a boy who lives on the roofs of Paris, and the two, aided by other roof-dwelling children, race against time to search for Sophie’s mum.
Sophie is a fabulous character, showing determination, self-belief and confidence in proving herself to be the equal to, and better of, those she meets on her journey.
38. Ross Welford – What Not To Do If You Turn Invisible
Ethel, a 13 year old girl from Whitley Bay, finds herself turning invisible after a chance encounter with a sunbed and some unusual acne medicine. Her new-found abilities are kept secret by Boydy, a boy at school who is something of an outcast, and together they embark on adventure after adventure, getting themselves into more bother each time. Ethel finds out a few things about herself along the way which change her life forever.
An entertaining read, informally written and one to share with a Y5/6 class.
39. Emma Carroll – Letters From the Lighthouse
WWII. 1941. London. A bombing of the city persuades the mother of Olive and Cliff to evacuate her children to the coast, where it is safe, especially after their older sister Sukie goes missing.
Olive and Cliff are eventually housed in the lighthouse with Ephraim, a peculiar character who has a secret – and Olive is determined to find out what it is.
A wonderful piece of historical fiction and one that some of my children have enjoyed reading already. There are lots of twists and turns as Olive tries to solve the many mysteries that keep her puzzled, and the overall messages of tolerance, compassion and solidarity are as good a lesson for today’s children as they were for Olive and her companions.
40. Christopher Edge – The Jamie Drake Equation
Jamie Drake’s dad is an astronaut, circling the Earth aboard the ISS. After using a local observatory, unusual messages start appearing on Jamie’s mobile phone – could he really be talking to aliens?
The ending of this book is dramatic and heartfelt, a plea to show love to those we know, and to those we don’t.
41. Stewart Foster – The Bubble Boy
One of my children lent me this book as they said I’d enjoy it. They know me well.
Joe suffers from a debilitating condition which means he cannot come into contact with the outside world for fear of infection. He is visited frequently by his sister, Beth, his nurse, Greg, and a fellow sufferer – Henry. Joe and Henry keep in touch via Skype, allowing Joe to keep in touch with real life while the world continues outside.
Enter Amir, a new nurse with an eye for the unusual. He appears to be obsessed with aliens and installs Sky for Joe (somehow without being detected), all because he has a plan.
Joe is instantly likeable, remaining positive for those around him despite his difficulties. All in all, an emotional read.
42. Peter Bunzl – Cogheart
We started this as a class but the children voted to stop as they just weren’t following it. They had a lack of understanding of the Victorian era, weren’t sure about the difference between mechanisms and robots, and had no idea what an airship was. If anything, it highlighted lots of misconceptions. So we left it, and I picked it up again recently.
Lily is the daughter of a renowned inventor who goes missing when his airship crashes; the family’s loyal ‘mech’, Malkin the fox, embarks on a mission to warn Lily of the imminent danger she is in. Lily, meanwhile, is unaware, until the appearance of the mirror-eyed villains who follow her and her new acquaintance Robert, a clock-maker’s son.
There’s lots to admire – rich language, well-developed characters and a shedload of action. Once I got past the halfway point, the pace really picks up. I’m glad I returned to the book and have its follow-up Moonlocket on my to-read list.
43. Fleur Hitchcock – Murder in Midwinter
Maya was innocently snapping pictures with her phone when she sees something she wishes she never had. She is moved away from London to the Welsh countryside for her own safety, but danger seems to creep ever closer.
This story was fairly straightforward and didn’t really do it for me – Maya and her cousin Ollie don’t get on in the first instance but it seems obvious they’d grow closer, while the ending seemed to go on and on.
There are some great moments of tension, but just not a story for me. Would be a good Y4/5 read.
44. Eloise Williams – Gaslight
An Oliver Twist kind of tale, as Nansi finds herself orphaned and thieving for the evil Sid, an unforgiving character whose selfishness knows no bounds. Events transpire to help Nansi realise her mum might still be around, somewhere…but can she escape Sid’s evil clutches?
There is some wonderful language in here that I know some of my class would wallow in. A brilliant read.
45. Kate DiCamillo – Because of Winn-Dixie
This book is often held up as being one that every teacher should read, so I did. It was fine – a simple story, perhaps, or maybe I’m missing the point. It’s possibly because most of the books I’m reading are with my Y6 class in mind, and this is far too young.
46. Justin Fisher – Ned’s Circus of Marvels
A fantasy epic. Ned’s birthday quickly spirals out of control as it falls to him to save the world, using powers he previously was unaware of. I genuinely found this difficult to follow as there were so many characters, from George the giant gorilla to Mystero, the shapeshifter. There were goblins, demons, witches, immortal beings, and many more beyond.
The actual plotline is fairly easy to follow, but the story takes a long time to get going, wandering down endless dead ends and blind alleys before the action really starts.
47. David Almond – Kit’s Wilderness
Almond’s second book, following a similar theme of darkness and death as his debut Skellig.
Groups of children visit the local abandoned mine to play games of death – the ringleader, John Askew, chants over the ‘victim’, who then leaves them in the mine for as long as it takes for them to come to. All a game, thinks Christopher ‘Kit’ Watson and his good friend Allie…until Kit is chosen and it changes him forever.
This story has close links to Clay and Skellig in that Almond effortlessly blends fantasy and reality, all the while maintaining a message that most of us would be able to easily relate to. Another splendid read.