BfK 10–14 Middle/Secondary continued
side of the debate in what amounts to a riposte to Dr Tomlin’s behaviourist stance, through a sympathetic glance at Ben’s chilly upbringing.
His own imaginative empathy creates a cast of always credible characters, whether chimp or human. And in the case of Ben and Zan, a supremely moving cross-species’ friendship. The book is only marred by an overly sentimental dream-epilogue.
The Bad Tuesdays: Blood Alchemy
Benjamin J Myers, Orion, 384pp, 978 1 84255 641 2, £6.99 pbk
This third instalment continues the grim and often violent story of Chess Tuesday and her brothers Box and Splinter, all up against the Twisted Symmetry, the name given to the cruel dictatorship operating some- where out in space in a terrifying, dystopian future. With the first two titles recently re-issued with new covers, it seems that Benjamin Myers has managed to reach out to teenage readers in a way many other authors would envy. But while admiring the fertility of his imagination and the force of his writing, too many clichés and examples of hurried writing work against making these novels truly satisfying.
Dragonborn (The Flaxfield Quartet, Volume 1)
Toby Forward, ill. Jim Kay, Walker, 464pp, 978 1 4063 2043 5, £6.99 pbk
‘Many miles. Many months. Many wounds. Many changes.’ Thus 12- year-old Sam reviews the journey he has taken, in almost 500 pages, as he pursues his vocation from apprentice to fully-fledged wizard. It has been a colour ful, incident-filled experience, one with its own magic and one entertainingly packed with a diverting range of creatures such as ‘memmonts’, ‘roffles’, ‘flatter flits’, ‘moonerwards’, and – beware! – ‘takkabakks’, plus quite a gallery of wizards of various persuasions and inclinations. And then there’s Canterstock College, a sort of wizard academy, presided over by one Professor Frestful and counting among its staff one Dr Duddle. (‘There was a lot to understand about this college,’ Sam reflects soon after his arrival.) Sounds slightly familiar? Well, fans of the genre may detect echoes of Tolkien, Rowling and the Colfer of Artemis Fowl, but Forward’s novel has its own voice and strength, not least in the doughtiness of its young traveller, his loyalty to the memory of his former master Flaxfield and his attachment to Starback, the most amiably reliable of dragon companions. Occasional moments of ornate over-writing intersperse the text – ‘Flashes of gold thread grasped at the sunlight and ran like veins in
marble through the deep blue green of the silk’ – but, in general, the prose is readable and accessible. The ground has been enticingly prepared for the three volumes which will follow. RD
Leviathan arrives in the bustling splendour of Istanbul, a melting pot of cultures and allegiances on which both Clanker and Darwinist powers have designs. Prince Aleksander – aka Alek – heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is still on the run from his German Clanker enemies, whilst Deryn – aka Dylan – Sharp, a girl commoner is holding onto her disguise as a boy serving in the British Air Service on the Darwinist side. Deryn and the crew of the Leviathan are on a mission to deliver a secret cargo to the Sultan, hoping to end the war once and for all. But their assignment fails to go to plan, and soon, both Alek and Deryn find themselves on the run in enemy territory.
Long Lankin HHH
Lindsey Barraclough, Bodley Head, 464pp, 978 0 370 33196 6, £10.99 hbk
‘Long Lankin’ is a traditional tale from Nor thumberland which is cleverly reworked in this retelling. Cora and her little sister Mimi are sent to stay with their reclusive Aunt Ida in Guerdon Hall, where they meet up with local boys Roger and Peter. The claustrophobic old house, an over- riding sense of evil and clues that the children discover suggest that old legends are not dead and contain elements of the truth. All the children, particularly the youngest Mimi, are in grave danger. This narrative is largely told through the eyes of Roger and Cora who give the reader a real sense of what life was like in the 1950s in a small village. Although the story takes a little getting into, it is wor th persevering with as the tension builds up slowly to a terrifying conclusion. The relationship between the children is nicely developed and there are some good cameos from long time villagers, who all have something to add to the plot. A good alternative to vampire stories.
DF Behemoth HHHH
Scott Westerfeld, ill. Keith Thompson, 496pp, Simon & Schuster, 978 1 84738 675 5, £12.99 hbk
It’s all aboard the mighty airship Leviathan once more for this second instalment of Scott Wester feld’s steampunk trilogy. Set against events which bare a passing resemblance to those of the early months of the Great War, Behemoth picks up where its predecessor left off. The airbeast
30 Books for Keeps No.187 March 2011
This is not an easy book to tackle if you haven’t read the first instalment of the trilogy. Westerfield pitches the reader too precipitously into the action to allow for much catching up time. This is a full-on weird world of krakens and iron walkers; golems and gyrothopters; lady boffins and spice- wielding revolutionaries; vitriolic barnacles and perspicacious lorises, all conjured up for us visually by Keith Thompson’s intricate illustrations. The novel is all but over by the time the awesome Behemoth can be brought to bear against the German warships. But what we have in the meantime is a terrific twisting tale, by turns charming, sinister and monstrously inventive. And the story isn’t over yet. CS
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1 HHH
John Vornholt, Arthur Byron Cover and Alice Henderson, Simon & Schuster, 704pp, 978 0 85707 060 9, £6.99 pbk
This anthology of three stories represents excellent value for money for Buffy fans. Each story deals with a different challenge for the Slayer and features the familiar characters from the TV series, their personalities faithfully rendered onto the page. The action is relentless, though some narrative space is given to sketching in the relationships between the protagonists. ‘Coyote Moon’ is the weakest of the stories, with heavy emphasis on stereotypical teenagers and all the predictable elements of the vampire genre a little too enthus- iastically exploited.
‘Night of the Living Rerun’, set in the era of the Salem witch-hunt, has more veracity by vir tue of its historical detail and the third offering, ‘Portal through Time’ features more of the wise-cracking humour which enlivened the TV series.
The stories are competently written, with liberal doses of teenage slang – sounding rather dated – and will carry Buffy fans along but there is little depth or literary engagement here – just formulaically good reads.
Children’s Book of Music NON-FICTION
Edited by Deborah Lock, Dorling Kindersley, 144pp, 978 1 40535 685 5, £14.99 hbk inc. CD
A colourful introduction to music and musical styles from tribal music passed down orally to contemporary electronic experimental music, pop, rock and jazz. The book traces the history of music chronologically, and within this format there are features on individual composers and per formers, on musical movements such as Romanticism and Nationalism, on dance and musicals as well as instruments, ranging from the sitar and tablar to the trumpet and saxophone. The nature of the double- page spread format means that some hard choices had to be made by the editors. So Brahms receives only a tiny caption, while Duke Ellington and Led Zeppelin enjoy an entire spread each. Never theless the coverage of composers is impressive and spans classical, world, folk and rock. The accompanying CD includes an hour’s worth of musical examples (gamelan, didgeridoo, Vivaldi, excerpts from The Magic Flute, La Traviata, and Wagner’s Ring Cycle, plus plenty of punk and rock), with track numbers cross referenced in the text and helpful suggestions of things to listen for or to join in with percussion or even air guitar. The final spread ends on an encouraging note, urging the reader to get involved in the experience of music-making – singing, playing an instrument or even composing.
The Lion Treasury of Saints NON-FICTION
David Self, Lion, 224pp, 978 0 7459 4471 5, £14.99 hbk
A beautifully produced illustrated volume that includes the lives and stories of saints who have been venerated and loved by Christians through history. David Self, the respected Lion author who died in 2008, poses at the outset the question of what makes a saint. He makes it clear that there are no simple answers, but all can be described as ‘holy people’. He tells the stories of more than 100 saints, from Peter the Apostle and Paul the Hermit, to Thomas Becket, Francis of Assisi, Joan of Arc, Thomas More and Ignatius Loyola. The book is divided into sections tracing the history of the Church, from the early Christian Church through to Medieval and Renaissance times, coming up to the present day with Saints and Holy People of the Modern Age. These include Martin Luther King, Teresa of Calcutta and Oscar Romero. An end section includes biographical notes to supplement the stories in the main body of the text, and a Calendar of Saints’ Days. Illustrations include artwork, paintings and photographs of artefacts and locations. An attractive gift for a Christening or Confirmation but also a useful reference source for school assemblies and religious studies.
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