BfK 8–10 Junior/Middle continued
pilot intent on escaping to Ireland. Both have obvious reasons for not reporting anything to the authorities; and I think you might guess who does the decent thing. While this tale doesn’t engage all of Swindells’ powers, it’s well plotted and fast moving, with strong characters and some feeling for time and place even if the notions of London villains and a Welsh village are close to those you might find in the British films of the 1940s and 1950s.
CB The Dream Dealer HHH
Marita Phillips, Neve Press, 248pp, 978 0 9567530 0 7, £4.99 pbk
Where has Finn’s mother gone? Why will his father never talk about her? Why does he have no real friends – except for his mouse, Hercules; at least, until Delphi arrives at the school? But even she cannot stop the bullying. Then the ice-cream van turns up at the school gates selling ice cream, yes, but also Ice Dreams – your very own to help you feel better. What does the Dream Dealer really want? Why is he so interested in children? What is he collecting in his jar? It is these questions that Finn must try to answer and in so doing find his dream – a dream that will last.
Aimed at young readers in KS2, the central idea of this novel is both original and imaginative. It is this that carries it through rather than any other element. Both plotting and characterisation are sketchy, while the writer’s style is undemanding and unoriginal, incorporating plenty of dialogue rather than long descriptive passages. In this, it looks back at the original stage production from which it derives and which still influences the overall composition.
FH Billionaire Boy HHHHH
David Walliams, ill. Tony Ross, HarperCollins, 288pp, 978 0 00 737104 4, £12.99 hbk
From the same stable as Mr Stink and The Boy in the Dress, Billionaire Boy manages to exceed all expectations and is set to be a bestseller! With enough lavator y and school boy humour to attract boys (and any adult Little Britain fans), it also carries a strong story line that gives universal appeal. This will be an ideal book to entice reluctant readers and even using it to teach and reinforce silent reading couldn’t diminish its originality!
David Walliams is irrepressible and his characters race off the page with Tony Ross as illustrator matching him line for line. Escaping all classi- fication, appallingly stereotypical, whacky, with ghastly puns and cringe- making jokes, full of pathos and unbelievably politically incorrect, the story still manages to deal deftly with challenging issues as it chronicles the moving and ultimately transforming tale of Joe Spud, the world’s richest
and loneliest 12-year-old. This is a ‘must have’ book and surely places David Walliams not only as a successor to Roald Dahl but alongside him as one of the great story-weavers of our time.
JS The Travelling Restaurant HHH
Barbara Else, ill. Sam Broad, Gecko Press, 296pp, 978 1 877467 77 6, £7.99 pbk
The travelling restaurant is a rotund ship which plies between the ports of Fontania, a fantasy realm in which the benign magic which sustained its people has been banished by the usurping Lady Gall. Jasper, our 12-year- old hero, is on the run with his family from this botox-bolstered tyrant after she has attempted to poison Sybilla, his beloved little sister. When the siblings are separated, the crew of the travelling restaurant reluctantly grant him refuge. In the course of their combined flight from Gall and pursuit of Sybilla, Jasper begins to unwind the complex toils which bind together the murder attempt on Sybilla, the mission of the restaurant, and his family’s role in the suppression of Fontania’s magic.
This is a complicated story, with a cast of intriguingly multi-faceted charac- ters, none of whom are what they first seem. Else ensures that all of them, with the exception of the panto- mimically evil Gall, are believable human mixtures, and the lightly comical mood of the fantasy is deepened by the touching intensity of Jasper’s protective love for his sister.
Though the plot unfolded far too slowly and whimsically for this par ticular reader, the eventual climax is enter tainingly garish. More patient readers will be rewarded with the combination of a new world populated by strange but oddly recognizable people.
GH On the Blue Comet HHHHH
Rosemary Wells, ill. Bagram Ibatoulline, Walker, 336pp, 978 1 4063 3014 4, £10.99 hbk
Oscar lives with his widowed dad in small-town Illinois during the years preceding the depression. Their domestic harmony is consolidated by a shared passion for the model railway layout filling the basement of their modest house. When the financial crash occurs, dad has to sell both house and railway to the bank, then head west to seek work. Oscar, left in the care of his cold-hearted aunt, is befriended by Mr Applegate, an impoverished mathematical genius, who teaches him about the newly discovered paradoxes of relativity. Applegate’s work as a night-watchman in the very bank where the train-set lies enables Oscar to rediscover his treasure, but in doing so he becomes involved in a bank-raid so terrifying that he is projected into a contortion of realities. The model railway becomes the space-time network
24 Books for Keeps No.188 May 2011 The Secret Kingdom HHHH
Jenny Nimmo, Egmont, 384pp, 978 1 4052 5732 9, £5.99 pbk
Books for Keeps has been reviewing Jenny Nimmo’s books since 1986 and there are more than 20 reviews now in the archive, from her Smarties Prize winning The Snow Spider to the hugely popular Charlie Bone books. The reviews praise Nimmo particularly for her tightly knit plots, and her ability to weave together myth, fantasy, humour and the everyday.
The Secret Kingdom is another clever and entertaining fantasy story that will enthral young readers. Like much of the best fantasy, the story starts long before the book begins: a war has been raging between good and evil. Viridees, creatures bent on destruction, have attacked the good creatures of the forest, driving some, including the moon spiders, to extinction.
Far away in the Secret Kingdom the king and queen know nothing of this
across which he travels in search of his father, shifting in age as well as location as he does so.
This is a complex but fascinating journey for readers as well as for Oscar. Wells, a superb storyteller, nimbly plays with scientific and political conceits while convincingly evoking the bravery of a frightened child traversing the social badlands of the 1930s USA. On the way we enjoy the company of an intriguing female companion for Oscar’s time-travelling adventures, as well as cameo appearances by Alfred Hitchcock, JFK and Nelson Rockefeller, amongst others. Wells weaves recitations of Kipling’s If through the narrative, deploying it as both a key plot element and a foil to the hectic ethical conflicts of the period. Bagram Ibatouilline’s hyper-realistic paintings in acrylic gouache are reminiscent of a gentle, yester year version of childhood, consolidating the nostalgia, while contrasting with the grittiness, of the story. The book itself is a typical Walker production, strongly and beautifully constructed.
until the day a jinni arrives seeking refuge. In return for their kindness he gives them magical gifts for their children including an Alixir that will halt the aging process. The gifts protect the children, but bring danger too. The viridees want the magical cloak and ring for themselves and when the young prince Timoken is 11, and his sister Zobayda 13, they attack the kingdom. The king is killed and the children must flee.
For the next hundred years they roam the desert, searching for a home. Along the way they find and adopt a camel, Gabar, who becomes the third member of their little family. Gabar is a wonderful comic creation, grumpy, stubborn, always protective of his dignity, but willing to trust Timoken completely.
Fans of Charlie Bone will find particular rewards in the book, which stands almost as a prequel, and even contains some appearances by Charlie himself. For those who haven’t read the Charlie Bone books The Secret Kingdom is still first-class fairytale adventure. And readers will believe a camel can fly!
Helen Dwyer, Franklin Watts ‘Eyewitness Disaster’, 32pp, 978 1 4451 0058 6, £12.99 hbk
Our unstable planet and voracious media have ensured that we know a lot more about earthquakes than we did a few months ago. However, this title does provide a useful background to the dramatic stories that we’ve had from Christchurch and Sendai. Earth- quakes, we learn, are happening all the time – mostly insignificant ones like the one we had in Dumfries a month ago (we never noticed a thing in the Masonic Arms and I bet you never heard anything about it).
A very useful map of tectonic plates explains the vulnerability of certain quake-spots as well as the consistent rising of the Himalayas. Examples of regional disasters follow with eye- witness photographs and testaments. The scenes of mass destruction of man-made environments are, sadly, now familiar to us all but still shocking. Tsunamis get a two-page mention, as does seismology and prediction. Interestingly, the Chinese are now observing snakes to assess their well-known changes in behaviour well before quakes strike.
The book is served by competent biblio- and web-ographies but, now we have all learnt to say Fukushima politely, its job may already have been done.
| Page 2
| Page 3
| Page 4
| Page 5
| Page 6
| Page 7
| Page 8
| Page 9
| Page 10
| Page 11
| Page 12
| Page 13
| Page 14
| Page 15
| Page 16
| Page 17
| Page 18
| Page 19
| Page 20
| Page 21
| Page 22
| Page 23
| Page 24
| Page 25
| Page 26
| Page 27
| Page 28
| Page 29
| Page 30
| Page 31
| Page 32