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BfK 8 – 10 Junior/Middle continued

foundling’s face haunt the pages. Only once is that face lit by a wan smile when Monacello has reached out to warm Napolina’s icy sadness. No doubt financial constraints required the book to be backed in stiff card rather than the board covers it deserves, since it is designed with such care and this layered tale will demand to be revisited many times.

One frustration, though. The driving pulse of the story has been Monacello’s search for his mother. Turning the closing pages in expectation of a meeting, we discover only the publisher’s promise of Book II: ‘Amid the strangers and dangers of Naples, lies the secret Monacello longs to find.’ But readers have known that since page 10. They’ll want to know about his mother now.

GF Sterling and the Canary HHHH

Andy Stanton, Barrington Stoke, 72pp, 978 1842999059, £5.99 pbk

The moment Sterling Thaxton sets eyes on new girl Lizzie Harris he falls in love. But despite the fact that he is tall and strong and amazing at sports, the girl of his dreams is not easily won. She makes demands that he cannot achieve on his own but asking his best friend Doctor Edward Macintosh for help would be just to embarrassing. A talking canary may be the answer to all his problems, but even that has a secret of its own. This is a good addition to Barrington Stoke books aimed at reading age 8, interest age 9-12. As you’d expect from the author of the ‘Mr Gum’ books, it is also funny with likeable characters and a lovely final twist to the plot. DF

A Roman Rescue HHH

K A Gerrard, ill. Emma Dodd, Templar, 88pp, 978 1 84877 191 8, £6.99 pbk

This is the first in a new series of graphic time-travel adventures, in which once again the poor old Romans are subjected to a young visitor from the 21st century, who is instantly accepted and quickly helps his young Roman counterpart to win the chariot race with a bit of modern know-how and a skateboard.

I found the manga style illustrations heavy and crude in line and colour although I’m sure plenty of young readers will find both story and pictures to their liking. The text, mostly in speech bubbles, is clear and easy to read. And if some real information about Roman life is wanted, there is a bit-at-the-back with some facts.


The Language of Cat and Other Poems POETRY

Rachel Rooney, ill. Ellie Jenkins, Frances Lincoln, 96pp, 978 1 84780 167 8, £5.99 pbk


modernisation’ debate. William Johnstone, the hesitant son of the local newspaper editor, discovers that an old shipwreck in his local harbour is a significant historic vessel. The plot unfolds through rapid action as William, with the help of a local librarian, tries to save the ship and wharf buildings from developers. He is eventually successful in getting protected status for the area, but not before finding himself in several threatening situations with the school bully, whose father happens to be the thwarted developer.

The issue of bullying forms a core theme to this novel as both William and his father Ted are bullied by the father

24 Books for Keeps No.189 July 2011

It is always good to come across a new name in children’s poetry and Rachel Rooney is one to note. Having had more than 60 of her poems accepted for anthologies, Rooney has served her apprenticeship and deserves to have her first collection published in Janetta Otter-Barry’s new poetry list for Frances Lincoln. Rooney also knows her young audience well, as she is a teacher and experienced at running writing workshops. The title of the book, The Language of Cat, could be misleading as, apart from one lovely poem, the subject matter has little to do with animals. But it’s certainly got a lot to do with language, including the special way poets use words. Indeed, poetry itself is her most popular subject and Rooney writes persuasively, and often amusingly, about the ‘P’ word: ‘Then who plucked the T from a thorn/ carved an ivory pen out of a horn/ and dipped it in ink…’ Other poems are thoughtful, quirky, sensitive, amusing, occasionally edgy. Hers is a welcome new voice; she has a lot of talent and has earned the Poet

recommendation on the back cover. ‘A box of delights’, indeed.

Saving SS Shannon HHHH

Phil Carradice, Pont, 112pp, 978 1 84851 164 4, £5.99 pbk

This exciting and energetic narrative works at several levels, against a backdrop of the ‘preservation versus


positive MSt

and son team of Danny and Dylan Mills. With the help of his friends, William eventually finds the courage to fight back – on one occasion quite literally. Gradually, Danny and his gang are revealed as cowards. By standing up to the bullies, Ted’s newspaper is saved from bankruptcy and William’s school life becomes more settled. After attempting to set fire to the SS Shannon so that the development can’t go ahead, Danny is arrested and his father’s plans come to nothing, thus proving that bullying doesn’t pay. GR

Wasim and the Champ HHH

Chris Ashley, ill. Kate Pankhurst, Frances Lincoln, 112pp, 978 1 84780 057 2, £5.99 pbk

This is the fourth story about football mad Wasim, his family and friends. Here racial tensions threaten to ruin the local football competition when the teams become split between white and Asian boys. Wasim learns from others about ‘them and us’ situations and helps, with the aid of a surprise star celebrity, to diffuse the situation and focus the attention once again on football. There is enough football content to maintain the interest of sports fans whilst dealing with racial tensions, bullying and friends taking sides against each other.


Pillywiggins and the Tree Witch


Julia Jarman, Andersen Press, 128pp, 978-1849390187, £4.99

When Natasha moves to a new house she finds the statue of a fairy in the garden beneath the shadow of a huge and menacing tree that must surely be a witch. With the help of local boy Jamie, Natasha unravels an ancient mystery that involves the witch’s baby and a fairy turned to stone. Natasha must visit fairy land to solve the mystery and save her own brother, but will she ever return home? This is a charming, gentle story which those who enjoy ‘fairy’ stories will love. It is also the story of a little girl making new friends but staying true to herself. DF

Grubtown Tales: When Bunnies Turn Bad


Philip Ardagh, ill. Jim Paillot, Faber, 160pp, 978 0 571 27236 5, £4.99 pbk

Philip Ardagh’s reputation for humour and slapstick is already well established not only in the Grubtown series (of which this is the eighth volume) but also in many of his other novels. How the arrival of lots of rabbits adds to the general chaos and mayhem that feature in the everyday life of Grubtown is only made more unbelievable by the appearance of Rumpus Corncrake, the Sun-Ripe Raisin man... Fans of the series will need no further encouragement to pick up this book and enjoy. Adults should be warned that this is not a book for a quiet reading session – the jokes and funny situations are just asking to be shared by children and whoever else is around! (P.S. As a beardy myself, I enjoy reviewing books by other beardies!!!)

RL Kidnap in the Caribbean HHHH

Lauren St John, Orion, 208pp, 978 1 4440 0021 4, £9.99 hbk

In this second Laura Marlin mystery, the action moves to Antigua. After mysteriously winning a free holiday for herself and her Uncle (on which Tariq and her beloved three-legged husky Skye accidentally accompany her), Laura encounters puzzling problems as soon as the ship casts off – problems which culminate in the kidnap of her Uncle by the Straight A gang. Following a hunch, Laura and Tariq fly to Montserrat only to get drawn into a deadly game with Marine Concern, a front for an illegal global fishing industry. They escape to face a further menace – an erupting volcano. Eventually, Laura is able to enjoy her dream holiday, but only after defeating the sinister threat from the Straight A gang with the help of Jimmy Garnett, a boy who is transformed from awkward child to reliable friend in the course of the narrative.

The settings of Antigua and Montserrat are brought to life through vivid descriptions, while the scientific information provided by the volcanologist Ruper t has been meticulously researched. Tension is sustained as threatening events follow in quick succession and Laura proves herself more than a match for the challenges.

Written in brief, fast-paced chapters, most of which end with a cliff hanger, this book lends itself to reading aloud to upper Junior school pupils. It would also provide exciting independent reading for any 8-11 year olds who enjoy detective novels or who are concerned about the oceans’ endangered marine species. Laura Marlin fans who loved Dead Man’s Cove and who have eagerly awaited the sequel will not be disappointed. GR

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