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reviews 8 – 10 Junior/Middle continued


have experienced family break up in Faraway Dad ‘It isn’t you who he has left.’ Refugee Dad offers insight into the motivation of a refugee father, giving everything to build a new life for their child. The collection contains a range of


poetry formats, including list poems, kennings, nursery rhyme, acrostic, riddle and lullaby. The writer is a performance poet and it is easy to see that a number of these poems would be fun to perform. Simple and amusing line drawings add to the light-hearted feel. A collection to enjoy which gives to think about


plenty resonate with many that will children and


fathers everywhere too. SMc The Tale of Angelino Brown


HHHH


David Almond, ill, Alex T Smith, Walker, 276 pp, 978-1-4063-5807-0, £10.99, hbk


This is the latest of David Almond’s novels for younger readers. Once again, there is an extraordinary being with wings who transforms everyone’s lives. This time, it’s a tiny angel who appears in the pocket of bus driver Bert; is taken home to wife Betty; then to school with Nancy; and attracts the attention of would-be gangsters, Kev and The Boss and the even nastier Basher Malone. It’s a quirky story which seems to bridge the present, when school inspections generate fear and the footballing hero is Lionel Messi, and a nostalgic past, when there were people called Bert and Betty, fishmongers, and teachers who were


sticklers for grammar.


There’s some gentle satire about the pretensions of school management and a version of Matilda’s Miss Honey in Ms Monteverdi, an art teacher. She understands that what stressed children and adults need (even school managers and would-be villains) is a chance to get at some paint brushes and a big sheet of paper. I am not convinced that humour is David Almond’s forte. The high fart joke quotient is perhaps confirmation of that. But there’s enough character, drama and laughs to keep you reading. And, even in this light entertainment, there is his uncanny ability to get at the loneliness and fear that might turn us into something worse than we can be and, on the other hand, the love and friendship, the care for each other, that might make a better world. And goodness knows we need that kind of reminder. Alex T. Smith’s black and white illustrations complement the story perfectly. CB


My Evil Twin is a Supervillain HHHH


David Solomons, Nosy Crow, 282pp, 978-0-8576-3956-1, £6.99, pbk


This is David Solomons’ third novel in a series


that describes


adventures of a rather unfortunate comic book super-fan. Luke had only


the


just come to terms with his nerdy brother being turned into a superhero (while Luke was in the toilet) when his gym teacher emerged as an alien overlord and, in this third episode, things don’t get any easier! Fans of


superhero comics and


films will understand that sequels always require new heroes with new powers and new evil mega-villains for them to defeat – and My Evil Twin is a Supervillain has plenty of both. Luke thought there could be no bigger source of jealousy than his brother being granted superpowers. However, his self-esteem is really pushed to breaking point when his doppelganger from a parallel universe arrives. He’s called Stellar, everyone loves him, and Luke is certain he must be evil. Stellar


is a formidable opponent


indeed. He can read minds, lift buildings and is somehow able to bring forth objects from other dimensions through holes in the sky (though this does result in a strange smell of chips and the unexpected arrival of a rather dangerous gerbil). Worst of all, though, Stellar has everyone fooled that he is the real Luke. Though Luke lacks his twin’s ability


to fly, and to summon things into existence from thin air, he has one thing that Stellar does lack:


in previous a close


team of friends whose relationship is unbreakable – stronger than any Kryptonite. Just like


episodes, there is always hope when friends work together, and, in this third novel, Luke needs the support of his clumsy pal, Serge and the animal-loving Lara more than ever. The end of the world is nigh, very nigh indeed, and to find its salvation, Luke may be forced to look beyond the edges of the universe. Solomons has become a master


of this genre. Despite featuring the incredibly complex themes of parallel universes, multiverses and alternate realities, he somehow manages to steer


narrative, without


young readers through the ever


dumbing


things down or oversimplifying. Solomons is also, clearly, a super-fan of the sci-fi genre himself, and there are repeated references to popular (and obscure) comic book characters. There is also a great deal of humour in the story. There are plenty of jokes and humorous observations about the challenges of juggling homework, hormones


and saving the world.


However, the book is more of a tribute than a parody and will be greatly enjoyed by any fan of DC comics or Marvel films. SD


The Earth Book HHHH


Jonathan Litton, illus by Thomas Hegbrook, 360 degrees, 64pp, 978-1-8485-7 524-0 £19.99hbk


This big format book is a stunning exploration of our home planet. On thick paper with glorious graphics and beautiful page design it’s a book to pore over and savour. Children


and adults alike will love the way each spread is dedicated to a single topic making each page an easily digestible


subject from ‘How the


Earth was formed’ to ‘Influential Earthlings’ across ‘Poles’, ‘Islands’ and ‘Oceans’. Great for classroom use but a real treasure to add to the bookshelf at home, this would make a wonderful gift for any young readers with a blossoming interest in the world around them. The text itself is probably suited to a competent reader 9+, but the stunning production and illustrations makes it accessible way beyond the potential reading age.


It’s


a great way to introduce conversations about animals, plants and people and raise questions about the environment to even the youngest readers. KC


The City of Secret Rivers HHHH


Jacob Sager Weinstein, Walker, 352pp, 978-1-4063-6885-7, £9.99 hbk


When Hyacinth moves to London


from her home in America, she was expecting changes but not the ones that she actually found. Getting used to the idea of separate taps for hot and cold water was very annoying but when she managed to get them to flow jointly Hyacinth did not expect to see ‘fire’ pouring out instead of water. Her elderly neighbour tells her about the magical rivers that run under London and how she has allowed a drop of magical water into the system and must retrieve it before midnight. So a truly unnerving adventure begins, but how can she recover the water and more importantly who can she trust to help her in her quest. This fascinating story mixes London


history with magic and myths to produce a truly exciting adventure. The author has created a world that is so familiar we can even visit some of the sites that she mentions; yet they are also different, with a totally different underground world with hints of Victorian London. There are Golem type creatures called Saltpetre men and a giant pig called Oaroboarus who communicates using


printed cards.


The reader is quickly drawn in to this world and the fast moving quest that Hyacinth finds herself on. This story fits into the mould that we see in several other stories about ‘another’ London. They range from the Charlie Fletcher series to Tom Becker’s Dark Side stories. However this has its own very individual take on the idea and the use of London’s old historic rivers provides a wonderful opportunity to create a magical source, hidden from view since the sewers were built after the ‘Great Stink’ in 1848. The story also has another side to it; Hyacinth and her mother are in London because her father has left and her mother decides to return to her old home for a visit. There are questions about families and emotions that Hyacinth has to deal with and the trials that she has to go through help her to put her real life in to perspective. This is a great read for the confident reader and I hope that there will be more to follow. MP


Help! I’m a Genius HHH


Jo Franklin, ill. Aaron Blecha, Troika Books, 176pp, 978-1-9099-9142-2, £6.99pbk


This is part of a series of books


on a ‘Help I’m a.....’ theme. Daniel Kendal is a character who has lots in common with the Wimpy Kid genre - a little bit beleaguered both in his family and in class with two quirky friends. He gets himself in a bit of a pickle when he finds himself having to enter a Brainiac competition and represent his school due to a mix up in the results. In fact his best friend and his family are rather surprised that he has got this far for different reasons. His friend is the brainy one and he is astonished that he has got through. His other friend - Freddo - is also rather astonished and upset that he has got through as he and Daniel have a pact about making sure they get the lowest marks in any tests. So Daniel has a fair few issues to overcome in the book. It’s a quick funny read helped along


by some great cartoons which add to the humour. Daniel is a kind of ‘pupil’s pupil’ and I think his character will appeal to many children because he finds his little brother gets everything he wants, his sister is moody etc and he feels somewhat left out. Having said that he has loyal friends and they do work together really well to try and find a solution to the problem of having to win this competition. Meanwhile there is a back story


about Dad trying to get work in America


but he is the only one


excited about that. The family themselves I think made me laugh the most especially the busy Mum who obviously doesn’t want to go to America either but is being very patient and trying to be supportive for her husband. I like the brainiac diet part-whilst they all eat something delicious Daniel has to eat ‘broccoli smothered


in walnut source with


tinned sardines’....mmmmm! All in all it’s a funny read which will possibly work for reluctant readers who enjoy Tom Gates and Wimpy Kid and like some illustrations with their book so it’s not too overwhelming. It’s also got the winning formula of being part of a series and I think the family and friends are drawn well enough for readers to want to know more about them. SG


The Amber Pendant HHH


Imogen white, Usborne, 336pp, 978-1-4749-2729-1, £6.99 pbk


The year is 1901 and it is time to introduce Rose Muddle from Hove. Rose is a workhouse girl new to the service of Miss Templeforth. a day when a procession of


After girls


the same age as Rose entering and leaving the house the butler finally shows Rose into the library. she is introduced


If anyone holds There to her future.


She is to be the guardian of the amber pendant, one of two created generations before.


Books for Keeps No.225 July 2017 29


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