The Silver Sword
Ian Serraillier, Red Fox, 978-0099439493, £6.99 pbk
Another classic story of the Second World War, The Silver Sword focuses on the experiences of three Polish children in the horror and chaos of Europe under the Nazis. Siblings Ruth, Edek and Bronia are separated from their parents after the German invasion and have to fend for themselves in the ruins of Warsaw. Then they discover that their father might still be alive, and they set off on an epic journey to find him. It’s a great story that covers a vast sweep of the war, and all from the viewpoint of children.
Hell or High Water
Tanya Landman, Walker Books, 978-1-4063-6691-4, £7.99 pbk
This is the story of Caleb, a mixed-race boy in 18th-century England. His father is a puppeteer who is falsely accused of a crime and transported to the colonies. Caleb has to survive alone in an unfriendly, casually racist world, and sets off to find an aunt, hoping that she will take him in. She does, but soon Caleb finds himself enmeshed in an intrigue which leads
to murder, and fighting
for his own life. This has great characters, loads of suspense, a cracking plot, and a real feel for the texture of life at the time.
Bracelet of Bones
Kevin Crossley-Holland, Quercus, 978-1-6236-5112-1, £12.99 hbk
In my experience not many novels set in the Viking Age have girls as central characters, but that’s only one of the things that make this story so distinctive. It’s the tale of Solveig, a Viking girl whose father goes off to be a mercenary of the Emperor in Constantinople. Brave Solveig follows him on a journey down the great rivers of Russia, encountering all sorts of people and dangers. The writing is clear and lyrical in equal measure, the plot gripping, and you’re left with a wonderful insight into the world of the Vikings.
The Eagle of the Ninth
Rosemary Sutcliff, Oxford University Press, 978-0-1927-5392-2, £8.99 pbk
This is a case of last but definitely not least. I’m a real fanboy when it comes to Rosemary Sutcliff’s books, and her tale of one young Roman’s quest to find out the truth about his centurion father’s lost legion is my favourite. It’s about family and growing up and about coming to terms with a disability. It also happens to be a marvellous evocation of Roman Britain,
landscape and people of the past vividly to life.
Tony Bradman has published four historical stories this year:
Revolt Against the Romans (Bloomsbury Education), a story about a Roman boy who is taken hostage by Celtic tribesman in Britain.
Anglo-Saxon Boy (Walker Books), a story about Magnus, son of the King Harold who fought the Normans at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Attack of the Vikings (Bloomsbury Education), a story about a boy who has to lead the defence of his village against savage Viking raiders.
Secret of the Stones (Barrington Stoke), a story of Stonehenge, set at the time when the Stone Age was giving way to the Bronze Age. Books for Keeps No.226 September 2017 15
Catherine Johnson, Walker Books, 978-1406340570, £6.99 pbk
There’s nothing like a bit of grave- robbing and body-snatching ‘Resurrection Men’ to give a story some oomph, and this
London in the late-18th century has plenty. mulatto boy,
top London surgeon, the kind who
Ezra, a 16-year-old is apprenticed to a
anaesthetic. But there are strange goings-on, and Ezra is drawn into a dangerous intrigue. London itself is a character in this dark, suspenseful story, the kind of tale that lingers in the mind and makes you feel very grateful for modern medicine.
My Name’s Not Friday
Jon Walter, David Fickling Books, 978-1-9109-8918-0, £7.99 pbk
Samuel is an orphaned black boy who is tricked into slavery in Civil War America, and finds that everything is taken from him, even his name. What follows is an enormously gripping story about Samuel’s struggle to survive the horrors of a plantation and escape as the war comes ever closer. It’s an extraordinary and moving book that tackles a difficult subject and does it very well indeed.
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