BfK 8 – 10 Junior/Middle continued

tad over wrought. Butterflies suffuse the book with colour

tapestry giving the impression

like a rich of

surface decoration weaving the story together. The epilogue doesn’t seem to sit quite as easily with the rest of the story however. Fans of Girl of Ink and Stars will love this. JC

School for Skylarks HHHH

Sam Angus, Macmillan, 344pp, 978-1-5098-3959-9, £6.99 pbk

I wasn’t sure about School for

Skylarks on my initial reading as I have always had a particular affinity with Eva Ibbotson’s The Dragonfly

Pool and I think I was unfairly comparing Lyla and the book as a whole with this. Lyla is deposited by her Dad at her

Great Aunt’s enormous mansion to keep her safe during the war. However she bitterly fights against this for a great part of the story as she feels her Dad has stolen her away from her mum who she adored. As the story goes on it appears that Lyla’s own memory of what happened isn’t quite as it seems and her Great Aunt and other characters try to open her eyes to this. For the first part of the story she constantly tries to leave the house and get back to her mum in London.

Ed’s Choice

Overheard in a Tower Block HHHHH

Joseph Coelho, illus Kate Milner, Otter-Barry Books, 978-1-9109-5958-9, 112pp, £6.99 pbk

Growing up on an urban estate in a tower block is not a comfortable experience. Joseph Coelho’s poems in this his second collection, are not comfortable. They are sharp, disconcerting, intelligent. They are also quite often humorous. They pinpoint experiences, emotions, the immediate, as he charts living in this world. They are snapshots – the bin chute in Binley House that is the mouth of the “zombie of a block”; a tower block that literally swallows those who live there, the seagulls catching the bread thrown from the balcony, never landing, leaving – just as his father left. Running through all the poems is a young boy’s sense of dislocation in a fractured family – captured dramatically and vividly in A Child of Opposites “I stayed when my mother slipped/clung when my father drifted”. There are recollections of school, of friendships, of holidays, of a first kiss. These are poems to

Stand By Me HHHH

Judi Curtin, O’Brien Press, 978-1847179647, £10.99 tpbk

The follow-up to the well-received time-slip adventure Time after Time, Stand By Me again stars best- friends turned stepsisters Molly and Beth and sends them time-travelling once more. Whereas in their first adventure the girls found themselves transported back into the 1980s, this time they are going further back in time. They want to put right a sadness

She is thwarted with good humour by her very caring (though she doesn’t appreciate this yet) extended family. One of

Lyla’s ideas to escape

involves writing to the Ministry of Defence to offer up the grand house for military use. She believes she would then have to be sent back to her mother in London. Her letter is intercepted and taken note of but not for the reasons Lyla would like, instead a whole girl’s schools


relocated to her Great Aunt’s house. This then moves

the story on

to meet a much wider range of characters - I think here it gets more absorbing as you really see more of Great Aunt Ada, Solomon her trusted butler and Lyla herself. Lyla hasn’t been to school and has had some very interesting

tutoring which is 10 – 14 Middle/Secondary

long believed that he was responsible for an accident that changed her life. His own has been limited as a result. Going back in time allows him to discover what really happened, and therefore to change his future. Judi Curtin is at her best when writing

about feelings and relationships. She does so with a delicacy and sensitivity, an

unforced warmth, and a real

understanding both of young people and family dynamics. Beth and Molly are strong individuals, but as a duo their different personalities allow them to be the best they can be. Funny and moving, this is a really rewarding read. MMa


Mitch Johnson, Usborne, 304 pp, 978 1 4749 2815 1, £6.99 pbk

explore, to discover and to savour because they will not always reveal their secrets immediately – as the Prometheus poet knows “The vaults of the gods are hard to break into,/ as thin as spider silk and treasure hooked” – but they are well worth it. The experience is enhanced by Kate Milner’s clever vignettes that mirror the awkwardness, the curiosity and vigour of the boy. Congratulations to Otter-Barry Books for bringing us this collection. FH

in their kindly great-uncle’s life by finding out what happened to cause it, and that means a trip to the 1960s. While there are some excellent

jokes at the girls’ expense as they grapple with the peculiarities of a time that seems a million light years away from where we are now, it’s not

This story is about a football-obsessed eleven-year-old called Budi, who lives in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Budi’s lives

in poverty with his parents and his grandmother, and because they need his income to survive, he has to work long hours at a factory instead of going to school.

The factory makes

football boots for top-level players, and Budi dreams about becoming a superstar footballer such as his idol, Kevin Wakefield, who plays for Real Madrid.

Rochy who is a bit older. underworld. Budi unintentionally

upsets a local big-wig landlord known as The Dragon, who blackmails him and his uncle, putting them under pressure to break the law, or face dire consequences for the rest of the family. This is a gripping story


piles on the pressure for the main character, Budi. But he is optimistic, loyal and courageous, holding on to his friendship with Rochy and his love of football, which help him survive through all his troubles and difficulties. LT

The Empty Grave HHHHH

Jonathan Stroud, Penguin, 548pp, 978-0-5525-7579-9, £7.99 pbk

This is the final novel in Jonathan Stroud’s

superb Lockwood & Co

series. It does not disappoint. Familiar characters strut the ghostly stage as effectively as ever, with Lucy’s dyspeptic talking skull in particular fine form. Once again the team break in to various hotly guarded premises at enormous risk and as ever just survive. But there is a limit to how many times Lucy and partners can escape otherwise certain death by


Budi has a friend called They look

out for each other at work, and in their spare time play football with two other friends, or watch Real Madrid late at night on Rochy’s television. Budi has a lot

to endure. The really the time travel element

that is the biggest concern for Judi Curtin, rather it’s the opportunities it provides to examine a relationship and emotions that have developed over time. Uncle Graham loved a girl he knew as a young teenager but has

26 Books for Keeps No.226 September 2017

work at the factory is difficult, and he is beaten by the foreman with a cane when he is slow, or makes a mistake. He has to be careful, as he has an illness (haemophilia?) which makes it difficult to stop cuts from continuously bleeding. But he tries to keep positive, even in the face of all his troubles. A significant element of the book

is the undercurrent of fear; from the repressive government regime,

from corrupt local officials, and the criminal

while still maintaining credibility, and Stroud is wise to wind up the series while it is still going so strong. But

how we ghost-hunters! effect unmatched ability shall

charming as well as charmed band of


miss this has

an to mix humour

with excitement. There are gruesome moments, but somehow they make their

without ever seeming

nauseating. As in the Harry Potter stories, there is also much about death here, including yet another visit to the Other Side. Things there are significantly worse than the scene in London, where citizens dare not leave their houses after nightfall for fear of toxic spirits on the prowl. An overweening government


supposedly there to hunt them out is in reality playing a more sinister game. But the tiny band of Lockwood

rather at odds with Miss Pinnacle’s Garden Hill School for Girls. The story evolves at a pace from

here on and it is a touching read. There are issues around friendship, being who you are and also about things not always being as they seem. War is there as a dark cloud in the story and touches everybody in some way. There are then clever


and turns which help the reader find out the true motives behind Lyla’s father’s actions. I

found the book and characters

really grew on me. This book would give much food for thought for all readers and certainly for a class. The education

observations with

Great Aunt Ada’s views versus Miss. Pinnacle were my favourite parts (I’m firmly in Great Aunt Ada’s camp). SG

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