BfK 10 – 14 Middle/Secondary continued New Talent

The House with Chicken Legs HHHHH

Sophie Andersen, ill. Elisa Paganelli, Usborne, 336pp, 978 1474940665 £6.99 pbk

A beautiful and original take on the Tale of Baba Yaga. Marinka has lived

with her

grandmother, Baba Yaga all her life, helping her to lead the dead through The Gate to the stars and to enjoy one last wonderful meal together and hear the stories of their lives. But Marinka is lonely. Her only other company is Jack the Jackdaw. All she wants is a real friend and to stay in one place for more than a few days as her house on chicken legs is constantly on the move. Marinka is warned not to break the rules and stray away from the house. One day she finds a boy with an abandoned lamb sitting on the other side of the fence. But just as she begins to make friends with him and the boy loans Malinka the lamb to look after the house moves on.

Malinka is heartbroken. A few

days later she adopts a new friend but this time the consequences are devastating and her grandmother disappears. To find her Marinka has to seek the help of the Old Yaga. She also becomes friendly with two other girls in the market but is shocked to discover they are not kind-hearted and finally begins to appreciate the special relationship she has with her

the very first page when his virtuoso account of a street basketball game ends with his downbeat refusal to take part. But there’s a lot to go through before he bounces back. His mom, who can no longer cope with him and her own grief, sends him to spend the summer with his paternal grandparents. Gradually, under their loving discipline and the basketball tuition of his cousin Roxie, he starts to embrace life again, and to become Chuck rather than Charlie. But not before there is a dreadful misjudgement that might knock him back once and for all. The novel is a paean of praise to the redeeming power of family and friendship. It’s a tribute, too, to African America. Not only to the African American contribution to basketball – it’s no mistake that the Harlem Globetrotters feature – but that love of the play of language which, like rap itself, derives from the spoken word. It’s a novel that’s both moving and exhilarating, even for those who have no love of basketball. CB

The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day HHHH

Christopher Edge, Nosy Crow, 155pp, 9781788000291, £6.99 pbk

Readers of this intriguing and

house, her grandmother and the yaga community. Malinka has always been told

her destiny is to be the new yaga but she is a spirited girl and wants to plough her own furrow. This book is the journey she takes to find out who she is. The writing is gorgeous, almost poetic; the

on her birthday and the consequences of sibling rivalry and grief, and the power of love. This accomplished book will take its audience of 10+ readers by surprise and

should both challenge and

enthral them with its tense, affecting mix of science, thrilling mystery, uncertainty and emotion.

This is powerful material, well delivered. SR

A Good Day for Climbing Trees HHHH

Jaco Jacobs, ill. Jim Tierney, trans. Kobus Geldenhuys, Oneworld Rock the Boat, 160pp, 978 1 78607 317 4, £6.99, pbk

story tender,

poignant and full of lovely details. It is a timeless tale of death and grief and the zest for life. The characters are wonderful and I particularly love the sentient house with chicken legs who is rooting for Marinka all along and has nurtured her from a baby growing her vine swings, making her dens and protecting her from danger. A hugely satisfying read. JC

gripping story will realise that she wakes

on her birthday longing for presents its

central character, Maisie, is unusual when

tenth that

will help her build her own nuclear reactor.

gifted, home educated and studying for a degree in mathematics and physics at the age of ten. These gifts lead to loneliness as Maisie longs to be more like other children, to be more independent and, most of all, to be closer to her fifteen-year old sister Lily, who feels threatened and overshadowed by Maisie. is no ordinary birthday.

But this The short

chapters alternate between Maisie’s birthday in the “real” world and a very disturbing birthday in a parallel reality where Maisie is all alone in the house as a sinister blackness threatens to engulf her home and Maisie herself. As Maisie

struggles with an

expanding universe, black holes, the prospect of infinite lives and disturbing memories, Christopher Edge skilfully draws the reader into a fascinating and unsettling blend of science and fiction where they will confront big ideas on the nature of the universe and existence, infinity and virtual reality. At the same time, the author reveals the sad truth of what happened to Maisie

28 Books for Keeps No.230 May 2018 Maisie is academically

Translated from the Afrikaans, this book is published by Oneworld, and was one of the winners of the Book Trust Other Words competition for books in translation in 2017. It is a low key humorous tale of two children, Marnus and Leila, who set out to save a tree in their local park which is going to be cut down to make way for a pipeline. The racial politics of a divided South Africa, with which we are possibly more familiar in this country, has a muted presence. John, the caretaker of the bowls club, who befriends the children, recalls how the “coloured people” of District Six in Cape Town, including his family, were driven from their homes by bulldozers and police. And, for Marnus, the resistance of John’s family becomes something of a reference point for his own struggle. Otherwise, this is a witty and well-drawn story of the affluent white suburbs. It charts the growing friendship between reticent Marnus and outwardly confident Leila and has fun not only with the red faced local government functionaries who come to remove the tree but with the student radicals who arrive to support the children. It’s expertly translated by Kobus Geldenhuys and given suitably humorous illustrations by Jim Tierney. It does worry me that there is not a single black character, however much this may reflect the reality of white suburban life. And there is an ambiguity in the conclusion. The eventual fate of the tree is perhaps an acknowledgement of how things might go in the real world. But the different happy ending that is provided for Leila might be seen as casting doubt on the primacy of the environmental concerns which were the ostensible initial motive for her campaign. CB

Flamingo Boy HHH

Michael Morpurgo, Harper Collins, 288pp, 978-0-00-13463-1, £12.99 hbk

A child with an affinity with nature, in a war situation – it has to be Michael Morpurgo. This story starts with a modern young man, Vincent, following the idea of another Vincent, van Gogh, painting

a boat on this

particular beach, on holiday before he decides what to do with his life. He collapses on the road with a fever, and is carried by an older man to a

farm, and nursed by him and an old lady. When he is well enough, the old lady tells him the story of how they came to be there. The man is Lorenzo, and he is on the

autistic spectrum. He lived on that farm in the Carmargue with his hard-working parents, and local people mocked and despised him, so he stayed close to home. However, just before the outbreak of the Second World War, a carousel was brought by a Roma family to his village, and the daughter, Kezia, became his great friend. He loved the flamingos on the lake, and learnt to imitate their sound and their flapping, and he loved riding on the carousel, which had flamingos painted along the top. The families became friends, and the children inseparable, but everything changed when the Germans arrived.

A tall Caporal showed the

kinder side of the Germans and stuck up for the children when they were verbally abused, and helped provide materials to rebuild the carousel when it was broken, but not even he could he could prevent the local Milice from raiding the farm and arresting Kezia’s parents. Of course it all works out in the end: Kezia and Lorenzo stay and work on the farm into their old age, Vincent stays there and is happy. The flamingos are wonderfully described, and Lorenzo’s affinity with them can lead to miraculous healing. Flamingos fly around on the pages, and the carousel is on the cover, but these are stock images, not illustrations as such. Michael Morpurgo has a tendency

to sentimentality, and this is no exception, but it’s a good story. He explains that he has an autistic grandson, and has written this to show sympathetically the happy life that is possible, though there are difficulties, of course, and how people around such a person may be helpful and supportive. Setting it during the war when people who were seen to be different, whether

or unlike other people in any way, were under threat, gives additional emphasis. The sub-title of the book is It’s the people who don’t fit in who change the world, and Lorenzo, with his simple pleasures and love of life, certainly changes the minds of many people he meets. DB

The List of Real Things HHHHH

Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, Orion, 204pp, 978-1-44401-481-5, £6.99pbk

This delightful and thought-provoking book explores the line between truth and fantasy as Fitzgerald creates two orphaned sisters, Gracie and Bee, living with their Uncle Freddy and their Granddad Patrick. The girls’ parents died within two days of each other, but their deaths are never mentioned or discussed by Uncle Freddy, who wishes to spare them further upset. The girls are foils

for each other:

Gracie is firmly rooted in the real world and anxious not to draw attention to herself, whereas Bee, endearing and exasperating by turn, is prone to flights of fancy, arachaic speech

Jews, Roma

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