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reviews 8 – 10 Junior/Middle continued


moustache, and Sausage-face Pete with his range of false beards, are fabulously weird and wacky creations. It’s a pacey read, packed full of jokes from beginning to end and it definitely leaves you wanting more. I can’t wait to read the next in the series. LT


The Boy and the Globe HHHH


Tony Bradman, ill. Tom Morgan- Jones, Barrington Stoke, 192pp, 978-1-7811-2503-8, £6.99 pbk


This timely addition to Barrington Stoke’s Conkers series has been published to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and will offer young readers a lively and accessible insight into the writing and theatrical production of Shakespeare’s plays. The book is presented as a play with a cast list, a setting, London, a time, the years 1611 and 1623, and a story divided into acts and scenes. The story begins as young orphan


illustrator Tom Morgan-Jones with his ‘inky daubs’, cartoon-style drawings and brilliant endpapers contributes greatly to the vibrant atmosphere of the story. The book concludes with a second act of ‘Funne Activities for Boyes and Girls’, a section of puzzles, quizzes and fun facts that should widen the appeal of the book to young readers, particularly with the double page of Shakespearean insults. This lively book should give its readers some understanding of why Shakespeare’s work has had such long lasting appeal. SR


Knitbone Pepper Ghost Dog and the Last Circus Tiger


HHHHH


Claire Barker, Illustrated by Ross Collins, Usborne Publishing, 256pp, 978-1-4095-8038-6, £9.99, hbk


Winnie Pepper


Toby Cuffe, trying to make a living on the streets of Jacobean Cheapside, throws himself on the mercy of Moll Cut-Purse, Queen of the Pick-Pockets, and becomes one of her thieves.


himself. Toby is then recruited as a spy for Shakespeare and his theatre company in their rivalry with the Rose Theatre. Toby’s enthusiasm and love of the whole theatrical world helps Shakespeare to


taken before Will Shakespeare


so when Moll sends him to the Globe Theatre to work he becomes so distracted by the action on stage that he is caught and


Toby loves to read


recover from writer’s block and even gives him the inspiration for his play The Tempest. The Globe’s success is assured, Toby becomes an actor with The Kings’ Men and the epilogue of the story, set in 1623, sees Toby presented with a copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, produced after the playwright’s death. This short, beautifully-produced


book is aimed at 7-10 year olds and has Barrington Stoke’s ‘super- readable’


Tony Bradman, self-styled Scribbler’, has succeeded


layout and


conveying a great deal of history and background in a brief text with a light touch and a feel for the power of reading, writing and drama.


The


typeface. ‘Master in


Hall with her parents, Lord and Lady Pepper, and an unusual range of pets.


Gabriel the goose, Valentine the hare, Orlando the monkey, and Martin the hamster. However, the most unusual thing about the animals is that they are all dead. They are ghosts called Beloveds – animals whose love for their masters is so great that they return


Winnie’s beloved dog and now he is her special ghost. One day, Winnie’s dad, who is eccentric


wonderful idea – he loves hats and so he decides


Hall into a hat museum. He buys thousands of hats and then realises


10-14 Middle/Secondary


Knights of the Borrowed Dark HHHHH


Dave Rudden, Penguin, 338pp, 978-0-1413-5660-0, £6.99 pbk


Crosscaper


the westernmost tip of Achill Island, County Mayo. It may have a Director whose dislike of children matches that


Bumble, but this Orphanage is neither Dotheboys Hall nor the Workhouse. There’s a well-used


seems, some of the teachers care conscientiously for the 250 inmates. Best friends and long-term residents Denizen Hardwick and Simon Hayes, both aged 12, are avid users of that library; Simon is seriously into detective fiction, while Denizen is more eclectic.


Seas stands next to The Politics of Renaissance Italy on his bookshelf though, handily enough, he has a special interest in fantasy. Life at the Orphanage has fed the boys’ natural intelligence and enabled them to become highly articulate (perhaps beyond their years), with a sturdy self- sufficiency which events will test to the limit. Given Dave Rudden’s own verbal agility, readers may also be tested by this debut novel – and then rewarded by exciting and complex pleasures, including the idiosyncratic imagery embedded in the narrative. Take these characteristic examples,


Love on the High library and, it of Wackford Squeers or Mr Orphanage stands on


which could have been chosen from almost any page: “the director looked like a heron rescued from an oil- slicked beach – hunched and slow and miserable”; “The sound slid from her lips like a tide of grime, a rough- static snarl of hunger”. When things become tense or often do,


“Denizen caught a blurred glimpse of something huge and spindly, a bent- spine mantis of spavined gears, faces split by shining teeth.” Even in more relaxed passages, we might find, “...


is avoided the language responds: violent, as they


Ireland it looks as though they might - then life-as-we-mortals-know-it would crumble into oblivion. Denizen finds himself plucked from


fat waddling cars that sang like bumblebees” or “the man smiled like a cat burglar.” Mercifully, and skilfully, pretension by the undercutting


the security of Orphanage life and his friendship with Simon to be caught up in the great conflict in Dublin, where a small cadre of Knights, led by a woman claiming to be his Aunt, is bracing itself for a cataclysmic showdown. In the satisfying tradition of, say, Lord of the Rings, the men and women of the warrior band have complementary skills and


must learn his knightly arts rapidly, often from surprising sources


comic perspective of Rudden’s third person narrative and by the voices of several of the characters, including Denizen. He has already learned to protect himself through irony, even scepticism. Without those qualities he would have been hard-pressed to make it through more than a chapter or two, for


fantasy fiction where the stakes could not be higher. All over the world, the battle is again building between the malevolent powers of the Tenebrous and their


Knights of the Order of the Borrowed Dark. Humankind lives


age-old opponents,


ignorance of this struggle, yet were the Knights to falter – and here in


in blithe from the outset this is the personalities.


bargains and alliances are made and broken, loyalties tested and betrayal threatens to undermine everything. There’s an intoxicating quality


about the risks Rudden takes with plot and language, especially


the ingenious evil of the monstrous enemies and the graphic violence of the hand-to-hand fighting which mostly requires swords and cross- bows and only once, the devastating use


here, but there is extreme pace and shocking excitement; and always tempering this heightened drama is that


comic perspective. Readers will surely believe this conflict matters and that – when physical prowess falls short - the use of spells and magic is credible and not an easy authorial


grounded, very 21st Century, of a gun. No hi-tec frivolity in


Denizen as


escape from a tight corner. As Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea demonstrated almost fifty years ago, readers’ acceptance is won when they recognise that magic depends upon skill and self-knowledge, that it costs, and that the abuse of powers will damage the user. There is a welcome promise of a


series to come. GF The Book of Pearl


HHHHH


Timothée de Fombelle, Walker, 368pp, 978-1-4063-6462-0, £12.99, hbk


Timothée de Fombelle is a storyteller of


invention, whose tales are at once expansive and detailed, and in which character and adventure are given equal attention. If they might appear to an English reader as somehow distinctively


that he belongs, with Dumas and Verne, to a storytelling tradition that finds romance in history and science, and that he also enjoys bringing in aspects of life and culture that seem to have a distinctively French flavour, whether, as in this novel, a high class confectioner’s shop in pre-war Paris, with its own exclusive brand and wrapping paper, or the struggle against the German occupation in the Second World War in the mountains of Provence. All that said, the story


Books for Keeps No.218 May 2016 27 French, it is perhaps charm, style, mystery and


to say the least, has a to


turn after death. Knitbone was There is Knitbone the dog, lives at Starcross


that they have no money left to tidy up Starcross and to advertise their new venture. So Winnie invites a journalist to come and be amused by the hats and thrilled by the ghosts. However, things go wrong and the journalist writes an article saying how terrible Starcross is. The Pepper family thinks that this will keep people away, but on the day of the Grand Opening they come in droves, excited at the prospect of awful hats and being tickled by ghosts. The Starcross Hall Hat Museum is a success. However, this is not the end of the


story. The Pepper family decide to invite Circus Tombellini to perform in their


displaying the Eye of Mumbai – a turban with a large and famous ruby. Whilst the Eye of Mumbai is at Starcross the Pepper family must protect it from Magpie McCraken, a most unusual jewel thief. Both the circus and the turban


grounds whilst they are


arrive. Everyone loves the circus, but Knitbone notices a strange shadow in the tent. There seems to be a ghostly presence, and with it an unfinished story of a Beloved not yet reunited with their master. Can Knitbone and the


Roojoo with his master and can they prevent


stealing the Eye of Mumbai? This is a delightful friendship, family and


Starcross Magpie McCracken


the mysterious from


happenings told with humour and kindness. Winnie is an endearing heroine and her animal friends are a joy. This hilarious and imaginative tale is accompanied by fun illustrations which have a enticingly retro feel. ARa


story of madcap


gang, reunite


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