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reviews


this is the book for you. The story follows Idie, from the time when she sets off to a new home on a Caribbean island at twelve years old, to the end of the First World War, when she is seventeen. Idie has never known her mother or father. As a baby, she was taken to live with her relatives in Devon and brought up alongside her cousins Myles and Benedict. A strong and feisty character, brought up to believe in herself, Idie has to learn to cope on her own when she is sent away to Hummingbird Island to be mistress of a grand house. Here she finds many mysteries to unravel, and she has to be resilient and determined as she keeps looking for the truth.


10 – 14 Middle/Secondary continued inseparable


of-view of Peter and Pax, the reader travels through a country living under the threat of war. Both have to learn to survive, to build new relationships and ultimately to move on without abandoning their seen


scenes but through the destruction that the


relationships,


follows war - destruction of environment,


through which they travel. But there is hope as they each make new friends and life goes on. The reader never knows where this country is; it is presented as any country in the world where war exists. This gives the story a curiously distanced feel. Both Peter and Pax are


of great emotion. Though perhaps most suitable for KS3 readers, there would be plenty of younger readers in KS2 who would engage with this thoughtful novel. FH


Raymie Nightingale HHHH


Kate DiCamillo, Walker Books, 272pp, 978 1 4063 6313 5, £9.99 hbk


Only in the USA, and maybe only in Central


1975, would 10 year old Raymie Clarke,


Beverley Tapinski have


imagined characters, as well as a menagerie of animals with real personalities, who are allowed to live in the house. It is beautifully written, with a rich vocabulary to match the colour and vibrance of the Caribbean island. It also tells the story of the British West Indies Regiment, who fought in World War I alongside British troops, and yet were treated with discrimination.


a classic book for older readers, with adventure, humour, poignancy and romance. The language is challenging for younger readers, but the themes aren’t too adult for them to access. The story contains lots of themes: the loss of childhood innocence, heroism, betrayal, the effects of war on soldiers and the people left behind, and the history of the sugar cane plantations in the Caribbean. It’s a rich, imaginative book with lots to enjoy and lots to discuss with fellow readers. LT


Pax HHH


Sara Pennypacker, illus Jon Klassen, HarperCollins, 288pp, 978-0-0081-2409-0, £12.99 hbk


This a beautiful book. The elegant art work of Jon Klassen complements the prose of Sara Pennypacker in this fable about war and the strength of love across barriers. When Peter’s father enlists,


It’s The novel is packed with wonderfully Elefante


Florida in the summer of Louisiana


themselves in the same baton-twirling class, pupils of ex-champion baton- twirler, Ida Nee. Kate DiCamillo, twice winner of the Newbery Medal, is on familiar ground. A pre-text fact-page reveals that she grew up in Central Florida in the 1970s, where she took baton-twirling lessons. Her father left the family when she was very young which, we will discover, is also the experience of Raymie and Beverley. Like them, she longed for her father’s return. There are further overlaps with her characters’ experiences; the fact-page concludes: “Raymie’s story is entirely made up. Raymie’s story is the absolutely true story of my heart.” So that’s cleared that up, then. Well, it does at least suggest a


found and real and there are moments is the destruction landscape of not through


friendship. War, actual


battle from the


through all their summer adventures. These involve mostly


leave him behind, Peter finds his situation intolerable. He must find Pax. Told


alternating point- companion. Forced to


Good Deeds in The Golden Glen Nursing Home; checking out The Very Friendly Animal Centre while looking for Archie, a lost cat; meeting several dysfunctional and irascible adults; liberating a canary belonging to a Chopin-playing caretaker; and non- swimmer Louisiana being catapulted into a very deep lake from a runaway shopping trolley with a wonky wheel. That sort of thing. Through these escapades, despite


the hollowness and anxieties at the core of their lives, they begin to find fulfilment in supporting each other. Their secrets emerge. Men, it has to be said, don’t come out of this novel well. Raymie’s father has run away with a dental hygienist, Beverley’s cop father lit out for New York City years ago. Mr Staphopoulos, Raymie’s life- saving coach, is a good guy, but he leaves the novel just as it’s getting started, heading for North Carolina with Edgar, his life-saving dummy, grinning in the back seat


car. However, he’s left Raymie with great life-saving skills which come in handy with the episode of the sinking shopping trolley. There


American comedy


is


summer’s adventures. The children are innocently wise, vulnerable and yet


free of the damaged adults around them. Events and dialogue are not naturalistic – they belong, rather, to fable, so that everything ultimately leads towards the girls discovering what DiCamillo doesn’t flinch from calling their


author risk this?) Raymie’s wellbeing is measured by how her soul is doing. Sitting in the back of a car driven with lunatic abandon by Louisiana’s granny, she realises


love for her new friends: “Something was happening to her. Her soul was getting bigger and bigger and bigger. She could feel it lifting her off the seat, almost.” The ‘Nightingale’ of the title? That’s


her growing souls. (Would a UK increasingly strong, breaking and about simplicity of of his


something essentially the


deceptive the


When


grandmother, Sylvie, is rushed to hospital with a suspected broken hip, the children are thrown into turmoil. After settling Sylvie in hospital, they return home but find that there has been a break-in. Even worse, there is unexplained blood-red writing on the wall saying ‘We can see you’. After this, things start to get much


stranger. Ivy and Seb are chased by a group of men in an old-fashioned hearse and end up travelling to a city under London called Lundinor. This is a fast-paced and exciting


Ivy and failing to do


as physical strength to keep going as he has to conquer his feelings of fear and despair to find levels of determination and resourcefulness. Sam’s intense loneliness is relieved by his encounters with a young otter and its mother and Sam’s close link to the otter cub becomes his key to survival. This teen survival story will appeal


to fans of Bear Grylls and Ray Mears. The style is fast-paced and immediate, told in Sam’s own voice, the chapters are short and the atmosphere of fear and tension is sustained throughout. The relentless harshness of the battle to survive is conveyed realistically and no gruesome physical details are spared. The heart-warming connection between Sam and the otter cub provides some


moments amidst the struggle. This will be a useful addition to library shelves, a title to recommend to fans of action adventure and survival stories. SR


The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence


HHHHH


Jennifer Bell, Corgi (Penguin Random House), 368pp, 978-0-5525-7250-7, £6.99 pbk


Seb Sparrow’s welcome tender


certain ambiguity. What seems simple here, isn’t. What seems like a comic narrative in its language and events, is also a story of loss, emptiness, helplessness and fears. Raymie is taking baton-twirling classes because she needs them to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest; then her picture will be in the paper, her father will see it, and come home. That’s the plan. Her classmates don’t promise too much. The orphaned Louisiana Elefante (daughter of the late trapeze artists, The Flying Elefantes – maybe) faints frequently. Beverley’s opening line is: “My name is Beverley Tapinski and my father is a cop, so I don’t think that you should mess with me.” She’s also an expert lock-picker. Nevertheless, the three become


Peter must go to live with his dour Grandfather. There is no place for the foxcub, Pax, who has become Peter’s


fast friends; in fact, Louisiana insists, they’re more than friends,


The Three Rancheros, here to right a wrong.


they’re They support each other


from a book recommended to Raymie by her school’s librarian, Mr Option (another good guy making a brief but influential appearance – “tall, and lonely and hopeful”). The book is A Bright and Shining Path; The Life of Florence Nightingale. By the end of the summer, Raymie can see what Mr Option saw. Like Florence, she’s a helper – and not only with reference to shopping trolleys. She’d really helped her friends


“She was Raymie Nightingale, coming to the rescue.” GF


Alone HHH


D.J. Brazier, Andersen Press, 266pp, 978-1-7834-4403-8, £7.99 pbk


Sam and his Dad are reaching the end of their trip of a lifetime when the small plane taking them to the airport crashes in the Amazon rainforest and 13-year old Sam finds himself alone and struggling to survive in the jungle. The book follows the stages of Sam’s ordeal as he gradually and painfully learns the skills he needs to survive. Sam needs mental as well


in many ways.


adventure, featuring a Victorian-style otherworld, that will appeal to fans of the Harry Potter and Chrestomanci series. The plot is complex but carefully thought-out and the detail about the magical city of Lundinor is interesting and intriguing, bringing to life a sense of London from various periods including the Victorian period and the eighteenth century. The three children are extremely engaging protagonists, and the use of male and female main characters means that


to both girls and boys. This is an extremely enjoyable read and a well- deserving addition fantasy genre. ARa


to the magical


Voices from the Second World War: witnesses share their stories with the children of today.


HHH


Walker, 320pp, 978-1-4063-6011-0, £14.99 hbk


This compilation of people’s first-hand accounts of the Second World War has been put together by First News children reporters, plus some other accounts. It is an uneven collection in that some are


memories of war, and some are very adult indeed, talking of rape, men being blown up in front of soldiers, torture of resistance fighters and other kinds of violence; also of course they talk of immense courage and witness to the horror of war. It follows the progress of the war in sections


Books for Keeps No.218 May 2016 29 very child-like the book will appeal


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