reviews when it suddenly

shape of a mysterious and reclusive new pupil, Ned Buckley, she finds her world

unexpected and enormous ways. Ned is a traveller and his horses

changing yet again, in

are his life. He is passionate and skilled and recognises in Minty an ability to connect with his animals, something she has always wanted to do but been unable to as a result of her mother’s allergies. His home – Nettlebog – and his horses become a refuge for her-both emotional and physical – helping her to discover who she really is and what she wants from her life.

shot through with fire and exploring crisis, identity and first love. It deals simply but movingly with the detritus which violent change leaves behind, both for children and adults. There are happy outcomes, but they are never neatly tied and so all the more credible. The rhythms of the prose reflect the beauty and the bitterness which the world engenders – an excellent read indeed.

VR Booked HHHH

Kwame Alexander, Andersen Press, 978-1783444656, 315p, £7.99pbk

Nick Hall plays football - soccer – and he is good. So is his best mate, Coby. It’s a shame they are on different teams and will have to face each other in the cup match but they still hang out. And there is April - April he is definitely going to ask for a date. Reading does not feature much. But then his life falls apart . Why has his mother left? Once again Kwame Alexander convincingly enters the mind and the world of the fourteen year old . Nick is the narrator, using blank verse, he comments on each situation, relaying his thoughts and reactions. The result is a lively monologue interspersed with the words of the other members of the cast - his friends, parents and teachers - neatly differentiated by font. This liveliness is enhanced by the variety of rhythms and presentation Alexander employs to create his verse narrative. Nick is a refreshingly normal boy with a refreshingly normal background. Alexander’s skill is to ensure the reader will turn the pages and follow Nick as he negotiates football, friends, family, bullies - and books.

FH The Wildings HHH

Nilanjana Roy, Illus Prabha Mallya, Pushkin Children’s Books, 978-1-7826-9105-1, 320pp, £7.99 pbk

Mara is an inside cat, rescued as a tiny kitten when her mother is killed. But she is more than just a fluffy kitten; Mara is a Sender, one who can transmit thoughts and communicate with the cats of her clan – and in Mara’s case with other animals. But she has no clan and so should be killed as a danger and intruder. However, the question

This is a gentle and sensitive book,

10 – 14 Middle/Secondary continued arrives in the

that of the quest, the search for the answer to the question ‘who am I?’ However, woven into the story there is the battle between imagination and science, between the power of story and of reality, the opposition of a world of “natural” forces to a mechanised one. It deals

identity, consequences and chance; a rich brew of allegory and symbol. The narrative sprawls along carrying the reader with it, though somewhat to the detriment of characterisation, plotting and reflection. There is


much to applaud - the author has a fertile

to say - but less can be more, and the whole would have benefitted from judicious pruning. Accessible certainly to young readers KS3 with reading

minds, it has an affinity with novels such as The Never Ending Story, The Princess Bride or The Book of Lost Things , and might suit adults who will appreciate the journey. An interesting first novel that raises many interesting ideas. FH

14+ Secondary/Adult What’s a Girl Gotta Do? HHHHH

Holly Bourne, Usborne Publishing, 432pp, 978-1-4749-1502-1, £7.99 pbk

remains - why has such a powerful Sender appeared at this time? Beraal of the Wildings is sure that some danger threatens. This is an exciting novel that

Charlotte Thomas, better known as Lottie,

immerses the young reader in the world of the semi-wild cats of Delhi. Though the reader sees the world as the cat characters, Roy ensures that they remain true to their natures. This is no happy Eden where the species live in a Utopian society. They certainly coexist - but also hunt and kill. There is, therefore, a strong foundation of reality on which to build. The cats themselves

the reader to enter their world and creating

suspension of disbelief. Roy writes fluently, inhabiting her cat world with an attractive ease. The background, India and the city of Delhi, add richness

this tale of a battle between good and evil - a conventional theme - very satisfying. Young readers will look forward, as I do, to the continuation of Mara’s story...

FH The Beginning Woods HHH

Malcolm McNeill, Pushkin Children’s Books, 978 1782690900, 444pp, £7.99 pbk

Max was discovered as a baby abandoned in a bookshop. Adopted by Forbes and Alice, for a time he is happy; then questions begin to haunt him. But all is not well with his world as adults start to disappear;

to the narrative, making the necessary fabric for are distinct, allowing

year old. She is academically gifted, destined she hopes for Cambridge. Among her less testing ambitions is to become Prime Minister. Lottie is also a feminist. Being catcalled by some loutish builders she decides that in the month before

interview she will call

incidence of sexism she encounters. The story poses a host of valid

questions. What does feminism mean for a 21st century young woman? What can Lottie achieve by identifying instances

be the impact of her campaign, outing the sexists in society, impact on her, her friends and her Sixth Form College? How will it affect her chances of ending up on the banks of the Cam?

of prejudice? What will

her Cambridge out

every is an ambitious seventeen

him a custard pie in the face. Any reader will pause and ask whether Lottie is trying deliberately to deprive herself of a glittering future. But then Lottie finds herself

drained by her own campaign. And at that point her ideology becomes cool and balanced. She becomes not just a loud source of noise but a reasoned and effective campaigner. More mature political campaigners than Lottie often seem not

absorbed this lesson. The reaction of Lottie’s parents to her adventures, her

depicted. Bourne occupies neglected territory

attitude towards storytelling, as her characters do towards life.

Here I Stand: Stories that Speak for Freedom


Amnesty International UK (ed.), Walker Books, 320pp, 978 1 4063 5838 4, £10.99 hbk

The title of this Amnesty sponsored collection of short stories suggests that it features stories of principled stands

introduction by Jules Carey suggests that it may deal with legal and political freedoms. And

familiar with Amnesty’s work with political prisoners worldwide might expect some miscarriages of justice or


appear. And there is some of this. A comic strip (Mary and Brian Talbot and Kate Charlesworth) tells

Vanishings. What is the connection between Max and this strange phenomenon? How can Max find the answers he so desires - and will they be the answers he dreams of? When is a translation not a translation? When it is this novel by debut author, Malcolm McNeill. Written in English, it was first published in Germany as a translation. Now it finds its way back home. In a way, its journey reflects that of Max, as he searches for his dream, his Forever Parents - only to discover eventually that he is looking in the wrong place. In this the plot is

the prompted ideas over murders; Jack Gantos dangerous

narrative game. In the early parts of the book Lottie embarks on such perilous

comes within a hair’s breadth of losing sympathy for

for example with a rugby player whose attitude seems to Lottie to be reprehensible, her answer is to give

her. Dealing ventures that the

In this book Bourne and


plays a reckless


that the enticements of the library might deflect a young suicide bomber from his mission; Sarah Crossan writes about the destructive effects of oil extraction in an unnamed African country; Ryan Gattis, in less a story more a personal reflection, contributes his thoughts about capital punishment and prison regimes; and, perhaps the most ingenious tale, Tim Wynne Jones imagines a rock anthem of

Finally, an interview with imprisoned United States whistle-blower Charlie

Books for Keeps No.220 September 2016 29 autonomous weapon against the

development systems.

by the Charlie Hebdo speculates

violent intimidation repressive foreign regimes to

story of the suffragette Constance Lytton; Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell contribute an affirmation of the power of

the against injustice. The a deliberately near misses, is convincingly

in the world of teenage fiction and makes a success of her undertaking. Bourne takes

risky RB

to have stamina and questioning imagination and something

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