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BfK 8 – 10 Junior/Middle continued

II London, but the war scenes range from Gallipoli in 1915 to Helmund Province in 2011, and include an animal that assisted rescuers at Ground Zero in New York in 2001. Perhaps the most extraordinary story is that of Voytek, the black bear adopted as a cub by the Polish II Army Corp, which grew up not only to drink and smoke like a soldier, but to carry shells at Monte Cassino, enlisted as a private with rank and number in order to travel with his fellow troops. He ended his days in retirement at Edinburgh Zoo. In a final epilogue Long encourages readers to visit London’s Animals in War Memorial that acknowledges the sacrifice and heroism of these animals.


The Lost King Alison Prince 978 1 4729 0040 9 The Night Run Bali Rai 978 1 4729 0436 2 The Girl from Hard Times Hill

Emma Barnes 978 1 4729 0443 0 HHHH

A&C Black Flashbacks, 96pp, £5.99pbk

Three new additions to this excellent historical fiction series that includes titles by authors such as Geraldine McCaughrean, Adèle Geras, Geoffrey Trease and Melvin Burgess. The settings of these three could not be more different: 15th-century England in the aftermath of the Wars of the Roses, Amritsar, India in the last days of the British Empire, and West Wales in the 1950s. The Lost King follows the brief reign of Richard III as recounted by the nursemaid to the two young princes. We are drawn into the unfolding of events in this first-person account, wanting to know what really happened to the boys and whether Richard was responsible for their disappearance. The Night Run is the dramatic story of a young boy who learns that his father has been falsely accused of crimes and embarks on a perilous journey to save him, braving armoured troops, martial curfew and vicious bandits in a city on the brink of riot. The Girl from Hard Times Hill is an emotional tale of growing up, 11-year-old Megan struggling to cope with the changes that face her at home and at school in post-war Britain. Each of the three titles is remarkable for convincing dialogue, and for the depiction of

events in their historical setting. What seems surprising is that the publisher makes so little effort to blow the trumpet of three prize-winning authors or to point to other titles or even the success of their own series. SU

Leif Frond and the Viking Games

978-1-4729-0462-1 Leif Frond and Quickfingers 978-1-4729-0453-9


Joan Lennon, ill Brendan Kearney, A&C Black, 96pp, £4.99 pbk

Leif Frond is an aspiring young Viking hero living in the settlement of Frondfell. Whilst the story is a light hearted one, there is plenty of historical lifestyle detail in these two books, which adds interest for the reader. In The Viking Games, he deals with slightly scary Viking raiders and a widow desperate to marry his father, and in Quickfingers, he is responsible for unmasking and redeeming a suspicious travelling pedlar. In both stories, readers will identify with Leif as he tries to escape chores and his big sister, makes new friends, gets into scrapes and deals with a variety of small and not so small problems. Black and white illustrations (approximately one per chapter) enhance the humour of the text. Overall, both stories are a fun read for confident readers of 7+ or older readers needing a high level of interest but shorter, more approachable texts.

LR A Tiger Tale HHHH

Holly Webb illus Catherine Rayner, Scholastic, 978 1 4071 38633, 96pp £5.99pbk

Kate’s beloved Grandad has died and the world isn’t the same any more. Who will take her to school? Who will look after her when her parents are working? And why are the adults all smiling and talking as though nothing has happened? Amos, the toy tiger given to her by Grandad, takes on a new significance in Kate’s life as she curls up in the garden shed where she and Grandad had spent so many happy hours together. Things come to a head when Amos is stolen from Kate’s bag when she reluctantly goes to a holiday club.

This is a book which deals sensitively and realistically with bereavement and loss from the perspective of an 8 year old. Unable to interpret the reactions of her family to their loss, Kate becomes increasingly angry. Eventually she realises that her family is suffering too, even though they each express their grief differently from her. Gradually, her memories become something to cherish rather than hide in and she discovers that it’s fine to talk about Grandad.

Death is often a taboo subject in contemporary culture, but this book deals with it sensitively and realistically. It is highly recommended for any 8 to 10 year old facing their first loss, but it is also a really good story in its own right, with realistic characters, pacy plot and plenty of pause for thought moments.

GR The Forever Whale HHHHH

Sarah Lean, HarperCollins, 9780007512225, 264pp, £6.99 pb

A beautiful story about Hannah and her Grandfather, as she comes to terms with the Alzheimer’s disease and stroke which are gradually taking away the person that she has been so close to. There is also a secondary story going back to an event during the Second World War, when Grandad was a child, and the two story lines have been woven together in a heart-warming way . Early on in the book he has asked her to remind him about the 18th August, but did not say why, and as his condition deteriorates he is unable to communicate well and becomes locked in his own world. Hannah is desperate to help him remember and this leads to her uncovering a remarkable story from the past and when the 18th August finally comes around there is a remarkable discovery.

This is one of the best stories for younger readers that I have read recently. It is a lyrical and very evocative tale of the relationship between generations and coming to terms with the terrible consequences of conditions such as Alzheimer’s. At the same time this is also about the relationship we have with nature and the positive impact this can have. The story is written in the first person, with Hannah as the focus and Sarah Lean has really made this work. Quite often I have a problem with this and prefer the third person narrative, but this tale is so well balanced that you really do relate to everything happening to Hannah. Whilst

Grandad is never going to recover we are left with the family coming to terms with the future and also having recreated some amazing memories of the past. It is a story which could be used very successfully in supporting young people who find themselves in a very similar situation and should be recommended as widely as possible.


50 things you should know about the First World War


Jim Eldridge, Q.E.D, 978 178171589 5, 80pp, £8.99 pbk

To see the name Jim Eldridge as author can only inspire confidence. Here is an author who knows how to reach young readers, with an extensive bibliography to prove it. He is comfortable with both novels and information texts. Nor does this title disappoint.

This is another valuable contribution to the growing number of books published to celebrate World War I for primary school classrooms . The production is familiar with the text broken into easily managed chunks set beside - or over - photographs and paintings from the period. Using the convention of the list allows the author to impose order on the history he describes, neatly combining events (the outbreak of the war, the battles,) with topics (propaganda, rationing). Taking the war year by year adds a further level of coherence which is then enhanced by the timeline that features as each new chapter (or year) opens. A glossary helps with vocabulary that is marked in bold throughout the text and there is an index; sadly no bibliography. It would have been interesting to have young readers guided to further reading, informational and fictional.

Eldridge’s prose is very readable and succinct - occasionally too succinct. There were moments, I would have liked a little more detail. However, he is adept at introducing the intriguing nugget of information that will attract the young. It is refreshing to be offered a serious approach that is accessible at time when it is assumed that young readers can only cope if the material is relentlessly funny.

A clear, concise and very readable introduction to a complicated period that will encourage both an understanding of this cataclysmic war and a desire to learn more about it. FH

10 – 14 Middle/Secondary Clariel HHHH

Garth Nix, Hot Key Books, 480pp, 978-1-4714-0384-2 £16.99 HB

Garth Nix’s phenomenal Old Kingdom trilogy (Sabriel, Lirael and

Abhorsen) is simply one of the best trilogies in children’s literature. Evocative, resonant, creepy and thrilling, they are everything a young reader could want in a fantasy world. So the expectation was always going to be high for Clariel, a prequel to the original books.

26 Books for Keeps No.208 September 2014

Set hundreds of years before Sabriel, the story unfolds in the capital city of Belisaere, which is in the thrall of a renaissance, where art is revered and magic considered outdated. The ardour to replace the old ways with the new is at the heart of much politicking, but it’s clear some old

ways are being ignored to the cost of everyone.

Clariel, herself a distant antecedent of Sabriel, dreams of a simple life of solace, peace and natural beauty in her beloved forest. Instead, with her family’s high standing, she is forced to move with them to Belisaere where

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