BfK Junior/Middle continued

as possible. Their relationship is skilfully described, subtly highlighting the unique nature of brother-sister and twin-twin bonds. There is never any doubt that Jimmy is the most annoying person in the world but Cally’s eagerness to join in with his schemes, and her efforts to cheer him up betray her true, loving feelings towards him. Cally and Jimmy are a close team and readers will enjoy spending time in their company. Double Dare and Double Act both

important that the girls get it back. Running parallel is a second plotline about the possible theft of a valuable book that belonged to Lori’s parents, who died when she was just a baby. The hunt for that means an encounter with Lori’s grandma’s favourite TV star, Hugo Smythe, host of antique show Treasure Hunters. He’s nowhere near as charming in real life as he        The story is often very funny and yet readers will absolutely understand the very real issues that Max faces at home and the weight of the loss of her parents on Lori and her grandma. Original, exciting, full of insight and with its wonderful protagonists, this is one of the best books for young readers of the year. We can only hope there’ll be more adventures for Lori and Max to come. MMa

Cally and Jimmy: Twins in Trouble


Zoe Antoniades, ill. Katie Kear, Andersen Press, 172pp, 9781839130083, £6.99 pbk

Cally and Jimmy are Callista and Dimitri who live with their Mum and Yiayia (gran) who are Greek. In this collection of four stories for new readers, Cally shares with readers what it is like to have a twin brother who is always getting you into trouble (though, truthfully, she’s no stranger to a bit of mischief, herself).      

     to laxative brownies, to pantomime cows, the twins never seem far away from the next disaster. Like all siblings, they are perpetually falling out and making up and, whichever stage they are in, they somehow manage to make a mess of things. Cally plays the part of long-suffering sensible sister very convincingly, evoking themes of Dorothy Edwards’ My Naughty Little Sister stories. However, despite what she’d have her readers believe, Cally loves her brother’s mischievous nature and secretly courts his attention as often

take place in the twins’ school, a place where they have very different            to manage and spends each day trying and failing to avoid trouble. Antoniades is clearly at home writing about classrooms and playgrounds (she is an ex teacher) and the school scenes are convincing and avoid stereotypes like grumpy dinner ladies and shouty teachers. Other stories take place in the twins’ home, where their parents are separated and Mum juggles a busy job alongside keeping a home (with help from the twins’ charming Yiayia, whose broken Greek and afternoon naps are another source of comedy). The twins’ lives feel contemporary and extremely relatable and genuine. Funny without being silly, and

heartwarming without being soppy, Twins in Trouble is an excellent choice for parents and children (or even brothers and sisters!) to share. SD

The Perfect Parent Project 

Stewart Foster, Simon & Schuster, 352pp, 9781471191268, £7.99, pbk

Sam wants a family. In fact, he’s made a list of things that his perfect parents should have including a BMW MS, holidays to Disneyland, and a garage wall with a basketball hoop. Together with his best friend Leah, he comes up with The Perfect Parent Project. After years of moving from one foster family to another, there has to be a perfect solution out there somewhere. What he doesn’t realise, is that sometimes what you’ve got is pretty perfect itself. Foster has long been a master of

getting inside a child’s head, and seeing how the same circumstances can look from different points of view. Here, he cleverly creates a protagonist in Sam who is misunderstood, and completely simpatico. As Sam proceeds with his project, Foster shows the different ways in which children can react to rejection, and how they internalise emotions and feelings of insecurity, at the same time, showing how easy it is for other people to wrongly read their intentions.

The authenticity of his young

characters and the way they assess their surroundings is spot on, and Foster builds anticipation and intrigue as Sam builds trenches of lies around

28 Books for Keeps No.245 November 2020

himself, digging himself deeper and deeper, until the reader is bursting to know how he’s going to clamber out. One way, of course, is with the well-

crafted community of adults around him. Foster shows it really does take a village to raise a child, and illuminates the understanding of teachers, foster parents and Sam’s social worker. The adults are careful and caring and demonstrate their reliability in a world that is often unstable and impermanent. The other feature is how the book beautifully cultivates Sam and Leah’s friendship, depicting how it needs work, loyalty, and sometimes forgiveness, but then reaps huge rewards. Sam’s relationship with his foster parents’ young son, Reilly,         rollercoaster of a relationship, but always worthwhile and fundamental. There is also a fascinating scene when Reilly’s grandparents come to visit, and all the dynamics that entails. Readers will be most delighted though with the touches of humour throughout, which lighten the story and also create pathos; and Sam’s adventures in his school drama club, his gaming with Reilly, and his time with new friend Josh are all fun and incredibly touching. Foster’s cleverness is in writing the

 and yet how simple life is at the same time, distilling life’s complexities to their essence.      

empathy. Reading it will not only give recognition and self-awareness to those in a similar situation to the protagonist, but should help give other children an insight into their peers and how outward appearances do not always display what’s going on inside. This is delicately done, and exquisitely pitched for the age group. The only fault is that it feels a little

too long. It’s inevitable for the reader to see what Sam isn’t seeing early on, and it takes a while for the conclusion to come. When it does, it doesn’t carry the neat ending one might have thought, leaving a little looseness and uncertainty, which is, of course, true to life itself, and crucial in building resilience and showing that we need to be grateful for what we have. Sam knows that having a house isn’t the same as having a home. And Foster knows that having a story isn’t the same as putting it down well. Luckily for us, he’s managed both. CZ

Owl Or Pussycat? 

Michael Morpurgo, ill. Polly Dunbar, David Fickling Books, 978 1 7884 5072 0, £12.99 hbk

This is a stunner of a book bringing together story-teller par excellence, Michael Morpurgo and illustrator Polly Dunbar whose scenes of the drama are totally enchanting, capturing to perfection the author’s tale. A tale showing how even as a young child, he found delight in poetry, especially

recited aloud and how too, he seemed to have storytelling in his bones. Herein we share some of Michael’s

own childhood memories of performing in his school’s Christmas production of Edward Lear’s poem The Owl and the Pussycat, a favourite of his for which he was given the role of the Owl. Imagine his further excitement when he discovers that his (secret)  play the Pussycat. He can hardly wait to serenade her with that love song. But then his enthusiasm starts to pale a little as the rehearsals progress and come the afternoon of the play, things very nearly turn completely calamitous; but instead both leads give a show-stoppingly dramatic and unexpectedly brilliant performance. A beautiful telling with tinges of nostalgia as well as humour and joyfulness, all of which infuse Polly’s superb illustrations at just the right moment. Pitch perfect this. A story to share with individuals or classes in the run-up to Christmas and at all other times too. JB

Victoria Stitch: Bad and Glittering


Harriet Muncaster, OUP, 260pp, 9780192773579, £6.99 pbk

Celestine and Victoria Stitch are twin sisters, born from a royal diamond, so they should be next in succession to the throne of Wiskling Wood.        diamond it has been decreed that they will not inherit.

Celestine is

content with her lot and just wants to be a jeweller, but Victoria feels cheated and is determined to gain her inheritance regardless of how it is achieved. When a strange woman called Ursuline offers to help her with her quest, she willingly agrees. But then the Queen dies mysteriously and Victoria is put in prison, accused of          out the truth and hopefully save her sister from life in prison. Fans of Amelia Fang and Isadora Moon who want to move on to something longer and slightly more challenging will love this book by the author of the latter series. Victoria Stitch is a fascinating character, because although she seems to be the darker of the twins, we also get a sense of her own vulnerability and her great love for her sister. The main characters are strong, despite       themselves and they learn that not everyone is to be trusted. As always, Harriet Muncaster has produced the illustrations for this book and she has given us some truly magical images, which contrast the two sisters, whilst still showing their similarities. This is a    place in the world and the importance of family; it shows that we often love people in spite of some of their views and that there is a need to be understanding and supportive when they are having  will hopefully be a new series and it is an absolute delight. MP

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