reviews Junior/Middle continued Jungledrop 

Abi Elphinstone, ill. George Ermos, Simon & Schuster, 276pp, 9781471173684, £7.99

This is the second full length novel in the Unmapped Chronicles series and introduces us to another of the four worlds that help support our own, through the magic that they possess and share with us. Fox and Fibber Petty-Squabble are the central characters in this story; they are a pair of twins and their parents are extremely wealthy, as well as being two of the most obnoxious      want to meet. The children have been brought up to despise any signs of compassion, caring, friendship or even basic humanity; they have been set against each other from birth and  parents’ attention. After a chance meeting with an old man (Jasper Tock  themselves on board a mysterious steam train and then the adventure begins. The problem is that in order to defeat the harpy called the Morg and save the kingdom of Jungledrop, as well as our own world, they will have to work together and this seems to be an impossibility. The quest that they         in unexpected places and with some amazing characters.

Once again, the author has given us a truly magical world but the two       would hope for. However, the quest        just about defeating the Morg, it is      learning to understand that it is not a weakness if you help other people. The gradually changes in Fox and her brother Fibber are beautifully observed and the introduction of the mind-reading parrot called Heckle means that their developing thoughts are made known to all of us. This is   aspects of our jungles, but things such as a hummingbird playing a piano and people riding unicycles in the trees       of the exotic to the story. The story is an absolute delight and the creative imagination of the author takes us on a fantastic journey to this other world. MP

The Silver Arrow 

Lev Grossman, ill Tracy Bishop, Brandon Dorman, Bloomsbury, 258pp, 9781526629401, £10.99 hbk

For her eleventh birthday Kate

decides to write to her unknown, but very rich, Uncle Herbert and ask him if she could have a birthday present. What she did not expect was the arrival of a vast lorry, carrying an enormous old steam engine. Not only that, but also her Uncle and a load of workmen who lay rail track in her

back garden; however, her parents are not at all happy and say she can only keep it on a temporary basis. What Kate, her brother Tom and even their uncle did not envisage was that the engine would start to work all by itself. The consequences take the two children on the adventure of a lifetime; where they meet and help a variety of animals, all of whom are endangered species.

Whilst this is a brilliantly exciting

adventure story, full of magic, it is also a very salient look at the state of endangered animals. The situation for the Pangolin was heart breaking and really brings the message home. The author has taken an ordinary world and added an extremely imaginative way of describing how animals need our help and how we have affected them and their habitats over the millennia. The work of the illustrator really brings the story alive and she has given a great deal of character to the black and white illustrations. Another underlying theme is the relationship between the children and their parents. It seems to epitomize the situation that many  parents work very hard and have little time for the children, even though that is the most precious thing we can give to a child. I am very hopeful that we will see more adventures for Kate and the Silver Arrow and that they are able to help even more animals in need of support. This is a heart-warming story for MG age range. MP

Skunk and Badger 

Amy Timberlake, illus Jon Klassen, Scholastic, 144pp, 9781407199399, £12.99 hbk

No one wants a Skunk as their live-in lodger, so when Skunk arrives, Badger has a dilemma. Skunk has after all been sent by Badger’s aunt. But Badger is a solitary sort, completely set in his ways and focussed on his important Rock Studies. Skunk is very  do not look good.

This is a book that demands to be read aloud. The author’s voice is distinctive and immediate speaking directly to her audience. Badger and Skunk emerge, solidly real and distinctive as their relationship unfolds. And then there are the chickens. There is a thoroughly enjoyable surrealism woven into the narrative adding colour to the whole while emphasising the central theme that differences between people (or as in this case, animals) can only enrich friendships. Timberlake here joins the ranks of writers like Lobel with Frog and Toad, to bring us a memorable pairing that delights. Klassen’s full colour frontispiece sets the scene while his illustrations throughout the book add moments to  FH

Tinsel 

Sibéal Pounder, Bloomsbury, 306pp, 9781526619273, hdbk, £9.99

Sibéal Pounder is the author of the Witch Wars and Bad Mermaids series, and also wrote the ‘sequel’ to Eva Ibbotson’s The Secret


Platform 13. This book is also strong on girl power as she imagines how Christmas might have been invented by two girls, and Santa Claus was only presumed to be male because of an itchy white face warmer which does look rather like a beard… Anyway, to begin at the beginning:

in 1875, Blanche Claus, a young girl with snow-white hair, is homeless and sleeping under a bridge when she is given a magical bauble as a Christmas present by a mysterious old woman. There is a snowy world inside it, and a dancing Christmas tree, and she longs          badly beaten horse whom she names Rudy, and is galloping out of control when she is rescued by a creatively dressed girl of her own age, also       of many mince pie picnics, a lasting friendship begins, surviving as Blanche becomes a very successful carter at the docks, using Rudy, though, because girls are not allowed to be carters, she has to tuck her hair inside her cap, and Rinki is adopted by Captain Garland and     is Head of the London Costume Society, is very well-dressed, and even designs a ballgown for Queen Victoria- eventually he is responsible for the famous red and white costume, and his work funds Captain Garland’s expeditions. Realising that the present of the bauble changed her life for the better, Blanche tells Rinki that she would love to be able to give every child in the world a present, and Rinki exclaims, ‘Let’s do it! If anyone can do it, it’s us!’ and Blanche, musing about chimneys, starts to wonder whether it might be possible... There is a subplot involving a nasty neighbour who wants to stop people having fun, and all sorts of

complications, but it’s a rollicking good story, however whimsical, with      challenges the carter boys, who resented her getting the best jobs, to realise that she got the work even though she was really a Girl, and Blanche and Rinki are brimful of ideas. Every part of the Santa Claus legend is worked out, even Rudy’s red nose, and this is hugely enjoyable. DB

The Wolf’s Secret 

Myriam Dahman & Nicolas Digard Ill Julia Sardà, Orchard Books, 48pp, 9781408355299 £12.99 hbk

The Wolf is a feared and mighty hunter, the true lord of the forest. But one day he falls under the spell of a song, music made by a girl singing to her father who lies ill. When the music stops, the wolf is           have consequences Drawing on motives that appear in

Andersen’s Little Mermaid and the tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, the authors have created a story that has the rhythm and atmosphere of a folk or fairy tale. Like all such tales, there is also   However, here the authors introduce a  of shared fears. They tell their story simply and directly, taking their audience with them into this world of dark forests where the possibility of a sorcerer with a cloak of leaves and a magic egg are entirely reasonable. Sardà’s illustrations bring their imaginings to life. Here her distinctive style is perfectly suited to this world in which there is magic and mystery. Her dark palette emphasises the power of the wolf and the mystery of the forest; the decorative details within the illustrations enhance the traditional atmosphere evoked by the storytelling. A beautiful production in which great care has been taken to ensure the choice of font and design make this an accessible and enjoyable experience. A book the reader wants to pick up, a story that will be enjoyed. FH

Middle/Secondary A Secret of Birds & Bone


Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Chicken House, 336pp, 9781911077947, £12.99 hdbk

    famous bone-binder, and little brother, Ermin just outside Sienna. She can see the towers from the olive grove that is her haven with their pet crow, Corvith. Returning from a day spent in the olive tree branches she overhears a conversation between her mother and a strange, masked visitor with a sinister magpie companion. After this meeting, her mother’s mood      

especially when she and her brother      gates of the city orphanage? Kiran Millwood Hargrave has established a reputation for creating imaginative novels for a KS2       is no exception. Here she transports the reader to an Italy of the past; a time when the city states are ruled by an elite aristocracy. Sienna is no exception, governed by a much loved beautiful Duchess who is never seen.        Duchess is in mourning. However, all is not as it seems. The tense atmosphere, the heat, the excitement of the re-established Palio are all excellently created by the author.

Books for Keeps No.245 November 2020 29

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