reviews 10 – 14 Middle/Secondary continued

better teaching.. Through it all runs the support of the community, family, church and each other, also of course her love of mathematics. She must have been an inspiring teacher! Girls of all ages need to read the

story of this amazing woman, not just

because she fought against

all the odds to succeed because of her colour, but because she was a woman, and a woman mathematician to boot! Just a small point, the paper is

horrid to handle and the typeface is very faint, such a pity. JF

notion – an illustration unique in this reviewer’s wide

experience. Every

school library should have a copy of Burke’s book. RB

Burning Sunlight HHHH

Anthea Simmons, Andersen, 306pp, 9781839130441, £7.99 pbk

On the face of it this is an unlikely story. Twelve-year old Zaynab, hijab- wearing and fresh from Somaliland, is now living in Devon with her scientist father

following the death of her Break the Mould HHHHH

Sinéad Burke, illus Natalie Byrne, 224pp, Wren and Rook, 978-1526363336, £8.99pbk

Sinéad Burke is an Irish teacher, fashion journalist and writer. She describes herself as ‘a little person’, meaning that she has achondroplasia, or (as she herself states) dwarfism. Her book is a combination of two elements, an autobiography and a manual for those who feel different in their lives. She explains how important it is to have dreams alongside the differences that mark an individual. Unlike some books of a similar nature Burke does not shy away from the fact that she has faced darker times. She also understands that a disabled reader may do likewise. It is important to emphasise that Burke’s book is intended for


general reader, not just for readers who happen to

share the same

impairment as the author – which is an attribute too common among such publications. The book is designed to help young people with different physical or intellectual difficulties succeed

without minimising the

impact of those impairments. Her voice is strong and reassuring. Yet her narrative rings with the truth of someone who has faced the serious problems of disability. One of Natalie Byrne’s illustrations

shows a person in a wheelchair holding a banner for Black Lives Matter. A disabled person socially engaged: what an unusual and revolutionary

much-loved activist mother. Haughty, outspoken, and already effortlessly proficient in spoken English, she and her only new school friend quiet, shy but ultimately heroic Lucas, still manage to organise a Climate Change rebellion so successful it ends with the resignation of a dodgy Cabinet Minister. The last pages, where everyone present, adult and child, pour congratulations onto this odd couple are well in the tradition of Enid Blyton’s fantasy-flattering endings. But what still manages to sustain this narrative successfully throughout is Zaynab’s fury about the way Climate Change has wrecked her home country. It is hard to imagine any other text written for children at the moment as fierily eloquent about the damage being done to parts of our planet. It does not really matter that characters tend to be two-dimensional, opinions rather although

there than

to express personality, Zaynab’s long-suffering

headmistress is an exception here – wise as well as commanding. Because everything that Zaynab

has to say rings unfortunately true, put over in simple but effective terms that while forceful never descend into preaching. The half-hearted reactions she receives until the campaign really gets under way are also sadly typical. But here is a novel that might actually lead to some change, at least


attitudes, and as such it deserves its welcome. The front cover features six slightly raised badges, each signifying a determination to break away from oil products. After finishing this story, scorching in more ways than one, young readers may well want to search out

for real badges carrying the same sort of message.NT

Fighting Fantasy: Crystal of Storms


Rhianna Pratchett, ill. Eva Eskilinen, Scholastic, 276pp, 9781407199689, £6.99 pbk

This latest adventure story from the Fighting Fantasy team is very much full of fighting and full of fantasy! A renowned games designer, Pratchett delivers a book that is imaginative and exciting but, most of all, is a fiendish and complex game that will keep children busy for some time. Readers’ own decisions drive this

adventure, right from the very start. Readers choose their own character’s back story and this dictates


journey that will be taken: choosing one home town over another can be the difference between life and death. Whichever initial path they choose,

readers will be thrust straight into the heart of the action. In The Crystal of Storms, nobody is quite as they seem, and everyone is at war with someone, so there are very few moments to catch a breath before another conflict. In Fighting Fantasy stories, readers

have to use dice and keep track of their weapons and provisions, in order to take on villains and progress through the book. In Crystal of Storms, though, unlike most Fighting Fantasy adventures, heroes don’t start with any provisions, so there is additional stress trying to win, find or steal some food before it’s too late! Newcomers may be caught out by this and few will succeed in getting all the way through the book without meeting a sticky end at the hands of goblins, scary cloudskins or simple hunger. With magic waterfalls, giant crabs

and corrosive grapes, children will enjoy losing themselves in this new world. However, its characters (heroes and villains) lack some of the originality and memorability of some other books in the series. The outstanding quality of this book

is the high level of gaming challenge. Tough dilemmas are frequently faced, including whether or not to let people live and, often, even the seemingly small decisions


consequences! SD Diamonds


Armin Greder, Allen & Unwin, 36pp, 978-1911631910, £12.99 hbk

‘These are diamonds, aren’t they,

Mama?’ Carolina’s innocent question leads to further questions and finally in answer to her ‘where?’ to Africa. But maid, Amina comes from Africa – so why doesn’t Amina have diamonds? This question is brushed away, but for Carolina (and the reader) it stays. Carolina’s


miners for whom there is no reward as they writhe and toil underground, we see the violence that diamonds inspire, the greed, the duplicitous negotiations.

There are no words

after the opening dialogue; the story is told through these images – until Amina’s final answer to her mistress ‘Don’t worry, madam. It was only a nightmare’ – and it was – and is, but a nightmare that is not a dream but a reality. The format of this book – as with Greder’s other

titles – is that of

the picture book. But this is not a picture book for the kinderbox. It is an uncomfortable read, demanding a response and raising issues about which there is deafening silence. This is a book that should be included in the curriculum in Secondary Schools, from PHSE to fashion, and should be on every adult library shelf. FH

This Wonderful Thing HHHH

Adam Baron, HarperCollins Children’s Books, 978-0008267087, 400pp, £7.99 pbk

Adam Baron tackled big themes of loss, grief and mental illness in his impressive and much-liked debut, Boy Underwater. In this, his third novel for young readers, he brings back some

of the characters in enormous

another stand-alone story that is as big on the emotions as it is on drama and action. Cym (Cymbeline) is facing turmoil at home: his mother’s new boyfriend Stephan is moving in with his two daughters. Cym’s father has also moved back in, temporarily. It’s a lot for anyone to handle and comes hot on the heels of an upsetting break-in, in which the burglars turned over Cym’s bedroom. Meanwhile, in Brighton,

sisters Jessica and Milly consciousness

takes us on the true journey of these diamonds from the mine in Africa to the necklace worn by her mother. Greder’s reputation as an artist who confronts some of the most challenging and urgent

issues thrives on inequality of

our time can only be enhanced as he explores how the desire for conspicuous wealth fuels a market that


corruption. The opening dialogue – so undramatic but so revealing of adult attitudes – establishes the scene. As he does in The Mediterranean, Greder starts at the end of his story, here we see the conclusion of the journey taken by the diamonds for our society the ultimate gift, an expression of love or admiration. But their existence in our society begs the question – how did they get here? And Greder shows us, through powerful charcoal images reminiscent of Goya and Daumier at

their most bleak. We see the

are also facing change. Their father is sick and with just one salary coming in, their mum may be forced to sell their house. Though the children are total strangers, fate – in the shape of an extremely fluffy teddy – brings them together in an exciting story of stolen treasure no less. If the plot demands a fair bit of suspension of disbelief, the children themselves

are and Baron’s totally credible

depiction of blended family life is wonderfully

wry, good-humoured accurate. He loves to

highlight those daily, often unnoticed miscommunications between adult and child, which are funny, poignant and revealing. Whatever is going on, everyone, child and adult alike, understands what’s really important, and that is what the story comes down to in the end.

Along the way,

in a very fast-moving plot, the author constructs some extraordinary action scenes, the climax a chase along the banks of the Thames, in which every young protagonist gets to show off their particular talent, even the youngest, unicorn-obsessive Mabel. The happy ending is thoroughly satisfying and

deserved, but it’s

the family scenes that make this so special. MMa

Books for Keeps No.246 January 2021 31

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