BfK 8 – 10 Junior/Middle continued

the old days. But Jelt makes a return and Hank once again has to decide whether his own survival or what he thought was a friendship comes first. Their troubled key to

the what

relationship happens

and Hardinge describes and

with sensitive is next, it vividly psychological

understanding. Their island and its fantastic history meanwhile provide plenty of on-going excitement, given that nothing can ever be taken for granted. An exciting and near-fatal chase

Asterix and the Chieftain’s Daughter


Jean-Yves Ferri, illus. Didier Conrad, Orion, 48pp, 978 1 5101 0714 4, £7.99 pbk

You may not have certainly hadn’t – that,

noticed – I despite

rounds up a memorable

display of imaginative fireworks at their most spectacular. Is the mixture a little too rich on occasions? It is certainly a relief when Hank can spend a whole day without something unearthly coming his way. But with such a powerful imagination at work it is pointless to cavil over details. Read it and be swept away. NT

Tiger Heart HHHHH

Penny Chrimes, Orion, 245pp, 9781510107564, £7.99 pbk

This is a magical story set in a less than magical version of Victorian London. Fly is a young girl, abandoned at birth and then taken to work for a chimney sweep, climbing up and down the chimneys all day. One day she makes a bid for freedom and quite literally finds herself trapped in a cage with a rather large tiger. The strangest thing is that this creature begins to talk to her and she can understand him, but most oddly of all the tiger insists on calling her ‘princess’ and says that she comes from the same land as himself. They escape from the house they are in but find themselves hunted by the man responsible for bringing the tiger and other animals to this country. How they save themselves and many others as well as retrieving a valuable lost ruby makes for an exciting and mysterious story, with just a bit of magic, because after all tigers do not normally speak. The author

has created a

fantastical tale much of which could have happened, but some of which is pure imagination.

The descriptions

of London and in particular the ‘mud larks’ who scavenge the shores of the river Thames really bring home the reality of Victorian London for those who were living in abject poverty. This is a story about friendship, knowing yourself and trying to understand the world around you. It is a lesson in not letting physical possessions become the most important thing in life, but in knowing that people are what make the world a better place to live in.


is a tremendous adventure story that does not flinch from showing the bad as well as the good; so people die and others are saved. There is cruelty and also great kindness and Fly learns who she is as a character as well as who her parents are. It is a great read and I am sure we will hear more from this author. MP

the inconvenient death of both his creators, indomitable Asterix lives on. The original writer of the stories, Rene Goscinny, died in 1977, and, for thirty years, while his name continued to appear on the new titles, it was the illustrator, Albert Uderzo, who was really their writer. Now, with the books in a third incarnation, Goscinny and Uderzo, trapped in marketing purgatory, continue to head up the cover of this new adventure in large capital letters, while the real author and illustrator, whose fourth Asterix book this is, hide in much smaller type beneath the title. Well, it’s appropriate enough, if a little misleading, because things in the Gaulish village haven’t changed much in more than half a century. The familiar characters are there, the magic potion continues to prepare them for their endless skirmishes with the local Roman garrisons, the jokes are as groan worthy, and, to my unpractised eyes, the illustrations are indistinguishable from the reliance

originals. Despite on national

their stereotypes

and a cast that includes few female characters, Asterix titles have always given a nod to changing times and attitudes, so it’s not surprising that this latest

title puts a teenage girl

centre stage. This is Adrenalin, the fictional daughter of the historical Vercingetorix, the leader of the Gauls defeated

by Caesar. Asterix and

Co. are given the job of keeping her safe from kidnappers in the pay of the Romans, while she is intent on doing her own thing. This is the cue for jokes around teenage behaviour and relationships with parents which draw in the fishmonger’s son, Blinix, and the Blacksmith’s son, Selfipix. Yes, the newly coined names, too, show contemporary influences. The Gaulish traitor

hunting Adrenalin

down on behalf of the Romans is Binjwatchflix. Here older readers may feel the loss of the more subtle wit of Derek Hockridge and Anthea Bell, the translators who originated the punning English names for the characters. But, for the most part, it’s a book that will satisfy the fans. CB

Orphans of the Tide HHHH

Struan Murray, PenguinRandomhouse, 346pp, 9780241384435, £7.99 pbk

When Ellie pulls the boy from out of the whale’s stomach, she sets in motion events that threaten to destroy The City. Once more the Enemy has found a Vessel who will enable it to take on a body. But Ellie, herself, has an enemy or is he her friend, her brother? Who

28 Books for Keeps No.240 January 2020

is this mystery boy, Seth? full

Ellie is

convinced he is not the Enemy...but then who is? This is a richly imagined fantasy of action and jeopardy. The

author does not dwell too much on the background; the City and its sea- based world is presented fully fledged and its antecedents and history are revealed

through dialogue, and events as the manifestations asides story unfolds.

We are immersed in a world where Inquisitors rule, always on the lookout for

– a real entity who has caused destruction in the past

requires a human ‘Vessel’ to come fully alive. Can it be defeated?

of The Enemy but who The

action takes place in a teeming urban setting, reminiscent of a Dickensian London.

Ellie is an independent

character determined to follow her mother’s footsteps as an engineer and inventor. The sea is source of livelihood – and once there were the gods of the sea. Both Ellie and Seth have hidden pasts and memories that they are either suppressing or cannot access. It is their secrets that will provide the final twist to this plot- driven story. An immersive, intriguing, action-packed narrative from a debut author; recommended. FH

Sofa Surfer HHH

Malcolm Duffy, Zephyr, 320pp, 978 1 7866 9767 7, £10.99, hbk

Malcolm Duffy has set out to write a book that of


highlights the homelessness,

fiction, with at least one major episode

campaigning literature contrived to


what it might feel like to spend a night on the streets if you’re not prepared for it. However, this is an issue


that needs raising and it’s that

young people might

learn much from a story as well told as this. Tyler, the central character, is not homeless himself but has been uprooted from London to live in Ilkley in Yorkshire when his dad changes jobs. Friendless in his new home, he strikes up an acquaintanceship with Spider, a Geordie girl, who has just been thrown off the sofa at her cousin’s house. At first, Tyler does not realise that Spider is sleeping rough but, once he does, he goes to some lengths to help her, including allowing her to live at his house, without his parents’ knowledge, when he and the family are on holiday. If that sounds a bit

far-fetched, it is

nevertheless understandable in view of Duffy’s drawing of Tyler’s situation and

character: alienated lonely, temporarily

well-meaning and more than a little hapless,

in thinking

from his family, really particularly

through the possible repercussions of his actions. Duffy embeds him in recognisable relationships, with his parents, with Michele, a possessive girl from school who has picked him for a holiday romance, and, most of all, with Spider, where his attempts to

issue and

occasionally his novel reads more like


help are appreciated and resented in equal measure. Duffy tells his story with winning humour and readers will be genuinely pleased, as I was, that both Tyler and Spider are in a better place at the end of the story. CB

A House Without Walls HHHHH

Elizabeth Laird, Macmillan, 9781509886012, 320pp, £6.99 pbk

Now out in paperback, this novel is told in the voice of Safiya, a twelve-year- old from contemporary Damascus in Syria. Without a mother, she lives with Baba, her comfortably off lawyer father plus older brother Tariq in an area of the town spared constant bombing. But serious threats come from the legions of secret police on the look- out for anyone out of sympathy with the regime. After a tip-off the family flees to neighbouring Jordan, and on the journey Baba is robbed of all his money. Their new home is now a tent pitched on a patch of ground outside the house of some better-off relatives. What started as something of an adventure has ended in disaster. Deprived off any further schooling,

Safiya now works cleaning the tent and cooking skimpy meals. But she remains an ever-lively presence with plenty of other diversionary interests and concerns going on in her young life. Why will no-one tell her anything about her dead mother? Will she ever find her lost twin sister? Is she being set up for an unwished-for early marriage? Chapters often end on these or other urgent questions still hanging in the air, hopefully to be answered in the next. This is story-telling at its most skilled and experienced. Things do improve via a number

of happy coincidences. Finally united with Saba, her twin sister, Safiya still has to work hard to make this new relationship viable. Her own angry and envious emotions that sometimes burst out render her all the more human and believable. In an afterword the

author tells of working with

present-day refugees and some of the memorable characters, young and old, she met while doing so. This excellent story does them all proud. NT

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