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reviews 10 – 14 Middle/Secondary continued New talent


Where The World Turns Wild HHHHH


Nicola Penfold, Stripes, 223pp, 978-1-78895-152-4, £6.99 pbk


Where The World Turns Wild was selected for the 2018 Undiscovered Voices anthology and shortlisted for the Joan Aiken Future Classics prize in 2017. It is a prescient and convincing story of a world entirely cut off from the beauties of Nature it has done its best to annihilate. ReWilders, intent on preserving what remained, developed


a


virulent strain of ticks whose bites contained a disease which killed human beings. The result was the construction of cities which isolated human beings from all things natural and condemned them to wholly artificial lives under the oppressive control of leaders like Portia Steel. Juniper and Bear, sent by their


parents from Ennerdale to live in the city with their grandmother Annie Rose in the mistaken belief that they would be safer there, are resistant to the disease. When Steel orders those who are resistant to undergo blood transfusions in the hope of passing on the resistance to others, Annie Rose realises it is time for the siblings to attempt to escape the city and make the perilous journey to Ennerdale to rejoin their parents. Penfold


viciously controlled


creates a chilling and environment


in Steel’s city where everything -including food - is artificially manufactured and all must abide by restrictive rules. It takes no great leap of imagination to see clear echoes of our own lives here, lives diminished by our increasingly aggressive overuse of the resources


Prisoners of Geography – Our World in 12 Simple Maps


HHHHH


Tim Marshall, ill. Grace Easton, Jessica Smith, Simon & Schuster, 78pp, 978 1 78396 4130, £16.99, hbk


Based on the acclaimed original book written for adults this version seeks to introduce geopolitics to a younger age group showing the combined impact of geography, history and politics on the world we know. The book includes


additional illustration


information and striking throughout,


including


several stunning full-page spreads. An attractive, enlightening and


interesting text not only for younger readers but adults too. SMc


Blue Watch HHH


John Harvey, Troika, 248pp., 9781909991996, £7.99 pbk


At fifteen years old, Jack knocks over his evacuee host, a rather brutal farmer, and finds himself back in London.


In 1940 London is in the


of our planet. Bear and Juniper’s journey is perilous and taxing but the protection of a lynx and of the band of Romany gypsies they meet when they are at their lowest ebb sustains them. It is, again, very telling that those elements of nature which they are able to identify they have previously only seen in books. When they finally reach


Ennerdale the poignancy of their mother’s death four years ago and their


father’s from the settlement


temporary absence beautifully


avoid the saccharine trap of the happy ending. The children must decide where in the Wild their future will eventually lie, but wherever it is, they will be free. Where The World Turns Wild is crafted novel which


a beautifully


skilfully weaves a multiplicity of narrative strands together. On one level it is an exciting and affecting read-on another it is an urgent summons to save what little we have left of the natural world. VR


the mountain range which forms a natural


China and the plentiful gas resources in Russia which have


barrier between India and given


region highlighting aspects of strategic importance


such as why certain annotated


maps with key events, decisions and policies which have been significant in causing countries to prosper or struggle. Readers discover how the USA has been ‘blessed by geography’ becoming a superpower and Africa has been ‘hindered by Geography’ and beset with problems due in part to its large swathes of desert regions. The impact of geographical features on trade, defence and prosperity is also illustrated. Two examples are


countries rule the waves and how they seek after and guard their sea routes. The impact of colonialism and key historical events have had on nations is explored including the development of the slave trade and the longstanding effect of arbitrary decisions made by western leaders which led to the partition of Pakistan and India and the creation of modern Iraq. The book’s creators aim to present


complex ideas and concepts such as scale in a highly visual and varied format; for example, the true size of the continent of Africa is conveyed by demonstrating how many large countries such as China and The USA could fit within it. The annotated maps are interspersed with commentary,


the


country strategic power. There is a potted history of each


midst of the Blitz, and Jack’s father who is a fireman on the Blue Watch of the title, is a very busy man. His mother has a new and very secret job and is living away, so Jack needs to find something to do. He is taken on as a Fire Brigade messenger, a risky job involving taking messages to various fire brigade units as the telephone system is often down. He encounters a refugee girl, Lilith who has made herself a home in a derelict house, and also becomes involved in helping the police solve a criminal gang being aided by a corrupt policeman. There is a great deal of detail in the


book of the work of the emergency services, principally of course the Fire Brigade during the Blitz, and a stark picture emerges of the life of ordinary people at this time. Jack is a resourceful lad, only seeming to exist on toast and jam with the odd pilchard, and at fifteen is doing a very adult job often in extreme danger, not only cycling through the aftermath of the bombing but also helping rescue people buried by debris. It would perhaps have been more credible for Jack to undertake such work if he had been sixteen, not fifteen? Would parents really leave a teenager to his own devices and such dangerous work? There is a certain detachment to the writing which makes it at times a little hard to engage with Jack and his family, but the story does paint a good picture of the conditions under which people lived in the early years of the Second World War and is certainly not short of action. Because of some of the details this is towards the top of the age range 10-14. It would be good for teenage boys who are reluctant to read. JF


Orion Lost HHHH


Alastair Chisholm, Nosy Crow, 361pp, 978 1 78800 592 0, £6.99 pbk


25 pages in, and thirteen-year-old Beth has already faced up to a bully – a kid called Arnold several inches taller than herself - in what almost ended in a punch-up in the cafeteria. She’s met a geeky girl whose non- stop chatter travels the familiar route from awesome to totally to dude and back again to awesome. There’s a quiet lad who’s into studying foreign languages. Beth finds an older boy, Vihaan, irritatingly cool, even contemptuous towards other young people. It could be one of those YA stories starting with the first day at a new school, where readers of Alastair Chisholm’s debut novel might feel very


much at home; except they’ve also learned that they’re aboard Orion, a transport spaceship embarked on a pioneering mission. As she explored the vessel, Beth has encountered the


ubiquitous ‘Ship, the Orion’s


central interface’, a kind of Super- Alexa, which materialises as an oval blue head with “very lifelike eyes”, floating into view when summoned by crew or passengers to provide advice, information, or answers to queries. In those early chapters, we have also met five of the novel’s six young protagonists and glimpsed their main characteristics in action. Beth herself is interestingly complicated;


she’s


uncertain about her own strengths, but in the way she handled Arnold we’ve already seen she lacks nothing in courage or empathy. Orion’s occupants are colonists,


leaving Earth behind en route for a new life on the distant dwarf star, Eos Five. The young people’s skills include high level computing, practical engineering and training in Command techniques. They’ll need such resources in the coming days, for there are ruthless enemies out there in space, such as the piratical Scrapers who live by plundering ships like Orion. At least the Scrapers are human – the voyagers are far more wary of the Videshi, aliens whose


intentions remain opaque.


What’s more, it seems there may also be an enemy within. The world of Orion is convincingly without Chisholm


‘other’


overwhelming us with technology. One of his most ingenious inventions is ‘Jumping’, a manoeuvre whereby ships can slip swiftly through ‘folds’ in space, clipping light years off a journey. It’s during an emergency Jump that major problems arise, leaving the young people in control of the ship, far from Earth while the adults lie locked in a state of suspended sleep, unable to be woken. Orion is seriously damaged; everything depends on the six young people, their skills, their native wits and daring – an echo of fictions reaching back to the likes of Coral Island by way of Swallows and Amazons, where the pressures of the plot test young people to their limits in an adult-free world. Beth has the responsibilities of Acting Captain thrust upon her by Ship – on the grounds that she scored 0.5% higher in a recent Command Training exam than Vihaan, the more experienced candidate and, as it happens, the son of the sleeping Captain of the Orion. He resents her authority, even as his training requires him to obey her. Her other challenges include not only marauding Scrapers and Videshi, but also carrying out essential repairs to Orion without experienced technicians or


fully functioning tools.


There are betrayals and double dealings to be confronted along the way, as the Orion races towards a finale which finds a surprising touch of comedy – at the expense of adults – in the concluding pages. GF


Books for Keeps No.240 January 2020 29


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