them. She is determined to find Pear and to escape with her from her wretched life with her parents. When she runs away from the

8 – 10 Junior/Middle continued can


luxury hotel in which her parents are staying and begins her search for Pear she finds to her horror that Pear has been sacked from her job at a couture house, has vacated her flat and has vanished without trace. Nell is homeless, penniless and in desperate straits until she meets the marvellous network of young people living In Paris’s underground passages and cellars. Eagle’s characters are beautifully

created and the adrenaline level is high. Adventure abounds when Nell discovers a stolen spore sample in Melinda’s

designer handbag and

slowly, the dastardly plot instigated by the Mayor and her parents to infect Paris’s boulangeries with a mould- creating spore and thus build their own confectionary empire begins to unfold.

This is a rumbustious, rollicking

adventure with a generous heart- and a happy ending. Those on the side of right are rewarded and the wrongdoers are punished. Caricature is strenuously

avoided greed, as but the

protagonists live and breathe with their own lives and concerns. Eagle explores themes of love, betrayal, friendship and

Otto Tattercoats and the Forest of Lost Things


Matilda Woods, ill.Kathrin Honesta, Scholastic, 269pp, 978140718493, £6.99 pbk

Otto and his mother have moved to the frozen town of Hodeldorf, so that she could follow her craft of coat making. Soon after their arrival she mysteriously disappears and Otto is left, with no home and no money. He is then taken to a local factory, where he becomes part of the child labour work force and life looks very bleak. However, high above the rooftops, huddling near the chimney pots to find some warmth are children known as ‘Tattercoats’, many of whom had escaped from the horrors of the factory. The ‘Tattercoats’ of the title are a tightly knit community of children, who live by a strong set of rules based on helping each other and only having one coat at a time; only getting another when the first has become tattered, hence the name. So when Otto disappears whilst searching for his mother, it is up to the others to go after him, even though they have to face many dangers out in the dark wood, away from the town. The questions are, can these children rescue Otto and the others and will Otto be able to find his mother and bring her back to the town? This is a thrilling story of survival against the odds and how friendship


preaches. This book will fly off school library shelves! VR

insurmountable overcome seemingly odds. It mixes a

sense of fairy tale with a feel of gothic in the creepy and frightening polish factory, run by the evil Frau Ferber and her two sons. The author manages to draw us into the story, having created an environment that is both physically and emotionally chilling. The story is full of adventure, action and mystery, with just a hint of magic and will suit both boys and girls alike. This is definitely a brilliant new story and one that I think will make quite a stir in the coming year. MP

The Girl Who Stole An Elephant


Nizrana Farook, Nosy Crow, 256pp,

978 1 7880 0634 7, £6.99 pbk

Set in the lush landscape of the ancient Sri Lankan land of Serendib, Chaya is a Robin Hood for her times, stealing from the rich to alleviate the misfortunes of the poor. She is outspoken, and staunch in her beliefs about standing up for what’s right, but goes a step too far by stealing the queen’s jewels. When her friend Neel is arrested as the culprit, Chaya must not only break him out of the King’s prison, but run for her life through the jungle, and hope that she can find them both a happy ending. Farook excels at creating a setting brimming with colour and life. From the

elephant Chaya inadvertently

uses to escape, through to a jungle encounter with a leopard, the feel of

picture of the her

King’s palace and temple, with briefly captured descriptions that work well as the plot forges forwards with pace. Chaya

is accompanied conversations the on

journey by her friend Neel, and also

acquaintance Nour, and the between

of their

particularly the two girls, serve not only as a reminder

three, child

status with an authenticity to their banter and bickering, but also remind the reader of the true meaning of friendship - there is wisdom and warmth here. Having a main character


forthright and adventurous means that

readers are not along in her wake, only swept but can also

debate the rights and wrongs of her impetuous actions. Frequently coming across danger, Chaya makes immediate decisions, often with severe consequences, and the book succeeds

at making the

empathise with not only Chaya, but her friends too. The language is simple and the

chapters short and pacey, making it a swift read for the age group, but this pace means that the plot is slightly let down by a simplicity in motivation and

26 Books for Keeps No.241 March 2020 leeches on the skin, and the

sanctuary of water when needed, the jungle feels vivid and vibrant. Farook also draws a clear

a lack of moral nuance. Arguments are easily resolved and forgotten, and despite the good twist, the book feels rather too quickly concluded. CZ

The Magic of Mums HHHHH

Justin Coe, ill. Steve Wells, Otter-Barry Books, 96pp, 978 1 91095 964 0, £6.99 pbk

Justin Coe’s brand new collection of poems is all about The Magic of Mums and aren’t mums truly amazing? I like the A to Z arrangement of the 46 poems beginning with Action Mum and ending with Zzzz Mother. After all the things mums have to do, I’m not surprised they need some rest! The different types of poems have

been written to be performed and shared. The diverse collection means that young and not so young readers will be able find a poem to match their unique mums. I’m sure there is a poem for every mum out there because Justin Coe has included funny poems,

heartfelt poems

and serious poems as part of this compilation. I wonder which one will be your favourite poem and why. My personal favourite is called Gentle Mum. It is written as a kenning, ‘trouble-smoother,

worry soother’

with all of the things wonderful, real life mums do each and every day. I’ve shared it with my mum because it described her so well and she absolutely loved it. This collection is a follow up to

Justin Coe’s Dictionary of Dads. I think children

between of 8 and 10 would the ages appreciate

the different styles of poetry and begin to understand more current issues such as those described in Windrush Mum. I think Justin Coe shares his observations with honesty, humour and love. You can tell he is a performance poet from the way the poems have been written because you find yourself reading them aloud. The illustrations by Steve Wells are black and white cartoons and are powerful in that they reinforce the ideas of diversity and inclusivity after all we are all different and difference should be celebrated. KK

Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Missing Diamonds


Annabelle Sami, ill. Daniela Sosa, Little Tiger Press, 231pp, 978 1 78895 206 4, £6.99

Ziaba has always been fascinated by detective work and indeed sleuthing is in her blood; her Aunt Fouzia runs the Snow Leopard Detective Agency. She is also influenced by her favourite book, Eden

Lockett’s reader

part of the preparations for Sam’s forthcoming wedding Zaiba’s inherent

cousin Sam’s Mehndi party, to Tanvir.

sleuthing skills

spring into action early on with the arrival of a mystery celebrity to the

hotel, the identity of which Zaiba is determined to uncover. Before long the plot thickens when the celebrity’s precious pet greyhound goes missing along with a valuable diamond. Zaiba, her brother Ali, and best friend Poppy are determined to solve the mystery and catch the perpetrators… if own their relatives at the Mehdi party don’t get in the way of their investigation! This is an exciting and fun

adventure story reminiscent of the Famous Five stories or the Nancy Drew mysteries

which will keep

young readers gripped. The main character Zaiba is feisty, intelligent and determined and being British Pakistani is an important


much needed addition to children’s literature enabling more children to identify with the main characters Great fun from start to finish. Zaiba will capture the imagination of all young would-be detectives. KF

Super Cats V Maximus Fang HHH

Gwyneth Rees, ill. Becka Moor, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 160pp, 9781408894224, £5.99 pbk

A new series about superhero cats -a superhero cat crew are fighting crime to keep their cat streets safe. Tag and his best friend Sugar foot

are new recruits, being trained by Topaz Top Cat. The book starts with a training exercise

for Tag which

doesn’t go so well and makes him feel unconfident about his abilities. There’s some good messages about perseverance and friendship in the book. Indeed the new recruits need these attributes when they have to take on the tough mission of defeating Maximus Fang. The adventure story is great and has plenty of humour and puns too. For example the baddy cat guards have a can of dog wee spray to hand: ‘Concentrated dog wee was the vilest, foulest irritant known to cat-kind.’

The writing is enhanced by Becka Detective

Handbook. Zaiba and her family have gathered

at the Royal Star Hotel to celebrate her

Moor’s illustrations. The front cover is super colourful with a masked cat in a cape and an obvious baddy cat peering out on the back cover. There are enough illustrations within the book to support the reader and break up the text BUT there as also well placed full page black and white illustrations too. So the book would be great for, perhaps, a reluctant reader who is in upper key stage and would get the humour and the superhero link too. It would also be a great chapter book for lower key stage two readers who would have plenty of illustrations to break up the text and make it feel less daunting. The characters make up a good

crew so therefore children would, I’m sure be really keen to read on and find out about more adventures in the coming series. SG

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