BfK 10 – 14 Middle/Secondary continued

brother. Ren flees with Niagrinn but too late realises she has been tricked as Niagrinn needs her mage skills to release his own power to become fully demon. It is up to Torak and Wolf to rescue her in a dramatic climax. This is master and


storytelling; thrilling by

turns. The books are meticulously researched and Michelle Paver is so adept at describing the environment in vivid detail along with the daily life of the different clans that you feel you are actually there with Renn, Torak and Wolf. The story is imbued with a spirituality and a respect for nature which adds to the story together with a strand pointing out that the equality of women and men is viewed differently in different

cultures. A

welcome return to this fascinating world. JC

the Scythian temple guards, but just as quickly rescued by Alcibiades, that great Athenian hero/villain, and a man who understands the appeal of fame for its own sake as well as any 21st century reality TV star. Lawrence

does a superb job,

bringing 4th century BC Athens to life in all its glory, a city where philosophers were as famous as popstars today, while not letting up on the less agreeable aspects – public hygiene, slavery, lice. The three young people do meet Socrates, and he’s everything Solomon Daisy hoped – brilliant, inspiring, heroic, singular. It’s testament not knowledge

just and subject, but passion for to her ability as a

storyteller, that everyone reading the book will feel familiar with the great man too and keen to read more about his life and philosophy. Time

travel adventure doesn’t

come better than this, not just bringing the past to life but actively sending readers off in search of it themselves. MMa

The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates


Jenny Pearson, ill. Rob Biddulph, Usborne, 304pp, 9781474974042, £6.99, pbk

This is the first novel by Jenny Pearson and it is an action comedy that races along at an exciting pace from start to finish, with plenty of laughs and a few tears along the way - accompanied by the typically terrific illustrations of Rob Biddulph. Freddie lives with his rather lazy

Time Travel Diaries: Adventures in Athens


Caroline Lawrence, Piccadilly Press, 288pp, 978-1848128477, £6.99 pbk

Caroline Lawrence takes readers

on another action-packed excursion into the ancient world, to be precise Athens in the time

of Socrates.

Her two heroes, Alex and his friend Dinu, have

Daisy. Now, Solomon already time travelled

back to Roman London on behalf of and thanks to ‘mad bazillionnaire’, Solomon


offering them £10,000,000 each and, just as important, fame in one of his computer games, to time travel again and discover what Socrates was really like. Of course they accept – what 14 year old wouldn’t? – and before you can say ‘Alay-thay leg-ace, O Soak- rah-tace’, it’s the 380sBC and the two are spluttering in the shallow pool in front of the giant statue of Athena in the Parthenon. To their shock though, Dinu’s little sister Crina has followed them through the time-travel doorway. The three are immediately split up, Alex and Dinu dragged off by

adopted dad and is bereaved not only of his mum but also of his beloved Grams. When an opportunity


find his birth father arises, it seems sensible to grab his two best friends and set off on their own to Wales. It’s a long way to Wales and the journey is chaotic, catastrophic and, occasionally, miraculous. On their way to meet Freddie’s birth

father, the three friends make many new acquaintances, each more wacky than the last, and some more helpful than others. Though, to be fair, if you attend

onion-eating competitions

and raid abandoned churches, you are bound to meet some strange characters! The book evokes similar feelings to

the kind of road-trip buddy stories that usually feature shameless young men, throwing the characters into a series of unlikely and unfortunate scenarios and testing the bonds of friendship to breaking point. But, for Freddie, his mates are his family and not even exploding toilets or angry gangsters could keep them apart for long. Though the tone is light-hearted

throughout, it is a sensitive story with powerful moments of tragedy that are well crafted. The farcical scenes play out brilliantly, with impeccable comic

28 Books for Keeps No.243 July 2020

to Lawrence’s her

timing and many laugh-out-loud moments. It’s perfectly pitched for older primary pupils and young teens: Pearson seems to revel in describing the

boys’ juvenile dialogue, and

leaves out none of the gross bits... not even the toxic fumes from onion- scented bum blasts! Freddie’s journey is certainly super

and Pearson has much to offer the children’s comic caper genre. SD

The Book of Mysteries HHHHH

J.R.Wallis, Simon & Schuster, 285pp, 9781471183331, £6.99 pbk

This is the third and final title in the series A Tale from the Badlands. The Badlands are a part of our world, but hidden from most of us thankfully, as it is where a variety of creatures live that most of us would not want to meet on a dark night, or even a sunny day. The two main characters in the series are Jones, a young boy who has been apprenticed to a ‘Badlander’ (one who hunts these dangerous creatures), but just wants to live a normal life and Ruby who is an ordinary girl who has a desire to become a Badlander. The problem is that only boys and men can become members of the Guild. By the time we get to this final episode of their adventures Ruby is poised to become a member of the Guild, but it depends on a vote of all members of the High council; unfortunately there is a split vote with exactly 250 votes for each side. It is then suggested that Ruby should try and solve one of the puzzles found in the book of Mysteries; hence she and Jones find themselves heading for

the small

town of Great Walsingham, a place where Badlanders have gone but none have returned. The outcome of their investigations will decide both their futures and could perhaps change history.

the whole of Badlander I absolutely loved the two previous

titles, so I was hopeful that this book would live up to them; I need not have worried, this absolutely


them for excitement and for the way we are drawn into the world that the author has created. One of the central themes of this series is about women and the role they have in a given society. Ruby is determined to change perceptions and to have a role in the Badlands.

She is an

orphan and has been moved between foster parents for most of her life, so she just wants to find somewhere where she belongs and can feel at home. Jones also wants to feel that he belongs, but he does have parents who he has just been


with after they had been enthralled by a witch. This is a story about friendship and overcoming trials and tribulations, but it is also about magic and excitement and doing what is right even if it brings fear. The whole series is highly recommended and I look forward to more books from this particular author. MP

Night Forever HHHH

Ali Sparkes, OUP, 288pp, 978-0192749994, £6.99 pbk

It’s hard to beat a really good thriller for

sheer the entertainment supernatural value,

especially when there’s an element of

involved too,

and Ali Sparkes’ Night Speakers series is up there with the best in the genre. For those who don’t know, the eponymous Night Speakers are three young people Elena, Matt and Tima, who have the ability to speak any language, and even to understand animals. As a result of this special power, the three have been involved in a series of high-stake adventures, involving a demonic underworld god, killer plants, interplanetary child kidnappers and earth-drilling grubs; indeed, they’ve saved the world on more than one occasion. In this book, number four in the series and the final episode, Sparkes creates their biggest challenge

floods and natural disasters threaten as the Earth inexplicably starts slow.

She sets the book’s thrilling

climax on the very, very top of the world’s tallest building (acrophobics look away now), the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It’s not just the action scenes that

make the books so satisfying though. Sparkes

develops her characters

really well over the course of their adventures, and they are credible, real-life kids for all the out-of-this- world settings.

The threats they

encounter may come from alien forces, but there’s a genuine sense too of the precariousness of our own position in the world and the damage caused by our habit of exploiting nature. Now of all times too, it’s worth celebrating a series that defines the ability to communicate a super- power. There’s no need to start with book one, Night Forever will work for those coming new to the series, but it’s definitely worth looking out books one, two and three too. AR

yet: devastating to

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