BfK 10 – 14 Middle/Secondary continued

face a very different world where men have all the power and choices have to be made, loyalties tested, where being true to oneself may be the most difficult choice of all. Elen Caldecott has been quietly

building her reputation as a writer of quirky, enjoyable, fast –paced well -crafted stories for KS2 readers. Here she takes a step forward to create a strong immersive historical novel that explores themes that still resonate – loyalty, belonging, difference, self, family, dispossession – these


things that do not change whether we are in the 21st century or sometime in the past. It is a brave move, though, to take us back to the time when the legions have left and British society has become fragmented, an easy prey to a people looking for new lands, a new home themselves. However, Caldecott recreates this world with confidence, not least through the character of Mai, feisty, opinionated, and infuriating even, a girl who has to learn herself. She steps off the page to take us with her as she faces this terrifying new world. Nor is she the only one to catch the attention. The cast is rich and varied, each a real character. Then there is the language. Here the author manages to create a sense of

a past, not through a conscious aping of a language long gone but through a subtle use of linked epithets “bull- bent”, “sea-dark twilight” – bringing the rhythm of the other to the text while

dialogue and narrative are

contemporary without jarring. This is a fascinating period. We are

brought to realise that the country was not one homogenous people – there were Roman-Britons,


and Welsh, Saxons – all with their own customs ambitions. This is before an England. It is not, perhaps, a period much studied in the curriculum but for those who are curious stories tell of the Saxon leaders Hengist and Horsa, the lovely Rowena and the terrible banquet that ends in death. Caldecott has used her sources well to present the reader not with a history lesson, but a real past that we live as Mai tells her story. Highly recommended. FH

The Arrow of Apollo HHHHH

Philip Womack, Unbound, 356pp, 9781783528677, £8.99 pbk

We are in the world of Ancient Greece, in a time before written history but after the age of the myths. However, ancient mythical creatures still stalk

the world, the gods hover just out of sight and an ancient evil has woken and threatens earth. It is up to the children of heroes to step forward. In Italy, Silvius, son of Aeneas, the prince of Troy and founder of Rome; Elissa, a daughter of Carthage; and in Mykenai, Tisaminos, son of the fabled Orestes, find themselves caught up in the quest to unite the broken Arrow of Apollo but also break the curse laid on Orestes’ family, a curse that has led to an unending round of revenge. However, Silvius is a Trojan, Tisamenos, Achaean – the people who destroyed Troy. Can they be friends and allies? The burden is on these young people to heal the past. Womack is a classicist so his grasp of

the intricacies of

Greek mythology is sure. Here he weaves the complexities of family relationships, the dark deeds that arise from jealousy, passion and revenge – and the consequences with assurance. He is not retelling the myths, already well known, he is carrying them


creating a group of very believable characters in so doing. The result is an exciting, immersive and engaging story that carries learning

its lightly, sweeping the

reader across the Mediterranean from Italy

to Greece meeting a

centaur, nymphs, even a Fury on the way to finally face the Python itself. But as with all good myths, it does not end there – with luck we will meet these intrepid teens again – their quest continues. Though this is a novel to appeal to KS3 readers Womack’s uncluttered contemporary style – no anachronisms here – make it ideal for confident KS2 readers whether they have met the mythological world of the Greeks and Romans or not. Excellent. FH

Reading for pleasure

If you want support to nurture readers, then visit the Open University’s research-informed practitioner website. It’s packed with ideas, resources, audits, videos and PowerPoints! FREE! Do sign up to the monthly newsletter to receive updates. @OpenUni_RfP 30 Books for Keeps No.243 July 2020

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