BfK 10 – 14 Middle/Secondary continued

past’. Isabella and her father leave the next day to head for her grandparents’ home in the north of England. Her mother and big sister will follow. England too is suffering. A strange sickness

has population,

killed many of the food is scarce, power

supplies unreliable, and those left alive are Isabella’s

suspicious of grandparents

strangers. are


gone but their house is still there in a remote and beautiful valley. When her father sets off to find food and a means to contact her mother, Isabella stays on her own, living on their supplies until she meets two other children, also living alone and hiding out in an old barn. Rowan and Kelda show her what to eat, what to grow, share eggs from their hens. Their friendship sustains her, but just as important is the natural world and the beauty of her surroundings.


surely no coincidence that the title of the book brings to mind Swallows and Amazons, and the story reminds us too of other

novels in which nature is a force that heals and restores. After the terror of the bombing, and fears for her family, Isabella develops a sense of calm and hope, something readers will absorb even as we experience life during a pandemic. Beautifully told, this adventure story does more than keep the pages turning, though it will certainly do that.

It vividly

demonstrates to readers the beauty and importance of nature and how connecting with it is our real hope for the future. MMa

Read our Q&A interview with Julia Green

Moonchild Voyage of the Lost and Found


Aisha Bushby, illus Rachael Dean, Egmont, 978-1405293211, 288pp, £6.99 pbk

Aisha Bushby’s debut, A Pocketful of Stars, is shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award and impressed Books for Keeps. That story was set in the real world but also featured magic, enabling its protagonist to travel back in time and far away. Moonchild returns to the themes of family, love and loss explored there but is set completely in a fantasy world, one of deserts, souks and tropical seas, beautifully and very evocatively described.

Twelve-year-old pregnant Amira

lives on a dhow, sailed by her two mothers and shared with chickens, a temperamental,

and Namur, her jinn, who is a cat. Her story began when her mothers rescued

her from an enchanted

island and this particularly matters, because this is a book about the importance and magic of stories, one in which storytelling opens the way to adventure and change. If storytelling is one part of magic,

then emotions are another. Amira is defined by anger, while Leo, the friend

goat classic children’s

who joins her on the quest that drives the plot, is full of fear and anxiety. Along with everyone else in this world, they must

learn to importance of acknowledging acknowledge

their feelings in order to live out the stories of their lives. The thread about the

emotion is perhaps not teased out quite as fully as it needs to be, but the magic of the story – and of the stories within the story – is irresistible. Equally appealing are the interjections

from a mysterious

narrator – who exactly that is will be revealed in the concluding pages. Readers will be enchanted and

will finish the book dreaming of adventures under sultry night skies and of having a jinn of their own to share them with. Aisha Bushby is talented author with a distinct voice and I’m looking forward to the next books in this series. One last note, there

are illustrations

including double page spreads by Rachael Dean, an unusual treat in a book for this age group. LS

Read our Q&A interview with Aisha Bushby

Dragon Mountain HHHH

Katie & Kevin Tsang, Simon & Schuster, 336pp, 978-1471193071, £7.99 pbk

Billy Chan is twelve. He lives in Southern

California and wants to

spend his summer surfing. The last thing he wants to do is attend a Chinese language course in the middle of nowhere in China. But he has no choice. In China he meets three

friends Dylan O’Donnell,

Charlotte Bell and Lingfei. It transpires that their visit to China is not just to improve their skill in Mandarin. It has a very different purpose. In this high fantasy adventure Billy and his three new friends learn

must save their own world and also the mysterious

dragon world

that they from

destruction. Can they do it? And if so at what cost?

30 Books for Keeps No.244 September 2020 Any reader who enjoys dragons

will find this book congenial. The authors have used Chinese mythology to create a ceremony known as Bonding. Dragons must be bonded with their humans if their full powers are to be released. Bonding creates a link between the human and the dragon which is similar to the link between humans and their daemons in the

relationships regular

Philip Pullman series. The between

My Story: Noor-Un-Nissa Inayat Khan


Sufiya Ahmed, Scholastic, 208pp, 978 0 702 3000 9, £6.99, pbk


This book tells the true story of Noor Inayat Khan, who was recruited as a secret agent by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War Two. With dual Indian and American heritage, Noor was educated in Paris before escaping to Britain with her family when France fell. Keen to help with the fight to free France, she was pleased to be recruited to work in occupied France because of her fluent French and was trained as a wireless operator. Eventually betrayed, captured and executed, Noor has been


and dragons lie at the heart of the narrative of the Tsangs. RB

a list of important dates at the back of the book. Her talents beyond her language skills and speedy wireless operation are indicated – she was a gifted writer for children before the war and may have returned to this if she had survived. This book helps to highlight the role

of women and individuals of BAME heritage in active service during the World Wars, bringing their often untold or uncelebrated stories to life. SMc

I Am Not a Label HHHH

Cerrie Burnell (author), Lauren Baldo (illus.), Wide Eyed, 64pp, 978-0-7112-4744-4, £14.99 hdbk

This book is a large format hardback volume. It collects profiles of people from different countries, in different fields of activity and from different time periods. All these people are outstanding practitioners or leaders in one field or another, and all have different


disabilities, both physical and mental


needs. Beethoven for example was so deaf that he could not hear a performance of his last quartets. But he sensed the vibrations of the music through his body and thus produced some of

his most haunting work.

Stephen Hawking, who discovered many truths about the cosmos and in particular about black holes, had motor neuron disease.

He used a

wheelchair and a voice synthesiser. At the age of twenty he was told he had two years left to live. He survived until the age of 76. Frida Kahlo’s painting is celebrated, despite having to spend much of her time in bed as a result first of polio and later of a spinal injury incurred in a motor accident. 34 such people

are celebrated. remembered posthumously

with awards including the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre. Written as a first-person narrative,

the book takes us through key events leading to Noor’s recruitment, training and operations including her eventual capture and experience as a prisoner. Detail conveys the excitement, danger and bravery of the enterprise including her training, the secrecy and making contact with fellow operatives. Her inner tensions are explored, whether or not to leave her mother

(her Amma) who

worries so much about her safety and how her beloved father’s admiration for Ghandi and belief in quiet resistance equates with the active combat she becomes involved in. Extra features such as a list of the Morse Code alphabet

invite young

readers to have a go at tapping out their own messages and there is also

Each of them has a one page abbreviated biography in which that person’s impairment is not the first thing mentioned. Instead that person’s passion for a given field is the first thing mentioned. Each profile also includes a bright half page illustration. The illustrator also includes in some portraits a mobility aid if one is used. The priorities asserted in these profiles are rare and distinctive. This reviewer

must covered. Fewer cite one

criticism of an otherwise laudable book. The profiles are too short. They have been cut short cases

longer of describing some less well-

to get more but

biographies would have made a better job

known persons. And what is omitted is the darker side of lives marked by disability. Such sombre issues are sometimes hinted at, but not properly covered. Nevertheless this is a useful and innovative book. RB

Dark Blue Rising HHHHH

Teri Terry, Hachette, 390pp, 978-1-444-95710-5, £7.99, pbk

This is the first part of The Circle trilogy, with 16 year old Tabby at the centre of the narrative. She and Cate-who she believes to be her mother-lead a transient

life, living

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