hand to mouth and Cate has instilled in Tabby a fear of authority in all its manifestations. When Cate is arrested and imprisoned for Tabby’s abduction at the age of 3 and she is returned to her real parents she has to come to terms with her feelings of alienation at

their wealth and privilege and

sort through the bewildering array of emotions her separation from Cate has generated. A further quandry is the meaning of Cate’s final words: ‘Beware The Circle.’ Tabby has always been compellingly

drawn to the sea, needing to swim in it in order to feel whole. When her swimming talents are spotted she is invited to attend a summer school, which is completely isolated from the outside world. Her curiosity is piqued when she spots the symbol of the Penrose Clinic-the one her parents use- around the complex and notices the circle tattoo which Cate had on her leg intertwined in its design. Events gradually become darker

and Tabby’s initial enthusiasm is supplanted by unease,

then fear.

The narrative moves along at a swift pace but this is in keeping with the tumultuous emotions which Tabby has to deal with. The scenarios often strain belief because they deal with urgent

contemporary issues-not

only climate change but, even more alarmingly, the relentless advance of the clandestine use of technology.

10 – 14 Middle/Secondary continued Through the

mounting horrors

which Tabby experiences-the cloning and murder of her friends, the deaths of her newly rediscovered parents, Cate’s murder in prison-there is a grain of hope:Jago, the boy she met on a Taunton beach who wanted to help her. After her dramatic escape from the swimming school complex and the deaths of her parents she is completely alone and she determines to return to the beach and wait for what she hopes will be his eventual return, since he is the only one she feels will believe her fantastical story and the only person she hopes she can trust. This is a gripping read which, despite

the density and speed of the plot,will keep readers wanting more. VR

Happy, Healthy Minds HHHH

The School of Life, illus Lizzy Stewart, 176pp, 978 1 912891 19 1, £18.00 hdbk

This nicely produced book about

keeping one’s mind healthy provides a great deal of information and good coping strategies on lots of different emotional topics, such as problems with parents, feeling misunderstood, anger, anxiety, using screens well, bullies, confidence, patience, school, friends, and nature as a healing force. It also covers information about the adult world, thinking about jobs for the future and the necessity of one

day living separate from your family. The text is well written and clear, and the pictures and diagrams, etc. very nicely done; however, I have one caveat. There is a great deal of text, and younger children, who would get lots out of the book, may well find it all overwhelming. Even some 10 year olds might balk at first glance. It certainly has good ideas, some of which are quite new to me, and the style friendly and approachable.

is Using it

with a parent or carer could well be the answer for those who find the text over-long. An impressive production, useful in helping children’s emotional health. ES

The Wizard in My Shed HHHHH

Simon Farnaby, ill. Claire Powell, Hodder, 384pp, 9781444957617, £12.99 hbk

The story begins in the year 511 A.D. with Merdyn being banished from the kingdom because of black magic, but his rival Jerabo sends him down the ‘river of time’, not the ‘river of purgatory’ as his punishment; meaning that he finds himself in a 21st century shopping centre built on the spot where his trial had been held. He is obviously totally confused by what he sees and ends up being chased by two security guards. Luckily, he is saved by a young girl called Rose, who takes him home with her, but after several mishaps (including washing in the toilet basin) he ends up living in the garden shed. Rose is trying to keep her family

14+ Secondary/Adult Punching the Air HHHHH

Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, HarperCollins 392pp, 978000 8422141, £7.99 pbk

Yusef Salaam was a teenager

when he was one of the five people wrongfully convicted of the murder of the Central Park jogger. This story is in part inspired by that incident. Written in free verse this is an extraordinarily powerful account of systemic racism in the American

criminal justice

system and how one mistake by a young black boy results in a conviction out of all proportion to the crime. The story opens with 16-year-old Amal, a gifted artist and poet, on trial for punching a young white boy. Yet Amal only threw the first punch and none of the other punches that landed Jeremy Mathis in hospital in a coma. Amal was in the wrong place at the wrong time in a gentrified neighbourhood where an altercation got out of hand. As the trial proceeds the injustices become increasingly evident – the victim is spoken of as a boy and Amal as a man, yet they are the same age. Amal is appalled that the jury can believe the lies told about him without seeing him for who he is and is shocked to be handed a custodial sentence and sent to a juvenile detention facility.

this cycle and going to college are cruelly dashed

by his sentence.

Imprisonment nearly breaks him as he is forced to endure more casual violence within the system but with the strength and love of his family and his own resilience Amal never gives up hope. A creative writing class helps him to use his art and poetry again to find his voice and an inner strength. Then Jeremy begins to wake up and Amal hopes that now the truth will finally be told. The free verse is the prefect medium

to convey this raw and emotional story giving it an energy and intensity that is utterly compelling. The visual layout is excellent too.

I have seldom read Systemic prevalent racism was in a school where

already no

matter how talented and bright Amal might be, he had been branded a troublemaker for getting into a fight in grade 5 and for keeping his hoodie hood up in his art class. Thereafter, his teachers were continually on the lookout for any misdemeanours. Amal’s hope of breaking out of

such an immediate and passionate account of prejudice and how racism is so endemic in the everyday lives of so many people. Even the 13th Amendment states that imprisonment is a form of legal slavery. Every YA reader needs to hear this

story – it is too important to miss. JC I, Ada


Julia Gray, Andersen, 326pp, 9781839130076, £7.99, pbk.

The striking face of Ada Lovelace taken from a portrait, stares at the reader from the cover of this fictional story of

her early life until her marriage. Ada Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron but her mother left the poet when she was six weeks old fearing for

her life. However, Lady Noel

Byron did not tell her daughter about her father and Ada spends most of early years trying to find out about him. Ada was a precocious talent, something fostered by her mother who was herself a mathematician at a time when women were not educated and expected just to marry well. The story follows Ada from a child through her teenage years, a brief unconsummated affair to her marriage,

uncovering her brilliant

developing mind and her meetings with Charles Babbage. This is a fascinating story told in

the first person and showing what a remarkable girl she was, suffering ill health, the knowledge that people always knew who she was, battling her mother’s

control but always

fascinated by almost everything in the world around her. Ada’s meeting with Babbage, so important for them both does show clearly how the concept of the computer was born. The life of a very privileged girl taken on a Grand Tour for a year, but nevertheless find the excitement of arriving on the continent by train with its different scents

and ambience is vividly Books for Keeps No.244 September 2020 31

together and hopes that winning a talent contest will help, unfortunately she is not a very good singer, so the odds are against her; she asks Merdyn for a spell to help her in return for aiding him in his attempts to get home. The whole

situation is confused when

Jerabo appears on the scene and tries to get rid of Merdyn, with the ensuing plot being full of laughs and fast action. The loveable

rogue of a central

character, Merdyn the Wild, makes me think of the eponymous Catweazle, who was in a well-loved TV series of the 1970s. He is someone who is totally adrift in the world that he finds himself in and even the basics of life are a total mystery to him. In many ways this is a reflection of what happens when people move home even in our modern world. We are made to think about the way that society has evolved and the expectations that we have; meaning that we need to consider how we support people with differing cultures to become used to a new cultural norm. The setting of this story is in Bashingstoke, a small town just off the M3 and for someone who has lived there it bears a remarkable resemblance to Basingstoke, complete with bypasses and roundabouts.


is a reflection of the tongue in cheek humour that abounds in this story and which will appeal to the adult reader as well as the intended audience. I loved the characters and the fun in this book and hope that we will see more work from this author, who is more widely known as an actor. MP

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