Archive for the ‘9-12 fiction’ Category

When I first found out about this book, I was thrilled. It’s not often to come across well-written, mature Christmas fiction for children. Other than A Christmas Carol, what is really out there that explores the true meaning of Christmas?

I was also equally thrilled to discover Eddie Izzard is to star in the BBC adaptation, to be shown this Christmas so make sure you look out for it…but read the book first!

Lost Christmas is all about a boy named Goose, whose parents have been tragically killed in a car accident. Living with his crazy Grandma and dog called ‘Mutt’, Goose feels pretty down on his luck. (Think Tiny Tim meets Charlie Bucket). Goose does have one friend; but he’s hired Goose to help him commit crimes across Manchester.

One day, Goose meets a man who is capable of finding anything and everything. When Goose loses his dog, it seems fate has drawn them together and he must rely on this strange man; Anthony, to find his beloved dog.

Anthony poses many questions: Who is he? Can he really help Goose find his dog? And more importantly…how?

I loved this book from start to finish…literally. The hardback book is beautiful and in-keeping with the festive theme. It would make a wonderful gift for girls and boys. It’s difficult not to become attached to Goose. He’s completely lost his way through no fault of his own and I couldn’t help but root for Goose and Anthony as they help one another find things they have lost.

It’s a charming, sad but often funny tale of life and love set amongst the dodgy side-streets of Manchester but the anticipation of Christmas never goes away. Quite like A Christmas Carol and the film, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ I couldn’t help but hope that the magic of Christmas would win out in this book…and I wasn’t disappointed.

Lost Christmas is David Logan’s first book, and what a triumph it is. He writes with compassion and understanding for his characters; like he too understands what they’re going through.

A perfect gift for 9-12 year old girls and boys. Or, in fact anyone looking for a little magic this Christmas and the chance to believe in something great.


David Logan

Quercus Books


£8.99 HB


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You may have recently seen my excited tweets talking about this great new book and with it, I want to share the fantastic interactive website full of games, features and bits about the book.

Hailed as the new ‘Harry Potter’, ‘The History Keepers’ aims to fill the void Harry and co. left behind. My review of this fantastic book will be coming soon but for now, here’s a link to the website.


where you can create your own characters. You choose the era the character comes from and after uploading your picture you can choose all sorts about your hero. And here’s some more information  on what the book is all about…

“When Jake is kidnapped by strangers on a stormy London night he discovers his loving parents have been leading a double life and are now missing, lost somewhere in history. He is plunged into a world of secret societies, dangerous double agents, and a terrifying countdown to oblivion. Transported by a Spanish galleon back to 19th century France, he finds himself in the headquarters of The History Keepers – a remarkable league of time-travelling special agents. The History Keepers preserve the true course of history against those who would change it for their own gain, such as the diabolical Prince Zeldt.  Driven by a sense of adventure and a desire to reunite his family, Jake makes the most thrilling – and dangerous – decision of his life.


Damian Dibben has worked extensively as a screenwriter on projects as diverse as Phantom of the Opera and Puss in Boots. Dibben, who lives on the South Bank with his dog Dudley, has lived in London all his life. He was born in Eaton Square to a family of famous eccentrics from whom he inherited his sense of humour and a love of London and history. His passions include cosmology, archaeology and natural science, all of which have informed this remarkable debut.”

The History Keepers: The Storm Begins 

 Damian Dibben 

 Doubleday /  HB/ £12.99 / out now

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Every so often, I come across a book which makes me stop what I’m doing, find a quiet corner and take a good look at it. In the most recent case, Wonderstruck; the new book by Brian Selznick caught me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting another book so soon having so recently been bowled over by the re-issue the The Invention of Hugo Cabret and the film hype surrounding it. Hugo Cabret was originally published in 2007, but this was the first I had heard of it.

Wonderstruck is a beautifully crafted book. On par with Hugo Cabret (winner of the esteemed Caldecott medal) it’s haunting in its beauty both in prose and illustration. Both complement one another perfectly. People are often surprised to open Selznick’s books and discover that the majority of pages are filled with stunning illustration sketches. It’s like a picture book for older people and in my experience, those are often the best kind.

“Ben’s story takes place in 1977 and is told in words. Rose’s story in 1927 is told entirely in pictures. Ever since his mother died, Ben feels lost. At home with her father, Rose feels alone. When Ben finds a mysterious clue hidden in his mother’s room, and when a tempting opportunity presents itself to Rose, both children risk everything to find what’s missing. Rich, complex, affecting and beautiful, WONDERSTRUCK is a staggering achievement from a uniquely gifted artist.”

I really cannot recommend this one enough. It makes a beautiful gift for someone and is something wonderful for you yourself to open up and get lost in.

Quite simply…it’s storytelling at its best.


Brian Selznick



September 2011


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I always get customers coming in saying something along the lines of ‘My child has read this, they absolutely loved it, can you recommend anything similar?’ Sometimes, it’s hard to recommend anything similar, and sometimes I’m tempted to suggest something quite different, so the child has a broad reading range but in the case of a customer the other day asking for books similar to Enid Blyton I just had to recommend two fantastic authors whose books I really admire, and love.


Lauren St. John – She’s won the Blue Peter Fiction award and has a huge following. I particularly love the Laura Marlin mysteries set in Cornwall. Orphan Laura is forced to move to her Uncle’s weird house in Cornwall and longs for a life of adventure- just like the ones in her favourite books and it’s not long before she find some at Dead Man’s Cove, a place her Uncle has forbidden her to go to…

The second in the Laura Marlin series ‘Kidnap in the Caribbean’ was published last month by Orion and we follow Laura all the way to the Caribbean and things are a little different there. Cornwall certainly doesn’t have pirates and sharks on the shore! It’s another fantastic book in this series. Well written, with a really loveable, charming character – books like these are rare and certainly echo the fun, innocent nature of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books in which going out to play meant finding your own adventures!

I also can’t stop raving about Helen Moss and her book ‘Adventure Island: Mystery of the Whistling Caves’. It might be the cover which appeals, but it also might be the mysterious action packed story in which three children and a dog make their own investigation when the local whistling caves suddenly go quite and lots of treasure goes missing.

This is good old fashioned story telling with a modern setting – I loved it. Also part of a series, ‘The Mystery of the Midnight Ghost’ is out now.

The Laura Marlin Mysteries 1: Dead Man’s Cove (978-1444001488)

The Laura Marlin Mysteries 2: Kidnap in the Caribbean (978-1444000214)

Lauren St John

Orion Children’s Books


Adventure Island 1: Mystery of the Whistling Caves (978-1444003284)

Adventure Island 2: The Mystery of the Midnight Ghost (978-1444003291)

Adventure Island 3: The Mystery of the Hidden Gold (978-1444003307)

Adventure Island 4: The Mystery of the Missing Masterpiece (978-1444003314)

Helen Moss

Orion Children’s Books


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To accompany the book blog tour which is stopping at mine tomorrow, I have written a review for ‘The Queen Must Die’. Now since writing the post for the blog tour, I have felt a bit uneasy about writing The Queen Must Die. It doesn’t sound very patriotic does it? But all became clear after reading the book.

Katie, an assuming teenager who loves nothing more than reading books under her bed. (Who doesn’t) Books are the one thing that keep her company. Her Mum isn’t around much, the housekeeper ignores her and she has none to zero friends at school.

But Katie’s boring life changes pretty swiftly in the book when after falling asleep whilst reading, she wakes up in a very different place to where she began…Buckingham Palace to be exact. And it’s no longer present day – Katie soon finds out she has time travelled back to 1851, a time when Queen Victoria was at the throne and there were many threats to her and the  Royal Family.

Katie is forced to make friends and finds help in the form of Princess Alice and James who promise to find out how to get her home. But that’s not the worst of Katie’s problems, she soon discovers a secret plot to kill the Queen and must do everything she can to stop it and whilst doing so…discovers she’s not the only person who can time travel.

This comes at a time when Katie’s time travelling is explained in further detail. I usually get lost with time travel..Back to the Future was too complicated for me but the author deals with it very well and keeps it in-keeping with the story. The book reminds me of a similarly themed book I read a few years ago ‘Beswitched’ by Kate Saunders and it’s great that books which explore similar themes and subject lines can be so different and original. 

She ran the risk of historical fiction not working with sci-fi/fantasy themes but it does and the result is a fantastic action story suitable for girls and boys aged 9-12. The pace is fast, the characters likeable and I can’t wait for the next book The Queen at War in this trilogy; The Chronicles of the Tempus, due to be published in 2012.

The author clearly did her research. 1851 was the year of the Great Exhibition and I was very interested to read about it in the book because I studied it, along with that era’s literature in great detail.

Check back tomorrow for K.A.S Quinn’s guest post and an exclusive extract from The Queen Must Die.

The Queen Must Die by K.A.S. Quinn

Atlantic Books



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Casper Candlewacks in Death by Pigeon first came to my attention because it was heavily promoted in my area due to the (very young author) being local. I’m glad I found it because it’s a really great book – completely crazy but fun, and full of adventures which will keep boys and girls intrigued for hours.

The debut author Ivan Brett, is young – 22 in fact but don’t let that deter you from the fact that he is an incredibly talented storyteller. In fact, it should encourage you because being 22 means you are so much closer to your own childhood than if you were say, 23!

The book itself is crazy from page one. Just look at the title! Death by Pigeon? It could be true. I sincerely believe pigeons will one day take over the world. Casper Candlewacks lives in the village Corne on the Kobb where everyone is crazy and has no sense but him. And when people have no sense they generally like to think they can do crazy things like take over the world which is what Great Tiramasu tries to do when he curses the village. And it’s up to Casper Candlewack to save the day.

This book is recommended for 9-12 year olds and the illustrations by Hannah Shaw really bring the book to life. Think a mix of Roald Dahl, Andy Stanton and Jo Nesbo! It’s a winner. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have been recommending it to lots of customers looking for something new to read.

Casper Candlewacks in Death by Pigeon by Ivan Brett

HarperCollins Children’s Books


£5.99 PB 

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Yes, THAT James Patterson. The world famous crime writer who also writes children’s books. There’s a Patterson for every reader!

‘Middle School – The Worst Years of my Life’ is a hilarious tell-all account from Rafe Khatchadorian a pupil at a very oppresive school (at least in Rafe’s opinion). Rafe has enough problems to deal with and doesn’t need school rules to worry about on top of all that and so sets about to break every single rule in the Code of Conduct.

Now, we know how these things go down and sometimes we need a little help (or hindrance) from our friends and in Rafe’s case, help comes in the form of the hilarious Leonardo the Silent! With Rafe breaking every rule from running in the hallway to setting off a fire alarm, it all starts to catch up with him and soon Rafe has more than measly detention to worry about…

I loved this book. It’s light-hearted yet deals with young angst and issues appropriately without diverting from the humour throughout the book. Fans of Jeff Kinney’s ‘Wimpy Kid’ series will love this. The illustrations, by Chris Tebetts are spot on  for characterisation and are in the whole book, on almost every page.

There’s a big emphasis on Patterson’s desire to get kids reading as he too has a kid who was once reluctant to read. I think he recognises that children unconsciously like something to relate to in a book. Even if the book has the most obscure characters or monsters in, we all still need something to grasp on to, to allow us to say “Yep, I understand!” And I think James Patterson has achieved that sense of talking to the audience because really, we’ve all been there. Whether we were the class clown, the quiet hard-worker or the naughiest kid in school…we were all there all going through issues (often horrifically embarassing) every day at school!

Thinking about it, if there’s one way to describe this book, it’s Jacqueline Wilson for boys. Fantastic stuff.


HB £9.99 9780099543985

JULY 2011 . Published by Arrow (Young), Random House.

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This week I seem to be succumbing to wedding fever and running a fun feature in which I discover some rather old books, some new ones and a few that never made it back to the library.

Now, as you all know me to be completely in love with children’s books, you know that I have a lot. I save a lot, receive a lot and buy far too many. Even as organised as I am, I also forget about books I have. Which is why, when I stumbled across Flour Babies by Anne Fine the other day I came up with the idea of this ‘wedding themed’ feature.

Something Old: ‘Flour Babies’ by Anne Fine

First published in 1992, this book like many of Fine’s was a runaway success and I read it with a smile on my face (whilst secretly hoping I would never be given the same homework task). Simon Martin and his school friends are given the unwelcome task of each looking after a bag of flour as their own ‘babies’ in the school’s bid to raise awareness of teen pregnancies and the responsibilities it comes with. Simon himself is a bit of a handful so imagine the delight in reading about his (often messy) adventures with a bag of flour.

Anne Fine, once the Children’s Laureate knows who she is writing for and what their needs are. She writes with understanding and compassion whilst recognising the need for fun and adventure in a children’s book.

This is a wonderful book bringing back many memories for me. Not least because it’s like I grew up with the character of Simon. We see him mature and learn so much throughout the book, whilst still retaining his trademark charm. I read this many times when I was younger and it’s nice that, at 22 I can still come back to this book and read it with ease.

Tomorrow I review Something New – Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal. Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are back, but things as good as when we left them at Sweet Valley High…

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If ever there was a time to write a sequel to a treasured children’s classic…it’s now. We all want familiarity, we all want fun and we all want escapism.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again is the authorised sequel to Ian Fleming’s only children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Written by acclaimed children’s author Frank Cottrell Boyce (what a fantastic choice) and illustrated by Joe Berger, the new book due to be published by Macmillan Children’s Books on November 4th 2011, follows the adventures of the Tooting family who attach a very familiar engine to their rusty, not-so-trusty old camper van.

“When the Tooting family find a vast abandoned engine and fit it to their old camper van, they have no idea of the adventure that lies ahead. The engine used to belong to an extraordinary magical flying car – and it wants to get back on the road again… fast! The Tootings can tug the steering wheel and pull the handbrake as hard as they like, but their camper van now has a mind of her own. It’s not long before they’re hurtling along on a turbocharged chase as Chitty tracks down her long-lost bodywork. But there are sinister forces at work too. When it comes to a car as special as Chitty everybody wants a piece of her… ”

I received a proof copy last week. I didn’t know it was coming so you should have seen my face when it dropped through the letter box. A book of pure fun, let me tell you. The review will be up closer to publication.

I just wanted to let everyone know that yes, the hype it worth it!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again will be published by Macmillan Children’s Books on 4th November 2011, £12.99 HB 9780230757738

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Published by David Fickling Books, ‘Trash’ is a dystopian fiction book that welcomes us into the somewhat unwashed arms of Raphael, who lives his life as a dumpsite boy with his two friends Gardo and Rat. Told by Raphael himself but with interchanging narrators throughout, we learn that he and his friends don’t have a lot going for them, other than their friendship. But one day, that all changes when they stumble across a bag and this bag fundamentally changes their lives forever and brings about the unexpected. It had to happen eventually…all that trash and not one thing of worth to be found? Surely not! But in the end, is this leather bag that Raphael has found worth it? Once the police and an old foe start to track them down, Raphael begins to wish life could go back to normal and he could just be sorting through rubbish, invisible to the world.

For me, it’s the fact that the children are suddently noticed because they had something of worth that resounded with me the most. The plight of these three children, and indeed children around the world is horrific and they are taken advantage of. It is refreshing to find a book so solely focused on the survival of the underdog. Whilst Raphael, Gardo and Rat are uneducated, smelly dumpsite workers- they have a lot more going for them than others; friendship, perseverence and courage.

This isn’t a comfortable book, in the sense that it doesn’t hide behind its fiction. These three boys live an upsetting life, and this is true of children in Latin-American countries. We are forced to address this issue throughout and I read the book humbled and very keen to read more from Andy Mulligan. If you want a book that will stay with you and mean something to you, then I would highly recommend this.

ISBN: 9780385619011, David Fickling Books, £10.99, Published: September 2010.

On a final note…what a stunning cover. Three boys against the world.

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