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Book Reviews

The Boy at the Back of The Class by Onjali Q Rauf

This book is up to date and relevant. It tells the story of a Syrian refugee who comes to school in London. Through the eyes of the other pupils we learn his life story. His class mates learn how to communicate and understand his life and how different it is to theirs in so many different ways. We see how bullying is dealt with and listen to different adult viewpoints about refugees. It will make you think and consider life from a different perspective. As his friends work out how to help they find themselves in a bit of trouble. The more you read, the more you’ll find out, and the more it will make you understand what it happening in the world today. I would highly recommend this book as a good read but also an insight into the lives of millions of refugee children across the world.

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

This is the first book in the Alex Rider series. Alex’s life is turned upside-down after the death of his adoptive uncle, who has been like a father to him. He is suddenly thrown into a world of spies, mysteries, secret identities and adventure. Alex is recruited my MI6 to investigate a man, Herod Sayle, who has created a computer called Stormbreaker. Sayle wants to give a computer to every secondary school in the country but is this act of generosity everything it seems?

 

This is a fast-moving book. Something exciting happens in every chapter and, as the reader, you really root for Alex and want him to succeed in the environment in which he has reluctantly found himself. The book is very much in the James Bond genre, so if you like mystery and adventure, then this book is for you.

Midnight Library: Voices by Nick Shadow

This is a collection of three shortish stories. They all have an element of horror and mystery. Each story is different, but there is a common theme running through them all – voices. In the first story, a girl called Kate hears voices whilst in a graveyard that seem to be telling her about future events. In the second, Justin seems to be plagued by a pair of trainers that can think for themselves. The third story is about a boy who experiences something very unusual after an argument with a neighbour about an orchard.

 

The three-books-in-one format works really well in this book. The stories are long enough to provide a detailed plot but are short enough to be able to read them fairly quickly. This book is a good read, although it is a little creepy at times. Probably best not to read it just before you go to bed! If you enjoy reading it, it is the first of several Midnight Library books to choose from. The books do not have to be read in any kind of order.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter hasn’t had the happiest childhood. He was orphaned as a baby and raised by his aunt and uncle who don’t really like him. His bedroom is a cupboard under the stairs. However, Harry’s life changes forever on his eleventh birthday when he finds out that he is really a wizard. To his delight, he is sent to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn how to use magic. He makes friends with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, learns how to play quidditch and gets into all sorts of mischief. There are broomsticks, spells, feasts, a baby dragon and a giant game of chess! As he becomes more integrated into the world of magic, Harry also learns that not everyone is good. When events take a dark turn, it is up to Harry and his friends to save the day. A key message of this story is how love and friendship are important and can almost provide a magic of their own. It also tells us that we all have it within us to be brave.

 

This first book in the series sets the scene and introduces us to the wizarding world and its various characters. So much happens in every chapter. The descriptions written by J.K. Rowling are fantastic and really help you to view the story in your mind’s eye. I cannot speak highly enough of this book. The Harry Potter series are, in my opinion, the best children’s books ever written. They can make you laugh out loud and cry your eyes out! You might have seen the films: they are great, but are nowhere near as good as the books. If you’re up for a challenge – because they are a tricky read – then give the book a go. You're in for a real treat!

 

Please note: It is important to read the series in the right order.

Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton

This is the first book in The Famous Five series. Julian, Dick and Anne travel to the coast to meet their cousin Georgina. However, Georgina – who likes to be known as George – certainly does not want to meet them! George is unfriendly and only wants to spend time with her dog, Timmy, and visit ‘her’ island – Kirrin Island. However, a storm reveals a secret that leads the Five on a hunt for treasure – will they find it?

 

The Famous Five series is a stalwart of children’s literature. This book was written 75 years ago and reflects a time when children had a lot more freedom and certainly no electronic devices to help them. The Famous Five have to rely on teamwork, intelligence and courage to meet their challenges. If you like adventure stories, then this is a great book for you – and there are also twenty more books! The story is well-paced and the setting of an island on a rugged coastline make it interesting.

Young Sherlock: Death Cloud by Andrew Lane

This is one of the best children’s books I have read for a long time. It is fast-paced, there’s a mystery to solve and it is quite exciting at times. Sherlock Holmes attends a boarding school but, one summer, he is unable to return home for the holidays so he is sent to stay with his uncle and aunt whom he’s never met. They live on a large country estate which gives Sherlock plenty of opportunity for investigation. He meets a boy called Matty and, together, they become involved in solving a mystery. Two bodies are found covered in boils and sores, leading people to think there may be a plague. However, a mysterious cloud is seen leaving the bodies shortly after their death. Who or what is causing it? Sherlock sets out to find out.

 

This is a great story. The Victorian setting makes it very atmospheric. Something happens in every chapter that moves the plot forward and there are plenty of ‘red herrings’ to lead the reader astray. We see how Sherlock Holmes goes from being a clever, curious boy into the beginnings of the great detective he will become. This book is a challenging read as such a lot happens but it’s well worth the time spent on it. Death Cloud is the first in the Young Sherlock series.

The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson

Andrea, who is known as Andy in the story, is a tall, awkward ten-year-old whose parents have recently divorced. Her dad wants Andy to live with him. Her mum wants Andy to live with her! She’s torn between the two of them and longs to return to their old life at Mulberry Cottage. She ends up living one week with mum followed by one with dad – hence the suitcase as she is constantly packing. Her mother remarries Bill (the baboon) who has three children of his own. She despises the youngest “little ratbag” Katie, a girl her own age – well, five days older. Her father remarries Carrie who has twins Zen and Crystal and is expecting dad's new baby. Andy doesn't mind Carrie and her children but she still wishes she could have her dad to herself. Andy becomes disinterested at school. Her results dip and she loses touch with her best friend, Aileen. Her only friend is her spotted Sylvanian Families rabbit, Radish. By the end of the book, via a secret garden, a mishap with Radish, running away from home and some surrogate grandparents, Andy has a new best friend and has come to terms with her new life.

 

This is a bittersweet book in Jacqueline Wilson’s familiar contemporary style.  It fairly races along and the characters are well developed.  The suitcase is a metaphor for the baggage of life and only once Andie has dealt with this can she move on. I enjoyed this book and would heartily recommend it to all.   

 

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

When the story starts, Maia has been living in a school in London for two years since the death of her parents. One day, she receives news that a distant relative has been traced and that she is to live with them – in Brazil! Maia starts by researching the River Amazon, which she discovers is known as ‘The River Sea’ and realises that where she going is very different from what she has known. The story follows her journey to another part of the world and her feelings as she tries to settle with the Carter family. In Brazil, she meets new friends who will need her help and will lead her on new adventures.

 

This is a really interesting book as it challenges the viewpoint that family, or ‘blood’ are always the right thing for us. Maia, and the friends she meets, haven’t always had a happy time with family and we, the reader learn that it doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, family can still influence our lives in many ways. It’s not the sort of exciting book where something happens in every chapter, rather it is a plot that develops over several chapters and really hooks you in.

Tales of King Arthur retold by Felicity Brooks

King Arthur is a legendary English hero. This story introduces the reader to some of his more famous exploits. We learn how Arthur comes to be king and how he finds Excalibur. The main focus is Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. There are tales of heroism, out-smarting the enemy, loyalty and betrayal. All of the classic characters are here: Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, Mordred, Lancelot and Merlin. My favourite chapter is ‘The Enchanted Ship’ as it’s about how Arthur is tricked into doing something terrible to his friend.

 

The story is simply told but is fast-paced as each chapter is a different adventure. The King Arthur story has many different versions and I think that this book does a good job of highlighting the key events associated with Arthur. Sometimes, I would have liked a little more detail during some of the battles, but, overall, this was an enjoyable, quick read and a good introduction to the legend.

The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence

This is the first book in The Roman Mysteries series. The story follows Flavia Gemina, a girl who lives in Roman times. She likes to solve mysteries. Each chapter contains a mini-adventure that all lead to Flavia solving a problem of who is killing dogs and for what reason.

 

If you like history or mystery, then then this is a great book for you. There is a glossary of Roman terms in the back to help you to understand the story. There is also one of our favourite things at the front…a map! This means you can follow the story through the different locations and it might help you to solve the mystery before Flavia!

If you are a dog-lover or you don’t like blood and gore, this probably isn’t the book for you as it can be a bit gruesome at times!

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania to meet a man who wants to buy a house in England. Jonathan is a solicitor and is dealing with the sale and legal documents involved in buying the house. The man he is meeting is Count Dracula. When Jonathan tells people he is staying at Castle Dracula, they seem frightened. One of them gives him a crucifix to wear. Whilst he stays at Dracula’s house, Jonathan often feels uncomfortable, as though things are happening which make him unsafe. The stay almost costs him his life. The narrative then switches to Whitby, where Lucy, the recently engaged friend of Jonathan’s wife Mina, starts to become ill very quickly. She is losing blood, which can’t be explained, until Professor Van Helsing notices two small marks on her neck. The rest of the story describes the hunt for Dracula in a bid to destroy him once and for all.

 

Dracula is a classic horror story. This version is a simplified story for children, but it still retains its creepiness. As the reader, it is often the case that you know more than the characters and I found myself wanting to shout to them ‘She a v…” Well, you’ll just have to wait and see! The book is a good read and a real page-turner. The characters are characters you can root for, especially Mina, who is incredibly brave. There are scenes involving graveyards, coffins, large red-eyed beasts and blood, so it can be a bit gruesome. If you are someone who likes a safe-scare, this is the book for you.

Return to Groosham Grange by Anthony Horowitz    

A review by Morgan

Return to Groosham Grange is a brilliant book written by the talented Anthony Horowitz. It is about a boy called David Eliot who goes to Groosham Grange School and has a big rivalry with another schoolboy named Vincent King. In his school, there is a league table and points can be awarded for doing good things and can be deducted for bad behaviour. The person who is at the top of it by the end of the year will be awarded the Unholy Grail, which is a silver cup. But there are secrets about the Unholy Grail that David doesn’t know…

 

Some of the characters in the book include David’s best friend Jill, Mr and Mrs Eliot, Mrs Windergast, Aunt Mildred, Captain Bloodbath, Linda Jones, Gregor and Mr Heliwell.

 

I think you will enjoy this grotesque book because of the way the author builds up the tension and how he likes to mention things at the very last minute. It is a very exciting story with a twisting plot and I would recommend it to children who love mystery stories.

Lola Rose by Jacqueline Wilson

A review by Alicia and Nicole

Lola Rose is a book about a girl called Jayni who has to run away in the night, from home, because of her abusive father. The story starts off when Nikki (her mum) wins £10,000 in the lottery. Whilst family life is troubling Jayni, she still finds time to embrace herself with her scrapbook as she leaves reality behind when she is using it. When she leaves her home with her brother (Kenny) and mum, she knows that life may be harder although her mother assures her that things will go the way they want it to. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan.

 

We think that Lola Rose is a challenging book because many different things take place within the book at the same time which is complicated for the reader. We both think that the book is enjoyable and suitable for (in our opinion) Year 6 – Year 9. Also, we recommend this book to people who are interested in books about real life situations.

The Creakers by Tom Fletcher

A review by Remi

The Creakers is about a girl called Lucy who wants to help as much as she can to find her mum - her dad went missing a few months before - and every adult who lives in Wiffington: they have disappeared! As every adult goes missing, the more the children love their lives, making mischief and a mess (which is where the Creakers come in). While the rest of the town is running wild, Lucy comes up with a plan to find out what’s going on. Lucy cares very much that there are no adults to cook, clean and be there for her. Then, late one night, Lucy spots four mysterious creatures creeping around her bedroom - GRUNT, GUFF, SCRATCH and SNIFF. These creatures love rubbish - lots and lots of rubbish – and there is a lot in Wiffington now that the adults have vanished! One night, Lucy goes under her bed and accidentally falls into the world of the Creakers. She discovers their world, how they live and what they eat. However, she has to hurry and make an escape plan as the Creakers are close and she does not want to be caught.

 

I recommend this book if you like drama, adventure and mystery. Does Lucy find the adults or will she be stuck with the wild packs? Is there a happy conclusion? There is only one way to find out…by reading the book!

Clockwork by Philip Pullman

Set in the northern European town of ‘Glockenheim’ in the ‘old days’, this is a spine-chilling story with a strong moral message. Fritz, the writer, tells a tale to cheer up Karl, the apprentice clockmaker. However, before he can think of an ending the story begins to come true. When Sir Ironsoul, the relentless clockwork devil, is unleashed by the evil Dr. Kalmenius, only Gretl, the innkeeper’s fearless daughter, can save the prince with the mechanical heart and maybe the soul of the reckless storyteller.  

In the author’s signature style, the characters all get their just desserts leaving the reader uneasy and disturbed. This is one of my very favourite books; I love its sinister undertones and its restless energy. Pick it up, but be warned, you will struggle to put it down.

Fing by David Walliams

A review by Hayden and Mae

This book is about a really, really spoilt girl who wants everything in the world, even things she doesn’t need. She is called Myrtle Meek and her parents do everything she wants them to do and when she wants it. This is because, if they don’t, she will get extremely mad and start destroying everything that is in her path. When she goes to school, she has to be carried even though the school is not far away.

 

She wants everything including: an ant farm which is home to 100,001 ants, a boomerang which doesn’t come back, a cow bell which she puts round her mother’s neck to keep location of her, a dog grooming set - even though doesn’t have a dog, an elf, finger puppets of every king and queen from 1066, a gravel collection that is the biggest in Europe, a ham slicer - even though she hates ham, ice skates made for an elephant - 4 of them, a jar containing one of scientist Albert Einstein’s burps, knee warmers, lucky sausages - which aren’t even lucky, a map of Belgium, Nelson’s Column made out of sultanas ( life – size), owl fudge - this is fudge made out of melted- down owls, a painting of air - it is not much to look at, a box of quicksand and a remote control bush (which could reach up to one mile per hour).

 

We think that people who like funny and interesting books would love this book. We like this book because it is interesting to read and funny in lots of different ways. It also has diagrams to explain what the writing is about if you do not understand it. There is a moral to this story and the moral is “I want never gets.”

Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes by Lauren Child

A review by Amy and Avani

Ruby has been an ace code cracker since she was seven, when she won the Junior Code-Cracker. Her life is ordinary and boring at her house with the exception of the marvellous Mrs Digby, the housekeeper! However, that all changes when Ruby receives multiple blank phone calls.  A couple of weeks later, her house is ransacked and cleared of all belongings (including Mrs Digby) except for Ruby’s array of retro telephones. Ruby carries on noting down anything suspicious in her 622nd yellow notebook. Suddenly, their suspicious new butler, Hitch, reveals to Ruby that he is, in fact, a secret agent working for Spectrum and that they want to recruit her. But their no.1 rule is “KEEP IT ZIPPED”. Therefore, that is what she does. She restrains from telling her best friend, Clancy Crew, but she cannot completely pull the wool over his eyes and he ends up discovering Ruby’s big secret…

Her mission in this book is to prevent an evil mastermind from claiming the Jade Buddha as his or her own. This proves more difficult than it seems. With a little help and perseverance, will she solve the case?

 

This book is great if you love adventure, mystery and danger! This book is also in a series with even more mysteries and adventures: Take you Last Breath (2nd), Catch your Death (3rd), Feel the Fear (4th), Pick your Poison (5th) and Blink and You die (6th). You will definitely not be wasting your time if you choose to read this book.

Pig Heart Boy by Malorie Blackman

A review by Morgan and Rhoda

Cameron is a young boy with a heart disease. Because of this, he doesn’t have the ability to do what other boys his age can do, like swimming, running and playing football. After visiting the swimming pool with his friends, Cameron (or Cam as his parents call him) comes home to hear his parents having yet another row. He hears them arguing about how a doctor recommended a pig’s heart transplant but he said it has never been tried before and could easily go wrong...

 

This is a good book if you like drama, suspense and emotion. We enjoyed this book because Cameron makes good choices and bad choices so we never knew which way the book was going. Heart transplants with animal organs aren’t able to be successfully executed at the moment but scientists are trying to find out more about it. This book made us feel that transplants like that were real. If you like this book, there are more novels by Malorie Blackman such as: Hacker, Robot Girl, Noughts and Crosses, Thief and many more.

Looking Glass Girl by Cathy Cassidy

A review by Maya and Mia

“Get ready to fall through the rabbit hole all over again” with our favourite book stars Alice, Luke, Savannah and Yazz. Alice doesn’t really have any friends at her new school. Her old friends have dropped her and she has lost touch with the boy she really likes. Therefore, she is pleased to finally be invited to a sleepover and things start to look up. However, she is involved in an accident and ends up being stuck in a coma in hospital. A mystery unfolds – was Alice pushed? Will she ever get out of hospital and see her true love again?

 

This book is fabulous to read and has jam-packed chapters to make you feel like you’re actually there in the story. Read this book to find out more – you won’t regret it.

A Soldier’s Friend by Megan Rix

A review by Gemma and Leah

Friends at home, heroes at war. As the First World War rages across Europe, Londoners are sending brave animals to help the soldiers. The names of the allies who are fighting in the war are: Belgium, Japan, Montenegro, Serbia, France and Russia. The main characters are an adventurous football-crazy rescue puppy called Sammy and a fearless grey tabby cat called Mouser. They end up in no-man’s-land during the First World War. There is also the Jenson family, the Battersea Beasts, Ivor and Thumbs, and many more fun characters.

 

This is a very interesting book if you like learning about the First World War, 1914-18. It is a great story to read if you enjoy adventurous books. We hope that you enjoy reading this book. We loved this book because it has mixed emotions, e.g. happy, sad, nerve-racking and more. There are many more adventurous books by Megan Rix.

Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan  

A review by Isaac and Mae

The book is set in a forest, in Araluen, that is dark and dangerous. There is a character called Will and he is a teenager who loves being outside with his bow and arrow, practising his shooting. One day, he goes to the forest with his friends and he is a candidate to become the Ranger’s Apprentice. He helps the Ranger by going on missions with his leader, who is a mysterious shadow. Throughout the series, the Ranger does not show his face. Will is chosen to go to the forest as silent as a shadow. He goes alone. He also becomes the ears and the eyes of the kingdom. The Ranger, the Apprentice and the king try to prevent the assassination of the king. Will he survive the mysterious dangers of the forest?

 

We like these books because they are full of adventure and mystery and give you the excitement when you read them. If you like adventure and mystery, this is a good series of books for you. If you enjoy this story, there are 10 more books in the series, including The Ruins of Gorlan and The Burning Bridge. All eleven books together are like a jigsaw piece that is waiting to be put together.

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