News & Reviews

The Offline Diaries by Yomi Agegoke & Elizabeth Uviebinené, reviewed by Catherine (11)

Ade is angry with her stepdad because his job has forced her family to move and leave everything behind. What’s more, he acts like such an angel that no one understands why she doesn’t like him. All of that changes when she meets Shanice, whose father owns the Powers hair salon, and an instant friendship is formed. It turns out they will be going to the same school – but can their friendship survive the ups and downs with bullies that lurk online and offline?

“I like how there are two perspectives in the story because the chapters switch between Ade’s diary and Shanice’s diary, which means you get more than one point of view.”

Catherine (11)

Ade and Shanice are the main characters in The Offline Diaries. They both have pink diaries which they write their thoughts and the day’s events in, hence the name of the book. Shanice lives with her dad and her annoying older brother James, and you learn early on that her mother has sadly passed away the year before. Ade is an in-the-middle child. Her big sister Bisi is a grump of a sixteen-year-old, and Funmi, the youngest daughter, is frustrating 24/7. Ade lives with her mum and stepdad, and rarely sees her father.

The trouble is, at Archbishop Academy (Ade and Shanice’s school), Ade takes a shine to Amy and Aaliyah, aka the Double As. They want Ade to be part of their gang, making it the Triple As – but they aren’t nice to Shanice, who’s a bit of a social outcast. Ade starts to drift away from her original BFF. Can she realise who really matters and make up with Shanice before it’s too late?

My favourite part is when Ade’s Aunty Kim comes over and Ade goes shopping with her, Shanice and (annoyingly) Funmi. Funmi gets to pick a toy, and Ade just can’t understand why she’d pick a frog – of all the animals, a frog! I like how there are two perspectives in the story because the chapters switch between Ade’s diary and Shanice’s diary, which means you get more than one point of view. There is also the occasional messaging on a social media called ChatBack, where the girls talk online. I would recommend this book to easygoing readers of ages 9-12.

While the Storm Rages by Phil Earle, reviewed by Leontine

I really enjoyed this book as it was full of amazing animals and exceptional determination. Every page was engaging and fascinating.

This book is full of unexpected friendships and two exceptionally brave dogs.

Leontine

While the Storm Rages is an exciting wartime story of a boy called Noah, who is determined to save as many pets as possible from war consequences.

This book is full of unexpected friendships and Clem, Noah and Col are all amazingly brave and enduring. While the Storm Rages is also full of great pets including an old dog named Frank and loyal Winn; two exceptionally brave dogs.

I would recommend this to all pet lovers.

The Shop of Impossible Ice Creams by Shane Hegarty, reviewed by Rosa

This book is amazing. It’s like a perfect parcel of mystery, fun and friendship all in one. The ending all wraps up very neatly and, unlike some books, I felt satisfied by it. The storyline of it is flawless and I, for one loved it. 

Liam/limpet has arrived at his new house in the quiet village of Splottpool where his mum has decided to set up an ice cream shop. Reluctantly going to make new friends, a flamboyant ice cream truck rolls up at the curb. A crimson haired, grumpy man sells some ice creams, and a small disaster happens…

I motored through this book, and I hope you will love it from cover to cover like I did. 

Rosa

But not to worry. A few days later Liam/limpet’s mum does a grand opening of her shop, and the other ice cream shop is giving out free ice creams! Luckily Liam/limpet foils Mr fluffy’s devious plan. Happily, ever after. The end. 

The illustrations go perfectly with the text and really pop out the page. Every concept of this book is amazing. Some parts really make you think. I motored through this book, and I hope you will love it from cover to cover like I did.  

My favourite character was Curtis the chicken and Norman, her owner. 

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tọlá Okogwu, reviewed by Mia

When Onyeka discovers she has a superpower, her life changes immediately.

Not only is her superpower one of the things that has always caused problems and stress – her uncontrollable hair of curls, coils and kinks – but she has to return to her place of birth – Nigeria. This is a place which exists only in her dreams, because her mother, Tọ́pẹ́, never speaks about it, or her father. Onyeka has so much she wants to know about both.

Such an exciting story about finding your inner strength and discovering who you are. I’m so excited that there are more books to come…

Mia


In the middle of Nigeria is The Academy of The Sun, a a place where children just like Onyeka (called Solari) train their powers. With her mother out looking for her father, Onyeka is left trying to control her power (called Ike), but when a threat to the Solari comes, it’s up to Onyeka and her new friends to help. But is the place that’s protecting them actually the thing they should be running from? 


Such an exciting story about finding your inner strength and discovering who you are. Five stars from me! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I’m so excited that there are more books to come in the series, and that this is to be made into a film! 

MagicBorn by Peter Bunzl, reviewed by Niamh

Magicborn is the latest novel by Peter Bunzl, who is the genius behind the Cogheart book series.

Taking place in 1726, 12-year-old Tempest lives with her adopted fathers, Prosper and Marino, in Ferry Keeper’s Cottage. Saved from nearly drowning, she doesn’t remember about her past life, and why she can understand her robin friend, Coriel, and nobody else can. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves magic, adventure and mystery. I’ve already recommended it to one of my friends so we can talk about it!

Niamh

She longs to know who her mother is. All Tempest has from her is a bone carved into the shape of a cloud she wears around her neck, which has an engraved message ‘From your mother’. 

Tempest’s life changes when she is made to take the mysterious Lord Hawthorn and his apprentice across the water to an island in search of a wild boy that can change into a wolf… Expect a magical adventure that travels from Kensington Palace to the fairy realm.

I loved the characters in Magicborn, especially the robin Coriel and how she affectionately ends her sentences with bird names, such as “Goodnight, little dunlin.” The spells were really exciting in the book, and I liked how it swapped between present and past events, revealing Tempest’s story. It would be amazing if there was a sequel and it would work really well as a film or TV series.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves magic, adventure and mystery. I’ve already recommended it to one of my friends so we can talk about it! I’m planning to dress up as Tempest for the next World Book Day! I even have a robin toy to be Coriel!

Tempest and Coriel, by Niamh

Perfect for fans of: The Cogheart novels by Peter Bunzl; Sophie Anderson’s The Girl Who Speaks Bear and The Castle of Tangled Magic; and The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave.

Hedgewitch by Skye McKenna, reviewed by Alma

One of the best books I’ve read in ages; enchanting!

Ever since her mum left her there, Cassie Morgan had been living in a strict boarding school which does NOT believe in magic. Then (several years later – convinced her mum needs to be rescued) she runs  away to her aunt in the small town of Hedgely, right next to the hedge which separates England and faerie, where she trains to be the best witch she can be and pass her fledgling test.

But can she discover why children are going missing and find them before it is too late? And will she ever get what she wants?

Hedgewitch is a magical book. The characters are realistic and the world is intriguing – I was devastated when it ended. A fun, happy story with a long lead up where you really get to know the characters. An epic climax, full of surprises and drastic plot twists; as interesting and exciting as the hedge itself!

The Map of Leaves by Yarrow Townsend, reviewed by Catherine

Orla Carson lives on her own, save for her horse, Captain, and her beloved garden which was planted by her late mother. She’s happy to keep it this way but sickness comes to her hometown of Thorn Creek, and nature is blamed. Stowing away on a river boat, can Orla save the people of Thorn Creek with a little bit of luck, love, and all the help she can get along the way?

“My favourite part is that the plants communicate with Orla so it’s as if they’re talking to her.”

Catherine

The story is told in Orla’s perspective. Although only 12 years old, she is evidently a headstrong, determined character who you find yourself instantly rooting for. She prefers to do things her own way which becomes an issue as teamwork is required when two other children, Idris and Ariana, join her on her mission. Idris is the son of a Hauler, and Orla doesn’t think much of him at first. Ariana is quiet and clever, the thinker of the gang.

The problem that occurs in this book is a sickness that strikes the fictional world where the story takes place. In a nearby town they had named it Mapafoglia: the map of leaves. Black veins would spread out across your body, like a map, and once it reached your heart it was the end. Yet a secret threat lurks close to home… could it be the answer that Orla and her friends are desperate to find?

My favourite part is that the plants communicate with Orla so it’s as if they’re talking to her. I wonder if her Ma shared the same gift? I think that this brilliant, gripping book deserves a 5/5 star rating.

I would recommend it to readers of ages 9 to 13 who love adventure and extreme plot twists – but if you aren’t in that age group then I’m definitely not saying you won’t love The Map of Leaves!

Our #ReviewCrew books are read and reviewed by our team of young readers.

The Wondrous Prune by Ellie Clements, reviewed by Mia E

After Prune’s Grandparents die, she moves to their old house with her mum and brother.

This means a new town and a new school, where a group of mean girls (the Vile-lets) bully her and her new friends. All these changes come with big feelings, and with them, Prune starts to see clouds of beautiful colours. Prune loves to draw and carries her sketchbook everywhere. One day she draws a hot air balloon and wishes so much that it would take her away – to her amazement it comes to life!

Prune has always loved superheroes and their powers. She always wished she had a power like them. When she realises she does, it turns out to be more shocking than she thought.

I really enjoyed this book. I liked that it wasn’t just about superpowers, it was about how her feelings affected them.

I liked how Prune became stronger and told her teacher about the bullying.

I like that she tells her mum and brother about her powers, although her mum is worried that it is dangerous.

I love that she chooses The Wondrous Prune as her superhero name. Even though some people had picked on her unusual name, she is proud of being Prune.

I’d like to know what Prune does next, how her powers can be used, and who else might have powers (like the boy on the bus.)

The Mermaid in the Millpond by Lucy Strange, reviewed by Abi

Abi tells us why she recommends The Mermaid in the Millpond and why Barrington Stoke books are so important to her. Thank you, Abi!

About the book:

History and myth entwine in this atmospheric tale of freedom and friendship from bestselling author Lucy Strange and acclaimed illustrator Pam Smy. Bess has left the London workhouse behind for a job at a rural cotton mill. But life at the mill is hard and cruel – a far cry from the fresh start Bess hoped for.

The only way to survive is to escape, but the mill is like a prison with no way out. Meanwhile, rumours are spreading about a vicious creature that lurks in the millpond. Bess is sure it’s all nonsense, until one night she sees something stir in the murky water.

But is it really a monster that lives in the depths of the pond? Or a creature trapped and alone, just like Bess, desperate to escape …

Check out some of the Barrington Stoke books available:

The Midnight Hunt by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder, reviewed by Aysha

“This book was astonishingly good. The way it was written was amazing.”

We LOVE Aysha’s artwork. She always captures book covers so beautifully!

About the book

The third and final adventure in Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder’s magical Midnight Hour series!

‘A fantastic magical adventure featuring a cast of Ghibli-esque characters, a feisty heroine and a hedgehog. I loved it.’ M.G. LEONARD, author of BEETLE BOY on book 1′

Fans of Nevermoor will love this’ THE BOOKSELLER on book 1

‘I haven’t enjoyed this kind of caper so much since Harry Potter’ NEW STATESMAN on book 1

‘Pure delight’ THE GUARDIAN ON BOOK 1

Emily is locked out of the Midnight Hour, and things have grown dangerously dark in Victorian London.

Her friends and family are on the run from the terrifying Midnight Hunt, while the foul Make Britain Dark Again party schemes to break the spell that keeps both worlds safe. It’s going to take more than just Emily’s big mouth to fix this one. But how’s a girl meant to save the day (and night) when she’s all out of snacks and her possibly-magic pocket hedgehog is hibernating?

The ingeniously-plotted finale to the much-loved Midnight Hour trilogy, which began with The Midnight Hour and The Midnight Howl

A hilarious, spooky adventure full of genuine scares and belly laughs! Coraline meets A Wrinkle in Time: all the makings of a modern classic