Which Way to Anywhere by Cressida Cowell, reviewed by Evie M (9)

How long can you hold your breath? 

This is a story out of this world… it is dazzling and dangerous, 

come with me if you dare through the Which Way to anywhere!

What is the story about?

This intriguing story is about two thirteen year old twins called Izzabird and K2 O’hero. Their father had mysteriously gone missing when they were little. They have two stepsisters and a stepbrother, called Theo and Mabel, who they don’t like very much and a baby sister Annipeck. Their mother and aunts have magic powers and K2 discovers that he also has a gift that means he can draw maps to other strange universes when he places a cross in the middle of a piece of paper. The cross is a ‘Which Way’ and acts as a gateway to access other planets. 

“The best bit was when Horizabel, full of grace, appears from out of the washing machine with adorable Blinkers her robot!”

Evie M (9)

The adventure really begins when a stranger knocks on the door of their washing machine, a fearsome robot storms their house to destroy them and their baby sister Annipeck is snatched by an evil pirate named Cyril. They are forced to slice an ‘X’ in the air of their world to create a ‘Which Way’ portal to travel through to save their sister by working together and maybe even Everest, the father of Izzabird and K2! They also make new friends on the way including a cheeky robot named Puck and the beautiful, talented Horizabel, but is she really a friend?

My personal favourite character

Horizabel because she is the storyteller of the book and is pretty. She also seems to be good but really… Horizabel is quite fascinating and by far has the best clothing. (Cressida Cowell well done!)

If you liked these books you will love this story too!

Harry Potter or The Magic Faraway Tree then you would love this!

Best bit…

My favourite part was where baby Anniepeck is kidnapped by evil Cyril and when Horizabel, full of grace, appears from out of the washing machine with adorable Blinkers her robot!

The Dangerous Life of Ophelia Bottom by Susie Bower, reviewed by Niamh (9)

The Dangerous Life of Ophelia Bottom is Susie Bower’s new release, following on from School for Nobodies and The Three Impossibles.  

Ophelia Bottom and her Shakespearean acting parents end up stuck in the perfect town of Stopford, after her dad literally breaks a leg during a performance. 

I really enjoyed The Dangerous Life of Ophelia Bottom! It was full of adventure, mystery, twists and had a very dark side to it.

Niamh (9)

Used to travelling, Ophelia is glad to be staying in one place for a change, especially one as perfect as Stopford. However, after starting school and encountering the ‘perfects’ and learning the unusual Stopford motto, Plasticus stupendus est, Diversus periculosus est – Plastic is fantastic, Different is dangerous – Ophelia is soon wary of the town and the mysterious Professor Potkettle, who owns the factory on the hill…

I really enjoyed The Dangerous Life of Ophelia Bottom! It was full of adventure, mystery, twists and had a very dark side to it. Ophelia was a great main character and I liked the mystery surrounding Professor Potkettle and what he’d do next. 

I’d recommend it as a great read during the school summer holidays, keeping you entertained. It’s a brilliant book for people who like a good twist and a dark plot.

Perfect for fans of: Megamonster by David Walliams; The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart; and A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.

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.

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. 

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 List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

Perfect for fans of Jacqueline Wilson, this is a heartfelt and beautifully positive feel-good family drama about learning to be kind to yourself amid the ups and downs of life.

When Bea’s dad and his wonderful partner, Jesse, decide to marry, it looks as if Bea’s biggest wish is coming true: she’s finally (finally!) going to have a sister. They’re both ten. They’re both in fifth grade. Though they’ve never met, Bea knows that she and Sonia will be perfect sisters. Just like sisters anywhere, Bea thinks. But as the wedding day approaches, Bea makes discoveries that lead her to a possibly disastrous choice.

Bea is a wonderful creation. Written with an honesty that embraces a young teen’s big emotions, Bea is a fully believable and immensely loveable character. We were rooting for her from the start; following her journey and hiding behind our cushions as she made mistakes and walked head first into trouble.

Told retrospectively, and with a brilliant supporting cast of family and friends, we watch as Bea navigates her parents’ divorce and her dad’s new relationship with Jesse. Rebecca Stead writes with a brightness that lifts the characters from the page and colours their anxieties, jealousies, hopes and fears. Every emotion and injustice is haloed with intensity, as if felt for the first time by a young teenager learning to understand the new world she finds herself in.

A heartfelt and intimate celebration of love, families and friendship, this is a must read for those looking for honesty, positivity and happy endings. Perfect for 9+.

You can get your copy here.

Tiger Heart by Penny Chrimes

One magical friendship. One roaring adventure. The magical tale of a bold young chimney sweep and a remarkable tiger, a dangerously hypnotic ruby and a mystical land that’s found across an ocean and through a storm. Perfect for fans of The Girl of Ink and Stars and Pax.

Tiger Heart is a fierce historical fantasy where nothing is as it seems and magic can come from the most surprising of places. It is also deliciously dark; dealing with themes of capitalism, control and greed. A tale for our age, the nods to capitalist politics, child labour and animal welfare make this historical adventure all too relevant.

A fantastic story for children who enjoy their magic grounded in history with believable, authentic characters and a layer of worldly truth. We loved it!

About the book:

Fly never meant to end up in a cage with a man-eating tiger. And though she’s no princess, when the tiger bows to her, she can’t help vowing to free him and return him home. But the bird-filled jungles and cloud-topped mountains of the tiger’s homeland are an ocean away. And not everyone wants the tiger to return.

With dark and dangerous forces working against them, will Fly be able to fulfil her promises, keep them both alive and – just maybe – become the queen her tiger knows her to be?

You can get your copy here.

Nothing Ever Happens Here by Sarah Haggar-Holt

“This is Littlehaven. Nothing ever happens here. Until the spotlight hits my family.”

Izzy’s family is under the spotlight when her dad comes out as Danielle, a trans woman. Izzy is terrified her family will be torn apart. Will she lose her dad? Will her parents break up? And what will people at school say? Izzy’s always been shy, but now all eyes are on her. Can she face her fears, find her voice and stand up for what’s right?

A beautifully accessible book about growing up, dealing with friendship issues and securing your place in the world, we really enjoyed spending time with Izzy and her family.

Sarah Haggar-Holt writes sensitively and positively about Danielle and her family's response to her transition but the focus is very much on Izzy and her realisation that parents are fallible and not all-powerful, all-knowing beings. We follow her as she finds her way through secondary school, dealing with all the anxieties of facing friendship issues, learning who you are and securing your place in your world.

Engaging characters and an honest insight into how it feels for the family of someone transitioning, this deserves a place in every key stage 2 library.

You can get your copy here.

Furious Thing by Jenny Downham

(TW - Domestic violence, coercive control)

This book is immensely powerful. The kind of book that will leave you staring at the wall and trying to make sense of the world. In a really good way. It is clear to see why it has been shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award.

Furious Thing tells the story of 15 year old Lexi who is swallowing her fury with the world around her. She lives with her mother, her mother’s boyfriend John and her young half-sister Iris. Her mother and John are planning to marry but Lexi has other ideas. She can see that John is not a good man and is manipulating her mum. She is also in love with John's son, Kass.  Can she open her mum's eyes and show the world what is really going on? Can she show Kass what is real and what is making her a furious thing?

Domestic violence and coercive control and manipulation are strong themes running through the entire book. Lexi is an unreliable narrator; her anger and pain is visceral and complex and as a reader it is often painful to watch. She makes decisions that will have you shouting at the pages of the book, but shouting from a place of empathy and understanding and your own raw fury. Because Jenny Downham has perfectly crafted Furious Thing to engage, enrage and empower its readers. She twists the tale so expertly that you are drawn into John's lies and then slapped by the reality of his manipulation, she brings you along a fiercely emotional journey and, in some ways, is just as unreliable as Lexi. Just as you think you have your full fighting fury at the ready she adds another twist and another layer of injustice to the pile. Buy this for all the young women in your lives and watch them stand tall.

Ultimately, this is a book that will empower its readers to speak out, unleash their fury and stand up to injustice and manipulation.

Feel the fury, find your voice and fight for your future. It's in your hands.

You can get your copy here.

 

Gloves Off by Louisa Reid

#GlovesOff by @louisareid is stunning! Beautifully written in verse and packing an emotional punch, it’s a gem of a book celebrating diversity, body-confidence in the face of bullying, and the power of finding your tribe. 🏳️‍🌈💪🏾🥊

Lily turns sixteen with two very different sides to her life: school, where she is badly bullied, and home with her mum and dad, warm and comforting but with its own difficulties.

After a particularly terrible bullying incident, Lily’s dad determines to give his daughter the tools to fight back. Introducing her to boxing, he encourages Lily to find her own worth.

It is both difficult and challenging but in confronting her own fears she finds a way through that illuminates her life and friendships.

Meeting Rose, and seeing that there is another world out there, enables her to live her own life fully and gives her the knowledge that she is both beautiful and worth it.

Out now from @guppybooks you can get your copy here.