The Songs You’ve Never Heard by Becky Jerams and Ellie Wyatt, reviewed by Tegen (15)

The Songs You’ve Never Heard is the touching story of young social media influencer, Meg McCarthy. Meg is known only because of her brother, Casper. He is a famous singer who all the girls adore. Meg has always felt ignored by her parents, who focus all her attention on Casper. Little do they know, Meg writes her own songs and records them. But she never shares them with anyone. Except for her friend on a music social app, called Band-Snapper.

I could read this book over and over and never get bored. I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves music because it is the main theme that runs through the whole book. 

Tegen (15)

But soon her life is going to take some very positive and very negative turns and Meg is going to figure out who she wants by her side to help her. 

I loved this book because it was the perfect pace. I could understand everything that was going on without things getting repetitive or boring. But at the same time, there were plot twists when you least expect them. I also loved it because it portrays the feeling of being the gifted child’s sibling and the suffocation you can feel, really well. The authors portrays the sort of world that Meg is growing up in and show that being a rich, popular, famous teenager is not everything people hype it up to be. 

I would recommend this book to ages ten and upwards. This is because it’s easy-going, simple to understand, yet an engaging storyline that could keep anyone hooked from start to finish. I could read this book over and over and never get bored. I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves music because it is the main theme that runs through the whole book. 

The Reluctant Vampire Queen by Jo Simmons, reviewed by Catherine (11)

Fifteen-year-old Mo Merrydrew has her life sketched out perfectly. It’s all in The Plan, a scheme that she and her best friend have come up with together. Unfortunately, one evening, coming home from school, she encounters Bogdan, a vampire who insists that she is the Chosen One and must become the Vampire Queen of Britain. Mo doesn’t find it appealing, as she is a vegetarian. But the next day she meets Luca, Bogdan’s human servant, and suddenly the role of Vampire Queen seems a lot better…

The author is really good at making the reader want Mo to succeed – even though she faces a life of gruesome crime.

Catherine (11)

Bogdan and Luca ask Mo over and over again, trying to persuade her to change her mind. Just as the duo are leaving in defeat, Mo has a brainwave which solves everyone’s problems, usefully making her new crush stick around. But trouble is around the corner. The Vampire King is coming to England! Mo will need all the help she can get…or she might accidently become the royal dinner!

Mo likes hanging out with her bestie Lou, and eating mini Battenberg cakes. She is a person who values school and sadly she is bullied by a girl called Tracey Caldwell, who is also mean to Lou. Will Mo find the courage to stand up to her enemies so they leave her alone? The author is really good at making the reader want Mo to succeed – even though she faces a life of gruesome crime.

Throughout this story Mo finds her voice and discovers exactly what it means to be a Vampire Queen. I like how Mo seems to be a powerful role model and has strong feelings about women being equal to men. She criticizes Bogdan’s biased view that vampire monarchs should be male, but that he is willing to make ‘an exception’ for her. In her opinion (and mine too!) there is no exception to make!

The Unexpected Tale of Bastien Bonlivre by Clare Povey, reviewed by Aysha (11)

In this magnificent book by Clare Povey, the main character, Bastien Bonlivre, gets taken to an orphanage. In this orphanage, the owner, Monsieur Xavier, is not very nice and horrible to the children.

Bastien’s parents died and they left behind a notebook which was told to have something hidden inside it as they were very famous book writers.

I loved this book as it’s based in France and I love reading stories about different places. There are even a few French words in it too!

Aysha (11)

Over the next few days in the awful orphanage bastien meets another boy, Theo, who is a very cunning engineer who can build almost anything out of scrap. As the months go by, Theo and Bastien decide to escape briefly to see France in all its pride and glory.

Suddenly back at the orphanage the notebook gets stolen, can Bastien get is back before it’s too late?

I loved this book as its based in France and I love reading stories about different places. There are eve a few French words in it too!

This book will be right up your alley if you like stories, as Bastien reads a lot of stories to the orphanage boys: mysteries, crime and Paris.

The Secret of Haven Point by Lisette Auton, reviewed by Evie B (11)

‘The Secret of Haven Point’ is a heart-warming story about a girl called Alpha Lux. She was abandoned as a baby at Haven Point, a lighthouse which, since then, has become a safe place for any person with a disability or difference in need of a place to belong. The inhabitants name themselves ‘Wrecklings,’ raiding ships with the help of mermaids who live nearby. Alpha spends her days adventuring with her best friend, Badger, and trying not to get into trouble. Until one day, she spots a mysterious light upon the hill, and swiftly realises that her much-loved new family are in danger of being exposed to Outsiders…

Her fabulous tale is full of excitement and thrills – I just couldn’t stop reading! It’s also a story of friendship and compassion… I really felt for Alpha as I read.

Evie B (11)

I absolutely adored ‘The Secret of Haven Point’. It is a brilliant debut novel from the extraordinary new author, Lisette Auton. Her fabulous tale is full of excitement and thrills – I just couldn’t stop reading! It’s also a story of friendship and compassion. I really felt for Alpha as I read, because she wonders so often about what happened in her past, and why she was abandoned at the lighthouse. It is an amazing narrative and I really enjoyed the fact that there were such positive representations of children with disabilities and differences in the book.

‘The Secret of Haven Point’ actually has a lot of extremely important morals behind the wonderful storyline, including one about believing in yourself and being true to who you are. Another key message in it is that everyone should be judged by their personalities and actions, rather than their appearance. This is one of the fundamental ideas of the story, and I appreciate that it is included because it is just as important in real life. This book really celebrates the themes of belonging and acceptance, and I think that that’s brilliant.

I would recommend this story to anyone aged 9 or over. It’s a truly unique story, but any fans of adventure and mystery novels with a sprinkling of magic (such as the ‘Harry Potter’ series by J.K. Rowling) would find this book really captivating. I can’t wait to see what ideas Lisette Auton comes up with in her next book!

★★★★★ 5 stars!

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.

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.

The Night Bus Hero by Onjali Rauf – review

With her perfectly pitched voice and solid understanding of children’s minds and hearts, Onjali Q Rauf has written another classroom must-have. One of our favourite reads this year, we can’t celebrate this book enough.

The Night Bus Hero explores the importance of friendship and the perils of power and pretending to be someone you are not. It shows us that everyone has their own story and that friendship comes from listening, understanding and finding the common ground we all share. Fast-paced and full of adventure, with clues to solve and a mystery to unravel, this is sure to be a firm favourite for 8+.

About the book:

From Onjali Q. Rauf, the award-winning and best-selling author of The Boy at the Back of the Class, comes another incredible story, told with humour and heart.

‘The boy’s an absolute menace.”He’s a bully. A lost cause!”Why can’t he be more like his sister?’ I’ve been getting into trouble for as long I can remember. Usually I don’t mind ‘cos some of my best, most brilliant ideas have come from sitting in detention. But recently it feels like no one believes me about anything – even when I’m telling the truth! And it’s only gotten worse since I played a prank on the old man who lives in the park. Everyone thinks I’m just a bully. They don’t believe I could be a hero. But I’m going to prove them all wrong…

Told from the perspective of a bully, this book explores themes of bullying and homelessness, while celebrating kindness, friendship and the potential everyone has to change for the good.

Due to be published 15th October. You can get your copy here. And while stock lasts, a copy with a signed bookplate here.

When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten – review

A beautifully evocative story about the power of friendship and community, with a mystery that keeps you guessing and an unexpected twist. 

With a beautiful setting and a community of characters who will touch your heart, Kereen Getten deals with friendship, families and shifting relationships with compassion and skill. At the heart of this story is a message of acceptance and compassion with more than a nod to the power of imagination and friendship. We loved it. Perfect for 10+

About the book:

Nothing much happens in Sycamore, the small village where Clara lives – at least, that’s how it looks. She loves eating ripe mangoes fallen from trees, running outside in the rainy season and escaping to her secret hideout with her best friend Gaynah. There’s only one problem – she can’t remember anything that happened last summer.

When a quirky girl called Rudy arrives from England, everything starts to change. Gaynah stops acting like a best friend, while Rudy and Clara roam across the island and uncover an old family secret. As the summer reaches its peak and the island storms begin, Clara’s memory starts to return and she must finally face the truth of what happened last year.

You can get your copy here.

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.

Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Zombies

We love the Sam Wu series! Highly illustrated, fun and fast-paced reads with guaranteed laughs, they never disappoint.

In Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Zombies Sam and his team are back to face their fears together as they investigate the strange noises – and smells – coming from Ralph and Regina’s Do-Not-Enter basement. Hilarity and chaos ensue as the team try to save the world from a rabid pack of zombie werewolves.

We particularly love this series for its readability, strong sense of fun and imagination and its beautifully positive and casual inclusion of diverse characters. Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Zombies includes gentle nods to the fear of being different and not fitting in and shows the reader that you will always find your people if you are brave enough to be yourself.

Perfect for fans of Pamela Butchart and a brilliant follow on from her Wigglesbottom Primary School series.

About the book:

The fifth in the slapstick, action-packed middle-grade series. Sam is conflicted about saving the day when it’s his arch-enemy Ralph Zinkerman the Third who falls foul of the zombie werewolves. Deals with common childhood fears in a sensitive and accepting way.