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!

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 Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency is the stuff of dreams! The perfect book to escape into, it will take you on adventures to other worlds, with lush descriptions, imaginative characters and just the right amount of mild peril.

L.D. Lapinski has written a fantastic page-turner that is filled with adventure and magic, perfectly balanced by a grounding in family and friendship. There is beautifully casual inclusion of queer and non-binary characters, and the story is threaded through with an environmental theme, giving it the feel of a thoroughly modern future classic.

Their real strength is in creating incredible other-world adventures threaded through with universal truths. The Strangeworlds Travel Agency acknowledges that childhood isn’t always easy and care-free,  especially if your family is dealing with poverty and you are forced to take on adult responsibilities. But even in the hardest of times there is always room for wonder and adventure -and The Strangeworlds Travel Agency has plenty of both.

Perhaps, now more than ever, that is exactly what children need to see and read.


About the book:

Pack your suitcase for a magical adventure! Perfect for fans of Train to Impossible Places and The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club.

At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside . . .

When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she uncovers a fantastic secret: there are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours. All you have to do to visit them is jump into the right suitcase. Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds.

But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness – and takes our world with it.

A magical adventure for 9+ readers that will take you to whole new worlds.

You can get your copy here. Limited signed copies available here.

Gargantis by Thomas Taylor

At last! The much-anticipated sequel to Malamander is nearly here and we are SO happy to be sharing it with you all. We have SIGNED pre-orders available! Eek!

It’s a joy to be back in the world of Eerie-on-Sea amongst the characters and locations we know and love from our Malamander adventure. Dear Mrs Fossil, the delightful Erwin the cat, quirky Dr Thalassi, our beloved Jenny Hanniver, and of course, our heroes, Herbie Lemon and Violet Parma. It feels like coming home.

But there’s no time to get too comfortable amongst old friends because there are new mysterious characters appearing in Eerie-on-Sea, and a heavy dose of magic that seems to be spiralling out of control.

There’s a storm raging in Eerie-on-Sea. Has the mighty Gargantis come back from the deep…?

When an ancient bottle is found washed up on the beach after a ferocious electrical storm, all the residents of Eerie-on-Sea seem to want it … but should they in fact fear it? Legend has it that the bottle contains an extraordinary secret that spells doom for the whole of Eerie-on-Sea. Could it be true that the vast sea creature Gargantis has awoken from her slumbers, and is causing the large cracks that are appearing all across the town? Finding themselves entrusted with the bottle, Herbie and Violet discover they will need to ride the terrible storm and pacify the creature if they want to save Eerie-on-Sea from sliding into the ocean and being lost for ever.

Thomas Taylor is absolutely on form in this fantastic sequel. His clever word play is a delight to read and his world-building and character creation whisks you away in wonder.

Gargantis is an adventure mystery full of heart. It is packed with twists and turns, mysterious characters and magical beings. At its core is a story of friendship and courage, and of learning that you have the strength to face the world and to do more than you realise. It’s a celebration of children’s innate sense of justice and their belief in finding the good in the world. It is hopeful and happy and an absolute joy from start to finish.

With gorgeous cover art by the ever-talented George Ermos.

You can order your SPECIAL EDITION copy here.

Evernight by Ross MacKenzie

If you like your adventures dark and dangerous and your stories gory, this is  the book for you. Perfect for fans of the magic and story building of Harry Potter and the darkness of A.F. Harrold's The Imaginary. 

Evernight is dramatically written; crying out to be read aloud. It would be a great choice for teachers who want to share some magic with Key Stage 3 pupils. We were totally engrossed, although we did have to read some of the more macabre sections through our fingers!

With fantastic characters who come alive through strong, dramatic writing, this is a vivid and engaging story. This is a refreshing take on good versus evil, with the evil being deliciously dark and dangerous and the good being feisty yet powerless.

Evernight is hard to put down and harder to let go of. We can't wait to see what happens later in the series.

About the book:

Thousands of years ago, the Evernight came to the Silver Kingdom and turned everything to darkness and chaos. It was only defeated thanks to the skill and bravery of the Witches. But now the Evernight is about to return, released by the evil Mrs Hester, and the only spell that might stop it is lost, deep below the great city of King’s Haven.

Then orphan Larabelle Fox stumbles across a mysterious wooden box while treasure-hunting in the city’s sewers. Little does she realise she is about to be catapulted into an adventure, facing wild magic and mortal danger – and a man who casts no shadow . . .

Best for 11+ 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.

Explorers on Black Ice Bridge by Alex Bell

If you haven’t yet discovered Alex Bell’s extraordinary The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club series then you have a real adventure ahead of you and, quite frankly, we’re jealous that you get to experience the joys from the very beginning. Get on it now! The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club awaits:

The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club

Explorers on Witch Mountain

Those of you who have read the first two books are in for a treat with book three; Explorers on Black Ice Bridge. The team are back together and face a daring mission that combines all the storylines Alex Bell has been weaving through the first two books in the series. We meet snow queens, magical creatures, club rivalries, injustice, conservation, fierce friendship, and the flouting of many, many rules. There are wonderful new characters to meet and all the peril, excitement and universal truths we have come to expect from this outstanding series. Engaging and exciting, this is a truly magical series for explorers 9+

You can get your copy here.