Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Weight of Water

by Sarah Crossan

The plot of Crossan’s novel is not complicated: Kasienka is a young teenage girl and this is the story of how her new life in England after having moved with her mother from Poland. Crossan writes from Kasienka’s point of view, describing the prejudice aimed towards her and other difficulties she encounters. But when someone special enters her life it gives her new hope; although her family situation and a stream of problems coming her way more than counteract this.

But there is one key difference with this novel, it is written entirely in verse.

At first I was worried because nine out of the ten poems I read I do not like. I was concerned that the novel would be un-engaging and the poetry would separate us from the plot and characters, but I was very wrong.
Somehow the poetry flowed as if I were reading a novel. Each poem moves the story forward but there was a different focus to different to each of them, like chapters. I found myself just wanting to read on and on and I was genuinely interested in Kasienka’s life. I particularly liked how when she described how an adult had spoken to her very slowly and the frustration she feels from the fact that she is treated as if she has lesser intelligence than the people around her.

Kasienka and the characters which surrounded her were very believable and the poem helped Kasienka’s feelings to be described in a very simple but emotional way and I felt that I could not help but sympathise with Kasienka’s sadder situations and be happy for Kasienka in the more positive events. Someone also pointed out to me that the fact simple poetry is used mirrors the limited language Kasienka possesses - either way the poetry definitely adds to our understanding of her feelings.

Of all the writing, I could not fault it, I thought there was a perfect balance of realism and intrigue to the Weight of Water which made it so readable. The characters were presented in such a way from Kasienka's point of view that I judged them and immediately believed in them. In fact the only criticism I would have is that the ending came all too soon. Because of the way the poems were written the book was very short anyway, and I wanted to have a more final ending which did not leave it so open.

However, overall, ‘The Weight of Water’ is an excellently written book, and if all of the books in the shortlist are of this quality then it is going to be a very hard decision to narrow down a winner.

By Nathan, Yr 10

Monday, 25 March 2013

Code Name Verity

By Elizabeth Wein

When ‘Verity’, a British special agent, parachutes into Nazi-occupied France in October 1943, she is captured immediately. Held by the Gestapo at their headquarters, she is given two weeks to tell them everything she knows about the British war effort, or else they’ll shoot her on the spot. Reluctantly she agrees, knowing it’s her only hope of ever getting out, and so begins her story. Hurriedly told on scraps of paper, Verity reveals not only her secrets, but her journey, and her most extraordinary friendship with the pilot that flew her into France, Maddie.
I absolutely loved this book and I could hardly put it down! The characters Wein has created were exciting, unique and extremely realistic. Their stories were so intricately entwined that the plot was gripping from start to finish. Just when it seemed like you knew what was going to happen, another twist would throw you off of the scent and make you desperate to read on. The description in the book is detailed and interesting and we can visualise almost every setting mentioned, from those that are frequently visited, to those mentioned by Verity in fleeting memories.
Maddie was enchanting, a funny and emotional character, brought to life by Wein’s inspiring words. However, without a doubt my favourite character was Verity. This girl, who has so many names throughout the book, had such a moving story to tell, during which she shares with us, as the reader, her hopes, fears and dreams. Both the main characters have such selfless personalities-always worrying about each other- that you can’t help but love them, and their friendship is one that runs much deeper than normal bonds. As well as this, I also loved the way that smaller more minor characters were developed too, especially Von Linden, and Engel towards the end of the book.

As well as these things, what made the book so gripping for me was the narrative. In Part One of the book Verity tells the story, and we see her life told by her from a third person point of view. This sounds quite confusing but was really effective as it meant we could see all the characters, including Verity herself, from a neutral viewpoint and were able to make our own judgements. However, bits of Part One are also told in the present- snippets of information or small anecdotes about the goings on in the prison where Verity is being held. These parts were very moving and were often about her feelings and emotions. It is hard for me to talk about Part Two’s narrative without giving a plot twist away, and ruining the book for those of you who haven’t read it. Let’s just say, it was a shocking twist at first, but I thought it worked really well.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book and I have to say it is probably my favourite book so far this year! The characters were believable and obviously well thought out; the narrative was brilliant and full of depth; and the plot was gripping, full of fantastic twists and turns. An absolutely fantastic book which I would recommend to anyone!

Eleanor, Year 10.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Stan Lee Excelsior Award 2013

Another shortlist for us to embrace! Voting in the Stan Lee Excelsior award last year was a great introduction to graphic novels and comics for some of our readers.

Take a look at this year's shortlist!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Red House Shortlist 2013

The Red House shortlist is here!

This is the first time we've taken part in the longlisting process and it's been fantastic getting our hands on some new books and discovering new authors.  the feedback is on paper, so sorry there are no reviews going up, but hopefully we'll be reviewing the shortlist as we read.

The Red House book award is different because it's the only award voted for entirely by children, for children, so we were hoping for an interesting shortlist, and we've not been disappointed. We're going to be reading both the Young and Older readers shortlisted books and we're looking forward to getting in contact with other local reading groups too!

Young Readers:

Gangsta Granny by David Walliams
Meet Ben’s granny. She’s just your ordinary kind of granny: white hair, false teeth, likes playing Scrabble... oh, and she’s an international jewel thief! Join the intrepid pair as they plan the greatest jewel heist in the history of the world in this all-action, laugh-a-minute story from the author of Billionaire Boy and Mr Stink. Illustrations by Tony Ross just add to the mayhem!

The World of Norm: May Contain Nuts by Jonathan Meres
Norman is a twelve-year-old boy in the mould of Harry Enfield’s teenaged ‘Kevin’ and his life too is ‘just so unfair’. From the opening when Norm almost pees in his dad’s wardrobe, to his tantrums with his two younger brothers, to Norm’s quest to ‘pimp up his bike’, the comical scenes and situations will keep young readers in fits of giggles.

Operation Eiffel Tower by Elen Caldecott
Lauren, Jack, Ruby and Billy live by the seaside with their mum and dad. After months of rowing, their dad moves out of the family home. Lauren and Jack decide that they have to get their parents together again and so begins Operation Eiffel Tower. First the children want to send their parents to Paris, but quickly realise they can never afford that, so instead they set up a dinner for two under the Eiffel Tower in the local crazy golf attraction. But will it get their parents talking again?

Older Readers: 

Eight Keys by Suzanne Lafleur
From the author of the heartbreaking Love, Aubrey comes another touching novel. Elise is fed up with school, fed up with her friends and just about at the end of her tether. Then, one incredible day, Elise discovers a secret that might just unlock her past and help her take a chance on her future. What is the key with her name on going to reveal?

The Medusa Project: Hit Squad by Sophie McKenzie
The sixth and final book in the series about teenagers with psychic abilities. The Medusa Project team is due to be disbanded and the teenagers sent to separate locations. But Nico, Ketty, Ed and Dylan are determined to investigate claims that a drug with the same powers as the Medusa gene has been developed. A page-turning thriller.

The Lorien Legacies: The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore
With his exciting, yet simple writing style and vividly imagined alien world, Pittacus Lore has created the ideal series to entice readers to branch out from the realms of Harry Potter. This book follows the fate of the survivors from an alien planet who are being tracked down and destroyed by evil Mogadorians, and combines clever twists with a thrilling, unforgettable chase.

Friday, 28 September 2012

This year's reviews

Hi everyone, sorry we're slow off the mark this year with new reviews, it's been a ridiculously busy September! We'll be shadowing the Red House Children's Book Award and the Stan Lee Excelsior during 2012-13, and hopefully discovering some wonderful new books and authors along the way!

Friday, 15 June 2012


By Andy Mulligan

His book is about Raphael, Gardo and Rat, three dumpsite boys in Behala. They spend their days sifting through rubbish, and one day come across a small leather bag stuffed full of money. The bag changes their life forever. Inside is money and clues. Clues that lead them on a trail that puts them in grave danger, but helps them find out about a dead man’s mission to right a terrible wrong.

This was the second time I have read this book, so I didn’t enjoy it as much the second time as I knew what was going to happen. It was still good, just not as good. I thought the plot was very clever, everything linking up well. I liked the way the boys were very fast thinking, and I also liked the fact that throughout the book not everything went as the characters planned, it was more realistic.

Mulligan captured the feelings of the boys really well, explaining their backgrounds clearly. I liked how the book was told from different people’s perspectives, and not just Raphael, Gardo and Rat. This added a different feel to it, and showed exactly what happened. The boy’s feelings were clearly showed in their certain chapters.

I really liked this book. It was a good read, and very exciting and unpredictable.

By Emily B, Year 8

The Midnight Zoo

By Sonya Hartnett

This book is about two brothers, Andej and Tomas, and there baby sister, Wilma discovering a zoo, where the animals talk at night. Andre, Tomas flee from danger in the war without their parents. They have to live off things left from bombed villages, as they only took a few bits from where they were staying before their parents were taken and they escaped. They take shelter in a zoo in a bombed out town, and start talking to the animals, both telling their tales and their wish for freedom.

At first I really didn’t like this book- I thought it was really unrealistic, and I thought that it was maybe a bit childish. But, as I continued reading I found it wasn’t as such about the actual talking animals it was about the animals stories and that their wishes were incredibly similar to Andrej and Tomas’.

I loved how the boys feelings were described, especially the one who was more the ‘leader’ of the two. He acted very responsibly, always thinking of his brother and sister, and it made me sad that a boy that age had to think like that, acting like an adult.

I loved the animal’s stories of how the zoo had got there and their desperation for food and company. The descriptions really helped me picture the scene, it was cleverly written. I think once the boys got to the zoo it was a lot more interesting because you found out a lot more about the boys and the boys family, and you found out why they were in the situation they were in.

I think this book was really good; you just have to persevere at the beginning!

By Emily B, Year 8

Between Shades of Gray

By Ruta Sepetys

This book is about Lina, a normal Lithuanian girl who loves art. One night in 1941 Soviet guards haul Lina and her family from their home. Her mother, brother and herself are separated from her Father and taken away. They are forced to work and live in cruel conditions, but Lina doesn’t give up hope. She continues drawing clues to pass on, in the hope that her Father will see them and find her.

I really enjoyed this book from the start. I think it really showed the feelings a normal teenage girl would feel about this happening to her and her family, and it was a great example of the suffering going on during this time. It was interesting to read, as I have never read a book about Stalin in world war 2.

 I loved the characters, especially how Sepetys described them, pointing out different things as the story progressed. My favourite character was Lina’s brother, Jonas, as I thought his character was brave, doing things to help his family that put himself at risk; I definitely wouldn’t have had the courage to do that! I also liked the fact that Lina always believed, she never gave up hope that her Father was still alive and that her life would go back to like it was before.

Overall I thought this book was very good, some interesting turns that I never expected! I would definitely recommend this to anyone- girls and boys! Everyone would enjoy it!

By Emily B, Year 8

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Small Change for Stuart

By Lissa Evans
Small Change for Stuart is about an unusually small boy called Stuart, whose great uncle was a famous magician who mysteriously disappeared many years ago.  When his family move to the town where his uncle was born and lived, Stuart discovers a note left for his dad many years ago. He follows an intricate trail of clues to discover the truth of his great uncle’s disappearance, with a determined businesswoman and a hopeless magician out to stop him.
It was a strange book, and a lot of the things that happened seemed to be mostly of coincidence, but I really enjoyed it. It was written very well, and I don’t get bored once!
My favourite character was Leonara, because she helped Stuart even though she was blind and didn’t really know who he was. She rescued him, protected him from Jeannie, and freed Clifford. She was a really kind, generous person. It was a shame you didn’t find more about what happened to her at the end, but you do know she is happy.
I really like this type of book, and this is a perfect example why.9/10!
Molly Taylor (Year 8)

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Midnight Zoo

 In this book two boys and a baby have to survive on the own when there parents are captured. They have traveled for a long time until they reach a desolated village. Suddenly bombs begin to drop and hey take refuge in an abandoned zoo. When the bombers have gone they realize they are not alone. They are surrounded by animals in cages. The animals tell them there story about how there owner left with some of the lions and never came back. Towards the end of the book a girl comes into the zoo as if she was the boys mother but instead she is the animals.    

I thought this book was good. It was told brilliantly and I enjoyed the animals story's.I would give his book 9/10.

 by Laura Bayne 

The Midnight Zoo

By Sonya Hartnett

            The Midnight Zoo is about two brothers, Andrej and Tomas, and their struggle through life along. They must find food and shelter for them and their very young sister, Wilma. They are only children themselves and already they must take on responsibilities that many adults can not cope with. Then, one night when they are looking for sources of food, money and shelter, they stumble across a dark secret.
            I did not like this book. I felt that it took ages to get into the story and that it was quite a childish theme. I also felt that it kept leaping from one extreme to another, changing subject all too quickly. I feel that far too many subjects were covered in this book as well. And that there was too many big stories both realistic and not. There were a lot of characters to try and keep track of as well.
            So, I think that the idea for the book was very good, but it needs to be simplified, there was far too much going on at one time. I could not put this book down because if I did I would lose track of everything that was happening and have to read from the beginning again.

By Jodie yr8

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Small change for Stuart

This book is full of adventurer and mystery. Stuart is moved by his parents in the middle of the school holidays to his fathers home town. He knows nobody. When he finds his out his family used to own a toy factory he sets out on a quest to find his uncles lost work shop. This means he must break in to town museum to use some old toys. When he finds the workshop. It does not go to plan

This book was OK. But laked the last bit of umph. I would give this book 7/10.

Laura Bayne