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

My Name is Mina

by David Almond

            My Name is Mina is a book, almost like a notebook, from the point of view of Mina, a very fast thinking, intelligent, young girl. Her father died when she was young, and a few years later, she left her school, to be home schooled by her equally imaginative mother. Mina offers a very different view to the world around us.
            I didn’t like this book, I felt that it was little too random and did not add anything to the story ‘skellig’. I think that it is a good idea to have a book from the point of view of Mina. But, I feel that the way6 he wrote it was a little too random and there was not really much purpose or even a basic storyline or adventure in the book.
            So, I felt that idea for the book was good, but that the way in which it was written could have been better and it could have done with a story like Mina going on an adventure, not just remembering some.

By Jodie yr8 

Small Change for Stuart

This book is about a boy called Stuart whose small for his age but is looking for a big adventure! His mum is a scientist and his dad stays at home. During the summer holidays they move away to his dad's birth town, all seems boring until he finds out about Teeny-tiny Tony Horten and his workshop of magic and wonder... This book was so amazing I couldn't put it down! It gripped me into it Stuart's world and made me want to know more.

Eleanor Widdowson yr7

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

My sister lives on the Mantelpiece

Ten year old Jamie has net cried since it happened. He knows he should have cried Jasmine cried, Mum cried, Dad stills cries. This book is about Jamie who sister dies in the terrorist attacks in London next thing he knows his Mums left and they move to the countryside. He makes a friend called Sonya a Muslim who his Dad hates. When his cat is run over by a car his dad finally has the courage to scatter Rose's ashes which he has been trying to do for 5 years. When he goes to a competition in Manchester his Mum turns up but suddenly disappears as though she was never there. Having broken friends with Sonya he makes her a card and leaves it in the snow. At the end of the book his dad becomes sober and lives start to go back to normal. 

I would give this book 9/10

Reviewed by Laura Bayne

Everybody Jam

Danny lives in the Australian out back on a ranch. Last year his brother (Jonny) died in an accident but nobody ever mentions him. It is time for the annual muster but with Jonny dead and his sister (sissy) pregnant. He is on his own. When he is given a pet, buzz, they become instant friends. With all the new calves the pommies (servant from England) has to help out. She and Danny become great helpers and look after all the calves together. To finish sissy has her baby and every one is happy. 

I enjoyed this book and read it in less than twenty-four hours. I would give it 9/10.
Reviewed by Laura Bayne

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Between Shades of Grey

It was difficult to pick up this book. I was in the middle of a great book and I wasn't really sure I wanted to read the Carnegie short-list. However once I had started reading it was even more difficult to put it down.

I was hooked from the start, right from Lina, a 15 year old Lithuanian girl, being cruelly taken by the Soviet Union to be transported in cramped, unhygienic and dark conditions in the first section of the book right until the last few pages in the workhouses in Siberia.

I was also impressed by the writing style because I didn't notice it. At no point in the book could I imagine the author writing the text in front of me. Lina was telling me the story and it was totally believable.

However my favourite aspect of this book was the characters, my favourite being Jonas watching him grow in his character as well as develop maturity and a sense of calm from being someone who was very scared and naive at the beginning of the book. I also loved how Lina took her own view on the characters she crossed paths, for example only referring to one woman as 'the grumpy woman'.
I also loved the character of Lina and Jonas's Mother. She was a very calming influence and not only did Lina and Jonas rely on her to keep the family together and alive, but I relied on her to keep the family together and alive. I had become so attached to the characters that I was genuinely fearful for them.

The plot and description was also faultless. It was described so well that I could picture the settings in my mind and, along with the plot, it kept me captivated and some bits I found genuinely shocking. I had to keep reminding myself that this had once happened and that made it all the more scary.

The only aspect of the book that I didn't like was the ending. Without spoiling it for those who haven't read it, I felt that the ending came very abruptly and that it didn't tie up as many loose ends as I would have liked. I also felt that the characters changed their views too quickly to make it an appropriate ending.

These events were based on real accounts from people who experienced the horrors in this book. It was set whilst World War One was going on so people often forget about what else what was happening in the world. Overall I thought that this book was an eye-opener, something unique and amazingly written. I would not hesitate in recommending it to everyone.

9/10 Review by Nathan Dumpleton

Thursday, 10 May 2012

my sister lives on the mantlepiece

My sister lives on the mantlepiece is a book about sorrow and happiness all rolled into one. Pitcher uses first person and pulls the reader in with her incredibly gripping story. James hasn't cried since Rose was blown up by a bin bomb when she was playing with some pigeons. He has a cat called Roger and a sister called Jasmine who dyed her hair pink on her 15th birthday. I laughed and I cried and I filled up with anger as I read this book.

Eleanor Widdowson yr7

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Everybody Jam

By Ali Lewis

This book is about Danny, and his family, who live on a cattle farm in Australia. His 14 year old sister, Sissy, is pregnant, his younger sister, Emily just doesn’t understand and his brother Johnny died in an accident. This year is their first ‘Muster’ on the farm without Johnny, and is Danny’s last one; he wants to make it a good one. But lack of rain causes some serious problems; the drought is getting worse…

I really liked the character ‘The Pommie’, their sort of Nanny. I thought how she acted was very realistic- a bit bewildered and confused, and I think if I had been her I definitely would have been. I also liked the character Danny, he had such a mixture of feelings and I loved reading about them. I thought it was sad that he felt he couldn’t talk to anyone about Johnny and the fact that he felt no one listened to him, everyone else was more important.

The storyline was great and even though I had no idea what a muster was, and what a lot of the things in it were, I still understood everything going on because it wasn’t just about the muster, it was about the characters life, within the muster and out of it. I learnt a lot from the book and thought the way everything was explained to the Pommie helped the reader to understand it too; I thought that was very clever.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and thought it was great. It was gripping in places, sad, happy and unpredictable, making it a really good read.

By Emily B, Year 8

Trash By Andy Mulligan

Trash by Andy Mulligan

Raphael, Rat and Gardo are just three boys who spend their days sifting through trash at the Behala rubbish dump. Until one day when Raphael finds a bag which turns their lives upside down soon they are on the run from the police trying to uncover a secret which will free them forever but will the police get there first.

I absolutely loved the book and thought it was really interesting. It was exciting and tense all the way through and I never knew what was going to happen next. I liked the way it was narrated by different people at different points and how so many characters narrated it. I also though it was great how you got everyone’s opinions in the story not just the ones of the main characters so you saw how people felt. The story had a great story line and I don’t think there are any other books at all like it. I thought that Mulligan wrote through the eyes of a child really well as the writing was quite child like and it did not sound like an adult. I thought the characters were all quite abstract and interesting and they were all very different to each other. However I think the ending could be a little different as I don’t really like the way it ends as it’s a little to fairytale for me and looks like it didn’t really have much thought in it. But overall it was a great book and I would recommend it to anyone aged 9 to 16 as some of it can be a bit upsetting so small children may not like it.

By Yasmin Year 8

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Everybody Jam

By Ali Lewis

Danny used to be an ordinary boy. He had an ordinary life living in the outback of Australia on his family’s cattle station. However, in the last year, things have changed. His older brother Jonny was killed in a tragic accident leaving his whole family grief stricken, it hasn’t rained in the outback for months and it’s nearly time for the annual muster, and now Sissy, Danny’s sister, is pregnant and the new house maid has arrived all the way from England. An emotional story of family life, family love and family troubles, this novel follows Danny in the upcoming months to the muster as he struggles to cope with the future and accept the past.

I really liked this book and thought that Lewis got the perspective just right. It is told from Danny’s point of view and gives his thoughts and feelings. This makes it perfect for teenagers as they can connect with the narrator immediately. The plot was gripping and you always wanted to know what was to come. I thought that the storyline was never boring and never predictable. Lewis mixes the normalities of family troubles with the unique qualities of the Australian outback and the surprising twists of the Dawson’s life creating a believable story which is both interesting and emotional.

The mix of feelings in this book is varied and when reading it you experience a rainbow of emotions. Firstly, you can easily connect with Danny and the frustration he feels when no one talks about Jonny. Secondly there is always a sense of excitement in Danny’s words as he counts down the days to the muster. Thirdly, and finally, you can feel Danny’s bewilderment as he tries to come to terms with all the changes in his life, whilst all the time acting grown up and trying to fill Jonny’s shoes.

The characters in this novel were brilliantly created and always thought through. Every single one was unique down to the finest details and the portrayal of each person through Danny’s eyes was spot on. Danny himself was created very well too and he almost has a split personality. There is the way others see him- as a collected young man who is struggling with changes but doesn’t want to talk- and also the way he talks about himself and his problems- a confused boy wanting to appear bigger than he is who’s trying to remember and be like, his honoured older brother.

My favourite character was Liz as she was the classic newbie. Hated at first by Danny she opens up and the two become good friends as the novel progresses. She and Danny could connect as they were both feeling out of their comfort zones and both had problems and new challenges. Liz was portrayed through Danny’s eyes as the odd one out- the ugly duckling always making mistakes. However what I really enjoyed in this book was you could see their friendship progress. As the story went on less of Liz’s mistakes were mentioned and more of her successes.

Lastly, Ali Lewis is an Australian author as you may have guessed by the setting of this book. It was very different for me when reading this book as Lewis used some Australian slang words. Liz was constantly referred to as a ‘Pommie’ which was interesting and different. The title of the book ‘Everybody Jam’ was slang for apricot jam and although this language was different and unexpected it fitted with the context and the rest of the novel and I soon got to grips with it all.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought it was a great novel. The plot was interesting and it was easy to understand the common yet unusual problems Danny faced. The setting was different and this coupled with the Australian slang and charming characters made the book unforgettable and unique. I would definitely recommend the book, it was super!

By Eleanor Lavender, Year 9

Friday, 4 May 2012


By Andy Mulligan

Raphael is an ordinary boy, well ordinary for someone who lives on the side of a trash heap. He spents all day, every day, searching for anything valuable amongst other people's rubbish that he can sell and make just enough money to get buy on. One day he finds something, a bag with a wallet inside, a little money, and some seemingly random items. However, when the police turn up looking for a bag of the same description, Raphael knows he has found something extraordinary. Together with his friends Gardo and Rat, he follows the trail of clues left behind, all the time chased by the police as they race to find what is hidden at the end...

I thought the plot was brilliant for this book, and I love how everything fits together like a jigsaw. It was difficult to predict what was going to happen next and I was constantly wondering what was going to happen. Everything all makes sense at the end, and I love how such a simple trail seems so clever and complex when the clues are a mystery. The only part that I was disappointed to was what happened to the characters at the very end in Chapter 6 of Part 5 - I thought it seemed too good to be true and too unrealistic. If Mulligan had finished a chapter earlier and still kept the Appendix, I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more. That being said, I loved what happened in Chapter 5, Part 5, and I thought it was a brilliant way to tie up the narrative - if only it had finished there!

The characters were all excellent and each had their own personality and a certain feistiness that made them very likeable. I thought the relationship between Raphael and Gardo was very realistic and convincing, especially how one was dominant over the other - exactly how two boys who are practically brothers should be.

The writing was also very believable, and Mulligan's choice of so many narrative voices was a huge risk but it definitely paid off. Each voice is completely unique and easily recognisable, and together they complement each other and help to build up a more three dimensional picture for the reader. In many books I sometimes wonder what the other characters are thinking, so it was brilliant to be able to get into almost every single character's mind at the key moments and understand how and why they act as they do.

Overall I thought this book was excellent and despite my disappointment at the end, I loved so many aspects of it.

Rachel, Yr 12

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Midnight Zoo

The Midnight Zoo
By Sonya Hartnett

This book is about two brothers who are escaping across a country destroyed by war. They end up at a village which has been turned to rubble and is deserted, except for the zoo. Cautiously, the brothers explore the zoo and discover the magic that lies at the heart of it, and the help that it desperately needs...

I thought the idea for this book was excellent. It was unusual and put a different twist on the standard wartime story; I think the setting in another country also helped. The plot was very good as I really wanted know what happened, and I loved how everything was carefully woven together so it all made sense in the end. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed by the ending as I found it too predictable and not satisfying enough, but the rest of the book was still very good.

Another thing about this book that I didn't quite get on with was the writing. It took me quite a while to get into the book because I found the style didn't flow very well with me, but I think it depends on your own opinion. Once I did get into the writing style I was able to enjoy the book a lot more, so it was not a lasting problem.

On a more positive note, I thought the characters and their back-stories were all excellent, especially the relationship between Andrej and Tomas. I loved how Tomas was the innocent younger brother and Andrej was the older one who carried the burden and was protective of his family. I also thought all the animals made believable and realistic characters - I liked how each one had its own personality and unique voice, particularly the Boar.

In spite of some issues with this book, overall I still enjoyed and felt it was a worthwhile read

Rachel, Yr 12

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys

Between Shades of Gray By Ruta Septeys

Lina is a young girl who lives with her parents in Lithuania. She is like every other girl her age.  But in 1941 when Soviet guards come to arrest her mother and Father her life is turned upside down. Through the eyes of a young girl we see the true wrath of Stalin during the Second World War. Through her suffering she decides to make pieces of art in the hope that one day her father will see them. Lina and her family fight to survive with very little food in the freezing cold. All she wants is to see her family again but will she?

I loved the book and thought it was a brilliant example of the suffering that occurred in the Second World War.  The problem with most books about this time is that they focus on the effects of Hitler and the holocaust however this book tells a completely different story: the story of a young girl struggling under Stalin’s cruel hand. I thought the characters were not at all “fairy tale” and I think that this was really good. I enjoyed how the story was told and the format of the book.I would recommend it to anyone aged 10 and up because I think you must have some maturity to truly understand the book.

By Yasmin Year 8

My Sister lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

            James was very young when Rose died, in fact, he can hardly remember her. His parents think that there is something wrong with him, because he has never dried over Rose’s death. But how can he be sad for someone that he never knew. When Dad, Jas (Rose’s identical twin) and James move to the country James has to start over and make new friends, but that means that he must chose between friendship and Rose.
            I loved this book, it gave a very different view of someone that lost one of their family as a result of the 9/11 bombings. Instead of being a child that lost their parents, it is a child that lost a sibling who was only a child themselves. And this book was more than just trying to cope with their death, and trying to overcome the grieving. It was the complete opposite it was a young boy trying to find a way to mourn the death of a sister that he can’t even remember.
             This book also covered stereotypes, it showed how a young boy who had been raised with the opinion that all Muslims are evil and spend their lives planning to kill people. And it shows how James learns that stereotypes are not always true.
            Overall, I loved this book and it covered some very hard topics very well.

By Jodie, Yr 8

Between Shades of Gray

By Laura Bayne

That morning, my brothers life was worth a pocket watch... Lina is an young Lithuanian girl who is taken by Stalin's froces during world war 2. She is put on a train and taken to a village where she works on  a beet farm. She makes friend with a boy called Andrius who helps here survive. Until she is taken in to the arctic circle to die. She loses her mother and many of her friends but she survives along with her brother. In a letter at the end she says that...

This book is amazing and really makes me feel  what it was like for her and her brother. I found it surprising that one of the army officers seems bad but turns good and help them in the last chapter. I would  give this book 10/10 as I really enjoyed it.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Small Change For Stuart

Small Change For Stuart
By Lissa Evans

Stuart is a ten year old boy who is incredibly small for his age, and is often picked on because of this. When he moves house to dull and dreary Beeton, his life gets worse and worse, especially when he meets the triplets next door. But the boredom doesn't last long; when Stuart discovers a message from his missing Great Uncle, he sets out on a quest to find the magician's workshop that was left behind by following a series of clues. However, he has very limited time and there are others searching too...

I thought this book was stunning and I was really caught up in the plot despite probably being considered too old to read it! I know I would have loved to read a book like this when I was younger, yet I still really enjoyed.

The series of clues is a really good idea, and although not unique, I thought Evans used the context around it to make it as unusual as possible. I loved how everything fitted together at the end, and whilst there were a couple of lose threads left, most my questions were answered and I felt extremely satisfied. I can see a sequel being written for this book, but it works just as well as a stand alone novel.

I really liked how Stuart was characterised, and how he reminded me of a ten year old - his thoughts and feelings were spot on. I also enjoyed the development of April as a character as I felt she helped to compliment many aspects of Stuart's character, as well as making both characters very relevant to ten year olds today.

There were continuous twists and turns, but nothing too complicated to follow, yet nothing was predictable and I was constantly turning the pages. I thought that the way magic and comedy were woven into the story were pretty much seamless. Nothing seemed tacky or silly - everything was completely believable and had that lovely old fashioned feel about it, but was also very modern. The comic moments were well executed and were not over the top or trying to be funny and failing.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to children and young adults of all ages - no one is 'too old' for this book!

Rachel, Yr 12

Friday, 27 April 2012

Everybody Jam

Everybody Jam
Ali Lewis

Living on a cattle station out in the Australian Outback, Danny Dawson is a thirteen year old boy struggling through a difficult time. His fourteen year old sister is pregnant, his older brother has recently died in an accident that no one ever mentions, and the drought is putting an increasing strain on the family. To add to things, the annual muster has almost arrived and this will be Danny's last one before boarding school, so he needs to prove himself and prove he is as good as Jonny, his deceased older brother. To add to his problems though, he has Buzz the camel to train against his fathers wishes, and the new house girl, Liz, to contend with, who seems to make mistake after mistake. As the tension builds, unlikely friendships are formed to build up to a dramatic and exciting finale.

I loved the insight into another culture with this book! The Australian Outback became a very real and very special place, whilst I enjoyed learning about the cattle stations and the way of life out there. It contrasts so vastly to the UK and the way of life is so unique to how we live and what we take for granted.

I thought the plot was excellent - there were plenty of twists and turns throughout that kept it entertaining and exciting, as well as making me really care about the characters. I particularly liked the characterisation of Buzz and how he got to play a large part in Danny's life - a camel is an unimaginable pet in my life! I also liked the character of Liz (The Pommie) and Danny's scathing remarks about her, whilst all along the reader is likely to share similar views to Liz.

I'm not so sure about Danny's narration as I felt it was a little immature for a thirteen year old and made him seem a lot younger than he really was. However, that was the only flaw that I could really spot - I thought everything else was absolutely excellent! The title is also incredibly fitting, as I think this a novel for everyone, like how everyone likes the 'everybody jam' in the book.

This book was incredible and definitely one of my favourite so far!

Rachel, Yr 12

My Name is Mina

My Name Is Mina
David Almond

'My Name Is Mina' is very difficult to describe what it is about, and that's perhaps one of the best things about it.  In summary, it is a diary that Mina, an incredibly imaginative girl, keeps and records all her daydreams, hopes, wishes, fears, and discoveries, and has been written as a prequel to 'Skellig' which is definitely now on my very long 'to read' list!

I loved Mina as a character, as I thought every aspect of her was thoroughly explored in the novel in a creative and imaginative way. Almond has captured the thoughts and feelings of many young and frustrated people who have a love of literature and managed to pack them into one person - the result is a very powerful a strong character, and although slightly mad we can all connect to her in some way or another.

The postmodern element of the novel was both a positive and negative for me. I loved how the book ignored pretty much every single rule of the conventional novel - even the way the writing laid out on the page was different, with massive words on some pages, some pages black with white writing etc, pretty much exploring every possible way of having an impact upon the reader. I also liked the playing around with 1st and 3rd person narrators and how Almond has manipulated the story to try his ideas out.

However, the downside of the postmodern element of the novel was that I finished without the character really getting anywhere - I didn't feel any particularly strong or overwhelming emotions at the end of the story, and I didn't feel satisfied either. There was no real drive to read 'Skellig' based on the end of the book - instead I am simply curious as to what happens next.

That being said, I did enjoy the refreshing break of reading Mina's diary and her wild and unrestrained thoughts that simply spilled out over the page and came straight from the heart - definitely a worthwhile read as long as you don't expect too much from the ending.

Rachel, Yr 12

Between the Shades of Gray

Between the Shades of Gray
Ruth Sepetys

This book is about the story of a Lithuanian girl, Lina, during the second world war. She is deported to Russia with her mother and her brother to work in the labour camps run by Stalin. Clinging to the hope her father is still alive, she creates pictures in the hope that he will see them and know where to find her. Lina undergoes some of the most horrifying conditions that humanity has had to face, but amongst the terror she develops closer bonds with her family and those with the same fate of her, learning to survive on hope and a will to live.

Firstly, I really enjoyed how this book explored a piece of history that has been largely overshadowed by the World War Two and Hitler. I knew absolutely nothing about what the people of the Baltic States had to endure in this period, and this novel is a perfect way of educating young people about the horrifying events that took place. Lina's lack of knowledge about what was happening was a perfect way to draw the reader into the story and to learn about what is happening as she learns, taking them on a journey similar to hers.

The narrative was easy to read and I loved the flashbacks that were scattered throughout the novel and how they eventually fit together to create a powerful ending. Despite the monotony of her life in the work camps, there is always some spark of hope in her voice to encourage the reader forwards, and at other times I was so scared about what would happen that I couldn't put it down.

I particularly liked the character of Andrius as he was so cheeky and so defiantly resisted the rule of the Russians. His relationship with Lina was also very touching and poignant, yet also incredibly challenging due to the immense pressure that both characters were put under.

The writing of this novel was incredibly solid and I found it very easy to connect to Lina as she is presented as such an ordinary person, despite the hardship she is suffering. I felt everything flowed very naturally, even the flashbacks, which can often be very jerky in many stories. I loved how just a few words in the present narrative linked to the flashback that made it sound like an echo of a forgotten life, which was exactly what it was.

Perhaps the most shocking point of this book is not the story itself but the Afterword, in which Sepetys explains how the Lithuanians were unable to speak of their ordeal freely until very recently - which makes it all the more important that this book is read.

Rachel, Yr 12

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece
Annabel Pitcher

Five years ago, Jamie's sister Rose was killed. Now aged ten and barely able to remember her, his family has been torn apart because of the tragedy. His mother has left, whilst his father is an alcoholic and hates all Muslims. His other sister Jasmine (Rose's twin) who is 15 is the only one who can understand him. But when Jamie makes friends with Sunya, a muslim girl at school, his life is turned upside down.

I thought this book was absolutely brilliant! I was drawn in from the very first page, and to use the cliché 'I couldn't put it down' is the most accurate way of describing how I read it, despite the fact I should have been doing homework for the next day. I loved all the twists and turns in the plot - everything was very unpredictable and I never knew where the story was going to go next.

The characters are all very well written, and each of them seemed very real to me. The development of Jas in particular was excellent, and I loved the little twist at the end involving her. The relationship between Jamie and Sunya was also very strong and worked well with the storyline - it was absolutely perfect for two 10 year olds and wasn't ridiculously fast paced or inappropriate. The characterisation of Roger is something to look out for too - it is very rarely that an animal sparks so many emotions that are so genuine and not silly.

The narrative voice of Jamie is well suited to that of a ten year old - I felt it really captured his innocence of that age. Many writers do not quite truly capture the age of their characters, most often making them sound too old for their age. However, Pitcher has developed Jamie's voice into something very believable and also includes the silly humour of that age, along with the honesty - something which is unusual when dealing with the subject of grief.

I particularly liked how so many relevant issues were explored too - there is something that many children and teenagers can connect to in the story. Each issue was given an appropriate amount of depth and time - nothing felt like it was rushed or lagging. The fact that Jamie cannot really comprehend what happened to his sister or have many memories of her definitely made the narrative much more compelling and put a different spin on this kind of story. As part of the generation who were alive when 9/11 took place but did not really understand it until many years later, I found this easy to connect, and I'm sure this is similar with many other readers having the same experience of knowing about an event but not really understanding it, such as the 2005 London bombings.

This book is excellent and definitely deserves to be on the shortlist

Rachel, Yr 12

A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls
Patrick Ness

Conor is a boy who has a close relationship with his mother who is battling cancer. He has a strained relationship with his father and grandmother, so he uses stories and dreams to help him deal with the more difficult aspects of his life.

I absolutely loved the imagination that went into this book and how the monster featured throughout the stories, perfectly capturing all of Conor's emotions in so few words. I also thought the book was visually very beautiful - the pictures simply helped to enrich the images I had in my mind and made me realise how much I miss picture books! I also love how unique, detailed, yet shadowy they are - as if they are designed to work to everyone's imagination

I was also impressed how the character of Connor was so different from that of the characters in the Chaos Walking Trilogy - so many writers create very similar voices for their characters in different books until they are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Conor retained a unique personality which makes him stand out.

By far the best part of this book was the power of the emotions in the incredibly short space of time and words. With very little description I could feel Conor's rage, anger, sadness and guilt throughout the story, eventually making me cry at the end due to the sheer power of the conflicting emotions.

Overall, I thought this book was excellent!

Rachel, Yr 12

Trash By Andy Mulligan

Trash was a roller-coaster of a heart-felt story narrated by a group of friends who lived on a giant landfill, they find a wallet of a moderately rich man in the trash with some money in it but end up taking more than they bargained for, as the man was a thief that stole a corrupt (is there any other kind) politician's stash of millions of dollars for revenge. The corrupt police and the narration leave you rooting for the - late - thief and the trash boys.
A nice story to follow along to, well written and although there isn't much room for a sequel I'm sure Mulligan will write another award nominee (and possibly winner) again. I like how it was written like a document of the events (I won't give much away) and how Gardo and Raphael explain themselves before carrying on with the story. But I'll will stop boring you with my words read the book it's definitely worth a read.
By Louis Yr 9

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Fantastic reviews!

Some really amazing work being done on the books this year everyone, well done! And congratulations to Molly and Emily B who are in the lead for most books read.

This entire book is based around one girl and her family, how they were taken from their home by guards and shipped away with no explanation.  Unknown to them and all the people they are sharing a cattle car with they are being shipped away to Siberia where they would face death, illness and total and utter loss.  Would I be able to survive that was the question running through my mind as I dived deeper into the book
 Lina is fifteen years old when her, her mother and her younger brother are put through all of this punishment.  She may never see her father again but she keeps her hopes high and uses her art works to help her survive this bitter new life she has to lead.  Her art helps her find hope in a truly horrifying world. For me this book is one of those books that when something sad happens to a character it brings a tear to your eyes, it is written from first person with power and strong emotion as if it is a real diary. People who can read this book and not feel a slight  bit of sadness  have a heart of stone, I rarely get a emotional at a book but this book did.  A truly amazing book of young love, death, and survival.

All in all I would highly recommend this book to anyone.
 By IsobelYear 9  

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

My Name Is Mina


My name is Mina is an amazing book written from the point of view Mina. She is a home-schooled girl who has a wide imagination. She lost her dad and owns a         house that used to belong to her grandfather. She explains how she because            home-schooled and the trip to Corinthian Avenue Pupil Referral Unit.and about her trip to the underworld where she meets 'Cerberus'. She talks about S.A.T.'s day and dust being peoples skin so they never really leave this earth. Also she see a new family moving into a empty house. But will she have the courage to talk to there son?

I found this book amazing and would give  it to anyone. The only thing I would change would be then ending. This is because I would like to find out what happens to her. Maybe she goes back to school or moves into her granddads house. I would give this *****.

By Laura Bayne

Small Change for Stuart

By Lissa Evans

When Stuart moves to Beeton, the home town of his Father, he thinks that he is going to be bored out of his brain, but he soon finds out things about his family he has never heard of before. Like that he has a Great Uncle, Tony, who was a magcian, but suddenly disappeared years ago. Soon Stuart finds himself wrapped up in an adventure to find his Great Uncle's secret magic workshop!

I really enjoyed this book, and I thought it was really cleverly written. This was the second time I had read it, and I enjoyed it more the second time, as I saw a lot of stuff I didn't notice the first time. The way things were linked was really good, and it made you think about how every action made something else happen or showed the direction of something else. There were some very serious bits and some funny bits (I really liked how Stuart reacted to the way his Dad kept using really long words that he didn't understand!). I thought the story line was really interesting as were the characters.

My favourite part in the story was when Staurt realised what his 'task' was and what dramatic consequences could come as part of his actions. My favourite character was April, because she was almost a bit of a mystery to begin with, and Stuart really judged her, but she turned out to be a really nice and helpful character, an important bit in the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this bok, and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good, easy read.

By Emily B, Year 8

My sister lives on the mantelpiece

By Annabel Pitcher

Jamie was five years old when it happened and he hasn’t cried since. Things seemed to have only got worse despite others promises that things could ‘only get better’, First Mum ran off and Dad has started drinking. Will things ever get better for Jamie? But then he finds Sunya who is Muslim. Should he play with her even though it was Muslims that blew up his sister?

I really like the characters in this book as they are realistic and you can picture them clearly in your head and they are believable as well as some of them being a bit crazy. My favourite character is Jamie because the book describes in a likable way yet you can’t help but feel sorry for him.

Iloved this book and would recommend it to anyone  who loves a sad but interesting book

My name is Mina lover!!! Has finished the book

I absolutely loved this book! It is about a girl called Mina, she is home-schooled and doesn't have any friends. The book contains diary entries and stories from her past. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys listening (or in this case reading) about things that have happened to other people. :D XD

My Sister lives on The mantelpiece By Anabel Pitcher

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

5 Years ago Jamie’s sister Rose aged 10 was killed by terrorists. Jamie was too young to remember her and when his mother walks out it’s just him his dad and Rose’s twin sister Jas. When they move house Jamie starts a new school he is bullied by everyone except one girl Sunya. Sunya is Muslim and Jamie can’t decide when to leave the pain of losing a sister behind and become friends with Sunya or stay remorseful and hate filled for ever which will he choose……………

I thought the book was brilliant and I really sympathised with Jamie. He was my favourite character as I just felt really sorry for him. I thought the characters and the plot were all really well thought out, especially Jas as she was really supportive of her brother and was always there to comfort him and make him feel better. I found the book quite emotional and I found it quite upsetting at times. I would recommend the book to people who enjoy an interesting yet sad book with lots of tension.

It’s a lovely book and I thought it added a lot of tension and also sadness when Jamie’s mother walked out. This book has displayed a very true picture of what sometimes happens and how the families have to deal with it. Overall I loved it.

By Yasmin

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

My Name is Mina

By David Almond
My Name is Mina is the prequel to David Almond's Skellig. It is about Mina, and her writing in her journal, but she doesn't write boring things like what she did and when, she writes all kinds of things. The first thing she writes in her journal is My name is Mina and I love the night. The story is told from before Michael (from Skellig) comes into the story.

I thought this book was strange, not bad, but not really what I would normally read. Mina was a bit weird, and her mind sort of wandered all over the place. The way things were written were quite clever, and although some things were very strange I definitley learnt some new words such as archaeopteryx (a kind of dinosaur) and other things. Also, I think that some of the views she had about school (being a cage and teachers bla-bla-bla-ing) are views that many people would share with her, and there were aspects of that that I thought were very funny, especially when she back-chatted the teacher. I liked her poems, and I thought that the things she did at home as school 'lessons' were very interesting.

I thought that the chararcter Mina was very strange but I quite liked reading about her 'extraordinary activities' and how she solved questions she had in her mind. I also liked it when she saw and thought about the new neighbours and what it would be like if they lived there, and how those bits tied in with Skellig was good, as were all the other links in the story.

Overall, I thought this bok was ok, but Mina was very strange! Not really my kind of book.

By Emily B, Year 8

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Between Shades of Gray

By Ruta Sepetys

Lina lives in Lithuania with her parents and younger brother Jonas. She is just a normal teenager, with normal problems and a normal life. Until, that is, that fateful night in 1941 when her family is arrested by Soviet guards. Through Lina’s eyes we see the terrible journey they faced, slowly trekking north to work camps where they are put under Stalin’s cruel order. Separated from her Father, Lina tries to communicate by recording her pain, joy, and her journey in her artwork which she hopes, one day, will find its way to her father. As Lina and her family fight to survive in the freezing conditions with barely any nourishment, will they ever be reunited again?

I really enjoyed this book as it was very emotional and gripping. The plot itself was distinctive and struck a chord with me. It made me want to read on because you were constantly thinking about what was going to happen to Lina and her family. Sepetys created an enthralling book which is even more interesting once you find out it was based on true stories. The idea of people facing the ordeal Lina does is unbelievable and I admire any person who was brave enough to write about their journey and tell of their life. I read this book from start to finish in one day only, it was amazing, and I couldn’t put it down. The author has chosen a controversial period to write about, when humans were treated like animals just because of their race, origins or religion. The phrase below illustrates just how drastic the line in society was at the time:

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch…”

The characters in the book are realistic and full of life. The situation they are in makes their troubles all the more emotional. I loved the way Lina tells the story, she grows up far too quickly during these years of her life, first looking after herself, and then slowly as time progresses, being forced to look after her mother and brother too. She is an enchanting character with so much depth. The diary style, first person account of the book allows you to see all her thoughts and feelings as well as view the world through her eyes. You can track her emotions as time moves on and she becomes more and more desperate, and the feeling of elation fills you when you read of a happy time she had such as when she sees her father, or when she becomes friends with Andrius. In Lina, Sepetys has created an intelligent teenager well beyond her years, who’s passion for art drives through.

However, my favourite character of the book has to be Jonas. At the start of the novel, he is unaware of what is happening. His naivety and innocence make you love him more but at the same time it is sad that he knows so little. But, as the novel goes on we witness Jonas change from a little boy to a young man. He takes on work and does his best to protect the women in his family whilst also making his own friends too. Jonas has been created by Sepetys as in no way the main character, the focus is mostly on Lina and her mother, but, I think that Jonas’ quiet charm and driving determination to keep going make him just as important.

Furthermore, the description and detail in this book is outstanding. Every page, although told by Lina, is packed with description and emotion. No small detail is missed and no scene skipped. The chapters are all set close together and you never feel as though you have missed anything. The author uses a variety of techniques to write the account of what happened and I think each one is effective. She also includes flashback passages which show Lina’s thoughts. They always relate to the chapters topic and added yet more emotion as Lina gives us an insight into life before the arrest. As this book is about such a sensitive topic it is in places complicated and as I mentioned before, I was shocked at the way the people were treated. It seems unreal and it is hard to believe that these events really happened and that these people really lived and died at these camps. What is even more shocking is that it was all set only 70 years ago!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book as I thought it gave an accurate insight into the cruelty and hardships of this time. Sepetys has got the mixture of emotion, fact and tension just right and has created a gripping novel which anyone could easily devour! The characters were detailed and obviously planned and created in depth. I particularly liked the way the story was told through Lina’s eyes because you could witness her thoughts and feelings and watch her and Jonas turn from children into adults quicker than expected. To conclude I cannot fault this book or the way it was written and I would recommend it to anyone. Emotional and enthralling, it gripped me from start to finish!

Eleanor, Year 9

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

My Name is Mina

By David Almond

My Name Is Mina is the prequel to David Almond’s novel Skellig. It is written in the style of a diary, as Mina writes down her thoughts, feelings and stories leading up to meeting Michael, and her entrance into Skellig.
I really liked how Almond showed Mina’s character through the style and layout of the book, as she was a very eccentric person. This was very clear in Skellig, but in My Name Is Mina, you saw more of the way she thought and her point of view on things. It was very different to most books, as it didn’t have much of a plot, but was filled with Mina’s thoughts and stories. I liked the stories about Mina in school, but the rest was boring. Her view on the world was interesting and made you think, but there was no action, anticipation or mystery. I found the whole book quite dull, and skim-read most of it.
Mina. However, was a lovely character, albeit odd and misunderstood. She looked and the world in a different way to anyone I’ve ever known or read about. I felt bad for her, because she was bullied for this, as she was the type of character that I would have loved to know in real life.
Although I didn’t enjoy it all that much, it was a really sweet book and having read Skellig, it was great to know more about Mina.
Molly, Year 8

Thursday, 5 April 2012

A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls is about a boy called Conor. His single mum is struggling with cancer and his dad rarely bothers to visit. He hates his grandma, the only person who can look after him, and his only friend has betrayed him. One night a monster visits him in a dream. But not the one he’s been expecting. Not the one from the nightmare. But this monster could be even more dangerous. This one wants the truth.
This book was amazing. Even though the plot contained very little action, it gripped me the whole way through. I cried so much at the ending, and it felt as though I was Conor – living through the terror and despair of his situation. The stories within this story were really interesting and couldn’t wait for the next one. The twists and the end were fantastic, but they also made me think, about what we believe to be wrong and right and whether there actually is a wrong or right, good or evil.
My favourite character was by far the first monster, the yew tree. He carried an air of mystery throughout the story. He seemed like he could be trusted, yet could be deceptive. He seemed friendly, but it could just be an act. He was an unusual monster, one that may not have really been a monster at all. For me, this character fitted in perfectly with the theme and plot of the story.
Not only did I love the story, but I loved the pictures too. They were haunting and strangely beautiful, and they captured the essence of the story perfectly. The book wouldn’t have been the same without them.
The book was amazing. I loved it and wouldn’t want a thing to be changed. I smiled, I cried, but I felt like I was part of the book, which was incredible.
Molly, Year 8

Saturday, 31 March 2012

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

By Annabel Pitcher

This book is about ten year old Jamie whose sister died when he was five. He hasn't cried since she was killed and now five years later, his family is falling apart. His Dad drinks and his Mum has left, leaving him and his sister Jas to look after each other. Jamie must try and work things through with his Dad, Mum and sister to answer questions about his dead sister.

I really enjoyed this book and I read it realy quickly. It made me cry in some parts and I really felt sorry for Jamie, because he couldn't help the way his family was and it was changing the way he acted at school.

The characters were really good because I think tha if that kind of tradgedy had hit a family I'm sure their reactions would be similar. They were really believable and even through everything had happened I recognised things that even cmpletely normal kids would do.

The plot was clever, I didn't really know how he would sort things out. I really liked how some simple things that you didn't think mattered lead to more important parts in the story.

I really loved this book, although it wasnt what I was expecting, and it made me cry, but I thought it was really good. I loved the plot and Pitcher has really made me feel for the characters.

By Emily B, Year 8

Friday, 30 March 2012

A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness

This book is about a boy called Conor being visited by a monster, but it is not the one he is expecting, not the one he is terrified of. The monster tells him three tales that help him. Conor's Mum is ill and having treaments in the book and so the monster makes him see things about himself.

To begin with I didn’t enjoy this book that much, but as I read more, I grew to like it more. My favourite bits were the ones with the actual monster in, especially as I think the stories the Monster told are very true. I liked them because although they were aimed at Conor I think they were true for nearly all humans.

I really liked the character of Conor’s Mum and I thought she really came across as someone who really really cared about her son. I also liked Conor, I thought it was really sweet how he really wanted to care for himself and his Mum without help, and I felt sorry for him, having to be so grown-up with his Mum.

Ness managed to really do the descriptions in the book well, describing everything clearly and I think that definitley added to the story. I also really liked the drawings in them, whole page ones and ones in the corner of the pages, they were really effective.

I read this book really quickly and although it didn’t take me long, I really enjoyed it. Overall, I think that this was a good book and an easy read.

By Emily B, Year 8

Thursday, 29 March 2012

My Name is Mina lover!!!!!

Hi! I have read up to SATS Day in My Name is Mina and I absolutley love it! I knew I would love it the moment I read the first page! I was recommended it by someone, comment if you want.

Eleanor  Yr7

A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness

Love, love love this book! The illustrations are beautiful and I really enjoyed the story overall, with it making me cry! It would have been interesting to see Siobhan Dowd's interpretation of the story, however Patrick Ness did a brilliant job! It's tough to see whether this is going to win or not, but ti's definitely one of my favourites!

Abi, Yr 12

A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness

I absolutely loved this book! It was quirky and original with beautiful illustrations and powerful ideas. It was like reading a much loved book that I's read many times before, and it was incredibly moving for considering how short it was.

Rachel, Yr 12

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

My Name is Mina.

By David Almond

‘My name is Mina’ is about a creative, eccentric little girl called Mina. It follows the life of Mina who constantly writes in her diary up on her favourite tree which she shares with a family of birds. Throughout the book we learn about Mina’s thoughts and dreams as well as her past life where Mina gets up to all sorts or problems trouble and fun! It is the second book which follows the book ‘Skellig’ where we first meet Mina.

I think this is a truly beautiful book what with the birds following her journey, her inside thoughts about her troubles and loves and the way Mina turned words in a notebook into a fantastic piece of art. The way Almond has laid out the book is amazing. The way the fonts change depending on when it was written and Mina’s emotions when she does write it and the page layout is done to full effect. In my opinion, this is what connects people with the book and makes the diary seem more realistic.

Mina is an amazing character in so many ways and this; I think David Almond has done to her full potential. Her crazy little stories and they way she looks at life can only make you smile and be optimistic about your own. Mina is so lively and feisty, and yet when she spills her emotions onto a page she seems so vulnerable and hopeless. Perhaps she would put it as she is a little egg in a nest that has no one to go to.

Overall, between the characters, plot and art work, it is a fabulous, touching book, unlike one I have ever read!

By Jess year 9.

A Monster Calls

The name "Chaos Walking" suits this book aswell, Ness really stuck to his style on this one. Dark, very dark; I'm not complaining. I really enjoyed this book, we all now know that Ness was not just lucky with a trilogy - like J.k Rowling and the seven books of drivel known as Harry Potter - we know Ness can write a decent book that isn't backed up by one before that just got lucky (I never read New World but I count it as a Chaos Walking).

Then we get to the book itself, almost poetic, the "Monster" spoke the way you'd expect a wise old man to speak but could change to a Monster in a second. He lead Conner down a dark path, no following family, he seemed almost happy at the start though. Happy he was alone, his mother had cancer, that he was bullied and plagued with nightmares of a tree monster.

The entire thing was written in the same style as the Chaos Walking trilogy; dark, twisting, a certain hint to the writing that I can see but can never quite put my finger on.

The illustrations were yet another part of this book that added up up as awesome, the darkness of it, the style of it was almost goth, the Monster was - in my point of view - exactly how I would have imagianed it. A dark, twisted monster with tendrils and leaves, a brown that's closer to black than it is to brown. Just more perfection.

So, A Monster Calls is proof that Ness is more than just the amazing author of Chaos Walking, its proof Ness is an amazing author that we all hope will write more amazing novels. GO FOR THE SECOND WIN IN A ROW!

Louis Yr 9

Carnegie Shadowing is GO!

The Carnegie shortlist was announced yesterday, and our readers are already well into their reading, having snatched up the new titles.  We're still waiting for three books to arrive from our order, but we'll rush them through cataloguing as soon as they're here!

The shortlist is:

David Almond MY NAME IS MINA

Mina writes and writes in an empty notebook, and through her stories, thoughts, lessons and dreams, her journal grows into something extraordinary. A prequel to the author's CILIP Carnegie Medal-winning novel, "Skellig".



Ten years old and small for his age, Stuart Horten moves to the dreary town of Beeton, away from all his friends. But before long he is swept up in a quest to find his great-uncle's lost workshop, a place stuffed with trickery, magic – and danger.



Under cover of darkness, two brothers cross a war-ravaged country carrying a secret bundle. One night they stumble across a town that has been reduced to smouldering ruins. Amidst the wreckage is a zoo, filled with animals in need of hope.



Danny lives in middle of the outback. His older brother Jonny was killed in an accident last year, but no-one ever talks about it. Meanwhile his sister is pregnant, the rains haven't come and it's time for the annual cattle muster, during which Danny is determined to prove he can fill his brother's shoes.


Andy Mulligan TRASH

Three friends, Raphael, Gardo and Rat live on a heap of trash and spend their days sifting through other people's rubbish. One day they find something extraordinary – a deadly secret. From that moment onwards, they are hunted without mercy, and their lives will never be the same again.



The monster shows up after midnight. It isn't the one Conor has been expecting; the one from his nightmare; the one he has had nearly every night since his mother started her treatment. But this new monster is ancient, and wild, and it wants something just as dangerous from Conor: the truth.



Ten year old Jamie hasn't cried since his sister's death five years before. Though everyone kept saying they would get better with time; things are now worse than ever. Dad drinks, Mum's gone and Jamie still has a whole heap of unanswered questions.



One night, fifteen-year old Lina, her mother and brother are hauled from their home by Soviet guards, thrown into cattle cars and sent away. They are being deported to Siberia. An unimaginable and harrowing journey has begun, but Lina refuses to give up hope of seeing home and loved ones again.

Details from Carnegie website

I'm so glad to see some of these titles on the list and delighted that there are some I haven't read yet!

If this is your first year of shadowing the award, please make sure that you read the tab at the top of the page, which will provide you with some simple guidelines for writing an effective review.  Don't forget, we get many authors and publishers looking at this site, so bear in mind others' feelings, particularly if you read something that you don't enjoy!

I'm starting with Between Shades of Gray.  How about you?