Ned's Circus of Marvels by Justin Fisher

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Ned's Circus of Marvels by Justin Fisher

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Tony Taylor
Reviewed by Tony Taylor
Summary: This is a fantastic fantasy story fusing together monstrous beasts, the circus and a boy who needs to save the world - a captivating and magical roller-coaster of a ride from the beginning to the end.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 427 Date: June 2016
Publisher: Harper Collins
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0008124526

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Ned is an ordinary boy; in fact he is less than ordinary. His life is dull and he is quite unnoticeable. His dad is overly protective: he is the dad who wraps his child up in cotton wool and then adds a layer of bubble wrap for good measure. Ned barely leaves the house, only to school, but then he must be back on time otherwise his dad would worry and start to panic. Not the ideal life for a boy just about to turn 13. However, in a frantic moment of disbelief, Ned's life changes in an instant with a glimpse of two clowns at his door. Everything he knew of himself, his dad and his family is turned upside down. In a barrage of confusion and panic intertwined with a dramatic car chase, the comfortable world as Ned knows it has changed forever. Ned is not who he thinks his is - he is so much more, and ordinary? Not one little bit.

Ned's Circus of Marvels is an amazing fantasy tale which takes our protagonist on a journey of discovery from the ordinary to a new world behind the Veil, where the Darklings exist, in the hope of saving the world. This is a wonderfully written and engaging story which is perfect for confident children readers. Chapters are 12-15 pages long with most ending on a knife-edge, willing you to read on. This is exactly what children, particularly reluctant readers need. If they can find a reason to keep reading rather than a reason to put the book down then that's the winning formula. I came across a quote by Waterstone Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell, who said: For me, good books are doorways through which we can step into other worlds and go on amazing journeys that expand our imaginations. This book does exactly that. It grabs me as a balance between Jason Bourne movies, the BBC drama Spooks, James Bond and the children's fantasy movie Rise of the Guardians all packaged together in a spellbinding adventure.

In the first 100 pages there are so many questions which need answering, along the way some of these questions are answered but these are then twisted to create even more questions - I had to keep reading. I felt like screaming at the characters to answer Ned's questions. Fisher's writing prose is brilliantly effortless and pages seamlessly flow together which make it a pleasure to read. Of course we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, however what a captivating cover this is! Children are drawn to the cover of a book and make their reading choices based upon this. The mysterious setting with the textured gold writing is beautifully displayed on the front cover, already questions dance in your mind about the story which lies beneath this amazing cover.

As a Year 5/6 primary school teacher, I am always conscious of children reading age appropriate books. Too often the more able readers appear in school with books which they can read but whose content is too adult for them. Ned's Circus of Marvels provides an age appropriate developed story which at 427 pages is a weighty book for children. If anything, I think the book is more suitable for 10 years and up rather than the specified age of 9. Some of the ideas could be difficult to keep up with for the slightly younger reader and some of the language choices would require a well-read child to read it. However, I will be encouraging all of my class to read it.

For further reading, I would recommend the amazing The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick which also fuses magic and mystery. In addition, I would like to mention that the second book of Ned's adventures is being released in December 2016 with a third book due in 2017.

Booklists.jpg Ned's Circus of Marvels by Justin Fisher is in the Top Ten Books for Confident Readers 2016.

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Buy Ned's Circus of Marvels by Justin Fisher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ned's Circus of Marvels by Justin Fisher at


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