Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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Review of

The Day the Screens Went Blank by Danny Wallace and Gemma Correll

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Meet Stella and her family. They're just innocently trying to have a Sunday evening in together, watching a film – using three different screens to watch three different things, mind – when poof everything goes blank. And it's not just their home, but the entire south-western village of Mousehole, and not just that, either, but the whole country, if not world. Suddenly people are constantly on their phones – hoping they're first to get a screen back, and not what they were constantly doing on them before. Toasters can toast, but TVs cannot do the V part of their job, and no computer can show its computations. You might think this is going to be a social comedy about people stuck in such a Luddite experience against their will, but no. For the family finally remember Stella's grandma, and see if they can get across country to her. Hence this has to go down as a road-trip book. But not just that, a slapstick road-trip comedy. And more than that, too – for it's a slapstick, high-drama, high-octane road-trip comedy with oodles of cuddly heart that kids of all ages will love. Full Review

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Review of

The Last Bear by Hannah Gold

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April's father, a scientist, has been given a job on a remote island called Bear Island, and he accepts the job deciding to take his daughter April with him. They live alone anyway, since April's mother died some time before, and he feels it will be educational for her to experience the island and all its natural beauty. April already has an affinity with nature, and she's excited to travel with her father, thinking of all the fun things they will be able to experience together on the island. But when they get there, her father finds that his work monitoring and recording the temperatures just takes up too much of his time, and so April is left to explore by herself. Her father had reassured her that there were no longer any bears living on Bear Island, but one day April thinks she catches a glimpse of one, and so she sets out to find the Bear, and then when she sees he is injured, to befriend and help him. Full Review

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Review of

The Ghost Garden by Emma Carroll and Kaja Kajfez

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Fran, the gardener's daughter at a posh country house, is worried. She's just cracked her garden fork through quite a grim discovery - a large bone, buried under the potatoes. But she's even more worried when she learns that that event coincided with Leo, the older child of the house, breaking his leg while playing cricket on the lawn. She is due to get even more worried when she finds something else that also seems to foretell a surprise. Tasked with shoving Leo around the grounds in his bathchair, she might have reason to be out of her mind with fear, when she learns what he is seeking - a long-forgotten burial chamber. But surely that won't act as a premonition to anything - not here in the sultry, summery days of 1914? Full Review

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Review of

His Name Was Wren by Rob Winters

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In September 1944 something came down in Oban Woods, near the village of Hurstwick. It came down hard, taking the spire of the village church with it, destroying a stone shack, and leaving a wide trail through the wood, but no trace of what it actually was. German secret weapon was the local gossip, but there should have been an explosion and a crater, and there were neither of those things. Full Review

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Review of

The Humiliations of Welton Blake by Alex Wheatle

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We meet Welton Blake at the worst of times – only they should be the best of times. He should be getting a text from the most bae-worthy girl in school in regards to a cinema date, but his phone has packed up, he's chundered last night's meal and his breakfast over another girl in class, who's duffed him up in response, and the wanna-bae seems to actually be with someone else anyway. On a bigger scale he's living with his mother and not much income now that the dad has left the picture – yes, things are so bad they're resorting to having cabbage for dinner. I know, right? But surely this is just a blip, a day at school to forget, and everything (like his vomit) will all come out in the wash? This can't be the start of a most nightmarish time for young Welton? Full Review

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Review of

Glassheart by Katharine Orton

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Nona and her Uncle Antoni have lived together ever since the Blitz claimed the lives of her family. Now, in the aftermath of the war, they travel all over the country, replacing stained-glass windows in buildings destroyed by bombs. Their latest job takes them out to the wilds of Dartmoor, where Nona discovers that her world is full of ancient and powerful magic. She also discovers that a mysterious entity, known only as The Soldier, is hell-bent on using Nona's innate magic for his own ends, and will not stop until he has her… Full Review

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Review of

The Treasure in the Tower by Rob Keeley

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Rob Keeley is back! Hooray! We here at Bookbag Towers are always happy to read a new adventure from Rob - his stories combine fast pace and lots of action, an easy to read style, an unerring eye for children's friendships and rivalries, and always a good dollop of naughty humour. They're all present here, in The Treasure in the Tower. The chance purchase of a book during a school trip sparks the whole adventure. Who can follow the clues best and find the treasure? Jess, her brother Mason and their friend Kessie through sheer persistence? Or spoiled brat Perdita with her money and tech gadgets and willingness to cheat? Full Review

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Review of

It Isn't Rude to be Nude by Rosie Haine

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This could have been one of those books which 'preaches to the choir': the only people who'll buy it are the people who know that nudity is OK and the ones who know that it's shameful will avoid it like they avoid the hot-and-bothered person in the supermarket who is coughing fit to bust. But... Rosie Haines makes it into something so much more than a book about not wearing clothes. It's a celebration of bodies: bodies large and small and of every possible hue. Bodies with disabilities and markings. They're fine. In fact, they're wonderful. Full Review

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Review of

The Night Bus Hero by Onjali Q Rauf

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Hector is a bully. Egged on by his two 'friends', he takes other children's sweets, harasses and threatens, plays pranks at school, and gets into trouble at every turn. Yet he finds himself frustrated when something actually isn't his fault, but then he isn't believed as everyone expects him to be telling lies. Nothing seems fair. His parents are barely home, and seem to only care about his perfect sister and his annoying little brother when they are, and his teachers have abandoned him as a lost cause. So what happens when, in trying to tell the truth & fight to be believed, Hector finds himself embroiled with the police; first trying to accuse, and then trying to save a homeless man from his local park? Full Review

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Review of

My Life as a Cat by Carlie Sorosiak

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This is the story of an alien who has come down to spend some time on earth living as a human. It's something that each member in the alien collective is allowed to do, for 1 month, once they reach a certain age. Leonard comes to earth but gets distracted en route, and so something goes wrong with his arrival and he finds that instead of landing in Yellowstone Park, ready to work as a park ranger, he is instead in the body of a cat on the other side of the country! This is not what he had planned! Not only is he in the wrong place and the wrong body, he is also in the middle of a storm, stuck in a tree! And so he meets Olive, the little girl who rows out in a boat to rescue him, and who names him Leonard. Full Review

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Review of

The Adventures of an Urban Fox: Maggie Arrives by Yara Evans and Luciana Betti

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Black Cat and Tabby Cat are minding their own business in their own house when a very alarming thing happens. A creature - a large, dog-like creature - appears in their house. Black Cat, always one to take charge, challenges this fearsome creature with all the courage he can muster. Tabby Cat backs him.... from a rather safe distance. The creature is indignant - I'm not a dog. I'm a fox! Full Review

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Review of

Archibald Lox and the Vote of Alignment by Darren Shan

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This third and final book in the first volume of Darren Shan's new Archibald Lox series sees Archie and Inez make it almost all the way to the Cuckoo's Nest, where the Vote of Alignment will be held. But how will they get in? Full Review

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Review of

Archibald Lox and the Empress of Suanpan by Darren Shan

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Archie's second foray into 'the Merge' opens with a fantastic vista. All of the Born's most famous buildings and monuments - Big Ben, the Taj Mahal,  the Eiffel Tower - are collected together, joined by those clever Merge vines. But there's no time to waste in admiration: Archie is carrying an urgent cry for help from Inez to a venerable locksmith called Winston.Winston is a darling but is afraid to help - what is to be done? Despite yearning to go home and worry for his foster parents, Archie feels an obligation to take Winston's place. And so Archie embarks on a new, and even more dangerous, adventure.... Full Review

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Review of

How Do You Make a Baby? by Anna Fiske and Don Bartlett (translator)

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It's more than sixty years since I asked how babies were made. My mother was deeply embarrassed and told me that she'd get me a book about it. A couple of days later I was handed a pamphlet (which delivered nothing more than the basics, in clinical language which had never been used in our house before) and I was told that it wouldn't be discussed any further as it wasn't something which nice people talked about. I knew more, but was little wiser. Thankfully, times have changed. Full Review

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Review of

Archibald Lox and the Bridge Between Worlds by Darren Shan

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Time to catch you all up with some of my lockdown reading - I've been doing so much of it that I'm a bit late to the party with actual reviewing. Oops! And where better to start than with the new series from Bookbag favourite, Darren Shan?

Archie is very down. He's lost a dear friend recently, in a tragic accident, and Archie blames himself. He can't face school so he takes himself for a truanting wander around London. As he strolls across a footbridge, he sees a girl who is being pursued by some murderous-looking men in white suits. He watches, aghast. What is going on? Full Review

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Review of

Season of the Mammoth (BigShorts) by Antony Wootten

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Tannash and her brother Geb are waiting in great excitement for the hunting party led by their uncle to return. They're hoping for a feast of mammoth meat. Geb longs for the day he can join his uncle Gagba and the other warriors on a hunting party and take part in their deeds of derring-do. But their father, the leader of the village, thinks that they also need an education; that knowledge is power. Full Review

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Review of

The Time Traveller and the Tiger by Tania Unsworth

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Elsie is an ordinary sort of girl. The sort of small girl who often gets overlooked, and forgotten. She is quiet, and compliant, and makes the best of whatever happens to her. So when her parents forget that her school holidays have started before they are free to take care of her, they have to arrange for her to go and stay with her Great Uncle for a week. Poor Elsie, forgotten again, just decides to make the best of things. On investigating the house she finds that her Great Uncle had lived in India as a boy, and he has an enormous tiger rug on the floor of one of the rooms. When Elsie asks him about the rug he seems unhappy, and he says he has to keep it because he was the one who shot the tiger when he was 12 years old, and he says it was the worst thing he ever did. So when Elsie suddenly finds herself magically transported back many, many years, to the time in India when her Great Uncle was 12 years old, she believes that she must try to stop him from killing the tiger, in order to put something right that happened a long time ago. Full Review

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Review of

Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant

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Set in England in the aftermath of World War One, this is the story of two children, Lotti and Ben, who have lost everyone they love, but don't want to let go of their last, tiny glimpses of hope. Ben is living on a narrowboat on the canal, lying to the police about his brother's imminent return from the battlefields to take care of him. Lotti, meanwhile, has been expelled from school and is back at home; it's a beautiful house that belongs to her but that her terrible Aunt and Uncle currently have guardianship for. The day Lotti meets Ben (the day she steals a dog!) is the beginning of a deep, and powerful friendship. It sees them become each other's family, and undertake a perilous trip to France, in the boat, to try to find out the truth of the people they both love. Full Review

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Review of

A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M Harris

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I have always been of the mind that once you're above picture-book level and before you get to graphic sex & violence, there is no difference between books for children and books for adults. There are good books and poor ones. And Joanne Harris does not produce poor ones. A Pocketful of Crows is clearly aimed at the younger readers as witness the use of the middle initial in the author's name to differentiate from her adult offers. Ignore that if you have loved anything from Chocolat onwards you will know that Harris is mistress of the modern fairy tale. This is no different. It is an utter delight. Full Review

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Review of

Lost by Ele Fountain

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Lola lives in an Indian city with her father, and her brother, Amit. She lives with them in a nice apartment, and although they are not rich like some of the girls at school, they have enough money to be comfortable. Lola spends her time thinking about her school friends, and trying to fit in with them, until one day, suddenly, everything in her life changes. After taking a work trip away, Lola's father doesn't come home. They have nobody else to help, and as they wait day after day, Lola wonders what will become of them until, finally, they are evicted from their flat, and she and her brother find themselves forced to live on the streets. Full Review

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Review of

Roxy and Jones: The Great Fairytale Cover-Up by Angela Woolfe

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After her father gets married for the umpteenth time, Roxy Humperdinck is sent to live with her half-sister Gretel in Rexopolis, capital city of the Kingdom of Illustria. Gretel works as a toilet cleaner for the Ministry of Soup. Why does a country like Illustria need an entire ministry dedicated to soup, you ask? Well, after Roxy finds a secret passage in her bathroom and meets a snarky young woman known only as Jones, she soon finds out why. Turns out, fairy tales are real, and the Ministry’s official job is to safeguard all knowledge of them and monitor the living fairy tales. And, when an evil queen breaks out of a maximum-security prison and threatens to reinstate her reign of terror, Roxy and Jones hold the fate of the world in their young hands…so, no pressure then! Full Review

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Review of

The Pear Affair by Judith Eagle

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Set in the 1960's, this is a mystery adventure story, all about a little girl called Nell and her quest to find her nanny, Perrine (Pear) who left her very suddenly and then, after keeping in touch regularly by post, disappeared completely from her life, leaving Nell bereft. There's everything in this story, with underground tunnels as the playground of gangs of children, to travel and detective work, a mystery mould infecting Parisian bakeries, mysterious figures following Nell around, and a set of truly dreadful parents! Full Review

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Review of

Troofriend by Kirsty Applebaum

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Are you tired of your child's classmates constantly being horrible to them? Do you want your child to have some positive experiences with people? Introducing the new Jenson & Jenson Troofriend 560 Mark IV android! These state-of-the-art machines are capable of emulating the full range of human emotions without lying, stealing or bullying. They're the perfect companion for any child! Any mention that these androids are beginning to develop real human feelings are just unsubstantiated rumours and have absolutely no basis in reality…right? Full Review

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Review of

The Highland Falcon Thief by M G Leonard and Sam Sedgman

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Harrison Beck, or Hal as he prefers to be called, isn't exactly pleased when his parents send him off with his uncle Nat, a travel writer, on a long train journey. Although, this isn't any old train; this is the Highland Falcon, the royal train, and this is its last ever journey before it gets sent to a museum. A number of high-society figures, including film stars, millionaires and aristocrats, will be on this train, so it is quite the event on the social calendar. However, when an expensive brooch is stolen, Hal realises that maybe this trip won't be as boring as he previously thought. As the passengers begin to turn on each other, Hal vows to get to the bottom of the mystery…before the train gets to the end of the line. Full Review

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