Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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Beetle Queen by M G Leonard

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

A modern Cruella De Vil – only with beetles rather than Dalmatians – Lucretia Cutter has a plan: a plan that will dramatically (and theatrically) unleash her latest batch of genetically modified and highly intelligent beetles. The consequences will be devastating for mankind but few realise the danger. Luckily firm friends Darkus, Virginia and Bertolt have figured out that Lucretia Cutter is up to something and are determined to do whatever it takes to stop the evil beetle diva. Full review...

Owen Pendragon by W S Markendale

3.5star.jpg Teens

Monsters are slipping through somehow from somewhere to kidnap children in Cornwall and the army seems powerless to do anything about it. 12-year-olds Owen and Mary assume they too are therefore powerless as they watch friends and neighbours disappear. Imagine their surprise when they realise that thanks to an ancient relative, they have more influence on what happens than they think and not just on what happens on Earth. And their distant relative? The former monarch and head of the round table, no less: King Arthur. Full review...

The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Guillain and Yuval Zommer

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

It's one thing for a non-fiction book for the young to show them something they themselves can explore – the pattern of the stars, perhaps, or the life in their back yard. But when it gets to things that are equally important to know about but are impossible to see in real life, why, then the game is changed. The artistic imagination has to be key, in portraying the invisible, and presenting what can only come from the pages of a book. And this example does it at its best, as it delves into the layers of the soil below said back yard, down and down, through all the different kinds of rock, until we reach the unattainable centre of the planet. And there's only one way to go from there – back out the other side, with yet more for us to be shown. It's a fantastic journey, then – and a quite fantastic volume. Full review...

The Boy, the Bird and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Alberto is a carpenter, the very best in the town of Allora. But after the plague sweeps through the town, taking many of the citizens and Alberto's wife and children, he turns his skills away from furniture and toys to making coffins. Wrapped in sadness, and waiting only for the plague to come and claim his life too, Alberto lives alone, keeping company with the dead who are delivered to his house to await their coffin. One day, however, he realises that he must have a living visitor, as food starts to go missing. He begins to leave scraps of food, to try and discover who his mystery thief is… Full review...

Lost Magic: The Very Best of Brian Moses by Brian Moses

4star.jpg Children's Rhymes and Verse

For a poet with the very memorable name of Moses, I have to admit never having come across it before, nor having knowingly read any of his works. This collection was the perfect place for me to come late to the party, as it takes the author's own favourites from several previous anthologies of his, and adds new verses. I read them with very little clue as to which was which – and certainly couldn't tell having finished the book. There is a lot here that will grab the young schoolchild, but the topics cover so much there really will be a universal appeal, meaning that a lot of people will have a definite favourite from these pages, even if the author himself cannot decide… Full review...

Jack and the Geniuses 1: At the Bottom of the World by Bill Nye and Gregory Mone

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

It's tough being a genius. There are few, if any, people you can talk about your interests to, and words like nerd, geek and boffin get bandied around by folk who somehow think it's your fault your cleverness makes them feel a bit dim. But how does it feel to be the one surrounded by such geniuses all day every day? Fortunately, Jack is a resilient sort, and his common sense approach to life is going to be essential if he, Ava and Matt are going to survive their trip to Antarctica. Full review...

The Big Book of Beasts (Big Books) by Yuval Zommer

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

One of the many issues people have with the TV nature programme, such as Planet Earth II, is the obvious one of all the blood and guts it features – yes, in amongst all the cutesy, comical animal life are creatures eating other creatures (normally the cutesy, comical ones, what's worse). You'll be pleased to know, however, that this book is very light on death and destruction. Yes, here are lions sharing some chunks of meat (while the females that caught and killed it sit and wait their turn), here are salmon seemingly willingly flying towards brown bears, and here is a red fox stashing a dead mouse while in a time of plenty, but there is so little to make this even a PG book – it will be perfect for the home shelf or that in a primary school. Full review...

A Case in Any Case by Ulf Nilsson and Gitte Spee

4star.jpg Confident Readers

The last time we saw the toad called Detective Gordon at work he had a mouse colleague in the forest police with him, and in fact the two were so close they often shared a bed in the old prison cells together. But now Gordon has practically retired, and the mouse, Police Chief Buffy, is doing all the work herself. It's quite scary work, too, when something horrid, nasty and slightly smelling of toad is rootling around the police station at night. But when the two are together there's no stopping them, and any crime can be solved – which is probably a very good thing when not one but two of the forest babies go missing… Full review...

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel and Jon Klassen

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Steven can narrate this book to us, but he can hardly ever mention the name of his newborn baby brother. That's not down to a fault with Steven, although there are many of those – obsessive hand-washing, nightmares, anxiety attacks. It's because there's something wrong with the new addition to the family. His parents mutter behind closed bedroom doors of regretting trying for a new child so late in life, but whatever the reason there is something demanding a lot of medical care and attention, even if the child can more or less live in the family home. But hope seems to be shining a light into Steven from the most unlikely source – angels that come to visit him in his dreams, from within a pleasant, light-filled haven, with full knowledge of the family's troubles and an offer of a way out. Obviously, worried for the happiness of his family, and knowing this is just a dream, Steven will only say yes to the offer of help… Full review...

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Women in Science takes fifty prominent women in STEM fields and celebrates their achievements. There are women from the ancient world and women working today. Each of them is given a double page spread including a stylised portrait and infoboxes with factoids on one side and a page of text with a brief biography and outline of her achievements. These intrepid women are inspirational for their work and their discoveries but also for the barriers they overcame - barred from classes or employment because they were women or even barred from employment because they were black in racially segregated America. Full review...

Life on Earth: Farm: With 100 Questions and 70 Lift-flaps! by Heather Alexander and Andres Lozano

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

I'm sure I was full of questions when I was a nipper – which means I was too full of questions. Parents just don't need to be deflecting questions all the time, do they? Living on the edge of a village in the middle of nowhere as I did, I knew quite a lot about farms and farming – that different animals gave different results, that different vehicles meant different things and that the crops behind our house changed. But for the inner city child, there is a chance they have never met a cow or seen a silo. This colourful book, bright in both senses of the word, will allow the very young reader the opportunity of their own fantasy trip to the working countryside. Full review...

Life on Earth: Human Body: With 100 Questions and 70 Lift-flaps! by Heather Alexander and Andres Lozano

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

I wonder how much time I've saved in not being a parent – and therefore not having had to answer such pesky questions as why is the sky blue, where did I come from, where does my wee come from, what is earwax, and why do I have a spleen? Still, apart from the first two, those questions and the answers to them and more are in this book, which is a lovely primer for biology, and a great source of quick facts for the very young, all presented with an addictive lift-the-flap approach. Full review...

The Pavee and the Buffer Girl by Siobhan Dowd and Emma Shoard

5star.jpg Graphic Novels

When Jim's family halt at Dundray, his heart grows heavy. A new Buffer school for this Pavee boy to attend. Jim doesn't like school. He doesn't like Buffers. And you know, you couldn't really blame him because the distrust and suspicion is mutual. Prejudice against the Traveller community is strong and when Jim and his cousins turn up on their first day, it's to stares and muttered insults from the pupils and condescension from the teachers. Within days, Moss Cunningham and his gang have accused Jim of stealing a CD - he did no such thing - and have begun a campaign of threats, bullying and worse. Full review...

Moments in History that Changed the World by Clare Hibbert

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

One of the problems with presenting humankind's history as a timeline is that not a lot happened at perfectly identified times. Of course we can pinpoint when the US Declaration of Independence was signed, or when Poland was invaded in September 1939, but when (and even why) the Maya cities died out? We don't know. How do you pin a date to the Renaissance, or the invention of the modern city? This book may aim to be a portrayal of key moments in time, but even it admits you have to be vague in itemising the specific days and dates. Get over that, and the pages are packed with information. Full review...

Thunderstruck by Ali Sparkes

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Alisha and new boy, Theo, are both struggling to fit in at Beechwood Junior. However, they soon become celebrities when they're struck by lightning on sports day. Now everyone wants to be their friend – including all the ghosts who haunt Easthampton. Having several thousands of volts skipped through their nervous systems has made both Alisha and Theo unusually sensitive to the spirit world. The pair are happy to make friends with two teenage ghosts from the 1970s (Doug and Lizzie) but Alisha and Theo are much less keen on the faceless grey entities that start following them around. It's almost like the ghosts are trying to tell them something – trying to warn them about something that's going to happen. Will Alisha and Theo be able to figure out what before it's too late? Full review...

The Night Spinner by Abi Elphinstone

5star.jpg Confident Readers

The final, and in my opinion the best, book in the Dream Snatcher trilogy opens with Moll and Gryff back in Tanglefern Forest about to embark on their quest to find the last Amulet of Truth and defeat the terrible Shadowmasks and their dark magic once and for all. Their adventure begins with a night time journey by train to the far north where Moll and her friends must brave the barren northern wilderness, scale mountainous peaks, defeat goblins, bog-monsters, witches and giants while the sinister and evil Shadowmasks lurk unseen but always present. All the time Moll clings to the faint hope that her friend Alfie is not lost to them for ever. Full review...

Star Wars: Ahsoka by E K Johnston

4star.jpg Confident Readers

The problem with having a past is the worry it causes in the present, and the risk of it turning into your future. Ahsoka has certainly had a past – she was with Obi-Wan Kenobi, and was Padawan to Anakin Skywalker. While able to experience the Force, she was not a full Jedi, but still suffers survivor's guilt after Order 66 wiped her kind out. She is forced to hide deep in the Outer Rim of the galaxy, under an assumed name, on a tiny farming moon. But lo and behold the Imperial nasties still seem to find her, even if by accident... Full review...

Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Dory – known as 'Rascal' – is the little one in her family. She'd love to play with her older sister, Violet, and her brother, Luke, but they both think Dory is too much of a baby. They find her very irritating, from the way she sees monsters everywhere to her constant stream of questions. That's why they decide they've got to think of something that will force Dory to grow up. Violet comes up with the perfect idea – they tell Dory about Mrs Gobble Cracker (a five hundred year old robber who steels baby girls.) They tell Dory that the only way to escape Mrs Gobble Cracker is to stop acting like such a baby. Their scheme, however, quickly backfires and they get much more than they bargained for. Full review...

Fish Boy by Chloe Daykin

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Billy is struggling at school. He's being picked on by the school bully and he's starting to feel very alone. His mum is sick, although nobody seems to know what's wrong with her. She has been sick for a long time meaning that she can't work, so Billy's dad is working extra hours to try to keep the family afloat and Billy is frequently left to fend for himself. His only escape is in watching his favourite, David Attenborough, or in swimming in the sea. One day, however, things take a magical turn as whilst swimming Billy meets a mackerel who speaks to him! This, combined with the entrance of a new boy at school, starts to change Billy's life in some rather unexpected ways. Full review...

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

5star.jpg Teens

Meet Alex. He's just eleven, but is sure he has the responsibility age of a thirteen year old. He'll prove this by taking his rocket Voyager 3 and his dog Carl Sagan on an Amtrak train to the desert to a launch festival for hobbyist rocket-makers – and all without the help of the adult brother he only knows now from phone calls, his seemingly comatose couch potato mother, and the father he was told died when Alex was three years old. This book is a transcript of verbal essays and conversations he has made to put in his rocket to send to the stars, so aliens can learn about life on earth in 2017. The fact that we're able to find out what's on it does seem to suggest a failure with Voyager 3, but as for finding out about life – we can only suppose the lad is a bit more successful… Full review...

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

2.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Trallonia is in trouble. It's a kingdom – a very small one, mind – with no real leadership. Three months away from becoming queen in her own right is the older princess, Morven, but she's besotted with each and every prince that comes a-wooing, and would probably only want the pretty frocks side of reigning. Ruler regent at the moment is the second husband to the girls' stepmother (ie stepstepfather) and all round Bad Egg, Rikard. He's building his influence on the land, and increasing his magical power, turning all kinds of people into all kinds of animals. All of which means younger princess, Anya, will have to go on one of those capital letter-deserving Quests, to find a remedy for such species-swapping, and muster an army to keep Rikard from the throne. But even that hugely important demand might be swamped by what is really troubling the world… Full review...

The Moonlight Statue (The Hounds of Penhallow Hall) by Holly Webb and Jason Cockcroft

4star.jpg Confident Readers

When Polly and her mum move to Penhallow Hall Polly hopes that it will be an escape from the continual reminders that her dad, who died, is no longer with them. With her mum's new job at the hall comes a fresh start for both of them. Polly, however, is left to her own devices a lot of the time, feeling lonely as she's wandering around the hall and grounds during the summer holidays. She had previously been sleepwalking in her old house, so she's worried when she finds herself wandering the grounds during the night, and when she sees one of the stone statues of a dog come to life, she is unsure if she is awake or dreaming! How does this mysterious dog come to life? And why are there canine guardians for the children of Penhallow Hall? Full review...

One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Forget the moon being made of cheese, here the Earth looks like it's a huge dollop of the finest Swiss stuff. Horrid, giant insectoid alien things have taken over, and they have zapped anything technological they can find – pumping a blob of something over it, and turning whatever turns up in the resulting spheres into sand, or carting it off to larger ships. Our heroes belong to a travelling caravan of a village, keeping intact as much human knowledge as they can (think a digital version of those readers in Fahrenheit 451), but they've left their compatriots behind to go exploring. They'll never expect to find a magical, wondrous, robotic horse, though – which is where their problems begin… Full review...

Exploring Space: From Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond by Martin Jenkins and Stephen Biesty

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

I take it as read that you know some of the history of space exploration, even if the young person you buy books for doesn't know it all. So I won't go into the extremes reached by the Voyager space craft, and the processes we needed to be expert in before we could launch anything. You probably have some inkling of how we learnt that we're not the centre of everything – the gradual discovery of how curved the planet was, and how other things orbited other things in turn proving we are not that around which everything revolves. What you might not be so genned up on is the history of books conveying all this to a young audience. When I was a nipper they were stately texts, with a few accurate diagrams – if you were lucky. For a long time now, however, they've been anything but stately, and often aren't worried about accuracy as such in their visual design. They certainly long ago shod the boring, plain white page. Until now… Full review...

Helper and Helper by Joy Cowley and Gavin Bishop

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Snake and Lizard, after deciding not to eat or be eaten by the other, have set up their business designed to help other animals in need. But they need a new sign for their premises, and work done to the entrance burrow. But what name goes first on the advert, and who is to do the labour for the expansion? Those arguments done – and there will be arguments aplenty before this book is out – they find a rival has stolen all their traffic. Can they get any business back to their door? A rabbit that's too pale for the desert life, critters in need of a bed for the night, and even one wondering if the world is flat or round, all prove they can. It's a hard life being such unlikely partners… Full review...