Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow

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When the author of a book is also the illustrator, and he has a wild and thoroughly silly imagination, it's not surprising if that book is swiftly turned into a highly successful film. This story, part of the Ratsbridge Chronicles, is a lively and wondrously eccentric tale of greedy villains bent on revenge, brave and resourceful heroes of all shapes and sizes, and brilliant (if occasionally sinister) Heath-Robinson-style devices. Full review...

Thunderbirds Comic: Volume 1 by Gerry Anderson and Frank Bellamy

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Meet the Thunderbirds. If you don't know anything about the Tracy family and their International Rescue organisation, then I'm not sure where you've been. For people of a certain age (OK, mine, at least) they were the staple of Saturday morning cinema clubs, a highlight of BBC2 when repeated teatime, and even managed to make those 3D rotating card-a-vision things worthwhile. They've been in cinemas since then, of course, but now with the world needing everything everywhen we've got a welcome chance to look back at some of the original comic book spin-offs, that probably haven't been much seen since then. With five volumes of these books on the cards, it's worthwhile sticking to the first and seeing just what these retro delights – or otherwise – could bring. Full review...

The Imaginary by A F Harrold and Emily Gravett

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Rudger is Amanda's imaginary friend. She found him in her wardrobe one morning and they've been inseparable ever since. Amanda's mother is quite accepting of Rudger, Amanda's friends less so. Amanda took him to school with her once but the trip wasn't a huge success so now the pair hang out by themselves, taking voyages of adventure in Amanda's garden, in her bedroom and under the stairs in Amanda's house. It's while exploring a complex of dark and dingy caves under the stairs - what on earth could be in a cupboard under the stairs other than a complex of caves? - that the doorbell rings and Mr Bunting appears. Full review...

The Hero Pup by Megan Rix

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Christmas is going to be tough for Joe this year. It's going to be the first without his dad; a brave soldier who died in the line of duty. Before then, he has the more immediate issue of facing his friends when he returns to school. They are bound to ask him lots of awkward questions about his dad and he's not feeling ready to open up to people just yet. Luckily, Mum has an idea that will help them both perform a fitting tribute to dad, whilst giving Joe something worthwhile to focus on: they decide to adopt and train a helper pup who will eventually assist an injured soldier in need. Full review...

Doctor Who: 12 Doctors 12 Stories by Malorie Blackman, Holly Black and others

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How long do you keep your birthday presents for? A week, a month, a year – or life? Is that time-scale different, perhaps, when you're nearly a thousand years old? I only ask because Doctor Who is, of course, both 51 (in our earthly, televisual representation) and 900 and more in human years as a character. In 2013 we were given a great book that gave us a story for every Doctor Who we've seen on TV, in honour of the 50th birthday proceedings. But now is a year on, and we're a further Doctor down the line. And so what was '11 Doctors, 11 Stories' is now '12 Doctors, 12 Stories'. So while many of us would have cherished and kept said birthday present, the only addition is the last, which like the rest was available as an e-book. So it's worth revisiting what I said about the book last time, then chucking in the (what might only be temporarily) concluding story at the end. Full review...

Rugby Academy: Combat Zone by Tom Palmer

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Woody's dreams were about football: he wanted to play for his country one day, but there was a snag. His father was a fighter pilot - and his squadron was going to war - but as Dad was a single parent Woody had to go to a boarding school for armed forces kids. That's enough of a change for any boy, but there's an even bigger one which Woody has to contend with. At Borderlands they don't play football. They're mad about rugby. It's almost a religion. How will Woody cope with boarding schools and rugby? How will he manage the constant knowledge that his father is in a combat zone? Full review...

The Girl With The Sunshine Smile by Karen McCombie

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Everyone knew Meg as the girl with the sunshine smile. She always looked pretty and happy and her mother used her in her business to model bridesmaid's dresses. They had a lovely little flat which was always neat as a new pin and Meg thought that life was perfect. Then her mother met Danny - and everything changed. Danny was the single father to four boys and they all lived on a houseboat. A messy houseboat. With no lock on the bathroom door. And when there was a flood at Mum's flat they had to move in with Danny and the four boys. That was when Meg stopped smiling. Full review...

The Odd Squad: King Karl by Michael Fry

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Nick, Molly and Karl have come through a lot of things together since forming Safety Patrol - often with the help of Shakespeare-quoting janitor Mr Dupree. But when the mysterious MLEZ, who run the school, want Karl to join them, Nick and Molly have to start thinking about ways to stop him - because Karl in charge is a frankly terrifying prospect. Full review...

Les Miserables by Marcia Williams

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An ex-convict who lapses into crime again even in the face of the greatest charity... A policeman bent on outing a man from his past, whatever the human consequences… A girl growing up under the loving eyes of a suitor while being totally unaware of her background of poverty and misfortune… Yes, meet the original and real story of Les Miserables, but presented as you've probably never seen it before – told in an all-ages comic strip version, with bright colours and much intricate detail from the pen of Marcia Williams. Bear with us and see how the new version compares to the original. Full review...

The Snow Leopard (Mini Edition) by Jackie Morris

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You probably haven't heard of Mergichans – although if you pronounce it correctly in your head, in connection with spirits and magic, you will work out what they are. One of them is the totem, if you like, of a hidden Himalayan valley, and she is in the form of a snow leopard, singing existence as she sees fit and protecting the Shangri-La type location. But she cannot protect it from all-comers, least of all when she's trying to sing to find a successor. Mergichans do not have it all their own way… Full review...

Mountwood School for Ghosts by Toby Ibbotson

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You've met people like the Great Hagges. Broad in the beam, determined and strident, they subdue petty officials with a single look and ensure everything around them is neat and tidy and well-planned. They're often to be found in the caring professions, but don't be fooled: they are not kind, or gentle, or sensitive to other people's feelings - not even the teeniest little bit. They just don't like mess. Full review...

The Parent Agency by David Baddiel

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Barry likes football (especially if Lionel Messi's playing), James Bond and lists. He doesn't like his two sisters, who tease him mercilessly and get away with all sorts of meanness right under his parents' noses. All his mates have cool names and even cooler parents, and their tenth birthday parties were amazing. His family, on the other hand, just can't manage the simplest thing he asks of them. He knows they're not well off, and he doesn't blame them for that, exactly, but going up to double figures is a big deal and deep in his heart he really does feel they could make a bit more effort. Well, actually, a lot more effort. Full review...

Opal Plumstead by Jacqueline Wilson

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Living in Edwardian England, Opal Plumstead is a fiercely intelligent girl. She has already won a scholarship to a public school and dreams of going to university. But all her ambitions are snatched away when her father is sent to prison and Opal is forced to abandon her education for a job in the Fairy Glen sweet factory. The other workers there find Opal snobby and arrogant but the factory's owner, Mrs Roberts, notices her artistic talent and treats Opal as a protege. Through Mrs Roberts, Opal learns about the suffragette movement and even meets the legendary Mrs Pankhurst. Full review...

Knightley and Son: K9 by Rohan Gavin

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Young fans of Sherlock Holmes will be happy to see this, the second in the series devoted to the tweed-wearing teenage detective. Together with his father (well, more or less: the poor man slips into a semi-coma whenever he gets stressed), his clever and resourceful sister and his beloved dog Wilbur, Darkus is soon hot on the trail of the mysterious dogs, which hunt in pairs and are strong enough to tear a man's throat out. If the creatures are indeed just dogs, that is . . . Full review...

Big Fat Christmas Book (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary and Martin Brown

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I was reading Terry Deary before he even started writing the ‘Horrible History’ franchise. It seems that as I grew out of children’s non-fiction just as he exploded in popularity, selling millions of books in the series and even spawning a successful TV show (that I admit to watching). It has been years since the first Horrible History book, but they are still popular enough to produce an annual of sorts, but is this a case of annual horribilis? Full review...

Lucky by Chris Hill

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Does enjoyment of a book depend on whether it measures up to expectations? As readers, our initial impressions of a publication are based entirely on the blurb and cover art, although there are plenty of instances where the content doesn't do justice to either. In some cases, it can be a good thing; a book may be a lot better than first expected. However, when the story is completely different to the one that you hoped for, it can leave a somewhat bitter after-taste. My daughter requested Lucky after seeing the cute cover art and reading the blurb about a little red squirrel trying to save the park. She is a big fan of Holly Webb animal stories and was hoping that this would be written in a similar style. Full review...

ZOM-B Family by Darren Shan

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REPEATING STANDARD WARNING! If you haven't read the first book in this series, STOP READING NOW! NOW! Spoilers ahoy! Full review...

The Winter Wolf by Holly Webb

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Amelia should be looking forward to spending Christmas with her older cousins, but she can't help feeling overwhelmed. The house that they are staying in is big and foreboding and she is very small for her age. Even worse than that, her cousins have a HUGE dog that seems to seek her out at every opportunity. Can't they understand that she is terrified of dogs and just leave her alone? Full review...

Eren by Simon P Clark

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People - Mum, mostly - are keeping secrets from Oli. Why have they had to leave London and come to live in the country with Uncle Rob? Why hasn't Dad come too? Why does everyone keep turning off the TV news every time it comes on? Why does Em's dad dislike Oli when he doesn't even know him? When will Dad come? When will life go back to normal? Full review...

Young Sherlock: Stone Cold by Andrew Lane

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Every human being is a mystery, even to themselves, so there's a particular pleasure to be found in tracing the roots of someone's interests and life's work. Just how did our hero develop his ability, for example, to tell a person's character, profession and history within minutes of meeting him or her? In this, the seventh volume in the series of books about the early years of the famous Sherlock Holmes, we see how events and a most intriguing couple of mentors combine to lead him down a path to his eventual role as a consulting detective. Well, if he survives till adulthood, that is. Of all his talents the most pronounced one does seem to be the knack of finding people who are determined to kill him. Full review...

Tom Gates Totally Brilliant Annual by Liz Pichon

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Fans of Tom Gates are in for an extra treat with the publication of this Totally Brilliant Annual, which announces its presence with a rather 'loud' front cover, replete with starts, arrows, doodles swirls, aliens and stick men in bold, bright primary colours. Full review...

The Rising by Tom Moorhouse

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Strife and Kale are two young water voles who can sniff out trouble better than their careful sister Ivy and to the fury of their protective mother, Aven. They just can't help it. But Kale isn't telling Strife everything - he has a secret. When long-lost Uncle Sylvan arrives warning of danger and the siblings eavesdrop on the adults' conversation, Kale's secret is exposed. Even though she doesn't fully understand it, Strife follows her brother into danger to avert a bigger danger. The quest on which these two young water voles embark will test them to their limits and they'll need all the help Uncle Sylvan and Fodur the rat can provide... Full review...

Wolf Brother: Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver

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Living six thousand years ago, after the Ice Age but before the spread of agriculture, Torak and his people understand the natural world. They revere the animals they hunt and never waste an ounce of prey. A deer provides them not only with food, but also with clothes, water carriers, shoes, rope, even needles. Torak and his people also understand spirituality. They see the sacred in the seasons and the cycle of the moon. And they believe in demons. Full review...

Lockwood and Co: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

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No one knows why ghosts have begun rising in such overwhelming numbers, threatening a terrible death to anyone they touch, and the fact that only children and young people can see them just makes everything that bit more mysterious. And it's no exaggeration to say that the members of the smallest and shabbiest psychic detection agency in Britain have their hands full in this, their second adventure. Their recent successes have brought in plenty of work, but also jealousy: their rivals from the well-funded Fittes Agency are determined not only to make them fail, but to make them look as stupid and incompetent as possible in the process. Full review...

Strong Winds Trilogy: The Salt-Stained Book by Julia Jones and Claudia Myatt

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Donny and his mother left their bungalow on the outskirts of Leeds and headed off to Suffolk to meet Donny's great aunt. It was never going to be easy as Skye, Donny's mother, was deaf and just about mute. She and Donny communicated by signing and usually they managed quite well, but when Skye had a breakdown in a car park in Colchester, their camper van was towed away and fourteen-year-old Donny was taken into care. He couldn't understand why none of the officials would believe him – in fact, were they all that they seemed? And why will no one let him see his mother? Full review...

Princess Disgrace 2: Second Term at Tall Towers by Lou Kuenzler

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Princess Grace is starting her second term at the prestigious Tall Towers academy and the class are preparing for the annual Ballet of the Flowers. Each class member must select a native flower from the island and perform a dance, representing the qualities of their chosen flower. The princesses select the most delicate and beautiful blooms, including water lily, poppy and crocus. But how on earth is Grace, the clumsiest, scruffiest and most unladylike of all the princesses, to choose a flower that reflects her personality? Full review...

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

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William Everett's father has risen high in the railway. But it wasn't always thus. He spent many years working for Cornelius Van Horne as a manual labourer, cutting and blasting through swathes of Canada and laying tracks. When Will and his father witness the laying of the last piece of track, there's an avalanche. And Will's father saves Van Horne's life. Promotion and success followed and now Van Horne is dead, Will's father is general manager and the world's biggest train - the Boundless, at 987 carriages long - will carry his body in perpetuity. Full review...

Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

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Meet Astra. She's a young girl who doesn't like the idea of being 209 years old. Well, who would? Technically she will be ageing, but not in reality, for she is to spend two whole centuries asleep on a spaceship as her family travel the massive distance to Nova Mundi. Given the chance to explore the ship a little before everyone is shut down for the journey she finds a food replicator in the dining hall, and helps herself to a sneaky chocolate biscuit supper. She then realises the machine could make her the ultimate cake, but is unsuccessful when the small food factory seems to break down, and she is forced to be frozen in her pod. Unfortunately, the machine itself is far from frozen… Full review...

Daisy Saves the Day by Shirley Hughes

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I don’t know anybody that didn’t grow up with some Shirley Hughes books in their lives, and for me it was always 'My Naughty Little Sister'. I was very excited to receive this copy of her latest book, 'Daisy Saves the Day'. It’s about a young girl, Daisy Dobbs, who is sent off to be scullery maid for a couple of sisters, the Misses Simms, far away from her home. It is difficult being away from her brothers and her Mum, and Daisy is not terribly good at housework. One day though, Daisy is put in a position where she has to save the day or else everything might be lost forever. Will she manage it? Full review...