Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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The Ghosts Who Danced and other spooky stories by Saviour Pirotta and Paul Hess

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Ghosts are all over the world, don't you know. I don't know of any as of yet but I dare say that people have fixed ghost stories to be set on Antarctica; they're certainly common on all the other continents. York has 500 spectres to itself allegedly, all corners of all civilisations claim to know of spirit world entities – and people even go as far as being so undignified they see them in Auschwitz. The lesson from this excellently put-together book is that ghosts are worldwide, and any one from just about anywhere can have a very interesting story to tell. Full review...

Where's Will? by Anna Claybourne and Tilly

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Taking 10 of the best known stories, this book neatly summarises the plots and highlights the must-know elements of each. That's just the start, though, because after you've read what's going on, you get to see it in another form. Each story is followed by an illustrated two page spread, highly detailed and bursting with activity and characters. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the stars of the play among the many other people on the page. They're hidden, but can you find them? Full review...

Danny Dread by Ben Davis

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Meet Danny Dread. He's a pupil at Demento's Academy for Young Evil Geniuses, where classes range from bank robbery and 'applied superhero torture' to creating flying craft and machines with which to do the most dastardly deeds, and where the head mistress is only too pleased to see bullying happening in the corridors. Now meet Mynah Boy – freshly costumed, and talented inasmuch as he can mimic lots of people and things. He might not be the world's best superhero, but neither is Danny Dread the world's best villain – the Dread family have slowly been getting worse at being evil, and Danny is so hopeless he can't even kill a fly. You might think they'll be set up for the most clumsy, calamitous adventure against each other, until you learn that actually they're one and same lad – but things will still get clumsy and calamitous enough… Full review...

Thunderbirds are Go Official Guide

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It's time to admit that I am old. I remember the first series of Thunderbirds from Saturday morning kids' cinema – an episode of that, then a second-run film, both for a quid. They were only ten years old or so then, but at least that proved the franchise was durable. Nothing did that quite as much, however, as the news a couple of years ago that the Anderson estate was to allow a CG updating, bringing a new generation of people to the massed audience. Amid the usual worries about it losing everything that made it special, it actually did pretty well when it aired in 2015 – even with a breakfast time transmission slot. This small(ish) format hardback is, bar the annual, the very first chance to look at an official book concerning the series, and inasmuch as it inspired me to research the return, and certainly accept it as looking a worthy addition to the canon, it succeeds on all fronts. Full review...

Nelly and the Quest for Captain Peabody by Roland Chambers and Ella Okstad

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Nelly's father, Captain Peabody, sailed away when she was a baby. He remembered her birthday once or twice sending her a gift of painted snails and an egg which hatched into a visionary turtle. This turtle, Columbus, has grown to become Nelly's closest friend and companion as her mother sits silently knitting and nothing more has been heard from her father. There may be a lesson about parental inadequacy and unreliability here but if so it's understated. I have rarely met a less angst-ridden heroine than Nelly though she can give a firm lecture about keeping one's promises. Full review...

Brain Twisters: The Science of Thinking and Feeling by Clive Gifford and Professor Anil Seth

3.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Meet the brain. We all have one. We all use it (and by 'it' I mean a heck of a lot more of it than the 10% of urban myth) every second of the day. We engage with different parts of it for balance, catching a ball, memorising a list of moves in controlling a video game character, or understanding things ranging from written instruction to body language. It's such a vital part of the body, taking up 20% of our glucose fuel intake as well as of oxygen, that understanding of it cannot come at too young an age. But in this varied and complex book, looking at a varied and complex subject, I do wonder if the right approach has been taken at all times. Full review...

The Wonder Garden: Wander through the world's wildest habitats and discover more than 80 amazing animals by Jenny Broom and Kristjana S Williams

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Is it any wonder that this book calls the outside world The Wonder Garden? I know things in fiction books, on TV and in games can be fabulous, but can they compete – really – with what nature has presented? You only need a gate through which to go, and a willingness to explore. This book provides those gates – there they are, shining luxuriously on the cover of this jumbo-sized hardback. And in five easy-to-take steps, the rest of the book provides for that exploration, taking us down south in Amazonia, down below the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, and up – to deserts and mountains, via Germany's own Black Forest. And the trip is nothing if not spectacular to look at. Full review...

City Atlas: Discover the world with 30 city maps by Martin Haake and Georgia Cherry

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

It's not every time I mention the feel of the book I'm reviewing, but this time it's worth a mention. This volume has been lavishly presented in a roughened card cover, as opposed to the gloss of others in this format from this publisher, and so looks and feels like an old stamp catalogue. The title image is indeed a stamp, stuck on the centre of the cover. And just as all stamps the world over are practically the same yet completely different in design, so are the world's cities. The point of this book is to bring the common elements as well as the unique features of all the world's capitals to the fore, to show that while a city may be a city is a city, their constant variety is what makes each and every one worth a visit. With that being on the costly side, this is a decent enough substitute. Full review...

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale and LeUyen Pham

4.5star.jpg Emerging Readers

Princess Magnolia has a double life. On one hand she has a perfectly prim, proper and pink castle turret to live in, on the other she has a secret escape tunnel. On her head she has a tiara, on her finger a monster alarm. Her life is also full of threats – on one side a horrid, blue, goat-eating beastie, on the other a prim and proper visitor intent on finding out if the perfect Princess has any secrets. Well we know she has, but will they be discovered – and which is the greater threat? Full review...

Katy by Jacqueline Wilson

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Eleven year-old Katy Carr is a tomboy who, despite her best intentions, is always getting into trouble. Lively and adventurous, Katy is very much the leader of her five younger brothers and sisters until an accident damages her spine and she finds herself confined to a wheelchair. Suddenly Katy's life is turned upside down and she has to learn the most basic things all over again, to redefine her role in the family, and find a new meaning in life. Full review...

The Red Shoe by Ursula Dubosarsky

5star.jpg Confident Readers

They may be quite far apart, but three houses in a row in the rural suburbs of 1950s Sydney contain some incredibly unusual people. In one, a solitary old man of very few words, shuffling to the end of his days, but brandishing a Japanese sword he's purloined after WWII, and with a gun in the corner of his lounge. In the middle, a family of five, with a father figure suffering from PTSD due to the same war, a mother feeling friendless and alone in the isolated time and location, and their three daughters – one of whom has given up on school after an alleged nervous breakdown, the middle one who barely speaks more than the neighbour, and Matilda, our key interest, who likes the idea of spies, and has an imaginary friend who came out of the radio. The third house however might be where the most interesting people live – after all, it had been empty, but now the luxurious building is home to several shady men in suits, who turned up out of the blue in luxury cars, and with at least one gun of their own… Full review...

The Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms by Chris Colfer

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The last Land of Stories book left readers on a cliffhanger with a shock revelation about the identity of the antagonist, the villainous 'Masked Man'. Since then, fans, myself included, have been waiting desperately for the next book in the series in order to see how our twin heroes Alex and Conner deal with this surprising twist in the tale. The waiting is over; the new book is here and ready to transport us once again to the magical Land of Stories... Full review...

Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr

5star.jpg Emerging Readers

Polly opens the door one day to find a large black wolf standing on the doorstep. With no preamble whatsoever, not even a cursory hello, the wolf informs Polly that he intends to eat her up. Incredibly Polly invites the wolf into her home and even into the kitchen! What can she be thinking of? Well, young Polly is clever, resourceful, independent and charming. The wolf is a wolf of very little brain. Therefore it is not long before she is able to outwit the wolf and send him packing. This first story is very short but sets the scene for the ongoing battle of wits between Polly and the wolf that will continue for the remaining twelve short stories in this charming and entertaining book. Full review...

All Sorts of Possible by Rupert Wallis

4.5star.jpg Teens

When the sinkhole opened, there was no time to break or turn the wheel, and the old green Land Rover was snatched off the dirt road over the smoking rim.

Somehow, Daniel makes it out of the sinkhole and emerges to safety with just a few scratches and bruises. But his father isn't so lucky. While he lies in hospital in an induced coma due to a severe brain injury, Daniel is released into the care of his aunt, a woman he has never met. There had been a family falling out after Daniel's mother died when he was just a baby, and since then it's just been Daniel and his dad. Although his aunt seems nice enough, Daniel finds it difficult to trust her or open up to her...

... and there's a lot to open up about. Full review...

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Tamaya isn't allowed to walk home from school on her own. And Tamaya doesn't like to break any rules. So when walking partner Marshall insists on taking a "shortcut" through the woods one day, she goes with him, even though she isn't really supposed to walk through the woods. Unbeknownst to Tamaya, Marshall has chosen the route in order to avoid school bully Chad, who has threatened him with a reckoning. A reckoning for nothing at all - but you know, that's how school bullies work.

But lying in the woods is an even greater threat than Chad... Full review...

Scavenger 2: Chaos Zone by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

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York is a lad on a mission. So would you be, if your space station habitation was constantly attacked by evolved, mutated and evil robots. Trying to get to the core of things – both the situation and the centre of the giant biosphere carrying the last humans to a future planet to reside on – he's just starting to enter the second level, alongside some surprising companions (surprising, that is, if you haven't read book one) and a lot of gung ho spirit. The next stage is a 'mid deck' level, where all of Earth's habitation zones have been recreated – but nothing, either animal or human, has stayed the same since the ship's launch… Full review...

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

5star.jpg Confident Readers

This entrancing Edwardian mystery is set in the exotic, sensuous and opulent world of a Department store which draws the reader in with enticing sights, sounds and smells from the start. When the heroine Sophie first steps on to the shop floor she feels like she is "stepping inside a chocolate box". Furthermore there is also something sacred about the experience- "Now, a reverent hush hung in the air, and she found herself almost tiptoeing…gazing around her at the immense chandeliers, the glittering looking-glasses, the glossy walnut panelling. It smelled luscious: no sawdust now, but a glorious fragrance of cocoa and candied violets and some other spicy scent, like the cigars that Papa used to smoke after dinner." Full review...

Danger is Still Everywhere: Beware of the Dog! by David O'Doherty and Chris Judge

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Meet Gordon. He's a very safe bet, now you have met him, as he's a source of highly intelligent and descriptive warnings about danger. He and he alone can voice warnings about the Puddle Shark you might get eaten by, the Parp Donkey that might evict you by farting through your letter box, and the Headphones Crab that – well, the illustration here says it all. Now, I know what you're thinking. Advice this intelligent and salient could only really come from Docter Noel Zone, the world's only Level Five Dangerologist. And you'd be right. Gordon is the name Noel gives to his wardrobe. And Noel is currently living in Gordon the wardrobe, as his house has been taken over by a messy, noisy, and incredibly dangerous puppy. Add into the mix a pet contest hosted by the world's most dangerous man and you have a recipe for disaster (when all you wanted was a completely safe recipe for cabbage soup, as well…) Full review...

Shadow Cat by Gillian Cross

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When Nolan's effervescent mother suddenly takes him on a surprise journey he is in as much fear and doubt as the reader about what will happen next. Meanwhile music sensation Midir's daughter Feather is tired of being controlled and dreading the next photo opportunity for the press. Then, one night, as her father prepares for a shocking, spectacular event, everything changes. Cross keeps us guessing as Nolan's world is turned upside down and he has to make difficult choices. Why is his mother in the clouds on an exultant high one minute and grey, stressed and in the doldrums of despair the next? Does Feather really want to be his friend or do they just have the serval they have sworn to protect in common? Full review...

The Bolds by Julian Clary and David Roberts

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The Bolds, Mr and Mrs and their two small children, live in an ordinary semi-detached house in suburban Teddington. They have jobs; Mrs Bold designs and sells flamboyant hats and Mr Bold writes jokes for Christmas crackers. But they are most definitely not an ordinary family. Oh no! They are in fact hyenas. So far they have managed to successfully pretend to be human beings. Although very hairy and prone to laughing a lot they have kept the truth (and their tails!) a secret from everyone. But their grumpy next door neighbour, Mr McNumpty, is growing suspicious and then a trip to the local safari park has repercussions. Will the Bolds' carefully long kept secret be revealed? Full review...

The Cake, the Wolf and the Witch by Maudie Smith

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Max doesn't believe in happy endings. How could he, when lovely, brave, caring Mum got killed climbing a mountain? He doesn't like heights or small dark spaces and he doesn't like silly fairy stories. He absolutely hates being dressed in knickerbockers, silk slippers and a cape for Dad and Ilona's wedding, and in fact, the only thing that's worse, in his opinion, is the fact that once it's over he'll have to share his home with a horrible new brother and sister. I mean, come on, people! Nettle is a total grouch who's clearly never cracked a smile in her whole life, and little Wild is just . . . well, to tell the truth, he's plain daft. He prances about the place like a demented butterfly, and he never takes his baseball cap off, even to go to bed. How's Max supposed to get along with that pair? Full review...