Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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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

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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...

When I Am Happiest by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson

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If Dani leaves her school for the summer holidays with one souvenir, it will either be the memories of the fabulous friendship she formed with Ella, who struck a chord in book one then moved away, or it will be a book she has written and compiled to remind her of all the happiness she has encountered along the way. That is not quite finished, for the following day is to be the great end of year party, and her classroom decorations are complete and her dress has been bought new specially. But not all of life is happiness and jollity – and Dani is removed from the classroom to face very bad news. What ending is in store, for her book and for ours? Full review...

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

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Ballet Shoes tells the story of three adopted orphans – Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil. Brought to 1930s London as babies by an eccentric explorer (Great Uncle Matthew, otherwise known as Gum), the girls have a comfortable life until the family begin to run out of money. Luckily they are all given places at the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training and soon start to earn their own way as child performers on the stage. Full review...

Clash of the Rival Robots (Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates) by Gareth P Jones

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We learn a lot about the world of the Steampunk Pirates in this volume of their adventures. While having had references to Britain fighting France before now, we find the location matters more than last time, as we head back to England. The Pirates have been told of a way to get into the Tower of London to steal the Crown Jewels. We also learn a lot about their upbringing, if you can call it that – certainly more than last time, as we see what made them piratical in the first place, which was a surprise to their inventor when it happened. But you never know, they may be about to face a showdown against said scientist – and, worse, his next generation of robots. If only they perhaps had been programmed to avoid temptation… Full review...

Catching Falling Stars by Karen McCombie

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It is 1940 and after a year of the phoney war London is suffering in the Blitz. Glory and her younger brother Rich have now been evacuated to a country village far from everything they know and love. When the arrangements made by their mother fall through the children are sent to live with Miss Saunders, a cold and unwelcoming woman who is not popular in the village and Glory wonders if they would have been better off remaining in London despite the danger of falling bombs. The local children appear unfriendly and even in the countryside they are not completely safe from the enemy. All Glory wants is to return home to her parents but she will soon discover that her life is to change in unexpected ways and she will learn that her first impressions should not always be trusted. Full review...

Precious and the Zebra Necklace by Alexander McCall Smith

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There is a new girl at Precious Ramotswe's school. Her name is Nancy, and Precious is asked to look after her and make sure she settles into school. Precious, already a budding detective at such a young age, soon sniffs out that there is a little bit of a mystery surrounding Nancy and on discovering that all Nancy has left of her parents is a fading photograph and a zebra necklace she decides that she must try to help Nancy discover the truth about what happened to them. Full review...

Binny in Secret by Hilary McKay

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Reading Binny in Secret was rather like that moment when, as a child, I discovered that Noel Streatfield had written a LOT of other shoe books or, just a few years ago, when I suddenly discovered Jeanne Birdsall and her Penderwick stories, and I gorged on them, utterly delighting in their humour and kindness. I don't quite know how I haven't come across Hilary McKay before, but of course now a long list of her books have gone onto my 'to read' pile because I thoroughly enjoyed this story and I immediately wanted more! Full review...

The Disappearing Dinner Lady (Mariella Mystery) by Kate Pankhurst

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Mariella has to admit it: the school dinners have been much better lately. When Big G was in charge, vegetable mush was the order of the day, but since the 'Ladies Who Lunch' agency have been supplying the meals, they have been serving up heavenly dishes like 'Monday Munchie Madness', 'Princess Pie' and 'Pirate Pasta Bake'. The mystery girls love the new menu, but even more than that, they love the new dinner lady, Diana Dumpling. When Diana goes missing in mysterious circumstances, Mariella and her friends are on the case to discover what really happened to their favourite dinner lady. Full review...

The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui and Ginny Tapley Takemori (translator)

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One problem with being four inches or so tall, as any Borrower-type creature I'm sure will tell you, is getting around. There're the impracticalities of being so small, encounters with cats, and a whole lot more. But with this modern world things can happen – such as an English governess-type taking a married couple of Little People to Japan with her. There they have kids, and she leaves them with her favourite pupil – alongside the most necessary equipment, a small blue glass goblet, that helps the human bond with the Little People by using it to donate milk to them on a daily basis. We're now into the second generation of Japanese people looking after them, but something much more threatening, all-enveloping and worrying than a cat is around the corner – World War Two. Full review...

In Their Shoes: Fairy Tales and Folktales

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Lots of books have, in their own way, shown fairy tales to have relied on certain tropes. You certainly don't have to read them all, or indeed many, to see the wily child outsmart the adult again and again, people tricked into changing ownership of magical things, the power of being a stepmother, or the power of doing things in threes. Still, I think this must be one of a very rare few collections to look at footwear as a theme, with a tidy, small selection of fairy and folk-tales to entertain, all with that subject. Full review...

Meet at the Ark at Eight! by Ulrich Hub, Jorg Muhle and Helena Ragg-Kirkby (translator)

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An educated penguin, an agnostic penguin and a violent, smaller, young penguin walk into a snowdrift… You might not be able to make a full joke out of that opening line, but this book practically does continue on from there. Three penguins – each a little different from the other, even if they generally look and definitely smell the same, and God, a subject of their conversation when a butterfly comes along, of all things. The young, hot-headed one (well, in the pictures he wears a woolly hat, he's bound to be hot-headed) leaves in umbrage, leaving just two – which is perfectly timed if you're a dove, and come along telling all the animals to get into Noah's Ark in pairs, as an almighty flood is about to happen… Full review...

The Diary of Dennis the Menace: Canine Carnage (book 5) by Steven Butler

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I'm sure Dennis the Menace has a hate-hate relationship with school, but the nature of it is relevant when considering these books. The fact he goes at all is the cause for them in the first place – he originally was tasked with writing a journal as homework, and turned it into a menacing manual for us, his readers. But if he paid attention there he might realise £1,000 is not quite enough to build his own, self-aggrandising theme park, even if he manages to employ the bummy, booky, wimpy types behind the scenes. The grand sum is what Dennis intends to win when The Fame Factor TV talent show hits town. That, as we can easily foretell, is going to be very menacingly interesting, but that's not the site of the titular carnage – for that we have to rely on an unusual sleep-over… Full review...

Cheeky Charlie by Mat Waugh

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My book is about all the naughty things that my brother Charlie has done. Some of it is funny, some of it is a bit sad, and lots of it is disgusting, because that's what Charlie can be. It might even make you be sick, so get ready.

You know what? That's about the size of it. After Harry has introduced herself - she's almost seven years old, she doesn't like her freckles, she's used to people thinking that someone called Harry ought to be a boy, and she has a younger brother, who is three and called Charlie. This is Harry's book about Charlie. Charlie is a cheeky chappie. He never shuts up. He likes to push his luck. And, having pushed his luck once, he likes to push it again. And again. And again. This is much to Harry's exasperation, as she explains by dint of a book full of anecdotes... Full review...

Dork Diaries: Once Upon a Dork (Book 8) by Rachel Renee Russell

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There is wishing you had a fairytale relationship, and/or having the chance to change your life drastically – and then there is being able to see what would actually happen if either wish came true. Nikki wakes up on a typical school day with a hellish start – no alarm clock, due to her younger sister, sandwich all over her jumper, again due to her younger sister, and so on, and so she can only wish for something to take her out of it and give her a dollop of fantasy. That something is dodgeball, which bangs her on the head so much she wakes up in a sheer fantasy world, where her BFFs are Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood, the world is peopled by other folk from school, but her hunky friend Brandon is still Prince Charming, and her enemy Mackenzie Hollister is still able to make her life hell… Full review...

Big Nate Lives It Up (Big Nate, Book 7) by Lincoln Peirce

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Life at school might actually be interesting for Big Nate, for once. Even if the building is so old it's falling down, an ancient student's journal much like his has been discovered, peppered with a girl's cartoons from a long, long time ago – proving even he can have a connection with something a century old. (And I don't mean the connection made when bits of the place actually fall onto his head.) Unfortunately for Nate, another connection has been forced on him – he has had to buddy up with the new boy in class. He's new, dorky, and has a name that sounds like a British boarding school, we're told. But what exactly is it about Breckenridge Puffington III that gives Nate a strong sense of déjà vu…? Full review...

J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan: The Graphic Novel by Stref

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Here's a quiz question for you – despite the uniform seventy year copyright rule, which work has been the sole recipient of an endless extension of it, courtesy of an ex-Prime Minister? The answer is obvious now at least, as this is one such volume. It's a very readable and pleasant variant on J M Barrie's original stage version and novel regarding Peter Pan, which of course helps and always will now help the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. And for a boy who never grows up, at 111 years old he's in spritely good health. Full review...

Secrets of the Tombs 2: The Dragon Path by Helen Moss

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They don't actually intend to have an adventure: quite the opposite, in fact. As far as fifteen-year-old Ryan and his friend Cleo are concerned, being chased by bad guys and falling down deep holes is seriously over-rated. But they're on their way to China with their parents anyway, so they can hardly refuse when Cleo's grandmother asks them to put a jade bracelet she's had for eighty years back where it belongs. Where's the harm? Full review...

Borgon the Axeboy and the Whispering Temple (Borgon the Axeboy 3) by Kjartan Poskitt and Philip Reeve

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The middle's nice and crunchy but the squishy bits are horrible. No, that's not a predator in prehistoric times discussing the eating of us humans. Instead, it's Borgon the Axeboy's mother, discussing peaches. Yes, even in a world where a lot of nasty animals are still around to potentially eat the likes of Borgon, there are still things for people to learn. Borgon for one, in this third adventure in the series, has a lot to learn about religion – he scoffs at the idea there's a god resident in a temple he and his friends have discovered, even if his friend Hunjah insists otherwise. The lesson is forced and the truth comes out, however, when some thieves turn up, having pegged the site as a location of many earthly riches… Full review...

Dead End Kids: Heroes of the Blitz by Bernard Ashley

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It's London in 1940. Most of the men have been conscripted and the East End is populated mainly by women and children. Josie and her friends are carrying on much as usual, though, grouping into little gangs and arguing over turf via mud fights along the Thames. But then comes a terrible night of bombing. It's the start of the Blitz and 57 consecutive nights of bombing for the East End. The fire service is stretched way beyond its capacity and the lucky ones make it out of the shelters in the morning, while the unlucky ones don't see another sunrise. Full review...

In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll

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In the early hours of the morning Alice’s mum receives the phone call they have been waiting for. The long awaited heart transplant that may save her sick brother, Theo’s, life is now possible. Alice finds herself sent to stay with a grandmother she doesn’t know, miles away from her friends and the life she knows. There is no TV, no phone signal and no internet but Alice feels drawn to the mysterious Darkling Wood surrounding the house despite her grandmother’s wish to have it chopped down. Meanwhile back in 1918 a young girl desperately waits for news of her brother’s safe return from the front. Her mother doesn’t like her playing in the nearby wood but it is there that she discovers secrets and magic that give her hope for the future. Full review...

The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward

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Samantha is a mixer of potions extraordinaire. Which is just as well, because someone has to save a princess who has fallen in love with herself. Yes, you heard right! You might not think this is the most enormous problem - princesses are so spoiled and pampered, is it any wonder they fall in love with themselves? But this isn't what's happened. Princess Evelyn has taken a love potion meant to make someone else fall in love with her. And the resulting havoc caused by the wrong person taking the right potion leads to some very unstable magic that could threaten the very kingdom itself.

Hence the Wilde Hunt, a national quest to find the ingredients for a cure. Full review...

Thirteen Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt

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Luke Manchett really isn't that upset when he gets the news that his father has died. You might think that's a tad harsh, but Luke has been estranged from his father for years. His primary concern is his mother, who is disabled by crushing cluster headaches. So, rather than worry her, Luke heads off to a lawyer's office to deal with the reading of his father's will by himself. And he gets a shock. Luke's inheritance adds up to six million dollars. SIX MILLION! Full review...

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Bees of Stupidity by John Dougherty and David Tazzyman (illustrator)

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We've been here before. The lovely children whose name is in the title of all these books – handy when they make time to try and check if they're in this one or not – are woken up in a ridiculous way by a blackbird making his usual cameo. The Army of Great Kerfuffle is asleep – all single cat of it. The King is wearing a badge that allows him to pretend to not be the King – this time he's thinking of keeping bees, although he has four animals that go 'quack' in a hive instead. Oh yeah, and the evil badgers are in prison having been naughty. But they will never follow the pattern and be evil and naughty and break out in order to be eviller and more naughty, will they? Full review...

Ghosts of Shanghai by Julian Sedgwick

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Shanghai, 1926. The city is heavily divided between the natural, national areas, and the enclaves of the foreigners – Russian, French, American, British. Several of the younger international youths have formed the Ghost Society gang, after the principal character, Ruby, found another divide cleaving Shanghai in two – that between the living and the dead, the 'real world' and the Otherworld. Her brother dead, she seemed to become the conduit for a poltergeist in her apartment, and recently the gang have even managed to lock a spirit into a bottle and cast it down a well. But the gang is immediately falling apart – the lad she loves, Charlie, and his sister are diverting themselves from, or have been warned off, any further such activity. Rose knows she has to find the source of the problem – and cross any untold divides in her city to find the truth… Full review...

Trollhunters by Guillermo del Toro, Daniel Kraus and Sean Murray

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West Coast USA in the 1960s, and the city is wracked and wrecked by a slew of missing children reports. The parents with their new anguishes, and new rules against playing out after dark, have no idea of the horrors in their vicinity – literally under their feet lies a city of trolls, guilty of snatching the children. Last to go, Jack Sturgess. Cue the modern era and Jack's younger, now grown-up brother Jim, and Jim Jr live a sheltered life in the most barricaded and secure home imaginable, and Jim Jr's life is as exciting as you'd expect. Unfortunately, however, the trolls are about to make a return to their nastiest of ways – and their intentions are a lot more surprising than Jim Jr could ever predict… Full review...

The Case of the Bogus Detective by Caroline Lawrence

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Howdy folks! Welcome to Virginia City, bustling and busy home to prospectors, dancing girls, lawyers, gamblers and newspapermen. It's 1862, and our twelve-year-old pal Pinky is continuing the quest to become a successful detective and eventually join Uncle Allan in the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency in Chicago. But for the moment there's so much crime right here in Nevada, thanks to the untold wealth being found daily in the nearby silver mines, that Pinky and financial partner Ping are soon busy day and night, chasing desperados, solving crimes and righting all manner of wrongs. Full review...

Car-Jacked by Ali Sparkes

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A boy genius who speaks Mandarin and Latin and a criminal who’s just robbed a bank and stolen a car: it’s an unusual pairing but, it turns out, a perfect team. ‘‘Car-Jacked’’ leads us through the twists and turns of 12-year old Jack’s adventure when his parents’ car is hi-jacked with Jack still inside. Full review...

Arabel’s Raven by Joan Aiken and Quentin Blake

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It’s been many, many years since I first met Arabel and her pet raven, Mortimer, whilst watching Jackanory on children’s television. Bernard Cribbins used to read the stories, and they became firm favourites of mine. Here I am returning to the first book in the series, well, just a handful of years later, and the story has lost none of its charm. Full review...

One For Sorrow by Philip Caveney

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You'd think, wouldn't you, that Tom Afflick would move heaven and earth to avoid leaving Manchester to go to Edinburgh: on his last two visits there he ended up tumbling into the past, where he met all manner of scary folk. But parents tend to be pretty determined to get their own way about such things, and no way are they going to swallow some mad tale about him being chased by plague doctors and other assorted murderers. So, off he has to go, and yes – he's barely set foot in Auld Reekie when he's time travelling again, in a wondrous mix of drama, real live people and deadly peril. Full review...