Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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The Best Bear in All the World by Paul Bright, Brian Sibley, Jeanne Willis, Kate Saunders and Mark Burgess

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Winnie the Pooh is a classic, and sometimes classics should be left untouched by the hands of time. After all, can you improve on perfection? With A.A. Milne no longer with us, there are limited options for continuing the stories of Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit and the gang, but in this authorised sequel the show must and indeed does go on, with four new tales about the bear with very little brain. Full review...

The Snow Angel by Lauren St John

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Makena was born and raised in the city of Nairobi but she dreams of mountains, in particular Mount Kenya. When her father takes her on her first real exploration of the mountain, and she gets a brief glimpse of a strange sparkling fox, Makena thinks life can't get any better. Within weeks, however, her perfect world is shattered. Makena finds herself scratching out an existence in the city slums. She contracts cholera and almost dies. Luckily a pair of young charity workers are led to her by a fleeting image of a fox and offer her a new start and a trip to the Scottish Highlands. But will Makena be able to accept their kindness? Full review...

Undercover Princess (The Rosewood Chronicles) by Connie Glynn

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Lottie Pumpkin is an ordinary girl who is obsessed with princesses, fairy tales and Disney. Her dream is to become a princess and she had no idea that she would be sharing a room with one at Rosewood Hall...Ellie Wolf is a princess who wishes to be ordinary, so she attends Rosewood to avoid her royal duties in the kingdom of Maradova. When destiny puts these girls in the same room, the only way to survive Rosewood is to swap identities... Full review...

Blue Dog by Louis de Bernieres

4star.jpg General Fiction

Mick's mother had a mental breakdown after his father's death and Mick was sent to live in in the outback with Granpa. On the face of it you'd think that it was going to be a lonely life for an eleven-year-old city boy, with no school to attend, in fact no other children anywhere near. Granpa's busy too: life on a cattle station is brutal for anyone, with all the heat and the dust. But they've all got to make the best of the situation. Full review...

50 Things You Should Know About the Vikings by Philip Parker

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

The Vikings have got a lot to own up to. A huge DNA study in 2014 was the first thing that proved to the Orkney residents that they had Viking blood in their veins – they had been insisting it was that of the Irish. The Vikings it was that forced our English king's army to march from London to Yorkshire to kill off one invasion, only to spend the next fortnight schlepping back to Hastings to try and fend off another – and the Normans had the same Norse origin as the first lot, hence the name. There is a Thames Valley village just outside Henley – ie pretty damned far from the coast – that has a Viking longship on its signpost. Yes, they got to a lot of places, from Greenland to Kiev, from Murmansk to Turkey and the Med, and their misaligned history is well worth visiting – particularly on these pages. Full review...

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

5star.jpg Confident Readers

I really loved The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley when I read it, and so I was excited, and also a little nervous, to see there was a sequel. The book picks up almost exactly where we left off, with Ada having had her operation to correct her club foot. Now her pain has, for the most part, been removed and she can walk and even run, Ada finds that she must now redefine who she is, and who she has always believed herself to be. Her mum had told her she was worthless, unloveable and a monster...a freak of nature who shouldn't be seen. Yet now she is just like any other little girl, with the beginnings of a new family with Susan. Ada, as spiky and unpredictable as ever, finds herself struggling with ideas relating to who she is, and who she must now try to protect, since although her foot is fixed, the war continues to rage on in Europe. Full review...

Sky Dancer by Gill Lewis

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Since the death of his father, the moors no longer offer Joe the sense of freedom and tranquillity that they once did. Instead, they become a battleground for a fight over the fate of the hen harriers which are nesting in the heather. This is a fight that Joe becomes wrapped up in and he is required to make some serious decisions. Knowing that he can't please everyone, he decides to stay true to what he really believes in and in doing so, he finds friendship in two unlikely characters: the stylish daughter of wealthy landowners and a naïve townie involuntarily transplanted to the countryside. The three of them learn to overcome their differences and trust each other as they question what really matters to them and how they can make a difference. Full review...

The Dollmaker of Krakow by R M Romero

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Karolina is a refugee from the Land of the Dolls. Her homeland has been ravaged by rats and Karolina was blown by a magical wind into Krakow, Poland, at the height of WWII. She finds herself in a workshop belonging to Cyryl, known as the Dollmaker of Krakow. Lonely, crippled Cyryl repairs Karolina and the two cement a strong friendship which helps Cyryl in his life outside the workshop. But it's not just the Land of the Dolls suffering under a vicious enemy: it's Poland, too. Together, Karolina and Cyryl befriend their Jewish neighbours and determine to do whatever the can to save from the monstrous Nazi regime... Full review...

The Sinclair's Mysteries: The Midnight Peacock by Katherine Woodfine

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Oh, the excitement, the glamour and the sheer, unabashed luxury of Christmas at Sinclair's! Windows full of fabulous items which lure shoppers inside, where their nostrils are filled with the scents of cinnamon, toffee and cigars while they browse the laden shelves or relax and take a refreshing cup of tea (with maybe just a teensy little cream cake or two: shopping is so very exhausting!). The staff scurry here and there, packing up purchases and sending them out to the delivery teams waiting patiently in the stables, helping customers to find that perfect something to place under the Christmas tree, and preparing costumes for the forthcoming New Year's Ball. Full review...

Dork Diaries: Crush Catastrophe by Rachel Renee Russell

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Is Nikki Maxwell's life actually turning a corner for the good? She's finally working out she has a crush on Brandon, the hunky guy who's looked ideal for her since book one, and she can actually get to page 100 here without her arch nemesis Mackenzie doing something bad to her. Life doesn't actually have any room for badness or mishap, anyway – she wants to be with Brandon training her new puppy, she wants to go to Paris for a month, tour America with her band (don't ask), and you just have to wonder how she's going to fit things in. There are problems – her manipulative younger sister stealing family time (and Nikki's candy), of course there are problems – but surely things, as I say, are on the up. And surely being mentor to an exchange student for the last week ever at middle school will not be a problem? Oh hold, on, of course it can… Full review...

Atlas of Dinosaur Adventures: Step Into a Prehistoric World by Emily Hawkins and Lucy Letherland

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

You might think, what with books about dinosaurs being just as varied (and almost as old) as dinosaurs themselves, that there was little to say about them that hadn't been said, and few new ways of giving us information about them. Well, I would put it to you that this is a novel variant. Over many jumbo spreads, we get a different dinosaur in a different situation each time, whether it be being born, being slain or learning to fly, and the book gives us all the usual facts, not in chronological order, nor in some other more spurious fashion, but grouped by where these dinosaurs lived. The continent-wide chapters have several entrants in each, and what with the book hitting all corners of our current globe, it brings the world of dinosaur remains right to our door, and makes this old subject feel remarkably new… Full review...

Scarecrow by Danny Weston

5star.jpg Confident Readers

When Jack's dad discovers illegal activity at work and blows the whistle, he makes some very powerful and dangerous enemies. He and Jack are forced to go into hiding in a remote cottage in the Scottish highlands. Miles from anywhere and anyone, they hope they will be alone and safe. But it quickly transpires that they are neither. Dad's enemies already know where they are heading and, even before they move in, Jack starts to have doubts whether they are actually alone. Did he really see the scarecrow next to their cottage move? Full review...

Pirates Magnified: With a 3x Magnifying Glass by David Long and Harry Bloom

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

It's becoming easier and easier to spot books for the young about pirates – that surely is about the only career from the seventeenth century that gets so many volumes produced about it. It must be a combination of the derring-do, the illegality, and of course the fancy dress and silly speak that appeals – nowhere else would you see a youngster studying one country's attacks on another, and reading about how treasures, slaves and other resources changed hands. This volume, however, tries its best to stand out, and has adopted the equally prevalent concept of getting the reader to pore over large dioramas to seek the small detail hidden in the images. For once, though, there's a thoroughly educative reasoning behind it. Full review...

The Adventures of Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties by Dav Pilkey

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Tree House Comix proudly presents: A tale of oppression...a tale of redemption...a tale of rebirth...and a tale of hope. A Tale of Two Kitties!

Dog Man is really a story within a story. Best friends George and Harold, of Captain Underpants fame are now in fifth grade and are now so totally mature and deep that they have decided to create a brand new comic about a police officer with a dog's head. Thus we enter a surreal (and completely bonkers) comic-book world featuring an evil cyborg fish, cloned cats and beastly buildings. Is Dog Man up to the task of protecting the city from such threats? Full review...

Jack and the Geniuses 2: In the Deep Blue Sea by Bill Nye and Gregory Mone

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Jack and Ava, aged twelve, Matt (16) and Dr Hank Witherspoon (quite a bit older) have barely recovered from their adventures at the South Pole when they find themselves packing once again, this time en route for the tiny Pacific Ocean island of Nihoa, near Hawaii. Dr Hank has been asked to help solve some problems with millionaire Ashley Hawking's ground-breaking new invention for generating electricity, which performed badly at its first public demonstration, and the wealthy lady has specifically invited his three young companions to come along too. Ava and Matt are excited by the scientific possibilities; Jack, his brain fuelled not by facts but by the exploits of his favourite cartoon programme, Duck Detective, is convinced sabotage is the cause. Full review...

The Princess and the Suffragette by Holly Webb

4star.jpg Confident Readers

I am a big fan of the beloved classic 'A Little Princess' by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but when I found out that Holly Webb had written a sequel, I wasn't sure whether to read it. On the one hand, I wanted to catch-up with the characters. On the other hand, I was sceptical that another writer would be able to match the warm and cosy innocence with which the original is written and I was worried that it would appear as a twee or weak imitation without much substance. I decided to take the book as a fun chance to see what happened to Sara and friends, and as an opportunity to wander nostalgically through the corridors of Miss Minchin's prim and proper school. Full review...

Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure by Alex T Smith

5star.jpg Emerging Readers

Mr Penguin is a brand new Professional Adventurer. He has a dashing hat, a large magnifying glass and an important looking office in his igloo to prove it. All he needs now is an adventure to go on. Just as he is beginning to despair of ever being asked to solve a mystery Boudicca Bones from the museum phones and asks for help. Can he and his trusty sidekick, Colin (the spider with expertise in martial arts!) find her missing treasure? Will the adventure become too dangerous for them? And will Mr Penguin ever have time to eat his fish finger sandwich packed lunch? Full review...

A Roman Adventure (The Histronauts) by Frances Durkin and Grace Cooke

4star.jpg Confident Readers

I have studied propaganda in my time and as a rule of thumb the most persuasive arguments are those people don't notice. The same can be said when educating kids. Some children lap up textbooks and non-fiction, but others need to be eased in. Tricking them is perhaps a harsh term, but would you rather learn about Ancient Rome via a dry fact book or an adventure title written in the form of a cartoon and packed full of puzzles and activities? Full review...

The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders

4star.jpg Confident Readers

The best fantasy books for children rely on escapism, books like The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Harry Potter series and Peter Pan. Central to each of these stories is the real world: the dryness that permeates the everyday. The children involved are often bored of their lives, or of school and their parents: the world of reality. So when they get to escape into a world that is much more interesting they are enamoured by a sense of magic and adventure that comes their way. For Kate Saunders' heroine Emily, the bizarre and eerily familiar world of Smockeroon awaits. Full review...

Free Lance and the Field of Blood (Free Lance Trilogy 2) by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

5star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

The world of jousting is a fierce one – survive the minor battles with the lance, either as a bonded employed Knight or as a Free Lance, and you might try your hands at the major league. There the men are stronger, the horses faster, and the ground hurts more when you hit it. But the big time also offers more that can put a humble Knight at risk – such as evil hosts, beautiful princess-types in pickles, and mysteriously successful strangers. Our nameless hero and his loyal horse, Jed, are going to be up against a lot more than they expected here… Full review...

Star Wars Where's the Wookiee? 2 Search and Find Activity Book by Katrina Pallant and Ulises Farinas

4star.jpg Confident Readers

It's not enough these days, you know, to have just one franchise. No, you have to match it with another. You have to mash Doctor Who with the Mister Men. You need zombies in your Pride and Prejudice (don't laugh, the book was much better than the film). Batman has to have a Lego equivalent (and don't laugh, for the film was awfully unfunny). Even when you're a Disneyfied, new-film-every-year-like-it-or-not behemoth like Star Wars, you need some secondary property to latch on to. Hence this, which as the title suggests, is the second book asking you to find the Wookie in the Wally/Waldo-esque scenes. Full review...

The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, Peter Bently and Steven Lenton

5star.jpg Emerging Readers

A dog is for life, not just for Christmas, as we were constantly told when I was young – I dare say people are still saying it, but it was quite prevalent way back then. I'm sure many people reading this will know that the Dearlys end up with 101 Dalmatians for Christmas themselves, and it must be debatable whether they stayed in the same house as them all come the new year. But what is beyond doubt is that the getting of so many cute pups was full of drama – drama that fills this young reader to bursting, and drama that comes in illustrations like these with no end of charm. Full review...

Curse of the Werewolf Boy (Maudlin Towers) by Chris Priestley

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Maudlin Towers has a school newsletter out. It contains an indignant notice about an Offending Item:

It has come to our attention that a renegade author by the name of Chris Priestley has written a COMPLETELY FICTITIOUS AND WILDLY INACCURATE account of life here at Maudlin Towers for the Not Particularly Bright Sons of the Not Especially Wealthy. This is in NO WAY sanctioned by the school and should be AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS. Full review...

Supersaurs 1: Raptors of Paradise by Jay Jay Burridge

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

I'm thirteen years OLD, not young. And it's a good job too, for her grandma and godfather have taken Bea on an extended holiday to Indonesia, where the wild dinosaurs live. Yes, this is a world where they never went extinct, and have been used for riding for leisure or as pack animals ever since mankind domesticated them. But wild and dangerous ones still exist, such as the Raptors of Paradise. Bea's older guardians have another reason to go there, though – they are in search of clues that might lead them to at last discover the fate of Bea's birth parents, who disappeared a decade ago. She's unaware of this being the final grasp at one last clue – and all of them are ignorant of how the real danger and mystique on the island may actually come not from the fabulous beasts, but from other humans… Full review...

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Once again the vivid and decidedly quirky imagination of Frances Hardinge has produced a story which grips the reader while he or she is reading it, and remains in the memory long after the book has been replaced on the shelf. This time the English Civil War is erupting and we meet Makepeace, whose gift (or curse, depending on your perspective) means she has a space inside her where ghosts can hide. Her first guest is a large, angry bear which has spent its unhappy life being seriously ill-treated, and much of her energy in the earlier part of the story is given over to stopping it using her body to rampage around smashing everything and everyone in sight. Full review...

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Every year the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest, in the hope that this sacrifice will keep their town safe. Little do they know that the witch, Xan, is a kind soul who rescues the children and finds them new homes with families on the other side of the forest. She feeds the babies on starlight to keep them nourished throughout their journey, but one year she accidently feeds a baby moonlight which fills the child with a powerful magic. Xan names the baby Luna and realises she must raise this magical child as her own, locking away her magical abilities until her thirteenth birthday. But as the day approaches where Luna's magic will emerge, she will have to learn to protect the safe and loving world she has always known. Full review...

Worry Angels by Sita Brahmachari and Jane Ray

4star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Amy-May was devastated when her parents split up: she and her mother left the delightful seaside cottage where the waves had sung her to sleep and moved into a 'garden flat'. That didn't mean that it had a garden, just that it was on the ground floor. They didn't have a lot of possessions as the bailiffs had taken most of them. Her father was living in another old cottage now and hopefully he'd be able to set up his kiln, but he wouldn't be able to home-school Amy-May. The alternative was Sandcastles Secondary School but the rather nervous Amy was considered to be too anxious to start at the school full time. As a gentle introduction to schooling she went to Grace's art school instead. Full review...

The Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Robert Ingpen

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows was one of the defining books of my childhood and more than sixty years after I first read the book I've just recently passed it onto another young reader. Since the book was first published in 1908 there have been some notable illustrators: Paul Bransom provided illustrations for the 1913 edition, Ernest H Shepard (perhaps better known for his illustrations of Winnie the Pooh) in 1933, Arthur Rackham (possibly the leading illustrator from the golden age of book illustration) in 1940 and Robert Ingpen who illustrated the centenary edition of The Wind in the Willows. Full review...

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball by Laura Ellen Anderson

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

The annual Barbaric Ball is fast approaching and Amelia is facing the prospect of being the only person her age at it again. Things are different this year, however and the King may finally be returning to public life. Full review...

Pawns by Brian Gallagher

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Pawns tells the story of Johnny, Stella and Alice, all of whom are growing up in Ireland during the War of Independence, and who have somehow become friends in spite of their very different political views. Stella is passionately pro-British, while Johnny frequently risks his life to pass information to the pro-Irish rebels, and Alice is left stranded in the middle, supporting neither side of the dispute. Full review...