Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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Attack of the Giant Sea Spiders (Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates) by Gareth P Jones

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It's a three-way battle in the Slurring Mariner pub. On the one hand, four Steampunk Pirates – a fine mix of vicious, nefarious and metallic mariners who would make any passing human gulp (which is more than you could ever say of the beer). On another, the Dread Captain Inkybeard, who is married to a squid who lives on his head and keeps his facial hair dark. On the third, a ridiculously rich, ridiculously French and ridiculously successful recruiter – but to just what is he taking so many seamen? Whatever it is, it's enough to get the Pirates and Inkybeard working together (ish) to solve the problem – but someone else might just be controlling the whole farrago… Full review...

Yes! No (Maybe...) (Tom Gates) by Liz Pichon

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Work. It's not something Tom Gates has been guilty of much before now – unless it's to work out how and where to hide his favourite caramel wafers, or how to deflect the evil grin of his slightly goth older sister. But it's on the cards this time round – not only does his mother have the inspired idea of clearing the house out for a car boot sale (which causes disasters) the school is having an enterprise competition, where groups of students have to create something to sell on to their peers at a profit. But it's not like Tom wants much – of course, he's a simple lad, with no real desires as such – he's never going to want to go hell for leather to get anything, is he? Full review...

Best Friends’ Bakery: Birthdays and Biscuits by Linda Chapman and Kate Hindley

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In this, the fourth story in the Best Friends’ Bakery series, Hannah is recovering from her sadness at being thrown off the Junior Baker show on TV. Fortunately there’s plenty going on in her town and at her mum’s bakery to keep her busy. There’s a new beauty shop opening to bake for, a doggy rescue centre in trouble, and a new girl who seems intent on stopping anyone from befriending her. How will Hannah get on with these new challenges in her life? Full review...

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

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Marketed as a twisted fairy tale, Cuckoo Song is so much more. Hardinge’s lyrical style sets it apart from other fantasy reads. Such phrases as she was weeping spider silk lend it a melody all of its own. At the story’s heart is the sense of wanting to belong and connect with others. It revolves around Piers Crescent’s daughter Triss who wakes up after an accident to find that her world has changed. She doesn’t feel that she is herself and starts to exhibit extremely peculiar behaviour. She is ravenous and inexplicably binge eats. For some reason her little sister Pen appears to hate her, scissors act strangely around her and her parents are anxious for her to remain ill and cosseted. She has memories from the time before she nearly drowned but she can’t visualise the actual incident. Full review...

Demolition Dad by Phil Earle and Sara Ogilvie

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Jake's dad is a wrestler. Nobody knows however, because Jake's dad also insists that Jake keeps it a secret, so that no one realises that come the weekend he leaves behind the demolition sites that he works on, puts on his spandex suit and enters the ring as 'Demolition Man'! But Jake is so proud of his dad that his alter ego can't remain a secret for long, and he sets about trying to change his dad's life through the world of wrestling. Full review...

Notebooks of a Middle-School Princess by Meg Cabot

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The author of the hugely successful Princess Diaries has written a brand-new series for younger girls, telling the story of awkward middle-school student Olivia Grace. She discovers that her father is actually the Prince of Genovia, making her...a princess! Not everyone responds well to the news, however, and poor Olivia is soon thrown into a world of jealous bullies, intrusive paparazzi, disgruntled relatives and a whole new family she never knew existed. Full review...

The Case of the Exploding Brains by Rachel Hamilton

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You'd think, with one parent in prison and the other one hardly ever moving from the sofa, that middle school student Noelle Hawkins would have far too many problems on her hands already to start worrying about the occasional little explosion at the Science Museum. After all, that's the kind of thing that's bound to happen in a place littered with heaps of seriously wacky inventions, right? Full review...

Squirrel Boy vs the Squirrel Hunter by Dave Lowe

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Ten year old Walter Kettle is an ordinary boy until he eats a nut. Then he transforms into unlikely superhero Squirrel Boy whose only superpowers seem to be a large bushy tail, an ability to climb trees and run very fast, and a sudden understanding of ‘Squirrelish’ (the language used by squirrels). In his second adventure, we join Walter to find out whether these unusual powers will be enough to defeat the determined Squirrel Hunter and save the squirrel population in the local park. Full review...

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (150th Anniversary Edition with Dame Vivienne Westwood) by Lewis Carroll

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Somewhere the book reviewing gods have a list of those classic titles that you cannot deny or begrudge their place in literary history, that are soon to have a 150th birthday party with my name on an invite. That means little, as I – and in fact most people – will of course be reading them on their unbirthday, but the list does include the current recipient of that honour, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It being long out of copyright anyone can put together a 150th birthday edition for it, but this is one of the more distinctive efforts, for it comes with the help of Dame Vivienne Westwood. And even though I have spoken before of how I don't take to the book, I can hereby declare this party was made all the better for being twice as long, all courtesy of the presence of Lewis Carroll. Full review...

Akimbo Adventures by Alexander McCall Smith

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I am, it must be said, something of an Alexander McCall Smith addict. I have handed out free copies of his books for World Book Night, I met him in Oxford at a literary festival, and I read pretty much everything he writes as he writes it! This time it’s a children’s book, with three stories in one volume all about a boy called Akimbo. He lives on the edge of a game reserve in Africa, and these stories are all about his rather amazing adventures with the animals who also share his home. Full review...

Azzi in Between by Sarah Garland

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Our story begins in a country at war. Unfortunately you could probably put a name to it (although it isn't named) as it happens all too regularly. Our heroine is Azzi, a young girl whose life was not too affected by the war, but every day it came a little closer. Her father still worked as a doctor and her mother made beautiful clothes. Her grandmother wove warm blankets. Then the day came when they had to run, for their lives, and escape was by boat and they became refugees. The three of them - for Grandma had been left behind - had been luckier than most for they were accepted on a temporary basis into another country (again it's not named) and they had a home, although it was just one room. Full review...

Eddie's Tent and How to go Camping by Sarah Garland

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Mum, Tom, Tilly, Lily and Eddie wanted to go on holiday and camping seemed like the ideal way to go. Lily and Tilly thought it was a brilliant idea and they had some experience, although their 'tent' did look just a little bit like a duvet over a chair. It's surprising what you need for a holiday, but Lily and Tilly had to be told to start again when Mum saw what they'd packed! But finally, Tom began to load the car and off they went. Full review...

Thomas the Tank Engine 70th Anniversary Slipcase by W Awdry

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Thomas, if you don't know, is a little Tank Engine, who is very quick to build up a head of steam and move his coaches and trucks around the train yards and networks he works on. That does mean that he has to be shown up by the larger, slower engines when he continually blows his whistle to disturb their rest, and can even forget to bring any carriages with him when he's pulling a train, but he does mean well. He's a warm, feisty little character, and was probably always bound to become a bit of a favourite with warm, feisty young readers, especially those brought up with an eye to the romance of the railways. But he wasn't the first we met in the series that in public shorthand at least bears his name. Full review...

Mum Never Did Learn to Knock by Cathy Hopkins

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  1. People are worrying about Emily: her Dad and the staff at school are all worried that she's spending a lot of time talking to her Mum. You might think that there's nothing wrong with that - in fact that it's entirely commendable and young people ought to spend more time talking to their parents - but Emily's Mum died a few months ago. Emily has reached the stage of hiding the fact that Mum appears to her in very real form, perhaps just a little bit ghostly, but then you wouldn't expect her to look just like she was when she was alive, now would you? At school she's sent to see a counsellor, but it doesn't go quite the way that the counsellor was expecting... particularly when Emily asked where people go when they die and the ultimate 'what comes after space?'

Full review...

How to Speak Spook (and Stay Alive) by Ally Kennen

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Everybody knows if you have a special gift like seeing through walls or the ability to speak giraffe you have to keep it secret. If you don't, men in dark suits and wrap-around shades take you away to experiment on you. (And if it's the wall thing, girls will assume you're spying on them when they get changed for PE and beat you up.) Full review...

Rutabaga the Adventure Chef: Book 1 by Eric Colossal

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Meet the latest adventurer to scour the land. He has a talent for finding the obscure and seeking out the rare, and surviving all the undignified fates the world has in store. He even has a magical companion. He will be open to any challenge set upon him, from locating dragon-smiting swords to besting the largest, most locally loved, rival. He is Rutabaga, and he is, of course, a chef. Full review...

The Accidental Prime Minister by Tom McLaughlin

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What would happen if a shy, slightly clumsy, 12 year old boy accidently found himself in the top job, living in Number Ten and making decisions for the country as Prime Minister? This is the premise behind Tom McLaughlin’s debut middle grade novel and the answer is simple – there’d be national ‘Fancy Dress Friday’ every week (on a Thursday), high fives would be used instead of handshakes, jelly would be available on the NHS, and one day every month the pupils would get to be the teachers. Full review...

Will Gallows and the Wolfer's Deadly Magic by Derek Keilty and Jonny Duddle

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Will Gallows is just a week away from being a fully-fledged member of the Sky Cavalry – and his talking, winged horse is even more keen on hitting the passing out ceremony on the nose. But things aren't all going to go their way – Mid-Rock City has received a blackmail note, extorting the town out of a lot of gold for threat of a 'death mace', of which nobody has ever heard. Certain factors all point to Will being the best cadet to take part in nixing the handover to the criminal, not least of which is his half-hidden secret magic skill due to being part-elf – but as soon as it's realised who the baddy is, things immediately step up a gear. And if that isn't bad enough, Will's grandma and great-uncle have just turned up for a pleasant trip based around his graduation… Full review...

Mariella Mystery Investigates: A Kitty Calamity by Kate Pankhurst

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When Mariella Mystery (amazing girl detective, aged nine and a bit) and the other Mystery Girls – Violet and Poppy – start to investigate the disappearance of their neighbour’s cat they think it’s going to be an easy case. Aren’t missing cats usually just stuck up a tree or off visiting a house where there’s tastier food? But the girls’ views begin to change when more and more cats start to disappear. Soon everyone in Puddleford is worried. The situation is suddenly serious and it’s up to the Mystery Girls to put an end to the catnapping. Full review...

Merlin and Guinevere: A Happenstance Meeting: Volume 1 by R D Shanks

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Merlin is both ordinary and special. He is living a quiet, ordinary life with his father in his quiet, ordinary village. Murrow is a fisherman and he and his son have a great relationship, supportive and loving. So far, so ordinary, right? But Merlin isn't like the other boys. While they are raucous and social, Merlin is quiet and contemplative. His best friend isn't another boy; it's Happenstance, his cat. Murrow and Merlin might not realise it but the reader will - there's something special about Merlin. Full review...

Where's the Elephant? by Barroux

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We've all had great fun with books such as Where's Wally, haven't we? They appeal to children and adults and everyone who has seen Where's the Elephant? has jumped in with great enthusiasm, keen to show just how observant they are. We start off with a forest - actually it's the Amazon Rainforest - full of glorious colours and our three friends, who are hiding in there. Elephant is probably the easiest to spot, but Snake and Parrot are in there too and with a little concentration you'll find them. When you turn the page you'll scan the trees again and discover their hiding places. You even wonder if it might get a little boring if it goes on like this. Full review...

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs by Sarah Forbes

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Imagine, dear reader, a poor girl who is never allowed to play outside like the other children. Instead, she has to spend her day performing horrid chores, like sweeping up mouse-droppings in the creepy, dark cellar and shooing away the cockroaches in the kitchen. So begins a long list of woes for shy Elspeth Hart, who toils tirelessly during the day and spends her nights sleeping in a dusty, cramped wardrobe. Full review...

Scarlet and Ivy The Lost Twin by Sophie Cleverly

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Ivy's twin sister Scarlet had been the strong willed, fearless one whilst Ivy, on the other hand, was timid and shy. Following Scarlet's sudden death Ivy is forced to take her twin's place at the sinister Rockwood Boarding School for girls and once there she finds herself thrust into a mystery she struggles to solve. Her only hope is to behave as Scarlet would have done, so with the help of her new friend, Ariadne, Ivy attempts to conquer her fears and stand up to the wicked Miss Fox and discover what really happened to her sister. Full review...

Creature Teacher by Sam Watkins

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Jake’s nervous about starting his new school. His class teacher, Mr Hyde, is new too but, unlike Jake, he has a reason to be worried. Although class 5b quickly decide that Mr Hyde is the best teacher they’ve ever had, they also discover a problem – whenever he experiences a strong emotion Mr Hyde starts to glow and transforms into a naughty, farting, biscuit-loving creature. Suddenly their teacher is wrecking the classroom and they need to work together to find a way to turn the creature back into their teacher before their evil headmistress finds out. Full review...

A Whisper of Wolves by Kris Humphrey

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Alice is a Whisperer, able to communicate with her animal companion, Storm the wolf. It's a gift that inspires awe and fear in the villagers she serves. A Whisperer is a guardian of the wilds, protector of nature, and the only ones able to fight back against the demonic Narlaw. Full review...

Young Houdini: The Magician's Fire by Simon Nicholson

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As it happens, several facts about the childhood of the man who became world famous for his daring stunts and death-defying shows have been recorded. But fiction is the world of what-if, where anything can be imagined, anything can happen. So what if all those 'facts' were actually a cover, made up to conceal Houdini's earliest exploits? What if, as a boy, he ended up far away from his family and his native Hungary and all alone in New York, having to earn a few meagre pennies each day by shining shoes? And what if his fascination with theatre life led him into dangers even greater than anything he was able to create in his later stage act? Full review...

Gerry Anderson's Gemini Force One, Black Horizon by M G Harris

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Life is changing very fast for Ben Carrington. He is at the opening of a huge skyscraper hotel his late father founded in Abu Dhabi when disaster strikes – the chap is hardly cold in his grave when Ben's mum and the lad have to prove how adept they are at her old job, of mountain rescue. She feels like setting up a new rescue agency with her nous and the family fortunes, but someone who can just amble into the opening/memorial ceremony is Jason Truby, a monumentally rich Internet magnate, who actually has a modern-day Thunderbirds entity already, the top secret Gemini Force. Truby starts to get close to the family of two, but the school-aged Ben isn't going to be allowed to learn just what dramatic escapades the agency has to cover – is he? Full review...

The Tapper Twins Go to War (With Each Other) by Geoff Rodkey

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There are two kinds of children in this world, those who are repulsed by farts, and those who delight in letting them rip, or regale their friends for their efforts – or wilfully accuse the innocent of dropping one. You can argue til the cows come home as to what the ratio of those two camps is – which is pretty much what Claudia and Reese, two 12-year old siblings in New York City, do – argue. This time the problem is that Reese loudly announced his sister to have a windy arse right in the middle of the school canteen, which led her to retaliate with a means to make him embarrassingly smelly, which led him to – well, let's just say that when Claudia defines the result as war, she's not far off. Full review...

Chicken Mission: The Curse of Fogsham Farm by Jennifer Gray and Hannah George

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Life is hard for a chicken. Threat comes from anywhere you look – which is where the Elite Chicken Squad comes in. Last time they had a nasty fox and his friends to counter, but this time they've got it worse. A local legend speaks of a vampire mink, concerned only with draining all fowl of their blood, and all indications suggest the legend is actually a lot more real and worrying. Even the barman – sorry, bar-chicken, Ichabod Comb, has vanished after an attack on his juice bar. What's more, it seems the mink's victim becomes a zombie soldier, fighting for her cause. Can the three plucky stalwarts of the Squad – Amy, Boo and Ruth – prove themselves a match for such evil? Full review...

Diamonds and Daggers - The Marsh Street Mysteries by Elen Caldecott

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Group of pre-teens get together to solve a mystery? Been there, done that. But don't be fooled. This book stands out from the crowd, even though it has to be said that many of those detective stories are really very good, for the way it incorporates utterly contemporary issues like economic migration, celebrity and prejudice, while remaining both funny and thrilling. Full review...

Lupo and the Secret of Windsor Castle by Aby King and Sam Usher

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Based on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's real dog, this is Lupo's story, and although it uses the real Royals it is, of course, a fictional story as you soon realise with the talking mice from MI5 and the evil villain in the form of one of the Queen's Dorgi's (a cross between a corgi and a Dachshund). If you're looking for a fantasy animal adventure, with plenty of action, then look no further. Full review...

Best Friends' Bakery: Cupcakes and Contests by Linda Chapman and Kate Hindley

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Hannah's favourite TV show is Junior Brilliant Baker, and when she hears that they are auditioning for new contestants for the show she simply can't wait to apply. She rushes to tell her best friend, Mia, about the competition as she's also a fan, but then what will happen if only one of them gets on the show? And what would they bake for the auditions? And would the show live up to everything they've imagined? Full review...