Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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The Case of the Bogus Detective by Caroline Lawrence

5star.jpg Confident Readers

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

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

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

5star.jpg Confident Readers

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...

Charlie Merrick's Misfits in I'm a Nobody, Get Me Out of Here! by Dave Cousins

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What is that saying, about the best laid plans of mice and misfits gang aft agley? Charlie and his fondly thought of friends in the soccer squad we met last time are hoping for a simple trip to a summer camp for a week's educative training. But no, their dopey manager has booked them in to a survival camp by mistake. Instead of hitting the back of the net they're building tarpaulin shelters. They can't set any watching footie-heads ablaze, for they have to spark their own fires at night. They can still score, however, as there's a points-based competition to hand, but now that Charlie has dropped his team in the proverbial, they're once more really up against it… Full review...

The Forbidden City (Infinity Drake, Book 2) by John McNally

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Finn may be only 9mm tall and still a teenager, but he's already saved the world once. Accidentally shrunk by his mad scientist Uncle Al, he joined a crack military team and helped foil the threat of a lethal bio-weapon, the Scarlatti wasp. But there's no let-up for Finn. Before Al can restore him to normal size, a new threat emerges. Full review...

Rugby Academy: Deadlocked by Tom Palmer

5star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

It's the third story in the Rugby Academy series and so far we've heard from Woody in Combat Zone and Rory in Surface to Air. In this, the final book in this brilliant series, we hear from Owen. We left the team at the end of Surface to Air when Borderlands had got through to the World Championship in New Zealand. Despite the elation of doing so Owen isn't entirely comfortable with Jesse, the team captain. He has no doubts that he was a brilliant player - the best on the team - but he can't respect him as a person. Full review...

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by E L Konigsburg

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Eleven-year-old Claudia Kincaid is tired of being taken for granted. As the oldest of four children, she suffers many an injustice, and the interplay of school and home life is becoming monotonous. She decides to run away from her home in Greenwich, Connecticut to live in the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art. Middle brother Jamie, 9, is her chosen companion, not least because he can fund their venture. By cheating his friend Bruce at card games, Jamie has accumulated more than $24 – which, in 1967 when this classic children's novel first appeared, was not an insignificant amount. Full review...

Dork Diaries: Drama Queen (Dork Diaries 9) by Rachel Renee Russell

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Meet Mackenzie Hollister. She's a typical American tweenager – concerned in popularity, looks, the hot guys like Brandon, and getting one over on all those around her. That's made a lot more easy by her parents being spoilingly rich – if Mackenzie, say, wants a new cover for her diary she will just rip up a new $220 leopard print designer blouse and use that. But the problem is, what she's reading back over, and what she's writing in, isn't exactly her diary – it's the diary belonging to our beloved heroine, Nikki, and Mackenzie has managed to purloin it for evil deeds. Can Nikki get it back – or live at all without her beloved journal? And could there actually be something worse than her biggest enemy of, like, all time, being the person reading it? Full review...

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and Sir John Tenniel

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It can hardly have escaped anyone's attention that 2015 is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and we've seen numerous anniversary editions. Full review...

The Beast of Grubbers Nubbin (Stitch Head) by Guy Bass and Pete Williamson

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It's all wrong in Castle Grotteskew. The very walls should be terrified by the monsters the Mad Professor in the basement is creating, out of various body parts and different animals. But no, the clamour of noise, the unlikely activities and horrendous appetite for food come from something else entirely – a hundred rescued human orphans. That appetite needs feeding – so it’s perfect timing for the village below the castle, Grubbers Nubbin, to have their annual podge-a-thon feast. But when Stitch Head and his human friend Arabella go to purloin some human food – there being no decent alternative – they're horrified to find something even worse than the monsters trapped in the castle above… Full review...

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

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Micah is an orphan who has been raised by his grandfather, but now Micah’s grandfather is dying. And if that wasn’t bad enough, his horrible great aunt has arrived to take care of him, cutting their limited time together further. But don’t worry all hope is not lost. When grandpa Ephraim was a child he visited the mysterious Circus Mirandus, where he was promised a miracle by the miraculous Man Who Bends Light. All Micah has to do is get a message to the Light Bender and his grandfather can have his miracle. With the help of Jenny Mendoza (the smartest girl in the class), Micah sets his sights on the circus, a task that requires unconditional love and faith. Aunt Gertrudis is wrong, Ephraim’s stories aren’t just stories ... are they? Full review...

Mad About Monkeys by Owen Davey

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Of all the many millions of animals on our planet that deserve a large format hardback non-fiction book, I guess monkeys are one of the ideal places to start. They are, of course, our distant cousins, with the ancestor we have in common with them walking around our world within the past thirty million years. They have a large range across the planet, they have over 250 variant species, and they have a lot of interesting facts and details regarding their social life, their diet, their diversity and their potential future – all of which makes this an interesting read whatever your species bias may be. Full review...

Dragonsitter Trouble by Josh Lacey

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You don't need me to tell you what it's like when your uncle owns two dragons. He's the pig-headed type who has a mummy and baby dragon living with him, and he must live on a remote island off Scotland, and he must spend half the time hunting the world of dragons in Outer Mongolia, or searching for the yeti, so that trouble starts from the very moment you arrive with your mother and sister to housesit for him – there's no food, the dragons are pooing everywhere and you can't even use the front door properly because he didn't leave the key in an obvious place. Still, that's nothing compared to when the neighbouring farmer gets his guns trained on the dragons when he accuses them of stealing his sheep… Or how about when your big birthday party is here, and the magician is booked – and the two dragons come to stay, because somebody else with the talent to care for them has the hots for your mother… Full review...

Super-Loud Sam by Jo Simmons

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Sam is loud. Not just loud as in the loudest lad in class, and not just loud as in loudest fire alarm in school. No, Sam is LOUD loud. Stop traffic in the streets loud. Scary loud. Loud enough to make passing birds forget how to fly loud. There's little rhyme or reason for this, just as there is no real reason why his best friend Nina does nothing but knit all the livelong day, even when walking to school. It's just something you have to accept. But what's this? Their favourite teacher has vanished, and a new one has taken his place – Mrs Mann. She's ridiculous with her weirdly large hands, her huge cardigan and even huger beehive hairdo. The biggest thing about her though is the threat she poses – that of eternal silence in her lessons. How can Sam possibly continue at school, when even him clearing his throat is like a plane crash in your ears? Full review...

My Pen by Christopher Myers

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How long does it take you to read a picture book? Don't worry counting the number of words, forget totalling the pages, and ignore how many times you may return to bring it off the shelf. What matters so much more than how long it takes to scan a page can be how long it lies in the memory, and what it can lead to. This example, for instance, can be perused in seconds, but creates a vivid and long-standing mental image, and will if it hits the right buttons lead to untold future activities. You can't judge something like this on the value of time. Full review...

Ancient Egypt in 30 Seconds: 30 Awesome Topics for Pharaoh Fanatics Explained in Half a Minute (Children's 30 Second) by Cath Senker and Melvyn Evans

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Egypt. It's up there with dinosaurs, space travel and not much else that can hold a young child throughout the length of their school career. Considering a lot of them will grow up declaring they have no interest in, or even a hatred for, history, it all was relevant a long, long time ago – and with Carter's finding of King Tut's tomb closing in on its centenary it won't go away yet. There are indeed books that solely concern themselves with the history of our love affair with Egypt. But I guess it does boil down to it being introduced by a fine teacher. Whether this latest book will supplant the human in giving us all the lessons we need remains to be seen. Full review...

The World of Norm: 8: May Contain Buts by Jonathan Meres

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Why is it the only person in Norm's world able to think straight is Norm? His best mate Mikey is clamming up on certain subjects, and blaming mood swings on his hormones (well, he is all of thirteen, after all). His dad seems to be mourning the loss of an antique bottle of aftershave, his mother thinks sorting the recycling is a cure for boredom, and his grandfather is all full of weird expressions and euphemism thingies. That's not to mention his younger brothers, who have it in mind to use mum's hair straightener on the dog. And that's certainly not to mention the girl next door, who evidently has been incapable of thinking straight since birth, but at least is doing the good thing by moving house. It's a flipping miracle that Norm can get through a weekend like this without anything disastrous happening. Or can he? Full review...

The Wild Beyond by Piers Torday

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Stories for younger readers about the effects of climate change, known as cli-fi, are growing massively in popularity right now, as environmental disasters and the disappearance of many of the planet's animals and plants hit the news on a depressingly regular basis. Shrinking glaciers mean rising water levels and the slow extinction of polar bears, and in many cities pollution and smog are so dire at times that governments are forced to ban cars and urge their citizens to stay indoors. But far from frightening children with tales of ever-increasing destruction and death, Piers Torday offers them a way to hope. No matter how bad things are, this trilogy tells us, all it takes is determination, and together we'll save our beautiful world. Full review...

Anyone But Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp and John Kelly

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12-year-old maid Ivy Pocket is at a loose end after her employer the Countess Carbunkle leaves her for South America "for no other reason than it is far enough away from Paris to ensure that I never see you again." Charitably deciding that the old woman is 'bonkers' on the basis that anyone who doesn't see how wonderful she is couldn't possibly be in their right mind, Ivy thinks she'll stroll into another job but finds it more difficult than she'd expect - until the Duchess of Trinity gives her an important mission; to deliver a priceless diamond necklace to the granddaughter of an estranged friend. But what should be a simple task becomes fraught with danger as Ivy faces obnoxious aristocrats, strange creatures, and betrayal. Full review...

Mischief at Midnight by Esme Kerr

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At the slightly strange school of Knight's Haddon, there's always something intriguing going on. New girl Janet, cool and confident even when arguing with the teacher's, is the big surprise for Edie this term, and they become friends - but Anastasia feels forced out by the newer student's presence. Then some things happen which make Edie start to wonder if Janet is hiding something - can she solve another mystery? Full review...

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

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

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

4star.jpg Confident Readers

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...