Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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The World of Norm: 10: Includes Delivery by Jonathan Meres

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

It is a truth universally acknowledged that while kids' series generally start by covering a whole term time or even a school year, by the time it's worked out that more books are called for all the following volumes will concern less and less ground. This is a case in point – it being book TEN in this series means it's just regarding two flipping days. That way Norm can carry on having adventures without aging, with little in the way of consequence that people reading future books before seeing this one will have missed out on. In lesser hands, it generally means the author can churn out a whole book without much forethought or providing much content. Luckily this series isn't the usual, and the author here generally is better than the routine. Full review...

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

5star.jpg Confident Readers

It is the summer of 1975 and ten year old Ramie's dad has left home with another woman. Raymie is utterly heartbroken and believes that everything, absolutely everything, now depends on her, because Raymie has a plan. If she wins the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition her name and her photo will be in the paper and then, Raymie believes, her father may just possibly come back home. At least she hopes that he will. To win the competition she must carry out some good deeds and learn to twirl a baton so she enrols in a baton twirling class where she meets Louisiana, timid and prone to fainting, and Beverly, cynical and determined to sabotage the competition. As the competition draws nearer and Raymie starts to despair that her plan will work circumstances conspire to draw the three girls together in an unlikely friendship that will challenge and change all three of them. Full review...

Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret by Lyn Gardner

4star.jpg Confident Readers

The Victorian era in London – a time of expansion and exploration, but also of poverty, dark alleyways, youthful pickpockets and moustache-twirling villains. Well, so writers like Charles Dickens would have us believe, and readers can be pretty sure that a detective mystery set in the glittering world of the nineteenth century music hall will have colour, excitement and danger in profusion. Full review...

Big Nate Blasts Off by Lincoln Peirce

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

First things first, no – that title is not the puerile British schoolboy's meaning of blasting off. I'm not entirely sure why the book is called that, to be honest. But I do know that said British schoolboy – and many from many other countries too – will take to these pages, even if they have never seen any of the other books in this series. The humble hero with the spiky hair and quick wit is in trouble with (a) his comics of the teachers, (b) his finding the time to practise Ultimate Frisbee for an interschool cup, and (c) his emotions, as he falls big-time for the delightful Ruby Dinsmore. Yes, the very Ruby Dinsmore the main school bully also wants to hang out with… Full review...

Love from Paddington by Michael Bond

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Consider some of the more pertinent questions of literature. Would things have been better if Rhett Butler did give a damn? What would Jane Eyre have done if the men with the truth hadn't made the church in time? And, of course, how does a little bear with a fondness for marmalade actually turn up in Paddington Station, so very, very far from home? Well, while the actual short stories may never have answered any of those questions, this work does – in amongst suggesting why bears don't play cricket, and a host more. As a result it may have a very different structure to the original books of linked short stories, but it's just as wonderful and characterful. Full review...

Peace Maker by Malorie Blackman

4.5star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Michela Corbin is something of a rebel, but even she understands that everyone must wear a Peace Maker Device all the time and that it must never be tampered with, as non-aggression is their society's founding principle. The Peace Maker is the means by which this is enforced, but Michela wants to experience the full range of human emotions and the Peace Maker stops that. When her mother captains their ship into enemy airspace and they come under attack it seems that Michela's freedom from the constraints of the Peace Maker might be the only thing that can save them. Full review...

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Serafina lives in the basement of the grand house on the Biltmore Estate with her Pa, an engineer. No one knows that they live in the basement. No one, in fact, knows that Serafina exists, since she has been told by her Pa that she must keep herself hidden away. She isn’t sure why, but she happily creeps around the beautiful house, mostly by night but sometimes secretly during the day, watching and observing and undertaking her self-appointed job of Chief Rat Catcher. Serafina knows there is something a little unusual about her, but she isn’t quite sure just why and how she is different from everyone else. It’s only when she stumbles across a fearsome man in a black cloak stealing away a child from the house that she finds she can no longer remain in the shadows, but must now do everything she can to help find the missing children. Full review...

The Sword of the Spirit (Spirits 3) by Rob Keeley

4star.jpg Confident Readers

There are truths which must be revealed before the battle may commence. You do not yet know the meaning of the sword.

Ooh! Events are moving apace in Rob Keeley's Childish Spirits series. Let me explain... Full review...

Storm Weaver by Matt Griffin

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

In the sequel to [A Cage of Roots], the four friends are journeying back to the lair from which they have just escaped. Sean, Finny and Benvy think they're trying to save the Goblins and turn them back into girls, but Ayla, who so nearly became a goblin herself, is being drawn by a greater force. As Ayla's powers emerge and grow stronger, she leads her friends on a dangerous quest, deeper into the heart of the fairy kingdom of Fal. Sean, Benvy and Finny just want to go home to Ireland, but with the war that's brewing and Ayla's part in it, they may never be able to go back home again. Full review...

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Ali Benjamin describes her accomplished debut novel as a work where despair and wonder come together. When we first meet Suzy she cannot speak after a traumatic incident. Her family is struggling to cope with her silence and she is averse to the therapy of 'Dr Legs'. It is only through her flashback sequences, written in italics, and her passion for a science report that the reader comes to know her and sympathise with her suffering. Suzy is experiencing a cauldron of emotions including grief, guilt, denial and a tumultuous desperation to discover what she perceives to be the truth. It is this zeal which makes her refuse to believe her mother's explanation that sometimes things just happen and fanatically pursue her own best educated guess. Full review...

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Young readers will be well aware of the horrors of war. It kills people, destroys families and homes, creates waves of desperate refugees and devastates the landscape. But there's one aspect of fighting which, apart from a few notable exceptions, isn't often touched upon – the fate of animals caught up in conflicts. We know a little about horses participating in cavalry charges, and homing pigeons carrying messages, but what about those animals which live in the wild? And worse still, what about all those well-loved pets which can no longer be fed or protected by owners close to starvation themselves? Full review...

Violet and the Smugglers by Harriet Whitehorn and Becka Moor

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Violet's godfather has inherited a sailing boat and invites Violet and her family and friends to join him on a sailing adventure in the Mediterranean. How could Violet possibly say no? This turns out not to be quite as relaxing as you may imagine. It is not long before our heroine has suspicions about the captain of another boat and Violet's detective skills are needed again. With the help of her friends, Rose and Art, Violet is determined to solve the mystery. Will she be able to put a stop to a dangerous smuggling ring? Full review...

Shadow of the Yangtze (Ghosts of Shanghai) by Julian Sedgwick

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

And so we're back with Ruby and Charlie, in war-torn China in the late 1920s. Without giving anything of the first book away, a rescue mission is needed, and the help Ruby has had in the spirit world may well not appear. Charlie knows who would help – the Communists, but for Ruby, even though she was born in China she's definitely an outsider, an alien. With their quarry sailing off upstream amidst a storm of warfare, the friends have to take to the Yangtze waterways in pursuit – but just as in every corner of the mysterious city they're leaving, things quite strange to them will be appearing – shadow warriors, weaponised trains and ghost ships amongst them… Full review...

Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Sputnik Mellows set himself a mission – to discover whether Earth exists. Now he's found it, he needs to prove it should exist and, to do this, he enlists the help of schoolboy Prez Mellows. Together they need to find ten things that will justify Earth's existence. If they fail to do this by the end of the summer holidays, Earth will be shrunk by Planetary Clearance as part of the pan-galactic decluttering programme. Full review...

The Calling by Philip Caveney

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Well-informed young readers will always welcome a new book from the extremely gifted Philip Caveney. This time, he places his poor hero right in the middle of not one but two mysteries. Firstly, why has said hero (we'll call him Ed as he's forgotten his real name) woken up on a train to Edinburgh with barely any money, a bump on the head and no memory whatsoever? And secondly, why does the whole human world freeze for a day right in the middle of the Fringe? The answers, when they come, are as intensely thrilling as they are wildly imaginative. Full review...

Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens

5star.jpg Confident Readers

In the fourth adventure in the Murder Most Unladylike series, we return to the setting of the first book – Deepdean School for Girls. But things have changed. For the first time a Head Girl has been elected and Elizabeth Hurst didn't get the position based on popularity. Instead, she manipulated and blackmailed her peers and, supported by her five prefects, she's now terrorising the school. Responsible for so much misery, its little wonder everyone wishes Elizabeth dead. But someone has gone one step further – committing a murder and presenting it as an accident. None of the adults even suspect 'foul play' so it's up to Daisy, Hazel and their Detective Society to uncover the truth. Full review...

Little Bits of Sky by S E Durrant

5star.jpg Confident Readers

I've put this story together from the diaries I kept when Zac and I were children. I wrote them in the hope that life would get better for the small unloved girl that was me, and my even smaller unloved brother. And if life didn't get better or at least more interesting I was going to make it up - to put witches and castles and rides in fast cars. But I didn't need to. Life got exciting all by itself... Full review...

Star Wars The Force Awakens Illustrated Storybook by Elizabeth Schaefer and Brian Rood

4.5star.jpg Emerging Readers

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… Well, ours, last year, really… A film came along that seriously impressed lots of mature audience members who had very valid reasons to doubt it, and that made goggle-eyed popcorn munchers of a lot of youngsters. It had rollicking spacecraft dog-fights, it had emotional revisits for well-loved characters, and had a sting in its tail that lasted at least a couple of days before being leaked to the wider world. I know there is a DVD and Blu-Ray of it coming within days of me writing this, but I can only assume the reason the junior books about the film are being released now and not in time with its cinematic release is down to the chatter of the young and their rampant ability to say what they shouldn't – which includes what happens about eighteen pages before the end of the story here. Full review...

Star Wars The Force Awakens Novel by Michael Kogge

4star.jpg Confident Readers

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… Actually, it was any place on this planet you care to mention. Adults took their children along to see a proper time machine – one that would take the parents back to a future-seeming science fantasy action film, and would transport children to an ideal place where derring-do did, where spacecraft never bothered with taking fourteen parsecs to do the Kessel Run when they could do it in twelve, and where high-octane action was to be had. The time machine was called The Force Awakens, the seventh film in the enduring series. But when they got home there were no books suitable for the young readers to use to engage with what they'd just seen. The Alan Dean Foster adaptation of the script was for adults – it was a lot longer and more wordy than they were used to. They had to wait months for a book telling the story their way. But now it’s arrived. Full review...

The Boy and the Globe by Tony Bradman and Tom Morgan-Jones

4star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

This lively and enjoyable story is set in early seventeenth century London where young orphan Toby Cuffe is living on the streets where life is hard. In order to survive, the resourceful Toby joins the gang of boys who work for Moll Cut-Purse as thieves. Moll sends Toby to the Globe Theatre to do some pickpocketing where Toby becomes so engrossed in the play being performed that he forgets about his own safety. Caught by the theatre's owners Toby meets the writer of the play he has just seen performed, the famous playwright William Shakespeare. Then our young hero is given an opportunity that he had not expected. Toby is full of enthusiasm for the theatre and rekindles the Bard's enthusiasm too so that together they team up to save the threatened theatre. Full review...

The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat by Paul Tobin

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Delphine is quite a normal 6th grader, if with a few eccentric traits. She has dozens of friends, argues with her siblings, misbehaves in class but not too much, disobeys her parents but not too seriously, and earns extra pocket money by dog-walking. She spends this money on cake. Mostly. Nate is not like Delphine. He has no friends and mostly goes under the radar of 6th grade society. But Delphine has noticed him and for good reason: Nate is a genius. He's so clever that he's even been studied by foreign academics. Not that this gains him much currency with his peers. Full review...

A Seven-Letter Word by Kim Slater

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Finlay has got more than one PROBLEM. He lives alone with his father, who chain-smokes in between trips out to do odd jobs for people, and seems to have reduced his worth to just one recipe since his wife, Finlay's mother, vanished two years ago. Things are still bitter with him – he says she might as well be dead – but the issue manifests itself badly with Finlay, and he has grown into suffering quite a severe STUTTER, which leads to no end of TEASING at school. His one way out, it seems, is for a change an eight-letter word, SCRABBLE – he can hide away from the mismanagement of words that his speaking implies he has over a set of tiles and can play a decent game. But what happens when he is contacted online by a mysterious Alex – is this possibly a way to combine his love of the word game with his quest for the truth about his mother's ABSENCE? Full review...

The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly by Luis Sepulveda, Satoshi Kitamura and Margaret Sayers Peden (translator)

4star.jpg Confident Readers

In the world of this book, danger brings people together, but adversity brings them together even more firmly. On the one hand we have Zorba, the big fat black cat, who was once swallowed by a pelican as a kitten, and now has been abandoned – well, temporarily, as his human child owner is away for a long time. But we also have a seagull, busy fishing when the alarm rings out and therefore left alone to be swamped by an oil slick. Trying to take her last flight, she crashlands on Zorba's balcony, and promptly delivers an egg – and with her dying breath procures the promise of the cat to look after the hatchling until Zorba can teach it to fly. But surely a lesson in flight from a cat is beyond even the binds of adversity? Full review...

Eeyore Loses a Tail (Winnie the Pooh Classics) by A A Milne and E H Shepard

4.5star.jpg Emerging Readers

Eeyore, the Old Grey Donkey stood in the thistly corner of the forest and thought about things. He was quite a philosopher in his own way, but his most profound thought occured when Winnie-the-Pooh came along and enquired as to how he was.

Not very how, he said. I don't seem to have felt at all how for a long time. Full review...

Nancy Parker's Diary of Detection by Julia Lee

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Nancy is a bit of a dreamer. At fourteen years old she's happy to leave school (although she never quite mastered the fine art of spelling) and finds herself as a lowly housemaid to the very modern Mrs Bryce– a far cry from her plan to star in the movies, solve mysteries or even, if the worst comes to the worst, work in a shop that sells interesting things. Full review...