Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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Black Powder by Ally Sherrick

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Black Powderfollows a fictional account of the events leading up to November 5th 1605 – The Gunpowder Plot. The story opens with Tom Garnett, a 12 year-old boy, witnessing the hanging of his neighbour for a crime he did not commit. However being Catholic sealed his fate. This opening event is told with caution which paints an appropriate picture for a children's story. Tom's father, also a good Catholic man, helps a struggling priest by giving him shelter for the night and attempts to guide him to safety along the road to London. Unfortunately, the police hear of these kind deeds, which is against the King's rule and through forced information they set off to arrest his father. Knowing what lays ahead, Tom sets out to warn his father and so sets the scene for this exciting tale. Full review...

Invisible Inc. by Steve Cole

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So, you've gone invisible, the end of the world is nigh, and the bad guys have kidnapped your mum (as they do). Who are you going to call? Nope, not those guys (or, in the more recent film, gals) although there are a fair few not-quite-ghosts floating around in this story. In fact, dear readers, your dream team to stop the baddie and save the planet (honestly, the number of times poor old Earth is in danger in stories for young people, it's a wonder we get any sleep at nights) is a Victorian lady inventor, a five-hundred-year-old warrior knight and his trusty steed. Well, actually, it's a pony, but let's not get technical. Full review...

Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

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Meet Emily. She's your typical young girl, except she's a little bit of a tomboy. Oh, and she's got a tail. Oh, and she was born from an egg that was left on a ride on the huge theme park that is Funfair Moon and when she hatched she grew up in the Lost Property Office with a sort of giant alien octopus as surrogate mother. But apart from that she's a typical young girl. She likes hanging round with the two weird creatures – one that's hairless and green, with eyes on stalks, and another that's like the plumpest Wookie – that maintain Funfair Moon. But today there's more than routine repair work to be done – but the way Emily throws herself into solving the drastic list of problems is typical of young, thoughtful, enterprising girls everywhere. But is it enough? Full review...

My Gym Teacher is An Alien Overlord (My Brother is a Superhero) by David Solomons

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Luke Parker is just an ordinary kid (unless you count his obsessions with comic book superheroes). While he has no special skills or talents, Luke has to put up with the fact that his brother and best friend both have superpowers. Zack is 'Star Lad' while Lara is the slightly more rubbish superhero, 'Dark Flutter'. Luke has always wanted to save the world and now he's about to get his chance. He discovers that an alien mothership is in orbit over his home town (Bromley) and they plan to take over the world as part of an alien reality TV show. To make matters worse, the aliens have chosen to disguise themselves in the most terrifying form possible – they all look exactly like his gym teacher. Sadly, however, no-one is prepared to believe Luke that his gym teacher is really an Alien Overlord. Full review...

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

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Odd is a young Viking boy. His father died in a raid not so long back. While trying to emulate his woodcutter father - Vikings weren't full-time Vikings, you know: they all had other jobs - in the woods, Odd got too enthusiastic with an axe and a falling tree crushed his leg. With a dead husband and a crippled son, Odd's mother had little choice but to remarry. And what with his strange habit of smiling at the wrong time and his crippled leg, Odd isn't well-liked, either by his stepfather or the rest of the village. Full review...

Miraculous Miranda by Siobhan Parkinson

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It's Old Bear's birthday, and so all the other toys are planning something. In fact lots of somethings: gifts, a cake, a proper celebration. It's wonderful. Elsie the elephant has even made him a present, the talented little thing. But then, as we soon find out, Elsie is good at many things: wrapping presents, baking cakes, blowing up balloons, singing. It's a lovely sunny day, so the toys gather outside but just as they finish setting things up, and just as Old Bear arrives, disaster strikes! Can the toys have a happy ending and find time to finish Old Bear's party?Miranda is a small girl with a big - no, a huge - imagination. She writes stories, tells jokes using wordplay and her favourite part of school is the Word of the Day competition, which she almost always wins. Unless best friend Caroline O'Rourke aka COR or annoying boy-in-the-class Darren Hoey pinches one of Miranda's words and pips her at the post that way, that is. Miranda is also quite soppy and emotional, unlike COR, who is sporty and blunt. Full review...

The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison

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Alice hasn't met her traveller father very often, but there's one rule he always impresses upon her: never, ever leave a story unfinished. And for a gifted writer like Alice, that's easy – until she tackles a full-length novel and realises her imagination has dried up. She's a long way into the story before she discovers she has no idea how to finish it. And then she starts seeing shadows out of the corner of her eye, shapes that flit away into the dark as soon as she turns to look at them. Full review...

A Whisper of Horses by Zillah Bethell

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A Whisper of Horses is set in a dystopian future, where most living things have been long since eradicated by 'the Gases.' The few remaining survivors try to eke out a living in the ruined city of Lahn Dan, split into three distinct class groups: Lead (Pb), Copper (Cu) and Gold (Au). Serendipity, a young Pb girl has always been fascinated by the statues and artworks in the city, which depict riders on majestic horses. Of course, she has never seen a real horse; no-one has. When Serendipity finds a map that hints that there may still be horses living in 'Grey Britan', she makes the brave decision to try and escape the walled city to go in search of her dream. Full review...

Boy X by Dan Smith

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When Ash McCarthy wakes up in some sort of medical facility he immediately knows something is wrong. But he doesn't suspect just how much until he steps outside and finds himself on a remote tropical island. Then he smells the blood and begins to find the bodies. A deadly virus has been released and, to make matters worse, it's being taken off the island to be sold as a weapon that could wipe out humanity. The antidote is being taken with it and, unless Ash can stop them within 24 hours, everyone on the island who has been infected (including Ash's mum) will die. Full review...

Through the Mirror Door by Sarah Baker

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Angela doesn't like her Aunt or cousins but living them with has to better than the series of children's homes she's had to put up with. She's, therefore, determined to bite her tongue and behave like an angel when she's invited to join their family holiday in France. Her cousins don't make this easy but Angela soon has bigger concerns to occupy her mind – namely the mysterious boy on the other side of the Mirror Door and the fact that he appears to be dying, alone and uncared for in 1898. Full review...

Warrior Bronze (Gods and Warriors Book 5) by Michelle Paver

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Hooray and boohoo! The final instalment of Michelle Paver's Gods and Warriors series has arrived. This series is set in the Bronze Age amid the Greek civilisations of the mainland (Mycenaean) and Crete (Minoan). Our two central characters represent both: Hylas, the boy searching for his sister, is Mycenaean, and Pirra, the daughter of a high priestess, is Minoan. Together, they are trying to defeat the evil Crows who are ravaging lands far and wide. But to do that, they need to retrieve the dagger of Kronos from deep inside Crow territory. If they fail, the evil gods known as the Angry Ones will rule all the land and all the people. Full review...

The Chicken Nugget Ambush by Mark Lowery

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Roman Garstang and his class are embarking on their school residential trip to Farm View Outdoor Survival Centre. Events leading up to departure day mean than Roman is not all that excited about the visit - mostly due to the jam doughnut incident which in turn leads to a solely chicken nugget diet prescribed by his doctor. Well, not exactly prescribed by his doctor, but this was the message his mum chose to hear. A typical school residential setting provides the backdrop for exploring children's relationship when they are away from home. Some of his class mates are fully prepared for the trip, others shudder at the thought of a bit of mud in their finger nails and a stereotypical survival 'expert' in Mad Dan leads the children on their adventure. Full review...

Captain Firebeard's School for Pirates by Chas Strathie and Anna Chernyshova

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How do you become a pirate? I'm guessing you just fall into the job – after all, with only so many waterways and so much treasure to go round, you'd never have one pirate teaching another all he knows, would you? Well, in the world of this book you would – for the most peculiar-looking pirate ship is the Rusty Barnacle, and it is, as you'd guess, where Captain Firebeard teaches his pupils in the language and history of pirates. But have innocent Tommy, nervous Milton and gung-ho tomboy Jo bitten off more than they can chew? Or can their plans to surprise their teachers actually bring home the loot? Full review...

Animal Babies by Laura Barwick

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Let's face it: with a fluffy lion cub on the cover, inviting readers to take a peek inside, only the most hard-hearted of individuals could resist the temptation to pick up Animal Babies to explore the further delights within its pages. Once hooked, the reader is rewarded with a visual feast of adorable baby creatures, each page seemingly cuter than the last. Full review...

Bicycling to the Moon by Timo Parvela

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Bicycling to the Moon is a series of short stories which all centre around two main characters: Purdy the cat and Dexter the dog who live together in a sky-blue house on the top of a hill. Purdy is a somewhat selfish cat who demonstrates rather impulsive behaviour and is always rushing around, whereas Baxter is much more refined, thoughtful and is careful to make the right choices. Each story works as an individual tale which could be read out of order; however there is a seasonal progression to the order of the book. Full review...

The Accidental Pirates: Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers

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Brine leads a typical Cinderella existence, being a lonely orphan who spends her dreary life cleaning and tidying up after a tetchy wizard and his equally bad-tempered apprentice Peter. But then, in the way of all excellent stories, things go seriously wrong and the two young people have to flee their island. It's a total, horrible disaster: they get lost at sea together and only stop arguing about whose fault it was when they're picked up by a crew of bloodthirsty and ruthless pirates on a ship called the Onion (due to an unfortunate spelling mistake at the sign-maker's). Full review...

Mind Writer by Steve Cole

4star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Everyone knows what a mind reader can do and Luke Mellows has this amazing talent, or maybe it is a gift. He uses this to great effect and for his own entertainment. Knowing what the teacher is thinking can be incredibly useful and can be used for amusing classroom antics. Luke thought it was only him who had this gift, however when he meets Samira he soon realises that there is one skill that can be even more powerful than his – a mind writer. Being able to change what a person will think can be a powerful and dangerous skill. When the mind reader and mind writer come together Luke soon learns that there is a much darker and sinister situation occurring than he could ever have imagined. Full review...

Gold by Geraldine Mills

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Twins Starn and Esper are growing up in a world made dark and silent by massive volcanic explosions. Ash now covers the planet and every aspect of life is controlled by the government, policed by the strict, heavy-handed Sagittars. They long for sunshine, fresh air and the freedom of a life only vaguely remembered by a few. But a game of dares leads them to discover an ancient book written by their great-great aunt, filled with strange writing and a treasure map. This propels them headlong into a journey across the darkened skies in a hand-built glider, in search of the gold that will vastly improve their lives. What they find there is a hidden world; one left behind when the volcanoes exploded. The revelation of the gold is not at all what they thought it would be, and is a discovery that could expose the governments' lies and save a dying planet. Full review...

In Focus: 101 Close Ups, Cross-Sections and Cutaways by Libby Walden

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Only recently I've had reason to applaud a children's non-fiction book for concentrating on showing its audience what they have no hope to see – in that case, the underground and underwater worlds, from the shallowest plant roots to the deepest oceanic explorations and everything in between. Other unseen worlds are all around us, however – they're what goes on on the inside of things – inside a pocket watch (remember them?), inside a yurt, a space shuttle, a volcano, a toilet… This pleasant square block of book not only gives us the outside image and a caption, but the full story of the innards, meaning the young reader is certainly going where they've never been before… Full review...

Trouble at the Cat Cafe (Poppy's Place) by Katrina Charman

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Trouble at the Cat Café is the second book in the Poppy's Place series about a family who adopt a number of homeless cats and decide to open a Japanese-style cat café. We meet up with Isla and her family as they are making the final preparations for their grand opening which will see their dream become a reality. There is still so much work to do, and more importantly, they still have to pass the all-important council inspection. Will everything be ready for the grand opening on Saturday? Full review...

The Adventures of Bottersnikes and Gumbles by S A Wakefield and Desmond Digby

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I had an impoverished childhood. I only had the one Bottersnikes and Gumbles book, when there could have been three of them on my shelf – and a fourth collected when it came out in 1990 while I was at sixth form. If you haven't met the species involved, here's a summary. Gumbles are like Tribbles, or Doctor Who Adipose creatures – impossibly cute little things, pure bundles of joy and pleasure, who like nothing better than having fun with each other, perhaps on the sandy edge of one of the many creeks in the Outback. Bottersnikes are larger, reptilian things, with bristles on the end of their long tales, and ears that heat up and glow bright red when they're angry. They're also exceedingly wicked, and lazy, and if they're not sleeping on a rubbish dump they're trying to boss each other about. It's very unfortunate then, for the Gumbles, that the Bottersnikes soon see the critters can be useful – they can boss them about instead, and when the Gumbles have done all the hard work they can be smashed into a pancake shape and dumped in an old tin can til they're needed again. Full review...

Ned's Circus of Marvels by Justin Fisher

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Ned is an ordinary boy; in fact he is less than ordinary. His life is dull and he is quite unnoticeable. His dad is overly protective: he is the dad who wraps his child up in cotton wool and then adds a layer of bubble wrap for good measure. Ned barely leaves the house, only to school, but then he must be back on time otherwise his dad would worry and start to panic. Not the ideal life for a boy just about to turn 13. However, in a frantic moment of disbelief, Ned's life changes in an instant with a glimpse of two clowns at his door. Everything he knew of himself, his dad and his family is turned upside down. In a barrage of confusion and panic intertwined with a dramatic car chase, the comfortable world as Ned knows it has changed forever. Ned is not who he thinks his is - he is so much more, and ordinary? Not one little bit. Full review...

The Snow Globe by Jean Ure

4.5star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Abi's family's circumstances changed very suddenly. She had been a pupil at a very good girl's school (with a stylish uniform) and went horse riding and to dance classes at the weekend. The family home, was spacious and in a pleasant neighbourhood. When the family business went under they had to sell the house and move to something smaller. The horse riding and dance classes went and school was a big comprehensive - with boys and a dull, grey uniform. Worst of all she was moving away from her best friend, Jenny. Full review...

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

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Subhi is ten years old. He has lived his whole life in a detention centre for refugees in Australia. He is Rohingya and his mother and sister fled persecution in their native Burma while his mother was expecting him. They left Subhi's father behind and are waiting for him to join them. Subhi believes that his father is sending him secret messages contained in tokens that wash up from the Great Sea of his imagination. And these tokens mean a great deal to Subhi because the camp isn't a very nice place. His tent sleeps fifty people. The food is inedible. Water runs out on a regular basis. There's no school because the classroom burned down. And the guards? Well, with the exception of Harvey, they are not very nice people. Full review...

The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell

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What exactly happened all those years ago when Granma had that car accident and lost her memory? Why is the man with the withered hands sneaking in and out of hospital rooms? And why is the policeman standing outside their house brandishing a . . . toilet brush? In this, the first in a series of three books about eleven-year-old Ivy and her fourteen-year-old brother Seb, we explore the mystery of the land beneath London, and why Ivy's family is so crucial to the future of life in both worlds. Full review...

Life According to Dani by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson

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Meet Dani – and if you haven't throughout the three previous books then you certainly should. Her life has been up and down, considering she's only just finished the first year of primary school, but at the moment it's on the up, with caveats. She's in an idyllic place – staying with the best friend imaginable for the entire summer holidays, on what might as well be a private island, and in constant contact with her father. The caveats concern what happened in book three and the fact that her father has been run over, but at least he calls every night at teatime. Until, that is, the night that he doesn't… Full review...

Oh, Freedom! by Francesco D'Adamo

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I don't want my children to grow up as slaves…

Oh, Freedom, set in 1850 Alabama, follows the journey of a black cotton-picking family as they attempt a perilous journey to Canada in search of freedom. Before their escape, they simply existed as slaves living on a plantation under the ownership of the infamous Captain Archer - a white man who, to their eyes, owned the world. The family knew nothing else of the world except toiling the land under the watchful master's gaze and whip from dusk till dawn. One early evening in May 1850, the family are visited by a mysterious stranger known only as Peg Leg Joe who carried a large bottle of beer, a banjo and a promise of freedom. He becomes the family's guide to lead them from the plantation along the Underground Railroad; in search of Canada for a life they have barely dared to dream of. The family knew of only one thing: the journey would be fraught with danger which Francesco D'Adamo captures brilliantly with his atmospheric writing style. Full review...

Rent a Bridesmaid by Jacqueline Wilson

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This story starts with a dress – a beautiful bridesmaid dress the colour of raspberry ice cream. The dress belongs to Tilly's best friend Matty but Matty is a tomboy and, as soon as her aunt's wedding is over, she gives the dress to Tilly. It's Tilly's dream to be a bridesmaid but she doesn't know anyone who's likely to get married. That's why she and Matty dream up the perfect solution: they advertise in case anyone wants to rent-a-bridesmaid. And it works. Tilly is invited to be bridesmaid at three very different weddings. She even ends up being featured on television. This television news report proves to be important as it sparks a chain of events that help Tilly finally deal with the other issues in her life. Full review...

Wings: Spitfire by Tom Palmer

4star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Greg is fed up with playing in goal. He reckons things only happen to you there. The other players get to make them happen. The summer school isn't turning out how he'd hoped at all. The old airfield next to the school freaks Greg out … but when he starts on a model of an old Spitfire, he's propelled into an adventure that will really show him what it means to take control … Full review...