Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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The Secret of the Wooden Chest (Roman Magic) by Catherine Rosevear

3.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Hannah lives with her parents in a flat above the nursing home where her mother is matron. Hannah is an only child and so she enjoys making friends with some of the home's residents. So when Mrs Oberto moves in, Hannah is keen to make her acquaintance - Hannah has never met anyone Italian before. Mrs Oberto is quite standoffish at first but Hannah persists and soon they are the best of friends. Mrs Oberto is particularly keen on helping Hannah with her school project about ancient Rome and relates many interesting stories about her Sicilian childhood. But she remains tight-lipped about the mysterious wooden chest, the key to which she keeps around her neck... Full review...

The Beautiful Game by Alan Gibbons

4star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Football is all about its colours. And even if I write in the season when one team in blue knocks another team in blue from the throne of English football, it's common knowledge that red is the more successful colour to wear. But is that flame red? Blood red? The red of the Sun cover banner when it falsely declared 96 Liverpool FC fans were fatally caught up in a tragedy – and that it had been one of their own making? And while we're on about colour, where were the people of colour in football in the olden days? There are so many darker sides to football's history it's enough to make a young lad question the whole game… Full review...

Lena Lenik S.O.S. by Bernard Ashley

4star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Lena's mother seems very ill. Scary noises are coming from the bathroom, she's off food and completely listless, complaining of the effort involved in sewing a patch onto a cub scout uniform. It might be a surprise to the young reader of this book when we learn what the reason is – certainly it was obvious from page two for me – but there are definitely more surprises to come. Mother makes a slightly unusual decision about her condition – leaving Lena with a lot on her plate when fate sets in with a surprise of its own… Full review...

Dancing Paws of Magic by Maria McArdle

3star.jpg Confident Readers

Dancing Paws of Magic offers us almost two related stories in one. Part One focuses on the problems that arise when the dancing cats of the Pusska Mogginsky Ballet Company go on strike. There is only one feline who can put things right but sadly the lepremog (the cat equivalent of a leprechaun) Galway O-Toot is dead, crushed by a falling wall. If the animal ballet is to be saved, the remaining members of the ballet company must work together to find his bones and restore his life even if this means taking on the Black Treacle Farm Gang. In Part Two, we move on to the long-awaited performance of The Sleeping Beauty. Here everything seems to be going just purr-fectly until the Black Treacle Farm Gang – including Gang Leader Bruiser Bumfluff – appear to get their revenge. Full review...

The Harder They Fall by Bali Rai

4.5star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Cal loves comic books. He also dreams of being a superhero and saving the day while simultaneously winning the heart of the girl (Freya being the girl, hopefully). Batman is his favourite superhero. But Cal's world outside his daydreams is not particularly superhero-like. Because Cal is a bit of a geek and he is being bullied by mean girl Anu, who makes him complete homework assignments which she then sells on to lazy classmates. Still, it's not all bad. Cal's parents are lovely and the gorgeous Freya is making friendly overtures... Full review...

Family, Friends and Furry Creatures (Tom Gates) by Liz Pichon

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Tom Gates has got a problem: his shoes are making a noise. They sort of rasp when he walks, only he can't recreate the sound at home. At school it's a different matter: not only is the noise very loud, there are those of his classmates who suggest that it has originated from somewhere a little more, well, intimate. All in all it's not a good start to the day for Tom, particularly when he realises that he's also forgotten his baby photo for the latest school project. Class 5F are building their family trees and they've got to interview family members to get stories of their lives for the project. Full review...

Cheeky Charlie: Bugs and Bananas (My Crazy Brother Book 2) by Mat Waugh

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Cheeky Charlie has already had one book written about him and now he has another. His slapstick adventures are related once more by his sister Harry. I love Harry. Harry is by turn infuriated and amused by her brother Charlie. And Harry also brims over with enthusiasm. Full review...

Journey to Dragon Island (The Accidental Pirates) by Claire Fayers

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Two quests. Can the crew of the good ship Onion (don't ask) help their young friend Brine to find her home? And does the legendary island of dragons really exist or – a rather important point, this – if the ship keeps sailing west, will it just topple off the edge of the world? Of course, if you think a little thing like terrible peril and near-certain death should stop Captain Cassie and her shipmates from going wherever they fancy, then you're reading the wrong series. Full review...

New Jungle Book Adventures: Spirit of the Jungle by Bear Grylls

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This book is technically excellent but unfortunately it falls flat in the actual execution. Grylls uses trusted storytelling techniques such as the hero's journey and Chekov's Gun to produce a frame that should be engaging with the target audience but unfortunately it does not quite hit the mark. What we ultimately have is a great idea with some wonderful moments that never really recovers from a slow beginning. Full review...

Spudboy and Chip by David Windle

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Sticky Toffee Trifle flavour mashed potato. This one's a winner!

Er... ok then. Not.

Colin Sludge's parents run a fish and chip shop and it isn't doing so well. So Colin's mum is trying out new recipes to tempt in more customers and Colin's dad is using Colin as a guinea pig. The only problem is that Colin has eaten quite enough exotic mashed potato, thankyouverymuch. He's practically bursting with it. And the house is practically bursting with potato peelings, so it's no wonder that Colin slips and falls when he's taking them out to the garbage bins. Full review...

Flesh and Blood by Chris Priestley

5star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Families change in wartime – in size, if not any other way. Bill and Jane have already had to get used to their father being away to fight, and they've tried the evacuee experience, but are back in London – just in time for the Battle of Britain, which is a circumstance Bill hates Jane for, as he quickly grew to love the countryside, while Jane resisted the idea of them settling there, so they were returned to an allegedly safe capital. One night after a bombing raid they settle outside the neighbourhood's token empty, boarded up and deserted home – only for Bill to convince himself he hears someone inside. The unidentifiable and severely burnt child that gets rescued becomes a kind of new family member – but does this have anything to do with Bill's resent-filled wish for a brother to replace Jane? Full review...

The Boy, the Bird and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods

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Alberto is a carpenter, the very best in the town of Allora. But after the plague sweeps through the town, taking many of the citizens and Alberto's wife and children, he turns his skills away from furniture and toys to making coffins. Wrapped in sadness, and waiting only for the plague to come and claim his life too, Alberto lives alone, keeping company with the dead who are delivered to his house to await their coffin. One day, however, he realises that he must have a living visitor, as food starts to go missing. He begins to leave scraps of food, to try and discover who his mystery thief is… Full review...

A Story Like the Wind by Gill Lewis and Jo Weaver

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A small group of people huddle together in a tiny boat in a large sea. Strangers to each other but united by a common experience. They have each lost everything and yet each has a dream of seeking and finding refuge. They each have hope. A small hope. Full review...

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Junior Novel (Star Wars Junior Novel 3) by Ryder Windham

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We open here with the Rebellion in disarray, and our heroes separated. Obviously they need to rescue the ones imprisoned, liaise with the ones acting as secret agents, and get back to what they do best. For the Empire are doing the same – they are building another Death Star – a new, bigger, quicker one without a piddly little hole in it that just happens to allow the goodies the chance to destroy it at the first attempt. Oh, and our main hero, Luke, still has the matter of who he should count as a family member to settle… Yes, this is the third film made in the Star Wars universe, in a handy form for the eager junior novelisation reader. Full review...

The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding

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Set in 18th Century London, this historical thriller captures all the rawness of life in the grimy city. A young girl, Cat, who was orphaned at birth, is taken under the wing of a kind benefactor, Mr Sheridan, who found her abandoned on the steps of his theatre. The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, is an exciting place to grow up, and Cat becomes a well-loved member of the staff behind the scenes. While running errands in the theatre, she dreams of being a famous writer herself one day. Before her dream is realised though, Cat has an important role to play in solving a mystery - the mystery of a diamond hidden in the Theatre Royal itself. Full review...

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Junior Novel (Star Wars Junior Novel 2) by Ryder Windham

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I've never actually held by the theory that The Empire Strikes Back is the best film in the series. To me, as a youngster, I got the willies suitably with what happens to one character, and it was great to meet the Emperor at last, but beyond the assault on Hoth there was too much that didn't work for me. I certainly wasn't impressed by the kissy-kissy nonsense interrupting the great space-faring action. But I have always been eager enough to revisit it, as the film I've seen the least of the seven, and these YA variants of the films – adaptations of the canonical 2004 DVD editions, and first published at that time – are about the best way to do that. Full review...

William Wenton and the Luridium Thief by Bobbie Peers

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Bobbie Peers is a pretty talented guy. Not only did he win a Palme d'Or award for a film he wrote and directed in 2006, but with this, his first book, he's turned his hand to writing for young people. And the list of awards he's collecting in his native Norway are testament to his vivid and entertaining imagination. Full review...

Spot the Mistake: Lands of Long Ago by Amanda Wood, Mike Jolley and Frances Castle

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

You'll like as not have seen a children's book before and harangued it for containing errors. This book has at least two hundred, and that's not a problem. Yes, in personifying the idea of learning through your mistakes, we get ten large dioramas of historical activity, all containing twenty things that shouldn't be there. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to try and find them all. And the learning is also here, as we get text to tell us what the goofs were designed to show us. Make no mistake, this is a clever and absorbing read… Full review...

Star Wars: A New Hope Junior Novel (Star Wars Junior Novel 1) by Ryder Windham

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It takes a greater mind than mine to keep track of all the different versions of Star Wars – A New Hope that there have been. That was never the name it was known under at the start, for one thing, but beyond the exuberant cinema classic known to so many, you get the digitally retouched version, then the DVD version, which both added to and took away some of those changes. And as it is with the film, so it is with the novels. This new presentation of the YA trilogy, while bearing the 2017 Copyright mark, is the 2004 children's novelisations, as far as I can make out, minus the pictures. You do get, on this first one, a '40 years of Star Wars' sticker, which is proof this is a classic we're looking at, but more than that, just goes to make me feel old… Full review...

Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith and Matt Tavares

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

We're in Paris, and – not to be too rude about things – we seem surrounded by idiots. For one, it seems they think the perfect place to experiment with manned hot air balloon flights is in the middle of the biggest city in the world. For another, they think only men could suffer the slightly colder and slightly thinner air experienced on such an adventure – women would never be able to cope. Meanwhile, a young girl is dreaming of flight, as so many are wont to do, completely unaware that she will soon marry one of the most famed balloonists. They will have joint journeys skyward, before his early demise – leaving the young woman, Sophie Blanchard, to go it alone and become the first female pilot. Full review...

Mold and the Poison Plot by Lorraine Gregory

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Mold's mum abandoned him in a dustbin when he was a baby but the binmen didn't want him. Luckily old Aggy gave him a home and, with a crusty one-legged sailor as a friend, Mold is happy. Happy until Aggy is accused of poisoning the King. Suddenly Mold finds himself alone and thrust into the unlikely role of hero. He sets off to rescue Aggy and along the way finds himself trying to save the King and prevent a war with the Boggers. It's a lot for one small boy with an enormous nose but luckily he finds he's uniquely fashioned to sniff out danger. Full review...

Hamish and the Gravity Burp by Danny Wallace

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BUUUUUURRRRRRRRPPPPP!

A terrifying noise is rumbling through the sleepy town of Starkley (the fourth most boring town in Britain) and having a peculiar effect on the residents. Gravity has gone into reverse and the poor townsfolk are floating skyward, helplessly trying to grab onto whatever they can in order to slow their ascent. Hamish Ellerby has just arrived home to find his family stuck to the ceiling, along with a bowl of fruit, six batteries and a wind-up meerkat. What could be causing this strange phenomenon? Could it be leading up to something bigger? A gravity-belch, or heaven forbid, a gravity-FART? It's up to Hamish and his gang, the PDF, to solve the mystery and restore order to Starkley in time for the official visit from the Public Office of Pride, or POP (shouldn't it be POOP?). Full review...

The Girl In Between by Sarah Carroll

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After a family argument, a girl and her mother are stuck out on the streets of Ireland, finding shelter finally in an old, abandoned mill. The mill becomes the girl's castle, where she finally feels safe from the lurking threat of 'the authorities' and some of the strange men in her mother's life. Her mother, however, seems to be tumbling deeper into depression, keeping her daughter locked up, out of sight inside, and now there are strange men in hard hats coming around the mill to measure and make notes. Can the two of them move on, or will they be too late to escape? Full review...

The Earth Book: A World of Exploration and Wonder by Jonathan Litton and Thomas Hegbrook

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

The Earth. I kind of quite like it, you know – it seems to serve my purpose. I don't think I've taken too much out of it, all told, and if it's divided up into 200 countries I'm getting close to having visited a quarter of them. But way back when I just didn't get on with studying it. I didn't like geography – what with having to draw maps, oxbow lakes and whatnot I think it was one of those subjects I was put off through the pictorial element – and dropped it as soon as I could. But then, I didn't have the likes of this book to inspire me… Full review...

Good Dog McTavish by Meg Rosoff

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McTavish did wonder whether he was making a mistake in adopting the Peachey family: it was a decision which came from the heart rather than the head. You see the Peacheys were dysfunctional: Ma Peachey, an accountant by profession, decided that she was fed up with chasing around after an ungrateful family, so she resigned and dedicated herself to her yoga with half a hint that she might also dedicate herself to her yoga teacher. She gave up cooking, cleaning, baking, washing and all the other things which kept the family going, such as finding lost keys and getting people out of bed so that they got to wherever they were going on time. And the family? Well, they had no idea of how to cope, with one exception. Full review...