Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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Gold by Geraldine Mills

5star.jpg Confident Readers

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

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

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

4star.jpg Confident Readers

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

3star.jpg Confident Readers

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

5star.jpg Confident Readers

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

5star.jpg Teens

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

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

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

5star.jpg Emerging Readers

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

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

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

5star.jpg Confident Readers

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...

Blame by Simon Mayo

4star.jpg Teens

A small hand in hers. 'Is it our fault?' Abi said nothing. These tender words show the situation. Ant (a teenaged girl) and Mattie (her younger brother) are innocent and in a prison – HMP London, no less. Since the death of the EU and a huge, all-conquering recession, people are being imprisoned left, right and centre for the crimes of their parents and their parents in turn, meaning anyone with any slightly dodgy firm or habit in their family that might have taken money away from the common good is having their children imprisoned. And even though Ant and Mattie are legitimately in there, due to their parents' activities, they've since been adopted by people who have themselves been accused and imprisoned, thus making them real tabloid-fodder as the worst criminal family in Britain. Surely, then, there's no hope? Full review...

Where Monsters Lie by Polly Ho-Yen

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Effie lives with her mum and dad and baby sister Tommi in Mivtown - a tiny, straggling village on the edge of a loch. Every year, the villagers throw a parcel of food into the loch as an offering to appease the monsters living in it. Nobody really believes in it but the offering does serve as a warning to keep away from the water. But this year, strange and awful things happen. Effie's rabbit Buster gets out of his hutch even though Effie is sure that she locked it. Mum disappears without trace and even the police can't find her. And then there's the slug infestation. The nasty, slimy things are everywhere. Full review...

Spangles McNasty and the Fish of Gold by Steve Webb

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Spangles McNasty is nasty to everyone and everything. There is only one thing that Spangles likes more than being nasty, and that's stealing spangly things: shiny, sparkly, glittery things. Things, for example, like goldfish. That's why Spangles McNasty and his friend, Sausage-face Pete, hatch a plan to steal every goldfish they can find. But they don't just want to steal the goldfish – they want to melt them down because Spangles thinks they're made of real gold. He thinks it's a quick way to get rich. Luckily local boy, Freddie Taylor, also wants a goldfish (his Mum says she will consider letting him have a dog if he can prove he can look after a goldfish) and he's determined to find the fishy thieves. Full review...

Help! I'm an Alien by Jo Franklin

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Daniel Kendall has nothing in common with his family. He knows he's different and his family nickname – Oddbod – only serves to reinforce this. He is, therefore, not surprised when his sister, Jessie, informs him that he's not really her brother. It's easy for Daniel to accept her assertion that he's really an alien, abandoned my alien parents and adopted by the Kendall family simply because they felt sorry for him. Suddenly Daniel understands why he is different and all he wants now is to return to his home planet. He enlists his two best friends, Freddo and Gordon, to help him. They have plenty of ideas but their plans are not always sensible or, indeed, safe. Full review...

Strange Star by Emma Carroll

5star.jpg Confident Readers

It is June 1816 at a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva and a group of friends are gathered together to tell ghost stories. There is one rule for the evening and that is that their stories must be a tale to freeze the blood. As the summer storm builds up outside there is a frantic knocking at the door and events take a more chilling turn than any of their stories. Full review...

Alice Through the Looking-glass by Lewis Carroll and Tony Ross

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

I don't know, you wait for one classic and exceedingly odd book to come along regarding a nice, intelligent and welcomingly polite young girl in a fantasia land having the weirdest of adventures only to find it was a dream, and then lo and behold along comes another. This one, of course, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, as it used to be called, is the sequel, and while I've given away the ending, more or less, I haven't begun to define the wackiness on the pages, that make up the meat and bones of the book. If anything the skeleton is a journey across a surreal chess board, meeting real-sized counterparts for the pieces, and encountering people and animals with heads full of poetry. But that meat, madam, that meat… Full review...

Sweet Pizza by G R Gemin

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Sweet Pizza is a beautifully rich story based in Bryn Mawr, a town in South Wales. This slow paced story is not action packed and electrifying but with its subtle approach provides much more than that. There is depth, layers and meaning interwoven throughout. The story is based around a failing high street where the recession has had a devastating impact upon the community. As the tale unfolds, the reader is enveloped and embraced into a Welsh-Italian family who are struggling to keep their café open. Joe Davis learns of his Italian heritage by hearing his family history through Nonno, his grandfather, and appreciates how the café is pivotal to their lives in more ways than he could ever have imagined. In a series of flashbacks from events of WW2 Joe knows that he must fight for his family and his community. Full review...

The Best Medicine by Christine Hamill

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Aspiring 12-year-old comedian Philip has plenty of complicated stuff going on in his life. There's the unrequited love of his life, The Goddess (also known as Lucy), who only seems to be aware of his existence during his most embarrassing moments. He's also somehow managed to end up as the unwilling poetry protégé of his English teacher. And worst of all, there's The Yeti, the dim-witted school bully determined to torment him to the ends of the earth (or the corridor, at least). Despite the troubles, Philip has always been able to rely on his best friend Ang, comedian Harry Hill, and good old mum, for company, inspiration and unconditional support, respectively. However, when his mum is diagnosed with cancer, Philip finds his life taking a turn into the uncharted. She has always been his rock, the ever-reliable presence in his life, the one who never fails to laugh at his jokes. Then, Ang starts acting weird, and on top of that, Harry Hill refuses to reply to Philip's fan mail. Keeping a sense of humour is tough when life seems to be intent on throwing an endless supply of lemons at you. Full review...

Escape From Rome: The Roman Quests by Caroline Lawrence

5star.jpg Confident Readers

It is 94AD, and the Emperor Domitian is busy killing those he suspects of being disloyal to him. The accused are allowed no trial, no chance to prove their innocence: the soldiers simply come in the night and slaughter the whole family. Anyone who is civic-minded enough to denounce a 'traitor' gets half their property as a reward, so as you can imagine it is the richest people in Rome whose names are most often mentioned. Then comes the turn of Juba's family... Full review...

Indigo's Dragon by Sofi Croft

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Indigo is a free spirit who loves exploring the mountains near his home in the Lake District. For all of his life, his family have entertained him with stories of dragons, but at thirteen, he's too old to believe in them now. However, when he receives a mysterious parcel in the post, Indigo is forced to rethink everything he thought he knew about mythical beasts, especially when he comes face to face with one that urgently needs his help... Full review...

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Arianwyn is about to take her all-important witch's assessment. Ignoring the taunts of her classmates, led by the beautiful and mean Gimma, Arianwyn looks set to pass until the test begins and her vision is blurred by a mysterious unknown glyph (the symbols used to control magic.) To her great humiliation, Arianwyn fails the evaluation. She is labelled an 'Apprentice Witch' and sent to the remote town of Lull in disgrace. Things don't get off to the best of starts there and the situation is made worse when Gimma arrives on holiday. Arianwyn is not happy but soon she has bigger problems. The townspeople have spotted a strange dark creature and, when a child is attacked, Arianwyn finds everyone is looking to her to prevent others getting hurt. Full review...

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Ada has a club foot, and she has spent all of her life hidden away in her mother's flat in London, used and abused by her mother who is ashamed of Ada, and angry with her. Told that she is worthless, a monster, Ada is left to crawl around the flat on her hands and knees. She tries, secretly, to use her foot to walk and it leaves her bleeding and in agony, but when Ada's little brother, Jamie, tells Ada that he is to be sent away, evacuated by the school because of the war Ada knows she must find a way to leave with him, and to escape her mother at all costs. The two children manage to escape to the country, yet find themselves left unchosen on arrival in the new village. They are foisted upon a single lady, Susan, who declares she does not want any evacuees, and that she is not a nice person. Has Ada gone from one nightmare situation straight into another? Full review...

Angry Birds Playground: Atlas (Angry Birds Playgrounds) by National Geographic Kids

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Angry Birds Playground is a new educational book series based on a geographical theme. Rovio-the team responsible for the popular game- have teamed up with National Geographic Kids to create a stunning set of books that perfectly blend the cheeky humour from the game with informative text and breathtaking real-world photography. The series will appeal to young fans of the game and anyone who has an interest in the wonders of the natural world. Full review...

Feather and Fang by Ali Sparkes

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Dax Jones is a COLA – a Child Of Limitless Ability. Dax can shift shape from a boy to an otter, falcon or fox while his friends in the COLA Project have psychic, telekinetic and healing powers. They live in Fenton Lodge, a boarding school that once felt like home but increasingly feels like a prison. Dax is the only one left who could leave without permission (he could fly away in falcon form) but he's not prepared to abandon his friends. Then the new head of the COLA Project, Forrester, installs an electronic dome over Fenton Lodge, trapping Dax as effectively as his friends. And, if this weren't bad enough, Forrester starts to categorise and transport the COLA children to hidden locations. When Dax finds himself separated from his friends, he becomes determined to escape. But has he left it too late? Full review...