Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas by Alison Uttley and Margaret Tempest

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It's a little known fact that Alison Uttley used to live in my local pub. Not in an alcoholic sort of way, but when the building that's now a pub used to be something else, she was one of its residents. There's a sign on the wall and everything, right next to the table where I recently enjoyed an impromptu tiffin-tin curry one Friday night when I hadn't prepared anything for tea and really didn't fancy starting to do so. Little Grey Rabbit is far less slovenly than I am, and would never be so under prepared. A proper domestic goddess, in this book she demonstrates her ability to bake Christmas treats, source unusual gifts, decorate the house and all the while supervise the other animals. Full review...

The Magic Faraway Tree (Gift Edition) (Magic Faraway Tree 2) by Enid Blyton

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Having read several episodes in the adventures of three children and their friends who live in a huge tree that transports you to whichever different world is hovering above its branches each day, we return to find the tree the title 'character' – and the introduction of a fourth child. Rick (because the original name, Dick, would be too much – go figure) is a simple reintroduction to the goings-on of the world, and we're soon with all four as they find new worlds – a dreamscape world, one where everything (and everyone) is expected to be upside down, ones with fabulous treats, and of course ones with nightmares aplenty… Full review...

The Enchanted Wood (Gift Edition) (The Magic Faraway Tree) by Enid Blyton

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Meet Joe, Beth and Frannie. For any child the idea of moving to a completely different way of life – leaving a city for an idyllic country cottage – should be more than enough adventure, but not for these three. They soon get told the mysterious woodland nearby is enchanted – they have already noticed a slight difference in the trees, and have a suspicion they talk to each other. And it's not long before they encounter what the forest natives, animals and little folk alike, call the Magic Faraway Tree. All they have to do is climb it against all logical thought and see whatever distant, fantastical and ever-changing world is above the top at any particular time. But can the temptation of that be greater than the fear of the unknown, and of it possibly being a one-way trip…? Full review...

The Ministry of Suits by Paul Gamble

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Do you happen to know where duvet fluff comes from? (It's kind of gross, so don't rush around telling grown-ups when you find out. They prefer to pretend stuff like that doesn't exist.) Have you ever wondered why squids don't use mobile phones, or why vampires always wear black? No? Well, your education's been seriously lacking, so you'd better drop everything (no, not literally – put that sandwich down somewhere safe first) and rush off right now to read this useful and informative book. Never mind the crazy adventures enjoyed (probably not the best word, but you get it, right?) by Jack and don't-call-her-Moody-if you want-your-nose-to-stay-in-the-centre-of-your-face-Trudy. Forget the deadly peril, the dozens of missing children and the six-foot-high Tooth Fairy. There's a lot of important facts to be checked out first. Full review...

The Sands of Shark Island by Alexander McCall Smith and Iain McIntosh

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The school ship Tobermory is off on another adventure! Well, I suppose really I should say it's open for another term of school, but this is a school unlike any other, so really, it is an adventure. Ben and Fee are back on board with their friends, and this time the ship is setting sail for the Caribbean. There are dangers to be faced along the way, and of course a band of pirates to be dealt with too! But in amongst the excitement are also issues recognisable to all children, such as bullying, forming friendships, and learning new things. Full review...

The Catchers by Stuart Kent

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Twelve-year-old Jamie Ellebert is wandering along perfectly happily in his very normal twelve-year-old life, when a sprite suddenly appears in his bedroom. The sprite is followed by a door. Also suddenly appearing. Also in his bedroom. There's a knock at the door, so Jamie takes the sprite and opens it. Down a passage, Jamie finds an old man wearing a pointy hat who introduces himself, grandly, as Colin Gertrude Hillary Caterwhich, of the Magic and Mythical creature catchers department, of the Magical Ministry Teathorpe branch. Jamie is in Magictasium. After a brief magical interlude with Colin and Trixie, a teenage witch, Colin returns home... Full review...

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpurgo

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It's 1940 and Barney and his mum are on the train out of Coventry. They're escaping to the country having lost everything in the city's bombing. Sadly trouble seems to follow them and their train is attacked by German fighter planes. The train manages to find shelter in a tunnel but that only makes matters worse for young Barney because he's terrified of the dark. Luck is, however, finally on their side and the stranger in their carriage is able to provide a much needed distraction. The stranger tells the story of a young solider in World War One, including the moment when he could have prevented the Second World War. Full review...

A Very Good Chance by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

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Minty isn't having a great time at home. It's quite clear, from the hissing conversations in other rooms and the looming silences, that her parents' marriage is in trouble. Not that either Mum or Dad is admitting that to Minty. School is a bit of a bore, unless it's history as taught by trenchant Italian Serena Serralunga. Minty needs an escape... Full review...

Fire Witch by Matt Ralphs

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It's the middle of the seventeenth century and England is in turmoil. Cromwell is determined to impose his will by any means necessary, rebels in the North are massing to stop him and Matthew Hopkins, Witch Hunter General, stalks the land. If you are old and crotchety, have a squint or a hare-lip, or maybe just an unfortunate tendency to talk to your cat, beware – it takes just one spiteful whisper from a neighbour to have you condemned as a servant of the devil and sent to the torture chambers. And in the midst of all this is Hazel, a twelve-year-old fire witch. She needs to find and rescue her mother from the underworld, but the only man who can help is the one who sent her there in the first place: Hopkins' most famous and closely guarded prisoner Nicholas Murrell. Full review...

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...