Newest Confident Readers Reviews

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Mum Never Did Learn to Knock by Cathy Hopkins

4star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

  1. People are worrying about Emily: her Dad and the staff at school are all worried that she's spending a lot of time talking to her Mum. You might think that there's nothing wrong with that - in fact that it's entirely commendable and young people ought to spend more time talking to their parents - but Emily's Mum died a few months ago. Emily has reached the stage of hiding the fact that Mum appears to her in very real form, perhaps just a little bit ghostly, but then you wouldn't expect her to look just like she was when she was alive, now would you? At school she's sent to see a counsellor, but it doesn't go quite the way that the counsellor was expecting... particularly when Emily asked where people go when they die and the ultimate 'what comes after space?'

Full review...

How to Speak Spook (and Stay Alive) by Ally Kennen

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Everybody knows if you have a special gift like seeing through walls or the ability to speak giraffe you have to keep it secret. If you don't, men in dark suits and wrap-around shades take you away to experiment on you. (And if it's the wall thing, girls will assume you're spying on them when they get changed for PE and beat you up.) Full review...

Rutabaga the Adventure Chef: Book 1 by Eric Colossal

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Meet the latest adventurer to scour the land. He has a talent for finding the obscure and seeking out the rare, and surviving all the undignified fates the world has in store. He even has a magical companion. He will be open to any challenge set upon him, from locating dragon-smiting swords to besting the largest, most locally loved, rival. He is Rutabaga, and he is, of course, a chef. Full review...

The Accidental Prime Minister by Tom McLaughlin

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What would happen if a shy, slightly clumsy, 12 year old boy accidently found himself in the top job, living in Number Ten and making decisions for the country as Prime Minister? This is the premise behind Tom McLaughlin’s debut middle grade novel and the answer is simple – there’d be national ‘Fancy Dress Friday’ every week (on a Thursday), high fives would be used instead of handshakes, jelly would be available on the NHS, and one day every month the pupils would get to be the teachers. Full review...

Will Gallows and the Wolfer's Deadly Magic by Derek Keilty and Jonny Duddle

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Will Gallows is just a week away from being a fully-fledged member of the Sky Cavalry – and his talking, winged horse is even more keen on hitting the passing out ceremony on the nose. But things aren't all going to go their way – Mid-Rock City has received a blackmail note, extorting the town out of a lot of gold for threat of a 'death mace', of which nobody has ever heard. Certain factors all point to Will being the best cadet to take part in nixing the handover to the criminal, not least of which is his half-hidden secret magic skill due to being part-elf – but as soon as it's realised who the baddy is, things immediately step up a gear. And if that isn't bad enough, Will's grandma and great-uncle have just turned up for a pleasant trip based around his graduation… Full review...

Mariella Mystery Investigates: A Kitty Calamity by Kate Pankhurst

4star.jpg Confident Readers

When Mariella Mystery (amazing girl detective, aged nine and a bit) and the other Mystery Girls – Violet and Poppy – start to investigate the disappearance of their neighbour’s cat they think it’s going to be an easy case. Aren’t missing cats usually just stuck up a tree or off visiting a house where there’s tastier food? But the girls’ views begin to change when more and more cats start to disappear. Soon everyone in Puddleford is worried. The situation is suddenly serious and it’s up to the Mystery Girls to put an end to the catnapping. Full review...

Merlin and Guinevere: A Happenstance Meeting: Volume 1 by R D Shanks

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Merlin is both ordinary and special. He is living a quiet, ordinary life with his father in his quiet, ordinary village. Murrow is a fisherman and he and his son have a great relationship, supportive and loving. So far, so ordinary, right? But Merlin isn't like the other boys. While they are raucous and social, Merlin is quiet and contemplative. His best friend isn't another boy; it's Happenstance, his cat. Murrow and Merlin might not realise it but the reader will - there's something special about Merlin. Full review...

Where's the Elephant? by Barroux

5star.jpg For Sharing

We've all had great fun with books such as Where's Wally, haven't we? They appeal to children and adults and everyone who has seen Where's the Elephant? has jumped in with great enthusiasm, keen to show just how observant they are. We start off with a forest - actually it's the Amazon Rainforest - full of glorious colours and our three friends, who are hiding in there. Elephant is probably the easiest to spot, but Snake and Parrot are in there too and with a little concentration you'll find them. When you turn the page you'll scan the trees again and discover their hiding places. You even wonder if it might get a little boring if it goes on like this. Full review...

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs by Sarah Forbes

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Imagine, dear reader, a poor girl who is never allowed to play outside like the other children. Instead, she has to spend her day performing horrid chores, like sweeping up mouse-droppings in the creepy, dark cellar and shooing away the cockroaches in the kitchen. So begins a long list of woes for shy Elspeth Hart, who toils tirelessly during the day and spends her nights sleeping in a dusty, cramped wardrobe. Full review...

Scarlet and Ivy The Lost Twin by Sophie Cleverly

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Ivy's twin sister Scarlet had been the strong willed, fearless one whilst Ivy, on the other hand, was timid and shy. Following Scarlet's sudden death Ivy is forced to take her twin's place at the sinister Rockwood Boarding School for girls and once there she finds herself thrust into a mystery she struggles to solve. Her only hope is to behave as Scarlet would have done, so with the help of her new friend, Ariadne, Ivy attempts to conquer her fears and stand up to the wicked Miss Fox and discover what really happened to her sister. Full review...

Creature Teacher by Sam Watkins

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Jake’s nervous about starting his new school. His class teacher, Mr Hyde, is new too but, unlike Jake, he has a reason to be worried. Although class 5b quickly decide that Mr Hyde is the best teacher they’ve ever had, they also discover a problem – whenever he experiences a strong emotion Mr Hyde starts to glow and transforms into a naughty, farting, biscuit-loving creature. Suddenly their teacher is wrecking the classroom and they need to work together to find a way to turn the creature back into their teacher before their evil headmistress finds out. Full review...

A Whisper of Wolves by Kris Humphrey

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Alice is a Whisperer, able to communicate with her animal companion, Storm the wolf. It's a gift that inspires awe and fear in the villagers she serves. A Whisperer is a guardian of the wilds, protector of nature, and the only ones able to fight back against the demonic Narlaw. Full review...

Young Houdini: The Magician's Fire by Simon Nicholson

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As it happens, several facts about the childhood of the man who became world famous for his daring stunts and death-defying shows have been recorded. But fiction is the world of what-if, where anything can be imagined, anything can happen. So what if all those 'facts' were actually a cover, made up to conceal Houdini's earliest exploits? What if, as a boy, he ended up far away from his family and his native Hungary and all alone in New York, having to earn a few meagre pennies each day by shining shoes? And what if his fascination with theatre life led him into dangers even greater than anything he was able to create in his later stage act? Full review...

Gerry Anderson's Gemini Force One, Black Horizon by M G Harris

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Life is changing very fast for Ben Carrington. He is at the opening of a huge skyscraper hotel his late father founded in Abu Dhabi when disaster strikes – the chap is hardly cold in his grave when Ben's mum and the lad have to prove how adept they are at her old job, of mountain rescue. She feels like setting up a new rescue agency with her nous and the family fortunes, but someone who can just amble into the opening/memorial ceremony is Jason Truby, a monumentally rich Internet magnate, who actually has a modern-day Thunderbirds entity already, the top secret Gemini Force. Truby starts to get close to the family of two, but the school-aged Ben isn't going to be allowed to learn just what dramatic escapades the agency has to cover – is he? Full review...

The Tapper Twins Go to War (With Each Other) by Geoff Rodkey

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There are two kinds of children in this world, those who are repulsed by farts, and those who delight in letting them rip, or regale their friends for their efforts – or wilfully accuse the innocent of dropping one. You can argue til the cows come home as to what the ratio of those two camps is – which is pretty much what Claudia and Reese, two 12-year old siblings in New York City, do – argue. This time the problem is that Reese loudly announced his sister to have a windy arse right in the middle of the school canteen, which led her to retaliate with a means to make him embarrassingly smelly, which led him to – well, let's just say that when Claudia defines the result as war, she's not far off. Full review...

Chicken Mission: The Curse of Fogsham Farm by Jennifer Gray and Hannah George

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Life is hard for a chicken. Threat comes from anywhere you look – which is where the Elite Chicken Squad comes in. Last time they had a nasty fox and his friends to counter, but this time they've got it worse. A local legend speaks of a vampire mink, concerned only with draining all fowl of their blood, and all indications suggest the legend is actually a lot more real and worrying. Even the barman – sorry, bar-chicken, Ichabod Comb, has vanished after an attack on his juice bar. What's more, it seems the mink's victim becomes a zombie soldier, fighting for her cause. Can the three plucky stalwarts of the Squad – Amy, Boo and Ruth – prove themselves a match for such evil? Full review...

Diamonds and Daggers - The Marsh Street Mysteries by Elen Caldecott

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Group of pre-teens get together to solve a mystery? Been there, done that. But don't be fooled. This book stands out from the crowd, even though it has to be said that many of those detective stories are really very good, for the way it incorporates utterly contemporary issues like economic migration, celebrity and prejudice, while remaining both funny and thrilling. Full review...

Lupo and the Secret of Windsor Castle by Aby King and Sam Usher

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Based on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's real dog, this is Lupo's story, and although it uses the real Royals it is, of course, a fictional story as you soon realise with the talking mice from MI5 and the evil villain in the form of one of the Queen's Dorgi's (a cross between a corgi and a Dachshund). If you're looking for a fantasy animal adventure, with plenty of action, then look no further. Full review...

Best Friends' Bakery: Cupcakes and Contests by Linda Chapman and Kate Hindley

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Hannah's favourite TV show is Junior Brilliant Baker, and when she hears that they are auditioning for new contestants for the show she simply can't wait to apply. She rushes to tell her best friend, Mia, about the competition as she's also a fan, but then what will happen if only one of them gets on the show? And what would they bake for the auditions? And would the show live up to everything they've imagined? Full review...

The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce

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Rory Rooney is a boy who likes to be prepared. His mum owns a book titled Don't Be Scared, Be Prepared and he knows every page of it. Rory is the type of boy who knows how to survive a hippo attack. Then one day on a school trip Rory turns green. Not pale, feeling a bit queasy green but bright broccoli green all over. Even Rory isn't prepared for this. Full review...

Notebooks of a Middle-School Princess by Meg Cabot

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The author of the hugely successful Princess Diaries has written a brand-new series for younger girls, telling the story of awkward middle-school student Olivia Grace. She discovers that her father is actually the Prince of Genovia, making her...a princess! Not everyone responds well to the news, however, and poor Olivia is soon thrown into a world of jealous bullies, intrusive paparazzi, disgruntled relatives and a whole new family she never knew existed. Full review...

Hook's Daughter by Heidi Schulz

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Captain Hook's daughter, Jocelyn, dreams of being a pirate like her infamous father, but instead gets sent to finishing school. Sailing to Neverland after escaping, she swears revenge on the crocodile that killed the notorious pirate, but is saddled with a crew who perhaps aren't the most bloodthirsty pirates on the seven seas, then meets up with several characters who'll be familiar to readers of Peter Pan. Can she fulfil her quest? Full review...

Asterix Omnibus 9 by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo

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If I had to pinpoint when my obsession with reading started, I would say it was when I discovered the adventures of Asterix and his rotund pal Obelix. I would walk down to my local village Library after school and pick up 8 adventures, only to read them overnight and set off the next day for more. The fun visuals, bright colours and daft characters really appealed to me then, but what about the children of today? Is there enough in the, up to, 60 year old adventures to appeal? Full review...

Detective Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nilsson and Gitte Spee

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Vladimir is not happy. Someone has been at his nuts. Yes, out of his stores of several thousand nuts, Vladimir the squirrel has been robbed of a couple hundred, and if the truth be known he's not the first in the forest. But at least he's gone for the help of Detective Gordon, the police authority throughout the woodland. Tasked with making sure it was a crime of note, and of solving it if necessary, Gordon has got serious, and staked out Vladimir's pantry until he's frozen solid. Which is not good when you're a toad. But even with his many years of experience behind him, Gordon could never predict what happens after he sees someone steal a further nut from the stash… Full review...

Fuzz McFlops by Eve Furnari and Alison Entrekin (translator)

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Meet Fuzz McFlops. He's the most famous, reclusive rabbit author there is – reclusive due to one ear being much shorter than the other. He's been miserable for that reason so long, it takes one of his fans to point out how much brighter his poems and stories could be with an injection of warmth and fun. But just as some people are 'happy being sad', so Fuzz's life and temperament will be forced to change with the arrival of heart, humour and love. But first he would have to welcome that arrival… Full review...

Far From Home by Berlie Doherty

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Lizzie and Emily Jarvis can no longer be in the care of their mother as she has become severely ill. She leaves them in the care of her best friend, a cook, but when things go wrong, the girls are sent to the Victorian mills where they are worked each day till they are beyond exhausted and the only thing that keeps them going is counting down the days till they are able to leave. Full review...

An Island of Our Own by Sally Nicholls

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Meet Holly. She lives, with her older brother and, er, shall we say demanding younger brother, in a flat above a London chippy. That's right – no parents around, as all three are orphans. Older brother Jonathan sacrificed uni to be their legal guardian, so is ostensibly their carer as well as sibling, which means that welfare and what he earns being a grease monkey in a corner café is all they live on. Times, therefore, are hard. But twelve year old Holly does have a straw to clutch on to – their eccentric aunt may have bequeathed them her antique jewellery collection. But what is going to make that a search for one exact straw in a haystack is that nobody knows where it may be… Full review...

Big Nate: Laugh-O-Rama (Big Nate Activity Book 4) by Lincoln Peirce

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

This seems to be a firmly established publishing practise now – the enhanced readership experience offered to fans of a franchise by a tie-in activity book. This is yet another example – looking like a genuine entry in an on-going series, it instead offers the fan of the characters the chance to interact with them in new ways, as well as looking back through the shelves of their collection, and inwardly as well, at their own thoughts and tastes. Note I say it's for a fan – this example will alienate anyone else from the first page – but for the right audience it’s generally a good thing. And in this instance it's a very, very good thing indeed. Full review...

The Gauntlet by Ronald Welch

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The Gauntlet was one of the iconic books of my childhood. Why iconic? It's an over-used word. Why not say 'most memorable', 'outstanding', 'most magical and exciting', -- or simply 'best'? Any of those would do but I think I'll allow myself iconic. The gauntlet of the title justifies that word. Full review...

Denton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin

4.5star.jpg Teens

Tomorrow is the day I'm going to die. I don't mean to get all dramatic about it. I've known that tomorrow is the day I will die since I was born.. Just like almost everyone else in the world knows their deathdate. But do I need to get movie-preview-voice-over-guy intense about it? Probably not.

Oh! I think I would want to get intense about impending death. Don't you think you would, too? But imagine what it's like to live in a world where everyone knows the day they will die. Rituals and conventions spring up. You get to go to your own funeral. You could even get to make the most of your life if you know when it ends. You won't pass up so many opportunities, perhaps? Full review...

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

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The essential role of aviators in the success or failure of modern war is a given, and fiction is full of the derring-do and dog-fight exploits of moustachioed heroes waving their trade-mark silk scarves as they land their frail and battered craft at a friendly airstrip. But what if the enemy planes outnumber those of your country by hundreds, if not thousands, and you, the pilot, are barely out of your childhood? Full review...

The Wickford Doom by Chris Priestley and Vladimir Stankovic

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Following Harry’s father’s death in the war, he and his mother learn that they’ve inherited a bequest from a relative. When they arrive to claim it, though, they find that they’ve been the victims of a dying man’s last cruel prank. But there are local tales of missing children and a strange painting called the Doom, and Harry quickly learns that there may be something far more evil than a nasty joke to worry about. Can he fight back against it? Full review...

Supercat vs the Pesky Pirate (Supercat, Book 3) by Jeanne Willis

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We all know the story, you’re a cat and you wake up one day, lick a toxic sock and end up as a crime fighting cat, right? Well SuperCat is back in this rip roaring (or should that be meowing?) adventure, SuperCat vs The Pesky Pirate. Full review...

The Glory by Lauren St John

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Alex is what you might call a disruptive teenager. She's always getting into trouble but the latest trouble is the worst yet and her mum and step-dad have had enough. Even her father, far away in Australia with his new family, thinks something must be done. So Alex is sent all the way out to the States to a teenage boot camp. But even naughty teenagers have their plus points, and Alex's is her love of horses. She'll do anything to save the mustang scout from the slaughterhouse. Full review...

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

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Mark has been battling cancer for more than half his life. For the last seven years he has missed school, been through treatments, and come close to death time and again. With the call that once again the cancer is back, he just can't face going through it again and so he takes his dog Beau and they run away to go and climb a mountain, with the intention that he will never return. Full review...

Game Changer by Tim Bowler

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Mikey is afraid of open spaces. He would much rather hide in his room - in his wardrobe, actually - than face the world outside. But his family, in particular his sister Meggie, are very supportive. And with Meggie's help, Mikey is gradually beginning to face that world outside. But then something goes horribly, horribly wrong. Mikey sees something he shouldn't have seen. And the gang knows what he saw. The gang knows where he lives. And the gang wants to talk to him... Full review...