Book review: New Scholastic children’s books for Autumn 2012

Scholastic Children’s Books are celebrating the arrival of autumn with a bumper collection of titles to help while away the hours as the nights draw in.

By Pam Norfolk
Tuesday, 25th September 2012, 10:27 am

From quirky picture books and the arrival of a new superhero character for young readers to Rebel Heart, the exciting follow-up to last year’s winning Costa novel Blood Red Road, there is a book here for all ages and tastes.

Rebel Heart

Moira Young

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On your marks, get set, go ... Saba is back!

The feisty, fearless, no-frills heroine of Moira Young’s Costa prize-winning debut teen novel Blood Red Road returns for another terror trip across the unforgiving Dustlands.

Saba is proving just the girl to fill the gap left by Katniss Everdeen, star of Suzanne Collins’ blistering dystopian trilogy The Hunger Games. Saba has earned the soubriquet Angel of Death and her post-apocalyptic world holds the same dangers, the same brand of ruthless enemies and the same soaring passions that Katniss encountered.

Rebel Heart is Young’s much-anticipated sequel and the good news is that it doesn’t disappoint. Yes, the teen dream continues and drop-dead gorgeous Jack – the boy with the moonlit silver eyes who brings Saba alive, opens the skies and lets her breathe – is still making young hearts beat faster and older ones yearn for their lost youth!

Happily for Saba’s army of fans, the action picks up at the exact point where Blood Red Road ended and throws us headlong into another thrilling mix of action, intrigue and red-hot romance.

And there’s no guessing the course of Saba’s latest rollercoaster journey across the harsh terrain of the deadly Dustlands, and the treachery and trials that await all those who cross the path of her new foe, the Pathfinder.

Saba’s country was devastated years ago by the destructive high-tech Wreckers and now she inhabits a lawless land where life is cheap, enemies are never far away and survival is an endless battle.

She has rescued her kidnapped brother Lugh and defeated the fanatical and amoral sect of Tonton thugs but the cost of her violent victory has put her life at serious risk. They are calling her the Angel of Death and there’s a price on her head.

Jack, the young man she loves with a fierce and all-consuming passion, has disappeared. Saba gave him her heart and the precious heartstone he wears around his neck but now he can no longer be trusted.

And a new and formidable enemy is on the rise in the Dustlands. ‘New game. New rules. No second chances.’ No one is safe.

And amidst an evil that is rolling over the land like the plague, Saba finds herself at a crossroads and must confront the terrible secret hidden in the darkest depths of her being...

Rebel Heart is another gripping, mind-blowing page-turner, a novel of raw emotions, stark realities and complex psychology; it’s a tale of the unexpected that excites, exhilarates and explores the darkest corners of the human soul.

Little wonder then that film rights for Blood Red Road have been optioned by Ridley Scott and the script is in progress... watch this space!

(Marion Lloyd Books, paperback, £7.99)

The Twice-Lived Summer of Bluebell Jones

Susie Day

Teen books come and go but some touch a chord that makes reading them an unforgettable experience.

Susie Day’s The Twice-Lived Summer of Bluebell Jones really does reach the parts that many others don’t. It captures the heart with its wistful teenage nostalgia, its intriguing double-sided heroine and its compulsion to make you start reading it again the moment the last page has turned.

Everyone remembers the day they turn thirteen. It’s a significant milestone when pocket money becomes an allowance, when boys become more interesting ... the day the rest of your life begins and you start to look towards the future.

But things are not going according to plan for Bluebell (Blue) Jones on the eve of her ‘big’ birthday. For starters, she doesn’t feel ready to be a teenager. She’s not confident and ‘cool’ like her friends seem to be. She needs rescuing...

On the evening of her birthday when she blows out her birthday candles and makes a wish, Blue inexplicably summons her 14-year-old self from the future, but this version of her is different.

She’s called Red and she appears from nowhere like a wacky fairy godmother. And the great thing is she’s feisty and funky, insightful and brave – everything Blue wishes she was.

With Red by her side to guide her, Blue can avoid all the gruesome embarrassments that go hand in hand with being thirteen. But Blue’s future self is soon causing lots of crazy trouble as she guides Blue through the minefield of teenage life.

Red seems determined to teach Blue how to become more like her. But Red has got a secret – a secret that she won’t reveal, a secret that will change Bluebell’s life forever...

Day’s time-travel mystery is funny, warm and recognisably human but its dark edge and stunning twist raise it to a new and superior level.

A must-have book for early teen readers.

(Scholastic, paperback, £6.99)

Flower Girls: Too Many Blooms

Catherine R.Daly

Catherine R.Daly’s fun new series for girls aged nine and over is positively bursting out all over with flower power!

Delphinium ‘Del’ Bloom is the eldest of four sisters. The other girls are twins Rose and Aster, and little Poppy.

It’s a family tradition on her mother’s side that all the girls are named after flowers. ‘Flowers are in your blood,’ Gramps always tells her and it’s true. Del can’t remember a time when she hasn’t been in love with flowers.

Del loves her grandparents’ peaceful and calm flower shop in beautiful Elwood Falls in New England. She works at the shop on Saturdays and has an escape from the chaos and mess at her cluttered home caused by her annoying little sisters who constantly seem to cause drama.

But then Gran and Gramps set off for a three-month stay in Florida leaving the flower shop in the care of Del’s scatterbrained parents. And when their first commission comes in, it’s a big wedding order.

The bride wants everything – especially the flowers – to be absolutely perfect. Even worse, the meanest girl in Del’s class happens to be a junior bridesmaid. Can Del find her inner flower power and create the ideal arrangement?

Flower Girls: Too Many Blooms is just the first in this enchanting new series which focuses on family, friendship and flowers. Featuring beautiful covers, lively stories and a heroine who can’t fail to ‘grow’ on you, Flower Girls is a delight.

Also currently available from Scholastic are the follow-ups, Petal Power, Best Buds and Coming Up Roses.

(Scholastic, paperback, £5.99)

The Abominables

Eva Ibbotson

There was a distinct thrill in the book world when an unknown manuscript was found amongst the papers of the late, great author Eva Ibbotson who died aged 85 two years ago. One of her best children’s novels was ‘yeti’ to come...

The Abominables is the last book from a much-loved writer whose bestselling novels for both adults and children have been published around the world. Ibbotson was born in Vienna but fled to England with her family when the Nazis came to power. Her sensational novel, Journey to the River Sea, won the Nestlé Gold Award and she was regularly shortlisted for many other awards and prizes.

And The Abominables is a wonderful swansong, an adventure of sheer delight full of her trademark humour, warmth and humanity.

A hundred years ago, in the Himalayan peaks of Nanvi Dar, the daughter of an English earl is kidnapped by a huge hairy monster and taken to a secret valley. There Agatha Farlingham is introduced to a family of motherless yetis and devotes her life to their upbringing.

She teaches them to speak, tells them stories and insists on polite manners but, as the decades pass, tourists come to the mountains, a hotel is built and yeti-hunters arrive. Agatha knows that there is one place in the world where they would be protected – her ancestral home at Farley Towers.

When a boy and his sister stumble upon her hidden valley, she knows she has found the courageous people who will carry out her plan. The yetis are smuggled into the bridal suite at the hotel and a freezer lorry is waiting to put them into semi-hibernation on the long trip home.

But a baby yak which has fallen in love with the youngest yeti foils the refrigeration plan and they set off on a hugely entertaining road trip halfway across the world. In the Sultan of Aslerfan’s kingdom the yetis release all the animals from his zoo, in the Alps they rescue a child lost in a blizzard and in Spain, the yak creates chaos at a bullfight.

But when they arrive in England, a terrible shock awaits them at Farley Towers...

The Abominables, beautifully illustrated by Sharon Rentta, has some moments of exquisite tension and drama but throughout the story charms us with its innate morality and compassion.

An endearing and heart-warming story suitable for children aged eight and over.

(Marion Lloyd Books, hardback, £10.99)

Ghost Buddy: Mind If I Read Your Mind?

Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

Happy Days are here again for Henry Winkler, better known as the Fonz, as the second book in his sparkling series about the unlikely friendship between a young boy and his super cool ghostly pal hits the shelves.

Ghost Buddy is another joint collaboration with writer and producer Lin Oliver and follows the runaway success of their Hank Zipzer books.

Billy Broccoli is a boy full of questions – about his school, his step-family… his whole life, in fact. Hoover ‘the Hoove’ Porterhouse is a funny teenage ghost with a whole lot of attitude and all the answers Billy needs.

And when a trick of fate makes them roommates, Billy discovers that being haunted isn’t so bad after all. The Hoove is a great baseball player and a real people-person (even if Billy is the only one who can see him).

When the school’s annual Speak Out Challenge comes around, Billy thinks he’s got it made. With the Hoove, the ghost with the most, by his side, he’s sure he’s got the competition in the bag. Well who wouldn’t vote for a demonstration on mind reading?

But when Billy wins a spot on his class team, he starts spending more time with his new teammates than he does with the Hoove. And the Hoove plays second fiddle to no one! If Billy’s not careful, his secret weapon might just vanish into thin air, leaving Billy to pick up the pieces of a demonstration day disaster.

With a friendship that is hilarious and yet wise and moving, Billy and the Hoove are an ideal pair of heroes for children aged eight and over.

(Scholastic, paperback, £5.99)

The Chocolate Dog

Holly Webb

The simplest of stories sometimes carry the most important messages. And Holly Webb’s delightful and clever little tale of two sisters who don’t want their mother to have another baby packs a quietly powerful punch.

When Amy finds out her mum is expecting a baby, she is not very pleased. Amy already has one annoying younger sister Laura – she doesn’t want another one! And she knows when the new baby arrives, things are going to change. And Laura can’t help feeling squeezed out too.

Only Choc, the family’s lovely chocolate brown dog seems to understand how they feel. Cheerful and faithful to the very end, he always knows just how to make them feel better.

But when Amy finds out she is going to have to start sharing a room, she decides the only solution is to run away from home. Can Choc show her how much she is loved and reunite her with her family?

Any child aged seven or over will love this super-sweet, reassuring and tender story of family and loyalty from Holly Webb and Sharon Rentta’s heart-melting pictures which bring the story to life.

(Scholastic, paperback, £4.99)


Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Meet Superworm... a super-long, super-strong superhero! From the very inventive inventors of The Gruffalo comes a new and adorable character guaranteed to wriggle his way into our hearts.

See him wind up for action and enjoy watching him squeeze in and out of all kinds of tight spots because there’s no other worm like Superworm. Yes, never fear, Superworm’s here and his adventures will leave little ones squealing and squirming for more.

Superworm is the result of a wonderful joint collaboration between the talented Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler whose books have been delighting young readers for several years now.

Superworm is the perfect book for children aged between two and five with its bold and colourful illustrations to catch the eye of the youngest reader and a rhyming text that keeps the action flowing and helps little ones to remember the story.

Here we find Superworm fishing Spider out of a well and rescuing Toad from a busy road with a lasso. Next he’s turned himself into a skipping rope to keep bored bees busy. But who will come to Superworm’s rescue when he’s captured by a wicked Wizard Lizard? Luckily, all Superworm’s insect friends have a cunning plan...

The truly imaginative ways a worm can become a multi-tasking superhero ensure Superworm’s destiny as a classic picture book hero whose escapades will be read time and time again.

(Alison Green Books, hardback, £10.99)

How to Hide a Lion

Helen Stephens

Take one rib-tickling lion, a very cute little girl and a big, big secret ... and what do you have? Helen Stephens’ quirky new picture book packed with laughter, lovely pictures and a lovable lion.

So how does a very small girl hide a very large lion? It’s not easy, but Iris has to do her best because mums and dads can be funny about having a lion in the house. Luckily, there are lots of good places to hide a lion – behind the shower curtain, in your bed and even up a tree. But can Iris hide her lion forever?

Stephens, creator of Fleabag and The Night Iceberg, has her hand well and truly on the pulse of children’s humour and this heart-warming story about a very special friendship will win her new fans from the older generation.

She provides a simple text and an easy-to-understand story, ideal for pre-school children with a short attention span. The adorable big yellow lion, a cast of brilliant characters and off-beat illustrations have a distinctly nostalgic feel in their style and presentation, providing all the right ingredients for a firm family favourite.

(Alison Green Books, paperback, £6.99)