Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner



teen, upper secondary  Key Stage 4, ages 14 -17, Dashner  James, science fantasy, thriller

This is the second book in the Maze Runner series.  Thomas and his comrades have now got out of the maze but have to face more trials.  They have to cross a dessert plain to arrive at safety.  WICKED set them countless trials and for much of the time they cannot be sure about the outside people they are dealing with, or indeed about each other.

This actually poses many questions for the young reader: do the young people here have free will or are they being manipulated?

Relationships change and no one is really sure whom they can trust. Or is this just part of what WICKED is doing to them?

Thomas is told everything is being done so that he and his comrades can help save the world. A pandemic has occurred, triggered by sun spot activity and therefore named The Flare. It gradually changes its victims form well-adjusted humans into something that resembles the archetypal zombie. Society needs to be reconstructed and made safe.  

There is a love interest. Thomas gets close to Teresa, with whom he communicates telepathically. Then there is Brenda.

Aris, a male, at one point seems to have replaced Teresa and towards the end of the novel Thomas finds he can communicate telepathically with Brenda and Aris as well.   

This second book ends on a cliff-hanger – making us all want to tackle the next one.

The novel is 360 pages. It uses an adult font and the text is blocked. The language is quite sophisticated.

Find your copy here 

Note, this is an affiliate link and a small portion of what you pay, at no extra cost to you,  may go to Bridge House Publishing.  

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Wilding by Isabella Tree and Angela Harding



I hesitated to put his book on this site even though it is marketed as a children’s book and indeed I purchased it as such. In fact, anyway, it wouldn’t be out of place in a primary or secondary school library though interest in it would be restricted to those who are passionate about the environment.   

Primarily, though, I would define this as a picture book for adults – a rather odd concept in the UK though this is a strong genre in France and Belgium and other French-speaking countries.  The voice here is of one adult speaking to another. But children can often understand adults.

Isabella Tree and her husband Charles decided to rewild their 3,500 acre farm in West Sussex over twenty years ago.

The book opens with a note form the illustrator about her experience of working at Knepp.  After a brief introduction by Isabella Tree we are given an outline history of the farm including the all import years form 2000 up to the present day.

There is a lot of information about what happened and all of this is illustrated in detail.  Pictures really give us more detail about processes and indeed what everything looks like.  So, as in a picture book for pre-schoolers the pictures add to the information in the text, expect that this is non-fiction. The last few pages contain ideas for what we can do in our own environment.

There is a useful glossary at the end and then a list of further resources. This would be very helpful for a student who is conducting a project about rewilding.   

The book, in hard back, and large format is 96 pages long.  It uses a serif font but the text is ragged right. Each section of text is short but packed with information.

Find on Amazon 

Note, this is an affiliate link and a small portion of what you pay, at no extra cost to you,  may go to Bridge House publishing.  

Thursday, April 18, 2024

A Tempest of Tea by Hafsah Faizal


Spendthrift is an innocent tea room by day and by night a den for vampires, where they can enjoy a different sort of tea and indulge in all sorts of vampire behaviour

Protagonist Arthie and her companion Jin, who is like brother to her, face the closure of the tea room. The reasons behind it are sinister and they have a battle to keep it open. We have some chapters from Arthie’s point of view and some from Jin’s. A third character, Flick   also has chapters to herself:  she has been under house arrest and is sufficiently rebellious towards her mother that the young adult reading this will be pleased. She is a forger and aids Arthie and Jin with her talent.

There is much violence and bloodshed – perhaps quite appropriate for a novel that has vampires in it.

The ending is disheartening but it does leave the story open for a sequel.

The book, in hard back, is 335 pages long. At the front there is a map of White Roaring, the town where the adventure is set. There are also pictures of documents, perhaps some of the ones that Flick forges. The text is blocked and uses a serif font.

The novel is divided into three parts. The chapters are short, particularly in the third part and this helps to maintain pace and tension.       

Find your copy here 

Note, this is an affiliate link and a small portion of what you pay, at no extra cost to you,  may go to Bridge House publishing.  

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Dim Sum Palace by X. Fang



Liddy’s family are planning a visit to the Dim Sum Palace the next day. Liddy dreams of following a delicious smell and ending up at a sumptuous palace where she is made in to a dumpling and almost eaten by the Empress. However, the grand lady realises just in time that Liddy is there and then the two of them share the feast. Within the dream, Liddy falls asleep and is carried back to her own bed. The family visit the Dim Sum Palace the next day; it’s just an ordinary restaurant in an ordinary street. But the food is delicious.    

This is a conventional picture book in that more story is put into the pictures. In particular there are some interesting illustrations of the kitchen at the palace in the dream, the street in the town in real life and the actual Dim Sum Palace. These are all very busy pictures with a lot that the child and adult might discuss.

The end papers show all sorts of Dim Sum treats.  It is an education and the book is likely to make you hungry.

There is a little bit of a joke for the grown-ups; they will no doubt know what a real Dim Sum Palace looks like and may smile at the little girl’s expectation.

The text is printed in a serif font which has difficult ‘a’s and ‘g’s.  This is reasonable as the text will most likely be read by an adult.  The font size is large so reading glasses may not be needed.  


Find on Amazon 

Note, this is an affiliate link and a small portion of what you pay may go to Bridge House publishing.  

Friday, December 1, 2023

Happiness Seeker by Jennifer Burkinshaw


Allie goes on a school trip to Grange-Over-Sands with its fast moving tide and quicksands can be a treacherous place. She is there with her classmates and two of their teachers. Some students including Allie are working on plays they are writing.  Others are studying the geography of the area.

There are all the normal issues that teens such as these face; Finn is her best friend but he is also on intimate terms with Allie’s nemesis Courtney.

Allie meets Maren who knows Morecombe Bay well   - he is involved in modern slavery and has to collect cockles illegally.  We have a little romance here.

Allie tries to help by reporting the illegal traders to the authorities but it is too late for Maren; they get wind of what is going on and flee.  

Courtney misunderstands Maren and makes a bad decision about him. She realises her mistake and tries to make amends but this involves her and Finn crossing the sands. And Courtney gets stuck.  There is then a race against time. Allie stays with Courtney whilst Maren and Flinn go in opposite directions to find help. Finn does not make it, despite being a strong swimmer.

Help comes for the two girls; they both survive.  

Maren disappears.

This is a very well written novel which will engage the reader emotionally. Jennifer Burkinshaw also provides maps and photos of the setting.              

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Totally Deceased by Sue H. Cunningham


Jess wakes up to find she has had a heart transplant … and the ghost of Tilly, whose heart she has received, is haunting her.

Tilly needs to find out why she was murdered and to put a few things about her inheritance straight.  Jess, who is still recovering from major surgery, has to help her and puts her own life at risk in other ways as well.

The girls are totally different. Jess is ordinary and lives in Manchester. Tilly is very rich and has an expensive flat in London – and is also into Swiss bank accounts, posh shoes and boarding school.  

There are many surprises however. Tilly is very involved with a charity that supports disadvantaged children. Cousin Georgie is not the good friend she thought she was - and the rather boring headteacher of her school is much more of a friend than she imagined.     

Only Jess and Tilly’s granddad can see Tilly – so there are many hilarious scenes where Jess appears to be talking to herself. Ear buds are the answer; they make her look as if she is on her mobile.

More humour comes out in the contrast between the two girls. They gradually get to understand each other better.  

They manage to get Tilly’s money back to where is should be and Tilly makes sure that Jess will be all right.  Tilly is then able to move on. And Jess finally has her heart to herself and can complete her recovery.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Leila and the Blue Fox by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Tom de Freston


Leila and her mother are refugees from Syria.  Leila lives with her aunt and cousin in England.  Her mother works away from home. Leila doesn’t realise that her mother does this in order to support them all and thinks it’s because she does not want to spend time with Leila. Their big adventure shows Leila that her mother is really the loving parent she wished for.  

Leila joins her mother for the summer. Her mother is tracking the journey of a blue fox, Miso that has trekked over 2000 miles across the Arctic. This part of the story is based on a true event. A fox that the scientists called Anna covered over 2000 miles in seventy-six days.

Miso  gets into trouble and becomes trapped on a thin ice-floe. Leila, being the smallest in the team, rescues her. There is a moral dilemma here: should humans who are observing nature interfere in nature? They do anyway but this only leads them into further trouble: they stray into a territory for which Leila’s mum does not have a visa and where Leila isn’t even registered as being on the ship.  

Leila, Matty and Britta have created a Twitter account for Miso. Support for Leila and her mum from Miso’s Twitter followers and the help of a good lawyer get them out of trouble. However, it is traumatic for them; it brings back memories of their former escape from Syria.  

Leila and her mum are eventually returned unharmed. Miso finds a mate.      

Leila’s story and Miso’s story are intertwined.  We have both points of view.

There are some blue monochrome illustrations throughout and even some transparent overlays. This a beautiful and very tactile book.

The text is quite dense, blocked and in a serif font with difficult ‘a’s and ‘g’s. There is a note about Anna the fox at the end of the book and a short bibliography of Millwood and de Freston.  

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

  2012   teen, upper secondary   Key Stage 4, ages 14 -17, Dashner   James, science fantasy, thriller This is the second book in the Maz...