Here’s a look at some of our favourite junior fiction (ages 7-12) which has been released over the last three months. These would be great additions to a school library or just for reading at home. If any local schools would like to purchase any of these items, please don’t hesitate to get in contact.
The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle
Fionn Boyle travels to the island of Arranmore with his sister Tara to stay with their enigmatic grandfather for the summer. Tara has visited before and has already made friends leaving Fionn to discover the sercrets and mysteries of the island himself. He quickly learns that his Grandfather is the legendary Stormkeeper of Arranmore but that his time in that role is coming to an end, and soon the island will need to find a Stormkeeper. Fionn is on a quest for answers but also to find the magical sea cave which is rumoured to grant one wish every generation. Fionn is a boy who has a lot of things he wants to wish for.
Arranmore is a very real island off the coast of Ireland and is where Catherine Doyle’s grandparents grew up. It is obvious throughout the story the very special connection and appreciation that Doyle has for the island. The vivid descriptions of the landscape and wildlife felt truly authentic and added to the sense of magic coming from the island itself.
There is a great deal of self-discovery for Fionn, who believes himself to be frightened of a lot of things and not at all brave. It’s a story about believing in yourself, overcoming fear and forging relationships which you never expected to have. Fionn and Tara’s relationship with their grandfather was especially touching. Although not knowing him very well, the tender concern and love between them was shown in simple ways, an example being making a cup of tea just the way their grandfather likes it: “One tea bag left in for exactly two and a half minutes and a thirty-millilitre splash of milk”.
Although sometimes heartbreaking, the story is filled with adventure, legends, magic and an ancient evil which is sure to keep the children who read it enthralled and engaged.
A Chase in Time – Sally Nicholls
With the help of a magical mirror, 10 year old Alex and 12 year old Ruby are thrown back in time over 100 years to 1912. After falling through the mirror and meeting the children who currently live in the house, Henry and Dora, they are invited to stay while they figure out how to get back to their time. They are quickly swept up in the drama of the house as they rush to help put out a fire, solve the mystery of a stolen artefact and attend the wedding of the charismatic Uncle Atherton and Mary Flinn.
This is definitely a very light-hearted story, filled with humour and although the children are trapped in the past there never seems to be any sense of peril to their situation. A lot of the humour came from the Alex and Ruby’s astonishment as to what life was like back in 1912 and the very noticeable differences from their own time. A favourite line of mine was “Someone,” said Ruby grimly, “should teach you about feminism.” after Dora asks if Ruby’s clothes (jeans and a t’shirt) are “frightfully indecent”.
Although this seems to be advertised as a book for children 9+, it’s a relatively quick read with short chapters and not too much writing on each page. It could be recommend for those younger readers who are looking for something with a more challenging and exciting storyline.
Peril in Paris – Taylor & Rose Secret Agents by Katherine Woodfine
Set in a fictional European landscape in the early 1900s, Peril in Paris follows the trials and tribulations of two young friends in espionage, Sophie Taylor and Lilian Rose. The first instalment of Woodfine’s new Secret Agents series ties in with her popular series Sinclair’s Mysteries, where we first saw Sophie and Lilian as daring detectives. As recruits for the Secret Service Bureau, the story follows Sophie and Rose on their separate missions to infiltrate and resolve two equally perilous situations. The adventure takes us to the fictional country of Arnovia, where a prince and princess face dangers beyond their control. Meanwhile, Sophie has been sent on a secret mission to pose as the relation of a professor who has been mysteriously murdered in the city of Paris.
Woodfine describes the story as having take ‘inspiration from history’. She says that the Secret Service Bureau was based on the concept of the British Government’s own bureau that was established in 1909 and has now been divided into two units which we know as MI5 and MI6. Similarly, the exciting air race that features later on in the story, is loosely inspired by the 1911 Circuit of Europe Race. Woodfine has a very clever way of intertwining the historical and the fictional, to create an enthralling adventure series with a real sense of authenticity.
The novel is beautifully illustrated throughout by Karl James Mountford, whose artistic style complements the story so well. Instead of simply reading the text of a letter, for example, the correspondence is shown in its true form, which is just a lovely touch. I think what stands out most about this novel is that every female character is one that calls her own shots. The two main characters are depicted as two fearless and intelligent young women, taking on dangerous and exciting roles in a bid to save the country. The daring duo serve as great role models to young female readers and offer a refreshing contrast to other stories they might have read where it is the knight in shining armour who saves the day.
Why not have a look at the publisher’s website where you too can see the beautiful landscape of Paris that is explored in Woodfine’s wonderful story.
Here are an extra few new and notable children’s books which we wanted to highlight from the last three months.
All book images have been taken from Amazon.
Written by Jodie and Tiff