Too Clever by half by Aaron Moffat. Olympia Publishers, 2016.
I enjoyed reading this school story for middle and intermediate students because it dealt with a lot of social and economic issues that reflect the equalities and inequalities of today’s society. Plus it would be a great read-a-loud for years 5/6, 7/8 students.
Septimus is a bright boy, top of his class, a little out of condition, well nourished but with a father who is of the born to rule class who looks down on Septimus’s class mates whom he labels riff raff.
Septimus is bullied at school until there is a split in the ranks amongst the alleged riff raff. The nasty Jasper and Rico think Jamie has snitched on them, so he is pushed to the outer and develops a friendship with Septimus. This relationship is awkward at first because Jamie is a foster child but Septimus is glad of the company.
Difficulties arise when Septimus’s father meets Jamie and becomes determined to take Septimus out of school and put him in a Private school where he can mix with children of his own class. Septimus’s mother takes the opposite point of view and this conflict is one of the key sub plots within this novel.
Trouble with a neighbour who is reported to be a witch and a broken window polarise positions within Septimus’s family. Then the school enters the Krypton Kids TV competition with Septimus, Rico and a saucy young girl called Antonia entered.
You will have to read the rest yourself if you want to know what happens.
Well written but the chapters may be a bit long at times. I call it lofty writing with all the social differences well argued. Some may be deterred by this but the school matters will be familiar to all students.
Interested parties can contact the author at email@example.com
What Not to do if you turn Invisible by Ross Welford. Pub. HarperCollins, 2017.
One of the funniest and most interesting children’s novels I have read for some time. It is for pre – teens and teens and once you start you will not put it down.
Thirteen year old Ethel lives in the North of England with her Gram. Her mother died when she was three and her father left in mysterious circumstances and Gram has never talked to her about it. Ethel is going to find out who and what they were in bizarre circumstances that involve trying to find a cure for her facial acne.
The combination of an on-line purchase of a Chinese remedy and a sunbed cause Ethel to become invisible. She is however only invisible when naked. She panics of course and has various absurd situations that will crack you up.
Then on a visit to her 100 year old great grandmother the old dear calls her Tiger Pussy. Who or what is Tiger Pussy? Well you are going to find out if you read the book.The mystery deepens with the visit of a man who smells of cigarettes and the discovery of a tin box with newspaper articles about an Amy Winehouse type pop singer called Felina. This will rattle Ethel’s cage at a time when her invisibility is causing problems.
Brilliantly written in three parts with 96 short chapters, this novel goes along at a rate of knots that will thrill you. There are sub plots involving bullying from twin brother and sister Jarrow and Jesmond Knight that will make you angry and gleeful at the same time. Ethel’s friend Boydy a cockney living in geordie country is a revelation, but the character of the book is Gram who is full of old fashioned wisdom and says things like “it is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”
A very satisfying read.
Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn. Pub. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015.
If you have ever done something really bad that has deeply hurt or affected others, and you have kept it a secret and carried the guilt of it all around with you, then this is a novel for you.
The teenage years can be wonderful and they can be mixed up. Many teens struggle to find out who they are and worry what others think of them. The three main characters in this novel have a lot of these feelings in them.
Sadie Vu is from a wealthy family who live in the wine growing area of California. She has been expelled from many boarding schools, cares about nothing and sees herself as pathological. She does things because they are bad and she has been responsible for the near death of Roman, a boy who really liked her.
Emerson is a 6ft 4 inch basketball player whose father committed suicide in his ’64 ford mustang, a car Emerson still drives. He is sadistic in behaviour and carries around secrets that he needs to resolve. His brother is a sickly soul called Miles, a boy who has allergies, who is often sick , has visions that appear to come true and is bullied mercilessly.
Mix these characters together and you have a stunning story that will keep you reading and wondering where it is going. It is disturbing, chilling and disconcerting but you must finish.
This aptly named novel is splendidly written in four parts by an author with a degree in sport psychology who is working towards a doctorate in clinical psychology. She doesn’t miss a trick with the ending being open and powerful.
Definitely for mature students and young adults. Those who have read All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven will love this novel
Fire Island. A Keri series book by Jenni Francis. Pub. www.jennifrancis.com 2014.
Bullying is the major theme of this short readable novel for girls of Intermediate school age. See an earlier review elsewhere on this blog.
The setting is a school camp on a volcanic island, east coast North island.
There is an old saying that goes “if you hold your chin up you are also sticking your neck out”. Keri is an intelligent, gifted and brave girl of intermediate age who has fallen foul of her old friends who now bully her.
When Keri defends a 9 year old girl from Rochelle, Danielle and her gang of five it has repercussions for Keri and her friends on school camp.
Keri stands firm to the gang defending James, a nerdy boy who has talents that nobody expects, and her other friends. The teachers get it all wrong against accomplished liars and things look grim for Keri. There is a new girl with a problem, trouble on the water while sailing, a fire and a broken leg as well as the school camp activities.
Good adventure and much to ponder in Jenni Francis’s tightly written no nonsense narrative. The dialogue is particularly good.
Middle School Story: I Funny TV by James Patterson, Illus. Chris Grabenstein. Pub.Penguin Random House Imprint Young Arrow, 2016.
Jamie Grimm is as nice a person as you are ever going to meet yet he is in a wheelchair caused in a motor accident that killed his parents and little sister. Jamie stays with his aunt and uncle and his bullying cousin Stevie.
In a previous book Jamie won the best funny kid competition and pocketed a million dollars which he spent wisely and generously. He never thinks only of himself.
One of the other prizes he won was his own TV Show and in this book that’s what he gets. Hollywood and all its eccentricities and extravagances comes to Jamie. The pampered stars, the expanded egos, the tantrums and the bullshit.
Jamie is under pressure, so how will he cope? Read it and find out.
As always bullying is a huge theme of this novel and now Stevie the perennial is out bullied by a huge monster of a boy Lars Johannsen. Both get involved with the new TV show as does Jamie’s special friends Gaynor and Pierce.
I have read a half dozen of these novels and could be excused of having enough but I think this is the best yet. It is funny, the values are good and Jamie is such a wonderful character. Primary and intermediate readers will love it.
Conductoid by M.B. Lehane. Pub. http://www.conductoid.com 2016.
Eleven year old Jack is a Conductoid but he doesn’t know it. He is about to enter a fantasy world governed by a Universal Rule – no, adults are not always right – but that there exists an infinite number of parallel universes and no being can use their powers outside the confines of their dimension.
Complicated? Not really. Fantasy is for good readers with a large imagination, this novel requires that. It is also true that for a novel to be credible characters must move from one position and set of behaviours to another, hopefully for the better. Jack does this.
At the beginning of the novel Jack is selfish, lazy and impertinent. He has a slack attitude to learning and school and his behaviour towards his twin sister Phoebe and his mother is not good. He also daydreams but this is to be his gateway to the world of Conductoids.
While Jack daydreams a hooded stranger emerges from the darkness of his mind and gets Jack to accomplish a number of tasks that involve saving people from precarious positions. Not only does he save them but he turns into a number of superhuman characters to do so. First episode he saves a girl from drowning and Jack in real life cannot swim.
The hooded stranger is a Master Veriator or Azan and he tells Jack he must learn from his transformations. But will Jack learn? Basically he has to and through this he changes for the better.
At the same time as all this goes on, Jack has to live his school and family life with his friend Ty, his sister Phoebe, his mother and an array of characters that add a lot of fun to the story. He deals with bullies Damon and Hartley and the Russian shop owners, the Dibbles, who import astonishing sweets with tastes to satisfy your inner cravings.
I can tell you no more you will have to read the novel to find out. I will tell you that the novel is told with some panache and is very funny and serious at the same time. M.B. Lehane has really analysed his upbringing and his school life and brought it to life. He has an impressive control of language that will delight you for example, it is rare to see the words Kerfuffle and Skeddaddle used within a page of each other.
For intermediate and junior high school students. I dare you to read it.
Wonder is a classic book. It tells the story of 12 year old August who suffers from severe facial disfigurement that many people find horrifying. His face looks like it has been melted onto his head. When he goes to school for the first time he evokes a number of reactions from children and adults. All of these people told their story of August in the first publication. Except Julian.
Julian was nasty to August. he called him names, sent him horrible notes, generally bullied him and started off a game called Plague. If you touched August you had 30 seconds to wash your hands or you died. And whats more he thought it was a laugh, he couldn’t see that he was at fault in any way. Nor could his parents.
August didn’t want to go back to school, but his brilliant parents made him go back and the book is just wonderful as we share his first year in school.
Julian now tells his story in a 99 page chapter inserted at the end of the original book and I can tell you it is outstanding and makes for compulsive reading. I don’t want to ruin it for you but it deals with acknowledging responsibility, with parental guidance, with great teachers, with remorse, and with the humanity of it all.
Does a mistake define your life for ever? Julian is about to find out and so are you.
Don’t just read Julian’s chapter do yourself a favour and read the book again. I can tell you the story told by Julian’s grandmere within Julian’s chapter, will melt your heart.
This book is for everybody. My review of the original book is on this blog.
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