New series : The Battles of Ben Kingdom by Andrew Beasley

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The claws of evil by Andrew Beasley. (The battles of Ben Kingdom; book 1). Published by Usborne, 2013. Paperback, 329 pages. ISBN: 9781409544005. Available in bookstores NZ rrp$20.95 now (also in Wheelers and Overdrive ebook platforms!)

From the publisher:

Welcome to Victorian London; the home of the Artful Dodger, Sherlock Holmes…and Ben Kingdom, cocky street urchin – and the saviour of mankind. Unknown to mere mortals, an ancient battle is being waged across the city. Below the streets lurk the Legion, an evil gang of miscreants and criminals in league with the monstrous Feathered Men – determined to unleash Hell on the streets of London. Above the city’s rooftops soar the Watchers, a ragtag band of orphans, mystics and spies, dedicated to protecting the vulnerable and guarding London against evil. Only Ben can put an end to this war – the only problem is, he doesn’t know which side to choose.

What did I think of this book?

I have loved Usborne publications for years – but I have been more familiar with their excellent non-fiction titles (these are wonderful resources for my students carrying out inquiry as the books are beautifully laid out and well supported by web and other up to date resources). This is the first of two new fiction titles I have read recently and I will be looking out for more from this publisher (watch out for a review of another excellent girls realistic fiction title which will be up on this blog soon…)

Back to the Claws of evil…Victorian setting. Check. Rip roaring adventure. Check. Excellent writing. Check. Appeal to voracious readers. Check. Good versus evil. Check. These are just some of the elements that make me want to tell my students about this book.This book was talked about a lot prior to publication and this one lives up to all the enthusiastic pre publicity excitement.

From lovereadingforkids.co.uk: Everybody at Usborne is incredibly excited to be publishing The Claws of Evil, the first book in a stunning new series The Battles of Ben Kingdom. I started reading this book on a plane journey from Italy but was quickly transported to the rooftops of Victorian London, where an age-long battle takes place between the mysterious Watchers and the brutal Legion. Only our hero, Ben Kingdom, can put an end to this war, and the dilemma at the heart of this brilliant novel is that he doesn’t know which side to choose.Imaginative, captivating and fast-paced, Andrew has created colourful characters with real heart. Blending steampunk invention with nail-biting adventure, we believe this is the sort of fiction that will get readers talking. We hope you love it as much as we do!

It is wonderful when the author has an interesting story of their own. I was fascinated to read about the things that influenced Andrew on his author page on the website of UK bookseller Foyles.

Blame Sherlock Holmes.

I have always had a fascination with the Victorian era, and London in particular. There is something so fascinating, so gloriously tantalising, about those murky cobblestones and the swirling fog. I was very young when I first read Conan Doyle and I remember my feelings when I found myself in that age of great invention and glorious adventure, and yet tinged with darkness too, in those dangerous alleyways and crime-ridden tenements. It proved an irresistible combination to my young mind, and the obvious choice of setting for my series – The Battles of Ben Kingdom.

Andrew goes on to talk about other things that have influenced him including his own experience of homelessness “Unfortunately, in many respects, the London of Ben Kingdom is a mirror of London today. Homelessness is on the rise. Estimates vary, but it is suggested that as many as 100,000 children become detached from their families each year in the UK and have to fend for themselves. 30,000 of those will be twelve years old or younger. One in six of them will sleep rough. Suddenly, the historical past collides with the present. I could rewrite The Claws of Evil with a contemporary setting and it would still ring true.” Click on the link at the end of this post to read this fascinating account in full.

The book is very much about choices; the choice between good and evil is not so easy when the main protagonist doesn’t have all the facts. It is interesting to be the reader watching from the sidelines, willing the character to take action based on the information that you the reader has from having read both the point of view of the good (the Watchers) and the Bad (the Legion) – never has that felt so apparent for me when reading a book as with this one. Even stranger, is that right from the start of the story Ben is convinced that the Winged Man is evil incarnate while the Evil Professor can help him. If this were a pantomime or stage show children would be yelling to the actors from the audience!

There are so many elements of great fantasy here; firstly the prophecy held by both sides who are waiting for the child that is destined to change the world by leading their side; the mystical coin that the legion needs to complete their plans (it also seems to possess everyone that comes into contact with it, including Ben); a subterranean community of “outsiders” living below London’s streets; people and creatures with amazing physical powers running along the rooftops; magical hideous monstrous creatures with murderous blood letting intent. Plenty for kids to get their teeth into and one that will appeal to many girls as well as boys because of the well developed secondary characters of both sexes.

The second book in the series is due out in September.

LINKS:

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Anzac Day : two great books to share with children today

Here are two books that are wonderful to share with children to explain what Anzac Day is all about and why we commemorate it.

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Anzac Day : the New Zealand story (What it is and why it matters) by Philippa Werry. Published by New Holland, 2013. Paperback. ISBN:9781869663803. NZ$24.99

From the publisher:

The 25th of April is a very special day for New Zealanders and Australians. Do you know why? What does ANZAC mean? When did the tradition of the dawn service first start? Why do we wear the red poppy, and play the Last Post? This book will tell you all these things and more, and it’s crammed full of fascinating pictures as well.

From me:

I was delighted to receive this book in time for Anzac Day.

This newly published book is not only a wonderful resource for teachers and classroom study but a fantastic book for children to explore. It is laid out in an easy to follow format. Plenty of captioned pictures for younger readers, but interesting text blocks for children wanting to explore. It is full of photographs, quotes, songs, poems, recipes and other visual elements presented in a photo journal or scrapbooking style. Everything is covered in this book; the who, why, where and when questions for inquiry on this topic.

It is presented in four main chapters :

  1. The Gallipoli Campaign
  2. New Zealand at War, 1914-18
  3. Remembering our war dead
  4. Anzac Day, then and now

The author then provides a wealth of other resources that can be used for further research and investigation as well as activities for children interested in the topic.

Author website: http://www.philippawerry.co.nz/books_anzacday.html

You can listen to the interview with Philippa Werry about her book on National Radio’s Nine to Noon programme here:

Book trailer:

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Grandad’s medals by Tracy Duncan illustrated by Bruce Potter.  Published by Raupo Publishing, 2005/ Penguin, 2008. ISBN9781869486655/9780143503187 Paperback (This may be out of print now, but some children’s books shops may have copies and it is in many school and public libraries).

Every year Grandad marches in the Anzac Day parade and wears his medals, walking proudly beside his old comrades. But this year Grandad’s best mate is too sick to walk and the number of old soldiers still marching is getting smaller.

Not only is this a lovely story about a young boy’s relationship with his grandfather, it is also an empathetic account of the Anzac memorial day service and why it is important.

A good list of other resources is here: http://schools.natlib.govt.nz/blogs/create-readers/08-04/anzac-resources

Delightful series for the younger set: Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn & Nick Price

I have admired the covers of this delightful series for a long time, but have only recently taken the time to sit down and read one. These stories are delightful – I finished the first and then read the second and third adventures straight after. These are really great little adventure stories, yes the characters have a great deal of “cute” factor but the stories are rich and interesting and children 6-7+ will be delighted. So far there are seven books in the series. Reading them in order is not absolutely necessary, but the first book does explain the characters and the setting particularly well. Now that I have read them I know I will be a lot more confident about recommending them to both girls and boys. There is a connection for any children who enjoy playing with toys based on miniature worlds, for example Sylvanian Families.

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Tumtum and Nutmeg Written by Emily Bearn and illustrated by Nick Price. Published by Egmont, 2008.

From the Tumtum and Nutmeg website: In the broom cupboard of a small dwelling called Rose Cottage, stands a house fit for a mouse – well, two mice actually. A house made of pebblestone, with gables on the windows and turrets peeking out of the roof. A house with a ballroom, a billiard room, a banqueting room, a butler’s room and a drawing room. The house belongs to Mr and Mrs Nutmouse, or Tumtum and Nutmeg as they affectionately call each other.

Tumtum and Nutmeg have a wonderful life but the children who live in Rose Cottage, Arthur and Lucy, are less fortunate. So, one day Tumtum and Nutmeg decide to cheer them up …Tumtum repairs the electric heater in the attic where the children sleep and Nutmeg darns the children’s clothes. Arthur and Lucy are delighted and think a Fairy is looking after them.

But then Aunt Ivy with her green eyelids and long, elasticy arms arrives. She hates mice and hatches a plan to get rid of them. Soon Tumtum and Nutmeg are no longer safe to venture out. When Aunt Ivy uncovers the location of Nutmouse Hall it’s a race against time for Tumtum and Nutmeg – can they thwart her evil plans in time?

The books in series order:

  • Tumtum and Nutmeg
  • The Great Escape
  • The Pirates’ Treasure
  • A Christmas Adventure
  • A Seaside Adventure
  • A Circus Adventure
  • Trouble at Rose Cottage

REVIEWS: (Source Tumtum and Nutmeg website)

“There’s a delightfully twitchy quality to Tumtum and Nutmeg which, despite their clothes and their domesticity, makes them seem genuinely mousey, and the small-scale world they inhabit is full of just the right tiny details.” – Guardian Review section

“Told simply, with charming detail, this old-fashioned and well published story …will delight children who are of an age to relish secret friends and a cosy world in miniature.”- Sunday Times

“Good new books for children 5 to 8 are rare, and this is one of them. Bearn’s style is as crisp and warm as a home baked biscuit.”- The Times

“Bearn is a fine writer and her tale of how the Nutmouses thwart the vile Ivy is a gently humourous page-turner, full of little details that will appeal to children who enjoy small world play but are too young for the Borrowers.” –Financial Times magazine

“Perfect bedtime reading” – Angels and Urchins

Recommended reading after these (some more suitable as “read alouds”):

  • The borrowers by Mary Norton
  • Books by E.B. White (Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Webb)
  • The sheep pig (Babe) by Dick King-Smith
  • Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
  • The wind in the willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • The miraculous journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
  • The rescuers by Margery Sharp

LINKS:

Series website: http://www.tumtumandnutmeg.co.uk/index.htm (lots of great material here including an interactive chapter sampler)

Historical fiction: ‘Queenie’ by Jacqueline Wilson

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Queenie by Jacqueline Wilson. Published by Doubleday, 2013. Paperback, 416 pages. ISBN13: 9780857531124.

It’s 1953, the year Elizabeth is to be crowned Queen of England. Elsie Kettle can’t wait to go to London with her beloved nan to see the Coronation Day celebrations. Then tragedy strikes. Nan and Elsie both fall ill with tuberculosis and Elsie is whisked away to the children’s ward of Miltree Hospital. Confined to bed for months, Elsie misses Nan desperately, and struggles to adapt to the hospital’s strict rules. But every night after lights-out she tells magical tales of adventure to the other children on the ward. For the first time, Elsie finds herself surrounded by true friends – including Queenie, the hospital’s majestic white cat.

Finally Elsie is well enough to leave the hospital. But before she does, she has one very special, very unexpected visitor …

Book Trailer:


What did I think about this book?

I loved this! Although the video trailer portrays a young girl, the story will be loved by my Year 5/6/7 Jacqueline Wilson fans. In my opinion, this is just as good as the Hetty Feather trilogy and I am loving the authors foray into historical fiction.

The characters are beautifully and fully portrayed. Elsie’s Nan reminded me so much of my own Nana who I spent a lot of time with when growing up in the 1960s and early 70s. Reading this instantly took me back to her working class kitchen, being made milky coffees with tinned evaporated milk and luncheon sausage sandwiches on white bread with tomato sauce. For many readers this period is so far removed from their lives it might as well be ancient history – it felt very familiar to me, bringing back memories of Humber cars, wearing ankle socks and patent leather shoes, handmade corduroy pinafores and knitted cardigans. It was really interesting to read about the treatment of tuberculosis in both adults and children. I still find viewing medical equipment from this period, especially “Iron Lungs” in museum displays, creepy and scary. Being taken away from the people you loved and hospitalized in the 1950s must have been very frightening for any child. Elsie suffers from Bovine Tuberculosis, which tended to affect the bones and joints rather than the kind that affects the lungs. She and her ward mates are subjected to long periods in plaster casts and other paraphenalia and are completely bedridden. The children were often taken out into the “fresh air” and weak English sunshine to aid their recovery.  I have just done a quick image search in Google looking for black and white photos of children in tuberculosis wards in this period and they are frightening. Eerily, many of the photos look exactly as I imagined the scenes when reading this book, right down to the matrons and nurses and their hospital corners, and the rows of beds outside.

Woven throughout the story is Elsie’s abandonment and dysfunctional relationship with her mother – another character vividly and realistically portrayed, revealing her unpleasant and selfish nature. There are the usual friendship issues; before diagnosis Elsie struggles to find friends (the stigma of having an unmarried mother and her poverty means she doesn’t make friends easily) and she takes time to find her way with the other children in the hospital – being a mix of ages, both genders and from different socio economic backgrounds. Through her friendship with Queenie the hospital cat, some kind nurses and eventually the real friends she makes in her ward, Elsie comes into her own. Even so, I found this one of the saddest books that I have read recently. The happy ending feels very hard won, but you can’t help but cheer alongside Elsie when it eventually comes.

Very highly recommended, and one I will promote outside the circle of usual JW fans.

AUTHOR WEBSITE: http://www.jacquelinewilson.co.uk (the books section contains a tab with a link to an extract from the book and other reviews).

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Realistic fiction for girls : Author Spotlight – Kate Maryon

Finding books that are similar to Jacqueline Wilson has been a project for me. I have a group of year 6 girls who love JW and are desperate for read alikes. These students love realistic fiction with plenty of family, friendship and relationship drama. My library collection was sorely lacking in complete sets of alternative series or collections by similar authors to offer these girls.  I will be posting about the authors and series I have now sourced, have read and can heartily recommend:

Kate Maryon: I literally stumbled across Kate’s first book Shine at 3.30am one morning when I was unable to sleep and had finished the ebook I was currently reading on my iPad. (I find reading in the night helps me sleep and being able to switch the text to white on a black background with the brightness turned right down, means I don’t disturb my husband!) I was scrolling through the suggested reads in the Kindle Store and saw the cover which had instant impact. I downloaded the story, started to read and was immediately hooked.

Kate Maryon writes books about ordinary girls, like you, who find themselves facing extraordinary, real life situations. She hopes her characters will take you on a journey, a kind of exploration, so you’ll end up thinking, what would my life be like if this thing happened to me? Age Range: 9-12” Source: Girls heart books [blog]

Kate’s books cover some gritty and heartwrenching topics, but this seems to be what my readers are looking for. In many cases they are looking for stories about girls whose lives are sharply different to their own, but where they feel some empathy with the characters. There is always the chance, that for a few readers, they might be looking for their own experiences in a book.

I found Shine heartwrenching and real. I have all 4 books below and can’t wait to get them onto shelves and into hands! These are perfect for readers in the 9-12 age range.

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Shine by Kate Maryon. Published by HarperCollins 2010.

From Goodreads: Twelve-year-old Tiff loves her mom, Carla, who is glitzy and fun and always coming home with shiny new amazing stuff. The trouble is, Tiff’s mom doesn’t buy things, she takes them. The fact is, Tiff’s mom is a thief. When Carla gets caught, Tiff’s shiny life is ruined. She’s packed off to a remote island to live with Carla’s family. A family her mom never even talks about and that Tiff has never even met! How can she survive in this dull, dull place? But the island of Sark isn’t as awful as Tiff imagined it would be. The islanders are kind and honest and she’s happy spending time with them. So three months later, when it’s finally time for her mom to join her, Tiff can’t help feeling more than a little bit worried.

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A million Angels by Kate Maryon. Published by HarperCollins, 2011.

From Goodreads: DAD GOES TO WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, JEMIMA HAS BATTLES OF HER OWN
“We talk about everything, Dad and me. About all the mysteries inside of us. About all our wonderings of the world. But tomorrow my dad goes to war. Then what will I do?”

Jemima’s dad’s in the Army and he’s off to Afghanistan again for six whole months. Her mum’s about to have another baby and hasn’t got the energy to worry about anything else. Granny is staying to help out, but her head is filled with her own wartime memories. So while Mima is sending Dad millions of angels every night to keep him safe, who is looking out for her?

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Glitter by Kate Maryon. Published by HarperCollins, 2011.

From Goodreads: CREDIT CRUNCH THROWS LIBERTY PARFITT’S WORLD UPSIDE DOWN
Taken away from the boarding school she loves, Liberty and her angry dad are forced to stay in a friend’s flat in a rough part of London where she finds herself in a school that’s locally known as ‘The Grave.’ Without her best friend’s violin to play, Liberty feels as if her life couldn’t get any worse; then there’s the nasty Tyler boy and her dad’s depression and the gang by the canal… If only she had a mum, then things might be better – and what actually did happen to her mum? Well, there are the trunks in Dad’s bedroom and the violin on the bed and, once her curiosity is sparked, Liberty discovers a whole lot more about her past than she ever could have imagined.

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A sea of stars by Kate Maryon. Published by HarperCollins, 2012.

From Goodreads: Meet Maya. She has a cosy, comfy life with her slightly hippy mum and dad by the sea in Cornwall. But as an only child, Maya feels smothered by her parents’ love and longs to be a given more freedom and independence; but what Maya wants more than anything is a sister.

Meet Cat. She’s never known her dad and her mum’s an alcoholic and is not capable of looking after herself, let alone her 11 year old daughter. Cat’s spent her life protecting her mum and keeping some dark secrets; all she wants is to be left alone.

But Cat and Maya’s worlds collide when Cat is taken into care and Maya’s parents make the life-changing decision to adopt her. Maya can’t wait to welcome Cat into the family and hopes that by having a sister, her parents might learn to ‘chill out’ and give Maya a bit more freedom. But Cat is angry and resentful and resists Maya’s attempts at friendship and soon Maya’s idea of a perfect family is blown out of the water.

As tensions rise and secrets come out, will the girls ever become friends, let alone sisters?

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Invisible girl by Kate Maryon. Forthcoming – Due to be published by HarperCollins, June 2013.

I was inspired to write Invisible Girl after reading an article about runaways by Andy McCullough from the Railway Children charity. I was so shocked to discover that every 5 minutes a child in the UK runs away from home, which equals 100,000 under 16’s sleeping rough on our streets each year, that I immediately called Railway Children and spoke to Andy. He confirmed the statistics, went on to tell me about his own experience of being a young runaway and offered himself as a resource for my book.

I wanted Invisible Girl to feel real, to show how easily children can slip through the cracks, unnoticed. How readily, when love is unavailable at home, they will seek it elsewhere, walking into dangerous situations leaving themselves wide open and vulnerable.

As well as to entertain, my wish for Invisible Girl, and all my books, is that it speaks to the children who, like me when I was small, find themselves standing in the shadows facing overwhelming difficulty without support. I hope to hold their hands whilst pointing them toward safety, toward getting the help they need and developing a toolkit for self-care. I want to speak to the loved children too, to inspire compassion and understanding, an appreciation for what they have.

Our streets will continue to make cold hard beds until we can end this sleepy cycle of poverty and abuse that turns runaway children into homeless adults. Against all odds, both Andy and I managed to climb out of our childhood difficulty and create healthy adult lives. Sadly, we are the exception to the rule.” source: Author website.

Book trailer:


LINKS:

  • Author website: http://katemaryon.co.uk (This is a fantastic website – full of resources: extracts from the books, video, images, quotes etc)
  • Author blogging with other women writers who write for girls: http://girlsheartbooks.com – this blog is aimed at age 8-14 readers and is worth following if you are interested in hearing about the latest writing from authors like Joanna Nadin, Sophia Bennett, Kate Maryon, Frances Hardinge, S.C. Ransom and many, many more excellent writers!)

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Great sports story for struggling readers: Scrum! by Tom Palmer

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Scrum! by Tom Palmer. Published by Barrington Stoke, 2012. Paperback, 74 pages, ISBN:9781842999448

Barrington Stoke produce high quality, high interest books for struggling readers. They also produce books that are ‘Dyslexia friendly’ – the font, printing style, page color, length of paragraphs and chapters are all designed for successful reading. This one is tagged Interest age 8-12, reading age 8.

Publisher’s synopsis:

One boy, two codes … How will he decide? When Steven’s mother remarries and moves down south, Steven is torn between loyalty to his dad and a relationship with his mum’s new husband. Maybe even worse, he might have to leave his beloved Rugby League behind for a new Rugby Union team.

What do I think about this book?

Confession 1: Although I live in the greatest Rugby Union playing country in the world.. I don’t follow rugby that closely and I certainly have no real idea about the differences between League and Union – however after reading this book I learnt quite a few things about the codes and the differences between the two. Confession 2: I would never normally  choose and read a sports book… but I read this one quite avidly and found the story really moving (I had a little tear at one point when I could sense Steven’s frustration with his Dad and the choices he had to make.) Surely a sign of great writing if all of this comes across in a 75 page short book!

We have recently purchased Tom Palmer’s Football Academy series and will be getting all his other books for our library collection. Tom is a very generous author – he puts a lot of time into promoting reading, please check out his wonderful website – link below!

My thoughts on Barrington Stoke books:

I am so impressed with these publications that all of the copies in my library have been tagged and put into a section of short/easy/fast reads for my struggling readers (both girls and boys) at year 5/6 level, those with dyslexia, as well as the boys that don’t like reading fiction (these boys will try these sorts of books because they aren’t too thick and the size is ‘just right’). Having these books together in one place has been a hit with our special literacy groups as it reduces the angst the students feel when fruitlessly perusing the shelves for something to read. I believe in making things easier for these kids, but am doubly motivated when I can see they are more successful and their level of frustration is substantially reduced.

I had previously written about Gamer by Chris Bradford (also published by Barrington Stoke) – after reading that book and being so impressed with it, I decided I would have to seek out more from this publisher. What I love about these books is that they are really well written and are good stories that kids WANT to read.The high interest topics are age appropriate and importantly the covers look like those of mainstream books, not something that marks the reader out as being in a special needs group. These books are so well done, that readers of average ability, would be happy to read them as a quick read. Barrington Stoke have a wonderful selection of authors writing for them including Michael Morpurgo, Jo Cotterill, Tommy Donvaband, Chris Bradford, Karen McCombie, Jeremy Strong – something for every taste. These books are wonderful for kids wanting to be seen to be reading the same authors as their peers.

There are many sports books recommended for boys, and sports books are highlighted as a hook for reluctant readers. The problem for me is that a lot of these are American and kiwi boys don’t play or understand American Football and Baseball. Basketball is OK – as it’s very universal, as is Football/Soccer. It is great to see a book with Rugby as the theme as many of my students play the sport. I hope Tom will write more like these. If I can get boys reading these sorts of books there is always the opportunity to ladder them onto other great sports fiction, even if it is about baseball (e.g. Mike Lupica) because once they are confidently reading then they will be happier to explore other titles and will be able to see the parallels about striving for success, acceptance and identifying with the characters no matter which sport is the subject of the story.

RELATED POST:

LINKS:

Midnight pirates by Ally Kennen

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Midnight pirates by Ally Kennen. Published by Scholastic, 2013. Paperback, 228 pages.

ISBN: 9781407129884

Publisher’s synopsis:

Aaaaaaargh me hearties! Running a hotel should be easy, right? Not if your guests are pirates! As three children find out when their parents go away to America, running a hotel is much harder than it seems. They pretend there are adults in charge, but the chaos just keeps on mounting. And things become even stranger when a very odd guest checks in. A ship is wrecked close to the beach, and crates of washed-up cargo are there for the taking. Was it an accident? Or does the sinister guest have something to do with it?

From the back cover:

Welcome to the wild hotel…The manager is ten years old, the guests are loopy and a ghost roams the roof. With no parents around, three kids and a dog are running the show. But their chaotic adventure turns sinister with the arrival of some dangerous visitors…

What did I think about the Midnight pirates?

Reading this reminded me so much of many hours as a child spent reading Enid Blyton mysteries. Plus there was the rather unwelcome memory of the BBC series ‘Poldark’ set in the same part of Britain. Unwelcome only because when I looked it up I realised it was a 1975 production making me feel very old! The description of the Southern coast of Cornwall, where  Midnight Piratres is set is wonderful. I haven’t visited that area of England but I feel I would like to now. This really is the sort of book that you almost want to read with rain beating against the windows, in front of a roaring fire by candle light. I had such a strong vision of how the hotel looked in my mind, that a movie or TV adaptation of this would probably never live up to it. Anyway, I digress….

An Enid Blyton read alike this is not, despite the memories. This is an adventure story with authenticity – certainly not ‘lashings of ginger beer’. This is the first book I have read by Ally Kennen and I was impressed with how vividly she portrayed both the characters and the setting. The characters, especially 13 year old Miranda, are very real and believable. Her brothers (Cal 16 and Jackie 10) are both irritating and annoying in turn. The children have led a charmed and idyllic life while their  parents struggled to run the dilapidated and failing hotel. When the parents announce their decision to sell up and travel, the children are told they will be moving away forever and going to boarding school. All of them have strong ties and reasons for wanting to stay – Cal surfs and has a local girlfriend, Miranda loves the local wildlife, especially the seals, and Jackie is very attached to the family dog Fester. Jackie decides to run away back home to the hotel and circumstances mean that Cal and Miranda have to go with him. They struggle with the poorly provisioned conditions until Jackie has the bright idea of pretending the hotel is open and taking guests. When things turn sinister, the reader gets a very real sense of how the children in this story are out of their depth and genuinely frightened. The portrayal of modern day pirates that board ships to steal both the boat and cargo, is all too believable.

This is a great story and I am so pleased to have it to offer to my students. Last year many of my now Year 6 students read the first in the Laura Marlin mysteries ‘Dead Man’s Cove‘ by Lauren St John as a class read. It’s lovely to have something in the same genre that is so easy to recommend to them.

Ally Kennen reading an excerpt from Midnight pirates:

Source: Renlearn UK  via Vimeo.