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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Review: Titanic: Death on the Water

Authors: Tom and Tony Bradman

Release date: 29th March 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction
Target audience: 7+
UK Publisher: AC and Black
ISBN: 9781408155813


Titanic: Death on the Water is a fictional retelling of events on board the Titanic.

There is something about the tragedy of the Titanic which fascinates my students and with the anniversary of the sinking just a few months away, I know there will be many requests for stories about it so I was delighted when I received this book for review.

Titanic: Death on the Water is the story of the 1912 disaster but it is more importantly the story of Billy. He is fourteen and at the beginning of the story is attending the funeral of his father who died working in the Belfast shipyard. Billy doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. He is afraid of the shipyard and the authors create a tangible sense of the dangers of working in such an environment. After his father’s death, Billy takes his chance to build a different life for himself and secures himself a job as a bellboy aboard the Titanic.

Billy’s journey sees him encounter many people on board the ship – some who warm to his charm and some who see him as a rival. The authors created an endearing character in Billy – he is brave and down to earth. There is a light touch of Irish expression to his dialogue which adds to his cheerful, chipper character.

The story is fast paced and the chapters are short. I only wish there were a few illustrations to compliment the wonderful writing and aid the reading of this book for emerging readers. There are well-chosen details about the ship bringing it to life without slowing the action.

Titanic: Death on the Water is the story of the sinking of the Titanic. It is a tale of courage in the face of adversity and the bravery of ordinary people. Highly accessible, this book will be enjoyed by younger readers in the school library.

Source: Sent for review by Bloomsbury Books.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Review: I'll Be There

Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan

Release date: 5th April 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: 11+
UK Publisher: Piccadilly Press


I’ll Be There is a story of love, survival and the important people we meet in life who change us. It is a contemporary novel set in America and is sure to be a hit with librarians everywhere.

I’ve read four contemporary teen romances in quick succession but I’ll Be There stands out because it has a style all of its own. It couldn’t be further from the “high-school cafeteria scenario” story if it tried. This novel is full of quirkiness which begins with the two main characters. Sam is 17, he’s never lived in a place for long; his father suffers from mental health issues and moves them after just a few weeks. Everything Sam knows he taught himself, he never went to school. And neither did his younger brother Riddle. Sam is Riddle’s protector both of them blend into the town backdrop and do their utmost to go unnoticed.

That is until Sam meets Emily. Emily is honest and a listener. She cares deeply about the world and the people in it. She looks at people and wants to know more, to go deeper into who they are, to really understand them. The moment Emily and Sam meet is captured in music, the song I’ll Be There, is the soul of the book.

The structure of the book is a journey - both literally and of self-discovery. It is cyclical and begins where it ends adding to its message of what you give up into the world, you get back. It is also a thriller – Sam and Riddle’s father is a dangerous man and they need to escape his violent outbursts in order to find a home and inner peace. And of course, it is a love story. Sam and Emily must rise above all the challenges sent to try their bond. The three plots twist together perfectly and will have you hooked.

I loved the author’s voice and her unique way of unravelling the story for each of the characters. Told in the third person, we shift from character to character and back again and the story unfolds. I’ll Be There is such a rewarding book to read. It is entirely satisfying and utterly endearing. It will leave you feeling uplifted and inspired to see the beauty in everything around you.

Recommended for fans of:

·         Trash by Andy Mulligan

·         The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Review: Going Too Far

Author: Jennifer Echols

Release date: US Paperback 2009
Genre: Contemporary YA / Teen Romance
Target audience: 13+


Going Too Far is a contemporary novel about love, relationships and loss.

Meg is seventeen and all wants to be out of the backwater town where she was born and starting a new life at college. Meg is hell-bent on self-destruction at the beginning of the novel. She is arrested with three acquaintances on a railroad track over a bridge. Meg keeps herself closed off from everyone else; she lives for the now. The night on the bridge Meg’s arresting officer is After. Rather than send the four delinquent teens on a trip to the courthouse and possibly juvenile detention, he arranges for them to ride alongside various emergency services as rehabilitation method.

Meg despises Officer After. He spoiled her plans for Spring Break. He also incarcerated her and Meg is claustrophobic. As Meg rides along in After’s cop car for her punishment, she sees beyond the uniform and discovers the true identity of her cop.

I really enjoyed this book but I found it so hard to suspend my disbelief in the first part of the book. Meg tells us that her arresting officer is in his forties probably married with kids. Okay, so she is heavily intoxicated and it’s dark when they first meet, but even so it seemed a bit of a stretch. After is actually nineteen. Who could really mistake a nineteen year old for a forty year old? I’ll admit it irked me. As did the fact that someone so young was patrolling the streets in his car alone. Where was his experienced partner? I’ve watched so many cop shows on TV that I proclaim myself an expert. I do understand that he author had to make certain choices for the story to work. The problem was me and my inability to shut off the voice that said: Would this really happen?

Having said that, once I just let go of this annoyance, I found the book very readable and let myself be carried along by their connection. There is depth to the characterisation and back story that brings Meg and After to their respective emotional states at the point the story starts is touching and detailed. The dialogue was witty and amusing. The plot was compelling. I really couldn’t wait to read the ending. Overall, I thought Going Too Far was a charismatic love story – slightly implausible perhaps but hey, who cares if the characters have chemistry!

Recommended for fans of:
·         Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Source: US copy from Read It Swap It

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Review: When It Happens

Author: Susane Colasanti
UK Release date: 3rd May 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Target audience: 12+


When It Happens is a contemporary teen love story told in alternating perspectives.

Sara is seventeen and her goal for her Senior year is to reinvent herself and find the perfect boyfriend. Her two best friends also set themselves goals. Laila wants to be Valedictorian. Maggie wants to be smarter.

The hero of this story is Tobey. He is a self-proclaimed slacker – an intelligent boy, musically gifted, but he has no respect for the system. He thinks his future lies in the band he plays guitar for with his pals. Mike is the guy with a plan, Mr Organisation and Josh is the loose cannon and the all out crazy dude. Since forever Tobey has believed that college is pointless and that you don’t have to further your education to be successful. Everyone is talking about college and Tobey has stuck his head in the sand.  

Tobey has fallen for Sara but she has no idea. The whole summer long she has been dreaming up the idea of Dave the new guy at the school. He asked for her number at the end of the last school year but he never called over the summer. Sara lets the idea of him blossom into the perfect guy for her. This is in part is a story about how our fantasies never live up to reality. There is no such thing as the perfect boyfriend. But there is such a thing as the perfect guy for you.

This is your classic romantic comedy. It’s a: Will they? Won’t they? But that is its charm. When it Happens is funny, the romance is gentle and the message is life-affirming. A novel about friendship and being open to new possibilities. I really enjoyed it and I read it in a single sitting. If you’re looking for a sweet, heart-warming read, When It Happens is for you.

Recommended for fans of:

Source: US edition bought from Waterstones.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Bookette's Guide To ... Popular Books This Term

The Bookette has been very quiet in February and March. There has been a lot in the calendar at work - Book Week, trips, a special History project, Open Day and Taster Visits.
I can't promise normal service is about to resume but I am going to try to post once a week. So I thought I'd start with the termly figures of which books are topping the school library chart!
#1 being the most popular book in my school library since January
Boys 8 - 12
  1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (the whole series... again)
  2. The Donut Diaries as told by Dermot Milligan
  3. The Gladiators from Capua (The Roman Mysteries #8) by Caroline Lawrence
  4. Big Nate Out Loud by Lincoln Peirce
  5. The Ghost of Grania O'Malley by Michael Morpurgo
  6. The Kick Off by Dan Freedman
  7. Mr Stink by David Walliams
  8. Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
  9. The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon
  10. Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
Girls 8 - 12
  1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (the whole series... someone tell me what's so good about it?!)
  2. Pop Star (Dork Diaries #3) by Rachel Renee Russell
  3. The Brownies Series by Caroline Plaisted
  4. A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler
  5. Best Friends by Jacqueline Wilson
  6. The Diamond Girls by Jacqueline Wilson
  7. Winter Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
  8. The Worst Thing about My Sister by Jacqueline Wilson
  9. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce
  10. The Longest Whale Song by Jacqueline Wilson
The boys love series books but from this list you can tell that other than Jeff Kinney no one author dominates their choices. They like funny books.

The girls on the other hand are huge fans of Jacqueline Wilson and are more likely to read standalone novels. They have been asking for adventure stories like "Famous Five" but more "modern". Suggestions if you have them please.

For those with an interest in picture books - some of the boys have been asking for "scary books". Our topics next term are "the Seaside" and "minibeasts" so it is always good to have stories exploring those themes.