Pendragon: The Merchant of Death
by D J Machale
(Simon and Schuster)
Bobby Pendragon is a normal 14 year old boy - or so he thinks - until his Uncle Press introduces him to a terrifying new reality where he must travel through flumes between alternate worlds to battle a shape-shifting villain called Saint Dane. The book draws the reader in straightaway and lets them share Bobby's confusion and fear as he struggles to understand what's going on. Written partly from Bobby's viewpoint and partly from the viewpoint of his two friends in his own world, the book is fast moving and packed with action. The danger feels real - it's not just the villains who die. This is the first book in the Pendragon series so there are plenty more to move on to if this one is a hit. The books are free standing but there is an over arching storyline so it's best to read them in the right order.
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by Ann Halam
Sloe’s oldest memory is arriving with her mother at the Settlement, a prison without walls in the middle of nowhere. As she grows up, she struggles to understand why the summers are unusually short and winters over long. What has happened to all the wild animals? She knows she must keep secret her mother’s case full of envelopes, powder and test tubes which have the power to make living wild creatures. After her mother’s disappearance, Sloe has to run for her life with the case and her mother’s hand drawn map. If any of her creatures are captured by the Fitness Police, they’ll be destroyed. Sloe’s only hope is to reach the city where the sun always shines.
Written in a clear, easily readable writing style, this is a a fantastic
book to get lost in and a. good choice for competent readers who like action and science. If they enjoyed Operation Red Jericho or Wolf, they'll enjoy reading this book.
(reviewed by Catherine Randle)
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by Anthony Horowitz
These fast moving adventure stories are for teenage Bond fans who dream of being secret agents instead of sitting in double geography. When his guardian is killed at the beginning of Stormbreaker, 14 year old Alex starts to investigate and is forcibly recruited into MI6. Soon he's on his first mission and in deadly danger as he races to stop a mad Arab's plan to kill every schoolchild in the country. Point Blanc has a different megolamoniac bent on world domination - this time via an exclusive boys' boarding school which Alex is sent to infiltrate - while Skeleton Key involves murder at the Wimbledon Tennis Champions, some incompetent CIA agents and plan to let off a nuclear bomb.
All three of these these well-written stories have all the ingredients of a Bond film except the sex. The gadgets are ingeniously tailored to a schoolboy hero, the villains are suitably sinister and the death-defying escapes are nail-bitingly exciting. On the minus side, they also have the bad points of a Bond film - stereotypical villains without a single redeeming feature whose henchmen die violent deaths without anyone seeming to care. Some violence is unavoidable in books like this but it is kept to a minimum with Alex only rarely using a gun. Clear print with good spacing between the lines makes the text easy to read without being remotely childish. Although each book is free-standing, it's it's best to read the books in order.
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by Joshua Mowll
Unusually for novels for older readers (10+), this book is packed with illustrations. Not remotely childish, these include maps, plans, extracts from newspapers and diaries, photos of the characters, and guides to Morse Code and tying knots. Four of the drawings are so large and detailed that they are presented as full colour fold-outs which will attract reluctant boy readers to the book. Set around Shanghai in 1920, the story features, Doug and Becca - a brother and sister who go to live with their uncle on an oceanographic research ship after their parents disappear. Determined to find the truth about that disappearance, they soon find themselves plunged into amazing adventures involving an ancient secret society. Packed with dastardly villains and exciting action worthy of an Indiana Jones film, this fast-paced book is a good choice for boys who think they prefer non-fiction to stories.
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by Michelle Paver
Set in a prehistoric world of hunter-gatherers, this is a fast-moving adventure story with a touch of magic. When Torak's father is killed by a demon in the form of a great bear, he is the only person who can save the Forest from the evil that threatens it. Guided by a wolf cub, he sets out on a journey that will lead him into greater danger than he has ever known before. Growing tension and cliff-hanging chapter endings keep the reader turning the pages while background information on Torak and his world are cleverly woven into the story without slowing the pace. This is the first in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series which is best read in order..
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of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning
by Lemony Snicket
Anything that could go wrong in a family happens to the Baudelaire youngsters. The book begins with the death of both parents in an accident. The children, Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are taken in by a banker friend of their parents who is also their executor. This is not the best place but is only temporary until a living relative may be found. That living relative turns out to Count Olaf, an eccentric and unpleasant man who is after the children's money and hits on a plan to marry Violet in a play. The children use their wits to get out of trouble and the story ends with them homeless but not friendless.
This is a very readable book which appeals to children 10+, partly because the most awful things happen to the children but the Baudelaire children win in the end. It's the first in a successful series.
(reviewed by Anne Bothwell)
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Other Lemony Snicket titles
by Louis Sachar
When Stanley Yelnats is wrongly convicted of stealing some trainers, it is just the latest in a long line of bad luck in his family. Being sent to Camp Green Lake instead of prison isn't good luck either. Like all the other boys there, he must dig a hole every day that's five foot deep and five foot wide. The warden says it's character building but, when Stanley discovers she's lying, it's up to him to discover the truth. This book is so good that it's one of the BBC's 100 Best Reads. It's also well written in tight prose and short chapters that make it easy to read. Great for boys but girls love it too.
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I'm ten and it's really hard to find books that I like. However, I really like these Warpath books about World War Two. They are action war stories about made-up people in real events and are full of things like tanks and submarines and weapons. Something is always happening - they are never boring. They are a mixture of fact and fiction. With normal fiction the good guys always win. With these stories some of the good guys die. That's sad but I like it because it's more realistic. My favourite so far is Beach Assault.
(reviewed by Tim Lewis)
Beach Assault by R Eldworth Buy from Amazon
Behind Enemy Lines by J Eldridge Buy from Amazon
Tank Attack by J Eldridge Buy from Amazon
Depth Charge Danger by J Eldridge Buy from Amazon
Willard Price Adventure Series
These books by Willard Price are over 30 years old but their exciting storylines continue to delight children, especially boys, who want a fast moving tale packed with action. The two main characters, Hal and Roger Hunt, accompany their zoologist father as he searches for animals for zoos and, in the process, experience many hair-raising adventures and close escapes. Although not quite politically correct by modern standards, these books are exciting enough to keep reluctant readers turning the pages and were responsible for transforming my oldest son into an enthusiastic reader.
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