Frost Hollow Hall
Written by Emma Carroll
Faber & Faber (eB) £6.99
A slight case of trespass at Frost Hollow Hall, leads Tilly Higgins to be skating on a not fully frozen lake, with the inevitable result that she falls through the thin ice. However, she is saved by a mysterious benevolent spirit. Tilly is convinced that this is the spirit of Kit, the son of the house, who drowned in that same lake in the same circumstances. Tilly also recognises that he is a very troubled ghost. She manages to get a job at the hall and becomes aware of another spirit, also troubled, but this one is malevolent. Although just a maid, Tilly manages to convince Kit’s mother, the mistress of the house, about her experiences and a séance is arranged. The results are surprising! This is an interesting ghost story for young readers as it is not too scary, but never lets the reader’s interest waver, with just enough mysterious happenings to satisfy.
The Wells Bequest
Written by Polly Shulman
OUP (eB) £6.99
This is the second title to centre on the New York Circulating Material Repository, a multi-level library for objects rather than books. Whereas the earlier title, The Grimm Legacy, was concerned with fairytale objects, the items in this volume are all connected to science fiction. When Leo’s science teacher suggests that he heads to the Repository to research his Science Fair project, Leo has no idea what kind of adventure he is embarking upon. Not only does he meet a great girl, Jaya, and get a part-time job at the fascinating Repository, he also gets the opportunity to explore his original, apparently impossible, project idea, time travel. Full of clever connections with existing stories by authors such as H.G.Wells and Jules Verne, along with thought-provoking conundrums about the nature of time and reality, this is a stimulating story for imaginative readers.
The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth
Written by Mackenzie Crook
Faber & Faber (eB) £9.99
The actor Mackenzie Crook has written a truly off-beat, whimsical and quirky novel unlike anything else around. No werewolves, vampires or wizards here. Not even a hero in the usual sense, for Benjamin Tooth is a self-opinionated young chap who declares his genius to all and sundry and who has few attractive qualities. He despises his mother and makes sardonic comments about almost everyone he meets. The one person he likes is a girl whom he misjudges and who wisely marries someone else. By the end, he has become so obsessed with his desire for greatness that he has hardly any humanity left and is a fanatical recluse, dressed as a deer and eating grass. However, such strange behaviour has led him to discover the existence of what he hesitates to call ‘fairies’ but prefers to call ‘sprites’. The strange story is told in journal form with Benjamin recounting his strange meetings with eccentric characters and giving idiosyncratic details about his life including his bizarre meals, “Dined today of pig’s ankles and blancmange” and his mother’s illnesses, “Mother abed with Yellowing of the Elbow”. It is intriguing, funny and absolutely one of its kind.
Monkey Nuts: The Diamond Egg of Wonders
Written by Robin and Lawrence Etherington
David Fickling (R) £6.99
The Diamond Egg of Wonders is the first book in the Monkey Nuts series and the debut graphic novel from The Etherington Brothers. It stars a crime fighting duo, the like of which we have never seen before. Sid, the monkey, and Rivet, the robot, make up the intrepid team that live on the Isla De Monstera. In their first adventure, the unlikely heroes have to uncover the truth behind a mysterious signal that makes the locals of the island fly into an uncontrollable rage. As if that wasn’t enough, they also have to track down the eponymous ‘Diamond Egg of Wonders’. I have rarely read anything that is so simultaneously exciting and amusing. The characters are hilarious and it is not often that a mystery is solved by a tap-dancing monkey and a coffee-producing robot. The illustrations are extraordinary with each panel containing much detail, immersing the reader completely. This book has everything that could be hoped for: action, adventure, humour and a sarcastic talking coconut.
A Home for Teasel
Written by Margi McAllister
This book will excite and delight all young pony-loving girls. It has the right amount of equine descriptions, including the grooming and mucking out, together with mystery, hope and friendship. Reminiscent of Lauren Brooke and K. M. Peyton, this will definitely be a winner. Gwen longs for a pony of her own but her family cannot afford one. She takes on various part-time jobs in order to supplement her ‘pony fund’ as one day she is determined to have her own pony. Her family does not understand her obsession and she is teased and mocked by her siblings and parents. Then, Gwen is asked to help an elderly lady who can no longer do her own shopping and it is with great surprise and delight when she discovers Teasel, who also needs looking after. Gwen’s whole life changes as she and Teasel develop an unbelievable bond but when the old lady is taken into a home, Gwen and Teasel’s relationship is threatened. Teasel is moved to new stables and Gwen must find a way to see her again. The result is an adventure for both of them with a satisfying result.
Jinx: The Wizards Apprentice
Written by Sage Blackwood
Quercus (eB) £6.99
The reader meets Jinx, a young boy, just as his wicked stepfather is ready to abandon him in the dark wood of Urwald, a dangerous place where people who step off the True Path rarely return. Jinx is saved by a wizard when a group of trolls turn up. The wizard, Simon Magus, shields Jinx from the trolls using his magic but his stepfather is not so lucky! Thus begins Jinx’s adventures, growing up as a wizard’s apprentice. We see the world through the eyes of Jinx and, as he meets the diverse cast of characters, including the forest itself, we get to know him as a character and become engrossed with how his journey will end. It’s an entertaining fantasy with a great storyline, and more adventures will appear in future titles. Sage Blackwood has a good eye for capturing the nature and relationships between characters, often in a very humorous way. The story and adventures keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next and putting Jinx at the heart of the story makes the cast of characters and the forest of Urwald very believable.
Written by Linda Newbery
Barrington Stoke £6.99
Here is a quick-read that powerfully conveys the reality of what happened in World War I. Linda Newbery has written brilliant longer novels for teens about this war and this is a clever distillation. When Tilly’s sweetheart, Harry, joins up he promises to look after her brother, Georgie, whose mind is much younger than his body. Tilly makes a promise too. Neither can hope to keep the promises made when they do not understand the realities of war, but they soon learn. The worst horrors are hinted at, and this lack of sensationalism leaves room for the reader’s imagination. Readers identify with the characters and experience their pain. Tilly and Harry survive the war so there is a happy ending of sorts, but they are older, wiser and deeply sad about the losses of others they have loved. Published by the dyslexia-friendly Barrington Stoke, this will appeal to teens struggling with reading but also to other readers too.