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A Girl Called Justice: The Ghost in the Garden by Elly Griffiths

A new girl arrives at Highbury House School for the Daughters of Gentlefolk. She’s never been to school before and seems to take great delight in breaking all the rules yet the teachers don’t seem to care. The mischief becomes more serious, however, when one of the girls disappears and a ransom for her return is delivered. With a ghost spotted in the garden and threatening notes being written on the pages of one of her mother’s books, amateur sleuth Justice Jones, has another case on her hands.

Despite being ‘slightly’ older than the intended audience, this is a series that I am loving! Growing up, my favourite books were Enid Blyton’s Five Find Outers series and I have always loved the idea of children becoming amateur sleuths, something that I probably secretly longed to be myself! In Justice Jones, we have a strong, likeable character, one who would not be out of place in any of Blyton’s boarding school books. The supporting cast are just as good, and I particularly like the relationship Justice has with one of the maids, highlighting the class inequality that existed at the time.

This is a well-written mystery story with clues revealed throughout the book, even though you don’t know it at the time. I liked how even what seemed like a throwaway comment ended up forming part of the plot, making you suspicious of everyone and everything!

I’m a huge fan of Elly Griffiths’ Brighton Mysteries and her Ruth Galloway series, and this is another one that has got me hooked!

Henry VIII’s Secret Diary by Terry Deary

Henry VIII, arguably the most famous king of England, is a character that always piques the interest of children. His six wives and his love of all things lavish, makes him the perfect historical character to get younger people interested in history. Now he has been given the Horrible Histories treatment, with a fictional account of his diary, albeit a very accurate piece of fiction!

Henry VIII is the ideal candidate for a book such as this, as there are so many infamous events and controversies throughout his reign. Dealing with the likes of the Pilgrimage of Grace, the Field of the Cloth of Gold and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it is written in a humorous, child-friendly way which gets across the meaning of these significant events without ever appearing too stuffy.

The theme I enjoyed the most was his relationship with the Pope. Knowing that the Break with Rome was a major part of his reign, I found Henry’s changing opinion of the Pope hilarious and the book clearly shows how Henry used religion as a way of achieving his own aims.

The traditional Horrible Histories books have always been a favourite of mine and this looks like it could be another great series.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

A strange beast is stalking the Devon moors and Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr Watson must determine exactly what has caused the death of Sir Charles Baskerville before his nephew meets the same fate. With an escaped convict also in the area, this could prove to be an incredibly dangerous task for the detective.

This is the next installment in the Easy Classics series which aims to introduce classic works to a younger audience. I have read some others in this series (The Empty House, A Study in Scarlet) and thoroughly enjoyed them, and this was no exception. Superbly adapted and illustrated by Stephanie Baudet and Arianna Belluci, this captures the essence of the Conan Doyle classic, retelling the story in a way that is accessible to younger readers without ever compromising the plot.

This is a superb series, one that I thoroughly recommend to anyone wanting to introduce younger readers to Sherlock Holmes. Unfamiliar vocabulary such as hansom cab is also explained, meaning that these are books that children can read independently.

With thanks to Sweet Cherry Publishing and Net Galley for my copy.

The Empty House by Arthur Conan Doyle

It has been three years since Sherlock Holmes plunged to his apparent death in a confrontation with his nemesis, Moriarty, at the Reichenbach Falls. His companion, Dr Watson, is continuing to solve mysteries in his absence and he is about to face the toughest one yet: the locked room murder of Mr Adair. Little does Watson know that help is about to come from a most unexpected source…

This is a fantastic adaptation for children by Stephanie Baudet of the classic Sherlock Holmes story. Despite it being aimed at the younger market, however, I found it a super read and enjoyed it just as much as another of this series, A Study in Scarlet, that I read a while ago. The story has been simplified for younger readers but it has lost none of it’s excitement and sense of mystery. The illustrations also capture the text perfectly, bringing the story alive.

This series by Sweet Cherry Publishing is a perfect way of introducing children to the work of the great Arthur Conan Doyle. It can be purchased from https://www.books2door.com/ at a great price!

With thanks to Sweet Cherry Publishing and Net Galley for my ARC.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

*This review is of the picture book illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole*

Michael Morpurgo’s book about the friendship between a boy and his horse has become a modern classic and with this new illustrated version for younger readers, he is destined to get a whole new audience.

When Albert’s horse, Joey, is sold to the army at the start of World War One, Albert joins up as a private, determined to seek out his friend amongst the thousands of other horses on the battlefields of Europe. As the conflict progresses, both boy and horse witness the horrors of war, never giving up hope that one day they will be reunited.

This book has been adapted by Michael Morpurgo from his original novel, the key events from the story being given in a way that makes it very approachable for young readers. It is hard not to be moved by the story as you see the bond between Albert and Joey and Albert’s determination to find his friend once again. Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measures, this is a powerful tale of friendship and determination that will appeal to all readers.

The illustrations by Tom Clohosy Cole are out of this world, helping to enhance the child’s understanding by providing clear images of life on the battlefront. One illustration in particular made the book for me, that is the depiction of no man’s land. There is so much detail, from the fearful expressions on the soldiers’ faces, the desolation of the battlefields and the distant explosions and fires.

This adaptation of War Horse is a fantastic introduction to Morpurgo’s work for younger readers but it also has so much to offer for all ages. It is worth purchasing for the illustrations alone.

A Girl Called Justice by Elly Griffiths

After the death of her mother, Justice Jones is packed off to Highbury House Boarding School for the Daughters of Gentlefolk. It doesn’t take the young sleuth long to realise that something strange is underfoot. Rumours circulate about the suspicious death of a former maid so when a teacher is also found dead, Justice embarks on a mission to solve the crimes. Putting her own life at risk in the process, will she manage to prevent further tragedies from occurring?

Elly Griffiths is one of my favourite authors and I am a huge fan of both her Ruth Galloway and Stephens & Mephisto series. Some time ago, I bought A Girl Called Justice as a prize for a girl in my class (she’s a fellow crime fiction fan!) and she has since declared it her favourite book and urged me to read it. After letting me borrow her copy, I can see why she enjoyed it so much!

Set in pre-war England, A Girl Called Justice took me right back to my childhood, with memories of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series mixed with her Five Find Outers books. Justice is a great character: despite the tragic reasons for her being at the boarding school, her tenacity shines through from the second she discovers that something is afoot at Highbury House. I liked how she didn’t really fit in with the rest of the girls, breaking the rules to befriend one of the maids instead, although I was pleased when she found a kindred spirit amongst the other girls in her dorm.

The mystery is well-paced with enough gruesomeness to keep children enthralled without ever being too scary. This is exactly the sort of book I would have loved when I was a child, and I am looking forward to reading the follow-up, The Smugglers’ Secret. My pupil has already told me that this is on her reading list!

 

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I have always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes and so when I saw that a series had been published, aiming to bring the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to a younger audience, I couldn’t wait to read it. After reading a few books with some grisly moments in them, it was also a much-needed lighter read than some of my recent ones!

As many people will already know, the mystery starts with the baffled police summoning consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, to the scene of a murder. A man, believed to be E. J. Drebber, has been found dead in an empty house, with no obvious cause of death. It is up to Holmes and his new companion, Dr. John Watson, to discover the truth about the death and solve the case.

Although this is a book that is targeted at children aged 7+, I admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it, the story sticking to the plot that we know and love yet simplified for a younger audience. I loved the illustrations from Arianna Bellucci and also the explanations of terms that children may not be aware of, such as ‘hansom cab’.

I am pleased to see that this is part of a series – The Sherlock Holmes Children’s Collection, and would definitely recommend it to anyone with children who are beginning to express an interest in crime fiction. Or, if you are like me, you might just enjoy it yourself!

With thanks to Sweet Cherry Publishing and Net Galley for my copy.

 

**BLOG TOUR** Wojtek: War Hero Bear by Jenny Robertson

When a bear cub is adopted by a group of Polish soldiers during the Second World War, little did everyone know that he would become a fully-fledged member of the army, helping out his comrades in some of the fiercest battles of the campaign. Not knowing anything other than army life, when the war is over and the soldiers move to Scotland, what will happen to Wojtek?

Although this book is aimed at 9-12 year-olds, I think that all ages will enjoy this delightful tale of how friendship and hope can exist even in the darkest of times. Orphaned at a young age, Wojtek finds a kindred spirit in Piotr, a Polish soldier who has been forced to leave his wife and children in order to fight in the war. It was heartbreaking to read about how these men had endured tremendous hardship, not knowing if their families had survived or even where they were. The author has done a tremendous job in conveying the horrors of war without making it too difficult to read for younger readers.

Even if this had been a complete work of fiction, I would have found the character of Wojtek truly fascinating and entertaining. Wojtek, however, is not fiction and was a member of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, helping to move ammunition during the Battle of Monte Cassino. I often found myself laughing at his antics whether it be at the thought of him sitting alongside Piotr in one of the army trucks or when he was indulging in one of his favourite pastimes – drinking beer! This was a stark contrast to how I felt when reading about Piotr’s missing family, which was unbelievably heartbreaking.

Although some of the account has been fictionalised, such as some of the army characters, much of the book is based on real events. When reading a book such as this, a sign that the author has succeeded in telling the story well is that I have a desire to find out more about the facts behind the fiction. I have already read up on Wojtek and some of his exploits during and after the war since reading this book so that is definitely a good sign!

Wojtek: War Hero Bear is a great read – you don’t have to be a child to enjoy it!

With thanks to BC Books for my copy of Wojtek and also to Kelly at Love Books Group for organising the blog tour.

Take a look at the rest of the blogs on the tour:

Outbreak by C. Alexander London

imageWhen Sinead Starling, a family member and former friend, is seen stealing a deadly virus, the rest of the Cahill family know that they must act quickly in order to get to the truth. Is she about to unleash it on the world or is the traitor trying to stop the virus from getting out? The fate of the world lies with the Cahills, led by 14-year-old Dan, and takes our heroes across the planet on another dangerous mission.

Ever since the release of The Maze of Bones in 2008, the 39 Clues series has been a guilty pleasure of mine. Ok, the books may be aimed at children aged 8-12, but their emphasis on adventure and world history grabbed my attention from the start! Since the first book, our intrepid heroes have travelled the world, foiling disasters and now, in Outbreak, it seems as though their time is coming to an end as this is reportedly the last in the series.

Outbreak sees the return of Sinead Starling, a character we have not seen for some time. After previously betraying the family, the Cahills must decide if it is time to allow her back into the fold. A theme of forgiveness runs throughout the book as we are reminded of not just what Sinead did, but also of what actions some of the other characters have carried out throughout the series. Set mainly in Cuba and the Bermuda Triangle, the book is, as always, fast-paced and exciting as we wait to see if the virus that is threatening to take over the world can be eliminated.

There does seem to be an air of finality about the last chapter and, unlike other books, it does not appear to lead into a new story. This would be an ideal way to end the franchise. I have always thought that the 39 Clues would transfer well to the cinema or TV screen so, hopefully, this will happen one day.

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