Early Teen

Dr Franklin’s Island

Shadow of the Minotaur

Floodland

Stravaganza City of Stars

Mickey’s Little Book of Letters

Child X

Bootleg

Walk Two Moons


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Dr Franklin’s Island

Author: Ann Hallam

Publisher: Orion 2001

ISBN: 1-8588-1396-4

This tells the story of Miranda, Semi and Arnie, who are the sole survivors of a plane crash. They manage to swim to a small tropical island, where they become the victims of Dr Franklin who is into genetic engineering in a big way. The three teenagers become his victims. They are turned into animals.

Much of the story deals with how they cope with their new bodies and how they eventually get back. But there is a strong sub-plot about how they deal with relationships. All three are different after their experience.

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Shadow of the Minotaur

Author: Alan Gibbons

Publisher: Orion Children’s

ISBN: 1-8588-1721-8

Phoenix very much resents the family move from London to the backwater of Brownleigh. It is deadly boring there and he is being bullied by Steve Adams and his gang. His only friend is Laura. But one thing is interesting, the new computer game his father is developing. It goes beyond normal virtual reality. By wearing a special suit, you really feel as if you are in the game. And there comes a point when the only way out is to conquer the Minotaur.

We are not sure, as we read, whether the world of the Greek legends has found a new expression through the new technology, or whether the new technology is using an old idea. Whichever way round it is, we are thrilled to find out that both the ancient world and the inside of the computer game have far more hold over us than we could imagine. From start to finish, the book is exciting and full of mystery.

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Floodland

Author: Marcus Sedgwick

Publisher: Orion 2000

ISBN: 1-8588-1763-3

Zoe has lost her parents. She lives in a possible England of the future, where the sea has swamped the land and Norwich, where she lived, has been cut off. Her parents left her behind by accident when the supply ship took them to the mainland. But Zoe finds a boat. And this becomes her way of escape – eventually.

We follow Zoe’s adventure as she escapes the marauding gangs on Norwich, only to meet another strange group on Eels island. It is there that she meets the strange William Blake who tells her of the importance of story, and of what distinguishes humans from animals. This novel is exciting in that we are never sure whether Zoe and her boat will make it to the mainland. It is disturbing in that it poses the question of what might happen world wide if we don’t put a halt to global warming.

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Stravaganza City of Stars

Author: Mary Hoffman

Publisher: Bloomsbury 2004

ISBN: 0-7475-6500-7

This is the story of how Georgia becomes a Stravaganti, when she buys a small winged horse from Mr Goldsmith’s bric-à-brac shop. The talisman takes her to Talia, to the City of Stars where she becomes involved with the life of horse races and intrigues there.

Mary Hoffman has cleverly woven together the magical story of the birth of a flying horse in an enchanting society and the story of a teenage girl who loves horses, is a little overweight and is bullied by her step-brother. She uses poetic language in her rich descriptions of that other world, and a plainer language which will speak to any 21st Century teenage girl for the scenes in our world.

City of Stars is an uplifting story for any young adult. We watch Georgia grow and triumph in both worlds, and in an extraordinary brave act which helps someone less fortunate than herself and involves both worlds.

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Mickey’s Little Book of Letters

Author: Jeri Kroll

Publisher: Lothian 2004

ISBN: 0-7344-0686-X

Mickey loves writing and has a great imagination. She is upset about the recent death of her beloved Nana, about her parents always arguing and about her best friend having moved away. At school, she has to put up with the bully gang, the Greasy Hand. Mickey finds relief from all of this by writing letters to the people in her life. Many of the letters are not even sent. She does, though, send a proposal for a science fiction film to George Lucas.

Jeri Kroll has invented a sensitive, loveable character in Mickey. We get to know her through the letters she writes. She worries about her hair – which tends to get out of control and is very curly. She refuses to wear black for her Nana’s funeral and insists instead on wearing a favourite tie-die shirt, which her grandmother had made for her. In these ways she resembles any teenager. She is not a stereotype, however. There is much more to Mickey than just that she is an adolescent.

An intriguing story emerges through these letters. A difference in tone and font is used for each person to whom Mickey is writing. At times we laugh, and other times we cry. Whichever happens, we really feel that we know Mickey by the end of the book.

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Child X

Author: Lee Weatherly

Publisher: Corgi 2003

ISBN: 0-5525-4800-6

Jules suddenly becomes the centre of media attention. Dad has left and for a long time; she does not know why. She gradually finds out. Her life is turned upside down. At the same time, she is becoming a successful actor, performing the part of Lyra in a stage version of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights.

Family break-up is a familiar enough theme in children’s and young adult literature, but in this book, we get so close to Jules that we can actually feel her suffering. The story is exciting because we keep wondering whether we are going to find out what has happened to make her dad go away, and whether she will ever get back together with him. The words that we read are more often Jules’ own words and not the author’s. We have a real sense of her character as the story progresses.

This is a gripping read and keeps us guessing until the end, which is unusual for this sort of book. I personally found it very difficult to put down, and very much looked forward to reading Missing Abby, another of Lee’s stories.

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Bootleg

Author: Alex Shearer

Publisher: Macmillan 2003

ISBN: 0-3304-1562-X

The Good For You Party has banned chocolate. Smudger and Huntley decide to do something about it. They set up a bootleg operation and even manage, for a while, to operate an underground eateasy.

It all starts off being unbelievably stereotyped and symbolic of all sorts of things probably only adults understand – Prohibition, the Nanny State, and the Hitler Youth. It seems slightly ridiculous – a political party which dictates how you should look after yourself – and what ordinary people then start doing as a consequence. Even some of the characters use language a tad too cleverly for the children they’re supposed to be. But when you take the satire to the full limit, it all makes sense. Suddenly you are hooked and want the good guys to overthrow the Good For You Party.

This is a novel full of humour and may appeal to the boys. Then, in contrast to the humour, we are asked to feel sorry for Frankie Crawley, who only acts as such a perfect Young Pioneer so that the Troopers will not treat has brother so badly. We are also asked to rejoice at the romance between Mrs Bubby and Blades.

On the whole, worth a go.

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Walk Two Moons

Author: Sharon Creech

Publisher: Macmillan

ISBN: 0-3303-9783-4

Sal’s Mum has left her and her Dad. The same has happened to her new friend Phoebe. Sal goes on a pilgrimage with her grandparents to find out the truth about her mother.

Sharon Creech has cleverly woven all three stories together in a way which keeps the reader guessing and turning the pages right to the very end of the book. All of the characters are rounded, believable and lovable. They all have their fair share of virtues and faults.

Walk Two Moons gets its title from one of the proverbs which are left periodically on Phoebe’s doorstep, adding another layer of mystery to the plot. Creech gives us the opportunity to walk two moons in the moccasins of Phoebe, Sal, their mothers and Gram and Gramps. A touching story, beautifully written.

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Page last updated 22 July 2007