Words in the Dust is one of those quiet, no fuss books that tend to get lost amongst the popular, well-marketed titles. If I saw this book on the shelf I would, in all honestly, be put off by the old fashioned cover and probably carry on by. But this is a heartfelt, intelligent book and I simply cannot praise it highly enough.
Words in the Dust, written by former soldier Trent Reedy, tells the story of Zulaikha, a young girl living in worn-torn Afghanistan. The Taliban may be defeated, but Zulaikha is bullied daily and shunned because of her cleft lip. Until the day the American’s arrive and offer her a surgery that will transform her life.
Words in the Dust is a rich novel that flows so beautifully, giving an insightful glimpse into a very different culture and way of life. It was heartening to see Zulaikha grow in confidence throughout the book and ultimately choose her own future. One of the aspects I loved most (and found particularly powerful), was how pro-women’s rights the book was, all the while maintaining a respectful understanding of a culture where girls and women do face a lot of limitations. To that end, the authors note at the end is also well worth a read. An excellent book for younger and older readers.
*Many thanks to Frances Lincoln Books for sending this for review*
Published: 5th April 2012
Genre: Horror, Paranormal, Junior Fiction
Recommended Reading Age: 7+
During a round of Truth or Dare, Abby Miller confesses her crush on Jake Chilson. The only people who know her secret are her friends at the sleepover – and whoever sent her a text message in the middle of the night warning her to stay away from Jake…or else!
But Abby isn’t going to stay away from Jake, especially not after he asks her to the school dance.
As the night of the dance comes closer, some very creepy things start happening to Abby. Someone definitely wants to keep her away from Jake. Is it a jealous classmate or, as Abby begins to suspect, could it be a ghost?
Creepover: Truth or Dare, while not something that can really hold my interest now, is a book I know I would have enjoyed in my pre-teen years.
Fans of R.L Stine will most likely enjoy this one – I devoured the Goosebumps series when I was a kid, several of which I found incredibly creepy (I seem to recall a dolls house one that I loved and hated in equal measures). I’d say Truth or Dare is a little tamer, it doesn’t quite manage to hit that level of creepiness that would make this a real memorable story but it’s quite enjoyable nonetheless. Continue reading
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Book
Published: 5th January 2012
Genre: Contemporary, Junior Fiction
Recommended Reading Age: 11+
Lilah May used to be angry. VERY angry. But not any more. She’s got her temper – and her life – back under control. Or has she? Things with her best friend, Bindi, are going from bad to worse. The whereabouts of her brother Jay is still a mystery. And gorgeous Adam Carter is still out of reach. Groo! Can Lilah sort out her family, her friendship and her love life? Or is her anger about to reach all new levels?
Two years ago, Lilah’s older brother, Jay, ran away after she caught him taking drugs. Since then, no one’s heard from him or knows where he is. Eaten up with guilt and worry, with her parents not coping well and her now ex-best friend dating the boy she likes, Lilah’s struggling to keep her anger until control again. Suddenly Jay comes home after sleeping rough on the streets, but it’s not quite a happy reunion she always imagined it would be. Continue reading
I feel particularly bad about not finishing this, since Templar kindly sent it to me for review, and it seems like the kind of book I probably would have enjoyed as a kid. I’m not going to rate it, because if I did based on my own enjoyment it would pretty low and I don’t feel that is exactly fair, given that I not only didn’t finish reading this, but that I’m also roughly fifteen years older than the intended audience.
I have read and thoroughly enjoyed a lot of junior fiction, but this one, for whatever reason, just didn’t click for me. The writing was just too simple and I found the characters un-engaging. Unfortunately I couldn’t warm to the heroine. She was the kind of character who is incredibly naive yet thinks she knows best and basically causes a lot of bother for everyone else along the way. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, I found her bossy and difficult to like. This is quite a long book for its age group and I personally found the story slow going.
This is an unusual story. While the writing is suited to its target audience, this short, historical novel has a sophisticated, intelligent and moralistic edge to it, that reminded me very much of the short novels I studied at school (which I used to enjoy, in case you’re thinking that’s a criticism!) I can actually see this one sitting among them quite comfortably.
‘Paint what you see, Johann; not what you think you see.’ This is the advice that Hugo, master portrait painter, gives to his protege, Johann. But Johann’s talent for painting the truth runs deeper than anyone can ever imagine. Johann soon discovers how changing the portraits he paints, can change the lives of his subjects- from fixing the pox-marked skin of a lowly serving girl, to changing the course of history by painting a petulant and spoiled heir to the empire as a noble ruler. But with the power to bring good fortune to those around him, Johann is soon tempted to change his own…
Published: 2nd February 2012
Genre: Contemporary, Junior Fiction
Recommended Reading Age: 7+
Ramzi’s dad is acting very strangely. He climbs trees in the middle of the night, and even goes into Ramzi’s wardrobe looking for a hen. The trouble is, he’s sleepwalking because he’s homesick for his native Algeria. So Ramzi, Dad and Mum go back to Dad’s Berber village in the desert region of North Africa, and Ramzi meets his Berber grandmother and cousins, and even braves the scary Sheherazad. But can Ramzi help his dad and what will happen when they get back home again.
Multicultural children’s books can, sadly, be difficult to find. A Hen in the Wardrobe is a fun, easy read for children, and despite its quirky title, is, at heart, about mixed families, cultural differences, community and acceptance. There are also some nice little spot illustrations by the author dotted throughout. Continue reading