Book review: Food, fun and friendship at half-term

Food, fun and friendship at half-term
Food, fun and friendship at half-term
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There’s a feast of books on offer for young readers as the countdown begins for the half-term holiday.

If baking gets the creative juices flowing, then tuck into Katy Cannon’s delicious debut teen novel, Love, Lies and Lemon Pies, or make a date with Karen McCombie’s Angels Next Door, a tale of friendship with a magical twist.

For the little ones in the family, there are the adventures of Pigsticks and Harold, Alex Milway’s two adorable animal friends who see the world in very different ways, and the totally out-of-this-world story of The Mouse Who Ate the Moon from the very talented Petr Horáek.

Teen:

Love, Lies and Lemon Pies by Katy Cannon

Switch on the oven, grease the baking tin and open up the first page of Love, Lies and Lemon Pies, Katy Cannon’s perfect sunshine read for all recipe and romance fans.

Baking is the new craze sweeping across the country and this tasty, teasing tale of a girl with a family secret who finds solace in cake-making presses all the right chocolate buttons.

Sixteen-year-old Lottie is on a mission to protect her biggest secret and it will take every lie and every baking trick she can muster. Since her dad died, life hasn’t been the same for Lottie so when her school suggests she joins Bake Club to get her back on track, Lottie reluctantly agrees. The alternative is that the school will pay her mum a home visit and, as far as Lottie is concerned, that’s not an option.

But her doubts about Bake Club melt away as she rekindles her love of baking and gets caught up with Mac, the school rebel and another unwilling Bake Club member. Written off by his teachers as nothing but trouble, the club is his last chance to show willing before he’s kicked out.

As the end-of-year Bake Off approaches, the tension rises. Can Lottie keep up the façade of her perfect life and can her bubbling romance with Mac survive the pressure?

With a Bake Club recipe at the start of each chapter, Love, Lies and Lemon Pies is cooking up a storm with teen readers who can’t get enough of the appetising mix of cakes and cool young love.

Cannon, who has an English Literature degree from Lancaster University, has really put the heat into teen reading with this contemporary romance which feeds so perfectly into the seemingly endless appetite for baking.

Cannon handles serious issues with insight and sensitivity but without losing sight of the natural youthful inclination towards humour and optimism.

Food for thought and food for love…

(Stripes Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman

Tanya Landman is never afraid to tackle thorny topics and in this beautifully written historical novel she explores slavery in America’s Deep South with both sensitivity and humanity.

So what kind of a girl steals the clothes from a dead man’s back and runs off to join the army? A desperate one…

At the end of the American Civil War, Charley, a young African-American slave, is ostensibly freed but then her adopted mother is raped and lynched at the hands of a mob and Charley is left alone.

In a terrifyingly lawless land, where the colour of a person’s skin can bring violent death, Charley disguises herself as a man and joins the army. Soon she is being sent to the prairies to fight a whole new war against the ‘savage Indians.’

Trapped in a world of injustice and inequality, it’s only when Charley is posted to Apache territory that she begins to learn what it is to be truly free…

Immaculately researched and related in a voice that is both authentic and utterly convincing, Buffalo Soldier is a gritty and powerful story about racial identity, gender and the evils of slavery.

A must-read for older teenagers…

(Walker, paperback, £7.99)

April the Red Goldfish by Marjolaine Leray

Translated by Sarah Ardizzone

If there any teens in your house preparing to take the leap to life lived outside the goldfish bowl of home, April the Red Goldfish could be the perfect gift.

April is a teenage fish with issues, a Shakespeare-quoting fish with big ambitions. She doesn’t have an easy time being a goldfish, not least because she is in fact a red fish. Plagued by angst and boredom, April spins round and round in her tank, dreaming of exotic adventures and exciting meetings, while philosophising Hamlet-style on life’s big questions.

How will she ever escape from her glass prison and where will she go? Outside, a black cat is waiting for her and a battle of wits ensues. Who will pull off the ultimate April fool?

French author and illustrator Marjolaine Leray returns with her trademark red scribbles in this exceptionally clever, witty and stylish tale of a young fish’s search for the meaning of life and what it means to be trapped in one’s own goldfish bowl.

The perfect bon voyage gift for any young person desperate to fly the nest or about to embark on their first solo travels…

(Troika, hardback, £8.99)

Age 9 plus:

Jonathan’s Leap by Celia Purcell

Trained ballerina Celia Purcell takes a giant step forward in her novel written specially for boys who dream of dancing.

Things have changed in the 15 years since Billy Elliot first danced across cinema screens and thanks to the success of shows like Strictly Come Dancing and Britain’s Got Talent, dance is popular with boys as never before.

In fact, a recent survey found that dancing is the third most popular career choice for young boys, behind doctor and footballer.

But ballet stories for boys are still thin on the ground, making Purcell’s inspirational story very timely.

Twelve-year-old Jonathan is the only boy in his ballet class. He’s stocky and suffers from a lack of confidence but his teacher can see how talented he is and helps him get a small part in a professional production of Sinbad the Sailor which will be the town’s Christmas pantomime.

Jonathan, who has a troubled home life, is thrust into theatrical training before he can blink and there is no support from his father who has always been against him performing and who has now suddenly disappeared.

It’s a mystery that needs solving and then everything else starts to go wrong. The male soloist has an accident before opening night and there’s a chance for Jonathan to take his place. Can he step up to the mark and will his dad be there to watch him?

A moving reminder that boys like dancing too!

(HultonBooks, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Angels Next Door by Karen McCombie

Bestselling author Karen McCombie has hit on a truly magical formula in this delightfully reassuring and warm series about an angelic pair of girls and their very special brand of friendship.

Young readers will be enchanted by ‘ordinary’ girl Riley, her madcap sort-of-stepsister Dot and the mysterious Angelo sisters who move in next door.

Riley’s best friend has gone away forever and Lauren ‘Queen of Everything’ Mayhew is making school a nightmare. It looks like Riley’s on her own until the Angelo Sisters, with their eyes the colour of skies on different days, move in next door.

Her new neighbours are so different. They’re colourful and sparkly and they stand out. It’s not just their unusual names or how they dress, there’s something magical about them. And since they arrived there have been loads of strange coincidences. Who are these new girls, what’s with all the glitter and why does Riley constantly hear a whisper in her ear that ‘it’s going to be all right’?

McCombie explores themes of friendship, family and school with warmth and understanding without losing sight of her mission to set young imaginations on fire.

Friendship with a heart-melting, magical twist…

(Puffin, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Hank Zipzer: A Tale of Two Tails

Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

Happy Days are here again for Henry Winkler, better known as the Fonz, as he turns author for a sparkling series about the hilarious adventures of a cheeky, loveable boy who doesn’t let his dyslexia get in the way of having fun.

Twelve-year-old Henry ‘Hank’ Zipzer is a smart and resourceful boy with a unique perspective on the world. Hank has dyslexia and, when problems arise, he deals with them in a way no one else would.

Unfortunately, this puts him on a collision course with his teachers and parents who don’t seem to appreciate his latest scheme as much as he thought they would...

But Hank always remains positive and convinced that the next big plan will deliver – after all, tomorrow is another day! In A Tale of Two Tails, Hank and his sister Emily have both entered their pets into the school-mascot competition. Let battle commence!

Funny, entertaining and yet wise and thoughtful too…

(Walker, paperback, 4.99)

Age 5 plus:

Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey by Alex Milway

There is plenty of knockabout fun for school starters in Alex Milway’s illustrated story of two (almost) intrepid animal explorers whose adventures provide laughs on every page.

Meet Pigsticks, the world’s most optimistic pig, and his sidekick Harold, an over-anxious hamster, whose conflicting views of the world around them are pure animal magic.

Pigsticks and Harold set off on a journey to the Ends of the Earth armed only with a sense of adventure (that’s reckless Pigsticks), common sense (straight-thinking Harold)… and a lot of cake. They pick their way through jungles, trek across deserts and climb a huge mountain, but the Ends of the Earth are always just out of reach. And when their last crumb of cake is stolen and it doesn’t look like they will ever make it home again, they finally find the Ends of the Earth – in the last place they would ever think to look!

Pigsticks and Harold are a delightfully off-beat duo who bring with them a breath of big world fresh air and a backpack full of laughter. They’re quirky, wonderfully accident prone and will tickle the funny bone of any child who loves zany humour and madcap adventure.

A colourful and lively story…

(Walker Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Mouse Who Ate the Moon by Petr Horáek

Author and illustrator Petr Horácek really knows how to put the fun into storytelling but he also knows how to touch our hearts and create inventive, loveable and soulful characters.

Take Little Mouse, the new star of a peep-through story book, who finds the moon so beautiful that she longs to have a piece of it all to herself, only to discover that her dearest wish has come true.

Little Mouse loves to look up at the moon every night but one morning, she looks out of her window and there outside is a piece of the moon which has fallen from the sky. And it smells so delicious that she can’t resist taking a little nibble, and another, and another. Soon the moon is no longer round. What will happen to it now?

Full of intriguing shapes, holes and designs to add an exciting dimension to the story and make each page a voyage of visual discovery, this is a hands-on adventure for pre-school children.

Turning the pages and peeking through the holes opens up an enchanting tale of temptation featuring Horácek’s bold and vibrant illustrations.

An ideal story for children getting ready to take the leap from listening to learning to read…

(Walker, hardback, £9.99)

Snowy by Berlie Doherty and Keith Bowen

Stunning, life-like illustrations add extra resonance to this touching and thought-provoking story about a young girl who lives life afloat on a narrowboat.

There are so many wonderful things Rachel loves about living on a boat but most of all she loves Snowy, the beautiful boat horse. When her teacher asks the class to bring their pets, Rachel can’t take Snowy to school because she is a working horse. Rachel is terribly disappointed and hurt by the other children’s teasing… until a very special school outing is organised.

Berlie Doherty is a Carnegie Medal winning author whose stories have been broadcast on radio and serialised for children’s television. This appealing, heartwarming story is brought to vivid life by Keith Bowen’s amazing illustrations which are filled with vibrant colour and capture the atmosphere of each scene perfectly.

A reassuring story that children will return to time and time again…

(Troika, paperback, £6.99)