‘Insignia’ by S. J. Kincaid

This is an explosion of a book. It’s full of unlimited possibilities and imagination. I found it a bit mindboggling at times; this didn’t stop me piling through the pages of what is a beautifully written read. I think Kincaid had fun writing this book – the characters are all full of attitude and have strong personalities. It has a unique storyline, with what I am going to call bad guys and traitors. It takes the characters to places you’d never expect them to go and has a whole lot of twists. It’s a funny story with happy and mischievous bits at times. It’s both a sci-fi and an action book (there’s probably an actual category of books like this one!).

It is set years from now, where World War 3 is being fought between the Indo-Americans (America and India) and the Russo-Chinese (Russia and China) in space using spaceships controlled by army trained teenagers using Virtual Reality and a computer called a ‘neural processor’ (this is inserted into their brains).

The teenagers are all incredibly talented video gamers from all over America and India. Why do they use teenagers? Because they are the only age group who can handle it; anybody else will go mad or die. But the war is more or less a game for territory in space and money for the big companies and corporations. And, in America, the teenagers train and fight at the Pentagonal Spire which is a tower that has been built at the Pentagon.

The story is about 14 year old Tom Raines (he’s a bit naughty!) who loves gaming and VR and is incredibly good at it. He has a homeless gambling addict of a dad and goes to school in VR. But one day his world is changed when he is spotted by the U.S military and is offered a place at the training facility to become one of the fighters. He is overwhelmed with joy and wants to go so much but his dad does not really like the idea and goes on about how you’ll never be repaid or honoured. But Tom goes none the less. He makes friends and enemies as soon as he arrives but needless to say anyone can be a traitor and even people you think you know well.

I would highly recommend this if you like sci-fi and action books. I loved this book and if you read it I hope you do too. I think there is a sequel to this book and if there is I want to read it so bad! Another thing in the book it says Albert Einstein once said ‘ I know not what World War 3 will be fought with but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones’ and of course this isn’t happening.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘Hover Car Racer’ by Matthew Reilly

I’ve read this book five times. I’d read it again (it’s a quick read). It’s up there on my list of all time favourites. The book has everything – twists, turns, fantastic characters and a fast-paced, addictive, storyline. What’s funny is how this sci-fi book doesn’t stand out in bookshops and libraries (I lend books from two different libraries). I just picked it up off the shelf one day, read it and found it’s one hell of a read. It also has that funny twinge of comedy and it actually made me laugh at random times.

At the start of the book it says it’s set: “A few years from now”. I wonder, as the book was written in 2004, why don’t we have hover technology yet?

The book is about, 14-year-old, Jason Chaser who has a talent for hover car racing (hardly a surprise given the book’s title!). Jason dreams of becoming a pro racer. His younger brother (he’s 12) is AKA ‘The Bug’ and he’s the hover car’s navigator. He helps Jason to make plans. He’s good at it because he’s clever (he can tell you what 654 x 357 is in 2 seconds!).

Their talent as racers is spotted at a race by a teacher from the International Race School in Tasmania (the school actually owns Tasmania, so they have huge race courses for the hover cars). The teacher offers them a place at the school. This gives Jason a chance to become a pro racer.

When he gets to the school, Jason makes friends with Ariel Piper who is the first ever girl to enter the race school.

It becomes obvious quickly that someone is intent on stopping him and Ariel from winning anything or becoming something big. It’s a story you can read with little effort; you just go with the flow. I recommend this book to anyone who likes fast-paced sci-fi thrillers (I’d say that’s most kids!). I’d say kids of any age could read it. The only hard bit for younger reads is that there are lots of characters and they can be hard to keep up with. I liked this, but some kids might get confused by this.

Review by Finn Buck aged 12.hover-car-racer

 

‘A Million Dollar Gift’ by Ian Somer

This is the first of a series of books and a debut novel for Irish writer Ian Somer. I think he’s done well. This book has all the right plot, pieces, characters and ideas for an action thriller. The book’s 400 pages go past fast.  It’s an easy read with no difficult words. These supernatural books just seem to find me no matter what. This is also a really interesting book. I look forward to reading the whole series to learn more. There’s one thing I really like about this book and it might just be how the main character is Irish.

It’s about 17 year old Ross Bentley who lives in Maybrook, Ireland. He has one friend called Gemma (he likes being by himself). He works at the local supermarket and has psychic powers (he can move things with his mind). Yes, the book mixes the boring with the cool. He lives with just his dad because his Mum died from a heart attack when he was 11. The sadness lead to him discovering his power. No one knows he has this power; though in the book he does end up telling his Dad and Gemma.

In the book we are introduced to Ross as he films a mad stunt he’s doing on his skateboard. He puts it on the Internet without telling anyone who he is. He tries not to use his powers for bad. I’m not sure I could stop myself

He finds out about a contest in London called the Million Dollar Gift in which, if you have any supernatural power, you win a million Euros/Pounds/Dollars. They are looking for people with powers! Ross decides to enter because his family needs the money and once there he shows them his power. Of course it can’t be this simple … it isn’t.

As soon as he shows off his powers, he finds he has thrown himself into an unpredictable world of the true gifts. The true gifts are powers like telekinesis, super speed (called warper) and 13 more like that. Then there are the power hungry, greedy, powerful people who want you dead which isn’t a very nice thought … Ross’s experiences make for a great action packed story. It’s also a funny book.

The book is written so that you have to read the next book. I highly recommend this if you like supernatural books because I know I love them. I ripped through this book and I am hopeful for more in the sequel. Anyone reading this book will enjoy all the cool powers the characters have!

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘Department 19’ By Will Hill

This is a very crazy book; loads happens in its absolutely wild and feral storyline. The book is pretty long but very exciting; it keeps you on the edge of your seat and is a totally worthwhile read. It’s sort of a spin off of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, with the characters each having ancestors who featured in it (some are the actual characters from Dracula because this book contains flashbacks from the original).

The book is set up neatly and nicely. Will Hill has worked hard to make this happen. It all ticks along nicely page after page (and there are 490 pages). I was unsure of this book after reading the blurb. I decided to give it a try and boy was I surprised. It was much better than the blurb made it sound. I really liked it.

The book is about a boy called Jamie Carpenter who is 16 years old. He lives in England with his mum. He has no friends and is bullied at school because his Dad, Julian Carpenter, had supposedly been a terrorist and been shot dead in front of Jamie. This back story would probably make a pretty good book!

One day his life changes. He meets a weird girl called Larissa and it turns out she’s a vampire sent to kill him. For some reason, she doesn’t. It gets worse. His Mum is kidnapped by Alexandru, the second oldest vampire in the world. If you can believe it, Frankenstein’s monster turns up (it has adopted its creator’s name). Frankenstein’ takes Jamie to a place called Department 19, which is the country’s kind of ministry for hunting vampires. It’s also known as Blacklight (it’s kind of a company as well). The Department’s job is to slay vampires.

When he arrives inside, somewhat dramatically, a victim of a vampire attack is wheeled in and so is Larissa. Turns out Larissa is a vampire. She’s been injured by another vampire, but has been arrested for attacking this victim whose name is Matt. Jamie is still taking all these happenings in, when he finds out his Dad wasn’t a terrorist. Instead, he had been a traitor to Blacklight, by giving information to vampires about one of its operations, causing the death of many people.

To save his Mum, Jamie decides he wants to become a Blacklight operative called an ‘Operator’ (they only have one job – killing vampires!), so he goes through 24 hours of brutal training and learns as much as he can about Blacklight and vampires. They get a few leads on where Alexandru and his Mum are but a few of them are tricks and traps. Larissa offers to help and Jamie agrees. This is frowned upon by a lot of the Blacklight operatives (she’s a vampire!).

While this is happening, in Russia, Valeri, one of the brothers of Alexandru, and a pack of other vampires,  have launched an attack on a Russian military base and stolen the contents of one of Blacklight’s vaults. Those contents are Dracula’s ashes. They’ll use them to try to resurrect Dracula. Alexandru launches an attack on a small island called Lindisfarne killing many people and leaving just a few survivors who manage to get to the mainland. Blacklight only send in a small team because they think the Russia incident is more important, The team is Jamie, Larissa, a man called Thomas Morrison, who Jamie had became friends with, and two Blacklight operatives called McBride and Stevenson. Valeri is long gone by the time they get there.

The Blacklight team get to Lindisfarne and find a lot of dead and dying people. One girl called Kate, who is about Jamie’s age, is alive. They see a ancient monastery and take a wild guess that Alexandru and Jamie’s Mum are in there.

Read the book to find out the rest and boy will you be surprised. There are a few sort of flashback stories in between the chapters of the book and those are what make it so long. I recommend this to over 12s who like adventure and fantasy sort of books (it’s not a horror even though it has lots of Dracula and Frankenstein references). The book’s characters are written very well; they are believable (even if the book is totally unbelievable!). This book is one of a series; I am yet to read the rest.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck

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‘TimeRiders’ by Alex Scarrow

This as an alright book with a good enough idea. The story is just a bit all over the place and parts of it get boring. It tells you about history, what the future could be and what we might not know. It can get a bit weird at times.   It shows what humanity could make of itself and become. I found parts of this book full of interesting ideas; other bits could have been left out. I recommend it to older readers because of the violent and gory parts (if it was a film it might be over 18s!).

The basics of the storyline (and it’s messed up and hard to explain) are that in 2044 a time machine has been invented. It’s not used now. It’s banned and time travel is illegal because of catastrophic effects to the future it causes. It has three main characters. A teenage Liam O’Connor from 1912, Maddy Carter from 2010 and Sal Vikram from 2026. Moments before their deaths, they are all saved by a man called Foster. They have all been brought to 2001, to a small office, a place underneath an archway of the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City. It’s called the Agency. The Agency stops people from destroying the world with time travel. It tries to maintain time lines.

The Agency is in a two day ‘time bubble’ which keeps repeating on the 10th and 11th of September. The Agency also works with things called support units which are robots who are incredibly human-like. The original robot is called Bob and they use him all the time.

They are all assigned certain roles by Foster. Liam is the field agent who goes with Bob through time, Maddy is the team leader and Sal is the observer who notices shifts in time (changes in time). For a training exercise, Foster takes Liam and Bob into the past to change something and the girls, Maddy and Sal, have to figure out what it was. The Boys go back to 22nd of November 1963 in Dallas, Texas, where they stop Lee Harvey Oswald from killing John F. Kennedy. The girls figure out what it was that was changed. They tell the boys when they come back and then the boys go back again to restore the time.

Not long after, the time line is altered by a Dr Paul Krammer and a group of men lead by Karl Hass. They have travelled from 2066 to Germany on April 15th 1941. They did it using the first time machine made by a guy called Roald Waldstein. They launch an attack on Hitler’s base. Once inside, they strike a deal with Hitler and help him win the war using knowledge and technology from the future. When the war is over, Krammer takes over from Hitler.

In 2001, Sal notices the time shift and quickly tells the team. Bob and Liam are sent back  to the exact time the Americans surrendered to the German forces, After gathering information, they manage to miss their two time windows to get back. Liam gets transported to a prison camp and Bob decides (instead of going back home with the information) to save him.

The book doesn’t stay with the German storyline. It seeks jumping around. This gets a bit annoying and hard to understand. Like, also in 2001, another time shift happens where New York is turned into a wasteland with little mutant cannibal creatures who roam around in huge packs. This seems to make no sense when you are reading the book.

At this point, the rest of the team are trying to get Liam and Bib back but their time travel generator run out of diesel and they need to get more. They obviously get more. Meanwhile, back in 1941 Germany, Bob has started raiding prison camps to find Liam. Prisoners have joined with him, indirectly starting a small resistance. After six whole months (time in the past isn’t the same as the present), Bob finds Liam and frees him.

This couldn’t happen quick enough, as Krammer has gone insane and built a bomb connected to the time machine he used to get there. It has the power to end humanity. He detonates it a week after its built (Liam and Bob have gotten back to 2001 by now). How are they going to save the world? Liam remembers writing in a guest book when he visited the national history museum while in New York and comes up with the idea of putting a message in it for the team to read in 2001. So he sneaks in with Bob and sets up a bunch of hidden clues to get to the message he’s written in the book.

In 2001, Foster coincidentally (yes, it gets a bit far-fetched, but this is a book about time travel!) remembers the guest book as well and finds the message which has the coordinates for a time window. On the way back, they walk into a trap set by the mutant creatures and Sal is taken and presumably killed, but then Foster assures Maddy that she’ll come back if they restore the time. When they get back, they start charging up the generator for a time window for the set coordinates, but unfortunately the mutant creatures break into the office through weak points.

Luckily (yes, again!), Bob and Liam turn up just in time to save Foster and Maddy. They inform Foster of what happened in the past and they are sent back to the time where Krammer got into Germany and they stop him – they do this pretty violently.

Back in 2001, when the timeline has been restored, Sal appears back with no memory of what happened and Foster bids them farewell because he is dying and he just walks out of the time bubble. There are lots of bits like this which aren’t really explained.

Overall, this is an exciting book with an ok storyline but it gets boring at times. It is trying to fit too much in. It’s overly complicated and some bits are coincidental to the point of being silly. This could have been a better book.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life’ by James Patterson

This comedic book is hilarious, interesting and all round incredible. James Patterson has found a way to make you laugh while making you think. It’s a very funny book. It’s also a rebellious book. It appeals to me and I expect it’d appeal to anyone in their middle school years. As I’m Irish, I don’t get any of specific references to elementary school, middle school and grades – we call them different things.
The book is full of cartoons. I used to read lots of these types of books. I think this is what makes this book this book (if you get me). Now I’m older I use my own imagination while reading, but pictures help younger kids (like my sisters).
The book is based on a really good idea. It is about 12 year old Rafe Khatchadorian who has an amazing creative imagination. He’s a good character. It’s Rafe’s first day of 6th grade in his new school. I expect many kids feel a bit odd on their first day and so does Rafe. When I say many kids, I mean the new kids with no actual school friends.
Things get worse because Miller the Killer, a bully, is already onto him even though he’s trying not to get noticed.
Rafe’s only friend, Leo the Silent, is imaginary. This doesn’t stop them being great friends! Their relationship is a bit weird (of course!).
Jeanne, one of the prettiest girls in the school, doesn’t know he exists. He wants her to though.
From Rafe’s point of view, 6th grade is like being in a prison. The teachers in the school seem intent on making the students obey many rules – and there really are a lot of rules. Rafe thinks up an idea which he calls Operation R.A.F.E. The objective is to break every single rule in the school. Leo and Rafe think up funny ways to do this.
At home, Rafe lives with his Mum, his little sister, Georgina, and his lazy Mum’s boyfriend, ‘Bear’. Rafe starts to get into trouble for breaking the rules and his Mum freaks out. Eventually Rafe stops Operation R.A.F.E. and tries to cool it down to normal. But it’s not going very well; it seems he’s going to flunk 6th grade, so with Leo’s help, he comes up with a major plan.
He draws loads onto one of the school walls. He thinks it’s amazing but his teachers don’t. Then, that night, Bear hurts his Mum in a fight and he calls the police. His Mum kicks Bear out of the house.
Rafe is going to get expelled from his school. This isn’t so bad because Rafe’s art teacher recommends an art school he can go to.
I recommend this book if you like funny, rebellious, book. This series of books has been very successful. There’s even a movie. I’ve seen a bit of it and it was funny but not as funny as the book.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ by C.S. Lewis

This fantastic book really packs a punch. It has a great storyline set in an amazing fantasy world. I love the idea of it all. There’s a whole world of ideas here. Everything in the book just comes together so well. It’s like an emotional rollercoaster. At times it’s sad; at times its happy and so on. It has really great characters which, even though it’s a fantasy book, would not seem out of place in the non-fantasy world (with the exception of the supernatural creatures – who’d probably find our world weird!). The characters just seem to jump off the page and come to life in your head.

It’s set in England during World War Two where four siblings: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy have moved to a professor’s house in the countryside to get away from German air raids (my Grandad was sent to Ireland, so I get this). They are a bit bored in the house (no TV!). To pass the time, they run around the house playing hide and seek. When I got to this bit, I started thinking: ‘where’s the wardrobe?’ You can’t help it – this is such a famous book. It was read to me when I was younger.

Anyway, Lucy decides to hide in a wardrobe (!) and it turns out this is a gateway to a mythical world called Narnia. In Narnia it’s winter. Lucy finds herself in this snowy place. She looks around and sees a strange man thing called Mr Tumnus. He’s a Faun (half man, half goat). Lucy is utterly shocked, but Mr Tumnus is extremely nice and kind to her. He tells her that Narnia is in winter all the time at the moment because of the evil snow queen. Lucy spends quite a while talking, but she gets cold and wants to go home. She walks back into the magic woods.

When Lucy gets back through the wardrobe into the professor’s house, it turns out she has only been gone for a minute; when she thinks it was hours! She thinks she has time to go in again and does, but this time Edmund follows her. His timing is terrible – the evil Snow Queen arrives and talks to him. She gives him magical Turkish delight and hot chocolate. The are so lovely they just make him want more no matter what. He’s addicted! He wants more so badly, he’ll do anything the snow queen wants. She keeps asking questions. He tells her about his family.

She promises him more of the magical treats if he brings his siblings to her. He agrees. It isn’t him who brings them to Narnia, its actually, if you can believe it, some sort of weird paranormal activity (Narnia is not a normal place and you get there in weird ways). They all find themselves in Narnia.

Almost as soon as they arrive, they meet a talking beaver who tells them to come to his house. When they get to the talking beaver’s, they talk about going to find Aslan the Lion at a place where there’s a stone table. I think Aslan is mean to be kind of like a god.

Edmund, being addicted to those treats, slips off to tell the Snow Queen where the others are and that they are going to the stone table. This time he doesn’t get more Turkish Delight; instead he gets bread and finds himself a prisoner. The Snow Queen sends some wolves to the beaver’s house. Luckily, they have already left and are on their way to the stone table. On the way, they meet Father Christmas who gives them all presents! Peter gets a sword, Susan gets a bow and quiver and Lucy is given a dagger and healing potion. This bit of the book makes you smile.

While that is happening, the Snow Queen is fast making her way after them. When the kids make it to the stone table, the Snow Queen’s wolves attack, but they are beaten by the forces of Aslan’s warriors. The free Edmund. They meet Aslan at the stone table. He talks to Edmund who realises what he has done.

Aslan also talks to the Snow Queen. Nobody realises it then, but Aslan has agreed to be sacrificed on the stone table. They move away from the stone table to the side of a river where they make camp. That night, the girls, Susan and Lucy, can’t sleep. They go with Aslan as he walks toward the stone table. They reach a point  where he says they cannot go any further; they follow him anyway and see him being sacrificed.

Aslan comes back to life through some magic (it’s not clear). They go to the Snow Queen’s palace to free prisoners who have been frozen in ice. There are a lot of prisoners- enough for a small army. This is good news, because Aslan needs them. There is a battle going on  between the Snow Queen’s army and Aslan’s forces. Peter and Edmund are fighting with Aslan. Peter is using his new sword. They win the battle.

For some reason the four siblings become the kings and queens of Narnia. It turns out that in Narnia time, they’ve been there for years. When they go back home to their world they are kids again and literally no time has passed since they went in.

I highly recommend this book if you like fantasy and adventure. Don’t be put off with it being an old book. It’s a famous book for a reason. It doesn’t seem old when you read it. It’s also a series of books and it has been turned into movies. C.S. Lewis is also an unusual and brave writer because in later books he gets rid of a few characters. Compare this to Harry Potter which keeps the same main characters throughout the entire series. I think this is a good idea as it leaves every kid thinking: ‘it could be me next!’

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘I am Number Four’ by Pittacus Lore

This is a fascinating book. I loved it; it’s super good. It pulls you in – by the end you’re screaming for more, you don’t want the book to end. Sadly, it had to. I could have read another 100 pages at least. The imagination and thought put into it is clear as soon as you open the book. It is all incredible. The story flows through the pages and you flow with it. Pittacus Lore (must be a pen name!) has turned a simple idea into a roaring adventure.

On the downside, it was hard to fully follow the story at some points (though you will really want to) and you, like me,  may find yourself skipping on from more boring parts to more interesting parts.

It is about an Alien boy called ‘Four’ who is from the planet Lorien. Lorien was once beautiful mostly because the inhabitants did away with pollutants, weapons and anything harmful to the environment. The people of Lorien evolved and most managed to get powers called legacies, but some didn’t. Those with the powers are the Garde and those without are the Cedan species.

The story takes place 11 years after Lorien has been attacked by another alien race called the Mogadorians. They who were in need of resources because of their dying planet and they massacred almost every Lorien on the planet; they left just eighteen alive: nine young from the Garde and nine from the Cedan – the Cedan mind the Garde.

Their planet has been made a wasteland, so the survivors have moved to Earth. Four is one of them. The nine can only be killed in numerical order and 1,2 and 3 are already dead: Four is next.

He is starting to gain his legacies and to settle into the new town where he moved to with his Cepan, Henri. His new identity is John Smith. He was nearly found by the Mogadorians once and it is clear he can’t hide from the Mogadorians for long, as they are now following that lead.

Then, one day, after school ends (yes, he is in school on Earth), the Mogadorians attack. Luckily, a girl, one of the 9, called ‘Six’ appears to help (and by appears I mean appears: she has the power to go invisible). John must make it out of the school alive because he wants the Lorien race to go on and not to die. Read the book to find out what happens next!

There’s lots more in this book. I don’t want to give too much away. I’ll say one more thing. I like the bit in the book where  it turns out his dog can shapeshift and is from Lorien as well.  This is cool.

I would highly recommend this book to over 12s if you like sci-fi and alien stuff. Even with a few boring bits, this is one of my favourite books: honestly, its story is great.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck

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‘The Wizard of Oz’ by L. Frank Baum

The Wizard of Oz is a bit weird, but I enjoyed reading it. It’s got magic in it, but not like Harry Potter. I’ve seen an old Wizard of Oz film as well, so I kind of knew what the book would be like. It’s easy to see why it would make a film. It is an adventure into another place which has witches and wizards!

The book is about a girl called Dorothy who lives in Kansas in America with her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em. She lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere. One day it got really windy – really, really, really, windy – a thing called a tornado picks up Dorothy and Toto, her dog, and their whole house and blows them away. I think their farmhouse was made of wood. I’m glad my house is made of concrete and stuck to the ground, so it can’t blow away. They have a place called a “Cyclone Cellar” in the basement where they are meant to be safe, but it doesn’t help when the whole house is blown away!

The house, with them in it, lands in the Land of Oz It lands on top of the Wicked Witch of the East killing her. Another witch, a good witch (the “Good witch of the North”), comes over to Dorothy and says welcome most noble sorceress. She says the Munchkins – the people who live in Oz – it is “Munchkin Land” (I’ve been called a Munchkin by my Mum and Dad and that’s where the word comes from!) will be most grateful for her having killed the Wicked Witch.

Dorothy wants to go home and doesn’t know what to do. The good witch tells Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard of Oz who can help her get home. She gives Dorothy silver shoes (they are red in the film I saw). Dorothy and Toto start walking. Along the way they meet a scarecrow, a tin man and a lion.

It’s funny how Dorothy meets the scarecrow. He’s in a field on the side of the road and when she looks at him, be blinks. As they scarecrow’s face is painted on, she thought she was mistaken, but she wasn’t. None of the scarecrows in Kansas blinked! Then the scarecrow nodded. Dorothy climbs over a fence and walks over to the scarecrow with Toto running around barking. The scare crow then said good day. If I was Dorothy I would have been scared. Dorothy then speaks to the scarecrow and it’s ok.

They all want Dorothy to help them get to the Wizard of Oz who they say will help them get what they want. The scarecrow wants brains, the tin man wants a heart and the lion wants courage (he is a cowardly lion). Dorothy helps them and they decide to follow her along the yellow brick road. When Dorothy meets the Munchkins they also think she is a sorceress and treat her well. Things happen along the way.

They arrive in the Emerald City. The Wizard of Oz says he will only help Dorothy if she kills the Wicked Witch of the West. They try but find it’s impossible as the witch has magic. The good witch helps Dorothy and stops her getting hurt by the wicked witch. I don’t really understand how she kills the wicked witch. I think it was by an accident.

Dorothy goes back to the Wizard of Oz who acts all weird. Dorothy finds out the Wizard of Oz is not a wizard – he’s just a normal man. He has just been pretending to be a wizard. He can’t keep his promise to help Dorothy get home because he doesn’t know how. He’s lost in the Land of Oz as well.

The scarecrow, tinman and lion are disappointed but the wizard tells them they already have the things they need inside them (wisdom, love and courage). The three insist they don’t, so he gives them tokens of each thing they want and they are happy.

To try to help Dorothy, the wizard offers to take her in a hot air balloon to Glinda the Good Witch of the South, who he says can help her. It turns out that the silver shoes Dorothy was given when she arrived in Oz are magic. They can take her home. They all say goodbye and Dorothy and Toto go home.

I like everyone in the book (even the Wicked Witch of the West), but my favourite character is Toto. Toto is a little dog – Dorothy’s best friend because she doesn’t have anyone else to play with. I liked him because he is cute, but also because he helps her not to be scared. She loses him once and gets him back. I liked Dorothy, but she is the main character and is in nearly every part of the book, so it is hard to remember everything she does. She is very brave and has to lots of scary things in this book. I wouldn’t like being taken to another world.

This is an old story but a very good one. I enjoyed it. I would read more books about the Land of Oz (there are lots more in the library). I am 8 and I was able to read it ok. It’s not a long book. It’s not really funny; it makes you smile though.

Review by Lara Buck aged 8. Edited by Finn Buck aged 12.

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‘Tanith Low in the Maleficent Seven’ by Derek Landy

This book is from Derek Landy’s world of Skulduggery Pleasant. This is a well written book. I’ve read all the other Skulduggery books, so I am familiar with the setting of the book. The storyline is a bit nuts: I like it. I read this book quickly. It has all the ingredients. It will, I’m sure, be another hit book for a writer who knows exactly how to create fantasy and adventure stories for kids my age.

The book’s full of cool characters who all have powers and abilities. The way the book is set up is great. It is told from a crazy bad girl’s perspective. This makes the story better. The magic in the book feels real, as it does in Landy’s other books.

The book is about an English woman named Tanith Low who is usually a good character, but here she has been possessed by a ghost thing which wants the world to burn. To help her, she recruits a team of seven people who all have weird talents (some are in the other Skulduggery books like Black Annis, Sabine and Springheeled Jack). They are called the Malificent Seven. They are kind of the opposite of the good guys.

There are good guys. They are the Magnificent Seven, another group put together and led by Dexter Vex, an energy thrower.

Tanith’s goal is to find four God-Killer level weapons and destroy them. Why? Because her ultimate objective is to unleash a god (Darquesse) who also wants the world to burn. Darquesse can’t be killed very easily – only with these weapons. Tanith is willing to do anything to achieve her goal. Dexter is the same. The difference is, he wants to keep them, not destroy them.

The Malificent Seven agree a plant that uses their particular skills and abilities. Dexter Vex finds out about the plan and race to stop Tanith. Tanith also can’t trust her own team and has to stay ahead of all their scheming. Who will emerge triumphant? There’s a lot going on the book. Tanith has to work hard to stay ahead. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers as for a Skulduggery book, it’s a simple enough story.

Tanith is a great character. I’d happily read more books about her. She is a great baddie with skills in fighting, scheming and plotting! The book tells you she was trained as an assassin.

The book is full of adventure, action and funny bits. You can’t help reading it all once you start. It’s not a long book for a Derek Landy story, so I read it quick. I am not sure I’d have enjoyed the book without knowing the Skulduggery world first – so read the other books!

Review by Finn Buck

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