‘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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‘How to Train Your Dragon’ by Cressida Cowell

This is an extraordinary book. It’s hard to believe the tremendous imagination and thought Cressida Cowell has put into it. You can see all of her work on every page. When I first read it, I absolutely loved it, especially its classic humour and crazy storyline. I recommend it if you like adventure and fantasy.

The book is set in a fantasy world, where dragons are real and can be tamed.  There are tribes of Vikings called The Hairy Hooligans, The Meatheads and similar. They live on islands in an archipelago. It is about Hiccup Horrendous Haddock 111, who is the son of the chief of the Hairy Hooligan tribe Stoic the Vast on the island of Berk.

Well, Hiccup and 10 other boys are part of the Dragon Initiation Program, where they try to become full members of the Hairy Hooligan tribe. While most of the boys are tough and muscly, Hiccup and his friend Fishlegs are what you’d call ‘runts’. All the boys grumble when Hiccup is made their leader (to prepare him for being chief when he’s older).

Their first ‘mission’ comes up, they have to steal a dragon and tame it, but Fishlegs accidently wakes up one of the deadly ones. This causes chaos and Hiccup only gets a common or garden Dragon (same type) and names him Toothless. Toothless is a really BIG troublemaker. Then, after months of training, they try to pass the test to get into the tribe. Then Toothless causes loads of trouble and all the boys are to be exiled.

Before that can happen, a storm washes up two giant sea dragons called Green Death and Purple Death. This is a big problem. Hiccup comes up with a plan to get rid of them or kill them. His plan is to get them to kill each other by annoying them, but Green Death survives and he swallows Hiccup. Incredibly, Hiccup kills him from the inside. For their heroic acts, the boys are allowed to be a part of the tribe.

Overall, I think this is a pretty cool book which brings an entire new world with it. I think the film just about does justice to the story, though I loved imagining everything in the book while I was reading it. Read it: don’t just watch the film!

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck

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‘The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones’ by Rick Riordan

This is a thrilling book. It really keeps you on the edge of your seat. It has a great storyline and likeable characters. I love how Rick Riordan wrote this book, as the rest of the books are written by other authors. It’s cool to see one of my favourite authors writing this sort of book. I recommend the book if you like reading adventure and mystery stories because this book has a hell of a lot of both!

It’s about 14 year old Amy and 11 year old Dan. They are orphans, but only because most of their family don’t care about them. Dan has a photographic memory and Amy is very smart.

They are driven to their millionaire Grandmother’s funeral, where they find out their new family is massive. Relatives come from all of the world. In their Grandma’s will they are given the choice of a million dollars or the first clue in a deadly sort of scavenger hunt where everyone is willing to kill to win. This clue is the first of the 39 clues that give the books their name. They take the clue.

They get their Au Pair, Nellie, to chaperone them on the hunt which travels all around the world. After cracking Grandma’s clue, they make their way to Paris, where they must crack the next clue. But their bloodthirsty relatives are going to be a problem. This is a game with no rules but only one winner.

The competitors are family teams. The Cahill Family is divided into five branches: Ekaterinas, Tomas, Janus, Lucians and the Madrigals – the secret family – which Amy and Dan are part of (they actually don’t know this until one of the other books in the series). The first team to crack all the clues will become mega rich and the most powerful person in the world. .

I love books with many characters who are written so you can get to know them. This book has this.

There are an incredible number of books in this series. Though there are actually 5 series. I have only read the first series. I’m not sure I’d read any more because it sort of got boring after a while. I’ve moved onto other books. I think the idea is good but there are just too many books. 39 clues mean a lot of books by different writers. That’s too many for me.

Review by Finn Buck, aged 12

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‘The Martian’ by Andy Wier

Out of all the books I’ve ever read, this one has to be my favourite: really. It’s about Mark Watney, an astronaut botanist, who is stranded on Mars by himself, as his crew left to return to Earth because thought he died. The first sentence of the book has some bad words;  Mark has found out he has been stranded on Mars and isn’t happy! He does “smart ” things to survive, like burning rocket fuel and blowing stuff up. Lots of stuff.

I’ve read the book six times and still can’t stop reading it. The humour is fantastic; it never gets old. It goes from something serious to something random or to a great moment – then it blows up (yay!). If you are thinking of reading the book or watch the movie, I highly recommend reading the book first; it explains unexplained things in the movie. The book says what the NASA name is for; it then says what it actually is.  I also think the book is funnier than the movie.

Even though the book was written in 2011, it seems too futuristic to have been imagined then. Seriously, there is stuff in the book like MAVs (Mars Ascent Vehicle) and RTGs (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator) and EVAs (Extra Vehicular Activity): way to complicated for 2011. Definitions for MAV, RTG and EVA are not in the book, so I had to guess their meanings.

Overall, Andy Weir has made the best book I have ever read.

Review by Deasun Byrne aged 12 (my first review for this site).

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‘A Monster Calls’ by Patrick Ness

This is an extraordinary masterpiece of writing for what is  a kids’ book. It shows humanity in a true way I have not read before. It is beautifully descriptive and packs a big punch. The idea was originally formed by Siobhan Dowd when she had cancer. I would highly recommend the book to kids over 10 years old and also to people who like sad and mysterious books. It is a hard book though, it’ll make you think and probably make you cry.

This book illustrates life lessons through an incredible storyline. The book is about 13 year old Connor O’Malley whose mother suffers from terminal cancer. She has had so many cancer treatments but they don’t seem to be working. Connor gets the same nightmare every night; he calls it ”the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming”.

Connor is bullied at school and he isolates himself.  His dad is no help (he uses his family in the USA as an excuse not to get involved). Connor wakes up one night to find a monster outside his bedroom window. He meets the monster (a yew tree in his garden) who tells Connor he summoned him. The monster appears at 12:07 am or pm every day and he says he has three stories which he will tell and they all have a different perspective on humanity (all the stories are a time when the monster was summoned),

After the monster’s stories, Connor is expected to tell the fourth story also known as ‘the truth’. The stories make something really weird happen to Connor; they make him isolate himself even more. When all three stories have been told, Connor has to tell the fourth story. This involves reliving the nightmare and reliving the truth. The nightmare is his mum being pulled into the abyss and Connor is holding onto her and he doesn’t want to let go, but in the end he always does.

This is the truth he lets go because he doesn’t want to go through anymore pain and suffering. The monster has shown him the truth which Connor knew, but hid away from himself. His Mum ends up dying. This, in truth, is probably the saddest story I have ever read. I think anybody could love it though. I’ll remember this book for a long time.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘Knights of the Borrowed Dark’ by Dave Rudden

This isn’t the best of books. I’m not sure why. I look forward to reading in the car on the way home from school, but I wasn’t when I got back in the car while I was reading this. I think it could be written better. This is Irish writer Dave Rudden’s debut book (it says so on the cover). Perhaps this is why. Hopefully his next book will be better. It’s a good idea for a book and has a storyline I’d usually like; I also like the characters because they all have unique personalities, so there’s plenty of potential here.

The book is about 13 year old Denizen Hardwick who has been in an orphanage for 11 years (like most orphanages in books, it’s nasty). He has been reading fantasy books for years wishing they were about him.

It turns out he has family and this family does have powers. He is collected from the orphanage by a man named Grey who has these powers. Grey explains what has been going on. It turns out Denizen has an aunt who lives with other people at a place called Seraphim Row (in Dublin, Ireland!). His Aunt wants to see him and has sent, him, Grey, to pick him up. Denizen learns he has powers, but also how these powers comes with a price. It causes anyone with the power to turn to iron, starting with their hands.

On the journey to meet his aunt, he’s attacked by a monster. Denizen finds himself in a fantasy world where he has to join the Knights of Borrowed Dark – his aunt is their leader – in a war with The Tenebrous. These are the monsters he has to fight. Their leader is called the Endless King. Denizen quickly has to learn to use his powers.

Weird things start happening at the orphanage, The Clockwork Three, monsters you should only see in nightmares, have taken over. They are keeping the daughter of the Forever King hostage and he is angry. Denizen wants to stop this and he probably can, but he’ll need help. Even then, it’s going to be hard.

I think Dave Rudden is onto something here. He has all the ingredients. He’s just not putting it together like Eoin Colfer or other kids’ fantasy writers do. I just didn’t get pulled into the book. I didn’t really believe some of it (even though it’s all fantasy!) and there are bits that are hard to follow and not explained. The book is worth reading for the twist at the end. I am sure the next book will be better.

Review by Finn Buck aged 12.

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‘Railhead’ by Philip Reeve

This is an awesome book. It shows sci-fi in a way I’ve not read before. It’s the same with Reeve’s other books. They make you think of other worlds: it’s a bit epic. Railhead is well written; it jumps off the pages in places! I couldn’t stop reading it. For me, it ended very mysteriously and is obviously meant to be part of a series of books. I can’t wait to read the next book.

The book is based in the distant future where mankind has left earth and travelled far and wide through space. Humans now live on many planets. This space travel wasn’t done with spaceships or rockets but with trains that have feelings! (the books made me think – a lot …!). The universe is now the great network of gateways (K-gates) through space – the trains cross these gates. There are over a 1000 of these gates meaning the trains can go everywhere.

The network of gates is watched over by the guardians who are incredibly smart Artificial Intelligence (AI) deities but is sort of ruled by the royal Noon family. The book’s name ‘Railhead’ comes from what they call someone who loves train journeys! Reeve has thought of great names for everything in the book – I can’t list everything here; I can just tell you it’s all easy to follow.

We jump into the book with Zen Starling, a teen thief who doesn’t want to be in poverty but can’t do anything about it. He is a railhead. He lives with his tough, hardworking, sister and his disabled mother. One day a meteorite (an android) called Nova hires him for a job because he looks exactly like one of the Noon family – a boy called Tallis Noon. Zen meets his hirer, a man called Raven. The job Raven wants done is to steal a mysterious box called the Pytis which is in the Noon family’s train. What Zen doesn’t know is that this will uncover many secrets about his past, Raven, the guardians and much more (the universe!).

This is a truly thrilling book. It makes you think about what’s beyond Earth. I’m not going to tell you anything else about the storyline – read the rest to find out what happens.

I recommend this book to anyone – kid or adult – who likes sci-fi and adventure books. There is something new here. It’s a book not like other books. There is so much detail in this book but it’s still funny! It’s also a big adventure – I could hardly keep up with the speed of the story.

Review by Finn Buck aged 12.

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‘The 13 Story Treehouse’ by Andy Griffiths

This book is brimful with humour and amazingly crazy ideas. These ideas are weird but make for an unbelievably good book. Though this book is for younger kids, I still found it very good and would highly recommend it – especially if your sense of humour likes a bit of crazy. Andy Griffiths has some imagination to be able to come up with some of this stuff. His book is like a weird parallel universe where most things are true and anything can happen.

The story is about Andy and Terry, two guys who live in an awesome 13 story treehouse. It has a lemonade fountain, a bowling alley, a room full of pillows, swinging vines, a see through swimming pool, a theatre, a library, a tank of man-eating sharks, a games room, a secret underground laboratory and a marshmallow machine that shoots marshmallows into to your mouth whenever you’re hungry. Who wouldn’t like this treehouse: I would beg for it.

Well, Andy and Terry work together on books, Andy writes and Terry illustrates. The book starts with Andy getting out of bed to find Terry turning a cat into a catnary (cat + canary) and it flies away (as I said, a bit crazy). The problem is it’s their friend Jill’s cat and she’s looking for it. To make matters worse, their publisher, Mr Big Nose, wants their next book finished and on his desk on the same day. Of course they haven’t even started it. Then a lot of crazy stuff goes on, so I might just list it all.

They have a drawing competition which gets out of hand, Andy throws a TV out of the treehouse because of the annoying shows. Terry gets a package; instead of being the sea monkeys he ordered, it turns out to be a sea monster: it tries to kill them. Terry burps a bubble and flies away in it until Andy saves him. They write a book called Super Finger. Terry gets replacement sea monkeys that turn out to be real monkeys. A giant gorilla comes for bananas and starts shaking the treehouse. The danger is averted when flying catnarys save the day.

I can tell you honestly, these things don’t make sense when I say it or write them. But if you read the book, they will. It’s still be pretty hard to follow though. I think you’ll love this because I did. It’s very funny!

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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