‘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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‘The World’s Worst Children’ by David Walliams

This book caused an argument between me and my sister. I really like the book (I’m 10), but she didn’t. We both sat down and wrote out why we liked and didn’t like the book. Here’s what we came up with.

Éanna (aged 10)

I really like this book because it has loads of cool characters. Each chapter contains a story about a different character (all of them are naughty children). The chapters contain:
Chapter 1 ‘Dribbling Drew’ – this is about a boy who floods the world with his dribbled drool. He is so lazy and drools so much when he is asleep: it’s a horrible, funny, idea;
Chapter 2 ‘Bertha the Blubberer’ who cries all the time. She cries about everything and blames most things on her poor little brother (but he gets his revenge after she pulls all her hair out);
Chapter 3 ‘Nigel Nit-Boy’ – yes, nits, horrible nits – he’s a boy who keeps nits as pets (billions of them). It’s so disgusting. He becomes a kind of super hero of nits – urrrggh;
Chapter 4 ‘Miss Petula Perpetual-Motion’ who cannot stand still. She moves non-stop. She keeps moving in places and in ways which cause problems – this isn’t the funniest of the stories. Most kids find it hard to sit still!
Chapter 5 ‘Peter Picker’ a boy who picks his nose too much. Snot of all shapes and sizes – one of his bogeys grows and grows until it is the size of the moon and then explodes. This is a silly story. It could be funnier just by describing boys in my class picking their noses and wiping it on something (yuck);
Chapter 6 ‘Grubby Gertrude’ is a girl who wouldn’t tidy her room. It’s a complete mess, a real rubbish tip. Her Mum tries to clean it but the vacuum explodes! Eventually, she is eaten by ‘The Rubbish Monster’; the lesson is, tidy your room!
Chapter 7 ‘Brian Wong who was never ever wrong’ is a boy who thinks he is really brainy. He thinks he can count to infinity – he finds you can’t. He spends his whole life counting and then dies. But he was not wrong; you can try counting to infinity, it’s just that you never get there! He finds sums easy, Chapter 8 ‘Windy Mindy’ a girl who eats loads of foods to make her do smelly farts; she learns to plays instruments with her farts and becomes famous. Eventually she does a fart so big she ends up in space. Farts are funny, but this story could be funnier.
Chapter 9 ‘Earnest Ernest’ is a boy who has never ever laughed. I didn’t really get this story; and Chapter 10 ‘Sofia Sofa’ a girl who would not get off the sofa – eventually she becomes part girl, part sofa and part TV. I think this story is meant to make you stop watching do much TV!

I recommend this book to people who like comedy fiction who are aged 4-12 years old. David Walliams has written two of these books of stories about horrible children. I hope he writes another one. You don’t have to like all the stories; there are plenty to choose from. They are all about the right length. I could read one on the way to school and one on the way home. It’s easy to read.

Lara (aged 8)

I didn’t like this book. It’s probably to with the way the book jumps from one character to the next. There is no story to keep you reading. I read some of the stories and then got bored. I found it hard to pick the book back up as I wasn’t following any story. I like the story of Miss Petula Perpetual-Motion best. The rest of the stories are just a bit silly and not like children I know at all.

Dribbling Drew is the worst story. I have allergies and my nose drips – I can’t do anything about it. I take anti-histamine tablets (my Dad spelt that word). It’s not funny: I am not a bad child because my nose runs. Is Drew bad because he drools? I like all of the illustrations by a man named Tony Ross. They help you to imagine the story. It’s just some of the children in the stories do things that are silly. They couldn’t do these things in real life. It’s a bit like the Horrible Henry books. It gets boring reading about naughty children all the time. This is meant to be a funny book, but I didn’t really find it funny.

I think it might be a good book to read as bedtime stories to smaller children to make them do things like clean their room and not pick their nose. Some bits of the book are easy to read and some are hard. I think anyone my age could read it. I have a suggestion. What about a nice story about a girl who can’t stop laughing and everyone around her always laughs when they meet her – she makes people happy. I am tired of reading stories of bad children.

Having looked at each other’s reasons for liking and not liking this book, we think the book is worth reading, just not if you can find a book with one really good story in it. We also think that making fun of kids for things they cannot control – like a runny nose – is not nice. David Walliams is trying to be funny and that’s ok; it’s just that pointing out things like a constant runny nose can make a kid feel bad.

Review by Éanna and Lara Buck

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‘The Bubble Wrap Boy’ by Phil Earle

This is an incredibly well told story. I find it so realistic. I really know how Charlie (the boy in the book) feels; the descriptions are just so good. I highly recommend this book. I think everything Charlie says in this book is actually true, in a way. It feels so true as well. I think Phil Earle has written a masterpiece kids’ book.

Charlie is 14 years old and very short for his age. His Dad owns the Chinese ‘chippy’ down the road, and, just to make matters worse, he has the most overprotective mum ever. When he starts making deliveries for the Chinese takeaway, his mum buys him a trike instead of a mountain bike. It comes with tons of lights and reflective gear. It’s so heavy it can hardly move. His Mum mistakes his genuine tears for tears of joy! Charlie is friends with Sinus (his real name is Linus). Sinus has a huge nose and stares at walls.

When Charlie is in the middle of a delivery, a boy riding a skateboard speeds past him and Charlie instantly falls in love: with skateboarding. But because his mum would never let him do it, he borrows one from Sinus’ older brother. When his Mum stumbles across him skateboarding, he gets into huge trouble. Turns out, he wasn’t the only one hiding a secret. He finds out he has an aunt, Dora, he never knew about. She had a bike accident as a child which now gives her regular fits; she’s in a nursing home. His mum has been hiding this by making Charlie think she is going to college courses when she’s visiting her.

Then, after trying to get back into skateboarding, but scared he’ll get injured, he gets wrapped in bubble wrap by some other skateboarding teenagers who want to ‘help’ his mum by keeping him safe. Charlie starts visiting Aunt Dora regularly. Weirdly, graffiti keeps appearing all over the school. The tags say BWB in the coolest ways. Charlie finds out it was Sinus and it stands for Bubble Wrap Boy!

Then, a skateboarding competition comes to town and Charlie enters for the half-pipe challenge. Well, the plan is to bring Dora and Mum, to show mum how much he knows and show them his skills. Sadly, Dora dies before that can happen. But Charlie still goes to the competition, as the bubble wrap boy. The book then suddenly ends with Charlie in mid-flight during the contest – this is a bit strange. It just reads: “Flying for Dora”.

This is not a funny book but the story is strong enough to keep you reading. The real lesson in this book is not to keep secrets (or not for too long!). I’d read more books by Phil Earle.

Review by Finn Buck aged 12.

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‘Darkmouth’ by Shane Hegarty

This is quite a good book. I’d definitely recommend it. In my opinion, the story is quite predictable, but it is still worth reading. I’ve read many good kids’ fantasy books and I am happy to add this one to my list. I love the way all these Irish authors are coming out with these incredible books, take Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy or Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – where are they getting the ideas? I hope the ideas keep coming! Also, the illustrations are incredibly good, like ‘never seen before’ good. The book is about 12 year old Finn (same age as me!) who lives in a town called Darkmouth in Ireland (I think). It’s the last blighted village where monsters (called Legends) appear out of gateways at times from a different dimension. The Legends are horrible creatures who want to live in Finn’s world where the universe is a bit less scary than their own. One family has the job of taking them down and that’s Finn’s family – they are known as Legend Hunters. Finn is a Legend Hunter-in-training. The thing is, Finn loves animals and doesn’t have the skill of a Legend Hunter, but he still really tries to hunt. Bottom line is he’d rather be a vet. Another thing, Finn is the son of Hugo the Great, one of the best Legend Hunters, so a lot is expected Finn. At school, Finn makes friends with the new girl, Emmie, who is fascinated by Finn’s life and likes helping him. Then, when Mr Glad, a friend of Hugo’s invades Darkmouth with an army of Legends, Finn and Emmie need to save Darkmouth. Read the book to find out what happens next. Shane Hegarty has one hell of an imagination. The names of these Legends, like Hogboons or Fomorians (all true horrors!), must have take some though to come up with. I have read the three other books in the series and they each build on Hegarty’s fantasy world. This book is funny in places, I like that. The books could just do with a few more unexpected twists and turns.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck

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