Return to Roar
Jenny McLachlan, illustrated by Ben Mantle
It’s half term; Rose and narrator Arthur are excited to enter the folded-up camp bed portal in Grandad’s attic that takes them back to the Land of Roar.
Their first stop is to see Win, a wizard ninja whose wizarding skills leave something to be desired. Rose leaves the two boys together and aback a dragon, heads off to look for her merwitch friend Mitch.
She has no success and returns bringing Mitch’s spell book and tattoo kit.
During the night Arthur is woken by a rather sinister presence and hears a whisper asking, ‘Arthur, take me to Home’ that he persuades himself is a dream. But next morning, painted on the wall outside Win’s cave in letters, still wet, he sees WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
Arthur makes an immediate link to the villainous scarecrow, Crowky and convinces the others that he must be out to find The Box (an old cardboard one containing those things the twins most fear) and thus be able to travel back through the tunnel into Grandad’s house.
There’s only one thing to do: they must find the box before Crowky and so begins their next adventure.
What a thrilling, sometimes dangerous, one it is as they encounter a number of their old friends including the Lost Girls (lovers of loom bands and rather wild). There are dragons, unicorns – some more obliging than others – pirate baboons, honey badgers, orang-utans; and eventually Mitch; plus a fair few spells, wolves and a rather unpleasant character, Hatai Skoll.
Readers will certainly feel frissons of fear at times as they become swept up in the dramatic events as they root for the children and their real friends.
Can they find the Box or will it be Crowky? Will Rose and Arthur get back to Grandad’s before their parents arrive to collect them?
Like this reviewer, young readers will find it well nigh impossible to put down this superbly written book, before they’ve discovered the answers. What a testament to the power of the imagination in children it is. Superb too are Ben Mantle’s illustrations – sometimes scary, sometimes gently humorous; and the front cover is truly powerful.
Fear not, a thrilling finale to the Roar series is promised – coming soon.
A Most Improper Magick
Stephanie Burgis, illustrated by Hannah Peck
This reissue of the first of the ‘Improper Adventures’ of twelve-year-old narrator, Kat Stephenson is set in Regency England. It’s a blend of Jane Austin and Georgette Heyer, together with magic and adventure.
Rather than doing what proper young ladies should, Kat eschews embroidery, chops off her hair and decides to go to London. But then Kat is not an ordinary young lady: although her father is a respected clergyman, her late mother was a witch whose magical powers, her youngest daughter seems to have inherited.
Then she discovers her mother’s magic books and mirror, which is not your everyday kind of item; this golden object has powers of its own. Now for sure Kat is determined to learn how to use her magical talents for the good of her own family, no matter what her Stepmama says.
How will she deal with the decidedly sinister Sir Neville, her elder sister’s intended fiancé, as well as her other sister Angeline with her own style of witchiness, not to mention a highwayman?
Can the indomitable Kat succeed in saving her entire family from ruin and win her sisters the true loves they so much desire?
Bursting with charm, mystery and humour, this tale of high drama will appeal most strongly to confident female readers around the age of its chief character.