In the Summer Reading Challenge 2018 we asked our members to read and review a minimum of five books that they chose as a challenge to themselves. While our reviewers read far more than five books each during the summer holidays, we couldn’t include them all! The books we list here offer a fascinating array of titles and excellent reviews – what would you like to read?
Adam Rafael Holmes Aged 9
Willard Price South Sea and Volcano Adventures
Rated: 6/5 Recommended Age: 8-11
This was a large double book. I had not read a Willard Price adventure before and was worried about the hunting and animal capturing. These stories did not contain any hunting fortunately. The Whale Adventure did, so I stopped reading that book. They are the adventures of 2 North American brothers, Hal and Roger, who want to train to be naturalists. They travel the world, studying and collecting animals. They teach bad people how to be kind to animals.
Paul D Storrie Hercules, The Twelve Labours
Rated: 4.5/5 Recommended Age: 8+
I am new to Ancient Greek mythology and the character names can be hard to understand and remember. This was my first cartoon book. It is quite difficult to follow a story through cartoons. No titles or paragraphs, just continuous text. Everything was explained though and there are lots of illustrations so it was useful for learning about Hercules.
Anna Claybourne Macbeth, Short Sharp Shakespeare Stories
Rated: 5/5 Recommended Age: 8+
Understanding the plot and language. This book defines the Elizabethan language and makes the plot easy to follow. I really enjoyed the illustrations as well as the story. I have now read 6 others in this series.
Deron R Hicks The Tower of the Five Orders
Rated: 10/5 Recommended Age: 9+
New Shakespeare and Marlowe references and symbols. Some of the detail in this book was a bit more confusing, not as easy to follow as The Secrets of Shakespeare’s Grave. It was a very good mystery, about Colophon and Julian battling the baddies who claimed the family’s scrolls were fake. The heroes find a special hiding place close to my home!
Siobhan Dowd The London Eye Mystery
Rated: 4/5 Recommended Age: 10+
This is a young adult book and there are 10 possible solutions to the mystery. Lots of new weather vocabulary. Exciting book about a teenage boy, Salim, who gets lost on the London Eye. The hero is Ted, who has Asperger’s and works out amazing clues. This was my last book of the summer holiday. It was a present from a friend who is a writer and so I decided to try and read it. Lots of new vocabulary and slang and some swear words!
Anna T. Aged 9 and a half
Michael Morpurgo The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips
Rated: 4 (I would recommend it to other people, but it is quite a sad story.) Recommended Age: 10+
This is a really good and engaging read but can be emotionally challenging at times. A time ago I thought it would be boring but turns out it is actually really good! It is about a girl called Lily growing up in World War 2. Her village was cleared to be used as a training ground for soldiers and her cat went missing when Lily and her family left the village! The book tells the story of how she tries to find him. It was a challenge to me because of its emotional intensity and it made me cry but I carried on reading it and loved it. There are quite a lot of deaths and other sad moments in the book, so I would recommend it to children over 10. Overall this is a charming, brilliantly written novel.
Phillip Pullman Northern Lights
Rated: 5 (A marvellous novel filled with excitement) Recommended Age: 11+
This is a brilliant fantasy thriller full of mystery and action. The book is part of a trilogy called His Dark Materials. It is set in a parallel universe almost identical to this one! The book is about a girl called Lyra and her adventures and journeys in the Arctic trying to find a group of children, kidnapped for an experiment! It is very complicated in plot and includes a lot of twists and turns. The characters and settings are very convincing and detailed. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone under 11 because of its dark themes and violence. I found it challenging because it is very scary and quite adult in style of writing, but after a bit I became completely absorbed in the story. I really enjoyed the book because of its emotion and fascinating themes. Overall, this is one of the best, most engaging novels I have read.
Stanley Coren Do Dogs Dream?
Rated: 5 (fascinating and well written information book)
This is a fascinating book on the psychology, behaviour, language and evolution of dogs. It includes graphs, illustrations and lots of information on the subject of each chapter, which have titles such as “Do dogs see in colour” and “Why do dogs bark?” All of the questions are answered scientifically in a few pages. This book was a challenge to me as I had never read an adult science book before, but it turned out to be amazingly interesting. I couldn’t put it down! As well as such information, the book contains some chapters on dog anatomy and advice on training. The book is for adults and was written by a professor but is clear and easy to understand. Overall, this is probably the best, most complete book on dog psychology ever written.
James Patterson Not so Normal Norbert
Rated: 4 (a good book but a bit too funny for me) Recommended Age: 7+
This novel is set during a period in the future when the whole of Earth is one country and all human activity is monitored. One day, a boy called Norbert makes a rude joke about the dictator who rules Earth, gets caught by the police and ends up in a top-secret exile camp on another planet! This book was a challenge because although it is humorous, the story was long and contained some quite sinister and dystopian subject matter. I would recommend it to children aged 7 to 12. Overall, this is a funny and exciting novel.
Julian Baggini The Pig that Wants to be Eaten
Rated: 5 (a fascinating, thought-provoking philosophy book) Recommended Age: 11+
This is a book of thought experiments (philosophical dilemmas and scenarios) relating to morals and human and animal welfare. For example: “Would it be right to eat an animal that was willing to be eaten?” and “If there is such a thing as reincarnation, are you the same person as your past lives?”.
However, the book contains some disturbing and adult themes, so check with an adult before reading it. The Pig that Wants to be Eaten also includes some thought experiments that are not to do with moral philosophy, but most are. I would recommend this book to people aged 11 or older because of its adult themes and ideas. I found it challenging because it has some dark and upsetting scenarios and difficult words, but it made me think very hard about human nature and the world we live in. Overall, this is a really interesting philosophy book for children and adults.
Miranda Box Aged 10
Giles Sparrow Physics In Minutes – 200 Key Concepts Explained in an Instant
Rated: 3.5 due to some challenging topics
This science book is interesting because it has every different type of physics you can imagine, so you’re guaranteed something that suits your thinking. The classical physics chapter covers fluid mechanics and forces. I understood simple machines like a lever and the forces it uses and a bit about work, energy and power. The chaos theory is hard. I recommend reading the book with knowledgeable adults if you’re not sure about the meanings. There are better topics towards the end such as quantum physics and wormholes, the theory that two black holes can create a shortcut through space by having connected singularities (you can go in one black hole and come out through the other in a different
part of the Universe.)
New Scientist Do Polar Bears Get Lonely? and 97 Other Intriguing Science Questions
Rated:3.5 because another book Orangutans Are Orange has a more interesting selection of questions and answers.
This covers lots of subjects such as plants and animals. One question was how long it would take the average cow to fill the Grand Canyon with milk and could hamsters running on wheels be a future source to our impending energy crisis (:-)) If you’re pondering these questions get the book! It’s written for adults but made easy to understand.
Animal Stories chosen by Michael Morpurgo
Rated:4 because of the wide variety of tales of which some are dark in theme and tone (e.g. Oscar Wilde’s writing), Recommended Age: 11+
The book has lots of different styles of writing in it but animals on its own is quite a vague theme. There are eagles, wolves, horses and more creatures featured, in different stories from real-life memoirs to tales set long ago. Authors include Ernest Hemingway with an extract from The Old Man and the Sea (about fishing) and Charles Darwin’s diary entry about the day he explored an island full of tortoises. I liked The Red Pony extract best (by John Steinbeck); it really showed the passion from the boy for his new pet. I also enjoyed the Jamaican setting of the story Son-Son Fetches The Mule because it was funny – the mule wouldn’t budge and when it finally did, it went crazy!
Jamie Buchan As Easy As Pi
Rated: 4.5 Recommended Age: 10
I rated it 4.5 because most of the book was about lots of different numbers and how they appear in the world, but towards the end it got boring. The first chapters had explanations about why number 13 is considered unlucky and why people get 419 scams (Mum was surprised that was in the book!). I liked the fact that the book explained lots of different numbers that people talk about when referring to different subjects such as religion and slang. For example, why 6 is related to the imperfections of man but 7 means you are godlike and perfect in every way. The book is actually written for adults but if you’re High Learning Potential in Maths from age 10 you could try it.
Trenton Lee Stewart The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey
Rated: 5 Recommended Age: 9+
It’s a top-scorer because it is jam-packed with action, mystery and adventure! The story focused on four children who are unusually gifted. The youngest is three but she speaks like an eight-year-old and has the power of hypnosis. My favourite character Kate has a pet peregrine falcon and her dad is a secret agent. I wasn’t initially interested in mystery genres but I like that these children are intellectual and all their missions in every book are based around a strange machine which has the power to brainsweep minds. In this episode, the children travel across the globe to save their beloved Mr Benedict (read about him in book one!). Unusual vocabulary makes it a great read for new words, for
example conciliatory, ingratiating, narcolepsy.
Loretta L. Aged 10
Dean Burnett The Happy Brain
This book doesn’t really have an answer to how to be happy, but it is very interesting. Chapter 6 is funny, which makes sense since it’s about humour. However, chapter 5 is a little weird. I recommend it even though some parts are unusual in varying ways.
Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson We Have No Idea
This is a funny and educational book about things in the universe that we don’t understand. There are a lot of jokes, even one about Pokémon. Recommended by me 😊.
Frans De Waal Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are
This is a book about animal cognition. There are a lot of interesting examples. Sometimes human experimenters got the experiments and their ideas very wrong, such as thinking they had trained a cat to rub against a latch using fish rewards when it was really just what the cats did when humans were around. I very recommend it.
George Orwell Animal Farm
This story is about a farm run only by the animals who live there, with no humans involved whatsoever. At the start it’s really great, but just turns into a mess after the pigs start breaking their own rules and claiming they were not. The last section is quite weird and slightly funny. Apparently, the book is a reference to someone not very nice that you weren’t supposed to be writing bad things about, meaning that the book almost didn’t get published. Anyway, it’s a good book if you think your species is doing a lot of things wrong (I certainly do).
Derek Landy Skulduggery Pleasant The Dying of The Light
This is a book about magic and a living skeleton and a girl with a split personality and a lot of other characters. Keeping track of all the relationships between the characters is very complicated. For example, Valkyrie’s reflection came to life, but later it died, and then after Darquesse was taken out of Valkyrie, she managed to live in the reflection’s body, meaning that it is just extremely complicated. Also, some of the characters are extremely interesting. Seriously, there’s a transgender zombie in it. I recommend it, but it would be less confusing if you read the rest of the series first considering that it is the ninth one (it will always be confusing though)
Matteo Scotto di Luzio. Aged 11
Gary Paulsen Hatchet
Rated: 5 Recommended Age: 11+
This is an incredible book, full of action and nail-biting moments that will keep you up all night. ‘There was a wild crashing sound; a ripping of metal, and the plane blew through the trees, out over the water and down, down to slam into the lake…’ Our brave hero, Brian Robeson, a city boy, will have to learn to live the hard way (with only a hatchet)- or die. It is a great survival story that’s guaranteed to get your imagination going. It is quite a challenge to read this. The story gripped me like no other I had read before. It is geared to young teenagers. The book’s moral to me is that no matter how hard it seems in life, there is a way. The scene is set in the Canadian wilderness and it is easy to project an image of it into your mind. I think that many of my friends would enjoy reading this. It made me want to read it again, to get the same sensation I had when I read it the first time. It is also realistic. I rate it 5 stars and I want to re-read it.
Matt and Tom Oldfield Neymar
Rated: 4.5 Recommended Age: 9+
It all started with a big incident in which Neymar could have died. His family were driving to see family members. As Neymar Sr turned the corner, a car came at high speed and crashed into them. They were extremely lucky to have lived. Neymar Jr went on to become one of the greatest footballers in modern times. He started his amazing career in Brazil, playing for Santos, a great team. Then, he transferred over to Barcelona, one of the most incredible football team’s of all time, playing alongside stars like Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi. Later on, Luis Suarez joined, forming one of the best strike forces in the history of football: the MSN. Then, he moved to PSG for a record fee of £186 million. He now plays with teammates Mbappe, Edison Cavani (they both have a massive rivalry), and many other talented footballers.
Anthony Horowitz Alex Rider: Crocodile Tears
Rated: 5 Recommended Age: 10+
This book is the 8th in the series and is action-packed and full of laughter. It is based off the life of a 14-year-old spy working for MI6 reluctantly. In this book a feud starts after a card game between billionaire Desmond McCain and him. The book is amazingly good and has many interesting twists and turns and many cliffhangers too. The story gripped me and I could not put it down. I loved every word of every page because of how simple it was to visualise it in my mind. The scene is set in England at the start of the book, then, later on, the scene moves over to Kenya. I rate it 5 stars and will definitely re-read this.
Benjamin Zephaniah Face
Rated: 5 Recommended Age: 11+
This book is all about the story of a teenager called Martin. He is the leader of the Gang of Three and he is popular at school. One night, he goes to a rap club with his friends, and, on the way back to his house, he accepts a ride home from an acquaintance. He and his friend Mark suffer an accident, but Martin is worse: his face is terribly burnt. This story is incredibly sad, but the moral of the story is important. The characteristics of someone’s face has nothing to do with their personality. The setting of this book is in East London, where there are many different races and cultures. This book got my emotions worked up. I give this book 5 stars and now I really know that it is what’s on the inside that counts.
Agatha Christie Murder On The Orient Express
Rated: 5 Recommended Age: 12+
This book is an absolutely amazing classic from Agatha Christie. It is a great story with an incredible twist when a rich business man, by the name of Ratchett, is killed when the train is stuck in a snowdrift. The incredible, world-famous detective, Hercule Poirot detective and other companions work out they there are two possible solutions to the murder; can they find the murderer before anyone else is killed? Find out! It is a very good murder mystery story bursting with intensity on every page. It was an extremely difficult book to read. The scene is set, as said in the title, on the Orient Express. It would be a great book for my good friends. A very easy book to project into my mind. I rate it 5 stars and will pass this on to my friends.”
Iona Mandal. Aged 12
Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock The Smell of Other People’s Houses
I enjoyed reading this book because it had a unique, but complicated storyline and was written in many perspectives. The story portrayed four teenagers who were growing up in Alaska in the 1970s and their struggles, more of a historical fiction. The fact that the story was written in so many perspectives helped the reader imagine the same incident from four to five different points of view, and therefore gave the plot more depth and understanding. The book did not only include one story happening at one point of time, but many people’s stories somehow coinciding with each other, which often made me quite confused at times. However, when the stories merged together, and I was able to understand how the people were connected, it was much easier for me to understand. I would give this book 5 stars and strongly recommend it to others for it is an innovative story and would make you think.
Robin Talley The Lies We Tell Ourselves
I enjoyed reading this book because it covered many topical and relevant issues such as racism and prejudice towards people who seem “different” to others in any way, but with an extremely hard-hitting story behind them. The book made me feel quite sympathetic but also proud of the main character as she overcomes many of her fears and achieves her dreams, although she lives in a society with animosity for her race. The main plot of the story shows a black girl who is living in America, and pinpoints the issue of integration between both black and white people at school. The girl, who is the main character of this story, is one of the first people to start at a former all-white school, along with nine others. The story reflects her hardships, and how, although many around her shy away from their troubles and give up, she tackles them head-on and succeeds. Overall, it was a very inspiring book to read and shows that you should always have a growth mind set. I would give this book 5 stars and strongly recommend it to others, for it is a story which helps us to appreciate and celebrate our differences.
Tove Jannson Comet in Moominland
I enjoyed reading this book because it had a simplistic but an imaginative story, with excellent illustrations, and most importantly, a happy ending. Although, from the cover, the book may seem as though it is aimed for younger readers, it is also filled with a lot of deep and poetic language which I found very beautiful. It just goes to show that you should never judge a book by its cover. The main plot described a creature called Moomintroll, with a friend named Snufkin. They go on many adventures together with the Silk Monkey and the Snork and discover many new places. This particular book, part of a series, showed them trying to find an incoming comet which was apparently going to land on Earth soon. Instead of finding a comet, they find a large cave… Overall, it was a gripping, as well as amusing book, that was hard to put down. I would give this book 5 stars and strongly recommend it to others because its an adventure story from the perspective of a child, which throws open a box of imagination.
Cas Lester Do You Speak Chocolate?
I enjoyed reading this book as it was a very heart-warming and touching story which shows us that although we may be from different cultures and backgrounds, we are the same inside. The story is about a girl called Nadima, who has come to the UK from Syria, due to the dire circumstances there because of the wars happening there. She befriends a girl called Jaz, who accepts her for her differences and they soon become best friends. Nadima tells Jaz all about the hardships she faced while she was living in Syria and how her parents used to run a sweet shop. So they hatch a plan to start a sweet shop together… The moral of the story is to accept people for who they are no matter where they come from.
I would give this book 5 stars and strongly recommend it to others because the story helps us value culture, cultural differences and appreciate its beauty in this world in promoting unity.
A.A. Milne The Complete Works of Winnie the Pooh
I enjoyed reading this book because it was a very playful and light-hearted book which I found was very simple but had some deep philosophy behind it. I enjoyed each and every story and especially the imagination of the plot. I also liked how the main character, Winnie the Pooh, often writes poems and songs spontaneously, which I find very quirky and unique. Finally, I like how every character had their own personalities and positive as well as negative traits. I would give this book 5 stars and strongly recommend it to others because of its simplistic quality but inner depth.
Chetan Bhagat Two States
I enjoyed reading this book because it reflects how two people from different cultures can fall in love, although their families may be opposing in their religious and cultural ideas. It shows that we must learn to live with our differences, and deal with them even if that means overcoming many challenges along the way. The main plot of this story, described a Punjabi boy and a Tamilian girl who fall in love, however their parents don’t support their relationship as they are from two completely different parts of India. I would give this book 5 stars and strongly recommend it because it was my window to understanding my birthplace India, appreciating its cultural diversities and understanding how, despite the variations in culture, the country is still united in harmony.