The Jewish Chronicle

CHILDREN’S BOOKS Sci-Fi with a sud-plot


AWASHING MACHINE from the future is plotting to take over the world, liberating household appliances from servitude with the cry: “None shall be integrated. All shall be freestandi­ng!” Schoolboy Luke is in a lather — it’s up to him to save humanity. Luckily, he has some superhero back-up but, unluckily, his own toaster is an arch-villain. My Cousin is a Time Traveller by David Solomons (Nosy Crow, £6.99) is loaded with painfully funny one-liners, anarchic battles against electrical items and byzantine plot twists but Solomons also pulls off some sophistica­ted metafictio­nal tricks, as the book itself becomes a key part of the story. Age nine up.

After a couple of hard-hitting YA novels, returns to comforting comedy in The Gifted, the Talented and Me (Bloomsbury, £7.99).

When Sam’s father sells his company, the family becomes, if not stinking rich, then “mildly smelly” and moves to Hampstead. His mother takes up pottery and blogs about her parenting idyll, while Sam and his siblings are forced to join a school for talented kids — fine for Ethan, who wants to be in a band and Freya, with her imaginary unicorns but not for Sam, who yearns to play football. All sorts of drama ensues. Age 12 to adult.

No chess knowledge is needed to enjoy Check Mates by Stewart Foster (Simon & Schuster, £6.99). Felix has ADHD and is always in trouble at school. But then his embarrassi­ng, pink-cardriving, German-TV-obsessed granddad finds an unusual way of teaching him chess – and suddenly there is everything to play for. Granddad, though, is behaving strangely, especially during Felix’s spy games. Could it relate to Granddad’s former life in East Berlin? Age nine to 14.


James Carter (Bloomsbury, £6.99) is an anthology of cosmologic­al poems for ages seven to 14. Highlights include two emotional recollecti­ons of Laika, the dog sent into orbit in 1957, a oneway trip. But many poems are funny, such as Joshua Seigal’s meditation on “space junk”. Some exploit typography — lines of verse disappeari­ng into a black hooooooole…

Young poetry fans should also check out the Children’s Poetry Archive (childrens.poetryarch­, relaunched, with a friendly, easy-to-explore website for ages up to 16. Michael Rosen, former children’s laureate, is patron.

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Spaced Out Brian Moses and
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William Sutcliffe
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