Friday, 27 June 2014

The Booktrust best Book Awards 2014 – Best Fact Book Category – Reviews

Here at Space on The Bookshelf we celebrate all aspects of children’s literature, including non-fiction. Non-fiction isn’t just for the class room, as it is loved by children for leisure reading, some children opting to read almost exclusively non-fiction choosing it above fiction.

There are numerous prizes and awards for fiction, and although there is less for non-fiction, there are some very good awards that celebrate factual book for children, like the Booktrust Best Book Awards, Non-Fiction Prize. Here is a quick round up of the shortlisted titles, along with a comment about each of them from an educational professional.

Operation Ouch, Your Brilliant Body - Dr Chris & Dr Xand (CBBC)

Operation Ouch is a funny factual book, packed with information and knowledge about the human body. The book is in section and has quiz's, and gross out facts, and humorous fact, as well as cartoons of writers/ TV presents/ doctors/twin Dr Chris and Dr Xand.

“Great way of getting information across, in bite sized pieces. Humorous with fun facts, quizzes, good for work on bodies, and getting boy’s interested in reading.”
 Comment by Student Teacher and Teaching Assistant – Kacy Berry

Space in 30 seconds - Clive Gifford

Space in 30 Seconds, does exactly a it says on the tin. taking complexed space theory and condensing it down into digestible chucks using bright diagrams, illustrations diographs. This makes difficult concepts like 'The Big Bang Theory, understandable for children (and adults), and exciting. This combined with it's glossary makes it handy as a dip-into book when researching project. 

“Good size and layout, colourful and concise space facts which make you want to read more. Great research book for space projects, with useful quizzes and fun experiments.”
Comment by Student Teacher and Teaching Assistant – Kacy Berry

How to be a Dinosaur Hunter - Lonely Planet

How to be a Dinosaur Hunter, is packed full of adsorbing facts, D-I-Y guides, like how to build a full size model of a dinosaur, and hint's on how to be a Dinosaur Hunter, and how to survive meteor hits. It's colourful and vibrant with something that will ignite every child's imagination. 

 “Another great research books with facts and information in easy to digest chunks, which is easy and fun to read.”

Comment by Student Teacher and Teaching Assistant – Kacy Berry

The Romans, Gods, Emperors and Dormice - Marcia Williams

The Romans, Gods, Emperors and Dormice, is a exquisitely illustrated introduction to Roman History, narrated by a dormouse and presented in a comic/ graphic novel format. The bright colour and the combining the facts in a bright, a graphic format, makes the read quick and fun. Whereas the story being retold by a dormouse means it read more like a story / fiction, which should appeal to younger and challenged readers. 

“Large, colourful history reference book in a graphic novel format and narrated by a dormouse making it appealing to younger readers. A useful tool for introduction to Roman history.”
Comment by Student Teacher and Teaching Assistant – Kacy Berry

The winners announced on the 2nd of July for the non-fiction as well all the other categories, so good luck to all the shortlisted authors that are up for prizes, and especially to Phil Earl, and Sophia Bennett both of whom have featured on Space on the Bookshelf in the last year! To visit Booktrust Best Book Awards site  press here.

Monday, 23 June 2014

And the Carnegie goes to... Kevin Brooks for The Bunker Diary!

This years list for the Carnegie was an amazing array of powerful and thought provoking reads, although we opted out of predicting a winners, we hand on heart, said we thought The Bunker Diary was a real contender. So here is a big  congratulations to Kevin Brooks!

Our congratulations also to The Greenaway picture book winner Jon Klassen for This is Not My Hat.

Also congratulation's to all the short-lister's, for making it on to the most prestigious list in the publishing calender!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Heartwarming, heart-thumping or thought-provoking? Which will take the Carnegie Medal?

Again this year’s crop of shortlisted titles are all so good and diverse that it tricky to see which will be awarded the medal.

Sometimes a runaway winner emerges and sometimes a runaway popular favourite emerges, but, this year the list appears all of the titles have intrigued or been loved in equal measure.

We always love reading the reviews posted on the shadowing site – where children are not afraid to say they failed to engage with a book or how, despite initial trepidation, could not put it down.

But it is great to see books inspiring and challenging, sparking debate and a love of reading – and all of this before the winner has even been announced.

But with the winner announcement imminent who does Space on the Bookshelf think will win? Or should win?

Sally: I for one, loved all three of the shortlisted books that I reviewed, each one unique and up-put-downable. ‘The Child’s Elephant’, has moments of writing perfection, so strong and proactive, that it makes any want-to-be-writers stunned in awe and then want to cry, it also has the most amazing story, which made even more poignant by recent events.

Nicki: ‘Liar & Spy’, with its gentle, unmelodramatic story about bullying has to be a contender. It won the Guardian fiction prize and manages to be an accessible, intriguing middle-grade story with appeal for children of all ages, but also cleverly tackles some serious issues in a non-heavy way. Masterful subtle writing and a lesson in the most powerful thing in a book being the connections the readers make themselves.

Sally: ‘All the Truth that’s in  Me’, one of the few historical titles on this year’s list, takes a totally unique stance to delivering the story, with a voice that’s strong and totally refusing to be defined by other perceptions, it’s full of hope.

Nicki: ‘The Wall’ is another great example of the increasingly blurry line between children’s and adult fiction. It was published both as an adult’s and a children’s title and very cleverly uses a child’s eyes to explore a sensitive, political subject that’s not easy to grasp, but it is done through a boy’s adventure story, full of daring and danger.  

What is does incredibly well is being a novel that informs as well as entertains and manages to be a really exciting novel for children first, while also being about serious issues with a bigger picture woven in. This is my pick for the one the judges will be awarding the prize to.

Nicki: Anne Fine’s ‘Blood Family’ is another book that could just as easily sit on adult shelves. The ability of Anne Fine to get under the skin of a damaged child is a seriously impressive piece of writing that could keep many adult book groups talking. As she has won the Carnegie Medal twice before must make her a serious contender. But I do have my doubts that it is the sort of books that children will really adore and take to their hearts.

Sally: ‘The Bunker Dairy’ is a jolt. It is an uncompromising read that deals with some truly grim and disturbing themes, yet has a character voice which is so intoxicating that you find your knuckles going white whilst you reading veraciously to see what happens next.  I think of the three that I read, the book that really stood apart and in both feel, concept and voice has to be ‘The Bunker Diary’, to deliver such a dark tale and make it so readable is no mean feat, and I believe it to be a real contender for the medal.

Claire: 'Ghost Hawk' has a beautiful sense of place and use of imagery. Susan Cooper has had books nominated for the Carnegie Medal three times during her long career, and I'd love to see her finally win with this wonderful book. However, she has attracted a small amount of criticism, ranging right from colonialism for her portrayal of the Native American culture, through to a prejudiced view on the motives of the European settlers. I felt she'd dealt with these issues in a very balanced way, but perhaps the difficult politics of her subject might stop the judges awarding her the ultimate accolade - this time.

Nicki: ‘Rooftoppers’ seems to be the story that many children have taken to their hearts. The idea of never having known your mother is something that can make all children think and wonder. To what lengths would you go to if you felt their mother was out there, if only she could be found?

The most outstanding thing about Katherine’s writing is definitely her metaphors – and if the Carnegie was awarded on metaphor alone, she would win hands down, no doubt. If it was awarded for a heart-warming, thumping good read it would also be the outright winner in my opinion. 

All of them together make for an inspiring selection that will surely help to encourage a whole range of young readers to engage with books and take new and different things from stories.

I think this year we have all decided that we long for 'Rooftoppers' to win. It is in the marvellous tradition of previous winners such as Philippa Pearce, Eleanor Farjeon and Frank Cottrell Boyce in being a story that is all about possibility, which is such a tremendously inspiring thing for a children's book to be about.

We can't wait for the final result next week!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

‘The Wall’ - William Sutcliffe - Carnegie Review 2014

When Josh loses his football and heads off down a tunnel to try to retrieve it he emerges in what seems to be a different world.

But the world Josh has entered is no fantasy world – it’s subtly done so that the place Josh has entered is not mentioned by name until the story is well underway. But Josh lives in Amarias, an Israeli settlement in the West bank behind the 'Separation Fence' ('The Wall') and the tunnel takes him into the world of the Palestinians.

It’s a dangerous place, but Josh is intrigued by it and drawn to it, wanting to discover more, in the way boys approaching manhood will start to want to leave domestic safety and explore the big wide world.

Every time he comes back he learns a little more about the lives of people who live so close to him and yet so apart, yet puts himself in danger.

He starts a chain of events that threaten lives on both sides of the fence, but might just get him killed. It’s a fast-paced exciting story, but not without the introspection that allows Josh to work out that the situation is not at all as it had been told to him.

‘The Wall’ was published in both adult and children’s editions and is both an adventure novel and a coming of age story where a boy begins to see the world around him with fresh eyes and all its moral uncertainties. The difficulty he faces is trying not to simply repeat the behaviour of parents – to be part of the generation who stops the war and who makes a difference.

It is surprising, intelligent, heartbreaking, and beautifully told. I was completely blown away by this brilliantly told coming-of-age tale which will leave you with shredded nails but hope in your heart.

We asked William Sutcliffe what was his favourite thing about his shortlisted book: 'My favourite thing about “The Wall” is that it is designed to work as a political novel for adults about a real place, while also making sense for teenage readers as a dystopian novel in a setting that could be entirely fictional.'

Monday, 16 June 2014

‘Liar & Spy’ by Rebecca Stead - Carnegie review

This is a deceptively short and simple tale of the new friends Georges make when he has to move home. But it is actually a clever and sophisticated piece of storytelling in that most of the intrigue of the tale is in what is left unsaid, rather than what appears on the page.

When Georges moves house he makes friends with Safer, who live upstairs. Safer is homeschooled and is getting interested in the mysterious activities of one of the other residents of the apartments.

Georges gets drawn into Safer’s schemes, but things start to unravel as Safer starts to put greater demands on this new friendship in this this quirky, original story.

Books for children are often very plot-driven, with straightforward storylines, but in very few words, Rebecca Stead weaves several plotlines and plays with the reader’s understanding of what is going on.

Georges is a complex character, dealing with difficulties at home and at school. Rebecca Stead subtly plays with perspective on some of the power struggles that go on in children’s relationships and it is only as things are slowly revealed that the reader can understand

It’s a great story about standing up for ourselves. Why do we let the bullies make up the rules and why do we play them, is the central question of this really delightful and intriguing tale which is never short on surprises.

Friday, 13 June 2014

‘Rooftoppers’ by Katherine Rundell - Carnegie review

Baby Sophie is rescued from a sinking ship and, grows up believing that her mother died in the shipwreck.

But when he slightest of clues means there is a chance of tracking down her mother, Sophie, and scholarly Charles, who has brought her up in London, head to Paris in search of the truth, and the start of an out-and-out adventure story.

Sophie and Charles are used to staying one step ahead of the authorities, as the eccentric way Charles has looked after Sophie means she is only a step away from being taken to an orphanage.

But in Paris Sophie finds helps in her impossible quest from an unexpected quarter – from a bunch of children she meets who scrape a living on the Paris rooftops. Now on the run from police, Sophie sees a way she can still search for her mother. But first she must learn to scale ancient buildings in the dark, must learn to tightrope and to win the trust of the Rooftoppers.

It’s a magical tale, of children getting together to help each other and has a feel of a fairytale about it. But the thing that surprises on every page is the imaginative writing. Katherine’s way of telling the story, her fantastically imaginative word play, means there is plenty to enjoy and delight.

It’s in a great tradition of storytelling. It has huge appeal and, from the children I’ve talked to about their Carnegie experiences this year, it is the book people have most been pleased to have discovered through the shadowing.

It’s a great story about being yourself, not fitting in and a theme of believing the impossible. Great to have such an enjoyable, uplifting and well-written story for younger readers on the list.

We asked author Katherine Rundell what was her favourite thing about her shortlisted book.

"My favourite thing about Rooftoppers is the night-time tightroping scene, when Sophie walks across a rope high above Paris. I've always loved tightroping and wire-walking, but imagining what it might actually be like gave me unexpected jabs of dizziness. It took seven or eight rewrites to get that scene as close to right as I could make it, but it's now one of my favourite things I've written."

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

'Blood Family' by Anne Fine - Carnegie review

It opens like a thriller, digs deep emotionally and tackles contemporary issues without either dumbing down, over-sensationalising or making a melodrama out of serious subjects.

This year Anne Fine’s ‘Blood Family’ definitely seems to have been the one on the Carnegie shortlist where the content has both surprised and shocked.

‘Blood Family’ is a modern-day story about Eddie, a boy with plenty of problems to fill a book. We meet Eddie, traumatised and imprisoned, aged seven, when the police arrive at his home to rescue Eddie and his mother from a violent relationship.

The intensity of this opening makes for a disturbing start, a menace that never lets up. Yet, however much Eddie’s world seems apart from our own, we get drawn in to understand, which is a great testament to Anne Fine’s concise, appealing writing and her characterisation of Eddie. But it’s the lean and no-nonsense way she handles some really tricky issues that really impressed me about this book.

The story, you have to say, is unusual in itself as a topic of a book for children. But it further stands out in that there are multiple points of view to Eddie’s story – teachers, social workers, foster carers, adoptive parents – and most of them are adults. All with a view, all terribly nice and doing the right thing. All of them are kindly and well-meaning. But none of them really able to understand Eddie.

It’s a downbeat view of how ill-equipped society is to try to rehabilitate children like Eddie, despite lots of very good intentions. And although we’d all like to think there are very few of them, the truth is they are in the headlines depressingly often. It’s strong stuff and definitely aimed at teenage and older readers and would certainly be just as suitable for adults. I felt I enjoyed it much more with my adult eyes than in trying to think how children would come at this story.

The violence isn’t notably worse than in a lot of young adult fiction, but the feeling Anne Fine creates, how she cleverly creates her reality, certainly makes it a story that will stay with you for a long time.

On being freed, Eddie finds it really difficult to relate to the world around him, yet he is sweet and a character easy to warm to.

If there is one thing that living with a violent father has taught him – it’s how to not make waves, how to make yourself almost disappear, how to pick up on signals and always, always say the right thing. So he clears the hurdles set by the social workers and ends up settled with a new family.

The psychiatrists and social workers disappear from Eddie’s life, congratulating themselves on a job well done. But Eddie’s troubles have hardly begun.

None of them have scratched the surface of how Eddie will behave when he starts to grow up and starts to think independently. Everything is there poised like a huge weight ready to topple down on him.

What you could call the second half of the book looses much of the adult viewpoint and gets more into its stride with Eddie, reaching an age of maturity and starting to question his early life. Then the wheels fall of his current, carefully constructed existence. Why did his mother never try to escape? Did she not think he was worth saving?

And the biggest question of all that truly comes to haunt Eddie – is he destined to repeat that violent behaviour? Is it somehow mapped onto his genes? If he is Harris’s son, can he stop himself turning into the monster his father became?

His adoptive family appear ill-equipped with what to expect. And as he has to keep visiting his mother, he can never start afresh and truly try to move on and forget his past. His wonderful sister is the only person who gets under the surface, but she becomes the target of his anger.

Without anyone noticing, Eddie, full of self-disgust, tries to blot out the fear and becomes dependent on alcohol, stealing to fund his habit, occasionally breaking into violence. Is he already walking in his father’s footsteps?

The descriptions of alcohol dependency and Eddie’s journey are finely described, not shying away from the truth, and although there is much to shock a sensitive reader, the violence is not written as entertainment. It is written as a read to provoke thought and discussion.

How easy it would have been to be gratuitous in situations, such as when Eddie realises one of the other inhabitants of his squat has died of an overdose. But this story isn’t using violence for entertainment, in the same way that it doesn’t make drug or alcohol abuse appear even slightly appealing.

There is plenty here that will surely provoke good book-group discussions. It’s about topics that crop up every day on the news. And, ultimately, through unstinting support, he conquers his demons.

Eddie’s voice, from damaged child to damaged adult and beyond, is a bravura piece of writing.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper - Carnegie review

This is an enchanting story of two young men, the disparate cultures that they inhabit and the emerging nation that they share. It is set amidst the atmospheric historical background of seventeenth century Massachusetts. Like much of Susan Cooper’s work, Ghost Hawk is hauntingly written and draws heavily on mythology, magic and the local landscape.

It opens with eleven year old Pakanoket boy, Little Hawk, preparing for the traditional three month solo journey which will prove that he has become a man. Little Hawk survives and matures but returns home to make a horrifying discovery. He moves to a new village and some time passes before a confrontation with European settlers that utterly changes him - and the course of the story.

Ghost Hawk is very much a book of two halves, and although Little Hawk remains the narrator, most of the second part of the book follows the life of ten year old John Wakeley through to middle age. Although the boys’ backgrounds are different, changes occur that set John on a new trajectory and elements of his story begin to mirror those of Little Hawk. 

There is an age guidance label of the back of Ghost Hawk of 11+ which feels about right, given the mature - sometimes even harrowing - themes that are explored. These include the struggle to survive in harsh surroundings, the subjugation of indigenous populations and religious freedom. 

This book contains many evocative descriptions, covers a long timespan and has an unusual structure. These were all elements that I enjoyed, but as I reread the book for this review I wondered if it may make Ghost Hawk a trickier read than tweens and younger teens are accustomed to. The advice I would give them - and indeed did give to my twelve year old daughter - is that the pace of this book allows the reader to take the time to pause and feel. The writing is unwaveringly beautiful, and it is a story to be savoured.

Friday, 6 June 2014

The Child’s Elephant - Rachel Campbell Johnston - Carnegie Review

On initial glance the cover of The Child’s Elephant with its beautiful painted illustration of a young boy and a juvenile African Elephant sharing an embrace, gives the impression that this book is going to be a happy-feel-good-easy read. However when your turn the book over and see the illustration on the back cover depicting the silhouette of a child holding a rifle to a backdrop of army camouflage, it’s a physical jolt and you know that this book is more than just a tale about a child and his elephant.

In The Child’s Elephant, author Rachel Campbell Johnston has achieved something remarkable, following the tradition of many great classic books like, White Fang, Tarker the Otter, Zes, Born Free, the story shows the intimate relationship between a human boy; seven year old Bat and an orphaned African elephant, demonstrating the trials and emotional roller-coaster of caring for a wild creature. The writing is a feast of imagery that builds up into a world so intense and real that you can almost touch the culture of Bat’s community living in the village on the African plains.

The Child’s Elephant ensnares you from the first line, cranking up tension as it depicts the danger that  seven year old cattle herder, Bat, is in when alone in the Savannah he witnesses the brutal killing of an adult elephant by poachers. When Bat and his friend Muka bring the slain elephant’s calf home to the village and care for it we discover that Bat’s farther was a ranger who was himself slain whilst protecting the great beasts from poachers.

“The next thing Bat knew, two figures were scrambling onto the elephant’s corpse. A third fetched the chainsaw…it ripped into life at first tug and snarling, lunged forward, ferociously as a chained dog. Bat heard the long rising whine as it finally bit. Its blade spewed bloodied flecks.”

The book really comes to life with the arrival of elephant calf Maya, whose personality and mischievous nature brings lightness to the book. The relationship of Maya and Bat and the whole village who adopt the her is heart-warming, and the details of the day-to-day trials of rearing such a large wild creature who knows not her strength is fascinating and humorous as the little elephants... 

“trunk remained a source of problems. Sometimes she stepped on it and stumbled and tripped; sometimes it got stuck in a big clumpy knot; and often, snuffling about, she breathed up a great whoosh of dust which would madden her with its tickling and she would writhe it and wave it violently about.”
Reading the book and witnessing child and elephant grow is mesmerising and watching the two part ways, when Maya is reintroduced to the wild and taken in by a herd of her own kind, is an emotional tug. It’s in these scenes that Rachel’s writing is at its best; wrenching at your emotions; hinting at some deeper power of the mighty beasts; yet standing well clear of over-sentimentality.

“Bat gazed into the depths of her [Maya’s] russet-brown eyes. He could hear his heart pounding; the blood singing in his ears. He could see his tiny reflection, stilled like a speck in her long slow gaze. It was like a fly trapped in amber.”

The Child’s Elephant is written in three parts, each part having a different illustration at the beginning of each chapter within it. Part one being a lovely depiction baby Maya and then part two is of an army camp. This is when the book takes a darker turn, after Maya is released and fully integrated into the heard Bat and his friend Muka are abducted and forced into the child army. These chapters are engrossing and penned in a manner which clearly shows the terrors and atrocities that children, as young as eight, are forced to endure and inflict on others. The author has written in such way that the terror, fear and clearly displayed yet is obtainable and suitable for the audience. The section compels you read, willing the young protagonist to prevail as Bat contemplates escape rescuing Muka and save his beloved elephants.

“the boy called Bonyo…jumped up from the fire where he had been smoking dagga and staggered about waving his gun over his head, ‘I killed the last owner of this,’ he cried. ‘He deserved it. He had done too much damage with it…and since then I have done damage with it myself.’ Then all at once he began shooting.”

The book conclusion is bittersweet as the whole circle of life is shown, yet its ultimate feeling is one of hope. The Child’s Elephant is an astonishing read, at times brutal, at others gentle, always hopeful and an education in a culture and a part of the world that is often ignored, and highlighting the  plight of elephants against poachers . Rachel Campbell-Johnston’s writing is moving and honest, and in light of recent not dissimilar under-reported events in Nigeria I strongly compel you to pick up this book.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Bunker Diary - Kevin Brooks - Carnegie Review 2014

Kevin Brook’s The Bunker Diary is a gripping grim read for older YA readers. This is one of those rare book that does what is says on the tin (well cover) as it is literally the diary of sixteen year old Linus, as he records his imprisonment in a bunker.


This book is dark, grim and relentless; it is not an easy read and is most suited to the older end of YA. It is however a masterpiece, Linus is a sympathetic, strong and complicated protagonist with a gripping voice that makes you want to read along and endure his suffering and that of those of his five randomly abducted prison mates, as they try to rise above the indignity and create order is chaos.

The writing is crafted beautifully to bring the bleak account of five random strangers thrown together deep in an underground bunker completely at the mercy of their abductor, who toys with them and plays games to cause discord and suffering for presumably his own amusement.

The six characters are all strong whole and well envisioned; Linus, a teenage runaway living on the street to escape his privileged life and loveless father. Linus proves to be smart and empathetic feeling the need to protect the others especially Jenny. Jenny, is a nine year old girl, innocent yet smart in her naive approach to solving problems. Anja, mid-twenties, confident beautiful career women who dissolves as soon as she arrives. Fred, a grizzly bear of man, strong, drug addict, with a good heart yet not to be trifled with. Bird, a sleazy rotund business man. Russell, an elderly deep thinking, black, gay gentleman. Each is different (one assumes purposely so as they've all been chosen up HIM UPSTAIRS) to cause the right amount of friction that is likely to combust with the right amount of pressure.

As the time goes on, and Him upstairs creates more disturbing games and plights to inflict on the them, the pressure builds and Linus records everything in his diary interwoven with memories of home, and inner thoughts, as a kind of therapy, or record for anyone to find, and for something to do. The book has a subtle tones of hope, as Linus has a strong instinct to survive that extents not just to him but for his comrades, and it’s this and his voice that compels you to read no, as you route for a happily ever after.

One of the real achievements of The Bunker Diary is the seventh character, Him Upstairs, the abductor. Him is faceless, every account given by each of the six is different; The Blind Man. The Policeman. The un-notable house viewer. The drunken business man and so on, so you never get a fix on what Him is like. Him never makes an appearance, yet he is ever present directing the action, and his personality is as just as strong and intriguing as the six, yet in a morbid-fascination-kind-of way.

Lastly, hat’s off to Kevin Brook’s for making the most dull inanimate objects so ominous, I for one will never be able to look at plastic cutlery in the same way again!

Monday, 2 June 2014

All the Truth That’s in Me – Julie Berry - Carnegie Review 2014

To be honest when we were divvying up the Carnegie short list books for review, I chose All The Truth That’s in Me because of the authors name, her surname is what mine was prior to saying I DO, and us Berry’s should bunch together I feel. I had no expectations, and was not aware of what was in stall between the cover of the book, but I was not disappointed at all, All the Truth That’s In Me, is AMAZING.

The premise sounds dark and depressing here’s the blurb from the back of the book…

“After two years missing. Judith returns home –her tongue cut out, her best friend dead. No one knows what has happened and Judith cannot speak of it.”

Depressing this is not. All the Truth That’s In Me, is full of hope, as the Judith tells her story, her inner monologue, as if she were sharing all her thoughts, fears and experiences to the boy who she has always loved; Lucus. Julie’s writing is strong and confident, penning Judith’s strength of character and wit. Set sometime in Amercia’s infancy within a highly Purist community of settlers, Judith is ostracised by her community and shunned by her own mother. Treated as, sinner, victim, and prey, Judith’s must use her wit to survive.

When her beloved Lucas is betrothed to the village Belle, and then goes to war to save the village from invaders, Judith must face her fears and sacrifice herself, to give her love and the town it’s best chances, enlisting the help of Lucas’s father, her captor, to lead the battle.

Judith tells the tale like a sonnet to Lucas, her fears, memories of her captivity and aspirations to win her love and regain her life with passion and honesty. Despite seeing and experiencing horrors and the continued cold-shoulder and suspicion of her community she is a strong and formidable character, enduring harassment from the schoolmaster as she learns to read, and the painful process of re-finding her voice, which when both her life and her beloved Lucas are in the balance may have the power to save them.

I thought long and hard to think of any book for which I could compare All the Truth That’s in Me to, and it’s tricky, the writing, the originality of the story and the amazing twist at the end, (which completely took me by surprise which is not an easy task) however, I think the closest is Celia Rees’s Witch Child, as the voice of the female characters are both wilful and the setting are similar too, especially the purist community so quick to point fingers and succumb to gossip. However All the Truth That’s in Me has a thriller who-done it undertone which is more akin to films, The Village and The Woman in White coming to mind.

Julie Berry has done the bunch proud, with All The Truth That’s In Me, it is a stunning and amazing read, with a strong wilful female protagonist, that transcends genre and is truly a stand-alone masterpiece.