Skilled Readers - The Oxford Academy

Interest Level –
Aged 11+
Woodcutters Peter and his father Tomas arrive in the lonely village of
Chust. Peter doesn't understand why his father carries a long wooden
box around with him, or why he has dug a deep ditch around their hut.
But he is increasingly aware of malevolence about the place. Menacing
shadows, villagers missing and people murdered only to reappear.
With the help of Sofia, a travelling gypsy, Peter sets out to conquer the
evil threat to the village and uncover the secrets of his father's past. Set
in the seventeenth century amid the bleakness of winter in Eastern
Europe, and inspired by vampire folklore, this is a superbly crafted,
dark and menacing tale.
A sense of hardship, bitter cold and fear penetrates the text, resulting in
a chilling page-turner.
Publisher: Orion Children's Books
Interest Level –
Aged 11+
Part one of the Wind on Fire trilogy by William Nicholson
This is a stunningly original fantasy, set in the mythical city of
Aramanth, where every household is judged solely on its
members' ability to perform in examinations. Only one family
has the strength to rebel, fighting the system, and, in doing so,
risks all.
Leaving their parents and baby sibling behind, Bowman and his
sister, Kestrel, embark on a dangerous journey in search of
secrets which will make the 'wind singer' sing once again, thus
restoring normality to their world.
Their epic quest is depicted with a perfect balance of drama,
tenderness and a touch of humour.
Publisher: Egmont
Interest Level –
Aged 13+
Driven by drought, starvation and conflict, Rosa and Sunday
have both undertaken perilous journeys across continents –
only to end up in Hawk Rise, a decaying tower block scheduled
for demolition.
Homeless, identity-less, Sunday is the caretaker; despite his
situation, he worries about the inhabitants, especially Rosa, who
supports her ailing mother. Rosa’s optimism is unshakeable:
against all odds, she starts a garden in Hawk Rise’s wasteland
convinced it can unite the residents – immigrants and
pensioners alike - who are facing eviction.
An absorbing story from the viewpoint of those at society’s
edges who never stop hoping: as Sunday realises, 'only over
time did one learn how it was not the quality of the construction
but the quality of the people which rendered a place habitable'.
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Interest Level –
Aged 11+
A dark and dangerous world peopled by dwarves, shapeshifting vixen, mythical beasts and stone Goyls lurks on the
other side of the ornate mirror in Jacob's father's study.
Jacob has often secretly ventured through the mirror in search
of his missing father. But one day his brother Will follows him,
with disastrous consequences.
Only the powerful Fairies, who can turn grown men into
wriggling fish, can reverse the spell which is turning Will's flesh
into jade. But should Jacob trust the Dark or the Red Fairy? Both
can easily destroy Jacob, Will and his beloved Clara.
An atmosphere bristling with menace and nerve-jangling
apprehension permeates this fantasy thriller. Readers will beg
for more, even as they turn the last page.
Publisher: Chicken House
Interest Level –
Aged 12+
Issy has no idea where she’s from; abandoned as a baby,
adopted by the village cunning man, she knows only her name
and that she is terrified of fire, of burning. Taunted by
superstitious villagers fearing witchcraft, Issy is desperate to
discover her identity. Is she like malevolent Old Demdyke, the
worst witch of all? Or is she akin to Iohan a-Style, businesswoman and healer? Even the Parson doesn’t know whether to
redeem or punish her. As the Witch Finder’s forces implacably
close in, Issy must decide for herself...
Issy’s voice lies at the heart of this gripping, often gruelling
novel based on the Pendle witchcraft trials: honest, terrified,
unsure, she challenges good and evil head-on. Times change,
but intolerance looks the same.
Publisher: Anderson Press
Interest Level –
Aged 12+
In an abandoned house in the Lake District, a cupboard door
opens into a playroom. Buried in dust is a collection of
children's books in which the names of characters have been
savagely crossed out. Here three children played a make
believe game, sacrificing their dreams and wishes to make what
they believed come true. But the game was never finished and
in the woods behind the house something waits, hungry for the
only food it knows. Now a new family has come to the house.
Soon they will discover themselves in a game of terror and
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Interest Level –
Aged 13+
As the daredevil equestrian act 'The Incredible Scarletta Sisters',
Ellen and Lucy Spangle are the star attraction in their father’s
circus. But while ambitious, self-centred Lucy loves the
limelight, her thoughtful older sister Ellen secretly yearns to
leave the circus and become a teacher. When a wealthy young
man is attracted by Ellen’s glamorous career, the 16-year-old
must decide where her future lies and where her heart really
Packed with tragedy, drama and romance, this is a fast-paced
novel that realistically evokes the atmosphere of Victorian circus
life in the East End. The Unrivalled Spangles has been
shortlisted for the 2005 Booktrust Teenage Prize.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
Interest Level –
Aged 14+
It's been 3 years, 1 month, 1 week and 6 days since 15 year old
Sherry had seen daylight and 98, 409, 602 seconds since Sherry
and her family had been shut off from the world. Only now do
they need to escape. The world as Sherry knows it has changed.
Imagine a life where people are no longer people but ravenous
beasts out for the kill.
This is a compelling, dystopian novel about survival. It’s a novel
about teenage attraction and love. Gut wrenchingly beautiful,
this action packed story is filled with apprehension and tension
for the reader. From start to finish I could not put this book
down, I was hooked! A fantastic, gripping read for all those who
love living on the edge!
Publisher: Usborne
Interest Level –
Aged 14+
Fourteen year old Sam Templeton is having a completely
normal day until his teacher disappears - poof! - in the middle
of a class. He and his confused classmates soon discover that it
isn't only their teacher who is gone - everyone over the age of
fifteen has inexplicably disappeared from the small town of
Perdido Beach, which has been isolated from the rest of the
world by a mysterious force field.
So what happens now? Sam and his friends Quinn, Edilio and
Astrid attempt to restore order to the rapidly developing chaos
and to work out what is happening to their town. But then a
convoy of cards from the out-of-town school, Coates Academy
appears, led by the charismatic and sinister Caine who quickly
seizes power.
Blending Lost with Lord of the Flies, this is a fast-paced, gripping,
all-action novel that doesn't pull any punches. With spare
dialogue and hard-hitting scenes of violence, it's certainly not
for the faint-hearted, but there's no doubt that Gone delivers a
powerfully exciting and engrossing read.
Publisher: Egmont
Interest Level –
Aged 14+
Daniel's life is falling apart: his mum has left the family home
and his dad's drinking has since gone out of control.
When Daniel's dad decides to take him to the Leisure World
Holiday Complex, Daniel isn't looking forward to the holiday,
and on arrival, his first impressions of the strangely artificial
resort do nothing to change his mind.
Things change when Daniel befriends a mysterious girl called
Lexi who he meets by the fake lake. Soon Daniel realises that
only he can see Lexi and that, alarmingly, she has terrible
injuries that seem to get worse each time they meet and a watch
that inexplicably works backwards. As Lexi's horrifying story
emerges Daniel discovers a strength he never knew he had.
This book is from the pen of an award-winning author for adults
and makes a haunting and at times disturbing read.
Publisher: Walker Books
Interest Level –
Aged 14+
She's only just started sixth form college, but already everything seems
to be going wrong for Camille. She can't get the boy she likes to notice
her; her so-called best friends are obsessed with their new boyfriends;
and worst of all, she's just completely humiliated herself at the
Fresher's Party. Then she meets Zoe, and life takes a turn for the better.
Maybe it's a bit strange to come across a new best friend digging
things up in the graveyard in the dead of night, but although everyone
at college says Zoe is weird, Camille is immediately drawn to her.
Meanwhile she's still longing for the perfect boy who'll take her to the
Halloween party and make everyone jealous. Then Zoe steps in with an
unusual new idea that takes biology homework to a whole new level she's going to create Camille's dream boy and bring him to life.
Putting an irreverent new spin on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as well as
numerous horror movies on the same theme, Dead Romantic is an
entertaining and very different take on teenage love and friendship. C J
Skuse has created a funny, sometimes gory, but often unexpectedly
touching novel with a brilliantly dippy protagonist in Camille. In spite
of the rather abrupt ending, teenage readers who enjoy horror and
black comedy as well as romance will be certain to enjoy this story
about the challenges of finding the perfect boy - and sometimes
discovering that he might be right in front of you after all.
Publisher: Chicken House
Interest Level –
Aged 13+
When a 10-year-old girl kills her best friend, she is convicted of
manslaughter and locked away. Seven years later she is
released on licence with a new identity.
In this brave and intelligent novel, Anne Cassidy explores a
range of themes, questioning everything from the ethics of
tabloid journalism to the outcome of ineffectual parenting.
The book asks more questions than it answers and suggests that
in some circumstances there is no 'right' or 'wrong', merely
'consequences'. Should our sympathy lie with the killer as she is
relentlessly pursued by the press, hungry for a story, or with the
victim and her family in a society desperate for justice?
This is a brilliant and disturbing piece of writing that looks
behind the headlines and forces the reader to question some of
their attitudes to a number of contemporary issues.
Publisher: Scholastic
Interest Level –
Aged 13+
The first of David Almond’s books to be marketed for adult and
child audiences, in separate, very differently styled, imprints.
This is not an easy read, not least because Billy tells his story in
non-standard, phonetic language to which readers need to
Almond envisages a post-apocalyptic world in which Billy is
hidden from others, immured in an inner room by his mother,
ashamed at the manner of his conception, but also determined
to preserve his innocence. Night-time visits from his father, at
first loving, but increasingly hostile and conflicted, leave him
yearning for knowledge of himself and his world and the ability
to record his experience.
Complex and difficult issues are reflected in both narrative style
and content.
Publisher: Puffin Books
Interest Level –
Aged 13+
In the beginning there was Bob. And Bob created the heavens
and the earth and the beasts of the field and the creatures of the
sea, and twenty-five million other species including lots and lots
of gorgeous girls. And all of this, he created in just six days. Six
days! Congratulations Bob! No wonder Earth is such a mess.
Imagine that God is a typical teenage boy. He is lazy, careless,
self-obsessed, sex-mad - and about to meet Lucy, the most
beautiful girl on earth. Unfortunately, whenever Bob falls in love,
disaster follows. Let us pray that Bob does not fall in love with
Publisher: Puffin Books
Interest Level –
Aged 13+
The year is 1944 and France is occupied by Nazi troops. When
Luc Belleville returns home to his sleepy village in France after
some time away, 15-year-old Arianne is instantly drawn to him.
Soon the pair fall madly in love but things are not easy for them
- Arianne's childhood friend Romy is also in love with her and,
consumed by jealousy, is determined to thwart her burgeoning
relationship with Luc.
Luc feels compelled to join the Resistance, knowing he is
putting his relationship at risk but little realising the danger and
devastation that will be ultimately brought upon the whole
village as a result of Resistance activity.
Although fiction, this novel is based upon the terrible events
that took place in the real life village of Oradour-sur-Glane, it
makes for a melancholic and memorable read.
Publisher: Faber Children's Books
Interest Level –
Aged 13+
Andi leads a privileged life in New York - she's a talented
musician and attends an elite school - but she's desperately
unhappy; two years ago her beloved ten-year-old brother was
killed and now her life is falling apart.
When Andi’s dismal grades at school are made apparent to her
scientist father, he insists she accompany him on a trip to Paris,
where he is planning to DNA-test a preserved heart believed to
have belonged to the ten-year-old son of King Louis XVI, who
was killed during the French Revolution.
Although reluctant to go to Paris, once there Andi discovers an
eighteenth-century diary, written by Alexandrine, an aspiring
actress and companion to the murdered Prince, and her life
takes an extraordinary turn.
The diary, along with a burgeoning relationship with a
handsome young musician, prompts Andi to re-examine her
own life and start moving away from the pain that has enveloped
her for two years.
Readers will be gripped as Andi and Alex’s parallel stories
unfold – Alex’s account of life during the Terror is fascinating
and when juxtaposed with Andi’s anguish, at times, can be a
harrowing read. But a message of hope ultimately transcends
the pain portrayed in this powerful novel.
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Interest Level –
Aged 12+
Welcome to a Society that utterly controls its citizens; what they
eat, what they do, who they marry - even when they die.
When her life partner is revealed at her Match Banquet, Cassia
is overjoyed to discover it is childhood friend, Xander. But later,
accessing a screen-message from her new Match, it's not
Xander's face that flickers on-screen, but Ky Markham's,
outsider and known Aberration. How could such a mistake
happen? Forced to question everything she's previously
accepted, Cassia must decide how far should she transgress
Society's rules in order to be true to her feelings.
In this powerful, chillingly believable dystopia, Cassia's journey
from unquestioning passivity to rebellion is compellingly
portrayed. An intriguing, disturbing exploration of personal
freedom in conflict with state control.
Publisher: Puffin
Interest Level –
Aged 12+
Fifteen year old Demi is starting a new school – always a nerveracking experience. However, for Demi, it represents a time of
far more dramatic change, as her new school is a college for
deaf students, a recent case of Meningitis having left her
profoundly deaf.
The book follows her transition into a new school but also a new
life – and it is far from easy. The impact of her sudden loss of
hearing is still painfully raw. Demi feels isolated, adrift, angry,
and completely unsure of her identity. Relationships with her
friends, family, the opposite sex and even complete strangers
have become strange and difficult. We see her drawn in
different directions, as she struggles to establish whether she
can still fit in amongst her hearing friends or find a place within
the unfamiliar Deaf community. Or is it ever possible for
someone to belong to both worlds?
Publisher: Templar
Interest Level –
Aged 12+
They were friends, weren’t they - Pete, Nicole, Eric, Pauly,
Raymond? They’d grown up together. But had they ever really
liked each other?
When Nicole suggests meeting at the old den, then going to the
fair, Pete is up for it, but he soon realises none of his friends are
who they once were. That night, old secrets and sexual tensions
fuel an atmosphere of latent violence. By morning two people
are missing, and Pete’s implicated in a murder enquiry.
This is intense, vivid writing: constantly changing pace and
direction whilst skilfully manipulating time. In this darkly
disturbing thriller, Brooks juxtaposes the fairground’s
hallucinatory disorientating effects alongside Pete’s dissolving
certainty in everyone and everything, he thought he knew.
Addictive, complex and incredibly compelling.
Publisher: Puffin
Interest Level –
Aged 12+
Even if - somehow - you'd never heard of Anne Frank and her
diary, this fictionalised account of Peter (a teenage Dutch Jew,
hiding from the Nazis with his family and their friends, the
Franks, in a tiny annex) would make an impact.
Constantly afraid, living silently, secretively, tormented by the
tension between 'outside' and 'inside' and by terrible dreams,
the threat of discovery constantly hovers.
Dogar's novel doesn't diminish Anne's diary; it extends the life
of this multifaceted document in a striking, imaginative way. The
emotional and sexual tension between Anne, Peter - and the
diary - is intense and sensitively handled and the writing is
simple and poetic in this meditation on the power of written
testimony and the nature of evil.
Publisher: Andersen Press

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