Mysterious virus kills millions

Autumn had no idea when she woke-up that the world as she knew it was about to come to an end. By evening, however, everyone she knows is dead: her parents, her best friend, her neighbors. A strange virus spread so rapidly across the globe that no one could stop it. After witnessing the cold-blooded murder of a young boy outside her apartment building, Autumn barricades herself in her family's penthouse, living on whatever supplies she has.

Eventually, though, Autumn knows her rations will give out. Determined to survive and desperate for companionship, she sets out to find The Reconstruction Front, a group of survivors organizing what is left of civilization. Following the instructions from the Front's radio broadcasts, Autumn arrives at their headquarters only to find that the Front's leader, Kyle, is the very murderer she watched from her window. She narrowly escapes his control with some fast thinking and the help of a mysterious young man named Grey.

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Is acting a real job?

16-year-old Ralph Hollis is yearning for a career in the theatre, while his father is furious that he won't find real work. Their working-class family live with good grace in a cramped and damp house, including Mr and Mrs Hollis, Ralph, 14-year-old Harry, 11-year-old Elsie, Mrs Hollis' sister Win, and their orphaned cousin Joan.

Ralph was evacuated to a vicarage and picked up an education, refined speech and a love for the theatre. The nearest theatre is in the nearby town of Winford, and Ralph goes there as often as possible, eventually becoming accepted by the theatre company as an unpaid worker, something which enfuriates his father. To bring in some money, he takes a job as a part-time gardener with Mrs Egerton-Smythe, a middle-aged widow with a 15-year-old daughter with whom he becomes friendly.

We see through Ralph's eyes as he moves between the three parts of his life: braving his father's displeasure and the difficult conditions in his… click here to read whole article and make comments


Toads, ghosts and dead knights

Jon Whitcroft, age eleven, has many reasons for resenting his trip to boarding school. Although his father died seven years ago, he still misses him and certainly does not want to be separated from his mother and sisters or his friends at his old school. Perhaps most annoying, however, is his mother's new soon-to-be-live-in boyfriend whom Jon refers to as "The Beard". Jon's schemes to chase him away backfired, resulting in his current exile to Salisbury Cathedral School.

Jon's brooding nature fails to see the bright side of things. His roommates, Angus and Stu, try their best to make Jon welcome. They quickly conclude that they are wasting their time when Jon begins to see ghosts outside their bedroom window. How can anyone cheer up a madman? But Jon is truly seeing evil spirits, and they seem determined to kill him. Only Ella Littlejohn, the prettiest girl in school, believes him. While Stu and Angus have a premature interest in… click here to read whole article and make comments


Will e-books kill reading?

A recent study by the UK National Literacy Trust found that those children who read only e-books on a daily basis are less likely to be strong readers than those who read in print. The report recognised the advantages of technology but called for a healthier balance in using technological devices and books.

The UK National Literacy Trust did research with 34,910 young people, ages 8 to 16. The influence of this technology on children's reading abilities and their enjoyment of reading were examined. It found those who read daily only on-screen are nearly twice less likely to be above average readers than those who read daily in print or in print and on-screen (15.5% vs. 26%). Those who read only on-screen are also more than three times less likely to enjoy reading very much (12% vs. 51%) and a third less likely to have a… click here to read whole article and make comments


Alien spaceship lands in Utah

Twenty-one-year-old Marion Justo has finally finished his training and is ready to assist his father, Admiral Ezra Justo in the family business. Their first task is to recover the Isian, an extraordinary spaceship stolen from the Admiral's own father by space pirates decades ago. Now Admiral Justo plans to buy this ship back to restore family honor.

The Isian is indeed extraordinary, having the unique ability to use music in order to travel to distant galaxies. Thus it is not surprising when other space travelers try to capture the ship for themselves. Marion suddenly finds himself wandering from one universe to another accompanied by a robot from the ship's original crew. While desperately searching for planets inhabited by humans, Marion finds Earth. He lands in the hopes of obtaining help to return home and soon becomes entangled in the lives of the Sterling Family with whom he may have more in common than their species. Determined to help them as… click here to read whole article and make comments


Best seller presents heavy topics with optimism

Middle schooler Jamie Grimm has dreams of being the best stand-up comic in the world, and he isn't going to let the fact that he's wheelchair-bound stand in his way. Winning the New York State Finals in the Planet's Funniest Kid Comic Contest is what Jamie wants to do. A sadder story lies beneath this: Jamie has come to be in a wheelchair through a car accident in which his entire family were killed. He doesn't wish to dwell on it, but he does eventually talk about it to his "cool girl" girlfriend. Their relationship revolves mostly around communication, with one kiss in the twilight.

Some critics have asserted that the book is disagreeable due to the fact that it is a wheelchair-bound boy winning a comedy competition, and that he is punched to the ground by a bully. Yes, this is heavy stuff in a light form, but such things can and do happen. Such critics maintain that in… click here to read whole article and make comments


When should a child be told he is adopted?

Fourteen-year-old Jack Hawkins loves the Okefenokee Swamp. He visits Uncle Hamp as often as he can in the summer in order to spend time paddling through the waters, discovering the wildlife and hidden islands of the region. This summer is particularly special since he has brought the canoe he made himself and is determined to prove to his father that the little ship is "sea worthy".

Legend says that the Okefenokee is bewitched with Sun Daughters who lead visitors astray with special calls and visions. Jack begins to wonder if he himself has fallen prey to the swamp's wiles each time he finds evidence that someone or something is out there with him. His fears are allayed, however, when he meets Jake. Jake is no ghost, but a real live boy, just like Jack. So much like him, as a matter of fact, that the two teens are convinced they must be twins, separated at birth.

In the same vein… click here to read whole article and make comments


How much do you value books?

Grace and style are in abundance in this picture book which would equally appeal to adults as well as children. The reader feels he is holding a lovely treasure in his hands as he turns the beautifully designed pages. This is no computer generated quick mock-up, but instead a carefully thought-out and well-designed picture book where even the lighting has been done perfectly.

The story is set in war time. The "enemy" has bombed and then burned down the local library. Peter's father cherishes the one book he has left which had not been returned to the library. In the weeks and months ahead, he does all he can to keep the book safe. He would rather give up his blankets when travelling along a war-torn road than give up his book. Eventually he has to leave the book but never forgets it and returns to it when wartime is finished.

Students of picture book illustration or art and design… click here to read whole article and make comments


Unwanted children sold as slaves

In 17th-century England care for unwanted (often illegitimate) children is the responsiblity of the parish which is often underfunded and ill-disposed. When the Coram Hospital is set up in London with many benefactors, everyone wants their child to go there.

However there are only 20 places, and unscruplous operators take money off people to deliver their children and then leave the babies to die and sell the older ones into slavery. Otis Gardiner and his simpleton son Meshak do this while peddling round the countryside. Otis also blackmails the better-off women whose illegitimate children he disposes of. Alexander Ashbrook is disinherited by his landowner father and makes his career in music having unwittingly fathered a child on his sister's best friend. Meshak leaves his father and takes this son, Aaron, to Coram. Years later Alex is making a name for himself in London and meets his childhood friend Thomas. Aaron has made friends at Coram with Toby the son of… click here to read whole article and make comments


Award winning author churns out one that lacks passion

Perhaps I expected more from a previous Carnegie and Newbery award winning author. I was a bit let down with Fortunately, the Milk. Our children deserve better writing, better stories, more character development and less of the quick-fix, computer generated, graphic novel type. The blurb of the book states that the author has also written two episodes of Doctor Who and appeared as himself in The Simpsons. That, in a nutshell, is what this book reminded me of: a not very well constructed Doctor Who story crossed with a not very funny Simpsons show.

The plot is that Mum has gone away for a few days, and Dad is in charge of the children. He goes out to buy the milk and has a series of zany action-packed adventures. He meets a dinosaur in a time-travelling hot air balloon; gets abducted by space aliens and; meets intergalactic police, pirates, and volcano gods. He then returns to his children and narrates… click here to read whole article and make comments


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