Young, brave and engaged

By Angela Kiverstein, April 11, 2008
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When Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, 14-year-old Israeli Bat-Chen Shahak sent a poem of condolence to Rabin’s wife, Leah. The following year, Bat-Chen herself was killed by a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv. Now Kar-Ben has published The Bat-Chen Diaries revealing an engaging personality reflecting on everything from schoolgirl tiffs to righting the world’s wrongs. Highly recommended for age 11-up. (Kar-Ben, £4.99, available through Kuperard, 0208 446 2440.)

Message in a Bottle, by Valerie Zenatti (Bloomsbury, £5.99), offers teenage readers a fictional perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Idealistic Israeli youngster Tal Levine gives her brother a message, enclosed in a bottle, which he is to deposit in Gaza while on military service. A young Palestinian man finds the bottle on Gaza beach and begins a risky email correspondence. Age 12-16.

Fact and fiction are interwoven in Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, by Kirsten Miller (Bloomsbury, £6.99). Schoolgirl Ananka Fishbein imparts self-defence tips, spy tactics and other did-you-knows, between chapters of an adventure story focused on a spooky underground city beneath New York. Ananka and a gang of disgraced girl scouts are led by the charismatic Kiki Strike, in a plot involving kidnapping, drugging and buried treasure. Age 11 up.

Feel like trying some heroine-style stunts for yourself? Be prepared, with The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam B. Peskowitz (HarperCollins, £20). This book leaps athletically from subject to subject (having first tucked its skirt into its knickers, one assumes). One minute you could be reading about the achievements of Indira Gandhi and the next learning how to levitate your friend or put up your hair with a pencil. Resolutely feminist, this would make a great “alternative” batmitzvah present. Age 11 up.

Jimmy Coates (Joe Craig’s part boy, part weapon) returns for another round of action challenges (Jimmy Coates, Survival, Harper- Collins £5.99). To escape his enemies, he fakes his own death. Age 9-14.

In Boobela, Worm and Potion Power, by Joe Friedman (Orion, £6.99), courage comes in many forms — from learning to swim to coping when you lose your “teacher’s pet” status. Boobela the girl giant and her opinionated little friend are very appealing characters; the stories are gentle but satisfying. Great Sam Childs pictures. Age 4-8.

    Last updated: 10:04am, April 11 2008