Banana skinned

Angela Kiverstein's monthly round up of children's books


A bold, bright banana is the perfect cover image for Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green (Scholastic, £7.99). And many are the slip-ups in the path of this geeky, klutzy, small-for-his-age 15-year-old, as he makes a heroic stand against Americanised vocabulary, pursues his beloved Sophie and hides from the aftermath of a confused kiss with his best mate, Harry. At the same time, he must confront blackmail, bullying, assorted father issues, his (terrific) grandmother’s dementia-fuelled plans to escape her care home and his mother’s dream of making it as a Beyoncé tribute act. Slapstick but wonderfully funny. Age 14 up.

At least he doesn’t have to go into battle against supernatural armies. A Court of Wings and Ruin (Bloomsbury, £7.99) is part three of Sarah J. Maas’s adult fairytalesque epic (series must be read in order). As Maas fans will expect, its 700 pages are crammed with kingdoms, palaces, forests rippling with Things, spooky huts, sinister mirrors and cauldrons, motivational battlefield speeches, heroic sacrifices, winged lovemaking (unsuitable for younger readers) and magical warmongering (violent). This is a world of strong female warriors. But they retain just enough human vulnerability to warm our hearts. Watch out for a possible Passover allusion and a passing reference to the land of milk and honey. Age 16 up.

The “Land of Milk and Honey” is also the setting for Yaffa and Fatima Shalom, Salaam (Kar-Ben, £6.99) by Walsall-born Jawzia Gilani-Williams. Yaffa and Fatima are date farmers. Yaffa loves Fatima’s shwarma; Fatima loves Yaffa’s schnitzel. Yaffa prays in the synagogue; Fatima in the mosque. And so on. Each page draws a new parallel. The real story — about the friends’ secret tzedakah attempts — barely gets going. Come back soon, Yaffa and Fatima - and have some proper adventures! Age three to six.

Max and Lili’s romance is doomed. For Max is a member of the Hitler Youth, destined for the SS, and Lili is a Romani. A Berlin Love Song by Sarah Matthias (Troika, £7.99) is a Holocaust story but with the Jewish fate happening just at the edge of our vision. The best parts are the scenes of Romani life — the circus background, the customs and the cooking of hotchi-witchi (hedgehog), while the camp scenes are sensitively handled. But why distance the reader by choosing Max in old age as narrator? Age 14 up.


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