Category Archives: Science fiction

Exciting dystopian fiction for reluctant readers “Gamer” by Chris Bradford


Gamer by Chris Bradford. Published by Barrington Stoke Teen, 2012.

High interest fiction for struggling readers.

From the publisher:

Scott is selected as a games tester for Virtual Kombat, the most realistic fighting video game ever invented – so real it hurts! Once a Gamer enters the fighting world, it becomes hard to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Scott must work his way up the ranks to make it out alive, but when friend and rival Kate fails to return from the Virtual Arena,Scott begins to wonder if it’s more than just a game…

“An action-packed dystopian adventure from the bestselling author of the Young Samurai series”

“Dyslexia friendly”

Hear the author read the first chapter:

What do I think about this book?

I was impressed firstly by the cover – because so many of my readers judge a book by the cover and first impressions really count. This title has a stunning lenticular cover and the image on the front will be instantly appealing to some of my most reluctant boy readers. Secondly, the thickness – it’s just the right size for the same boys. Thirdly text size and layout – it’s promoted by the publisher as dyslexia friendly and looks it, plus the chapters are short. There isn’t anything off-putting about this book – so we are off to a brilliant start.

I am really impressed because so many books published for high interest but low ability readers look unappealing and just don’t look like regular books. The kids that will want to read this aren’t dumb and don’t want to be made to feel that way. This book is so “cool” looking I know higher level readers will want to read it too. Other publishers should take note.

As for the story it rocks along at an exciting pace very much like a mini ‘Hunger games’. I enjoyed it and I am sure my students will too.  This has really made me aware of how desperate I am to fill this gap in my collection, I need more books like this – because one won’t be enough! As a result, I  have just made up a list of other books from this publisher that I will be adding to my wish list  for my library. Chris Bradford has another title available through Barrington Stoke “Ninja : first mission“…and it’s at the top of my list as well as two by Tommy Donbavand who wrote the very popular (at least in my library)…’Scream Street’.

If you are interested in books like these, check out the Barrington Stoke website here:

One of my favourite ‘go-to’ websites for books categorised by age and reading ability “Love reading for Kids” has previews and reviews of many of these titles and is a good source for information on suitable titles for reluctant, struggling and dyslexic readers:

Itch…Alex Rider meets science geek…and the result is explosive!


Itch : the explosive adventures of an element hunter by Simon Mayo published by Double Day/Random House 2012.

From the book’s website

Itchingham Lofte is an element hunter. He’s just an ordinary 14 year old boy, with one extraordinary mission – to collect all the elements in the periodic table. But as he soon finds out, some elements are so dangerous they can kill…

When Itch is given a strange rock by a mysterious man, it turns out to be something that no scientist has ever seen. Those who want the rock will stop at nothing, and if it gets into the wrong hands, the whole world could be in danger. Soon, Itch has to draw on everything he knows – and the contents of his rucksack – to keep himself and his family alive…

I had read about this book and thought it sounded great – a new, fresh and exciting storyline, that might appeal to the science lovers amongst my students. I wasn’t sure whether to buy it for my Primary School collection worrying that it might be more of a teen read. Yes, it is a more grown up read, but it is exactly the sort of book many of my year 6 and intermediate students are always looking for! This book for the most part is a thrilling ride and once I was into it, it became un-put-downable!

From the publisher:

Meet Itch – an accidental, accident-prone hero. Science is his weapon. Elements are his gadgets. This is a hero with Geek-Power!Itchingham Lofte – known as Itch – is fourteen, and loves science – especially chemistry. He’s also an element-hunter: he’s decided to collect all the elements in the periodic table. Which has some interesting and rather destructive results in his bedroom . . . Then, Itch makes a discovery. A new element, never seen before. At first no one believes him – but soon, someone hears about the strange new rock and wants it for himself. And Itch is in serious danger . . .

‘A great debut . . . you’ll be itching to read more.’ Anthony Horowitz

What do I think about this book?:

Coincidentally I started reading this book on the day I also read an article in the New York Times about the demise of the traditional chemistry set as an educational toy. It seems parents and toymakers are so risk averse these days that everything that is packaged in a chemistry or science exploration set needs to be safe enough to eat, and shouldn’t pose any danger whatsoever…to a child or their property. However the article also pointed out that modern science toys fit better with the educational  process of ‘Inquiry’ rather than being formulaic. “What we do is give kids the opportunity to learn through problem solving, …Of course, technology has also remade the experience of learning science. Children may be more likely to click on a science app than to go play outside.” (NY Times Dec 24 2012 see link to full article).

Itch (short for Itchingham Lofte) is a budding chemist/scientist and would certainly be a challenge for most parents. He takes a few risks in the beginning of the story that have disastrous consequences and are potentially life-threatening.  The beginning of the book may seem a little slow for some readers as Itch introduces us to his hobby of collecting all the elements in the periodic table. I found this fascinating, the science isn’t too overwhelming and it is more interesting than if our hero collected stamps, McDonalds toys or Pokemon cards! The author throughly describes Itch’s life at home with his family, his school and teachers as well as his limited social life (Itch doesn’t fit in with his peers easily). All these descriptions and the telling of Itch’s explosive experiments are essential to the reader’s understanding of why Itch so desperately wants to do the “right thing” later in the story and not only save his family but the world.

The author has obviously thoroughly researched the scientific aspects of this story – so much so that it feels a seamless blend of real science and a little science fiction. There is already news of a sequel “Itch rocks” – I hope it as good as this one! This copy available for loan in our library – early Term 1. In the mean time – visit the book website where you can read an extract from the book and download your own special poster of the periodic table.

For teachers: The National STEM Centre in the UK featured this book and promoted it during National Science & Engineering Week (9-18 March 2012).

The National STEM Centre has produced a special collection of resources on the eLibrary to support the release of the new novel. The Elements collection contains resources which can be used to support the teaching of elements and the periodic table.

You can also download an “itch” poster of the Periodic Table on the itchingham website here:

Exciting new series for Percy Jackson fans


Just thought I would share the announcement about a very exciting new series, that should appeal to Rick Riordan & Michelle Paver fans, hungry for more ancient adventure. The first book in this new series “The Colossus rises” will be published by HarperCollins Children’s in February. The stories are based on the seven ancient wonders of the world. Peter Lerangis is an author who has written titles in the popular ‘The 39 Clues’ series (The Sword Thief and The Viper’s Nest) and one book in The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers series (The Dead of Night).

From Goodreads on “the Colossus – book 1”:

The day after twelve-year-old Jack McKinley is told he only has months to live, he awakens on a mysterious island, where a secret organization promises to save his life-with one condition. With his three friends, Jack must lead a mission to retrieve seven lost magical orbs, which can save their lives only when combined together. The challenge: The orbs have been missing for thousands of years, somewhere in the ruins of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. With no one else to turn to and no escape in sight, the four kids have no choice but to undertake the quest. First stop: The Colossus of Rhodes.

View the exciting book trailer:

Website and free ebook download:

The website for the series is full of extra content, videos and an interactive map of the seven wonders. Explore it hereread about the first book and explore the link to download a free PDF or EPUB prequel novella “The select” here.

“From the lost journals of the Seven Wonders saga comes the story of Burt Wenders—one of the first of the chosen kids to be marked as “The Select.” In this thrilling prequel to Book 1, delve into the mystery and the magic of Seven Wonders, the brand-new adventure series from Peter Lerangis, the bestselling author of several books in the 39 Clues series.

It’s the year 1894, and thirteen-year-old Burt and his father are on an archaeological expedition gone wrong. After a tumultuous voyage, Burt, his father, and the remaining crew find themselves stranded on what seems to be a deserted island. That is, seems to be deserted until Burt starts hearing music that no one else can hear . . . and blacking out with no explanation. Maybe there is something to Burt’s father’s expedition after all? All but tortured by his surroundings, Burt ventures to find out. He can only hope to survive.”

High praise from Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series “A high-octane mix of modern adventure and ancient secrets, The Colossus Rises is Lerangis’s most gripping work yet. Young readers will love this story. I can’t wait to see what’s next in the Seven Wonders series!” 

What do I think about this book?: 

If you love the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series, then this will appeal to you. I will review the book fully once it is published and will definitely be ordering this for our library!