Eileen Armstrong on key stage 3 fiction

14th November 2003 at 00:00
Key stage 3 readers need books with more wow factor than a cutting-edge computer game: Chris Wooding's fast-paced fantasy adventure Poison (Scholastic, pound;12.99) has gutsy girl heroines, changeling children, malevolent "phaeries", witches and worse. Equally sinister city-eating worlds are conjured up in Predator's Gold, the page-turning sequel to Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve (Scholastic, pound;12.99).

Vox is the goriest yet in the Edge Chronicles series by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (Doubleday, pound;12.99) and appeals equally to boys and girls with its wacky characters, screenplay-style settings and stunningly detailed comic fantasy illustrations. Still in a world of fantasy, struggling readers will respond to the painfully funny characters in Stewart and Riddell's Muddle Earth (Macmillan, pound;12.99).

Will, the most unlikely boyfriend material, invents himself a dreamgirl in Pete Johnson's refreshingly innocent diary of dating disaster, Faking It (Puffin, pound;4.99). Authentic dialogue, spot-on character relationships and typical teenage humour make it a winner.

The themes of friends, football and falling in love pose problems for Elizabeth Laird's teenagers in A Little Piece of Ground: growing up under today's oppression and occupation in Palestine (Macmillan, pound;8.99).

It's discussion-starting reading, as is The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird (Macmillan, pound;9.99), about life on the child-trafficking edge in Ethiopia seen through the eyes of homeless Mamo.

Keep short stories on hand to read aloud. A Shocking Accident (Walker Books, pound;4.99) takes 15 twisted, tautly plotted tales of unexpected accidents from such timeless storytellers as Roald Dahl and Edgar Allen Poe. Kids' Night In (Collins Children's Books, pound;6.99) contains tasters from contemporary favourites Eoin Colfer, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo and more to spark follow-up reading.

Geoff Barton is headteacher of King Edward VI school, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Jane Doonan lectures and writes about picture book art. Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm primary school, Hailsham, East Sussex.

Eileen Armstrong is learning resources manager at Cramlington community high school, Northumberland

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