Over the summer holidays (I know, a distant memory now) it was all about Ali Sparkes books in our house. She has been a regular visitor in the form of her Shapeshifter books for a while, my son read all the books in this series one after the other and then proceeded to read them all again in reverse order. Once finished he promptly refused to read anything else, “ever again”, because apparently no other stories would ever match up. Well, a refusal to read in our household of bookworms is a real cause for concern.  I did a bit of  bookish research and found Ali Sparkes’ Unleased series which soon got his reading wheels whirring again and once they started moving they were unstoppable, he even started to branch out from Ali’s  books  (no offence Ali  – he comes back to you later) and read anything from Harry Potter  (we’re on Book Five and loving it) to Pax by Sara Pennypacker (foxes again – and an absolute must read) .

Whilst doing my pre-summer holiday book buy (any excuse to enter a bookshop)  I discovered  Night Speakers by Ali Sparkes  – a real page turner of a book, and once my son picked it up that was it – we were back on the Ali Sparkes love train.

What is it about Ali’s books that we love?

Ali Sparkes books are real page turners – there is always an adventure to have and the children at the centre of the adventure need to rely on their own skills, instincts and wit to help themselves and each other as they combat some form of adversity. This is children doing it for themselves,  there is always a helpful adult in the background should they need one, and any sense of danger is not so scary that children will not want to read on, but the excitement often comes from children finding their own way out of tricky high-octane, high-risk situations.

In many of Sparkes’s books there is an element of fantasy or science-fiction but it is never hard to suspend disbelief and all fantastical elements are woven into the story so that they blend into the adventure, causing the reader to want to keep turning the pages and very willingly embrace these elements.

Anyway don’t just take our bookworm word for it, below are some Ali Sparkes books that our young Denners have enjoyed and recommend.

The Shapeshifter: Finding the Fox

Dax Jones is an ordinary schoolboy . . . until something extraordinary happens. Whilst frightened for his life, he inexplicably changes into a fox! He is offered a place at a secret government school where he can develop, and learn to control, his powers. But if Dax accepts, on no account can he tell anybody.
Dax jumps at the chance of getting away from his unhappy home. But before long he begins to wonder who exactly is behind the school, and what they want from the pupils there. Suddenly Dax’s fox senses are on high alert .

Our Denners say:  “An Amazing Book! I thought it was amazing, it’s about a boy called Dax Jones who can turn into different forms.”

Frozen in Time

1956
Freddy and Polly are used to helping their father with his experiments. So they don’t mind being put into cryonic suspension – having their hearts frozen until their father wakes them up again. They know it will only be for an hour or two, so there’s nothing to worry about . . .

Present Day
Ben and Rachel have resigned themselves to a long, boring summer. Then they find a hidden underground vault in the garden containing two frozen figures, a boy and a girl. And when Rachel accidentally presses a button, something unbelievable happens . . .

Can Polly and Freddy adapt to the twenty-first century? Will their bodies survive having been in suspension for so long? And most important of all, what happened to their father – and why did he leave them frozen in time?

Our Denners say:  “Cool and adventurous. I think this book was very cool and adventurous and the further you get in to it the more you want to read more. I’ll give this book a solid 10.”

“This book is great! I liked it as there was no shortage of action so I couldn’t put it down!”

Unleashed 1: A Life & Death Job

A group of very special teenagers. Each with an incredible power, they live together, protected by the government. Out in the ordinary world they know they must not use their powers. But good intentions are easy …following them through is another matter. Lisa is one such extraordinary teenager. For her, every day is about life and death. Because she can hear the dead talking, and they never leave her alone. But on a short break in London, the tussle between life and death takes on a new twist. A brilliantly planned kidnap thrusts Lisa into the role of reluctant rescuer alongside Michael, a famous TV psychic. Together they set out to find a missing girl and walk straight into mortal danger. Now Lisa is in fear for her own life, is there anyone to help her?

Our Denners say: “Just like the first series, Shapeshifter, this was exciting, thrilling and full of adventures. I couldn’t put it down. It was funny, magical, mysterious, a real page-turner and powerful.”

Night Speakers

Night after night Elena, Matt, and Tima wake at exactly the same time, with no idea why. It’s messing them up and fracturing their lives . . . until they venture out into the dark and find each other. And then the sleepless trio realize their astounding power – they can speak any language; they can even communicate with animals.
But something is happening over on the industrial estate-something which is emitting sounds that only they can hear, and killing any winged thing that crosses its path.
There’s nobody to fight it but themselves, for only they can possibly understand it and what it means to do . . .