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Making friends, breaking friends, being a good friend. These are all issues that effect every child (and lots of adults too!) at some point and they can be terribly stressful, challenging and upsetting.
From their early days in nursery, through play, children are learning essential social skills and learning about themselves too. Experimenting with friendships is a very normal phase and to be encouraged, and as social skills are refined and they mature, children change their minds about who they want to be friends with and the qualities and commonalities they are seeking in a friend.
Friendship groups change and morph and along the way some children get left out or feel rejected and isolated. And it isn't just a feature of primary school; the move to secondary school is fraught with friendship issues as children break free from old friendships to make a new social group. The mix and number of new children to meet and form friendships with in those transition years is often overwhelming but it is very normal and is happening all across the country right now.
Moving schools and being the new kid can also present a challenge as children may have left good, solid friendships behind them and are now presented with a new area, new buildings to navigate and brand new friendships to forge.
Children's books are often built around the subject of friendship and through relating to the characters in stories and the issues they have, we can help reassure and comfort children that what they are experiencing, although often very upsetting, is normal and that things will, at some point, get better.
We have gathered a selection of books where friendships, new, old, good, bad or difficult, are at the core of the story.
And Kidscape has some useful resources, videos and online activities on Being a Good Friend, Telling Tales and What Makes a Good Friend. www.kidscape.org.uk
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Rebecca Cobb’s warm and uncluttered illustrations capture the importance of friendships and how they can best be made. Here, an eager little girl expresses her delightful enthusiasm for sharing everything including indoor and outdoor play, packed lunch and more while in pleasing contrast the boy who is the focus of her attentions shows that friendship can also take longer to develop. A sweet story which also provides a lot of scope for thoughtful conversation and reflection.
A charming new title in this best-selling series from Axel Scheffler. Simple but incident-filled stories for two, three and four-year olds. A gently funny story about navigating friendship and being kind, even when every bone in your body is telling you to scream with frustration! The Editor at Nosy Crow says: “The dilemmas of this story are so human and so universal that everyone, young and old, can identify with Posy and the challenges she faces. It's a story about digging deep (emotionally, as well as literally, as it turns out) and learning to value what's important in life. All good lessons, whether you're three or 53.”
Best-selling author Eric Carle whose The Very Hungry Caterpillar has entertained generations of children has created a wonderful story about friendship. When a little boy finds that he is all alone – his best friend and constant companion has gone – he sets out on a long and varied search to find a new one. The mountains are high and the rivers are swift; the forests are dark and the grassy meadows are alarmingly wide but all must be crossed. Will the boy find what he is searching for? The wonderful illustrations to this story reflect the tenderness at its heart.
Winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards - Best Illustrated book to read aloud. Celebrating the value of friendship, this is an exquisitely illustrated picture book with a simple story line. Opening his door and finding a penguin on it, the little boy takes pity on the sad looking creature who he immediately assumes is lost. Together they set out on an adventure across icy-blue wastes to find the penguin’s real home. The cool of the landscape makes a perfect backdrop to the warmth of the friendship between the pair. ~ Julia Eccleshare
Mostly the Hueys get along just fine. But occasionally, they do NOT! When a big fight breaks out everyone says they are not to blame. Strangely, none of them can even remember what they are fighting about! In his simple illustrations, Oliver Jeffers captures the curious dynamics of falling out and making up perfectly.
Bear and Squirrel are best friends and do everything together. Bear describes it beautifully: ‘Like peas in a pod, you and I fit/ Like strawberries and cream, we are a hit’. The pictures however are telling a different story and we can all see that sometimes – quite often in fact – Squirrel is more than a little irritated by Bear, not to mention squashed, bashed and accidentally knocked about! When it all gets too much, Squirrel tells Bear he needs space and Bear, being a really good friend, understands. Check the illustrations again though, and we can see that life without Bear just isn’t the same. Steve Small’s illustrations are full of humour but poignant too and Smiriti Hall’s rhyming text a delight to read aloud; this is a virtuoso portrayal of what friendship means.
Best friends Betty and Maud love doing everything together. And they are sure that their favourite toys, Duck and Penguin do too. But Duck and Penguin do NOT! While Betty and Maud share playing in the sandpit, taking turns on the swings, painting and baking, Duck and Penguin push each other off the swings, crush each other’s sandcastles, and cover each other with paint and cake mix. Can they ever be friends? Luckily they can! Julia Woolf conveys this witty story about friendship – or not – most effectively through the venomous scowls and frowns and ferocious looks between the two soft toys in contrast to the brilliant warm smiles of Betty and Maud.
This clever, funny story about anger and apology is anything but horrible! A little girl is furious when a bear breaks her kite – ‘Horrible Bear!’ she yells. Readers can see it was unintentional - the kite blew into the sleeping bear’s cave and he rolled on it. Bear is outraged by the unfairness of her response, and determines to get his own back, practising barging in and waking people up before stomping down the hill to give her a taste of her own medicine. Meanwhile the girl has broken her favourite toy, and suddenly realised accidents do happen. OHora packs the pictures with funny details to add to the humour of Dyckman’s story and together they show children how silly blind rages are, and how a simple apology can make things nicer. ~ Andrea Reece
Mabel and Me are an unlikely couple of friends to outsiders but that doesn’t matter because they just are each other’s very bestest, bestest of friends. It is hard to define exactly why but, when they meet first a Famous French Photographer and then a Prima Ballerina, they know that they will stand up for each other through thick and thin!
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month June 2019 | Award-winning author/ illustrator Emily Gravett explores the fun of being friends but different in this light-hearted and playful picture book. Sad Cyril the squirrel is all alone in the park until he finds a meets Pat. Together Cyril and Pat have a great time playing all kinds of games and making sure each other is safe – especially from the fierce dog Slim. Does it matter that they are different? Everyone else thinks so but Cyril and Pat know that they can be the best of friends come what may. Readers will love knowing the joke, and the point, before Cyril and Pat get it!
One of our Books of the Year 2015 -Andrea Reeces's Pick of the Year 2015 Rob Biddulph’s prize-winning picture book Blown Away is near perfect, and his new book Grrrrr! is too! It’s the story of Fred, who is champion bear in the wood. You name it, Fred excels at it – fish-catching, hula-hooping, human scaring – but he’s best known for his super Loud-Grrrr. All that training means that there’s not much time for friends, but Fred decides his trophies more than make up. He’s proved wrong when his Grrrrr goes missing and his friends come to the rescue, in a very surprising way! The rhyming text is a joy, the illustrations are full of visual jokes – watch those rabbits falling in love, spot the underpants on the deer’s antlers, notice how well Fred fits in with the forest’s trees – and every composition is fresh and effective. If this doesn’t win more awards I’ll eat Fred’s headband! ~ Andrea Reece
Elmer introduces his friends and more in this bright, user-friendly board book. He’s the brightest, giraffe is the tallest, snake is the longest – it’s a great way to learn important first concepts and to develop children’s vocabulary and understanding of the world too. Elmer is the perfect pre-school character – warm, friendly, reassuring and this is a lovely book to share with the very young. Chunky tabs make turning the pages especially easy for little fingers. ~ Andrea Reece
April 2017 Book of the Month | Great fun to read out loud this funny story deftly celebrates inclusivity and the importance of openness and friendship. Duck wants to make new friends so he decides to join a club, but he faces multiple rejections: Elephant will only let those who can trumpet like he can into his club; Snake is suspicious of those with legs and wings and also demands that members hiss to his high standard; Lion will only accept those who can roar. In the end Duck decides he’ll set up his own club and let in anyone who wants to join – he ends up with lots of friends as a result. Children will understand just how Duck feels and they will totally get the book’s message. Great fun, and this offers lots of opportunities for conversation too.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2020 | Meesha loves making things. And she is good at it too. But the one thing she doesn’t know how to make is friends. It seems to be easy but for Meesha it isn’t! When Meesha tries to share her ideas with other children they are just confused or uninterested. So instead of playing with other children, Meesha makes some wonderful friends of her own. Snipping and sticking she soon has a lovely crowd of chums she can enjoy being with. But a real friend would be nice and when Meesha meets Josh she finds exactly the friend she has been looking for. Soon Meesha and Josh are busy making more friends together. In both words and pictures Tom Percival tells a gentle and touching story about the importance of friendship and how to develop it.
Everyone could learn from Ruby. She’s a perfectly happy little girl, until she discovers a worry. The worry – depicted as a scribbly yellow shape – is hardly noticeable at first, but starts to grow and soon it’s with her all the time, stopping her from doing the things she loved. As Ruby worries about her worry – the worst thing you can do – it gets bigger still until it takes up the whole row at the cinema. The problem is solved when Ruby finds someone else with a worry; as they talk about them, something amazing happens – their worries disappear. Readers will recognise Ruby’s problems and see their own lives reflected in hers. Sensitive and very reassuring this clever book raises lots of opportunities for children to talk about their worries.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2017 | May 2017 Picture Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2017 | | In a story full of hope against adversity, King of the Sky tells how flying a homing pigeon helps a young boy comes to terms with his life in a strange country far, far from home. Now living under grey skies in a country where he feels an outsider, a young boy misses the blue sky, warm sun and of ice cream of his home in Rome. But when he his racing pigeon returns to him safely from Rome the boy realises that home is where he is and he finds a new sense of belonging.
July 2018 Debut of the Month | The Girls is a glorious and uplifting description of female friendship. It stars four girls and simply but beautifully describes in words and pictures their enduring friendship as they grow from little children into adults. In just 32 pages we get to know the girls really well: adventurous Lottie, practical Sasha, clever Leela and Alice, who can always make them laugh. As a result, we follow the ups and downs of their lives with real interest. The book’s message about the comfort, joy and support friends provide is delivered with real charm and this is a story which will reassure all young readers about what they can achieve and which will inspire them for their futures.
Award-winning Michael Foreman puts an unlikely friendship at the heart of this captivating story of a cat and a fish who become such firm friends that the fish chooses friendship over freedom. Together the friends tour the world – especially the watery world - which is beautifully imagined in Michael Foreman’s vibrant and atmospheric illustrations.
There are life lessons galore for young readers of this hugely appealing picture book. Little dragon Fergal is a bit anxious about going off to summer camp – he’s never been before – and when he arrives, he’s so determined to make his mark that he doesn’t notice he’s being a bit selfish and upsetting the other little dragons. Fortunately, the camp leader can sort things out and give Fergal some useful advice: he needn’t be best at everything, he just needs to relax and be himself and everything else will follow. It’s an important message for all young children and it’s fun to learn it with Fergal and his little friends, as colourful and companionable a group as you could hope to meet. Look out for the first Fergal story too, Fergal is Fuming, which is just as good at prompting conversations about feelings and behaviour.
Holly Sterling creates very recognizable, diverse characters and these are the perfect backdrop for this sensitively written guide which will be helpful in both home and school contexts. The situations depicted and described are recognisable and familiar to young readers. The body language is particularly well captured on the page which describes in child friendly terms what it feels like to be shy. The situations used as examples, in Poppy’s story attending a big occasion with her parents and in Matteo’s story attending a friend’s birthday party, are instantly familiar. What is shown and described is how a child might feel at first and how that might change during the event and how they can be supported to eventually enjoy the experience and learn strategies for dealing with new situations. The Story Words page is a simple glossary of words and expressions which really develop understanding. At the end of the book a Next Steps section with suggestions for activities and discussion will be very useful and the section where each story is summarised in four steps will be invaluable for modelling writing. The first of a must have series for the early years.
One of our 2018 Books of the Year | Tolerance and friendship are at the heart of this picturebook which is written and illustrated by newcomer Maisie Paradise Shearing with charm and panache. Anna and Otis are best of friends: Anna is a little girl, a real character with her inky black bob, red shorts and yellow lace up boots; just as distinctive, Otis is a snake, sunshine yellow with bright red markings. Delightfully, despite their very different forms, they seem to mirror one another as they move, a lovely emphasis on their closeness. Otis is worried when Anna decides on a trip into town – he’s noticed that other people find him alarming, but Anna’s determination and his own efforts win him lots of friends. This is great fun to read while the illustrations, original, idiosyncratic and full of vitality, make Anna and Otis unforgettable.
What a cheering tale of festive friendship this is. It’s Christmas morning and, after opening all their presents, Esme and Bear spot a gloriously-wrapped gift left under the tree that isn’t for either of them. Then they notice the tag - “For Little Bunny Boo-Boo, Love Santa.” Thinking Santa must have got his parcels mixed up, they set off to find Little Bunny Boo-Boo who, it turns out, is new to the area and doesn’t have any Christmas presents, or friends… Mark Sperring’s text is a treat to read aloud, evoking just the right amount of peril as Esme and Bear trek along a treacherous path to find Little Bunny Boo-Boo. And Lucy Fleming’s illustrations glow with wintry magic throughout, from her depiction of Esme’s Christmas-y living room, to the snowy woodland she and Bear traverse. Lovely little visual details provide plenty of talking points around the story too, with animals to spot in the woods and signposts to read (and heed). The story unfolds to a warming message when Little Bunny Boo-Boo unwraps the gift to find an empty box (but for a note from Santa) and realises she’s been given exactly what she wanted - friends in the form of the visitors Santa drew to her house.
Bertram and Alan are best friends and live next door to each other. Bertram is very tidy whilst Alan lives in a bit of a mess! Bertram feels there is something missing in his life and decides to get a cat. Pierre is a very superior cat – one that Bertram feels will fit in his life perfectly. The only problem is that Pierre has other ideas! He is not keen on eating out of his special bowl – and likes to go next door and eat Alan’s scraps, curl up on Alan’s old coat, and cuddle up with Alan whilst he watches the TV. So, Alan gives Bertram his old coat, and Bertram starts to leave Pierre scraps on the table - but there is still something missing! The two neighbours come up with an ingenious solution – illustrating that friendship can overcome even the contrariness of cats! A tale of friendship and cooperation illustrated in a lovely free-flowing style, full of colour. The double spreads of the book illustrate the difference between the two friends – with the spick and span Bertram’s home on one side and the mess and disorganisation of Alan’s on the other! The comparisons will keep children studying the pictures for a long time. There is a great deal to see in all the spreads, and readers will enjoy the many different things they can pick out!
A wonderful celebration of a boy who is thought to be bad but is just... different! At school, Michael’s teachers despair of him. He is late, scruffy, cheeky and doesn’t listen. He loves reading and sums and science. But NOT the kind that happens in school. While the teachers wag their fingers, Michael gets set for the adventure of his life. Oh, how those teachers have misjudged him! The simple text is effortlessly and perfectly extended in the illustrations. Perfect for Reluctant Readers as well as keen readers. To view other titles we think are suitable for reluctant readers please click here.
Polly is starting big school but not looking forward to it. She wishes she could take Neil, her puffin, with her. In a nice touch we see that mum is feeling a bit sad about it too. It’s not easy making friends and then Polly has an argument with another girl, who owns a parrot, about what bird is best. Fortunately, the teacher sees a way to make things right. Children will understand exactly how Polly feels while guest appearances by Neil and Skittles the parrot add excitement and more humour. The short text, lively adventure and frequent illustrations make this just the thing for readers at the start of their own schooldays.
Award-winning author and illustrator duo Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman have created a touching story about the way lives become entangled during conflict and how, unexpectedly, those ties can lead to enduring friendship. When Alex and her little brother Charlie met two old men on the beach they hear the unusual story of how their friendship developed despite fighting on opposing sides and how their past links to their own mother’s childhood.
Making friends, being friends, falling out with friends – these are important matters for everyone, whatever their age. Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith tackle the subject with typical sensitivity in a book that will provide young readers with lots of reassurance and good advice, along with the strong sense that its authors really understand them. It’s OK they say, to have lots of close friends, just one, or even none at all; your family can be your best friends, or you might not get on with them at all, but it’s all normal, and nothing to be worried about. This is the latest in the thoroughly inspiring and useful Great Big Book of series, and as always, readers of all shapes, colours and abilities will find themselves in the pictures. ~ Andrea Reece
November 2020 Book of the Month | Michael Morpurgo is the consummate storyteller and this little tale, perfectly illustrated by Polly Dunbar, reveals how even as a child he had storytelling at his fingertips. The narrative is based on his own memories of childhood and of performing in the school’s Christmas production of Edward Lear’s poem The Owl and the Pussycat. Michael loved the poem and was chosen to play the Owl. Excitement rises as the performance approaches especially as Belinda, his first love, is chosen to play the Pussycat. Adults will appreciate the book’s delicate sense of memories of past life, while children will love it for the humour, the drama and the sheer joy that comes from calamity turned to triumph. It is quite beautifully told, and Polly Dunbar’s illustrations exactly capture all that readers will find in the story. If it inspires you to read Lear’s poem, as well it might, there are picture book versions gorgeously illustrated by Ian Beck and Charlotte Voake, while Julia Donaldson has written a glorious sequel also illustrated by Voake. Read more about Michael Morpurgo, our Guest Editor for September 2020, here.
In this classic and hilarious tale about friendship and respect, from the inimitable Dr. Seuss, Horton the kindly elephant has his work cut out saving the tiny Whos who live on a speck of dust - no one else believes they are there! But Horton eventually convinces everyone that, 'a person's a person, no matter how small'! With his unique combination of hilarious stories, zany pictures and riotous rhymes, Dr Seuss has been delighting young children and helping them learn to read for well over fifty years. Creator of the wonderfully anarchic Cat in the Hat, ranked among the UK's top ten favourite children's authors, Dr. Seuss is a global best-seller, with over half a billion books sold worldwide.
Four very different characters take centre stage in this unusual and beautifully illustrated book. There’s a horse, wise and reliable; a boy, Christopher Robin-like in his curiosity and kindness; a mole, driven by an optimism, and love of cake; and a fox, vulnerable and in need of love and understanding. The story of their friendship is told through Charlie Mackesy’s evocative pen and ink sketches. Most but not all are accompanied by three or four lines of text, not so much a narrative but rather meditations, little flashes of insight into the human condition: “We have such a long way to go,” sighed the boy. “Yes, but look how far we’ve come,” said the horse. It’s a book full of tenderness and compassion, with much to make readers smile and more yet to prompt a sense of forgiveness, even of ourselves. Though simple enough for the youngest children, words and pictures will resonate just as much with adult readers. A very special book.
Interest Age 7+ Reading Age 7 | Shortlisted for the Smarties Prize and the Kathleen Fidler Award. Oliver is struggling at school, and the other children laugh at him. What he really wants is a dog, a dog to love him loyally and uncritically; a dog to obey his word and never mind what Oliver can or can’t do at school. Though he has problems with his hearing and his sight, Flow is just such a dog, and when a time comes in which Oliver is in real danger, Flow stands by him. This is a lovely, satisfying story that delivers important messages about bravery and friendship. It will be enjoyed by any young reader who, like Oliver, longs for a dog and will speak to any who, like Oliver, struggle with dyslexia. A reissue, this book was shortlisted for the Smarties Prize on publication.
Can three girls be friends? Daisy is determined to make Erika and Phoebe, her two best friends like each other. But will they? And if they do, will they still like her?! A night for the three of them in a spooky mill sets quite a big challenge for the girls! An entertaining and realistic look at girls and their friendships.
A extraordinary story, exquisitely written, with unforgettable passages of dialogue and description, that confronts the dilemma of our relationship with farm animals. Witty, and in places, desperately sad this is a book where animals talk yet remain who they are, themselves. A book to make you cry. - Michael Morpurgo Magical, this timeless farmyard story tells of the power of friendship. When the runty little piglet is saved from an early death, he grows into a fine and handsome pig. And the farmer wants to kill him. Can Charlotte, the spider who has grown to love him, save his life?
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Tony Bradman’s gripping novella about a (bad) day in the life of a boy caring for his mum is truly touching, and especially great for reluctant readers – the concise, considered storytelling holds attention, and the short chapters are perfect for encouraging readers to keep going, or take a break, as they require. Jayden’s Mum hasn’t been herself since losing her job at the supermarket. “Maybe Mum would do the washing today,” he wonders before school one morning. “They really needed some shopping as well – the fridge was almost empty.” With Mum still in bed, Jayden gets little sister Madison ready for school, all the while worrying about what they’ll do when there’s no money at all, what they’ll eat for dinner now the cupboards are bare. Things get even worse at school when his best friend tells him to “go away...We’re not friends anymore.” Meanwhile, Jayden’s new supply teacher isn’t having a good day either: “She’d wanted to teach kids, but she had also wanted to make a difference to their lives. Yet things had changed, and over the last few years she had seemed to spend all her time filling out forms... And that made her feel cross and sad.” And now she’s here in Jayden’s school feeling lost, wondering whether she should be a teacher at all. Seeing Jayden look so sad pains her heart and then, when his sadness turns to anger and erupts like an angry volcano, Miss Wilson helps him see light at the end of his dark tunnel. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+
Junior gymnast Tara has a lot to juggle when she’s asked to take part in a regional competition. There are all the moves to learn with her partner Lindsay, but Tara has just started secondary school too. Fitting in gym practice and homework is difficult, and doesn’t leave much time for anything else, such as seeing her other friends. Janes Lawes does a great job at describing the rewards of following a sport, as well as the challenges, and readers will be happy to see that Tara finds a way to achieve balance between her sport, friends and school. A satisfying story that is good on the thrills and spills of competition.
What a perfect book to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Puffin and its founder Allen Lane and an intensely personal book for author, Michael Morpurgo, suffused with his love for the Scilly Isles and for his family history - his wife Claire being one of Allen Lane’s daughters. The utterly beautiful illustrations by Benji Davies evoke his own holidays with grandparents in Cornwall and one can see that this story of a boy who loved to paint is one that is very personal to him too. Every inch of this book is crafted with love (make sure that you look at the hardback cover beneath the dust jacket with its soaring puffin against a glorious blue background and the images of both author and artist at the end) The illustrations range from dramatic double paged spreads, to little sepia vignettes but every page illuminates the absorbing and heartfelt story which begins with the lighthouse keeper Benjamin Postlethwaite and a terrible shipwreck from which he singlehandedly rescues 30 people including the 5 year old narrator of our story. Recently fatherless and travelling with his French mother to grandparents in Devon, the rescue and Ben himself make a huge impact on the boy – not least because of the paintings which fill the lighthouse and the gift of a small painting which becomes his most precious possession. The portrayal of the grim and bleak life with unloving grandparents in Devon, the misery of boarding school and of an artistic child who was a bit of a loner is very moving. As soon as school is finished the boy retraces his steps to the now defunct lighthouse and discovers a home, a friend and an artistic vocation as well as an injured puffin that together they nurse back to health. A puffin who keeps returning and brings others with him. By the time the young man returns from the war he could not avoid - the island and Ben have become a sanctuary for these characterful birds as well as our narrator and his future family. A charming book which evokes a very real sense of place as well the importance of being true to yourself and finding your place in the world.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2020 | Lori wants to be a detective, but so far the most exciting mystery she has solved is the disappearance of her nan's specs down the side of the sofa. Max is the new girl at school and Lori is asked to look after her. Max is odd. She doesn't fit in - but then, Lori realises, she doesn't really fit in either. When some charity money goes missing and Max disappears, Lori seems to be the only person who doesn't think Max has stolen it and run away. Even the police don't want to investigate and suddenly Lori finds she has a real crime on her hands.
A gripping story which catches the importance of friendship – even when there are dark, dark secrets. When Becky and her mum return to where her mum grew up she uncovers an old photo which reveals something about her family she has never known before. Mum’s too busy with her new job to ask but Becky finds a very special friend in the beautiful Butterfly Garden. There are secrets everywhere in this atmospheric story which is beautifully resolved.
One of our Books of the Year 2014 - One of the Lovereading4kids Readers' Choice Books of the Year 2014 | Cathy Cassidy’s Chocolate Box Girls are growing up and learning to deal with new problems. Fifteen year old Honey flies off to live with her dad in Australia. After all her troubles at home, Honey is determined to make a new start. She’s thrilled to meet her dad at the airport and impressed by the fancy house he lives in with his partner Emma. Honey starts a new school and even makes new friends. Is this all going to be better than her life before? Disaster strikes Honey when she makes a bad mistake about an online friend. Soon someone is spreading terrible things about her all over the internet. Does she really know who Riley is? And at home, she soon realises that her father is not quite the good guy she had imagined; she learns a dangerous secret about him which she will not let go lightly. Honey returns to Tanglewood wiser and more experienced.
Something truly terrible happens in the latest episode of the hugely popular series: Mackenzie, the awful arch nemesis of self-confessed dork Nikki, steals her diary and takes it over – just as Nikki felt some sympathy for her too. It’s two weeks before Nikki gets the diary back, ample time for Mackenzie to cause all sorts of trouble, and to upset a lot of people. Readers will be shocked – and engrossed – by Mackenzie’s nasty behaviour, and it puts Nikki’s everyday kindnesses into a whole new light. By the end everyone will agree with Nikki, that even though Mackenzie has beauty, popularity, wealth and a killer wardrobe, it’s still much better to be a dork! Girl-next-door Nikki makes the perfect friend and as ever, this will completely charm readers. With plentiful illustrations, lively storyline and an engaging central character the Dork Diaries series is great fun for all readers, even reluctant ones. Readers who enjoy Nikki’s adventures will also like James Patterson’s new book Jacky Ha-Ha and his Middle School series.
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | Longlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award and October 2016 Debut of the Month | Twelve year old Suzy’s confusion following the death of her best friend fuels this roller-coaster debut novel. When Franny drowns in a freak accident during the school holiday Suzy finds herself dealing not with the death of her best friend as her mother thinks but with the far more devastating loss of their friendship sometime earlier. Suzy copes by becoming electively mute and by constructing a story to explain what happened to Franny. Moving back and forth between Suzy’s obsessive behaviour after Franny’s death as she finds out everything she can about the lethal jellyfish who is, she is sure, responsible for it and, the last few months before Franny’s death when the friendship unravelled is clever as she loses Franny to the cool set.
Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal 2014 - Winner of the 2013 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize | Award-winning Rebecca Stead tells a wonderfully touching story with great sensitivity within an exciting and dramatic adventure. Georges (his unusual name is part of his problem) has just moved to a new apartment block and he immediately gets caught up in a game with Safer, a boy who lives on another floor. Safer’s spying game seems fun and his family, sister Candy and brother Pigeon provide an interesting and supportive alternative home for Georges while things in his own family are out of kilter. But then Georges begins to have his doubts… Gradually everything he has been protecting himself from spins out of control and the reader discovers the sad truth he has been hiding himself from. A very special story that is not to be missed.
Michael's parents buy a yacht, and take him off to sail round the world. Washed overboard in a fierce storm, Michael finds himself on the shore of a remote island - and soon discovers he's not alone. Kensuke, a former Japanese soldier, survived the war and the bombing of Hiroshima, but his family perished. As an extraordinary bond forms between the two, Kensuke faces a heart-breaking choice: can he give up the secluded life he's built for himself to help reunite Michael with his parents? Knowing the pain of losing his own family, Kensuke knows which way he has to decide... Reading this book will take you through every emotion you can think of, from great joy and laughter to utter sadness and loss. At its heart is a story of friendship that will live long in your mind long after and whilst reading it you will be utterly captivated.
It's hard to be the new girl but for Ella things are even more complicated. She has recently moved to a new area - and a new school - with her mum and brother, and a big secret. Ella has a talent for art, particularly photography, and joins the art club where she grows her friendship with Lydia, the school queen bee. But Lydia isn't all she seems and her motives behind her friendship with Ella are unpleasant. Soon Ella realises she is under Lydia's control but why? And what does Lydia hold against Molly? This is a pacy story of secrets and lies but it also carries a heartwarming message of friendship and finding the inner strength to be who you really want to be.
This collection features poems by three of our best-known and best-loved children’s poets, Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens. Between them, using a range of poetic styles and voices, they cover lots of topics – friendship and togetherness, difference, tolerance, bullying. Some of the poems make their point through humour while others, particularly those about the refugee experience, are necessarily bleaker; some even contain direct advice about where to go or who to turn to in specific situations. All do what poetry does best, that is they will make readers think, engage and look at things, even situations or feelings that may be really familiar, with new eyes. An excellent collection that will be read and read again. ~ Andrea Reece
Narrated by Ivy, the Troofriend 560 Mark IV robot, purchased to be her friend by Sarah’s busy parents instead of the puppy she wished for, means that we have a unique perspective on the story from the very start. Seeing the world through robotic eyes gives rise to lots of humour, but the incredibly subtle changes in Ivy’s language and actions also builds the tension throughout as we can see Ivy beginning to think for herself and as humans, we can recognise her increasingly human reactions and feelings, which are of course forbidden! It is fascinating to see the progress of the public outcry about the dangers of these new robots in the light of the spread of the current pandemic panic. We observe too the changes in Sarah as her empathy and compassion develop. Sarah’s parental neglect and the friendship and self-esteem issues she faces at school will resonate with many children and really engage them with the moral and ethical issues the book raises with such a skilful light touch. The typesetting and use of different fonts for Ivy’s speech and her internal dialogue make this a very accessible and fast paced read and incidentally make it a sure fire hit for a class readaloud if you like doing voices! Just like the authors highly praised debut The Middler, this is a superbly rewarding and highly recommended novel.
August 2020 Debut of the Month | Will Levine has two passions in his life, the local wildlife reserve behind his school and the turtles he has found there. The rest of his life is a bit of a disaster in his eyes – he is given an unkind nickname at school, due to a facial difference, he has to cope with an upcoming Bar Mitzvah, and he has a community service he needs to fulfil for a boy who is confined to a hospital room. Then, to make matters worse, the county plans to sell off the nature reserve. Plus, there is a looming surgical procedure for Will – who hates having blood tests, never mind anything else. How can he make these things work for him – how can he survive it all, when all he really wants to do is look after his turtles and hide away. Slowly Will responds to the needs of RJ who is stuck in the hospital, and they build a strong and wildly adventurous friendship that takes Will away from his comfort zone and helps RJ experience things he would never have chance to do himself. As well as the obvious empathy the book elicits from its readers there is a wonderful amount of humour, and some passing knowledge gained about turtles too! A wonderful story for all of life’s outsiders – offering hope and new perspectives.
November 2018 Book of the Month | Wonder was a sensation when it was first published in 2012, and the story of Auggie and his fight to be accepted as a normal boy has now hit the big screen in a movie starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay, Daveed Diggs, and Mandy Patinkin. This is a special film tie-in edition. Frank, powerful, warm and often heart-breaking, Wonder is a book you'll read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page. This is a wonderful debut from a storyteller with a great future if this book is anything to go by and her characters are intensely likeable.
Leonard looks like a cat, sounds like a cat and – in lots of ways – behaves like a cat. But Leonard is an alien, an alien who has arrived in the wrong body for a trip to Earth – he was meant to be a Yellowstone Park ranger - and needs to get home. Fortunately, he’s adopted by just about the only human on our planet who can save him. Olive is a young girl, also far from home and lonely. The two form a special friendship and, with the help of two amiable if eccentric grown-ups, embark on an amazing journey of adventure and discovery. Leonard might not get to tick off all the human activities on his to do list – one of which is the ‘preparation and consumption of a cheese sandwich’ – but he and Olive learn the most important things there are to being human, to being alive. It’s a story filled with wonder, but truths too, is often funny, sometimes tense, always enjoyable and has important things to say about home and where we can find it. Readers who love Leonard – and lots will – should also read Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s alien adventure Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | April 2019 Debut of the Month | Marcia Williams is best known for her beautifully illustrated retellings of classic stories. For her first novel she has found inspiration in a true story. Cloud Boy takes the form of a diary written by a girl called Angie throughout a year in which her best friend Harry becomes seriously ill. Interspersed with her entries are readings of her grandmother’s letters - very like diary entries - which were written though never sent when she was a child prisoner in the notorious Changi WW2 camp in Singapore. As things get very difficult for Harry, Angie is by turns sad, scared, frightened and angry. Her grandmother’s letters provide distraction and comfort, especially the descriptions of a quilt the girls in the camp made in secret. The two stories are told with great sensitivity and despite the suffering being described the overwhelming sense is one of resilience and hope.
Hugely entertaining, this captivating story is also thought provoking about the perils of having way too much money. Joe Spud is the richest twelve-year-old in the world; he has everything his heart desires – except happiness. As one disaster follows another, Joe and his father both learn the hard way what really matters. David William’s third book for children is a neat combination of hilarity and morality in the best spirit of the master story-teller of the genre, Roald Dahl.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead writes books that are rich with ideas and acknowledge her readers’ intelligence and intuition. Eight-year-old Bea is the central character in her latest novel, and, typically, there’s lots going on in her life. She divides her time between her mother’s and father’s homes following their divorce and visits a therapist who helps with her anxieties. The story culminates in her father’s wedding to his new partner, Jesse. As ever, we move back and forth in time, and discover much about Bea’s inner life as well as her daily routine in New York. Relationships with family and friends propel the story and there are some real shocks and surprises for readers, plus a gradual understanding of the things that will never change for Bea. It’s beautifully written, a thoughtful, sensitive account of growing up and growing resilience and trust. Fans of Rebecca Stead will also enjoy Kate DiCamillo’s books and Susin Nielsen’s.
Shortlisted for the CLPE Children’s Poetry Award (CLiPPA) 2017 | Nick is football mad, finding more poetry, more to stimulate him on the soccer field and with a ball at his feet than he ever does in books. This doesn’t go down well with his father, a linguistics professor with ‘chronic verbomania’, but at least his best friend understands. Cody and Nick are on opposing football teams but the same side for everything else, including facing up to the school bullies. When he’s hit by the twin blows of an injury and the news that his parents are separating however, Nick is surprised to find real comfort in books. Booked is written in free verse, like the author’s previous novel The Crossover, and the form brilliantly catches the energy and ups and downs of Nick’s life, giving his story an immediacy that helps make this irresistible reading. If Booked sends readers looking for more verse novels Sarah Crossan’s The Weight of Water is also excellent while Pete Kalu’s Silent Striker books are great on football and teen life. ~ Andrea Reece
I don’t think Raúf has put a foot wrong so far with her novels to date – and this is no exception. Told from the interesting perspective of the bully in school, Hector gains our sympathy quite unexpectedly – we can see how and why he gets the blame, often deservedly, but also when it’s not really his fault. But when a prank on a homeless person gets out of hand this leads to Hector being befriended - somewhat reluctantly at first, by Mei-Li – who introduces Hector to the shelter she helps in and thus to an understanding of some of the pressures and causes of homelessness. An important social message for all – but this book is also a who-done-it trying to solve mysterious, slightly odd crimes whilst the graffiti left at the scenes of these crimes seem to indicate that homeless people are involved in some way. Can Hector and Mei-Li get to the bottom of these crimes? Can Hector’s new understanding help him be less of a bully? Could Hector turn out to be a bit of a hero? Written with great empathy, this book has themes of friendship and kindness whilst celebrating the fact people can change – and often for the better. Another success for Onali J Raúf.
Yet again Jacqueline Wilson captures the childhood issues of growing up, both emotional and physical. Her characters and the friendships between each of them are brilliantly drawn and every child reading Girls in Tears will find a character they empathise with. Highly enjoyable. A marvellous read.
Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2020 | A lyrical, immersive, and luminous tale of sisterhood, The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow tells of bravery, the power of friendship, and being strong enough to ask for help when we really need it. Emily Ilett, winner of the 2017 Kelpies Prize, is an arresting, vital new voice in children's literature.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Smart, incisive, brimming with the breath of human experience and written with engaging age-appropriate verve, this clever concept (“a tale told in ten blocks”) is perfectly executed. For the chorus of kids whose lives play out on these impeccably-written pages, the walk home from school represents a rare time of freedom; a period of limbo between being under the watchful eyes of teachers and parents. Unsupervised, the kids reveal their true selves, most of them dealing with hidden heartache and anxieties alongside goofing around, self-reflecting and navigating their way through Middle School. As always with Jason Reynolds, the characterisation is ingeniously vivid, with deep insights expressed through, for example, the different ways kids open their lockers. Many of the stories are intensely poignant, such as that of the Low Cuts crew whose bad behaviour is fuelled by a desperate love for their sick parents. The moment it turns out that Bit the hustler is a “son who was scared. A son who loved his mum” is shatteringly powerful. There’s much humour too, such as the laugh-out-loud scene in which smelly Gregory is slathered in VaporRub by friends seeking to beautify him before he visits a girl he’s keen on. Bittersweet, hard-hitting and powerfully perceptive, these pitch-perfect reader-centric stories shine a light on oft-overlooked lives and ring with empathy and authenticity.
October 2011 Guest Editor Roddy Doyle: "Boys in jail – a great idea. The jail has no roof and they have to dig huge holes in the baking sun all day – it’s getting even better. I read Holes in hospital a few years ago. I wasn’t ill, and was only there for the day. I actually forgot I was in hospital, the book was so good. I had about ten pages left when a nurse told me I could go home. I was half-hoping she’d tell me I’d have to stay longer, so I could finish the book." Wholly original and brilliantly plotted, Holes is a funny and poignant story about surviving. When Stanley Yelnats is falsely accused of stealing a pair of trainers, he is sent off to Camp Green Lake which is not a camp, not green and not near a lake but a boys’ detention centre in the middle of the desert. Every day every boy has to dig a hole five foot deep and five foot across because, the Warden says, it’s good for them. How Stanley survives and proves that the Warden has a different and far more sinister motive for wanting so many holes to be dug unravels in unexpected and wholly satisfying ways. Perfect for Reluctant Readers as well as keen readers. To view other titles we think are suitable for reluctant readers please click here.
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | In a nutshell: sad | funny| touching | Susin Nielsen has won many fans for her poignant, character-driven stories of young people in difficult situations. Ambrose, the eponymous word nerd, is just such a central character: he’s isolated and lonely – shocked by the sudden death of his father his mother is anxious and over-protective – socially awkward too. His life changes when he strikes up a kind of friendship a neighbour, without telling his mum because Cosmo is a former drug addict with a prison record. This in turn leads to more friends as the two join a local Scrabble club, and a happy outcome for each. Readers will totally believe in this friendship, and root for Ambrose and Cosmo. A feel-good story filled with memorable characters, and one that sneaks all sorts of truths about life past its readers too. Readers who enjoy Word Nerd will also like A Seven Letter Word by Kim Slater, which also uses Scrabble as a hook for a moving story about struggling young people, while Stacey Matson writes satisfying, heart-warming stories about kids overcoming problems. ~ Andrea Reece
September 2019 Debut of the Month | Jo is the kind of open, honest, amusing character readers immediately care about. Told through her wittily illustrated diary, Jo’s tale begins with a(nother) upheaval. She and her family have just moved to their new Chinese takeaway, but her hopes for a fresh start are immediately dashed when she sees there’s no living room, and she has to share a room with little sister Bonny while big brother Simon lives with their grandparents. Jo’s experience of feeling “doubly different” is poignantly portrayed – she’s an outsider at school because she’s Chinese, and an outsider among her wider Chinese family because her own family is dysfunctional, and because she doesn’t speak the same language. Thank goodness, then, that she forms a friendship with fellow outcast, Tina the Goth, who stands up to racist school bullies. But while Jo begins to feel hopeful about her future and takes steps towards realising her dream of working in fashion, she and Bonny are increasingly neglected by their parents, and then there’s Dad’s aggressive outbursts. The mid-1980s setting prompts many amusing references, from ra-ra skirts and Gary Kemp’s perm, to sending drawings to Take Hart and going to Wimpy for a Knickerbocker Glory - but above all this is a highly readable, highly empathetic, impactful novel about familial abuse and neglect, trying to fit in, and finding your way in the world. Based on her own experiences, author Sue Cheung’s big-hearted story will chime with readers of 12+ who know how it feels to fall between cracks and dream of a different life.
In Holes, best-selling author Louis Sachar showed his understanding and compassion for a group of boys who have got outside the system. In There’s a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom, he shows the same sensitivity to Bradley Chalkers, one boy whose behaviour has increasingly alienated him from his teachers and his peers. Bradley seems unable to change but then Carla arrives. Carla believes in Bradley; gradually Bradley begins to believe in himself. Without preaching and with his familiar humour, Sachar tells a heartwarming story. Perfect for Reluctant Readers as well as keen readers. To view other titles we think are suitable for reluctant readers please click here.
A riveting, emotional drama about what it means to be friends and what it means to be enemies, blending literary and fast-paced writing to create a pitch-perfect teen read. A Piece of Passion from Brenda Gardner, Publisher I started my career with the legendary Kaye Webb, and she always used to say that she read the books submitted in bed, and then the ones she remembered three days later were the ones she bought. That is a good criteria to follow, and if memory is anything to go by this book stands head and shoulders above some great books. I started to read the manuscript a year ago thinking I would take a break in an hour or two and of course I couldn't put it down. The book has the most exciting climax ever – a sheer roller-coaster of a ride – and not only was I muttering under my breath against one of the characters, I was holding my breath. My memory of the story is as crystal clear! Anyone who has read any of Holly's other books know the skill, compassion and beauty of her writing, and this book will give her even more laurels. I guarantee you will love and remember it.
Interest Age Teen, Reading Age 8 | August 2019 Book of the Month | Holly Bourne weaves her special magic in this punchy, touching, believable story of female friendship. Sophia is heartbroken since being unceremoniously dumped by school heartthrob Aidan Chambers. Her best friends Mia and Alexis are sympathetic but certain Sophia is better off without him. Nonetheless, they’ll indulge her by trying a bit of amateur witchcraft if it’ll make her feel better. Their home-made spells conjure other things into the light including Mia’s self-harming, something everyone’s known about, but been unable to mention. By the end of the story, readers will understand that real magic has happened, the kind of transformation that trust, kindness and friendship can and does effect every day. Within the book’s short extent, Bourne creates living, breathing characters and a story that will connect directly with readers. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+
May 2018 Book of the Month | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 | When a billionaire phone-tech entrepreneur challenges the Year Eleven pupils in her former school to switch off their phones for six weeks, Esther is determined to rise to the occasion. With her American-born dad, sister and baby nephew now living in New York, she has her sights firmly fixed on the £1000 prize, which she’d use to visit them, plus she could do with a break from the constant peer pressure to share super model style selfies. But almost immediately, Esther’s FOMO (fear of missing out) “is at emergency levels”, not least because she has no idea what her friends are up to. As a result, she and a few fellow participants set up a support group in her mum’s new cafe, among them River, who gives an impassioned speech about how social media users are “just pawns in the hands of people making money out of us”. Alongside an engaging exploration of the pros and cons of online life, there’s a sensitive sub-plot about the complications of family life, with the downsides of digital media touched-on through that too (her mum’s café is struggling to find customers in the wake of a poor online review), and reference to being aware of “fake news” and inaccurate reporting. Thought-provoking and topical, this pacey read is especially suitable for reluctant and dyslexic teen readers. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+
Steinbeck’s classic is a regular examination set text and no wonder: the tragic story of George and Lennie struggling to get by in the California of the Great Depression, it’s a masterpiece, a tale of hope and almost unbearable loss mediated by clear, honest and sympathetic writing. Congratulations therefore to Barrington Stoke for this new edition which is specifically designed to be accessible to all readers, including those with dyslexia. The text is exactly as Steinbeck wrote it and hasn’t been abridged or altered, but features such as the font (a typeface designed to be easy to read), a larger point size and cream pages to help relieve the effects of visual stress, make this special edition of his great novel ‘super readable’ for all. ~ Andrea Reece Anthony McGowan, Guest Editor June 2015 chose Of Mice and Men as one of his favourite short novels...."I can almost hear the groans now, from millions of teenagers forced to read this for their GCSE! However, despite being ‘institutionalised’ Of Mice and Men remains an incredibly powerful and heartrending story. It centres on the friendship of George (small but clever) and Lenny (strong, but simple-minded), and their struggles in the rural California of the Great Depression. It’s end is tragic, but what persists is the memory of the love between the friends. It’s something I shamelessly ripped off for my brothers, Nicky and Kenny, in Pike and Brock." Mairi Kidd, MD of Barrington Stoke, says : “We are delighted to work with Penguin Random House and the Steinbeck Estate and their agents in arranging to license this important text for publication in a format that will bring it within the reach of many more readers.”
One of our Books of the Year 2013. Winner of the two most prestigious children's book awards - the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013 and the Children's Costa Award 2012. And Longlisted for the 2013 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize | Winner of the two most prestigious children's book awards - the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013 and the Children's Costa Award 2012. Sally Gardner tells a story that is rich in drama and ideas as Standish Treadwell, an unlikely hero, takes on the vicious forces of the repressive motherland in a novel set in a bleak world that is redeemed only by the very human qualities of some of the survivors. Standish and his remarkable grandfather keep going, eking out a living after the disappearance of Standish’s parents. Standish struggles at school and is the victim of relentless bullying. But then he finds a friend in the newly arrived Hector. When Hector is taken, the only hope lies in Standish…Luckily, Standish has just the qualities that are needed. September 2012 Book of the Month.
July 2015 Debut of the Month | The story of an unusual but increasingly close friendship, this is a totally original and engrossing novel. Ollie and Moritz strike up a friendship through letters. They are far from each other geographically, but could never meet anyway: Ollie has a strange disability which makes him allergic to any form of electricity and Moritz has a pacemaker. Moritz has other disabilities too which have made him pretty much an outcast at school, while in his necessarily remote cabin Ollie has just one person he can call a friend. Not just their strange situations, but their characters come through the letters they write to each other - these are honest, revealing, sometimes heartbreakingly so. It’s impossible not to be caught up in their lives.
The title of this highly empathetic and nuanced novel continues to cleverly resonate when we see chapters headed “the bulimic,” “the cool girl,” “the girlfriend,” “the popular girl”, “the best friend” and so on. At first, we do not identify these first-person narrators, but they soon begin to mesh and enable us to have a real depth of understanding of the main characters and emphasises the conflicting roles that girls feel themselves forced to inhabit. Taking place over a timeline that spans just a week, a high school is rocked and divided by the revelation that Mike, a popular high achiever and ‘golden boy’ student, has given his girlfriend, Maya, a black eye. Subsequent rumours result in split opinions about Maya: some believe that Mike should be expelled, while others think he might not have been her abuser. Maya’s best friend, Junie, from whom she’s become distanced due to Mike’s isolating behaviour, is also dealing with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder which she copes with by cutting and Maya’s relationship anxiety has also prompted bulimia. This is an unflinching, hard-hitting novel which certainly does not glamorise disordered behaviour, but enables us to understand how these negative coping mechanisms arise and to appreciate the challenges the girls face as they learn to trust and help each other again. Ultimately this is an empowering novel which advocates honesty, self-belief and the value of friendship. It will resonate deeply and provoke valuable discussion of important real-life issues.
A tale for young adults about friendship, loyalty, and bullying, while a chilling twist of supernatural haunts the pages. Anna and Zoe are stuck with Kerry who follows them around like a puppy dog. Kerry is always on the edge of things, she’s different, and often bullied but when she disappears, will life ever be the same again? Anna tells her own story, her voice feels fresh and authentic, normal teenage problems are on offer, but they begin to warp, to affect Anna and her friends. The author, Bea Davenport writes with a smart, realistic tone, Anna’s thoughts and feelings flow from the page, she is a likeable girl, someone you would want to be friends with. There are some spine-tingling sections which are deliciously sinister, and you might want a handy cushion to hide behind! With a decidedly dark undertone, The Misper is a captivating, suspense filled tale and ultimately very satisfying indeed.
One of our 2018 Books of the Year | Interest Age YA Reading Age 8 | Alex Wheatle serves up an invigorating slice of teen life starring three kids growing up on his fictional Crongton estate. Briggy and Terror have been best friends for years but Terror’s romance with the gorgeous, super-cool Caldonia threatens to push them apart. So when Terror comes up with a ‘cadazy’ plan to rob the Crongton post office, for the sake of their friendship Briggy has no choice but to go along with it. As the boys plan their heist, normal life goes on, with tension at home making Briggy’s get-rich-quick dreams even more powerful. Sharp, funny, moving and written in rat-a-tat sentences that turn teen speak into a kind of poetry. Brilliant.
With comforting clarity, this thorough guide provides vital insight into all aspects of friendship, and also offers support and solutions for navigating one’s way through worries and difficulties. While there are many excellent books aimed at guiding young people through their teenage years, this book’s focus on friendship makes it uniquely invaluable. It places much emphasis on understanding emotions, personality types and behaviours, both one’s own, and those of others. I particularly loved how friendship is framed in the context of being a fundamental human characteristic – “humans are, by nature, social animals”, “we have created lots of ways of supporting each other, through various sorts of friendships.” The book comprehensively covers how to make good friends, toxic friendships, dealing with social media and bullying, developing empathy, and managing stress and anxiety. The personality quizzes are perfect for nurturing self-awareness, inviting readers to explore, for example, if they might be too anxious, how empathetic they are, whether they’re more introvert or extrovert. Both enlightening and practical, this is a must-read for 12+ year olds, and an essential addition to school libraries.
16-year-old Holly feels like an outsider, except when she’s swimming at her local pool: “Under the surface, deep in the blue-lit water, nobody can see me. There’s nobody to judge the clothes I wear, or the way my hair frizzles”. It’s at the pool she meets Ed, who’s “not like the boys at school who are either geeky or cocky and smart-arsed and think they’re all that. He’s different”. While romantic feelings, evoked in all their dizzying wonder, swell poolside, at home the seas are stormier. Struggling with depression, Holly’s mum has “become so inward-looking that she hasn’t a clue what I do with my time”. But as Holly’s home-life begins to brighten, Ed reveals that he’s grappling with a serious domestic situation of his own. Warm-hearted, highly readable and romantic, with the bleaker elements of both teenagers’ lives handled with a sensitive lightness of touch, readers will undoubtedly root for Holly and Ed to find their happy ever after.
Sixteen-year-old Steffi has been selectively mute since she was five. No-one really knows why, least of all her, but teenage readers will recognise the different pressures that she feels so acutely. Her mutism heightens her loneliness, and the loss of her much-loved step-brother in an accident has added terribly to her isolation. We meet her as she’s starting sixth form, set on reaching university, the pressure to speak greater than it’s ever been. Things change when Steffi meets Rhys, who is deaf. Steffi can sign and as their relationship grows we realise that real communication takes many forms. This is very much a story of two individuals but it will resonate with readers, who will understand Steffi’s problems, and be reassured by its message that you don’t have to be noisy to have lots to say, or to be heard. Readers will also enjoy Holly Bourne’s excellent Spinster Club books, or the Zelah Green books by Vanessa Curtis.
If anyone can teach young people how to best understand themselves and their world it’s Gemma Cairney. There are lots of good self-help and advice books but Open Your Heart stands out because of Cairney’s honesty and because of her brilliant, direct voice. Reading it is like being in the same room as her and leaves you feeling more positive, more confident, readier to accept yourself for who you are. It’s divided into two sections: your heart, and your body and soul, and covers topics from family and friends to body image, sex and sexual health. Information is provided by experts, often in the form of interviews by Gemma, all interspersed with her own knowledge and experiences, as well as what she’s learned as Radio 1 agony aunt. A properly invaluable book. ~ Andrea Reece
Shortlisted for YA Book Prize 2017 | One of our Books of the Year 2016 | February 2016 Debut of the Month | 16-year-old Brightonians Caddy and Rosie have been best friends all their lives, their relationship enduring even when Caddy’s aspirational parents send her to a private school. But when an enigmatic new girl arrives at Rosie’s comprehensive, Caddy’s longing for “something of some significance to happen” in her “hopelessly average” life is set in motion, along with a shift in the dynamic of her relationship with Rosie. While Caddy is initially terrified that the beautiful, impulsive Suzanne will replace her, the three of them form a deep friendship. As Suzanne’s self-destructiveness escalates, it emerges that she’s struggling to cope with the ordeal of having suffered physical abuse at the hands of her stepfather, and Caddy finds herself laying everything on the line to save her downward spiraling friend.This powerful, punch-packing debut is an utterly compelling, authentic portrait of the intricate ebbs and flows of friendship, and of a young adult trying to navigate the tempestuous waters of past traumas. Accessible and profoundly moving, Caddy, Rosie and Suzanne’s story is sure to resonate with many a young woman - a phenomenal feat for any writer, let alone a first-time novelist.
Endlessly entertaining and inspirational, this radiantly witty novel imparts important messages about gender stereotypes with heartfelt humour. Zizi and Loretta are polar opposites, “like two sides of the same planet - dark and light”. Zizi loves “clothes, make-up and boys”. She’s eager to please, and even winds up apologising when a boy grabs her boob. “He was just being a boy. He can’t help it”, she reasons. Cue outrage from feminist Loretta. Self-taught in the arts of mechanics, plumbing and carpentry, she can’t believe how previously “smart and spirited” Zizi is now “drowning in the frothy, pink sea of girliness.” But, despite their differences, the girls strike up a friendship, and decide to make a bet for the summer vacation. Zizi will relinquish her make-up and short skirts, while Loretta will adopt Zizi’s girly style. On trading places, they both learn a whole lot about themselves, and experience firsthand how differently the world treats different “kinds” of girls. This is fabulous on female friendship, and head-over-heels brilliant on exposing the multiple ways in which girls moderate their behaviour to fall in line with gender expectations, from not running to prevent attention-drawing boob-bouncing, to victim-blaming, self-blaming and doing domestic chores when boys are let off the hook. 100% recommended for all girls upwards of 13 (and boys, for that matter), and perfect for fans of Holly Bourne.
Clued-up creative activists Chelsea and Jasmine attend a New York school that’s proud of its progressive approach, with classes and clubs called things like Science for Social Justice and Poets for Peace and Justice. But, while forward-thinking liberalism is supposed to lie at the heart of their school’s ethos, Jasmine and Chelsea are infuriated by its evident neglect of women’s rights: “It feels like everyone outside Amsterdam Heights is taking it seriously, but here, it’s like we think the work is done… But it’s not”. When Chelsea’s drama teacher tries to coax her to develop a stereotypical “sassy and angry” black female character, she’s inspired to set up the Write Like a Girl club with a punch-packing feminist blog that sets off a whole lot of buzz in the school community. Alongside attempts to silence the girls’ powerful voices and direct action, Jasmine faces painful personal loss, but they remain strong, firmly fixed on changing the status quo “from the inside out”. Insightful on gender inequity, and the intersection of gender and race, this comes highly recommended for fans of Angie Thomas. Chelsea and Jasmine’s story is a smart and awe-inspiring call to action, a vital novel with the power to empower a generation of young women, much like co-author Renée Watson’s previous book, Piecing Me Together.
January 2018 Debut of the Month | High school student Dill knows what it is to feel “the crushing weight of destiny”. His granddad went mad after a copperhead viper killed his daughter, and his dad, a fanatical Pentecostal minister, makes his congregation handle deadly serpents to prove their faith. While his father is now in prison for a terrible crime, Dill feels shackled by these family demons, and also by poverty, bullying and a fiercely religious mum who blames Dill for his father’s imprisonment. Dill also knows he’s lucky to have friends like Travis and Lydia. While staff-wielding Travis finds sanctuary from his violent drunk of a dad in fantasy books, Lydia is an energetic fashion blogger from the right side of the tracks. But everything shifts as the three friends embark on their last year of high school. Lydia is all set to study journalism in New York, Travis is excited about his burgeoning relationship with a fellow fantasy geek, but Dill has no hope for his future. He’s terrified of losing Lydia, and terrified that he’s already been poisoned by his family’s legacy. He finds some solace in song-writing but, when tragedy strikes, Dill descends to a very dark place and it takes supreme strength and love to untangle himself from the strangling grip of grief and despair. This southern gothic story about small-town small-mindedness, religious fanaticism, wrestling family demons and the redemptive power of friendship really is an exquisite gem; an unforgettably haunting tale that imprints itself on your heart.