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If you're looking for suitable books for your 11, 12 or 13 year old, our extensive list of expert recommendations is sure to put you in the right direction.
February 2020 Book of the Month | Nothing is higher profile or more topical currently than concern for the planet, making this subject an excellent choice for the next topic to get the highly successful Kate Pankhurst treatment. Continuing her quest to pay tribute to the often-overlooked female pioneers in any field of human endeavour with her mission to provide accessible and engaging non- fiction, Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet does all that and more. Once again, I was struck by the fascinating and diverse choices of the featured women and girls. Some are relatively well-known: such as Anita Roddick who founded the Body Shop and Jane Goodall and her pioneering research and protection work with chimpanzees. But I had never heard of Edith Farkas who discovered the ozone hole in the Antarctic or Mária Telkes and her pioneering work on solar power. Even more inspiring is the evidence that everyone, however humble, can make a difference. Such as Isatou Geesay in the Gambia and her fight against plastic pollution or the Chipko movement in India, village women literally hugging trees to prevent the deforestation of their land and the floods and landslides which would follow. Each double-page spread has accessible paragraphs of text and lively cartoon illustrations and speech bubbles to tell the story concisely and clearly. This visual style is very engaging to young readers and has great shelf appeal. A useful glossary of terms and a page of inspiring calls to action complete the book. Another triumph of information presentation. Highly recommended.
Millions of people use the underground in London every day, but how many of them know the secrets and facts revealed in this fascinating book? Did you know, for example, that you could walk for fifteen minutes through the corridors at Bank station without going over the same steps? Or that there are 49 – 49! – abandoned and disused stations? Or that you can walk between some stations faster than the train? It concludes with various tube challenges, including the ultimate: visit all 270 stations in one day. The record for that is fifteen hours, forty-five minutes and thirty-eight seconds apparently ... All this plus underground history and peeks into the future. A quirky and unputdownable guide to the lines beneath our feet.
There’s an infectious enthusiasm about this book that will inspire every reader to look around their local train station with new eyes, or to take train trips specially to explore other lines and destinations. Author Vicki Pipe, ably assisted by Geoff Marshall (look out for Geoff’s Fun Facts text boxes – they’re irresistible), identifies fifty fascinating things to see and discover across the railways of England, Scotland and Wales and they range from tunnels, viaducts and lists of the smallest stations, to trees, railway pets and the people who keep the whole system moving. You get a great sense of the history of train travel in the UK and exciting glimpses into the future. A fact-filled information book compiled by people with a passion to match their knowledge.
Encompassing works from ancient sages, classic poets, well-known thinkers and emerging contemporary innovators from all walks of life, this involving, inclusive collection inspires, entertains, enthrals and emboldens. Alongside enjoying the work of widely-esteemed names (including Sappho, George Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay, Christina Rosetti, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson and Margaret Atwood), it was a pleasure to discover contemporary poets whose work I shall seek out, among them Ruth Awola and Remi Graves, and lesser-known names from the past, for example Edith Södergran and Astrid Hjertenaes Andersen. If the diversity of voices is rich, so too are the themes, with growing up, friendship, love, nature, body image and protest covered in staggering depth and diversity. This varied chorus of bold, incisive voices makes for a collection to be savoured and shared.
What might it be like to live surrounded by clocks? Lots of clocks, so that when they all strike you need to cover your ears whilst all their bongs and trills happen. Set in Edwardian Cambridge this is the story of Helena, her Parrot, Orbit, and her father who is employed to keep all the clocks in the house going, the clocks must not stop, or else Helena and her father will lose everything they own. As Helena settles into this new home, she realises that the owner, Mr Westcott, is obsessed by the clocks, there are strange happenings in the house, and glimpses of a strange history to the place. Will Helena and her father get to the bottom of the problems here, or will they lose all their possessions because a clock is allowed to stop? On the surface this is a delightfully odd and slightly sinister story with much to be uncovered as the story develops. It is also an exploration of grief and the strange thoughts that can obsess people after a close bereavement. But the overwhelming message is that friendship, love, empathy and memory are vital to everyone, no matter how strange they may seem. The friendship and caring exhibited between child characters in the story wins out over what seem like insurmountable odds – for a very satisfactory conclusion.
February 2020 Debut of the Month | Debut novelist Nicola Penfold has talked of inspiration from reading about what author Richard Louv called “nature-deficit disorder”. Her strong belief that humans need a connection with nature to be truly happy shines through this powerful story and the creation of the nightmare world that Juniper and her little brother, Bear inhabit. They live with their grandmother in a walled city from which nature has been banished, following an apocalyptic tick-borne disease released by ReWilders willing to sacrifice humans to save the planet. Fifty years on nature flourishes beyond the walls. Within them humans struggle to artificially create what they need to live. Juniper and Bear have always known they have a resistance to the disease, just as they know that their parents are still living in the wild. Juniper always planned their eventual escape, but they must leave urgently when the authoritarian regime reveals a dangerous scheme to farm their blood. What follows is a thrilling and utterly convincing escape and a perilous journey. The rigours of outdoor living and survival are not glossed over- the reader really fears for these characters and feels every setback. Success is won through bravery and persistence and the sibling relationship is beautifully conveyed. Bear is a very recognisable six-year old boy who both frustrates and astonishes his sister. There are no easy solutions to problems and no miraculous happy ending. This is powerful and believable storytelling which will keep readers gripped and inspire lots of discussion about the vulnerability of nature and what humans are doing to the planet. An outstanding debut, beautifully written and utterly compelling.
'If you want to invent something nobody has ever thought of before, you need to read the things that others don't read, look in the spaces other people are not in...' Layla believes she was right to stand up for herself against a bully, but it's landed her a suspension - not the way she (or her parents) would have wished to begin her time at her fancy new school! This is just a setback though, and she's determined to prove that she does deserve her scholarship by making new friends and setting her sights on inventing something that could win the big robotics competition. But where to begin? You Must Be Layla introduces Sudanese-born author, broadcaster, social advocate and mechanical engineer Yassmin Abdel-Magied as an exciting new voice in children's writing.
Steam-powered she may be, but the Highland Falcon is a fast-moving triumph of human ingenuity, as is this thrilling adventure story set on board. It stars young Harrison Beck, passenger on the train with his uncle as she makes her final journey. Harrison initially thinks trains are boring, but by the time the train steams into Paddington at the end of their three day trip, not only has he become a total train buff, he’s also hobnobbed with royalty, made friends with the crew, including the engine driver’s daughter, Lenny, indulged in some daredevil antics e.g. climbing along the top of the train while it’s in motion, and solved a high-profile crime. It all makes for terrific reading, authors M.G. ‘Beetle Boy’ Leonard and Sam Sedgman have created a classic train-set mystery, with all the elements that make that such a well-loved genre, while keeping it thoroughly fresh and modern for today’s young readers.
The summer holidays are dragging on and Harry Potter can't wait for the start of the school year. It is his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and there are spells to be learnt and (unluckily) Potions and Divination lessons to be attended. But Harry needs to be on his guard at all times - his worst enemy is preparing a terrible fate for him. With characteristic wit, fast-paced humour and marvellous emotional depth, J.K. Rowling has proved herself yet again to be a master storyteller.
From its enticing opening (“If there’s one thing I am absolutely and utterly sure about,” said Maya Murphy ducking under her desk on the classroom floor, “it’s that Mr Winter is a monster”), through its 300 pages of character-driven action, The Light Hunters is a stellar start to a new Middle Grade series. At school, twelve-year-old Lux and best friend Maya are drilled in the art of what to do in the event of a monster attack. At home, Lux lives with his sick granddad, a clock repairer, and Miss Hart, Grandpa’s carer. Oh, and he’s also the most accomplished Light Hunter of all time and manages to save Maya when she’s gravely injured in a monstrous attack. But this brave act of friendship brings trouble, for it draws a mysterious stranger to town, someone who’s set on misappropriating Lux’s powers. With Miss Hart’s guidance (for she harbours a secret…), Lux steps-up his training in the ways of Light Hunting as word comes of the impending attack of a monster to whom he’s painfully connected.Skillfully blending relatable real-life emotions with a vividly conjured fantastical world, and an overarching race against time, this comes recommended for nine+ year-olds who enjoy epic action delivered in a descriptive style, such as fans of Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart series and Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines.
The Power of Women's Voices | International in scope and sweeping in history, Yvette Cooper’s She Speaks compendium gives voice to a dazzlingly diversity of powerful speeches selected on the basis of them being delivered by “women who believe in using words to build a better world, and persuading others to join them as they do so.” The introduction is both inspirational and edifying, with Cooper surveying the hostile landscape women have traversed - and still traverse - while making their voices heard, integrated with personal insights from her career as a Labour MP, Cabinet Minister and Secretary of State.Throughout it’s a joy to the savour the words and wisdom of dozens of seminal female figures, from Boudica’s stirring two thousand year-old polemic against violations of women, to Diane Abbott’s powerful 2019 House of Commons speech on the brutally unjust Windrush scandal. Other British women with political pedigree include the fabulously fierce Barbara Castle (her speech here is an exquisite example of sharp, scathing, socialist-minded oratory), Jo Cox, with her poignant maiden speech as an MP, Yvette Cooper herself, and former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. While it might seem out of place for Cooper to re-amplify the Iron Lady’s inflammatory “ideological assault on the public sector” by including her “the lady’s not for turning” speech, she frames the decision by referring to Thatcher’s mould-breaking persona and indestructible self-belief. Thatcher’s inclusion is also testament to the gracious spirit that runs through the anthology. Indeed, Theresa May’s speech on modernising the Conservative party is also included.Beyond Britain we hear from Audre Lorde, Benazir Bhutto and Michelle Obama; from razor-witted US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nigerian novelist and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and young education campaigner Malala Yousafzai. I was especially stirred by the 1851 speech of Sojourner Truth, a former slave turned activist whose work saw her campaign against slavery and champion women’s rights, and whose words sang for the oppressed. The last words are given to Greta Thunberg because “no one speaks about the future with more clarity or urgency than Greta Thunberg”.“She Speaks, I must listen”, Cooper writes in her introduction and this finely-curated anthology will certainly inspire readers of all ages to pay close attention to the women’s words it shares.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | No matter how exciting, zany and surprising the action, you can always be sure that Frank Cottrell-Boyce will build his stories on real human emotions, and that’s as true of this brilliantly funny, original and touching novel as of any of its predecessors. Alfie ‘swerves’ both school and the Limb Lab, where he should be going to learn how to control his state-of-the-art new hand, by hanging out at the airport. But everything changes when, through various happy accidents, he finds an enormous robot called Eric in Lost Property. Eric holds the Allen key to the book’s mysteries, both a generations-old legend, and the secrets that Archie is keeping from the reader and himself. Beautifully told and full of characters readers will love, this book will have you laughing out loud one minute, in tears the next. Robot Eric, unfailingly polite, kind and helpful and trying to explain himself through misremembered jokes is an iron man for our time. Unmissable. Once readers have finished this, point them in the direction of Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s other books including The Astounding Broccoli Boy and books by Ross Welford. Peter Brown’s story The Wild Robot is another great automaton adventure.
February 2020 Book of the Month | This gripping must-read for sports fans fizzes with a powerful message about picking yourself up and self-belief, and a poignant portrayal of gang culture coercion. I cannot praise Dan Freeman’s compassion-rich writing enough. Life’s not easy for twin fourteen-year-olds Kaine and Roxy growing up on their London estate. Their dad’s lost his job and mum works all hours. But Roxy and Kaine aren’t your average teenagers. He’s a super-talented footballer with Premier League potential, and she’s an outstanding tennis player, tipped for the top. Oh, and they can’t stand each other. After being close as kids, they’ve grown apart, with Roxy loathing the fact that Kaine’s always in trouble, and Kaine hating the way Roxy gets all the attention and support, overlooked even when a scout for a Premier League club comes to watch him. Both a bundle of frustration, Kaine is tempted into dangerous territory. If only Mamma, their Barbados-born grandmother, was around to keep Kaine on the right track. Mamma’s warm, wise presence is felt throughout the novel. She was the person Kaine turned to in times of need. She’d feed him soul food, remind him that he’s special, urge him to “do the extraordinary.” Sage advice comes from Kaine’s supportive PE teacher too, who counsels “There are paths in life, there are choices. And you are at one of those crossroads now”. When tragedy strikes as Kaine loses his way it takes a whole lot of soul-searching for him to turns things round and become the extraordinary young man he is. And Roxy tackles her profoundly life-changing situation with heartrending courage too. With overriding messages of hope, compassion, doing the right thing and staying true to yourself, this is an absolute galáctico, Grand Slam winner of a novel.
Larabelle Fox is an orphan, a tosher who searches the sewers for any ‘treasure’ she can find, in the sewer system under Kings Haven. She is ranged against rival toshing gangs who want to rob her, as well as the powerful King’s Witch who wants to revive the Evernight in a bid to gain total power for herself. Unbeknownst to Lara she has found exactly what the King’s Witch and her awesomely scary djinn Shadow Jack are looking for – a box, long lost in the sewers. Can Lara discover what she can do with the box and its contents before the world succumbs to the evil of the Evernight? This is a wild magical delight of a story. The bad guys are wickedly bad and seemingly undefeatable, whilst Lara and her friend Joe Littlefoot seem small and powerless. But they have quick wits and goodness on their side, as well as the witches, though it will mainly be down to Lara that a defence is put up to the Evernight.This is the sort of book that will create a buzz of enjoyment, the fantasy world is well built, believable, cinematic and child friendly. The magic is fun, the friendship believable, the story is refreshing, and the feisty heroine is a delight to follow. I shall look forward to more books in this series.
This was an interesting book which reminded me a bit of the Harry Potter series. The storyline is very original, although I did find it rather lengthy and a bit complex at times: it might be difficult for some children to keep up with all the characters and the action. However, despite its complexity, it is very well-written. I like that the main character, Cricket, is different, and that her difference helps her in her quest. I think children will relate to the friendship between Cricket and her friend Penny who are likeable characters. Penny understands that Cricket is different from the other children but celebrates this difference with Cricket. Each chapter is illustrated and I love these, they are so detailed and original. I'm sure this book will appeal to its target audience and I think it will easily widen out into a series of adventures for Cricket and Penny. Pauline Braisher, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
When twelve-year-old Alex receives an old tin robot in the post, the note from his grandfather simply reads: 'This one is special'. But as strange events start occurring around him, it doesn't take Alex long to suspect that the small toy is more than special; it might also be deadly. Just as things are getting out of hand, Alex's grandfather arrives, whisking him away from his otherwise humdrum life and into a world of strange, macabre magic. From Paris to Prague, they flee across snowy Europe in a quest to unravel the riddle of the little robot, and outwit relentless assassins of the human and mechanical kind. How does Alex's grandfather know them? And can Alex safely harness the robot's power, or will it fall into the wrong, wicked hands?
The novel of The Crossover is a Newberry Medal Winner, and a Coretta Scott King Award Winner in the US and was Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in the UK. This graphic novel version is the whole story complete with large and small two-coloured illustrations gracing every page. This is a deceptively simple read – a novel in verse about siblings getting through middle school, their lives, their crushes, their family interactions, and basketball. The boys are twins Josh and Jordan Bell, sons of a famous basketball player, and aiming to make a mark in the world of basketball. There are rivalries between the boys, they revel in their differences, but family holds them together whatever the world throws at them. The words and pictures work so well together, you will be on the edge of your seat, rooting for the team as they play and crying with the twins when thigs go awry. To tell such a complex story with so few words, with such emotional depth – Alexander is a master of devastating and uplifting storytelling. Anyabwile’s illustrations enhance a superb story – adding expressions and movement to an already great novel.
‘My body is strong. My body can do amazing things. My body is my own.’ That’s the message for young girls to take from this comforting, uplifting and much-needed self-help guide. Our bodies are unique and amazing, it says, all of them, and there’s no one size, shape or colour that’s perfect. The message is demonstrated via colour illustrations featuring a range of young women happy with the way they look and who they are. The accompanying text reinforces this and also provides self-help tips for those times when you’re feeling down or insecure. There’s a really useful ‘Now What?’ section too full of self-care practices, while the jacket doubles as a poster for your wall, a self-care list for everyday life. It’s been carefully thought out from beginning to end, while illustrator Carol Rossetti’s young women feel like a group of friends cheering you on.
Reading Planet KS2 - Level 7: Saturn/Blue-Red band | Get ready to explore the world of William Shakespeare! Your guide is Kit, one of Shakespeare's oldest friends. He will show you around the famous Globe Theatre in London, and tell you the story of the man behind the plays, from his early childhood and his schooldays, to the incredible legacy of his writing. You'll also get to act out some scenes from his best-known plays, including Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Macbeth! Read on, and you'll discover why Shakespeare is considered to be one of the greatest writers ever.
The latest novel from Newbery medal winning novelist Kelly is inspired by Filipino folktales but is set upon the entirely fictional island of Sangalita where people live under foreboding Mount Kahna and the strict control of the all-powerful menyoro. Generations of men, including twelve-year-old Lalani Sarita’s father, have tried to sail across the Veiled Sea to reach the legendary paradise of Mount Isa but none have returned. Lalani is just an ordinary girl who is desperate to help the drought-stricken islanders. When she ventures up the forbidden mountain to pray for rain, she discovers the pitfalls of magic and trickery of magical creatures and the deluge which follows causes a terrible landslide. Blaming herself for the death and destruction and seeking a remedy for her fatally ill mother she feels that she has no choice but to set off for Mount Isa to seek the flower that could save everyone. Her epic journey is full of danger and mystery, but it is her pure motives and the faith and hope that she carries that just might see her through. Although Lalani is the worthy protagonist, a strong cast of secondary characters, particularly her best friend Veyda and Veyda’s brother Hetsbi, are crucial to the story, making the novel more complex as characters deal with bullying, abuse of power, and other problems which are clearly relevant to the real world too. The story is skilfully constructed with short, beautifully illustrated vignettes allowing readers into the minds of the mythical creatures Lalani encounters, adding yet another layer of depth and fantasy to this triumphant tale about fighting for the people one loves and staying true to oneself.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2020 | January 2020 Book of the Month | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 9 | Award-winning author Tanya Landman captures the high drama and deep romance of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre is this fresh retelling. While in the setting of the story and the overarching plot and twists that propel it she is faithful to the time and place of the original and to the feel of both, she has given Jane a boldness and independence that is both entirely in keeping with the original and refreshingly modern.
January 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s love, friendship and challenging prejudice aplenty in this debut novel by a LGBTQ+ parenting expert. Introverted Izzy has just started Year 8 and is wildly excited when her favourite teacher announces auditions for a Christmas production of Guys and Dolls. Though shy, she’s come to love acting because on stage she “could be whoever I wanted.” And Izzy’s not the only member of her family who wants - and needs - to be who they really are, as she discovers when her dad tells the family he’s transgender and is about to begin transitioning. Though he gently explains, “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s nothing dirty, I’m not ill”, Izzy’s older sister reacts angrily, her little brother accepts it in the same way he understands Spider Man and Peter Parker’s different identities, while Izzy feels quiet worry about how their lives will change. The family’s journey is honestly and sensitively portrayed as they endure hurtful prejudice alongside many heart-melting moments, such as the gorgeous scene in which the three siblings think-up their new name for Dad. This is at once an important support tool for children in similar situations, and a barrier-breaking, empathy-inducing story for all.
January 2020 Book of the Month | This is the fourth and indeed final book in Peter Bunzl’s hugely enjoyable Cogheart adventure series. Lily, the girl with the clockwork heart, and her friends Robert and Malkin the ‘mechanimal’ fox, are off to New York with her father to meet up with Robert’s mother and sister. The adventures start the minute they step off their ocean liner (the series is set in a steampunky late 19th century) and involve kidnap, stolen jewels and a heartbroken boy willing to do anything to put his family back together. There are wonderful scenes of adventure with escapades taking place on trains, hotel balconies and most thrillingly in an underwater diving vessel. Non-stop as the action is, there’s always time for Lily to realise what really matters and that love and friendship keep the world’s heart ticking. An excellent series and while each book stands alone, I’d recommend treating young readers to the set.
January 2020 Debut of the Month | This beautifully written debut has all the elements of a classic adventure and is guaranteed to capture readers and not let them go until the last page is turned. A lost princess, a stolen kingdom, a wicked uncle and his evil henchman, a supernatural ruby and a tiger that talks- who could resist? Our heroine Fly engages from the start- escaping from the cruel master sweep she finds her escape chimney empties her into a tiger’s cage. The tiger does not eat her but decides she has royal blood and speaks to her. Whilst not believing him Fly expertly arranges their escape vowing to return to rescue the other caged animals awaiting their sale by the mysterious bejewelled fat man. Fly has a certain skill which her gang of street urchins has put to good use in the past. She has the power to prevent people seeing what she does not want them to see - when she and the tiger board a horse drawn omnibus the passengers only see a scruffy urchin and a rather large dog. But this is only the start of the adventure and we gradually learn more about Fly’s origins and about the wickedness of the men who have imprisoned the rightful king and are selling the animals and enslaving the people of the beautiful island kingdom to which she and the tiger belong. With the villains in hot pursuit a storm and shipwreck seem to ensure a tragic end to their quest. But with the wonderful twists and turns the reader has become accustomed to, all’s well that ends well. This is a magnificent story of courage, love and loyalty which leaves the reader satisfied and enriched.
From No. 1 bestselling children's author, David Walliams comes his biggest and most epic adventure yet! Illustrated by the artistic genius Tony Ross. This is the story of a ten-year-old orphan and a 10,000-year-old mammoth... Read all about it! Read all about it! ICE MONSTER FOUND IN ARCTIC! When Elsie, an orphan on the streets of Victorian London, hears about the mysterious Ice Monster - a woolly mammoth found at the North Pole - she's determined to discover more... A chance encounter brings Elsie face to face with the creature, and sparks the adventure of a lifetime - from London to the heart of the Arctic! Heroes come in all different shapes and sizes in David Walliams' biggest and most epic adventure yet!
The twelve poems in this book, one for each month, will inspire a year of nature watching and who knows, quite likely some poetry writing too. There’s drama and excitement in the opening poem which describes a legendary fight between warring starlings – ‘the Rorschach of the winter months’ - over Cork in the 1600s; other poems are quieter and February’s gives a beautiful close up view of frog spawn, opening up memories from Coelho’s own childhood. Many of the poems in fact reflect his own personal experiences and responses to nature, April showers, trips to the beach, walks through winter leaves, giving the poems a particular intensity and emotional impact. Kelly Louise Judd’s folk-are inspired illustrations make this as beautiful to look at as it is to read aloud. A superb collection and a lovely book to give.
The reading world now lies wide open.
Individual choices of genre become more significant as readers become more discriminating. Readers develop their critical faculties as they weave their way towards the kind of readers they are growing into.
You could also check out our latest highlights such as 'new voices', which showcases some of the brightest new talent from Walker Books, or our 'prizewinners' section where we can help you and your child discover authors currently in contention for and/or winners of the most prestigious awards.