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January 2019 Debut of the Month | Shortlisted for the Peoples Book Prize 2019 | All the best adventures start with a map and there’s a corker in Clive Mantle’s new thriller. Freddie’s Uncle Patrick gives him a huge and beautiful antique map of the world as a birthday present, little suspecting – or does he? – that it will magically transport Freddie across the continents and through time, to the Himalayas. He shares the adventures that befall him there with his best friend Connor, who has his own challenges at home with a gang of bullies. The two plotlines connect and this is thoroughly satisfying edge-of-the-seat boys-own stuff. Readers who enjoy this stories should also look out for Josh Lacey’s Island of Thieves, or Tamsin Cooke’s Stunt Double series.
In a Nutshell: Magic | Murder | Mystical plague | This satisfying sequel to Spellslinger sizzles with sorcery, secrets and a slathering of swindle and comes highly-recommended for fans of funny fantasy. Though darker than its predecessor, this is still driven by cinematic scope, and by Kellen’s quirks and self-depreciating tone. “I made a terrible outlaw. I couldn’t hunt worth a damn, got lost just about everywhere I went, and it seemed like every person I met found some perfectly sensible reason to try to rob me or kill me.’ Kellen has made the (perhaps not unexpected) discovery that he’s a hopeless fugitive - this is classic crisis of confidence stuff. He’s an on-the-run outlaw, with allies who aren’t exactly delivering on the helping-him-through front. The plot twists and thickens when a mysterious blindfolded girl embroils him in a web of murder and magic, not to mention the ‘shadowblack’ plague. What a whirlwind of Wild West-ism and witty wonder this is. ~ Joanne Owen
Al’s Awesome Science is perfect for children who are becoming confident readers and want to progress to chapter books. A fun and hilarious page turning plot, accompanied by lots of black and white pictures to pore over and enjoy. Each title includes, fun and at times messy, step-by-step science experiments, integrated in comic book form to accompany the text.
May 2018 Book of the Month Not only is it lovely to look at, but Hoakes Island gives the brain a really good work-out too. Readers are challenged to find out what happened to Henry Hoakes, owner of Hoakes Island amusement park, who vanished in mysterious circumstances. This means studying the notebook and map he left behind. On each page of the book there are ingenious puzzles to solve, with more clues to be decoded on the map too – a special red lens neatly included with the book reveals hidden images in the pictures. Poor old Henry went missing in 1953 and there’s a charming retro feel to the illustrations, and some jolly ads on the map too. Stylish, puzzle fun. There's a trailer for Hoakes Island here...follow the clues and solves the puzzles!
May 2018 Book of the Month | Zach King’s family have magical powers, and for a glorious short couple of weeks he did too. Now though, he’s back to being a normal kid, with no way to create the mind-blowing spectacles that won him thousands of Youtube views. There’s another blow when a cool new kid asks Zach’s friend and crush Rachel to the school dance. Can Zach borrow his family’s magic to prove that he’s still the guy for her? The action is fast and funny, especially when the borrowed magic proves harder for Zach to control than expected. Pages of text are interspersed with colour pictures and cartoon strip style illustration, and this is another classic school caper given a quirky, appealing contemporary twist.
In a nutshell: anarchic fun and adventure in Bitterly Bay Spangles McNasty is one of those children’s book characters readers just love to hate. He’s irredeemably horrible – indeed, he prides himself on his nastiness – and his sidekick Sausage-face Pete is no nicer. In this new escapade, the two are plotting to steal the star exhibit from the Bitterly Bay museum’s new pirate exhibition, a diamond encrusted pirate hat. As fans of the series will know, Spangles is highly likely to be hoist by the petard of his own greed and ineptitude, while young Freddie Taylor is wise to his tricks too and there to frustrate them. It’s all good, disgusting fun, inventive, surprising and full of the wordplay and zany humour that delights readers. ~ Andrea Reece Perfect for fans of Mr Gum readers who enjoy the adventures of Spangles McNasty will also like William Sutcliffe’s Circus of Thieves books.
This first timelessly terrifying tale in a new series from the creator of The Spook’s Apprentice confirms the author’s status as a veritable master of crafting elementally powerful worlds from fascinating pockets of English folklore. Crafty is a Fey. As such he can hear the whisperings of his dead brothers, and he’s immune to the powers of the Shole, a horrifying mist that’s enveloping the Lancashire region. It was the Shole that claimed his non-Fey mother, while his brothers died working for the Chief Mancer, which is what Crafty does now too. After a miserable period shut-up in a cellar with only the occasional companionship of a deceased Bog Queen warrior to brighten his days, he’s passed the test to work as a gate grub, the lowliest of those employed by the Castle Corpus, and a highly dangerous role to boot. Alongside the creeping unfolding of an un-put-down-able story, I adored Crafty’s boundless candor and curiosity, and his friendship with fellow gate grubs Donna and Lucky suffuses his bleak situation with welcome warmth. But, ultimately, with his court courier father missing in action, Crafty is pretty much alone in an increasingly perilous situation… This exquisitely compelling tale tingles with as much raw, pure storytelling prowess and intrigue as it does with the slither and menace of multiple monstrous beasts, and I cannot wait for the second instalment.
All her life Cass has dreamt of joining the circus to become an acrobat and travel the islands on the Circus Boat. Once a year the boat visits her home, the Great City of Minaris, and offers auditions to hopeful trapeze artists and acrobats, before sailing off again for another year. This year Cass is determined it’s her time and so she prepares for the most important performance of her life. Unfortunately the opportunity is missed and so she hatches a new plan and soon finds herself on a ship bound to the mysterious Island of Women. Unknowingly Cass is sailing towards an adventure that will lead her through dangerous waters where pirates hold a reign of terror and you don’t know who you can trust. This is a wonderful story full of acrobatics, sword fights and even a little magic, as Cass must escape the clutches of thieves and pirates. Empowered by the friends she holds dear, a good dose of courage and the passion to follow her dreams, Cass embarks on a gripping adventure that will lead her to the group of women who are the mysterious, Company of Eight. Thoroughly gripping and enjoyable and hopefully the start of many a tale starring the adventurous, brave and lovable Cass. ~ Shelley Fallows - You can also find Shelley here.
Winner of the 2018 Blue Peter Awards - Best Story | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2018 | Best-selling Cressida Cowell launches her new series with a title that will delight all fans of the How to Train Your Dragon series. Set deep in an enchanting forest, this is a charming story full of Cowell’s trade mark humour and total command of mystery and magic and how it fits seamlessly into everyday life. From two opposing tribes – the Warriors and the Wizards – come two opposing characters, Xar, a young Wizard boy who has no command of magic and will fight anyone he can in order to get it, and Wish, a Warrior girl who is imbued with all kinds of magic that she should never have had access to. Xar and Wish should never meet and never become friends. But they do and together they brave the hidden dungeons in Warrior Fort to uncover a great mystery. Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for May 2018 Square by Mac Barnett A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge A Perfect Day by Lane Smith Gaspard the Fox by Zeb Soanes & James Mayhew Wonder Goal! by Michael Foreman The Sand Dog by Sarah Lean The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell Plantopedia by Adrienne Barman
Aru Shah is an average twelve-year old, not particularly attentive at school, but keenly aware of the importance of fitting in, which sometimes leads her to lie to impress her classmates. So when she’s caught out at home in her Spider-man pyjamas, not Paris as she’d claimed, she does the only thing she can to reclaim credibility and lights the cursed lamp her mother has told her always to avoid. That awakens a demon who in turn aims to wake up the Lord of Destruction, and bring about the end of the world. Only Aru and another kid Mini can stop it. It helps that they’re both reincarnations of the Pandava brothers and descended from the gods, and that they have a pigeon-shaped divine sidekick, Boo. Their adventures are as thrilling as any of Percy Jackson’s as they face a terrifying set of monsters all out to kill them. It makes great reading, and Aru keeps up a running commentary that is very funny indeed.
William Wenton is something of a bionic boy; half of his body is a hi-tech metal called luridium, and this gives him special mental powers. But something – or someone – is interfering with it, causing him all sort of problems and putting his life in danger. He’s recalled to the mysterious Institute for Post-Human Research, but quickly discovers he’s not save there either. It seems even his old friends aren’t to be trusted, and there are some very ruthless people out to get him. Technology, intrigue and double-double crossings make this a thrilling adventure for fans of Alex Rider, and it all comes to a terrific climax on the snowy mountains of the Himalayas.
A group of undocumented children with letters for names, are stuck living in a refugee camp, with stories to tell but no papers to prove them. As they try to forge a new family amongst themselves, they also long to keep memories of their old identities alive. Will they be heard and believed? And what will happen to them if they aren't? An astonishing piece of writing that will enchant and intrigue children; perfectly pitched at a 9+ readership.