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All the books we feature on LoveReading4Kids are selected because we think they deserve to stand out from the crowd of the many thousands of other titles published each month.
November 2020 Book of the Month | The Silent Stars Go By is a riveting read-in-one-sitting experience driven by compelling characters who leap off the page, not least the young woman at its heart, an unmarried secretarial student who’s forced to give up her baby during WWI. The novel is also underpinned by a superb sense of social history, with evocative details of post-war village life nestling within the bigger story, and - as might be expected of the author of Things a Bright Girl Can Do - it’s threaded with feminist themes. It’s 1919, Christmas is on the horizon and two years have passed since nineteen-year-old Margot was forced to give up her baby for her parents to raise as their own. She was only fifteen when she and Harry fell madly in love ahead of him being called up. The magic of their time together is evoked in all its tingling passion, contrasting with Margot’s present-day torments. It hurts when little James calls her mother “Mummy”, and she doesn’t know how she can continue to keep James a secret from Harry, who’s returned to the village after recuperating on the Isle of Wight. The flashbacks to Margot’s time on the maternity ward are particularly poignant and, of course, the reason she has to endure this unbearable situation is due to the fact that she lives in a world in which “the girl is the one whose honour is defiled or whatever rot they spout” whereas “the boy is just being a boy”. Coupled with that wider context, Margot’s vicar father is a man who “forgave drunks and tramps and fallen women and the men who tried to steal the lead from the church roof. But he couldn’t forgive her.” Realising that “things couldn’t go on like this,” Margot decides to confront her fears amidst the rare glamour of a ball on New Year’s Eve. You can find more wintry & festive stories in our Best Books for Kids this Christmas collection.
November 2020 Audio Book of the Month | Like its hero, the story Peter Pan will never grow old and retains all its power to enchant, tempt and enthral readers; how wonderful that this new audiobook version should be available for Christmas, as it is magical family listening. A host of stars take turns to narrate but it’s a particular passion project for Joanna Lumley, who is directly involved in the recent transformation of author J.M. Barrie’s childhood home, Moat Brae, into a new national centre for children’s literature and storytelling. She reads the opening chapters and therefore sets the tone beautifully for the story that follows. Young listeners will be captivated by the joyful sense of freedom and rebellion, while adults will hear the strains of melancholy and loss of innocence beneath. A story to resonate with everyone, whatever their age, and especially when it is told as well as it is here. Listen to an extract, the opening chapter from Peter Pan, read by Joanna Lumley.
November 2020 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2020 | Everything that is wonderful about Christmas (and some things that aren’t!) is thrillingly spun about in this deliciously magical and madcap adventure. Homeless Blanche has never had any real Christmas but when the mysterious Rinki gives her a magical bauble and some mince pies on Christmas Day everything changes. Rinki and Blanche are firm friends forever and together they are about to rewrite the Santa story. Santa Claus, elf magic, delicious Christmas food and drink, and a wonderful sleigh ride are all thrown into the mix as a very merry Christmas for all – except the sinister Mr Krampus – follows. You can find more wintry & festive stories in our Best Books for Kids this Christmas collection.
November 2020 Book of the Month | Ayesha Harruna Attah’s The Deep Blue Between, her debut for younger readers, is a rich historical, dual-narrative story of the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood. With a steady, captivating style, it’s rich in details of everyday life in late-nineteenth-century West Africa and Brazil, and the broader cultural landscapes of the Gold Coast and South America. It’s a thoughtful - and thought-provoking - novel, threaded with love, hope and determination. “In 1892, when I was ten, I was forced to live on a land where the trees grew so close together, they sucked out my voice.” So Hassana sets the scene at the start of her story. Following a raid on her home, she’s been separated from her twin sister, Husseina, but senses they’ll find one another again. Even more so when she finds the protection of a stranger: “I was learning things from Richard that I was sure would make it easier to find Husseina. Richard had been in what he called “the Gold Coast” to study plants to find out what could be used to treat sicknesses. He was going to put everything he found in a book.” But the sisters’ paths take hugely divergent turns. While Hassana makes it to Accra, Husseina flees to Brazil, way across the deep blue ocean they both dream of. Fans of Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone will relish reading about West African religion and culture in this context, and it’s also highly recommended for readers who love Jamila Gavin’s elegant, character-driven historic fiction. It provides vital insights into the impacts of European imperialism, and the connections between Africans and Brazilians of African descent, through a distinctly moving human story.
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.
November 2020 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | Congratulations to Carl Wilkinson and James Weston Lewis who achieve something remarkable in this huge, beautiful information book: they explain Einstein’s theory of relativity to general readers, specifically young readers. They do it carefully, step by step, in bite-sized chunks and with lots of illustrations and diagrams to keep things accessible, starting by introducing Einstein himself and his early influences, before explaining the scientific theories and discoveries, from gravity to light waves and his understanding of space and time, that eventually provided the building blocks for the famous E =MC² equation. The text is always clear and concise, while the images do much of the hard work of explaining complex ideas and laws of physics. Einstein’s work deserves to be represented in illustrations that are full of movement, drama and wonder, and Weston Lewis gets that exactly right. Every reader will close the book fully aware of the enormity of Einstein’s achievement and his brilliance, and understanding his ideas and the process that led to them too. And find out a bit about the author's fascination with science and space in our Q&A with Carl Wilkinson.
November 2020 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2020 | In the best traditions of mythology, The Three Wishes is a tough but ultimately lyrical version of the story that explains how Father Christmas can visit so many children in one night and why he has a red coat. Set long ago in a country that is far off in the frozen north where there is a strong community of families who live by hunting and foraging while their children look after the reindeer, it tells how a young boy, lost in deep snow in the forest, is saved from death by finding a mysterious cave full of magic and wonder from another world. Once a year the boy returns to his own world, checking on his family and taking them presents. One year, he arrives on a magical flying sleigh and his family give him a beautiful red outfit all lined with fun. From that day on, on one night of the year he rides around the world taking gifts to children everywhere. Evocative, timeless illustrations bring this imaginative story vividly to life. You can find more wintry & festive stories in our Best Books for Kids this Christmas collection!
November 2020 Book of the Month | Book 7 Chronicles of Ancient Darkness This seventh book in Michelle Paver’s awe-inspiring Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series that began with Wolf Brother is a triumph of storytelling that myth-loving readers will wolf down (pun entirely intended). The sense of adventure and human spirit is exhilarating, and Paver’s passion for nature, for wildlife, for the world’s wondrous wilds is an immersive joy. Torak and Renn have been in the Forest with their Wolf Brother for two summers when Renn leaves him without word. Though realising that “she would have had to deceive Torak for days into order to prepare for her journey”, accomplished tracker Torak does what he must, and what he does best: he and Wolf embark on a quest to the Edge of the World beyond the Far North to find their friend. Alongside dealing with the ominous threat of ice bears and the “beyond good and evil” Sea Mother, Torak is desperate to discover what drove Renn to this place. The sense of demonic danger is powerfully palpable, the writing rich, yet exquisitely sparse and smoothly readable, and the entirety of this enthralling adventure is laced with an uplifting sense of camaraderie, love and legend.
November 2020 Book of the Month | Hot on the hilarious heels of The Fowl Twins, this second instalment of Eoin Colfer’s new Artemis Fowl series is a boisterous banquet of entertaining, fantastical adventure. Colfer is a master when it comes to compelling his readers to turn the pages at breakneck speed while making them splutter with laughter. All manner of mayhem (and serious menace) is unleashed when Artemis Fowl’s younger twin brothers Myles and Beckett take the Fowl Jet for an unauthorized spin and end up having to ditch it in the Atlantic. Unsurprisingly, Artemis Senior isn’t best pleased. In fact, as a result of their “missile crisis”, he bans the boys from all “fairy-related antics”, and from “fraternising with known criminals except myself”, and they’re placed under house arrest. But despite being out of sight, they’re certainly not out of mind and Myles is abducted, resulting in Beckett and pixie-elf hybrid Lazuli embarking on a tense trans-continental chase. Meanwhile, it falls to brainier brother Myles to figure out what’s really going on. Fuelled by razor-sharp dialogue and ingenious plotting, this second book in the second-gen Artemis Fowl series is as fresh and funny as the criminal mastermind’s very first adventures. The contrast between the twins makes for a whole lot of laughs, and Lazuli is a dream of a larger-than-life character (notwithstanding her small stature!).
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | November 2020 Book of the Month | Tom McLaughlin’s new story stars a royal family, but as you’ve never imagined them before! When hapless Bertie, the Queen’s brother, gambles away their entire estate on a game of Happy Families, the whole family are turfed out. It seems no-one is particularly sorry to see them go either, they’ve been stuck-up, selfish and entitled. Life in their new home in King Street, Windsor takes some getting used to, but mixing with the hoi-polloi, aka their new neighbours, teaches the former royals to be much nicer people (as well as giving them a taste for Pot Noodle). It’s delightfully silly and very funny, but actually full of useful life lessons too. Published by Barrington Stoke, this is accessible to all readers including those reluctant, struggling or dyslexic.
November 2020 YA Book of the Month | Imparting wisdom from across two decades, Philip Pullman’s Dæmon Voices shares a generous banquet of thought-provoking insights into the art of story-telling and Pullman’s personal processes and passions. As the book’s editor, Simon Mason, writes in his introduction, Pullman is “interested in, above all, human nature, how we live and love and fight and betray and console one another. How we explain ourselves to ourselves,” and this all-encompassing ethos is reflected here, with essays covering everything from the responsibilities of the storyteller, how stories work, and authors’ intentions, to William Blake, Oliver Twist, and writing fantasy realistically. The tone is lively, ablaze with clear-sighted wit, no matter how complex the subject, with many pieces having been delivered at conferences. One of my personal favourites is “Let’s Write it in Red” which begins with an anecdote about a train journey during which the author witnessed children demonstrating the “two great principles of storytelling”. The first principle is that there are rules - among them stories must begin and have unity, and storytellers mustn’t be afraid of the obvious. Stories must have a destination too, and storytellers “must design the path so that it leads to the destination most surely, and with the maximum effect.” The second principle relates to form: “if the story is a path, then to follow it you have to ignore quite ruthlessly all the things that tempt you away from it. Your business as a storyteller is with the path, not the wood.” To these, Pullman adds a third - knowledge. Storytellers should “become more interested in your subject-matter than in the way you appear to others to be dealing with it.” With each of the 32 essays embodying these astute principles, Dæmon Voices is a trove of enlightenment, and entertaining to boot. Recommended for 16+ readers.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Thea’s Christmas visit to Norway to try and connect with her absent father, Henry, looks set to be a disaster. Despite her hopes that her father will understand her yearning to be a writer and her need for a typewriter, Henry seems only interested in his new family and his woodwork. All Thea’s hopes are dashed. How she longs to go home to her mum and all their family Christmas traditions. But when Thea befriends a sleeping bear whom she has disturbed she unleashes a wonderful, wintery adventure. Finding friends who understand her love for the bear and her belief that it is harmless, Thea works out an ambitious plan to confuse the hunters and save the bear. The result is a many layered adventure story of courage, love and imagination. You can find more wintry & festive stories in our Best Books for Kids this Christmas collection.
October 2020 Book of the Month | This new episode in The Unmapped Chronicles series plunges readers head-first into heart-stopping adventure deep in a rain forest closely modelled on the Amazon, but thrillingly, magically different. Twins Fox and Fibber Petty-Squabble (fabulous names are one of the hallmarks of Elphinstone’s writing) find themselves in Jungledrop, one of the Unmapped Kingdoms, and in a vital race against time with the thoroughly villainous harpy Morg; for the first time in their eleven years, the two siblings will have to work together if they’re going to secure the future of two worlds. This is a hugely satisfying fantasy adventure filled with everything that makes the hearts of young readers sing. Readers who enjoy Jungledrop should look out for Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor series or Dominique Valente’s sparkling Starfell books.
October 2020 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Award-winning Oliver Jeffers will capture the hearts and minds of children and adults alike with this story of a father and daughter making plans to build a world that will keep them safe in the future. Brimming with hope but not ignoring the possibilities that the world and what happens next in it will present challenges, What We’ll Build is founded in the mundane (almost!) as the father and his daughter assemble building tools including a hammer, saw and drill – and a pig! What they go on to build including a place to store love, a hole to hide in, a wall to keep enemies out and a gate to let them, a tunnel to anywhere, a road to the stars and much more and the reasons why they may need them it is summed up in the briefest of texts and Jeffers magical, vividly coloured story- telling illustrations. Inspired by becoming a father, What We’ll Build is a childhood classic that will be shared over and over again.
October 2020 Book of the Month | In this brilliant and emotionally gripping sequel to her best-selling debut novel, Dear Martin, the author’s focus shifts to a minor character: Vernell LaQuan Banks Jnr. Unlike Justyce, the hero of the first book who is now a law student at Yale, Quan is incarcerated and charged with the murder of a policeman. In Dear Martin, Justyce wrote letters in his journal to his hero Martin Luther King Jnr to work through his thoughts and vent his frustrations about life as a Black American. Here Quan actually does write to Justyce, inspired by reading that self-same journal and through these and a series of flashbacks his painful story is revealed. From the trauma of witnessing his dad’s brutal arrest and the domestic abuse his mother experiences from her new partner, to taking responsibility for protecting his small step-siblings to the extent of stealing food to feed them, Quan had none of the love and support that helped Justyce overcome the tragedies in the first book. In fact it is the need for a ‘family’ that embroils Quan into joining the Black Jihad and then loyalty to them which keeps his mouth shut about the fact that it was not his gun, left at the scene, which fired the fatal bullet. Through these letters we can really see Quan developing as a character and benefiting from studying with the tutor Justyce sent him. Evaluating himself and how he got there as well as the obvious racial disparities in the criminal justice system and how hopeless the future seems for black youths like him. Eventually the truth about his mental state, his coerced confession and the police procedural failure to gather ballistics evidence is revealed and Justyce launches a legal challenge to get the charges against Quan dropped and, just as importantly, find a way to reconcile him with his family and to be released from obligations to the other ‘family’. This is an unforgettable insight into lives where options and choices are so limited by systemic and institutional racism that despite every effort to the contrary the pathway to prison seems inevitable. In the afterword the author reveals just how many true stories are so authentically reflected here. Dear Justyce is an absolute must read, giving a voice to those who need it the most.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | At once a moving adventure and a thrilling multi-layered mystery, Kereen Getten’s dazzling debut When Life Gives You Mangoes is set in the close-knit community of Sycamore Hill, Jamaica, where Clara spends her days playing ‘pick leaf’, having fun at the river and avoiding the wrath of moody Ms Gee. She used to love surfing, but now she’s scared of the sea and she can’t remember why. In fact, Clara can’t remember anything about last summer. She also can’t explain why her best friend Gaynah is being mean to her, and no one will tell her why Pastor Brown has turned the entire town against her Uncle Eldorath. Despite these unsettling mysteries, the superbly-evoked Sycamore Hill is a steady kind of place. In Clara’s words, “You live and you die here. No one leaves and no one new comes in. Sometimes that’s a good thing because you know everyone, and everyone knows you. Other times you get tired of seeing the same faces and want something new.” And then something new happens in the form of Rudy, a cool, confident girl from Britain who turns out to be Ms Gee’s granddaughter. At Rudy’s arrival, “the entire village is buzzing. This is the most excitement we have ever had,” and it’s not long before the girls strike up a beautiful bond. Soon enough, Clara is enjoying escapades her parents wouldn’t entirely approve of because “there is something magnetic about Rudy and her adventures.” As Clara’s memory begins to return in tempestuous flashbacks, hurricane season brings a devastating storm that coincides with everything changing - truths are laid bare, ghosts are laid to rest, and a new landscape is left in the wake of the upheavals. Poignant on friendship, family and community, in all their tricky, complicated, life-affirming forms, this Middle Grade wonder also makes pertinent reference to police prejudice in the UK. “Where I live...there are some bad kids, but there are a lot more good kids, but the police think we’re all the same,” Rudy remarks. Clara’s huge-hearted story had me hooked and charmed from start to finish.
October 2020 Book of the Month | What a witty feast of sing-song verse and visuals this is. Chris Riddell’s vibrant characters whish and whoosh in rhythm with Neil Gaiman’s rambunctious rhymes to create a hearty banquet befitting a pirate crew. The swaggering story begins when a brother and sister are introduced to their babysitter, a certain scar-faced, grey-haired, peg-legged ship’s cook called Long John Mc Ron. Moments after their parents have left, Long John opens the door to an entire crew of hungry pirates, and so he does what any respectable ship’s cook would do – he cooks up “Pirate Stew! Pirate Stew! Eat it and you won’t be blue. You can be a pirate too!” With a rib-tickling twist that will send readers into fits of giggles, Pirate Stew is buccaneering blast of a book that demands to be read aloud, acted out and treasured like ill-gotten gains!
October 2020 Book of the Month | Written with luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War. Based on a revolutionary real-life 1760 Jamaican slave rebellion, a visceral sense of the atrocities Moa and his fellow field slaves are subjected to is evoked from the start. Their bodies are lashed and “roasted by a brutal sun”, Moa hasn’t seen his house-slave mama for three years, his papa lost an arm in mill machinery, and his friend Hamaya fears the day predatory white men will “come for me.” Spurred by the death of Miss Pam who “drop inna da field and lose her life”, and led by Miss Pam’s brother Tacky, who “trod like a king” and whose brain “work quick like Anancy”, the uprising hinges on the freedom fighters killing the plantation master. While Moa is glad to be given a pivotal role in the rebellion, he fears that success and escape will mean he’ll never see his parents or Hamaya again - his conflict is palpable, but he’s set on being a cane warrior. Outside the plantation, Moa’s world is immediately transformed, with his life as a freedom fighter evoked in fine detail (I loved the depiction of him tasting creamy, fleshy sweetsop for the first time). There are bloody battles ahead, executed in the presence of Akan gods, and driven by brotherhood and hope for that dreamland. Lucidly lyrical and raw, I cannot praise Cane Warriors enough.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Imogen’s life at home is not all perfect so it’s no surprise that she follows the strange silver moth that arrives from nowhere – even when it leads her through a door in a tree! And there’s no stopping her little sister Marie from following…Like any magic opening, the door leads the two girls into an extraordinary world where almost anything can – and will – happen! As in the best traditions of children’s stories, Imogen and Marie meet a wealth of larger-than-life characters including a spoiled prince and a dancing bear as they journey through a richly-imagined world of possibilities. Chris Riddell’s illustrations bring the magic to life perfectly.
September 2020 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | This is a non-fiction book with a difference! Using his amazing ‘tranimalator’ machine, which, he tells us, translates animals’ sounds into words, author Andy Seed ‘interviews’ a horde or scary animals, including a tiger, a fierce honey badger and a snow leopard. He asks them some really interesting questions too and we learn all sorts of things – why humans are scared of wolves, how a massive animal like a giant anteater survives eating teeny little insects, what lionesses think of male lions (not much actually!). It’s quirky and lots of fun – some of these animal celebs have wicked senses of humour – but genuinely informative (I had no idea that jaguars eat caimans, or that giant armadillos build new dens every couple of days, or that sloths have mould growing on them!). It reminds us how many of these animals are threatened too and what we can do to help. The illustrations match the tone and it’s bright and engaging throughout. This is a book that children will be keen to share and to return to.
October 2020 Book of the Month | Raw, lingering and stirringly lyrical, October, October had me hooked from opening to end. Conjured in language that crackles and smoulders like an autumn bonfire, this is a book of bones and bark, of frost and flame, captivating in the manner of Skellig or Stig of the Dump as it undulates towards a wondrous homecoming of the heart. “We live in the woods and we are wild… Just us. A pocket of people in a pocket of the world that’s small as a marble. We are tiny and we are everything and we are wild.” October has everything she wants living in the woods in the house her father built. Her mother left when October was four and she’s adamant that, “I don’t want her. She’s not wild like we are.” This year October’s euphoria at the onset of autumn is sullied when she discovers a dead owl and a motherless baby owl: “my heart won’t stop bruising my ribs.” So, she rescues the baby, names it Stig and declares it her first ever friend. Calamity strikes when the woman “who calls herself my mother” arrives as a birthday surprise - her beloved dad breaks his spine after falling from a tree and October must stay with this woman – her mother – in London while he recuperates. In the chaotic city, October is a bird with clipped wings. Torn from her wild world, she implodes, becomes a “firework of fury”, until she strikes up a bond with a boy named Yusef and discovers mudlarking, which makes her once more “a wild animal skulking and prowling for food”, “a pirate hunting for treasure.” An unforgettable story, an unforgettable heroine – it’s no exaggeration to hail this a future classic.
September 2020 Book of the Month | Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | If you like your adventures good and creepy, you’re going to love The Invasion of the Crooked Oak. Crooked Oak is a peaceful kind of place, but it seems something is up with the town’s grown-ups – they’ve stopped eating, are avoiding the light, and generally behaving really strangely. When teenagers Pete, Krish and Nancy try to work out what’s going on, they find the trail leads to the fracking site on the town’s edge. The tension ratchets up nicely as the three realise they’ve got one chance to save their parents and themselves. The environmental theme feels very topical and author Dan Smith knows just how to keep his readers on the edge of their seats. Published by dyslexia specialists Barrington Stoke, this is accessible to readers of all abilities and completely gripping.
At LoveReading4kids we’re passionate about all the books we feature.
All the books we feature on LoveReading4Kids are selected because we think they deserve to stand out from the crowd of the many thousands of other titles published each month. However, sometimes in a month, we wish to give that little bit more emphasis to a title or titles and to make it a 'Book of the Month' within its age range.
You’ll find those titles here in our Books of the Month page.