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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.
March 2019 Book of the Month | Compiled by YA author and broadcaster Juno Dawson, this inspiring anthology of illustrated short stories by LGBTQ+ writers shines a light on a kaleidoscopic array of experiences through an equally kaleidoscopic breadth of genres, themes and styles. From Chinese lesbian fairytale The Phoenix’s Fault by Cynthia So, to Simon James Green’s hilarious, heart-warming Penguins (who would’ve thought a pair of penguins could steal a person’s coming out thunder?!), this is a powerfully diverse collection. Alongside more established names, among them authors David Levithan and Jess Vallance, and illustrator David Roberts, special mention must go to the four new voices whose stories grace these pages – be sure to seek out what Karen Lawler, Michael Lee Richardson, Cynthia So and Kay Staples do next. These are stories of struggle and trouble, passion and promise, with much wit, warmth, wisdom and support shared along the way. And so it seems fitting to leave the last loud, proud, celebratory words to Dan from David Levithan’s queer youth choir story: “You hold your ground. You sing out loud and proud in defiance of all the people who want you to be quiet”.
March 2019 Book of the Month | Smart, soulful, authentic and original, there’s no doubt that Zentner is an outstanding YA writer. His debut novel was a southern gothic gem, his second an incisive account of grief and guilt, while this is a contemporary coming-of-age classic, replete with a heartrending road trip, feverish romance and LOLs aplenty. About to graduate from high school, best friends Josie and Delia host a humorous horror movie show on public access TV, with Delia channeling her estranged dad’s love of low-budget fright fests and Josie working towards a career in TV. Experts in the art of witty back-and-forth tennis-rally banter, the girls are super close, but unsettling changes are on the horizon. Delia is desperately torn-up by being abandoned by her dad and, having tracked him down to Florida, has to decide whether she wants to contact him, just when it looks like Josie is about to leave her to take up an internship in another city. While this simmers, and as Delia struggles with being “the mother to my mother”, they’re invited to attend Shivercon. Seeing this gathering of horror moviemakers as the ideal opportunity to meet and enlist the support of an iconic presenter, they embark on a twelve-hour road-trip to Florida with Josie’s new boyfriend Lawson in tow, and Delia now set on seeing her dad. Josie and Lawson’s unexpected romance is as head-over-heels uplifting as Delia’s reunion with her dad is poignant, and there are plenty of entertaining plot twists and moments of everyday magic as this novel wends to a heartfelt conclusion.
March 2019 Book of the Month | Fleur Hitchcock’s exciting other-world thriller oozes atmosphere. Athan Wilde lives with his mother and sisters, the youngest of whom is unable to walk. The family are poor and his job working for inventor Mr Chen is important, though his mother is suspicious of Mr Chen especially when one of his experiments backfires accidentally destroying her hen house. But someone else is really out to get him and when Mr Chen is murdered Athan is in danger too, the murderer ready to use violence and kidnap to discover his employer’s secrets. It’s a gripping, fast-paced story with an air of Dickensian gothic and some of the supporting characters – Athan’s nasty, narrow-minded granny for example – are particularly shuddersome. Enjoyable adventure for robust readers.
March 2019 Book of the Month | Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Guy Bass comes out all guns blazing in his latest comic adventure which features some typically wonderful characters – I particularly like Tad Tipsy the bartender and Precious Little the gold prospector. Centre stage is sheriff’s daughter Laura Norder and her arch enemy Duncan Disorderly, motto ‘No rules!’. In a spontaneous gesture he comes to regret, Laura’s dad makes her sheriff, but absolute power is no good for anyone and Laura’s obsession with imposing strict rules quickly makes her very unpopular with the townspeople of Butts Canyon. It’s very funny indeed, but there are lessons for us all and a sly bit of political satire too. Yee haw!
March 2019 Book of the Month | The Naughty Naughty Baddies are deliciously, outrageously, phenomenally BAD and their antics in this new adventure will thrill young readers. Their attention is caught by a competition poster: prove that alien life exists and receive a toy-tastic reward from the president. Who could resist? Baddie Four comes up with a fiendishly naughty and brilliantly bonkers plan and – for a while at least – they manage to bamboozle the president before being found out. They still have the last laugh though, and children too will be in stitches. The story is great fun and illustrator David Tazzyman reaches new heights of gleefully wild, energetic and scribbly chaos.
March 2019 Book of the Month | The main protagonist of this smart picture book may be a circle, and the co-stars a triangle and a square, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a multi-faceted story. Triangle and Square are playing hide and seek with Circle. They’re allowed to go anywhere except behind the waterfall, because it’s really dark there. Of course someone disobeys and in a carefully composed and very effective drama the tension rises as Circle goes looking for Square. It gets darker and darker, until only all we can see are her oblong eyes. Counting eyes in the dark leads us to the story’s very funny climax and its message that we shouldn’t be frightened of the unknown. Klassen’s illustrations are full of colour and depth despite the limited palette, and this is another very special picture book from a brilliant team.
March 2019 Book of the Month | Jasper is the type of cat who knows what he likes. He likes his smart flat and his smart wardrobe (lots of bow ties). He’s determined to be accepted into the Sophisticats club, ‘for the finest felines around’, and invites them to dinner. Somehow though while doing the shopping he meets the scruffiest puppy you can imagine. When Scruff follows him home it looks like Jasper’s dinner party will be ruined but in a surprise ending he discovers that maybe the little puppy is exactly the right kind of friend after all. It’s a fun story about friendship and acceptance, and Jasper and Scruff are very appealing characters especially in Nicola Colton’s boisterous illustrations. A great book to share, but it’s also just right for newly independent readers.
March 2019 Book of the Month | All readers who like exciting, unusual adventure stories will enjoy The Winged Horse Race, but if they like horses they’ll be in heaven, or in this case Mount Olympus as the setting is classical Greece. Orphan Pippa is a (very) lowly stable girl until she is picked out by Aphrodite, one of a number of children chosen to compete in a special horse race. These horses are not just fast and beautiful, they can fly too. The winning horse will become Zeus’s steed, and the winning competitor immortal. As we know from the old stories, the gods are not above cheating when it suits them and with the stakes so high Pippa and Zeph, the little horse she quickly comes to love, will need to be very careful indeed. The setting is cleverly done and makes this story really stand out, while the cast of characters – human, divine, equine – make this a very satisfying story indeed.
March 2019 Book of the Month | The setting for Rebecca Patterson’s lively story of friends falling out is Earth eighty years in the future, and quite a lot has changed. People are getting around in flying cars, real food has pretty well been replaced by acquagrown substitutes, and the Moon has been colonised. The school playground is patrolled by cyborgs, but the children in it are the same as they’ve ever been. Lyla has been best friends with Bianca since nursery, but when a cool new girl joins the class, she finds herself pushed out. How can she win back her friend, and why does no-one see just how mean Petra is? The story is short and full of humour, but still carries a lot of weight and for all the fun and adventures will set readers thinking about how we treat other people, and how we’d like to be treated in return. This is a really good story for newly confident readers.
February 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2019 | Charmingly produced, this is a beautifully illustrated and designed book which makes the very best use of its stylish illustrations and layout to tell an important story about friendship and its complications. Lula and Lenka enjoy and acknowledge their many differences while also remaining steadfastly good friends. It doesn’t matter that Lula loves talking and Lenka loves drawing. Or that Lenka loves cats and Lula loves dogs. But then they have an argument and words are said which hurt. Now they don’t want to play together or even speak to each other. But that feels all wrong too. How can the two girls make things better. Friends everywhere and of all ages will recognise the intensity of these two little girls’ friendship and will be willing them on to make it up!.
February 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2019 | With a fabulous heroine at its heart and propelled by a fast-paced adventure in not just one world but others too, The Star-Spun Web is a spell-binding fantasy adventure. As a little baby, Tess de Sousa is left on a doorstep by her father in an effort to keep her safe. To be safe, he knows he has to get her out of one world and into another. Apparently orphaned, Tess, with her pet tarantula for company, grows up in Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings where she is encouraged to use her brain to do difficult scientific research and is very much loved by all. But her life changes suddenly when a stranger, claiming to be family, arrives at Ackerbee’s Home, and takes her away with him to Roedeer Lodge. Mr Cleat is not family and Tess needs all her intelligence and persistence to keep safe and, above all, to find out why he is interested in her and what his terrible plan for the future might be. The plot hurtles along and Tess remains a resourceful and delightful character throughout.
February 2010 Book of the Month | Treasure, tropical islands, shivering timbers – everyone loves a pirate story and this one is particularly fun, especially for newly confident readers. The crew of the Golden Earring are a rum bunch, from grumpy Captain Halibut to hapless cook Cannonball. Their antics are observed by the animals on board – Cutlass the parrot, Patch the ship’s cat and Monty, the ship’s monkey. When a treasure map is discovered, only the animals know how dangerous finding it will be – how can they keep the humans safe? It’s all lots of fun, a jaunty, thoroughly satisfying story full of incident and humour. Illustrations by Kate Pankhurst make this as fun to look at as it is to read. Ooo-arrrs all round!
February 2019 Book of the Month | Here’s another inspiring, information-packed picture book in what’s becoming something of a series (see also Great Women Who Made History and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World). It tells the stories of pioneering women who achieved amazing things, often in the face of prejudice or downright hostility from society. There are familiar names – Rosalind Franklin is included – plus lots that are lesser known, but just as fascinating: balloonist Sophie Blanchard for example, and Sarah Breedlove, beauty entrepreneur. Their stories are told through lively, engaging text and pictures, it’s a treat to read. Kate Pankhurst is something of a fantastically great woman herself, and there’s lots for all readers to marvel at and enjoy in this book.
February 2019 Book of the Month | This is book ten in this excellent series which recounts – via email exchanges – the escapades of young Eddie Smith-Pickle and his eccentric Uncle Morton, dragon aficionado and explorer. In this episode, Eddie’s first email to his long-suffering mother is entitled Confession and gets straight to the point: he’s not in Glasgow as mum believes, but 4,329 miles further away. Uncle Morton has persuaded his nephew to accompany him to Mongolia to witness the legendary Great Dragon Battle Ceremony. The trip turns out to be every bit as exciting as you’d expect, and it’s only the arrival of Uncle Morton’s own dragons, Ziggy and Arthur, that prevents Eddie ending up as a dragon’s dinner. The email format ensures the stories are told with the utmost economy, but they’re also full of humour and wit. This is sophisticated storytelling in a really accessible format, no wonder the series has now reached number ten.
February 2019 Book of the Month | This is a delightful, newly-minted fairy tale (three sisters, a quest, a witch, a moral) and thoroughly satisfying. The Widdershins sisters – Fliss, Betty and Charlie – live with their granny on the island of Crowstone, a miserable, end of the line kind of place, all damp, and marsh and mist. It’s not somwehere you’d want to live but as the story unfolds, we discover that because of an age-old curse, the girls can never leave. When breaking the curse becomes a matter of life or death, the three girls will have to work together – despite their sometimes spiky relationships – and at least they have a pinch of magic to help. This is an ingenious and compelling story and like the age-old tales that are its inspiration, pitches love, generosity and forgiveness against human cruelty. Superb! There are some great fantasy adventures for young readers at the moment – look out too for The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle and The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson.
February 2019 Book of the Month | This first book in the four part Run series is a world class middle grade story with all the witty tenderness of Louis Sachar and a whole lot of heart, humour and edge-of-your-seat action. Castle Cranshaw (better known as Ghost) discovered his talent for running the night he and his mom fled his violent dad. “Running isn’t anything I ever had to practice. It’s just something I knew how to do”, he explains. Hassled at school for his Mom-made haircuts, and constantly trying to avoid “altercations” that wind up making his school file bulge, Ghost’s life takes an upward turn when he spontaneously races a budding elite sprinter at a training session and wins. The coach, a former Olympic gold medalist, immediately invites him to join the team and they form a heart-melting bond fuelled by friendly sparring. Coach is exactly the mentor Ghost and his diverse bunch of talented teammates need. Ghost’s voice is endearingly authentic, honest and funny - pitch-perfect for his age and the novel’s readership. His “No! Don’t do it!” decisions and ensuing scrapes are evoked with intensity and humour (just wait for the “silver bullet” incident). Truly I cannot wait to spend more time in the company of Coach, Ghost and his teammates, each of whom will feature in future books in the series.
February 2019 Book of the Month | The Heffleys head off on holiday in this latest Wimpy Kid adventure. It’s supposed to be a dream break but, as recounted by wimpy kid Greg in his usual doleful, deadpan way together with the action-filled comic-strip style illustrations, is pretty much a non-stop catalogue of disasters, from the moment the Heffleys pick up the wrong luggage on their (delayed) flight, to insect, bird and lizard attacks, a burst banana boat and nightmare cruise. It makes for very funny reading of course, and Kinney as ever absolutely nails family and teen life – I particularly enjoyed the subplot describing the miserable time had by big brother Roderick. Holiday reading doesn’t get any better than this.
February 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2019 | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 9 | Cleverly set within a gripping adventure, Lark is a deeply touching story of the special bond between brothers. Older brother Nicky narrates the story of the day he and his younger brother Kenny set out on a simple day out on the moors. Proposed by their father as a way of filling time while they wait nervously for their mum to return from her new life in Canada, it is meant to a fun day out tinged with a bit of nostalgia as they are retracing a walk that he used to enjoy. But the simple walk which begins in a light hearted way soon becomes a deadly dangerous adventure as the weather conditions close in, the boys get completely lost and Kenny has to show exceptional courage and intelligence to make sure he can get Kenny home safely. Anthony McGowan maintains the intensity of the story throughout while also keeping the writing simple.
February 2019 Book of the Month | Under-your-skin powerful novel about a talented young black woman who refuses to be silenced. Bri is a smart hip-hop writer from rough, tough Garden Heights, the same housing project that provided the setting for Thomas’s remarkable debut, The Hate U Give. Her underground rap legend dad was murdered twelve years ago, leading to her (now clean) mom seeking solace in drugs. Bri’s dad’s legacy means she has a hell of a lot of baggage when she performs at a big open mic event. While she chokes the first round after being goaded by her opponent in a scene that will have you desperately urging her on, Bri’s powerful lyrics and performance mark her out as something special. But as her hip-hop reputation is on the rise, so other aspects of her life take a downturn. There’s serious money trouble at home, and at school she’s unjustly suspended, the latter of which leads to her writing the track that further rockets her reputation, “On the Come Up”. But this brings further struggle. There’s the racism of black women being labeled “aggressive” for merely expressing their views. There’s a painful falling out with “tight since womb days” friend Malik. And there’s a cruel conflict between self-preservation (shutting up and putting up to avoid being wrongly locked up, or worse) in a racist society, and the heightened need to speak out precisely because of this situation. Impeccably plotted, with a multiple storylines woven to a pulse-pounding conclusion, this is an astoundingly affecting novel that shines a light on the struggles of young black women, and celebrates freedom of speech and making noise about who you are, as seen through unforgettable Bri, a 100% authentic character whom readers will root for, cry for, yell out loud for, and grin for joy with.
January 2019 Book of the Month | Ross Welford has a knack for combining science and philosophical questions in stories that stem from things we all understand – family, friendship, self-discovery and love. Georgie and her friend Ramzy are fascinated by the eccentric Dr Pretorius and the amazing VR machine she’s created in her secret hideout on the Whitley Bay seafront. She claims it can send them into the future, something Georgie is willing to try, despite the dangers, if the future holds a cure for the disease that is threatening all dogs – including her beloved Mister Mash – and even humanity itself. Welford cleverly balances tension with humour and sets readers thinking about what’s really important in our lives. This is another warm-hearted, intelligent and gripping adventure from a consistently excellent author. Readers who enjoy this will also like Christopher Edge’s stories The Jamie Drake Equation and The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day.
Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award 2018 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2019 | One of our 2018 Books of the Year | Award winning Hilary McKay tells a captivating and deeply moving story of three young people growing up in the years before and during World War One. How their lives were totally changed by the War, how what really happened to the soldiers could never be talked about and how a girl like Clarry suddenly had opportunities because of the war are all touched on in a story that is also about universal adolescent relationships and the timeless concerns of being a teenager. Following their mother’s death at her birth, Clarry and her older brother Peter live a joyless life with their gloomy father. The pair live for their summer holidays in Cornwall with their grandparents which they share with their older cousin Rupert. Here, the trio are free to be themselves and to begin to break away from the constraints of family expectations. When war is declared Rupert enlists: his family is horrified and Clarry and Peter are left trying to work out where he might be, how they themselves should react to the war and, above all, whether Rupert is safe. Hilary McKay has a rare gift for novels about families and their interplay. Here, she weaves her story round one of the most powerful backdrops in history. And she does so with the lightest of touch which makes her history come alive.
January 2019 Book of the Month | Shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2019, Best Story category | Beautifully written in prose that sparkles like the snow that provides its backdrop, this fantasy novel is practically perfect in every way. Young orphan Seren (it’s Welsh for star) is travelling alone through a winter’s night to her godfather and his family. They live in a big house in the heart of Wales and though she’s never met them before, a lifelong reader, she knows how this sort of story should go. Waiting for her next train on a freezing platform she meets a stranger. He’s flustered, clearly frightened of something, and leaves a bulky parcel in her care before disappearing. When she finally arrives at her destination, to find that her godfather, his wife and young son Tomos are absent, and that there's only a skeleton staff of servants to meet her, she assembles the contents of the parcel to stave off boredom and loneliness. It’s a clockwork crow – an awkward, clumsy-looking thing, yet magic: wound up it comes alive. Psammead-grumpy the crow becomes her ally and together they embark on a dangerous adventure to find out what has happened to Tomos, who disappeared mysteriously one frosty night a year ago. The story is rich with the sense of old magic and fairytale, yet is a totally original and particular bit of storytelling. At a time when books often sprawl over 300 pages or more, it is wonderfully concise too, and even better for that. A delight, and thankfully there should be more adventures for Seren to come. This review originally appeared in Books for Keeps.
January 2019 Book of the Month | 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.
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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. 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.
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