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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.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Ten-year-old Billie Upton Green opens up her doodle diary to readers, and what a treat it proves: a fabulously lively and idiosyncratic record of an eventful couple of weeks in her life. When a new girl joins her class, Billie is determined to make her feel welcome, even though Janey seems a bit of a show-off. She’s disconcerted that Janey doesn’t know what it means to be adopted, like Billie, or that you can have two mums, also like Billie. It gets harder to like Janey though when it appears she’s stealing Billie’s best friend, Layla. This also seems, to Billie, to put Janey in the frame for a sudden spate of thefts at their school, but the culprit is someone else altogether and by the end of the book, Billie, Layla and Janey are firm friends, the three of them performing a special dance at Billie’s mums’ wedding. Readers will love Billie’s adventures, and her funny, doodle-filled way of sharing them, as much as they love the Dork Diaries or Wimpy Kid stories, and it’s great too to see such a warm celebration of diverse family life.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Multi-award-winning Brian Conaghan specialises in misfits, characters on the edge looking in, and he has a wonderful ear for authentic dialogue and for giving us male protagonists with emotional depth. He creates characters that rapidly find a place in your heart and who will make you laugh out loud and shed a few tears. This is the first time that he has written for a younger audience and does so without losing any of his trademark authenticity or sharp, wisecracking dialogue. Brian’s older teen fans will also find this an enjoyable read. Lenny blames himself and his size for everything. He believes his Mum and Dad blame him too. His beloved older brother is in a Young Offenders Institute as a result of defending Lenny against some thugs beating him up. His coping strategy is to hide and his favourite bunking off school place is a canal side bench. Tossing his IrnBru can into the canal introduces him to Bruce- another outsider- living in a cardboard home hidden away on the bank. Despite this traumatic start the pair strike up a life-changing friendship. The reader will gradually get to hear their stories as Lenny is able to talk to Bruce, unlike his parents or teachers and inveigles him into helping to avoid a school dilemma and then to accompany him on an epic journey to see his brother. But Bruce is no pushover and Lenny has to face up to some stiff challenges in return and in so doing discovers courage, resilience and talents that he would not have believed he had. We eventually learn Bruce’s heart-breaking story too, but without any saccharine ending we feel there is hope and a future for both. Warm hearted and memorable this should go to the top of your wishlist for school libraries and every child's bookshelf. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Despite being set in the 1920’s in the imaginary country of Afalia, this stunning and inventive story, from twice Carnegie medal winning author McCaughrean, has powerful messages about the current state of politics, big business and environmental exploitation in our world and most loudly of all about the need for reliable and independent news sources. The story is partly revealed by facsimile newspaper cuttings and it is fascinating to see the progression from real information to manipulation of popular opinion by ruthless and deadly corrupt officials. Gloria, a naive 15-year-old maid to the Suprema, Alfalia’s ruler, is at the heart of the story. As flooding and disaster threaten to overwhelm the country, the Suprema runs away, and Gloria is inveigled by the Suprema’s husband into temporarily impersonating her. As they discover the full extent of the corruption and misinformation, they face an uphill battle to save lives and stand up for what is right. Meanwhile a second narrative follows the fate of people in the neglected North (in another real life parallel) and a dog’s epic quest to find his boy. The canine conversations are just one of the pleasures provided in this multi-layered narrative populated by such a vivid cast of characters and with so many twists and turns keeping the reader enthralled. Ultimately the novel demonstrates the resilience of man and nature and the ability of people to do the right thing given half a chance. This really is vintage McCaughrean and highly recommended. As our Guest Editor in April 2021 Geraldine McCaughrean tells us more about The Supreme Lie and her other brilliant novels.
April 2021 Book of the Month | This exquisitely creepy YA shocker whirls with gritty horror, witty one-liners, Insta-worthy visual conjurations and the menacing mystery of three bewitching sisters who vanished in childhood. “Dark dangerous things happened around the Hollow sisters. We each had black eyes and hair as white as milk...We didn’t have friends, because we didn’t need them.” So explains the youngest sister, Iris. As children, the three sisters vanished one New Year’s Eve on the strike of midnight and reappeared with their hair and eyes a different colour, tiny baby teeth in place of their adult teeth, and no memory. “In possession of an alchemical self-confidence that belonged to much older humans,” Iris’ older sisters have “set off into the world, both bound for the glamorous, exotic futures they’d always known they were destined for”, leaving her alone in North London with her mother. Sinister bells toll when seventeen-year-old Grey, a supermodel and designer of decadent couture “who looked like sex and smelled like a field of wildflowers”, fails to turn up to middle sister Vivi’s punk gig in Camden, and then there’s the mystery of the man wearing a horned skull. There are books with unexpected twists, then there’s House of Hollow - imagine losing your way in a decaying fairy tale forest, where tangled tree roots trip you up, and you have no idea what terrors skulk within its ever-shifting mists. At times grisly and always eerie, this intoxicating cocktail of contemporary horror and mythic menace is a lushly-written feast.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Michelle Paver has done it again in the eighth book in her epic, emotional Chronicles of Ancient Darkness Stone Age series that began with Wolf Brother. Skin Taker reels with a rollercoaster sense of adventure, shadowy atmosphere and an infectious spirit of survival as Torak, Renn and Wolf must find new ways to exist during the midwinter Dark Time, when new dangers are awoken and devastation looms. Torak remains the brave, brash protagonist readers have long known and admired, yet his character has been deftly developed too, and he’s here presented with fierce challenges - and responses - that befit his experiences. Though its setting is aeons ago, and though Torak’s world is suffused in otherworldly spirit magic, Paver has a remarkable skill for making her stories richly relatable. The emotional dilemmas and relationships have resonance; the detail and atmosphere of the natural world are truly tangible, and what an exhilarating immersion in the wild this offers adventure-seeking readers. Read a Q&A with Michelle Paver about Viper's Daughter, as she returned to the Wolf Brother series after over a decade.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Derek Landy’s riotously inventive Skulduggery Pleasant series first blasted its way onto bookshelves back in 2007, and fresh fantastical thrills keep on coming in Dead or Alive - no mean feat for book fourteen in a series. With the world teetering on the brink of irrevocable, devastating change, this penultimate novel sees Skulduggery, Valkyrie and Omen face their most trying test (yet…). As wildly witty and exhilarating as ever, this doorstopper of a page-turner sizzles with a burning sense of time slipping away, for if Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie can’t rid the world of Damocles Creed, the world’s people will be wiped out. Even Valkyrie is thrown by the imminent prospect of making the ultimate sacrifice: “Valkyrie woke, jumped out of bed and managed to get halfway to the bathroom before she threw up. They were going to kill Creed. They were going to kill Creed and nothing would be the same again.” The dialogue dances, desperation escalates, and fans will be left longing to know how Skulduggery’s awe-inspiring story will end.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Bravo to Jonathan Stroud! With its cast of charismatic characters and extraordinary world-building (think broken Britain with Wild West vibes), The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne is an audacious firecracker. And, in even better news for fans of funny, inventive adventure fiction, this is but the beginning of what’s set to be an extraordinary series. “Britain was a land of ruin…the country was maimed and broken - but full of strange fecundity and strength”. It’s also brimming with the likes of bears, wolves, flesh-eating spear-birds and gruesome cannibal creatures, all of which whip-smart, cuss-uttering Scarlett takes into her swaggering stride. She makes an unforgettable impression from the off: “A slight slim figure in a battered brown coat, weighed down with…all the paraphernalia of a girl who walked the Wilds.” After killing four grown men who’d tried to rob her, Scarlett struts into a bank and proceeds to hold it up (turns out she needs money to repay a debt). On fleeing the scene, Scarlett finds a crashed bus, all its passengers dead but for a lone boy hiding in the toilet. Enter Albert Browne, “awkward, skinny and wide-mouthed, like a frightened skeleton”, and seemingly a piece of powdery chalk to Scarlett’s pungent cheese. Her scathing sarcasm (and Albert’s obliviousness to it) provides many a laugh: “You just holler if I get in your way,” she seethes as he admires a seed pod while she sets about making a fire, cooking a bird and establishing a camp for them, and all while they’re being pursued. But, for all his unworldliness, Albert turns out to have hidden talents. Sensing he might be of use to her after all, Scarlett agrees to help him accomplish his own mission. Albert wants to reach the Free Isles, remnants of London that “don’t have any restrictions on who you are or what you can do. They welcome people who are...different”, unlike the dictatorial High Council of the Faith Houses, which is “desperate to keep the old ways going”, and “on the watch for any kind of deviation.” Trouble is, as their respective pursuers close in, time and space is running out for our unforgettable outlaws. What a story, what characters, and what a wait it will be until the second instalment. I defy any reader not to fall for Scarlett and Albert, and to become gasp-out-loud, laugh-out-loud invested in their quest.
April 2021 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | Designed to support the KS2 National Curriculum, this rich resource will help young writers get to grips with grammar in clear and meaningful ways that will enhance their writing. It’s also a handy time-saver for teachers, providing as it does excellent examples that demonstrate grammar in action. The book really stands out for the author’s ability to explain tricky-to-grasp points of grammar through the lens of their purpose. Let’s take fronted adverbials as an example. After explaining what they are (words “used for beginning sentences by focussing on location, time, frequency, manner or the degree in which something is happening”), he provides a handy list of examples (nearby, here, in the woods, later, eventually, sadly, full of joy, close to tears) in the context of why they’re used: “for helping the reader visualise or sequence what is occurring.” Alongside lucid explanations of key terms, this golden grammar nugget also gleams with great tips on how to make sentences more exciting, with the “Awesome alternatives” chapter serving as a succinct thesaurus. The sections covering themes in more detail are sure to enhance students’ vocabulary on specific topics, from the seasons and school, to space and suspense, while the character chapter will be especially helpful for creative writing, with vocabulary lists for the likes of hair, skin, eyes and personal quirks. The layout is top-notch too, with key information clearly boxed, and lively illustrations peppered throughout - full marks for a concise toolkit that will boost writing skills. Kids interested in exploring their creativity through writing will find inspiration in Joanne Owen's new series, Get Creative.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Framed by a lyrical, mythological story of the Great Sky Wolf and every mother-dog’s desire to protect her pups (“she cannot know what lies ahead…when they are taken from her, into the world of man”), Gill Lewis’s A Street Dog Named Pup is a poignant tale of survival, and the lifelong, life-changing bonds that can be formed between humans and dogs. Brimming with empathy and understanding, it’s a thrilling and deeply moving novel that will be adored by animal-lovers and fans of adventure fiction alike. From the off, the special human-dog bond sits centre stage when Pup, “a dog with a big heart”, lovingly refers to “his boy, who held him tight and told him that one day he would grow into his big puppy paws.” But something isn’t right. Pup’s boy isn’t there, and in his place is a big man who abandons him in Dead Dog Alley, where the Street Dogs take him under their paws. Among them Frenchi, a French bulldog, imparts the wisdom that in order to survive, you need shelter and food, but “Pup wanted his boy. He wanted him more than ever.” While this desire to be reunited grows deeper each day, and no one else will do, hope fades as time passes. What’s more, Pup and his new-found canine crew have other pressing problems to attend to. At times gritty, and always gripping, this has all the hallmarks of an animal adventure classic - a story with the power to move readers in every possible way.
April 2021 Book of the Month | This bestseller that dominated the adult charts for some considerable number of weeks has now been adapted for younger readers losing something like 100 pages in the process. This is the life story of Michelle Obama, from her poor but happy childhood on the Southside of Chicago to her current position as an ex-First Lady of the United States. It is written in a text that flows well – and gives the reader a searingly honest view of what life was like, the struggles and triumphs of a thoughtful, driven young black woman to get to top class US universities and gain excellent qualifications from them and to find her place in the world. Her meeting with Barack and their early life before politics impinged. Then, through the stages of their political life as a family – told in such a way that it is relatively easy to understand the complex political set-up in the US (something I always find rather confusing!) The highlight for me was seeing just how much Michelle was passionate about helping young people get what they needed – a better life, better nutrition, minority recognition and a sense of self-worth – which started whilst she was in college and continues right through her story. Her love of family and dislike for partisan politics – even whilst she had to exist within the political system – give one hope for the future and those young people she helped. A very readable and accessible biography for anyone with an interest in recent US history. Highly recommended.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Abandoned by their original owners, cats Pasha and Poop (yes, really) find forever homes with the lovely Wilde family. But the cats of their new neighbourhood are terrorised by the pawful Scaredy Cat. With flashing eyes, and an ability to walk through walls, he forces everyone to follow his cruel rules for cat behaviour, and woe betide those that try to resist. Pasha is determined to stand up to the bullying, but can he persuade Poop and the other cats that they have nothing to fear but fear itself? Typically for Patterson, the story races along, the cats taking turns to narrate, and it’s a perfect mix of excitement, adventure and comedy. It comes to a wonderful climax in a pet cemetery of all places, and amongst the fun there are important messages about finding the strength in yourself to do what’s right.
November 2016 Book of the Month | In a nutshell: welcome to the wonderful world of Zoella ‘Blogging is all about community’ says Penny, the central character in Going Solo, the third novel from Zoe Suggs. You won’t need me to tell you that Suggs is better known as blogger Zoella, best-online-friend to millions and Penny, it seems, is closely based on the author herself. Like Zoella, Penny shares the ups and downs of her life with her band of online followers, including her details of her anxieties and panic attacks, which are described with impressive honesty. If Penny’s life is rather more glamourous than most – with an on-off pop star boyfriend, and fast-tracked career in photography beckoning – then it’s made clear too that she suffers just as much from insecurity and self-doubt as any of her readers, and that she gets through with the help of friends, family and that online community. It makes for a bright, breezy read and underneath the sparkle there’s a rather important message about life, and how to have a happy one. Ten million Instagram followers can’t all be wrong, you know. Readers who love this will also enjoy Holly Smale’s Geek Girl series and Cathy Cassidy’s Chocolate Box Girls series. ~ Andrea Reece
September 2020 Book of the Month | Cally and Jimmy are twins but more different people it would be hard to meet. Cally is generally quiet and well-behaved, while Jimmy is anything but (his ADHD doesn’t help). It’s Cally who narrates the four separate stories contained in this very enjoyable new book, and she gives us a really good idea of what it’s like to live with the most-annoying-brother-in-the-whole-wide-world, describing the many times he gets them both into trouble, but she absolutely captures the fun they have together too. There’s a starring role for their wonderful grandma, or Yiayia as they know her (Mum is Greek) and just a lovely sense of this family. Recommended reading and hopefully there’ll be more adventures to come for the twins.
April 2018 Book of the Month Beautifully illustrated by Jo Riddell, this collection of poems and stories is a perfect gift book. It’s ideal for dipping into, for quiet reading and for reading aloud; indeed, unusually amongst the stories, haikus and poems, there are a couple of rhyming plays too, great fun for the family or a group of friends. Single collections of poems are relatively rare these days, and it’s lovely to find one that gives the poet the space and time to explore ideas and return to themes. Poetry speaks to children directly, and this should become a real favourite, a book, to quote Rachel Rooney’s review, ‘to spark the imagination’. Other recommended anthologies for children include A Poem for Every Day of the Year edited by Allie Esiri, and Kate Wakeling’s CLiPPA winner Moon Juice.
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.
Dark romance meets haunting murder mystery in this captivating tale of love, death and destiny. At Gottfried Academy, just one kiss will take your breath away. After Renee discovers her parents dead in what appears to be a strange double murder, she is sent to Gottfried Academy, a remote and mysterious high school dedicated to philosophy, 'crude sciences', and Latin: the Language of the Dead. Here she meets Dante, a dark and elusive student.
May 2012 Book of the Month. Matters of life and death and the role of a passionate romance in them lie at the heart of this spellbinding story of how the worlds of the dead and the living cross over and collide. Gottfried Academy is no ordinary school…It’s a place where Latin thrives and the Undead and the living make friends. Renee is a Monitor at the Academy; she can sense death even though she can’t predict it. And she has a vital role to play among the Undead. When Renee meets Dante she knows he is her soulmate. But he is an undead. Will Renee give up her life to save him?
Casting Mona Lisa as a self-important, been there, done that, bought-the-t-shirt-in-the- museum-gift-shop character (“She loved the attention! She loved the crowds…I know everything and everyone knows me”), Yevgenia Nayberg’s Mona Lisa in New York presents a playful, strikingly-illustrated picture book ode to New York’s distinctive wonders through its unique, irreverent take on a 500-year-old enigma. After journeying across the ocean “so people far away could also admire her beauty”, and being marvelled at by crowds in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mona Lisa is in for a shock when she decides to wander the city alone at night and gets lost. No problem, she thinks. Everyone knows who I am. Except they don’t. In fact, “No one paid any attention to her.” Thankfully, she encounters Tag, a graffiti art character from Brooklyn. While Mona Lisa is loath to accept that she’s the same as Tag, and while she initially insists that she knows everything, Tag kindly takes her hand and shows her NYC in all its kaleidoscopic glory - they listen to jazz in Harlem, eat pizza in the Bronx, salsa dance on the High Line, and swim on Brighton Beach. “Turns out there’s so much I didn’t know,” she admits when they part. It also turns out that New York has captured Mona Lisa’s heart. Great for introducing little ones to New York, this will also make an excellent springboard for talking about art and culture in all their forms.
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | August 2016 Book of the Month Full of life, energy and a wild sense of freedom, Nothing is a marvellous celebration of the imagination, and that special relationship between child and grandparent too. ‘What are you doing?’ Mum asks exasperated, as Lila plays under the table when she should be getting ready. Pictures reveal the wonderful things Lila is up to – she’s wrestling an octopus, riding a zebra, climbing a pylon! Mum is busy, but grandad is ready to play pretend with Lila and the final scene shows them flying through the air like birds. Words and images work perfectly together to deliver a sense of unbridled joy, and Lila is a wonderful little character. ~ Andrea Reece
Full of stylish images, this is a chunky board book from the author of My Animals with cunning holes and cutaways that reveal the different and lively characters that perform at the circus. A clown, magician, jugglers and a tightrope walker all make their appearance wittily and with an element of magic – as befits all circus performers.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | May 2019 Book of the Month | “I am normal. I like being normal”. Such is the mantra of fifteen-year-old Sam. But when he’s uprooted from his Stevenage comp and thrust into the North London Academy for the Gifted and Talented being normal just doesn’t cut it. Simple as. No ifs or buts. To fit in at this “poncey arty farty school” for “Exactly the Kind of People [Sam] Instinctively Hated”, a person needs to stand out. Gel one’s hair in eight directions. Be the offspring of, for example, an Argentinian tango dancer, or a French electro-pop pioneer. The comic characterisation of Sam and his family is as impeccably tuned as a Primrose Hill piano, from his mum’s foray into Hampstead yummy mummy blogger-dom, to his unicorn-obsessed little sister. Sam’s hilariously honest, self-deprecating tone is utterly engaging and put me in mind of an older incarnation of Luke from David Solomons’s fabulously funny Superhero books. Talking of funny, Sam’s turning point turns out to be his talent for comedy (“making people laugh was a thrilling buzz”), and so he finds himself in the unlikely position of performing in the school play. This entertaining romp around pressures to fit in and teenage boy-dom in all its involuntary undercarriage-twitching awkwardness truly shows the diverse talent of its author, whose previous YA novels are every bit as brilliant, but have heavier themes. This is a laugh-out-loud witty wonder of a book.
Horror stalks this scary second adventure for Jake who must now lead the war against the Demon Father, newly escaped from hell. Jake’s previous success in closing the demon door shows his prowess but has he the courage to go back into the past and change the course of history? Jake is a great hero and his world is a grimly ghastly one. This is the sequel to Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide. A 'piece of passion' from the editor of the Witchfinder series The Witchfinder series was my first acquisition for the Oxford University Press children's list and from the first page I was hooked. I knew that I had to be the one to bring this book to the world. I urge you to read both the first one and this one and find out for yourselves. With its mix of magic and science, horror and beautiful writing, it is quite unlike anything I’ve ever read and I envy you your first foray into the world of Witchfinder...
September 2016 Fascinating Facts Book of the Month Anything you can imagine, you can animate says this stimulating book, and it explains clearly and simply the ten key skills readers need to become expert animators, starting with flipbook loops and ending with special effects, lighting and camera skills. The instructions are carefully worded to be friendly and easy to follow, while the colour illustrations on every page help to explain the different processes, and keep it all feeling fun and uncomplicated. There are lots of extra handy tips in text flashes, a page of useful links and a glossary with definitions of technical and unfamiliar terms. This is an inspiring and really useful guide for young would-be animators. ~ Andrea Reece
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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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