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Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | Shortlisted for the Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award 2018 | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2017 | In a Nutshell: Death row injustice | Undying brotherly love A book to break your heart, quicken your blood and stir your soul by one of the most outstandingly distinctive writers to have emerged in a long, long time. New Yorker Joe Moon was only seven when he took the call in which his big brother Ed told him he'd been arrested because “they think I done something real bad”. That “something” led to Ed winding up on death row, convicted of murdering a cop, though he insists he’s innocent. Ten years later, now Ed’s execution date has been set, Joe travels to Texas to say goodbye. The sublimely-formed structure slips between present and past, recounting the brothers’ troubled upbringing - how their Mom took off; how Aunt Karen took control and decided that Bible study and never mentioning Ed again was the only route to their salvation. While she insists that there’s no point wasting life or money helping someone who wasn’t sorry, Joe sees things differently. “He's my brother,” and that’s really all that matters. He has to see him. Lawyer Al, who’s taken on Ed’s case for free, offers some hope, but time is running out. “It's better to be guilty and rich, I reckon,” Joe remarks, as he experiences the excruciating injustices of a legal system in which the harshness of a sentence depends on where a crime takes place, who the victim was, and who you can afford to pay to represent you (crucially, Ed had no representation when he was first arrested). Once again, Crossan's free verse form is breathtakingly powerful - always the right word, in the right place, at the right time. Yes, this is harrowing and heartbreaking, but the kindness of the strangers Joe meets in Texas is achingly uplifting, as is the deep bond of love between Joe and Ed. This really is a magnificent feat of writing. ~ Joanne Owen The Costa Judges say: ‘An exceptional, compelling book for our time – its analysis is devastating but its message is hope.’
September 2017 Book of the Month Wonderfully chilling, this is another thrilling treat from E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars. Two girls, in an intense relationship are both looking for escape but at what cost? When one disappears events suddenly become darker and we fall into a world of murder, fraud and villainy as identities are blurred and friendships crossed. There's a fine line between superhero and supervillain when someone needs to save herself. Lockhart's writing is edgy, fast paced and keeps you guessing until the end. Creepy, provocative and daring the protagonists (Jule and Imogen) continually leave you with a sense of unease as they draw you in not knowing what to believe and where the novel will take you next. We're looking in from the outside but Lockhart only lets you see what she wants you to before shocking you over and over with the sudden twists in events. Brilliant as always, E. Lockhart continues to enthrall with this, her latest thought provoking novel. ~ Shelley Fallows - You can also find Shelley here.
UKLA Longlist Book Awards - 2019 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2018 | Two lonely girls are at the heart of Pam Smy’s strikingly told gothic story. Mary lives at Thornhill, an old mansion turned children’s home and is cruelly tormented by one of the other girls. Mary is selectively mute and we read her story through her diary entries as well as in the wordless, full page monochrome illustrations. Ella’s story is told entirely through the illustrations. She has just moved in nearby and we work out that her mother is dead. When Ella sees Mary in the grounds of Thornhill a friendship develops though by then Ella and reader both know that Mary is a ghost. Heartbreakingly sad and thoroughly chilling at the same time, this is an unforgettable read; powerful, atmospheric, skilfully paced, Pam Smy’s illustrations pull the reader into the creepy Thornhill world.
In a nutshell: magical crime drama with orphans, chimney sweeps and secret societies! Rose Raventhorpe is a girl with a talent for solving mysteries. When she hears that a young orphan has gone missing, she’s determined to find out what’s going on. In this she is helped by her butler Heddsworth, a member of a secret society of butlers, and just the kind of right hand man you need, and hindered by her ghastly cousin Herbert, who is set on one day marrying Rose, and replacing Heddsworth with his own butler too. The plot moves along at a cracking pace as the mystery unfolds, the setting is a wonderfully atmospheric and there are some great characters to meet. This will appeal to fans of Katherine Woodfine’s The Sinclair’s Mysteries series and Patricia Elliott’s Connie Carew books. ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: princesses can be masked avengers too! | Princess Magnolia is neat, polite and very, very sweet, but when she gets a call on her monster-alarm she changes in an instant to become the Princess in Black, more than able to take on the huge monsters that live underneath her kingdom. In her black cape and mask, she uses techniques like the Princess Pounce and the Twinkle Twinkle Little Smash to overcome a big blue monster, before rushing back to the palace to keep her secret hidden from nosy Duchess Wigtower. The story is hugely entertaining and very neatly written, the sentences short enough for beginner readers, but packed with action nonetheless. With lively full colour illustrations on every page this is a really super series for young children, and who could resist a princess like Magnolia? ~ Andrea Reece
Award-winning author/ illustrator Chris Riddell has created a hilarious sequel to the much-loved Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse and this time it has a topical theme. Ada lives in Ghastly-Gorm Hall, a place where magic rules and nothing is quite what it seems. The Ghastly-Gorm Garden Party is coming soon and the high spot will be the Ghastly-Gorm Bake Off. Celebrity chefs with some very remarkable magic tricks will be competing. But, when a group of vampires swoop down for some tasty action of their own, it looks as if all the plans will be scuppered. Luckily, Ada Goth is a very remarkable girl…Chris Riddell’s bake-off creations are sensationally realised in his wonderful illustrations. ~ Julia Eccleshare
June 2017 Debut of the Month In a nutshell: breath-taking magical adventure on the banks of London’s underground rivers Hyacinth Hayward, newly arrived in the UK from the US, is already struggling with culture shock when her mum is kidnapped by the strangest postmen ever and she herself is plunged (literally) into extraordinary adventure. Amongst the mass of magical quest adventures, The City of Secret Rivers stands out and not just because of its cast of fascinating characters (unscrupulous sewer dwelling cockney criminals and a possibly malevolent but extremely polite giant pig included), or its singular setting (the banks of London’s underground rivers); the sheer invention and wit of author Jacob Sager Weinstein makes this a special read and every page crackles with originality and energy. Outlandish fun! ~ Andrea Reece Readers looking for more page-turning adventures that cleverly combine real historical places with rip-roaring adventure will enjoy the Defender of the Realm series by Nick Ostler and Mark Huckerby.
In a nutshell: absurd comedy genius | Timmy Failure is the best worst detective in children’s fiction, and a wonderful comic creation. In this adventure he’s having to ply his trade very surreptitiously indeed – Mum has banned all detective work until the school holidays. To make things worse, forced to share his room with his cousins, he must set up his office in a garden shed at the local hardware superstore, a place referred to always as Home Despot. Additional trials in Timmy’s life include piano lessons, and trips to orthodontist Mr A Goni. The plot brings even the most surreal strands together and it’s very satisfying. Timmy narrates with the exasperated air of the misunderstood genius and his version of events is just one of the things that makes these books so enjoyable. ~ Andrea Reece Timmy Failure will appeal to fans of those other thwarted heroes Tom Gates, Barry Loser and Greg Heffley.
In a nutshell: intriguing, sometimes scary and totally original adventure with the one and only Ivy Pocket As her many fans will testify, anything is possible with Ivy Pocket, and this volume brings her extraordinary adventures to a suitably thrilling and breath-taking conclusion. Her best friend Rebecca is trapped in a parallel world and Ivy being Ivy, she’s determined to save her. She sets off, mysterious Clock Diamond in hand, but her enemies, including the scary Miss Always, are close behind. Inventive, tireless, vain, delightfully self-delusional, Ivy is brilliant company and from start to finish this trilogy is hugely entertaining. ~ Andrea Reece Ivy and her adventures will appeal to fans of Lemony Snicket and Neil Gaiman.
Bestselling author/illustrator Chris Riddell creates a fantastical world in which Ada Goth, daughter of the strange Lord Goth of Ghastly-Gorm Hall, is growing up. Ada’s mother is dead and her father is very, very strange! Surrounded by a motley crew of servants and many ghosts, Ada’s life is lonely until she meets Ishmael, a ghostly mouse. Soon Ada and Ishmael are off on some very special adventures! Magic and invention pour forth in this splendidly entertaining story which is also packed full of jokes. Chris Riddell’s illustrations bring everything he imagines to life. Shortlisted for the 2015 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal - Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award 2013
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