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In a nutshell: comic triumphs and mishaps of school boy super-sleuth Damian Drooth’s life changes when he comes across a book called A Hundred Ways to Catch a Criminal. Overnight he is transformed from – in his words – ‘bored brat’ and ‘droopy drop-out’ to school boy super-sleuth. His first attempts at crime solving are not entirely successful to put it mildly, but then he gets the chance to lend the police a hand in a real life kidnapping. The mix of perfectly observed ordinary boy behaviour (a la Horrid Henry) and zany far-fetched adventure make these stories hugely satisfying and enjoyable. Packed full of illustrations by Tony Ross they’re great for children happy to read on their own, but read aloud wonderfully too: adults will find much to amuse them in Damian’s wry comments and moments of self-awareness. Great fun! ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: comic triumphs and mishaps of school boy super-sleuth Damian Drooth is a crime-buster extraordinaire, an ace detective; at least he is in his own imagination. Despite what his mother says, he’s determined to find crimes to solve and bones up by studying the detectives described in his favourite comic books. Laughs come in the gaps between what really happens, and what Damian thinks is happening while young readers will completely understand his propensity for getting into trouble or causing chaos. There’s something of Horrid Henry or even Just William about Damian and the story, with its Tony Ross illustrations, ends in triumph for our junior super-sleuth – he actually manages to catch a crook - despite his outrageously bad behaviour. Great fun for children to read on their own and for adults to read out loud. ~ Andrea Reece
January 2018 Book of the Month This twisting tale of shady secrets, a destructive alter ego and a feverishly fast-tracked romance will leave fans of psychological thrillers reeling, as 17 year-old Ella Black is taken on a terrifyingly transformative journey from suburban Kent to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Aspiring artist Ella has long lived with a secret. She’s plagued by violent impulses from an inner demon she’s named Bella, Bad Ella. And then, out-of-the blue, her parents whisk her off to Rio de Janeiro, and she suspects that something is seriously wrong. Her worries are somewhat offset when she instantly falls for Christian, a Cuban American vacationing in Rio, but then, as Ella lies to her parents about him, she discovers that her entire life is a lie. Knowing that her parents have deceived her is upsetting enough, but the truth is even more disturbing, and so she flees and finds herself in an inconceivably precarious situation. While the real-world dangers are bad enough, the deepest danger is the monster buried in Ella’s past, a monster that’s just resurfaced. Driven by Ella’s intense, in-your-face first person narrative, this is a rollercoaster ride of a read for those who like their thrillers to have an outlandish edge. ~ Joanne Owen
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2017 Not for the faint-hearted this is an utterly gripping but also terrifying collection of gruesome stories told round the disgusting dinner table at Soul’s College where young Lewis finds himself trapped on the night of Christmas. Lewis is summoned to be the kitchen boy at the Christmas feast. That’s bad enough as he is missing all the nice things about the night before Christmas but, what makes it worse is that all the monstrous guests at the dinner HATE children, kindness, happiness and above all Christmas. Lewis has to listen to their hideous stories while all the time wondering if he will ever escape as the fate of the kitchen boy is tied up in the story-telling ritual. Ross Montgomery manages the creation of fear deftly and with just the right dollop of humour to make it delicious too. ~ Julia Eccleshare Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for November 2017 Christmas Dinner of Souls by Ross Montgomery Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers Katinka's Tail by Judith Kerr Lucky Button by Michael Morpurgo Pick A Pine Tree by Patricia Toht The Stone Bird by Jenny McCartney The Lion and the Unicorn and Other Hairy Tales by Jane Ray The Song from Somewhere Else by A. F. Harrold
In a Nutshell: Edge-of-your-seat institutional indoctrination thriller Suspense, suspicion and sinister secrets abound in this accomplished YA debut from the bestselling author of four adult thrillers. Sixteen-year-old Drew’s troublesome brother, Mason, has been sent to a specialist residential reform academy after yet another expulsion from school. Drew isn’t bothered by this until a woman claiming to be Mason’s former academy psychologist gives her a cry-for-help-note from her brother. “We’re not being reformed, we're being brainwashed,” it explains. Then the anxious psychologist makes a disconcerting disclosure - “I would have got him out if I could. I would have got them all out” – before she’s run over. Convinced this hit and run was no accident, and terrified for her brother’s well being, Drew digs deep into the dark secrets of the academy. When she’s admitted there herself, she discovers that the supposed treatment is, in fact, a process by which teenagers are controlled and brainwashed into zombie-like shadows of themselves. Drew’s effort to save her brother and uncover the truth is packed with audacious plot twists, and fuelled by a rip-roaring race against time, and this entertaining thriller comes recommended for fans of Cat Clarke, and Cecelia Ahern’s Flawed. ~ Joanne Owen
There’s a new mystery afoot in this entertaining sequel about Noble Warrior and his owner. Everything seems calm. Young horse lover Charlie Bass is getting her life back on track and her horse Noble Warrior is safely back in his stable after the excitement of the race. But, after such fame, is he safe? Soon Nobel Warrior goes missing. How will Charlie ever track him down? TV presenter Clare Balding has created a terrific adventure with a heart warming relationship between a young owner and her horse at the heart of it. ~ Julia Eccleshare
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2017 Best-selling Goth Girl is back for an action-packed new adventure in this stunningly produced volume by former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell which has the additional delight of a mini-book, Fable of a Faun, tucked into it. Lord Goth is turning Ghastly-Gorm Hall into the venue for Gothstock, a sensational music festival that will match his home. Naturally, Ada Goth is thrilled at the thought but will it all go to plan? In both words and pictures Chris Riddell creates an amazing cast of characters and the most original escapades in which they are all entangled. ~ Julia Eccleshare Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for September 2017 Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony by Chris Riddell A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge This Book Isn't Safe! by Colin Furze The Grotlyn by Benji Davies Billy and the Minpins by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of The Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf Birthday Boy by David Baddiel
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 | | 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.
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.