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These debuts - written by authors we believe are destined to have a great future as children's writers -have struck a real chord with us. We can't guarantee to find authors of this calibre every month but our scouts are out sourcing the best as often as we can. Here are the best first-time authors you need to know about.
May 2022 Debut of the Month | Dealing with big emotions, bravery, bullying and harnessing an extraordinary gift to “make people’s lives that bit better”, Ellie Clements’ The Wondrous Prune is a heartfelt joy. Readers will be moved by adorable Prune’s magical, courageous superhero-esque quest. Talented artist Prune and her big brother Jesse have just moved into her grandparents’ old house with their mum, which means starting at a new school, where the horrid, bullying Vile-let girls make her life miserable. This move also heralds the start of Prune’s incredible gift — whenever she feels big emotions, incredible colours swirl before her eyes. What’s more, if she focuses on her emotions while drawing, her images come to life! When her gift starts to make mayhem, Prune sets about learning to control it, and realises that “there was a lot of good I could do with my power”. This becomes all the more pressing when a bully leads Jesse off the rails, and it falls to the Wondrous Prune to harness her talent to save the day.
Catch the wind. Find your freedom. A riveting, magical adventure set deep underneath a richly reimagined London for 9+ readers. Kidnapped and forced to shovel coal underneath a half-bombed, blackened power station, 12-year-old Luke's life is miserable. Then, he discovers he can see things others can't. Ghostly things. Specifically, a ghost-girl named Alma. Alma, who can ride clouds through the night sky and bend their shape to her will, befriends Luke. And with Alma's help, Luke discovers he is in fact a rare being - half-human and half-something else ... Then Luke learns the terrible truth of why children are being kidnapped and forced to work in the power station, and he becomes even more desperate to escape. Can Luke find out who he really is ... and find his freedom? A riveting, magical adventure set deep underneath a richly reimagined London by exciting debut author Michael Mann.
May 2022 Debut of the Month | Cassie Morgan has three wishes — to have more books, to go on an adventure, and to see her mother again. So begins the intriguing opening of Skye McKenna’s magical five-book series that’s pitch-perfect for readers who loved The Worst Witch and are ready for something a dash edgier. Seven years have passed since Cassie’s mother left. At her austere boarding school, she tries to make herself invisible while wondering about the key her mother left. It was “a treasure chest, a secret vault, the door to the home she and her mother would someday return to”. On the verge of being sent to an orphanage, Cassie seizes an opportunity to escape, determined to find her mother. Soon after her flight, readers are drawn into the realm of the fantastical when a talking cat by the name of Montague saves Cassie from the clutches of “goblin nabbers” who are “in the business of stealing babies to sell to the gentry of Faerie”. Montague takes her to the village of Hedgely, where she meets the family she never knew existed and learns she’s from an old line of important witches - her aunt is the current Hedgewitch and protects England from the dangers of the Faerie realm. Hedgely is conjured with chocolate-box English quaintness - think cooked breakfasts, sweet treats, village shops, opulent orchards, fragrant honeysuckle and roses. It’s a place lovers of timeless fairy tale worlds will be utterly entranced by, not least when Cassie is confronted by shapeshifters and the threat of the Erl King who wants her mother’s key. With a thrillingly twisting climax, this first book in a quest quintet will leave readers hungry for lashings more magic.
May 2022 Debut of the Month | Rejoice, lovers of frank and funny diary stories, you have a treat awaiting! Fifteen-and-a-half-year-old Ellery Brown, an American mostly living in Ireland, is starting a diary, addressed to the reader, her non-judgemental friend. Ellery’s mum, a successful writer of popular fiction, has recently died and the diary is supposed to help Ellery write about her feelings. However, it soon becomes a record of her efforts to identify her father. Her mother never revealed his name, but Ellery and best friend Meg decide there are clues on her mother’s bookshelves. As Ellery tracks down three successful male authors, any of whom could be the one, the story gets wilder and funnier by the page. Add to this the joy of her relationship with the equally wonderful Meg, her eccentric family, and other players, including romantic interest and lamb-whisperer Silent Johnny, and the book brims over with reasons to love it. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will make you wish you had a friend like Ellery. Definitely one to recommend to fans of Geek Girl or Georgia Nicolson.
May 2022 Debut of the Month | Set in modern day Stockholm, where this debut author and winner of the Bath Children’s Novel Award currently lives, this enthralling and original novel starts with mysterious footprints in the snow spotted by 10 year old Anna. A solitary only child living with her single parent Mum and very close to her beloved Grandpa, she is determined to follow the trail which leads to a girl, her disabled brother and an island in a frozen lake. Rebecca and Samuel are Jewish refugees from World War Two, although it takes several meetings for Anna to realise they are from a different time. She is able to take food from her own time to keep them alive until eventually it becomes clear that Rebecca is in an endless time loop trying to ensure Samuel can escape and that Anna must somehow help her to succeed. The stars in the sky above help identify which period they are in and in themselves represent the fluidity of time as explained by Anna’s stargazing Grandpa. The clever and intricate unveiling of the plot is completely convincing as it interweaves themes of loneliness and bullying in Anna’s life with the genuine peril and trauma of wartime. Every character comes vividly to life in this extraordinary and memorable novel. Highly recommended.
May 2022 Debut of the Month | Every page in this gloriously illustrated picture book exhorts readers to be wild and presents them with a series of unforgettable scenes to inspire them: a child carried on an elephant’s trunk, flying on the back of a swan, diving into the deepest blue. A text to stir the heart accompanies the illustrations and the final page leaves us standing with the child, arms flung wide under a sky full of stars. Truly beautiful, this is a book to summon up all that the world can offer and the possibilities in all of us for adventure, joy and discovery. Stunning.
May 2022 Debut of the Month | Navigating loss, love and family strains while standing out as a brown girl in a predominantly white school isn’t easy for Ellie, a budding songwriter and music aficionado. A beautiful, funny ode to finding the strength to sing up and stand out, Ellie Pillai is Brown is sure to chime with readers who also feel they don’t quite fit in, with QR codes peppered through the book bringing Ellie’s songs to life, and adding extra depth to the experience. Ellie Pillai is a girl who know what she loves — music. And, against her parents’ wishes, she’s set on making a go of her drama GCSE, determined to find a way to overcome feeling invisible. While her family are mourning the loss of her little brother, which has left Ellie and her mum terribly distant from each other, Ellie has the stable support of her best friend. But her life is well and truly shaken up when a new boy and his twin sister arrive at her school. While handsome Ash is the only person who gets all her music references and understands the power of a playlist and finding the right song for every situation, it looks like he’s hooked up with her best friend, so Ellie tries to put him out of her mind. At the same time, Ellie’s new drama teacher instils her with confidence: “I think you have presence, something special about you. Something different”. If only Ellie can stop putting herself in a box and making herself small. Exploring grief, consent, family expectations, self-confidence, first love, same sex love and mental health through its well-drawn cast of characters, Ellie Pillai is Brown strikes a smart balance between humour and emotion.
May 2022 Debut of the Month | This is a brilliant debut novel from the winner of the World Illustration Awards Overall New Talent winner for 2020. The unnamed city wakes up to a small amount of water everywhere and everybody ignores it and gets on with their lives, except for one small creature who knows it will become a problem, but nobody listens. As life in the city becomes more and more problematic even the large creatures realise they must help the smaller ones, they all become fed up with having to deal with the issues of working in water all the time. Even the excitement of wearing Wellington boots all the time is not enough! It is at this point that everyone realises they must work together to solve the problem and to not let this sort of thing happen ever again. Illustrated in muted colours with a vibrant pantone blue for the water there is much humour in the illustrations and text, with many laugh out loud images before everyone realises that something must be done. The solution is simple when everyone works together. The text is minimal. I recommend this strong new talent in the making. The book has a strong climate change and community message that is vital for everyone now. This is a book that will appeal to all ages even though it is intended for the young. I look forward to seeing much more from Mariajo.
June 2022 Debut of the Month | Chester Chestnut is a happy little chap, but sometimes even the happiest of chaps get worried or nervous and when this happens Chester’s tummy starts to hurt. Follow the journey of Chester Chestnut as he learns about his anxious thoughts and feelings, where they come from and how to control them. A great tool to use at home and in classrooms to discuss feelings of worry and anxiety.
June 2022 Debut of the Month | Propa Happy sees pillars of primetime TV, Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, deliver a lively, inclusive guide to emotional health and happiness. Written with guidance from the NSPCC, and in consultation with a child psychology expert, this smartly-designed, visually engaging handbook is packed with jokes, challenges and quizzes, with activities designed to help kids find their way to happiness alongside tonnes of invaluable advice. Lending itself nicely to being used at home and in the classroom, Propa Happy kicks off in exuberant style by inviting readers to “Be PROUD to let others see how AMAZING you are!” before explaining that happiness comes from within, and means something different to us all. The first chapter focuses on the individual, and includes exercises to help readers explore who they are, and what makes them happy The book goes on to explore everything from friendship, the power of kindness, and how to be a good friend, to how to boost your mood. Practical and inspirational, with the authors’ proceeds going to the NSPCC, it’s a terrific toolkit for mindfulness and positive thinking.
April 2022 Debut of the Month | There’s something special about Eddie Albert and that is he can understand and talk to animals. He keeps it a secret of course, but even so it’s got him into scrapes at school (he was rescuing a trapped seagull) plus the other kids think there’s something not quite right about him. When he’s sent to stay with his wealthy Aunt Budge in Amsterdam then, imagine his surprise to discover that she can do it too. His holiday gets even more exciting when he spots a kidnapped orangutan that desperately needs help. With his new friend, Flo, plus his pets Butch the dog and Bunty the hamster, Eddie sets out to rescue the creature. The adventures that follow are funny, lively and feature a fabulous cast of characters including one of the best villainesses since Cruella de Vil. The author’s love for animals shines through and Butch and Bunty provide many of the best moments. There are black and white illustrations by Sue Hellard throughout, an extra treat, lovely sketches of the setting and our heroes, the two and the four-legged ones.
April 2022 Debut of the Month | If, like me, you think that teashop is one of the most delightful compound nouns in the English language, then Andy Sagar’s story is going to be very much to your taste. It tells the story of Yesterday Crumb, orphan and strangeling, brought up miserably in a circus as an exhibit because of her beautiful fox ears, until she is rescued by a talking crow and taken into another world as apprentice to the extraordinary teawitch Miss Dumpling. Miss Dumpling is the proprietor of Dwimmerly End Teashop, motto ‘magic is priceless’. So far not quite so good for Yesterday though, because in the gap between running away from the circus and arriving at Miss Dumpling’s door, she encounters sinister Mr Weep who puts a splinter of ice into her heart, leaving her with just one month to break the contract he tricked her into signing, before she freezes entirely. With Miss Dumpling at her side, buoyed up by magical tea and cake and discovering her own magical powers, there’s hope for Yesterday yet. The story is utterly delicious, the sweetness of the warmth and comfort of the teashop more than balanced by the presence of Mr Weep and his goblin henchmen. This sparkling magical adventure is one to recommend to fans of Starfell or The Hatmakers.
March 2022 Debut of the Month | A cute fox cub, a thrilling sense of adventure, a tender message about bravery and overcoming bullies, and a gorgeous sense of friendship and families — what a winning, heart-warming combo. Lee Newbery’s The Last Firefox is also impeccably paced, plotted and pitched for its readership, with a few fart-tastic funnies to enjoy, too. While Charlie has a pair of fabulous friends in Lippy and Roo, he’s having a troubling time of it. First there’s the bullies at school and his worries about moving to secondary school after the summer holiday. Then his dads announce they want to adopt a little sibling for Charlie, and he fears he’s not brave enough to be a big brother. If that wasn’t enough, Charlie encounters a boy from the kingdom of Fargone. A boy with a fox called Firetail that has shimmering, flaming fur. The boy tells Charlie that the shapeshifting Grendilock is hot on his trail, desperate to catch this last firefox, and he entrusts Charlie with keeping Firetail safe for a few days: “What have I got myself into?” Charlie laments. After renaming Firetail Cadno, the Welsh word for fox, Charlie has to look after the magical cutie for longer than anticipated. And, with the Grendilock creeping ever closer, he must also find his inner fire to protect Cadno, and those he loves most in the world. This is sweet as a nut, and exciting with it.
April 2022 Debut of the Month | If you’re a bear who loves honey, this is absolutely the book for you. It’s a must for everyone else too, a wonderfully funny spoof guide starring a bear, our would-be beekeeper making up for in enthusiasm what he lacks in skills. An astute pigeon comments from the side-lines on the bear’s progress, making everything even funnier. From finding the bees to building a hive (NB as a note explains, bears with limited access to power tools may prefer to buy a ready-made hive) and harvesting the honey, the bear learns it all through trial and quite a lot of error. He’s rewarded with as much honey as he could wish for, though there’s still a sting in the tail. The bear’s education process is wonderfully comic and children and parents will laugh their way through the story. They will also, incidentally, learns lots about bees and beekeeping. It’s delicious!
March 2022 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2022 | The magic that inspires the headlong action of this cracking adventure is old and powerful. And its source is in a book which Cameron's grandmother keeps hidden in the attic. Despite Cameron having been told not to touch it he just cannot keep away. The Book is his last connection to his parents who have mysteriously vanished. Surely it holds the secret to where they have gone? When Cameron and his friends touch the book they are whisked away into a vivid adventure filled with a cast of thrillingly scary creatures. They are heading to the kingdom of Chidani, a place that was once fabled for its beauty but is now is in terrible danger. Can Cameron find the courage to be the super hero who can fulfil his destiny by protecting Chidani and saving the Igbo people who live there. Drawing on West African and Igbo history and mythology, Jamar J Perry has created a gripping and many layered fantasy adventure.
March 2022 Debut of the Month | Radiant with otherworldly magic and the real-world beauty of the Lake District, Alex Mullarky's The Sky Beneath the Stone debut sees a relatable girl face her biggest fears as she embarks on a quest to free her younger sibling from a sorcerer’s spell. Thirteen-year-old Ivy has an adventurer’s spirit, but since getting lost a year ago, the familiar lakes and mountains she loves now felt “like strangers to her…The fells she had once seen as gentle and rolling were now uncertain and menacing, a landscape waiting to swallow her whole”. Then, when Ivy’s little brother Callum goes missing, Grendel the dog leads her to a mysterious hole in the wall, where she sees Callum transform into a kestrel. Wracked with worry, Ivy hears a woman’s voice in a shell: “Only you can find your brother. Come through the wall. Seek out Long Meg”. Ivy’s anxiety is sensitively evoked, and palpable, but, armed with her map, she ventures beyond the wall, into the enchanted realm of Underfell. Though the landscape resembles places she knows, Ivy immediately senses a difference. Echoing Dorothy’s feelings about Kansas, she remarks, “I don’t think we’re in Cumbria at all”. Beyond the wall, Ivy finds a kingdom of fairy magic and a friend in the form of Kit, a boy who’s lost his own brother. Together they embark on a captivating, folklore-infused quest to find both their siblings, with the Ordnance Survey grid references opening each chapter adding an extra element of immersive adventure – readers might be inspired to plot out the route and follow it during trips to the Lakes.
March 2022 Debut of the Month | Ablaze with atmosphere and adventure, Akala’s The Dark Lady is a radiant, resonant tale of magic, a missing mother, and treachery in Elizabethan London. Fifteen-year-old Henry lives in poverty in the care of a pair of apothecary sisters. A skilled thief and writer of sonnets, he has an additional extraordinary gift — he “can close his eyes and read languages”. Letters become “colours, shapes, sounds and musical notes. Always a different pattern emerged and it was endlessly beautiful”. And, with brown skin inherited from his absent Beninese mother, Henry is subject to racism, with England’s insularity and prejudice pertinently portrayed — the rhetoric of foreigners “stealing jobs” is all too familiar. At the same time, there’s a seamless interweaving of Black history. For example, Henry is amazed to learn about Juan Latino, “a son of slaves who rose to become a professor of Latin at the University of Granada”. Then there’s reference to John Blanke, the famed black trumpeter from Henry VII’s court. Caught in the act of burgling a wealthy duke, Henry’s language magic earns him a seat at the duke’s opulent table, and grants him an audience with historic figures like Dr John Dee and his idol, Shakespeare. With a wicked sense of humour and pride, Henry is an enormously endearing young man, not least when he rubs his fine clothes and fancy talk in the face of a bigoted baker who previously refused to serve him. With the action never letting up, a succession of betrayal, intensifying dreams and discoveries about his mother steer Henry towards a land across the sea. Simply fabulous.
April 2022 Debut of the Month | You’ve got to love the diary format, especially when the diarist’s family and friends provide such rich material for comedy and drama. Harper Drew opens her diary with one birthday, her own; and closes it with another, that of annoyingly perfect Maise Felix. The celebrations are very different in scale, but they’re both fairly disastrous and the disasters, in both cases, are down to Drew family members. It seems there’s very little the Drew family can do that doesn’t result in some sort of catastrophe, even their holiday involves berserk animals, mouth to mouth resuscitation and Harper’s little brother Prune being shut in a sock drawer. The great thing about diaries is the unique insight they give us into our protagonist’s innermost thoughts, and as the days pass, we know that no matter what is going on, Harper has the strength of personality to take charge and find her own way of coping. Great fun and a treat for fans of the Wimpy Kid or The Accidental Diary of B.U.G..
March 2022 Debut of the Month | Lisette Auton’s The Secret of Haven Point is an accomplished, inclusive, captivating debut that will chime with fans of lyrical adventures and disabled readers longing for literary representation. All Alpha Lux has known is Haven Point. Washed up here as a baby, she was raised by a mermaid, and is now one of 42 Wrecklings who reside in this special home: “You see, everyone who finds this place and becomes a Wreckling is disabled. If you’re not, you’re an Outsider, and no Outsider has ever made it past the Boundaries”. Alpha, her best friend Badger (so named for her “pitch-black Afro with one white streak”), and the other Wrecklings spend their days looting ships like “seafaring Robin Hoods”. Their routine is “ruled by the moon and water” under the watchful eyes of the Cap’n and a clutch of mermaids, away from the feared Outsiders. The sense of having found a loving family is wonderfully evoked, with plenty of wit and mischief alongside the warm sense of community. Then, when Alpha suspects their safe world is about to be infiltrated by Outsiders, the Wrecklings face big questions around who they are, what they want, and what they might have to do to protect themselves. Through well-plotted adventure and rich symbolism, this speaks to readers on many levels, and is sure to charm fans of Katherine Rundell. “We’re proud to be Wrecklings”, Alpha pronounces, which pretty much sums up this novel’s heart-warming message of inclusion and finding a place to call home.
February 2022 Debut of the Month | Charley and George are twelve years old and facing a challenge: someone it seems is trying to fit them up for a series of high-profile international art thefts. The only way to clear their names is by catching the real thief. If you think it’s unlikely that two kids would be in the frame for something like this, there’s a reason they’re spending their weekends in Europe’s top cities, and a reason for someone to be madly jealous – Charley is a viral singing sensation selling out concert venues, and George, also a budding comedian, is not just her best mate but her very able social media manager. The combination of the rock star life and crime detection works perfectly here, and Charley and George are up there with Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong for sleuthing skills. Adam Hills, himself a comedian, also gets the relationship between our two junior detectives just right and for all the glamour of their lives, they feel like proper kids. Fast-moving, lively, full of jokes and humour and with a satisfying puzzle to be solved, this makes for perfect escapist reading. One to recommend to fans of Robin Stevens and Sharna Jackson.
LoveReading's debuts are titles that have struck a real chord with us here by a debut author who we believe has a real future as a children's writer.
We can't guarantee to find authors of this calibre every month but our scouts are out sourcing the best as often as we can.
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