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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.
June 2021 Debut of the Month | Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s Ace of Spades is an explosively exceptional debut. An incisively subversive, edge-of-your-seat thriller that takes the genre to jaw-droppingly unexpected extremes as it exposes horrific, deep-rooted institutionalised racism. The action centres around an elite high school in the white part of town. It has an all-white student population, except for our two principle characters - musician and scholarship student Devon, and privileged aspiring Yale alumnus Chiamaka. Devon (Von to his proud, hardworking Ma) can’t wear his hair in twists or cornrows here, and Chiamaka, of Nigerian and Italian heritage, feels compelled to hide her natural hair, and has adopted a “kill or be killed” stance - to achieve the success she’s set on, Chiamaka knows she’ll have to be tougher than tough. Devon and Chiamaka are sent reeling when an anonymous texter, Aces, starts revealing their deepest, darkest secrets, and it doesn’t take much to realise why they’re being targeted - the colour of their skin. And so a cruel cat-and-mouse game unfolds - two mice trapped in a destructive nightmare and a malicious cat motivated by racism, with homophobia weaponised too. While there are shocks aplenty (of the rare, ingeniously interwoven variety), the story is compellingly complex, with finely considered character exposition, and no simplified, clear-cut dichotomies drawn between who we can trust, and who should be top of our suspect list. The mounting tension is powerfully palpable, as is the embedded racism Devon and Chiamaka are subjected to - it runs deeper and wider than they (or readers) can possibly anticipate. Turns out, no one can be trusted; that there’s more than one cat in this hideous game. Oh, and there are romantic entanglements too, all of which means Ace of Spades delivers on all fronts - mystery, romance and tackling important issues in explosive style. What more could a reader ask for? *** Find a must-read letter from Faridah to her readers, attached to the extract.
June 2021 Debut of the Month | From the 2019 Macmillan prize-winner this is a powerful, dramatic and inspirational story about the difference even a child can make if they take action and get their voice heard. The delightfully curious Rosa needsa book but her library is closed for redevelopment but Rosa dn her sister decide to protest and not give up , gradually bringing everyone onboard. The vibrant richly coloured pages create a filmic sense of an inclusive community and very real people. It makes a powerful statement about the place that libraries have in a community and the vital necessity that all children can have access to the books that they need. Unfortunately, it is a book with a very current and timely message. Libraries have suffered greatly in the pandemic and the future looks bleak as more budget cutting looms. This book empowers young children to demand their rights and to recognise that they matter too. It should prompt some very interesting discussions and debate and naturally should be stocked in every library.
June 2021 Debut of the Month | Inspired by The Secret Garden and the stylistic elegance of the golden age of children’s literature, Ella Risbridger’s The Secret Detectives radiates historic charisma and the allure of engaging self-determining characters. What’s more, it’s a rip-roaring adventure that’s guaranteed to charm the socks off fans of Robin Stevens and Katherine Rundell, while keeping them on the very edge of their seats. In a classic set-up, after finding herself orphaned, eleven-year-old Isobel Petty is plucked from her home outside Calcutta to live in England with a distant uncle. Pondering her future, Isobel declares, “England sounded very cold and unpleasant, and her uncle, worse” - not the best of starts. Life aboard the S.S. Marianna, in the charge of Mrs Colonel Hartington-Davis, is an irritation, not least due to her charge’s exasperating daughter, Letitia. “If you’re not a native and you’re not English, what are you?” she demands of Isobel. Then, while despairing of having to spend three long weeks at sea, Isobel witnesses someone being thrown overboard. When the captain insists no one is missing, Isobel sets about solving a double mystery - the identity of the culprit, and their victim. Isobel’s wit and determination are immensely appealing (as is her straight-thinking, straight-talking aspect), and I especially loved the ebb and flow dynamics between Isobel and her fellow (initially reluctant) co-investigators. In short, this is a perfectly-pitched history mystery, possibly best enjoyed by torchlight with a stack of fortifying ginger biscuits to hand. The LoveReading LitFest invited Ella to the festival to talk about The Secret Detectives. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2 you can see Ella in conversation with Paul Blezard, discussing her exciting debut children's book inspired by The Secret Garden. Check out a preview of the event here
June 2021 Debut of the Month | Seventeen-year-old Chloe is on track for good grades and attending a top college but everything falls apart after she collapses while running and is told that she needs a new heart. Eight months after her transplant, everything is different. Stuck in summer school with the underachievers, all she wants to do is go surfing– which is strange, because she’d never surfed before her transplant. (It doesn’t hurt that her instructor, Kai, is seriously good looking.) But that’s not all that’s strange. There’s also the vivid recurring nightmare about crashing a motorcycle in a tunnel and memories of people and places she doesn’t recognise. Is there something wrong with her head now, too, or is there another explanation for what she’s experiencing? As she searches for answers and as her attraction to Kai intensifies, what she learns will lead her to question everything she thought she knew…
June 2021 Debut of the Month | When her grandparents explode in their caravan toilet late one night, twelve-year-old Harley discovers a surprising truth: their toilet is a gateway to the Land of the Dead, and they are its Guardians. Well, they were. But there's no time to mourn their passing. Because Harley's baby brother has accidentally gone with them to the Land of the Dead. And Harley only has 24 hours to rescue him before he's trapped there FOREVER!
June 2021 Debut of the Month | A gorgeously written supernatural mystery set in Ireland about friendship, love, guilt, responsibility and sacrifice. This is the first in a series focusing on four protagonists – Maeve, Lily, Roe and Fiona – who each learn that they have a supernatural gift.
A coming-of-age novel set in contemporary London and Hertfordshire. Fifteen-year-old Donald Leroy Samson is the son of an absentee St Lucian father and a drug-addicted English mother. Growing up in dire poverty in Hackney, East London, his life is shaped by casual violence, gang initiation, drug-dealing and knife crime. When Donny’s bored, rich, white girlfriend Zoe is offered a dubious modelling audition, the couple ‘borrow’ a barge and navigate the 29 locks on the canal system from Hertfordshire down into Kings Cross. When they start out on their journey, the future for both of them looks unpromising, like the fake audition, but as each lock is navigated and conquered, as the waters fall then rise again, their adventure takes on a new dimension. Life will never be the same again. A gritty, urban tale of redemption!
Alston is a debut author who looked in vain for a hero or heroine who looked like him in fantasy novels – and this delivers and so much more too. Amari is a child who attends a posh school on a scholarship – but really finds it hard to fit in and avoid the bullies. Her mother is a hard-working health worker, and her brother Quinton is missing – his disappearance seems be the root of Amari’s difficulties. As the holidays approach Amari receives an invitation via a mysterious messenger to be considered for something (at this stage unexplained) – by attending an interview. From here on the story becomes a hugely imaginative, funny and compelling adventure. Magic and mystery flow thick and fast from this point on – as Amari takes her chances to prove herself and to start finding out what happened to her brother. The story takes you through the development of some close and lasting friendships, against some awful magical bullies and monsters, to an exciting and nail-biting adventurous conclusion, though it leaves a possible opening for more books about Amari in future. A wonderful fun adventure addition to every child's bookshelf and any school library looking for more representation across all it’s genres.
May 2021 Debut of the Month | It’s hard to make friends when you’re a dragon, Ted discovers; everyone he meets is afraid of him, though we can see he’s very kind and convivial. When the annual Bears’ Picnic Party comes round, Ted has a brainwave. He makes himself a bear costume and sets out in disguise to have fun. Of course, things don’t go quite according to plan, but by the time the bears realise what Ted really is, they’re more than happy for him to stay (which prompts a surprising wave of costume shedding by other ‘bear’ guests too …). Young children will very much enjoy this and they’ll understand why accepting dragons/bears/people for who they are is the best way to be. Lisa Sheehan’s illustrations are full of life too and packed with details that will delight children.
May 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2021 | Wick lives in Harklights Match Factory and Orphanage. Run by the cruel and wicked Old Ma Bogey it is a terrible place of suffering for all the children who live there. When Wick escapes to the dangerous ‘outside’ he is adopted by the Hobs, tiny people who live a green life and devote themselves to looking after the forest and everything that lives in it. But Wick soon discovers that there are great dangers in the forest, too. And Old Ma Bogey has a hand in them. Guided by the Hobs, Wick discovers that he has a special role to play in saving the environment and all who live in it from the forces of evil.
May 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2021 | Alfie’s family have recently moved to the country to help his sister recover from some unpleasant experiences. And it doesn’t take Alfie long to realise that he just doesn’t fit into Folding Ford. But fitting in doesn’t matter so much when there is the mystery of the weather to be resolved. Alfie plunges headlong into trouble when he opens something he shouldn’t and lets out something very fast, very fizzy and very full of electricity. Can he and his new friend Sam whom he enlists as a reluctant partner get to the bottom of what is causing all the trouble? They will certainly do their best to try….Debut author Clare Weze writes with a freshness and energy that sweeps her readers along leaving them exhilarated if a bit confused!
May 2021 Debut of the Month | There are two central characters in Roderick O Grady’s book, and we see the story through their eyes, the same incidents from their different perspectives. One of these is Minnie, who has recently lost her mother and is struggling to reset her relationship with Dan, her mother’s partner. The other is Kaayii, a young Sasquatch, or Yeti or Bigfoot as they’re often known. Kaayii and his family have been forced into close proximity with Minnie and her neighbours due to forest fires and he too is trying to find a new way to live. Their stories combine and Minnie is able to learn new ways of being from her (enormous) friend and protector while Kaayii finds peace too. The setting for the story is the wild forests and mountains of North America and they’re beautifully described, an exhilarating breath of fresh air for UK readers, and the relationship between Minnie and Kaayii is full of the compassion, shared understanding and awareness of nature that characterises the best of these kind of stories (think The Butterfly Lion or The Scarlet Ibis). A story full of heart and wonder.
May 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2021 | Imogen’s life at home is not all perfect so it’s no surprise that she follows the strange silver moth that arrives from nowhere – even when it leads her through a door in a tree! And there’s no stopping her little sister Marie from following…Like any magic opening, the door leads the two girls into an extraordinary world where almost anything can – and will – happen! As in the best traditions of children’s stories, Imogen and Marie meet a wealth of larger-than-life characters including a spoiled prince and a dancing bear as they journey through a richly-imagined world of possibilities. Chris Riddell’s illustrations bring the magic to life perfectly.
April 2021 Debut of the Month - A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Scooter McLay is a kid to be reckoned with who has a passion for clever inventions. As his parents own and run the very best jam factory, his inventions are to do with jam-making. And, to make sure no one can compete with them he has to keep the family’s special jam-making recipes as top-secret as possible. Working alone, Scooter is pretty good at keeping his inventions well-hidden but when Fizzbee the friendly alien arrives through the factory window it gives the audacious Daffy Dodgy the chance she has long waited for. She slips into the jam factory and steals Scooter’s secret files….How Scooter and Fizzbee see off the danger is a warm-hearted and madcap adventure. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
April 2021 Debut of the Month | Alfie Blackstock isn’t surprised to find himself an orphan. After all, his parents had always been careless. Comic, intriguing, full of possibilities, this opening sets the tone for the book that follows. Adopted by his aunts Gertrude and Zita, who we quickly realise are witches, Alfie settles into a new life in the remote village of Little Snoddington. He’s in need of friends his own age, if only to share all the extraordinary things that go on around him, and the arrival of the Famous Fagan Family Circus provides just that, in the form of daring young trapeze artists Calypso. When Calypso’s sister disappears, Alfie is there to help even though that means taking on the evil Head Witch – it’s what friends are for, after all. Full of humour and excitement, and with a proper emphasis on the importance of bravery, loyalty and friendships, Jess Kidd’s adventure story will delight young readers. One to recommend to fans of Nevermoor and Abi Elphinstone’s Unmapped Chronicles series.
March 2021 Debut of the Month | Stella is apprehensive about spending the summer in the Shetland Islands with her grandpa. Although she grew up there things have changed and since her grandma died her grandpa has become much more bad-tempered. But she still loves the myths and old stories her grandma told her, and recognises the island as home. Maybe it’s no wonder then that she turns out to have a magical connection to the place of her birth. Stella is a weather weaver, able to call down clouds and pluck wind out the sky. When her island is threatened by a terrifying sea witch, it’s up to her to keep her home safe. It’s a thrilling story of magic, nature and the age-old theme of good versus evil, and makes perfect reading for wild March days (or any time of the year). One to recommend to fans of Catherine Doyle’s Storm Keeper trilogy.
March 2021 Debut of the Month | This is the story of Triangle, a bright yellow triangle, who has such fun with all the shapes as she goes along trying to find other triangles. First, she rolls with the blue circles, and although she feels a bit different at times, she really feels the times that make her shape stand out. So off she sets to find other triangles – which she does eventually, but only after spending time with Squares, Hexagons, and Stars. The joys of finding others like herself start to wain after they have made lots of shapes, and Triangle realises she misses all the other shapes! She invites the other shapes to play – and they all join in to find they could have a brilliant time together. On the last double page spread they all fit together in harmony to make an explosion of coloured shapes covering the whole area. This debut picture book was written to help the son of this husband-and-wife team fit into nursery and make friends – but it is such a universal story of finding a place in the world it has been snapped up worldwide! It is entertaining, amusing, charming and playful, as well as exploring shapes and how they can fit together. Each shape has a couple of double pages to itself (with Triangle joining in) and all shapes have their own variations of the same colour – so by the end spread of all the shapes there is a veritable rainbow of colours to see and enjoy. A simple book that uses shapes to explore concepts of individuality and inclusion. You can find more books with a theme of Friends & Friendship here.
March 2021 Debut of the Month | Set in ancient Rome, during the terrifying rule of Caligula in fact, Annelise Gray’s book is a mix of history, adventure and horses – a winning combination! Dido’s father trains riders and horses for the famous, and frequently deadly Circus Maximus chariot races. She dreams of being a charioteer too but that’s not allowed, and she’s stuck watching the boys compete. When her father is murdered, Dido has to flee Rome, leaving behind her beautiful horse Porcellus. But Fate will bring the two of them together again, and sees Dido compete in the Circus after all. The story of Dido, Porcellus and their fellow riders and horses makes for thrilling reading. Gray transports the reader to Rome in a hoofbeat, places, people and the dangerous times vividly brought to life. Caligula plays a part in the book, and he’s not the only real person to do so – watch out for Cassius Chaerea too – but Dido is the star, as she makes her way in Rome’s macho world, determined to set her own path and avenge her father. A superb historical adventure story. If Dido’s story sets readers looking for more classical adventures, as it undoubtedly will, point them to Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries, Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth Chronicles and Philip Womack’s The Arrow of Apollo.
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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