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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.
Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award 2019 | Debut of the Month January 2020 | Winner of the 2017 Time/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition | Rich in drama, and suffused in the spirituality and atmosphere of the author’s native Northern Punjab, Jasbinder Bilan’s debut is a delightful, hope-bathed treat for 9+ year-olds. With money tight, Asha’s father has gone to the big city to work in a factory, having promised to send money home, and to return to their village in the Himalayan foothills for Diwali. But when the money stops arriving and her mum runs into trouble with a lender, Asha makes a big, brave decision: she will cross the world’s highest mountains to find her father. Accompanied by best friend Jeevan, and with the magical, protective presence of her nanijee – her grandmother’s spirit bird – Asha sets out on a truly transformative journey of a lifetime. Along the way, the friends encounter dangerous beasts of the animal and human kind, but they never give up hope, with Asha’s infectious sense of justice, self-belief and spirituality keeping them firmly fixed on their goal. This is perfect for fans of the Himalayas-set Running on the Roof of the World and the adventure stories of Eva Ibbotson and Katherine Rundell.
January 2020 Debut of the Month | This beautifully written debut has all the elements of a classic adventure and is guaranteed to capture readers and not let them go until the last page is turned. A lost princess, a stolen kingdom, a wicked uncle and his evil henchman, a supernatural ruby and a tiger that talks- who could resist? Our heroine Fly engages from the start- escaping from the cruel master sweep she finds her escape chimney empties her into a tiger’s cage. The tiger does not eat her but decides she has royal blood and speaks to her. Whilst not believing him Fly expertly arranges their escape vowing to return to rescue the other caged animals awaiting their sale by the mysterious bejewelled fat man. Fly has a certain skill which her gang of street urchins has put to good use in the past. She has the power to prevent people seeing what she does not want them to see - when she and the tiger board a horse drawn omnibus the passengers only see a scruffy urchin and a rather large dog. But this is only the start of the adventure and we gradually learn more about Fly’s origins and about the wickedness of the men who have imprisoned the rightful king and are selling the animals and enslaving the people of the beautiful island kingdom to which she and the tiger belong. With the villains in hot pursuit a storm and shipwreck seem to ensure a tragic end to their quest. But with the wonderful twists and turns the reader has become accustomed to, all’s well that ends well. This is a magnificent story of courage, love and loyalty which leaves the reader satisfied and enriched.
January 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s a lovely ‘what if’ challenge in this quirky and inspiring picture book. Little Nara is an expert hat maker, creating beautiful hats for the animals in her forest studio. One day she receives a letter from a new customer – can she make a hat for Mr Mountain no less? She rises to the challenge, trying out various different materials before finding exactly the right way to make a hat for a mountain. The story unfolds beautifully, and it makes a great tale of friendship, creativity and ingenuity. There’s lots to discuss while reading and this could prompt interesting STEM conversations or projects too. This is Soojin Kwak’s debut and she is definitely an illustrator to watch.
January 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s love, friendship and challenging prejudice aplenty in this debut novel by a LGBTQ+ parenting expert. Introverted Izzy has just started Year 8 and is wildly excited when her favourite teacher announces auditions for a Christmas production of Guys and Dolls. Though shy, she’s come to love acting because on stage she “could be whoever I wanted.” And Izzy’s not the only member of her family who wants - and needs - to be who they really are, as she discovers when her dad tells the family he’s transgender and is about to begin transitioning. Though he gently explains, “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s nothing dirty, I’m not ill”, Izzy’s older sister reacts angrily, her little brother accepts it in the same way he understands Spider Man and Peter Parker’s different identities, while Izzy feels quiet worry about how their lives will change. The family’s journey is honestly and sensitively portrayed as they endure hurtful prejudice alongside many heart-melting moments, such as the gorgeous scene in which the three siblings think-up their new name for Dad. This is at once an important support tool for children in similar situations, and a barrier-breaking, empathy-inducing story for all.
January 2020 Debut of the Month | Nizrana Farook sets her story on the island of Serendib, now known as Sri Lanka, and transports readers to a vivid, larger-than-life world where young people can be bold, true and have some extraordinary adventures. Twelve-year old Chaya is a thief with a heart of gold, stealing from the king’s palace to help those in her village. She makes a mistake when she takes jewels from the queen’s bedroom though, triggering a series of events that leads to Chaya and two friends, villager Neel and merchant’s daughter Nour, fleeing into the rainforest on the king’s elephant. There are brushes with death, but great camaraderie too and it all ends with a much-needed righting of wrongs. Great stuff! Readers swept up in Chaya’s story – and who couldn’t be? – will also enjoy Costa Book Award winner Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan.
February 2020 Debut of the Month | A celebration of the wonder of reading! Mabel HATES books. She gets given loads of them but has no interest at all in reading them. But, one night, the books piled up in her room come alive. The stories jump out of their covers and off the pages so that they can show Mabel their story worlds. She is intrigued by a detective adventure, excited by the chance to board a spaceship and take a trip to the moon, delighted by the thought of accompanying a knight on his quest to seek castles and to duel with dragons. But, there is no way she can find out what happens next in these stories unless she begins the read the books! An entertaining celebration of why reading is such fun.
November 2019 Debut of the Month | Lina, born into a Soviet prison camp, has to find her way in the world when she escapes with some very disreputable characters. She is chased by her best friend, shadow wolves and a terrifying sorceress taking revenge on humankind. Without her friend Bogdan and her slow discovery of the magic she has she would perish – and she very nearly does on several occasions – in this gripping, bewitching story. The story combines all the best elements of a straightforward adventure with friends and a magically invested tale, echoing some of the folk tales of the area. The reader can taste the fear engendered by Svetlana the sorceress, and marvel at the bravery of the two young heroes in their battles against her and also the sheer determination needed to survive the awful winter climate. This novel will have a wide appeal, with characters that are carefully drawn – and appealing to both boys and girls. The mix of horror, magic and adventure make it very readable – a great read for a winters evening.
December 2019 YA Debut of the Month | This compelling, nuanced tale is set in the town of Lucille in a future society where evil, the ‘monsters’, have been eliminated in an epic struggle by the ‘angels’ to create a better world for their children to grow up in. Jam, our selectively-nonverbal, black, trans heroine, is one of those children. When she accidentally spills her blood onto her mother’s painting, a creature called Pet emerges. Looking like a monster but here to hunt a monster preying on the family of her best friend, a boy named Redemption. But the identities of the victim and the predator are still unknown and Jam and Redemption have to face what their society fails to acknowledge: that monsters exist and hide in plain sight- that evil still resides in humanity. One of the huge strengths of this book is that Jam’s trans status is not there to score diversity points. The story does not centre around gender identity, but also does not ignore the impact upon the character and plot in a very natural, unforced way. Dialogue is used extremely creatively too. Emezi Jam speaks aloud in quotation marks and sign language is indicated with italics and when Jam and Pet speak telepathically, Emezi uses no punctuation marks whatsoever. On top of that, dialects, phrases, and cultural traditions from across African American communities appear throughout, giving a real flavour and authenticity to the narrative. Emezi has spoken of her inspiration being teenagers discomforted by the monsters in plain sight in our current society. This is a thought-provoking reading experience that could inspire valuable discussion in a lot of classroom contexts.
November 2019 Debut of the Month | Mr Moose and Mr Brown first meet on an aeroplane flying from America to London. Mr Moose should be with his brother Monty, but absent-minded Monty has got on the wrong plane. Mr Brown, who is a famous fashion designer (as is the book’s author Paul Smith), offers to help his new friend find his missing brother. As they travel the world, Mr Moose helps Mr Brown with his fashion range, suggesting some very interesting garments – parkas for penguins, sneakers for cheetahs, scarves for giraffes. As they fit out an Alaskan bear for snow-shoes Mr Brown has an idea … It all ends with a happy reunion at a big catwalk (moosewalk?) show. It’s an engaging story and very strong on the fun and satisfaction that comes from designing things and from creative partnerships. Sam Usher paints some wonderful scenes, including a witty reimagining of Hopper’s Nighthawks, 1942.
Expect this whimsical and gorgeously illustrated picture book to infect children with an urge to go exploring, if not bird-spotting. Otto’s family are obsessive bird-spotters, indeed, so deep is their passion that they’ve turned their home into a hide. Otto though loves exploring and it’s on one of his trips that he finds, and secretly brings home, a very unusual baby bird. He’s able to hide it from his family because his new friend proves surprisingly good at camouflage. But, as the bird grows (and grows), Otto realises that it’s missing its family and recruits his own to help track them down. There’s lots to enjoy in the story and Graham Carter’s glowing illustrations are full of treats too, the camouflage scenes are particularly delightful. A funny, original story with satisfying underlying themes of adventure, friendship and family.
November 2019 Debut of the Month | At once amusing and affectionate, this early Middle Grade novel combines real-world alienation with actual aliens! Harriet feels terribly out of sorts when she moves in with Gran while her dad works away, but before she’s even had chance to say goodbye to him, she learns that her hearing aid enables her to understand alien languages, such as that spoken by the Sock Muncha she finds beneath her new bed. What’s more, Harriet discovers that Gran is part of a secret intergalactic organisation that’s working to protect Planet Earth from an invasion of Sock Munchas. Harriet runs into conflict when she’s taken on as Gran’s apprentice: how can she possibly banish her new alien friend, given that he was bullied by other Sock Muncha’s and isn’t at all like them? Alongside the action-packed alien adventure, there’s much sensitivity around making friends and making everyone feel welcome. For example, Harriet’s unquestioning acceptance of new friend Robin’s non-binary identity, which she describes as “kind of awesome.” What a sweetly empowering debut this is from a hearing aid-wearing comedian, actor and Ambassador for Action on Hearing Loss and the British Tinnitus Association.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2019 | October 2019 Debut of the Month | A warm-hearted picture book about a special friendship in which free spirited Emily tempts anxious and pampered Frederick to brave the outdoors and enjoy some wonderful and unexpected adventures. Emma Chichester Clark’s illustrations capture the magic of the children’s friendship and play perfectly.
October 2019 Debut of the Month | Told in narrator Newt’s distinctive phonetic English, this dark debut dazzles with originality and delivers a potent case for combatting inequality. Bearmouth is home to a grim mining business, where men and children labour under inhumane conditions to make their Master wealthy. They work under the earth, under the omniscient Mayker who - so workers are told - “sen us down into the dark Earf/To atone for the sins o our forefarvers an muvvers”. Naïve Newt hasn’t seen daylight in years, but takes pride in being taught to read and write by fatherly Thomas, blithely accepting this lot until the arrival of new boy Devlin. Devlin’s talk of “revolushun” makes Newt feel that things are “unravellin slowly slowly lyke a bootlayce comin all undun.” Life in Bearmouth is beyond bleak, but the sparks of Devlin’s revolutionary spirit catch light and drive Thomas to ask the Master for “more coinage” for the workers, to question why they must pay for essential clothes, to demand to know when the promised safety lamps are coming. Then when tragedy strikes, Newt too realises that things “ent bloody well ryte” and takes on Devlin’s insurgent tendencies, with explosive effects. Emotionally engaging, this searingly original novel about standing up to abuses of power and fighting for freedom is radiant with story-telling excellence.
September 2019 Debut of the Month | Jo is the kind of open, honest, amusing character readers immediately care about. Told through her wittily illustrated diary, Jo’s tale begins with a(nother) upheaval. She and her family have just moved to their new Chinese takeaway, but her hopes for a fresh start are immediately dashed when she sees there’s no living room, and she has to share a room with little sister Bonny while big brother Simon lives with their grandparents. Jo’s experience of feeling “doubly different” is poignantly portrayed – she’s an outsider at school because she’s Chinese, and an outsider among her wider Chinese family because her own family is dysfunctional, and because she doesn’t speak the same language. Thank goodness, then, that she forms a friendship with fellow outcast, Tina the Goth, who stands up to racist school bullies. But while Jo begins to feel hopeful about her future and takes steps towards realising her dream of working in fashion, she and Bonny are increasingly neglected by their parents, and then there’s Dad’s aggressive outbursts. The mid-1980s setting prompts many amusing references, from ra-ra skirts and Gary Kemp’s perm, to sending drawings to Take Hart and going to Wimpy for a Knickerbocker Glory - but above all this is a highly readable, highly empathetic, impactful novel about familial abuse and neglect, trying to fit in, and finding your way in the world. Based on her own experiences, author Sue Cheung’s big-hearted story will chime with readers of 12+ who know how it feels to fall between cracks and dream of a different life.
September 2019 Debut of the Month | Ten-year-old Frank loves code and numbers; they’re a way to make sense of the world, as well as providing secret languages to share with his friends and his mum. Frank’s five-year-old brother Max is autistic and for him the world is often a scary place, when anything unexpected, too loud or too bright can cause him to have a meltdown. The story is narrated by Frank and every reader will understand his frustration at the unfairness of life. We know that he loves Max, but we know too how hard Max makes life for all the family. Frank is then faced with something even more terrible when tragedy strikes. With the help of those around him we watch Frank find a way to make sense of what has happened and the bravery to cope with the different world. Katya Balen has worked with neuro-divergent children and there’s a powerful sense of truth and understanding in her beautifully told story. If they like Wonder by R. J. Palacio they'll love The Space We're In.
August 2019 Debut of the Month | Uplifting and dazzlingly unique, this coming-of-age treasure explores identity and sexuality with an emboldening message to remember that “you have the right to be you”. As a young Barbie-loving boy, mixed race Michael wonders if he’s “only half” of everything, to which his mother poignantly replies: “Don’t let anyone tell you/that you are half-black/and half-white. Half-Cypriot/ and half-Jamaican./ You are a full human being.” But he doesn’t feel like a whole human being. Dubbed a “queerdo and weirdo” by bullies and subjected to “batty bwoy” taunts through his teenage years, he leaves London for Brighton University with hope in his heart. But even here Michael feels “like Goldilocks; trying to find a group of people/the perfect fit for me”. He doesn’t feel black enough for the Caribbean Society, or Greek enough for Hellenic Society, or queer enough for the LBGT Society. Then Michael finally finds a fit at Drag Society where he becomes The Black Flamingo, “someone fabulous, wild and strong. With or without a costume on.” Michael’s journey is complex, moving and told with a raw vitality that makes the soul soar and the heart sing, with Anshika Khullar’s magnificent illustrations and the smart design adding further depth, prompting the reader to pause for thought as his story requires.
August 2019 Debut of the Month | There’s a real feel of Richard Scarry’s Busy Town to this sturdy board book, though it’s totally contemporary, and packs in a satisfying little story too. It’s a bright, sunny morning on Treacle Street and Marcel is busy delivering the post. His bright, red trolley is full of parcels – lift a flap and peep inside to see them – and over the next pages we find out who they’re for. There are leg warmers for the dance school, eggs and flour for the pie shop, and new wheels for the garage. On each page there’s a friendly new character to meet, a flap to lift, and lots and lots of things to spot and count, all illustrated in Kate Hindley’s bright, vibrant illustrations. A lovely book for pre-schoolers.
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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