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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.
April 2021 Debut of the Month | Magical, mischievous and mysterious, Everyday Magic is an enchanted mix of The Witches, Nevermoor and Lemony Snicket. Nine-year-old Alfie Blackstack's parents have met a very unfortunate end. Now he's living in the dark and cobwebby Switherbroom Hall with his mad-haired Aunt Gertie and warty Aunt Zita, who would really like to pickle him. Before long, Alfie realises his aunts aren't just the weird local chemists, they're witches!
March 2021 Book of the Month | Forna has taken her own experiences of sexism and racism that she experienced as a woman from Sierra Leone living in the US on which to base this novel. This has created a powerful depiction of the oppression and cruelty meted out to women who are different from a society’s accepted roles. Set in the patriarchal fantasy world of Otera, this is based in an ancient kingdom, where a woman’s worth is only as good as her proven purity. This purity is proven by the woman being made to bleed – in a brutal ceremony when they reach the age of 16. When Deka bleeds gold this is deemed the colour of impurity, and she is declared a demon. Not only is she thrust out of the home and society she has known since birth, but she is also subjected to unspeakable acts of brutality and violence by the ruling priesthood. The fact Deka does not die from all the brutality gives one hope she is different and may have some role in the future of Otera. This proves so – Deka is rescued and taken to a training ground for women where she finds a friendship and sisterhood amongst others also found to be impure. As they train the ‘impure’ girls are paired with soldiers from the Imperial jatu fighting force – and some form deep and lasting friendships with their partners. The characters here are hugely diverse with Black, Asian and Brown main, and minor characters, with a recognition of diverse sexuality too. The power of this novel is in the strong, horrifying but ultimately hopeful end of this story. There is much violence – in both punitive killing and re-killings of demons by the priests, but also in the violent backstories of some of the girls (including an instance of rape.) The book explores themes of feminist possibility whilst being based in a fantasy world taking inspiration from ancient West African culture. A powerful read, not for the faint-hearted but very definitely giving hope for the future, showing that there is a place to be whatever you wish to be – homemaker or fighter. This is a strong start to what promises to be a trilogy. Read more about The Gilded Ones in a Q&A with Namina Forna.
April 2021 Debut of the Month | Kat Dunn’s deliciously dark debut - the first in a series - is a riot of rebellion, ruthlessness and extraordinary science interlaced with the all-consuming love between two young women in post-Revolution Paris. Following the revolution, France had been filled with the hope of “finding a better, fairer way to rule” but now, five years on, “people still starved, inequality continued. The country splintered and the different factions spat at each other like a serpent with many heads.” And in such explosive circumstances Camille, the daughter of a revolutionary, leads the Battalion of the Dead, “the last port of call for anyone with a loved one in trouble - whatever side they were on - with prison breaks their specialty”. While no stranger to trouble, the Battalion’s latest rescue, a girl called Olympe, unnerves even Camille. Olympe is a “wretched, nightmarish creature” with peculiar powers that see her wanted by both Royalists and Revolutionaries. And so a tinderbox of treachery and terror, of peril and passion threatens to spark as Camille’s loyalties are tested to extremes. The writing is richly sensory - you smell gunpowder, and the “sweet scent of lavender” masking mildew and sewage. You feel fresh straw underfoot, and skin singed by the crackling sparks of magic. It’s a banquet of atmosphere and action; a meaty mélange for fans of Frankenstein, The Scarlet Pimpernel and Six of Crows.
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.
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.
March 2021 Debut of the Month | Stella is apprehensive about spending the summer in the Shetland idlasn 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.
March 2021 Debut of the Month | Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Margaret Sturton announces herself as a major picture book talent with her debut. Little rabbit Herbert loves foxes. Indeed, he loves them so much he wants to be one, making himself a pair of fox ears and a tail. At first his mummy is amused, then angry when he messes up the living room with red paint and cuts up her dress to make a tail. When she sees him out playing as a fox, despite her instruction to be a ‘good little rabbit’, she is cross again, until she suddenly realises how important it is to Herbert to be a fox. The story is full of comic moments and the little rabbit family will be recognisable to all readers. It’s also a wonderful story about identity and love, delivered lightly but most effectively. Highly recommended.
March 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2021 | A heart-warming and magical story of a very special relationship between a child and a polar bear which will inspire readers of all ages to realise that they, like April, can make a difference in the battle against climate change. When animal loving April arrives on Bear Island in the Arctic Circle where she will live for the next six months while her father runs the scientific operations she is told that, despite the island’s name, there are no bears on it. The melting ice caps mean that the polar bears can no longer arrive from the nearest mainland near Svalbard. But April soon finds out that there is one bear left. And April needs to do everything she can to keep him alive. Confident of her ability to communicate with the bear and to feed him, April nourishes the bear and even plans his return to safety. Beautifully illustrated by Levi Pinfold, The Last Bear invites readers to care about the science behind the fate of an endangered species and to believe in one girl’s magical solution to the problem. **The images and illustrations in this extract are subject to copyright © Levi Pinfold and may not be used without permission.
March 2021 Debut of the Month | Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | 12-year-old Archie Albright is a character who instantly grabs the reader’s attention with his natural, chatty narrative voice. His family is splitting up, he doesn’t know why, and he knows there is something they are not telling him. After a disastrous parents evening and an overheard conversation, Dad has to finally confess to Archie that he is gay. Archie just wants everyone to be happy again. He desperately wants to understand and to help. His Dad drops a leaflet about the PRIDE march and Archie decides he will find all his answers there and luckily, he has two staunch friends who see all the pitfalls of this expedition but decide to help him anyway. Needless to say everything goes wrong! There are so many things to love about this splendid book. Every character, including the joyous cast of LGBTQ+ characters that they meet and are helped by on their adventure, rings authentically true. The dialogue is witty, but realistic, not played just for cheap laughs. But there is a lot of genuine humour in the situations the children find themselves embroiled in and a fair bit of nail-biting tension too! It is also so refreshing that this is not a story about overcoming homophobia- all the main characters are totally accepting of Archie’s Dad’s right to determine his sexuality, while not denying the pain that comes from family break up. It deals honestly with difficult emotions and conveys a strong message about empathy and tolerance. This is such a rewarding, positive and inclusive read that it deserves a place in every school and in every home.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2021 | Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | February 2021 Debut of the Month | Both touching and funny this is a brilliant story about being brave, being different and learning that being you is what really matters. Billy likes nothing more than making and performing jokes and dreams that one day he will be a famous stand-up comedian. But Billy has a stammer and it can be hard for him even to get a joke out quickly enough. Just now, Billy has a problem which will strike a chord with many: he is about to start secondary school and knows that it will be all too easy for him to become a target for bullies. Especially because of his stammer. Billy thinks of all kinds of schemes to avoiding speaking while also knowing that staying silent goes right against who he really is. How can Billy show his tremendous inner strength and especially his great sense of humour if he never dares to speak? Luckily Billy makes some good friends, meets a great teacher and, drawing on the support of his family and the work of his speech and language therapist, manages not only to survive but also to succeed! Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
February 2021 Debut of the Month | A debut author is always a new experience to read – and this new fantasy-type novel aimed at middle grade readers does not disappoint. Maggie is a child, isolated from her family (Dad left, Mum recovering from a breakdown of some sort) whilst she is nominally looked after by her somewhat odd Aunt Esme. She befriends a rather battered old cat with torn ears and one eye – whom she is convinced hums tunes to her. But that is only the start of rather strange occurrences – Maggie sees her enemy from school apparently disappeared into a parallel reality by the new, odd, threatening careers mistress. What can she do – no one will believe her if she tells the truth… So, Maggie is left with only one course of action – she must rescue Ida from whatever has made her disappear. The characters are so well drawn and delightfully eccentric that one can become totally engaged in this well-developed story. Hoagy, the cat, proves to be a firm friend, and courageous – helping Maggie not only rescue her enemy Ida, but by doing so rediscover some of the happiness she has lost in her oddly disconnected life. An author worth watching – and a good read for fans of fantasy-based adventures.
February 2021 Debut of the Month | The lives of the inhabitants of a small town are transformed by music in this elegant picture book. The music pours out of a small window high up in the eaves of a house – readers can see it, a stream of flowers, blossom and delicate leaves. The melody banishes a young boy’s loneliness, makes an old lady feel lively and full of joy, gives everyone the thing they are missing and prompts kindness and generosity. When the music suddenly stops, the townspeople work together to help the musician, whose identity will surprise everyone. This gentle story celebrates the power of music in all our lives, as well as the importance of community and love. The illustrations come as close as you can get to a visual representation of music and are full of warmth and fellowship.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | High-stakes hilarity abounds in this comic quest featuring Norse gods and a calamity-struck Valkyrie-in-training. The first in a fun and thrilling series from debut author Cat Weldon, How to Be a Hero will have huge appeal for younger readers who enjoyed Vulgar the Viking and fans of Who Let the Gods Out. Despite only arriving in the village a few days ago, Whetstone has already wheedled his way into the Great Hall of Krud. OK, he might only have a job in the kitchens right now, but his sights are set on bigger things. Meanwhile, “far above Whetstone and the Vikings of Krud,” a girl called Lotta is struggling to get to grips with her Valkyrie training, and the pressure is well and truly on, for today is the day she’s due to collect fallen warriors from Midgard. When Lotta encounters an unconscious Viking thief (none other than Whetstone) and takes him for a fallen hero before taking him to Valhalla, a whole lot of trouble is unleashed. Trouble involving a talking cup with a penchant for poetry (“Well, don’t ask me,’ sighed the cup. ‘I’m only a magical talking cup. I can’t see anyone around here who might appreciate my poems”), a yellow-eyed dragon, and none other than Loki the trickster God himself. GADZOOKS! Exhilaratingly evoked by Katie Kear’s illustrations, this is fast-paced, funny and spiced with ingenious insults, among them “toxic turnip breath” and “barnacle breath”. It also integrates tonnes of fascinating information about Norse mythology, with an excellent Author’s Note providing extra context.
February 2021 Debut of the Month | 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.
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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