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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.
January 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.
January 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.
January 2021 Debut of the Month | Lesley Parr’s story of evacuees is rich in atmosphere and a sense of place, and uses its wartime setting to explore themes of community, understanding and self-forgiveness. Along with other children at their school, Jimmy and his little brother Ronnie have been sent hundreds of miles away from London to the safety of a small mining town in South Wales, and it couldn’t be further from what they know. Jimmy is determined they won’t stay long, and that the place won’t change him, even as it’s transforming his classmates: Florence Campbell for example, who is free to become someone else, far away from her abusive family. The village has its secrets though, and the discovery of a set of bones in a tree leads Jimmy to solve a decades old mystery and, in the process, to help those living with loss and guilt. The place and its people are carefully and skilfully evoked, with the adults, particularly Jimmy and Ronnie’s new ‘family’ of Aunty Gwen and Uncle Alun the miner, likely to be as fascinating to readers as the younger protagonists. The mystery will certainly keep readers gripped but it’s the characters and the place that will stay with them. Evacuees are a rich source for children’s adventure stories, examples include Michelle Magorian’s classic Goodnight Mister Tom, and Jacqueline Wilson’s more recent Wave Me Goodbye.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Brought to life with charming pastel pencil drawings, a little girl sits on the back of her daddy's bike as they cycle to school, stretches out her arms and becomes a bird. Ca-caw she shouts at the passing birds as they cycle along the seafront and through the park, and all the people she sees wave back and smile. The little girl seems full of joy until she encounters a lady who does not smile nor wave which the little girl can't understand. She begins to fear seeing the serious looking lady each morning, and stops singing to the birds, until a chance encounter shows what the little girl and the lady have in common. A touching story of empathy and of celebrating our similarities.
January 2021 Debut of the Month | Some readers will already be familiar with robot Freddy, who stars in Neill Cameron’s Mega Robo Bros cartoon strip, but everyone will find masses to enjoy in this new series. Freddy’s robot superpowers include the ability to fly, use lasers and super-strength but none of these talents are appreciated by the teachers at the primary school he attends and indeed, after he accidentally flies through the staffroom window, the head introduces a robotic code of conduct which forbids all of the above, with a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ penalty clause too. Freddy tries, he really does, but it’s not easy being the only robot in his class. Plus, his friend Fernando has lots of ideas for games that lead to trouble, and then when the two fall out, Freddy finds himself partnered with someone who instigates even more bad behaviour. The inevitable third strike comes at the school’s Project Outcome Evening but Freddy gets one amazing last chance to put his Awesome Robotic Abilities to the use for which they were intended. This action-packed story is wildly funny and school life brilliantly well observed (I love Freddy’s long-suffering human parents too). Through it all, Freddy is learning about himself and his friends, and readers will be too. With cartoon illustrations by Cameron on every page even the most reluctant reader will race through this. Superb! David Almond’s latest book Brand New Boy also uses a robot story to explore ideas of understanding, acceptance and human nature.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Perfectly-pitched for fans of funny fiction who are ready to move on from early chapter books, Bethany Walker has hit the spot with her debut, Chocolate Milk, X-Ray Specs and Me! This is the kind of book laughter-loving readers of seven upwards will become drawn into and pore over, exhilarated by the silliness of the fast-paced story and absorbed by the ultra-energetic medley of words, pictures and design. Jack Noel’s illustrations do a stupendous job of bringing the craziness to life, with a fine use of typefaces, doodles, postcards and newspaper clippings among the book’s visual features. And what of that craziness? Well, it’s all centred around ten-year-old Freddy who exchanges drama-laden letters with his mum and dad who he thinks are working at a Brussels sprouts farm. In fact, the truth is much crazier…Then there’s the super-strange happenings at school, plus Grandad’s X-ray specs and impending wedding. In Freddy’s words, “OH NO! I’ve just realized I’m going to have to watch Grandad and Mrs Allbright KISS at the registry office. That might be EVEN MORE yucky than sprouts!” What a brilliant blast of a book this is.
It's tough fitting in when you're born to stick out! From the moment Stick Boy and his family move to Little Town, there is way more to worry about than being the new kid. There's a mysterious plot involving Baron Ben's new Mega Mall, pop star Jonny Vidwire and the highly suspicious HomeBots that are infiltrating every home in town. Can Stick Boy and his friends uncover the evil plan behind it all before it's too late? An incredibly exciting and extremely funny new world for middle grade readers and fans of DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, TOM GATES and TIMMY FAILURE.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | This pacey page-turner teems with tension, twists and terror from the moment Irish girl Niamh arrives in London for a drama course and finds herself in a storm of vicious attacks on fellow students. Accelerating the fear factor, the victims look like Niamh, and bear marks reminiscent of those made by Spring Heeled Jack, a Victorian folklore figure who was said to slash his victims with metal claws. Amidst this terror, Niamh takes up her placement in a Victorian museum, where she plays the role of a factory owner’s daughter who died a gruesome and untimely death. No wonder, then, that Niamh is glad to befriend Jess, a self-proclaimed “history nerd” who’s thrilled to visit the museum’s parlour that was once used by “the infamous Madame Josephine...Fortune teller, hypnotist, and mistress of the occult.” Then there’s creepy Will who works there, and gorgeous Tommy who sets Niamh’s heart a-pounding. Entertaining and menacing in equal measure, and loaded with cliff-hangers and red herrings, this accomplished debut brings old school Point Horror novels to mind.
Welcome to Little Snoddington, where nothing is normal and every day is magic . . . Nine-year-old Alfie Blackstack's parents have met a very unfortunate end. Now he's living in the SUPER CREEPY Switherbroom Hall with his mad-haired Aunt Gertie and warty Aunt Zita. The thing is, Alfie's aunts aren't just weird - they're WITCHES! When the circus arrives in town Alfie makes his first ever friend, the FEARLESS Calypso Fagan. But when Calypso's little sister Nova disappears, they must face the TERRIFYING Head Witch in a race to find Nova and stop the next Witch War.
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.
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.
February 2021 Book of the Month | Deka lives in fear of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she can become a member of her village. If she bleeds red, she will belong. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold – the colour of impurity, of a demon. The consequences force Deka to leave her village with a mysterious woman, destined to join an army of girls like her – the alaki, girls who are near-immortals with rare gifts, and the only ones able to stop the empire’s greatest threat. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the battle of her life, Deka discovers the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem – not even Deka herself.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | The first in a hilarious and fast-paced trilogy about how to be brave, what it means to be a hero and just how confusing the Norse Gods really are. Fully illustrated throughout, Cat Weldon's How to Be a Hero is perfect for fans of How to Train Your Dragon and Who Let the Gods Out.
November 2020 Debut of the Month | Nimbly navigating a fine thread between real-world tragedy and elemental inner demons, Richard Lambert’s The Wolf Road is a stunning coming-of-age thriller about a boy’s battle with bereavement, and the wolf that holds the key to his healing. It’s un-put-down-able and emotionally haunting in perfectly balanced measures. Fifteen-year-old Lucas’s life unravels when he discovers his parents were killed in a car crash caused by a dog. In an instant “the world didn’t make sense”, and now he must live with his nan, an “odd woman in purple DMs” (and socially-conscious solicitor) he’s only met twice in his life. Despite his angry protests, Lucas has no choice but to move to Nan’s cottage in the Lake District, certain the offending dog was, in fact, a wolf. It’s not long before wolves infiltrate all aspects of his life - at school he reads The Call of the Wild (a book “about a dog that really wants to be a wolf”). Local TV news reports on a local farmer who believes his livestock is being killed by a wild wolf. And then lupine menace encroaches on Lucas’s reality when he hears and glimpses what must be the wolf. As he wonders whether it’s coming for him, to “finish off the family after Mum and Dad,” he confronts his wildest pains in the wilds of the mountains. While the theme of loss - and Lambert’s inventive handling of it - will chime with readers who loved Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls, this also has great appeal for fans of emotion-driven adventures, such as Piers Torday’s nature-rich novels. Other plot strands skilfully untangle the complex relationship between Lucas and his Nan. The faltering understandings reached between grandmother and grandson are a joy to witness, as is the bond Lucas forms with Debs, a Sylvia Plath-reading goth-punk.
November 2020 Debut of the Month | Sami is a very ordinary 13-year-old boy, attending school, playing football, PlayStation and has his own iPad – the only thing different about Sami is that he lives in Damascus. As the war in Syria creeps closer, until a bombing of a local mall affects his family, everything has been good. Now Sami and his family have to leave their home, their friends and their beloved Jadda (grandmother) – not just to move to another town but to start a long and perilous journey to the safety of the other side of the world – to England. The journey, and therefore the story, are not for the fainthearted – Dassau tells the story of the journey, the fear and the privations authentically and we vividly share Sami’s upset, anger and fear throughout every page. The portrait drawn of the family in such a stressed and frightening situation has the reader on the edge of their seat and pulling at our hearts all the way through. Written with a deep understanding and meticulous research into similar journeys this is a book that will not leave you for a very long time. The switches from adversity to hope to despair in Sami keep your heart in your mouth and is so realistic I was raging at the government for its inhuman treatment of desperate refugees. Read this book – it’s needs to be in classrooms and on bookshelves everywhere – it will change you and stay with you.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | What a roar-some romp this is! With its read-along rhymes, fun flaps to lift and energetic animals, toddlers will adore grrr-ing, snapping, ooo-ing, hissing and ROARING their way through this jamboree of jungle dwellers. It’s a joy to read aloud, ideally with exuberant accompaniment from little animal lovers. The rhythmic, rhyming text invites readers to engage with larger-than-life animals in their natural habitats - a tiger hiding in tall bamboo, a crocodile lurking in a lilypond, a snake slithering through leaves, a monkey curled in a tree, a lion prowling a plain - while sharing information about their physical characteristics and - of course - the sounds they make. It’s a beautiful book to behold, too - Katerina Kerouli’s style is both bold and understated. Her palette has an elegant mid-century feel, and her animals are oh-so chicly expressive.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | Full of a sense of tenderness but also possibilities, Songs for our Sons contains every wish you could have for a young boy growing up today, from ‘Never change, fib or follow, just to try to fit in./Be proud, free and happy in your own, unique skill’, to ‘Keep a still place inside, that you can call home/ and know how to find it, wherever your roam.’ The text is touching, heartfelt and always uplifting, while Ashling Lindsay’s illustrations depict children playing in a range of settings, from green fields to desert cities and magic trees, bold colours and shifting perspectives making every turn of the page an adventure. Giving this and receiving it, both will be a real joy.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | At once a moving adventure and a thrilling multi-layered mystery, Kereen Getten’s dazzling debut When Life Gives You Mangoes is set in the close-knit community of Sycamore Hill, Jamaica, where Clara spends her days playing ‘pick leaf’, having fun at the river and avoiding the wrath of moody Ms Gee. She used to love surfing, but now she’s scared of the sea and she can’t remember why. In fact, Clara can’t remember anything about last summer. She also can’t explain why her best friend Gaynah is being mean to her, and no one will tell her why Pastor Brown has turned the entire town against her Uncle Eldorath. Despite these unsettling mysteries, the superbly-evoked Sycamore Hill is a steady kind of place. In Clara’s words, “You live and you die here. No one leaves and no one new comes in. Sometimes that’s a good thing because you know everyone, and everyone knows you. Other times you get tired of seeing the same faces and want something new.” And then something new happens in the form of Rudy, a cool, confident girl from Britain who turns out to be Ms Gee’s granddaughter. At Rudy’s arrival, “the entire village is buzzing. This is the most excitement we have ever had,” and it’s not long before the girls strike up a beautiful bond. Soon enough, Clara is enjoying escapades her parents wouldn’t entirely approve of because “there is something magnetic about Rudy and her adventures.” As Clara’s memory begins to return in tempestuous flashbacks, hurricane season brings a devastating storm that coincides with everything changing - truths are laid bare, ghosts are laid to rest, and a new landscape is left in the wake of the upheavals. Poignant on friendship, family and community, in all their tricky, complicated, life-affirming forms, this Middle Grade wonder also makes pertinent reference to police prejudice in the UK. “Where I live...there are some bad kids, but there are a lot more good kids, but the police think we’re all the same,” Rudy remarks. Clara’s huge-hearted story had me hooked and charmed from start to finish.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | A gobble-it-up fiery and intense yet thoughtful debut novel about family, betrayal, and witchcraft. Opening the pathway to a fabulous historical fantasy series this calls out as a must-read for young adults. Set during the civil war in 17th century England, 15 year old Evey has to flee with her little sister Dill when her mother is murdered. As with all good young adult novels, it is perfectly easy to slide into and really enjoy as an adult too, particularly with the wonderful cover drawing you in. Touching history, it flies into fantasy, as author Finbar Hawkins examines the meaning of witch. Evey is a complex character and as she tells her own story she has the ability of self-reflection, even if she doesn’t always like what she sees. Witch is a read that fair on crackles with energy, it also encourages thoughts to both consider and soar and deservedly sits as one of our LoveReading debuts of the month.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | 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.
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.