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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.
In a Nutshell: High Fantasy | Hidden Heritage | Political plotting | This exuberantly ambitious fantasy debut set in an alternate 16th century sees seventeen-year-old Brienna embroiled in treasonous plots and passionate encounters galore. With her mother dead and a father whose identity is unknown to her, Brienna’s grandfather’s sends her to an esteemed boarding house at which students study the passions (art, music, dramatics, wit and knowledge). Brienna is aware that this is not the kind of place a girl like her usually attends – “it wasn’t designed for girls who were lacking, for girls who were illegitimate, and certainly not for girls who defied kings” - but here she finds herself desperate to discover and perfect her passion in order to be selected by a wealthy patron. She struggles to see her true passion emerge, and so winds up choosing knowledge. She also winds up without a patron, and left with little choice but to accept a belated offer from a disgraced mysterious lord. It’s not long before Brienna discovers that the lord sought her out for a very specific reason and she’s faced with high-stakes dilemmas that threaten the very stability of two lands. Brienna’s first-person voice is lively and engaging, as is the highly visual writing, fascinating magic system, compelling court intrigues and dashes of romance. Fans of Sarah J. Maas and Cassandra Clare will surely welcome this tantalising trilogy opener. ~ Joanne Owen
March 2018 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: It takes courage for the show to go on Highs, lows, love and laughter - this big-hearted circus-set debut has it all. Siblings Finch and Birdie Franconi are high-flying trapeze artists in their family circus school. They’re fearless in flight, and also in fashion. Their no-nonsense attitude and endlessly inventive ensembles of bright blazers, tutus, paisley print, polka print and outlandish accessories certainly make them stand-out at school, and also attracts the attention of brainy new boy Hector. Reluctant at first, Finch agrees to teach seemingly hapless Hector circus skills, but when Birdie has an accident on the trapeze, his world begins to unravel. Finch feels fear for the first time, and it falls to Hector to show him that the show must go on. Alongside the tension and turmoil around Birdie’s condition, and the radiant razzle-dazzle of the circus, there’s a magnificent (if rocky-roaded) romance, and many words of wisdom come courtesy of Birdie’s blog posts: “You can’t control everything. That’s where courage comes in; sometimes you have to just go for it”. Complex questions are put under the spotlight as the main characters try to navigate their way in the world, wondering who they are, who they should be, how they fit in, and these big issues are all explored with clarity, humour and a whole of lot of heart beneath Franconi’s exhilarating Big Top. ~ Joanne Owen
March 2018 Debut of the Month | In a nutshell: fast-moving, funny, highly-illustrated story with a very unusual central character | Seven-year-old Harriet makes an unusual new friend in this hugely appealing new series: Horace – or to give him his full title Lord Commander Horatio Frederick Wallington Nincompoop Maximus Pimpleberry the Third – is a statue in her local park. One day, totally fed up at being decorated with graffiti, pigeon poo and traffic cones, he climbs down from his plinth to find a new home. Harriet seems to be the only person who notices and is soon recruited to be his helper-in-chief. Horace, who has been on his plinth since the late 1700s, refuses to be confounded by modern life and their adventures are daft but very satisfying. Harriet and Horace make a great double act and the illustrations, also by Clare Elsom, capture the sense of friendship and fun perfectly. ~ Andrea Reece Newly confident readers are being particularly well-served by publishers at the moment and this can be recommended to fans of the Dotty Detective books by Clara Vulliamy and the Claude books by Alex T. Smith.
March 2018 Debut of the Month | In a nutshell: thrilling, original adventure story Brightstorm is everything a proper children’s adventure story should be: it’s exciting, funny and surprising, and stars two young people who show real courage, loyalty and resilience. Twins Maudie and Arthur Brightstorm are left alone in the world when their explorer father dies on a daring expedition to the unchartered territory South Polaris. Worse news follows when he is accused of breaking the explorer’s code. Not only is he disgraced, but his property is forfeit leaving the children destitute. The twins are determined to clear his name and run away to join the crew of the sky-ship Aurora, also setting off for South Polaris. Under Captain Harriet Culpepper, they’ll explore strange lands, meet some extraordinary people, and learn more about themselves, as well as their father. A terrific read, this is one to recommend to fans of Abi Elphinstone and Katherine Rundell. ~ Andrea Reece Readers who enjoy Brightstorm should read Sinead O’Hart’s The Eye of the North too.
April 2018 Debut of the Month | Shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2018 | In a nutshell: breath-taking magical adventure on the banks of London’s underground rivers Hyacinth Hayward, newly arrived in the UK from the US, is already struggling with culture shock when her mum is kidnapped by the strangest postmen ever and she herself is plunged (literally) into extraordinary adventure. Amongst the mass of magical quest adventures, The City of Secret Rivers stands out and not just because of its cast of fascinating characters (unscrupulous sewer dwelling cockney criminals and a possibly malevolent but extremely polite giant pig included), or its singular setting (the banks of London’s underground rivers); the sheer invention and wit of author Jacob Sager Weinstein makes this a special read and every page crackles with originality and energy. Outlandish fun! ~ Andrea Reece Readers looking for more page-turning adventures that cleverly combine real historical places with rip-roaring adventure will enjoy the Defender of the Realm series by Nick Ostler and Mark Huckerby. The Branford Boase Judges said : ‘clever, so funny, so well controlled’; ‘hugely inventive’; ‘I thought “I know where this is going to end” – and I didn’t’; ‘a joyful caper that carries you along’.
April 2018 Debut of the Month Beautifully illustrated by talented newcomer Zosienka, this is an uplifting story about a little bird who finds a way to fly despite having only one wing. As the other hatchlings fly away, Baby is left alone in the nest. All attempts at flying end in disaster, but then Coot arrives and the two make friends. Coot might not be able to get Baby airborne, but can certainly share the excitement of Coot Scooting, taking the little bird racing down the river at top speed. The story gently reinforces an important message about the power of friendship and doing things your own way. The two main characters and their riverside world gleam in Zosienka’s illustrations and Baby is particularly appealing. ~ Andrea Reece
February 2018 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Electrifying folkloric thriller Blending folkloric fantasy with contemporary romance, this immersive multi-layered novel heralds the arrival of a unique new voice in young adult fiction. Each Christmas, Wren is hunted in a twisted, tormenting re-enactment of an old game. But the village bullies don’t realise that Wren is part of the Augur family, formerly powerful kinfolk whose magical influence was all but obliterated by the Judges. When Wren is captured in the hunt and a boy claims a lock of her hair, she must become a spy in the house of the most powerful Judge of all. Straddling ancient Celtic mythology and the 21st century, the exhilarating storyline teems with tension as Wren lies, steals and searches her heart and soul while summoning up magic to save her family. The language is lyrical, the concept unique and, while comparisons are tricky to make, I’d recommend this highly to fans of Frances Hardinge’s thought-provoking fantasy. ~ Joanne Owen
February 2018 Debut of the Month In a nutshell: unputdownable adventure story set in a vivid frozen world Emmeline Widget is a character readers will love: small, determined, not to be under-estimated and surprisingly well able to defend herself against those who wish her ill, which is just as well as some particularly nasty villains have Emmeline in their sights. What was it about her parents’ studies that have triggered this interest? The answer takes us deep into the last remaining frozen wastes of a steam-punky globally-warmed world, and a confrontation with something very strange indeed. Supporting characters include the wonderful Thing, an orphan boy whose affection for Emmeline mostly overrides his criminal tendencies. This is a thrilling adventure from the opening page to the final scenes, and Sinead O’Hart is an author to watch. Don’t miss. ~ Andrea Reece This is a book to recommend to fans of Cogheart by Peter Bunzl or the Ivy Pocket series. Download an Eye of the North Wordsearch here!
Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2018 | February 2018 Debut of the Month | In a nutshell: angry, witty and ultimately life-affirming coming-of-age story The Taste of Blue Light establishes Lydia Ruffles as an exciting and original new voice in YA. We first meet her central character Lux Langley at her school’s end of year party, the kind of wild, uninhibited bacchanal that Richdene Art School is famous for. She seems to be everything many teens long to be – bold, confident, popular. But something happens that turns her summer bad, so that ever after it tastes to Lux ‘of tequila and ash’. What that something is, we don’t know; Lux can’t remember but she’s desperate to find out. It makes for powerful, sometimes painful reading, and indeed could almost be too angst-ridden but for Lux’s sharp, sarcastic teen voice which grips and intrigues with equal measure. ~ Andrea Reece Readers who enjoy this should be directed to The Catcher in the Rye or Plath’s The Bell Jar. A Piece of Passion from Anne McNeil, senior publisher at Hachette Children’s Group: “We are incredibly proud to be publishing Lydia; her voice is vividly unique. Whilst The Taste of Blue Light is by no means the same story as The Bell Jar, Lydia’s main character, Lux, has parallels with Plath’s Esther. Both are young women who are privileged in the opportunities presented to them, but both women feel out of place and suffocated, and unable to touch upon why they feel the way they do.”
February 2018 Debut of the Month Plenty of twitchy nosed, fluffy fun and adventures are in store as we are introduced to Stevie and the residents of Teacup House. Stevie has been living at the top of a tall, thin tower of flats for as long as she can remember. It's her home and she loves it; so when it’s time to move miles away to a cottage in the countryside she’s not very happy about it. Nanny Blue brings her a special going away present. It’s a beautiful teacup house complete with four toy rabbits who just happen to be the Twitch family. Gabriel, Bo, Silver and Fig Twitch. Disaster strikes just as they arrive at the new cottage when Daddy Twitch falls out of the bag unnoticed and is lost in the garden. Whilst Stevie searches for the missing rabbit the rest of the twitches come alive and it’s soon down to little Silver Twitch to find her missing daddy. Both Silver and Stevie must overcome their anxiety and fears of a new, strange place as they search for Gabriel and it's not long before magic begins to fill the air. This is a wonderfully colourful and beautifully illustrated chapter book that shows how even the scariest changes can soon bring wonderful adventures and exciting new beginnings. A gentle, delightful story to start what promises to be an exciting new series of adventures for these friendly bunnies. ~ Shelley Fallows - You can also find Shelley here.
March 2018 Debut of the Month | In a nutshell: magic, ghosts, a brave and stubborn heroine | Twister is named after the storm that raged the night she was born, and she grows up fierce, stubborn, a true force of nature. She needs to be too: her beloved Pa has disappeared, leaving Twister heart-broken, her mother almost destroyed. Twister’s search for her pa takes her into real danger: she encounters ghosts and the dead, harnesses black magic, while in the real world she becomes the target for a violent and damaged classmate. Set in a beautifully described world of mountains, forests and open meadows (the US?), Twister’s connection to the land is a comfort and strength, no matter how hard the trials she faces. Powerful, and absorbing, this is one of a kind. One to recommend to fans of Frances Hardinge’s equally brave and tested heroines. ~ Andrea Reece
March 2018 Debut of the Month | In a nutshell: robot story with real heart Christopher is a ‘proper’: a real boy with a soul. His best friends Jack, Rob, Manda and Gripper are ‘mechanicals’ riveted together from metal and wires, but still some of the warmest and most real characters you will ever meet in fiction. When strange facts about Christopher’s past come to light, he is stolen away, and his mechanical friends put themselves in real danger to bring him back. With elements of The Wizard of Oz and a touch of Philip K. Dick, Pádraig Kenny has created a thoroughly intriguing and involving adventure story full of characters that readers will really care about. He also poses interesting and important questions about what being human means. This is a story to recommend to fans of Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart or Philip Reeve’s epic Mortal Engines series. ~ Andrea Reece
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.