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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.
February 2018 Debut of the Month In a nutshell: sci-fi and fantasy blend in high-action, thought-provoking adventure Musician and entertainer will.i.am has collaborated with science of the future specialist Brian David Johnson to create an epic adventure. WaR seamlessly combines fantasy favourites wizards with robots, long beloved in sci-fi but now accepted as a crucial part of all our futures. Flipping back and forth in time, it stars feisty teenager Sara, whose mother is creating the first fully intelligent robot. This puts Sara at the centre of a power struggle, spanning centuries, between wizards and robots. As the story unfolds however, Sara must reconcile the two factions to defeat a common enemy. In this she’s helped by a young wizard called Geller and a robot, Kaku. Intriguing, refreshing and packed full of ideas, the momentum of the story sweeps readers along to its dramatic conclusion (at the CERN institute!). Real science is scattered throughout, and sci-fi has never seemed so now. ~ Andrea Reece
One of our 2018 Books of the Year | February 2018 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: All people have bubbles You’ll smile, you’ll gasp, you’ll root for main character Martin throughout and, while it’s only January, I strongly suspect that this radiant story about relishing memorable moments and making sense of the world will remain one of my Books of the Year. This exquisitely insightful, charming tale is all about the unforgettable voice of 16 year-old Proust-obsessed Martin, who’s in France where his mom is directing a movie. He has Asperger’s and struggles with personal pronouns. “Until I was eight years old, I called myself “you” because that's what everyone else called me, and I called other people "I" because that's what they called themselves", he explains. Like his favoured Proust protagonist, Martin lives through memories and through his devotion to fine detail - of taste, smells, landscape and faces. So, when he meets and falls for Alice, he views her as an incarnation of his favourite Proust heroine. While Martin’s relationships with Alice and the other new kids he encounters are far from straightforward, he moves beyond his Proustian absorption in things past and enriches the lives of many others as his own world expands. As one character realises with wry affection, Martin is “truly cool for a robot”. ~ Joanne Owen
March 2018 Debut of the Month A huge story is packed into this striking and thoroughly involving picture book. Erik is one of the youngest members of his wolf pack and definitely the most reckless. He thinks his family’s rules are silly and one day, when no-one’s looking, stomps off to be a real lone wolf. He climbs higher, wobbles further and skies faster – right into disaster. Stuck at the bottom of an icy crevasse, Erik wishes for his wolf pack. Fortunately for him, they arrive to save him but Sara Finan’s painterly illustrations show readers just how dangerous and scary the snow and ice are, as well as how much safer and happier Erik is back with his loving family. ~ Andrea Reece
January 2018 Debut of the Month High school student Dill knows what it is to feel “the crushing weight of destiny”. His granddad went mad after a copperhead viper killed his daughter, and his dad, a fanatical Pentecostal minister, makes his congregation handle deadly serpents to prove their faith. While his father is now in prison for a terrible crime, Dill feels shackled by these family demons, and also by poverty, bullying and a fiercely religious mum who blames Dill for his father’s imprisonment. Dill also knows he’s lucky to have friends like Travis and Lydia. While staff-wielding Travis finds sanctuary from his violent drunk of a dad in fantasy books, Lydia is an energetic fashion blogger from the right side of the tracks. But everything shifts as the three friends embark on their last year of high school. Lydia is all set to study journalism in New York, Travis is excited about his burgeoning relationship with a fellow fantasy geek, but Dill has no hope for his future. He’s terrified of losing Lydia, and terrified that he’s already been poisoned by his family’s legacy. He finds some solace in song-writing but, when tragedy strikes, Dill descends to a very dark place and it takes supreme strength and love to untangle himself from the strangling grip of grief and despair. This southern gothic story about small-town small-mindedness, religious fanaticism, wrestling family demons and the redemptive power of friendship really is an exquisite gem; an unforgettably haunting tale that imprints itself on your heart. ~ Joanne Owen
January 2018 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Family secrets, second chances Authentic, funny, coming-of-age story in which inimitable Malin discovers that “a friend worth having is someone who doesn't make you do anything you don't want to do”. Branded a “weirdo" by most of her peers, fourteen-year-old Malin has a unique perspective on the world. She’s the idiomatic square peg in a round hole, with no mates beyond Magnus, the older cousin she turns to for advice and companionship. But when school “It Girl” tricks Malin into stealing, she strikes up a friendship with fellow outsider Hanna. While this is an unexpected source of joy, as is her sweetly portrayed relationship with fellow nerd Ruben, Malin’s home life remains confusingly fraught. There are tragic turns along the way, but Malin’s incomparable embodiment of the human spirit always shines through. She’s often naïve, but her voice is witty, laced with self-depreciation and nuggets of wisdom. While things might not go to plan, she learns that “sometimes okay is good enough”, and that everyone should have “a chance to make things right again”. Poignant and compassionate, this life-affirming bundle comes wrapped in a refreshing Norwegian setting, and also comes wholeheartedly recommended for readers who relish real-life honesty. ~ Joanne Owen
January 2018 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Exhilarating escapism, dystopian devastation and dinosaurs A thrilling fast-paced romp through an alternate world in which resources are scarce, and humans have been pushed to the edge by man-eating dinosaurs. With reptilian ravagers occupying huge swathes of land, the Earthasian authorities have invited intrepid citizens to collect dinosaur eggs from the island of Piloria. The eggs will enable scientists to “get to the root of dinosaur DNA”, with the ultimate aim of eliminating these “vicious, mindless creatures” so humans can occupy their territory. While few are expected to survive the terrifying trial, the winner’s prize is priceless – they will be awarded unlimited food and access to healthcare, which is what motivates Lincoln to enter. His sister is dying and this is his only chance to save her. Parentless Stormchaser isn’t exactly sure why she’s decided to enter, except she’s sick of her life in one of Earthasia’s grim Shelters, and has an instinctive urge to explore. With her kick-ass attitude, dogged determination and striking eyes, Storm is your archetypal feisty YA heroine, and the conflict that arises from her feelings of affinity with dinosaurs create an extra fizz of tension alongside the relentless dangers of the trial. “Shouldn't every living creature have the same chance of survival?” she wonders. Throughout, morality is pitted against personal preservation, and fans of fast-paced, quest-driven fiction will surely be left desperate for the second installment of this strident series. ~ Joanne Owen
November 2017 Debut of the Month With the pace and twists of a thriller, an emotional sucker-punch, the exquisite world-building of the best fantasy, and an imagined future that sci-fi fans will love, This Mortal Coil has all the ingredients to become the next phenomenon in YA.
November 2017 Debut of the Month In a nutshell: exciting, original fantasy adventure Unusually, Jessica Townsend’s book opens with the funeral of her central character. No-one seems particularly upset, not even her family, and that’s because Morrigan Crow is a Cursed Child held responsible for any and all mishaps and was expected to die before her 12th birthday. Fortunately for Morrigan and readers, she has been mysteriously saved from her gloomy family and swept into a wonderful new world by one Jupiter Crow, magic-maker, hotel-owner, umbrella-flyer. All sorts of tests await Morrigan in Nevermoor, and she faces them all with intelligence, good-humour and, thanks to her new extended family, the resilience that comes from knowing you are loved. There are echoes of other favourite fantasy adventures in the book, but Nevermoor and its inhabitants are still wildly original and this is an impressively constructed, lively, satisfying story. One to recommend to fans of Harry Potter or of Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | October 2017 Debut of the Month In a Nutshell: An enchantingly heartrending conjuration that weaves folklore magic with the darkness of Nazi-occupied Poland. Karolina is a living doll who’s been transported from the Land of the Dolls on a “kind wind” following a cruel war with the rats. She wakes “in her new world with a glass heart”, in the workshop of a dollmaker in Krakow, Poland. When Karolina speaks to him, the Dollmaker is certain that he’s lost his mind. He made her, after all, “and I can’t make something that comes to life,” he reasons. But Karolina explains that “gardeners do it all the time with flowers”. Through shimmering, lyrical language, and Karolina’s consummate compassion, we are witness to a transformation in the crotchety widower Dollmaker. He begins to smile, to make friends, to feel light and hope. And then, when darkness descends on their city in the form of the Nazis, together they must use their newfound magic to save their friends, no matter what. The author does not shirk from relating the brutal realities of the Jewish experience in Nazi-occupied Poland, yet the overriding message is one of hope and love, and the wondrousness of acts of kindness. This is a sublimely big-souled book, with an exquisite ambiance of timelessness. ~ Joanne Owen
October 2017 Debut of the Month In a Nutshell: Half-human, half-fox foundling seeks true destiny Sparkling with the wit and wonder of a children’s classic, this exuberant quest-driven debut is a treat for readers of ten and over. Wonderling Arthur is a quiet kind of soul, but desperate to find his place in the world, which isn’t easy when you live in Miss Carbunkle’s Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures. The part-human, part-animal ‘groundlings’ in her charge are denied the usual joys of childhood, and must toil, toil, toil. But when Arthur befriends bird groundling, Trinket, the new companions find a way to escape, though Arthur must summon all his courage to do so. The language dances and sings as Arthur and Trinket set off on their adventure beyond the cruel confines of the Home. Their story is a chorus of charm and wonderment, of friendship and hope, and comes highly recommended as a tale to share aloud as autumn draws in. Special mention must be made of the book’s physical gloriousness. It’s a satisfyingly weighty tome, with evocatively intricate illustrations by the author. This is truly a book to treasure, and will be adored by readers who love the middle grade magic of the likes of Cornelia Funke and Michael Ende. ~ Joanne Owen
November 2017 Debut of the Month In a nutshell: the night-time escapades of a pair of adventurous cats Inspired by his own cats, one of which is almost totally blind, Dermot O’Leary has indulged in some ‘what if’ imagining and dreamed up a rather wonderful world of adventures for them. On their first night in London, Toto and Silver make friends with the gregarious Catface, who promises to show them the town. Riding round the city on the Animal Tube they have a brilliant time, ending up in London Zoo where they become involved in the attempt to recapture an escaped Boa Constrictor, at which point Toto’s ninja skills really come into their own. Young readers will lap up this lively, funny story and Toto and Silver – particularly as depicted in Nick East’s illustrations – are charismatic characters. ~ Andrea Reece Dermot says: 'The idea for Toto first came to me when my wife and I rescued two stray cats from an olive grove in Italy. One of them, Toto, has been blind from birth, but we quickly realised she had ninja-like reactions. Like a lot of cat owners (or cat servants), we like to imagine our pets having secret lives when we're out or asleep. So before I knew it I was writing about Toto and her brother Silver's nocturnal adventures around London. I really hope that children who pick it up enjoy reading the adventures of our little Italian underdog (cat).' For readers who like their heroes feline, Anne Fine’s Diary of a Killer Cat is clever and entertaining, Marilyn Edward’s White Chin gripping and realistic, and Paul Gallico’s Jennie a real classic.
October 2017 Debut of the Month In a nutshell: boy discovers his magical powers at school This funny, action-packed story will satisfy readers with a taste for magic, school capers and the absurd. Everyone in Zach’s family can do magic, except him. When he reaches the age of 11, still magic free, his parents give up and send him to his local school. Amongst the usual ups and downs of school – making friends, running up against the bullies, developing a massive crush on a fellow classmate – Zach discovers his magic, via of all things a pair of old baseball caps. Playing around with his new skill makes him something of a YouTube star, but attracts the attention of mean girl Trisha too. Neatly told with some of the zaniest scenes brought to life through cartoon strip illustration, this will be a real hit with young readers. ~ 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.