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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.
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.
April 2019 Debut Picture Book of the Month | Winner of the 2019 Klaus Flugge Prize | Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2019 | Already shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal, Julian is a Mermaid is an outstanding picture book, surely destined to become a classic. Julian is out with Nana when he notices three women dressed as mermaids. In his heart of hearts – we see it described over three fabulous wordless spreads – Julian knows he is a mermaid too and while Nana takes a bath he sets out to transform himself into one. Nana’s response is life-affirming and the two head out to join the mermaid party. The illustrations dazzle and as a celebration of individuality, the imagination, freedom and love, it can’t be beaten.
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 | 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.
July 2012 Debut of the Month. A hero with a difference! Fizzlebert Stump wants to make changes to his life. Bored with life in the circus, he is determined to run away and join…the Library! How Fizzlebert sets out to achieve his goal and gets kidnapped by some unlikely villains for his audacity is a riotous romp which will be loved by all fans of Mr Gum! In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Fizzlebert Stump the Boy who ran away from the Circus (and joined the Library) a small number of children were lucky enough to be invited to review this title. Scroll down to read their reviews...
Inspired by Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, this stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner (Alice Liddell is an ancester) hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. A series of clues leads her through a cracked mirror into the real Wonderland, a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There she must decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy-but-suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland who may have dark motives all of his own.
June 2015 Debut of the Month An enthralling and profoundly exciting dystopian novel; set aside plenty of reading time, as once you start you just won’t want to stop. It’s fascinating when an author explores a possible future, this particular future feels as though it could be just around the corner. The concerns of mental trauma, violence and social unrest exist today; ‘Mindwalker' is set after a war involving internal terrorism and the state has intimate and invasive access to peoples minds in order to stop violence from occurring. Lain is sensitive, strongly principled and becomes involved in a thrilling race for the truth, she has a captivating romantic interest, and rather than detracting from the storyline, it cleverly adds an intensity. The novel roars towards the ending, quietens then settles, as you turn the final page you can’t help but feel that a ferocious storm is gathering and waiting for release. This absorbing and thought provoking read is a gloriously impressive debut. ~ Liz Robinson
Shortlisted for the Waterstone's Book Award 2010 An action-packed science fiction adventure unfolds at a cracking pace following the crashing of a plane after a meteor strike. Robert and Sarah survive the alien virus which strikes thousands of others but find themselves imbued with special scientific powers instead. Now they are in danger of being recruited by a rogue international agency who wants to use their special skills to their own ruthless ends. This is the first in a proposed series. Click here to find out more and watch exclusive vidoes.
February 2015 Debut of the Month Captive starts with a bang and keeps the tension high. Robyn, the prime minister’s daughter, is kidnapped by eco-terrorists, the same group who recently tried to assassinate her father. These are ruthless, scary people – but Robyn suspects that her father too might be involved in something murky and the longer she spends in captivity, the harder it is for her to know who she can trust. This is a taut, cleverly-constructed and very contemporary YA thriller, which puts family relationships as well as issues such as corporate corruption and moral responsibility into the spotlight. Ideal for fans of Sophie McKenzie, it’s a book that respects its target readership. ~ Andrea Reece
The hilarious adventures of earthling Tommy Storm as he is suddenly transported to join a training school in the Milky Way. Is Tommy, a well-known loser on earth, about to become the saviour of earth and the universe? Not if evil mastermind A-Sad-Bin-Liner succeeds in unleashing his plot of mass destruction. The intergalactic adventures are action packed and totally compelling. It's funny, fast-paced science fiction for fans of Star Wars, Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Space Balls and Red Dwarf.
One of our Books of the Year 2015 - A Staff Pick of the Year 2015 - March 2015 Debut of the Month Abi Elphinstone’s debut novel plunges the reader into a world of magic and adventure. Twelve-year-old Moll lives in a gypsy camp in the Ancientwood. She has no parents but the gypsies’ extended family take care of her. There’s something special about Moll - her very best friend is a wildcat, Gryff, and the strange nightmares that plague her seem to prophesy dark and scary battles in the future. This is a wonderful book with all the elements that go to make classic children’s fantasy – a good versus evil battle in which a young child is pitched against a powerful enemy, the band of close friends who will help Moll, a wild forest setting. And a magical wildcat! It’s perfect for fans of Harry Potter, and there are more adventures to come. ~ Andrea Reece
June 2018 Debut of the Month | Boy Underwater is one of those rare books that manages to be both very funny and heartbreakingly sad. Being pulled to safety from the bottom of Lewisham Pool by classmate Veronique (losing his trunks in the process) is a terrible experience for Cymbeline Igloo, as it would be for any 9 year old, but it leads his mum to have a breakdown. Cym has never understood her determination to keep him away from water, but now it’s only by uncovering the family secrets that he can give her the help she needs. Cymbeline carries the story brilliantly, confiding in readers all his confusion (the adult world really is incomprehensible), his concerns and his hopes, so that we live it as he does. What he finds out is horribly sad, but leads to a new beginning, and a kind of healing. This beautifully told story is one to recommend to fans of Susin Nielsen, Ross Welford and Christopher Edge.
Full of a zest, this captures how a newcomer to Prefect Academy learns to enjoy the boarding school environment she thought she would hate. Viola provides a hugely entertaining account of Perfect and the people in it initially using her video camera as a way of recording it all. As the school year plays out, Viola find she has come to love her new way of life! Adriana Trigiani is a bestselling novelist for adults but this is her first foray into writing for a teen audience. It’s got the thumbs up from all our Lovereading teens around the office.
February 2016 Debut of the Month Like Harry Potter, Aimée Carter’s twisty, original thriller stars a gang of kids with special abilities up against a cast of powerful adults, some of whom are decidedly untrustworthy. Instead of being trainee wizards however, these young people are at shapeshifter school learning to turn themselves into animals. Simon can talk to animals, but had no idea he could be the heir to a shapeshifting dynasty until suddenly he’s at the centre of a decades-old intrigue, with a new set of friends, and even a brother he never knew he had. As strife between the shapeshifters and the different factions of the animal kingdom grows, this is a great opener to a new series that will satisfy readers who like their adventures action- and animal-packed. ~ Andrea Reece Imaginative and vivid with themes of bravery, loyalty, and finding one's true self, this exciting, five-book adventure series is perfect for fans of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and Beast Quest.
July 2019 Debut of the Month | A trip to the natural history museum with Grandad fills George with a passion for bugs. He determines to build up a collection and though it’s not easy at first slowly learns the best ways to catch them, filling jars with butterflies, beetles, worms, moths and spiders. It’s satisfying, but something’s not right. Grandad notices it too: with no bugs, everywhere is too quiet, dull and sad. Together they release the bugs and transform their garden into an insect sanctuary. The story is filled with action and movement and the pages are packed with detail. I love the way George chases after his bugs with such a loping stride and the relationship between him and his grandfather is tender and convincing.
January 2019 Debut of the Month | OK, here’s the plot of this hugely entertaining and very funny book: ogres that sleep under Britain’s standing stones have been awakened by a malignant gnome called Leatherhead Barnstorm. He has the Doomstone Sword and therefore control of all the dwarves and is marching on Perth. Out to stop him are our heroes dwarf Mossbelly MacFearsome and the eleven-year-old he’s appointed as the Destroyer, Roger Paxton. The stage is set for a thoroughly rambunctious fantasy adventure, packed with wonderful characters, unexpected moments, a bevy of fabulous fights and some very nasty little monsters. An ogre-sized helping of fun and adventure, this is one to push into the hands of fans of Danny Wallace, Shane Hegarty and Will Mabbitt.
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.