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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.
May 2018 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2018 | A wonderfully warm-hearted animal adventure based on Zeb Soanes observation of a local urban fox. Waking up hungry one evening, Gaspard sets out to find something to eat. Luckily, he quickly makes two new friends - Peter a rather cool cat and Finty a frisky dog who has dug a way out of his garden so that he can roam the streets without an owner. Helped by his new friends Gaspard secures himself a delicious meal and returns happy and FULL. The three friends and their adventure and the urban landscape of the setting are all perfectly captured in James Mayhew’s illustrations.
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
February 2013 Debut of the Month Passionate, sinister and thrilling, this captures both the friendship and the pressure on a group of highly talented young dancers whose lives are at risk from the dark mystery that haunts their school. Vanessa is newly arrived at the New York Ballet School. It is a dream for her but it is also an opportunity for her to try to find out why her even more talented older sister mysteriously disappeared from the same school a few years earlier. Vanessa is swiftly attracted to the highly attractive but dangerous Zeppelin Gray; she is willing to follow him anywhere. Will he give her a dancing opportunity of a lifetime or are his intentions far less honourable?
Cleverly crafted, this is a masterful horror story that will chill readers to the bone as Jake Harker comes face to face with the evil forces of old witchcraft and its links to Matthew Hopkins, the evil Witchfinder of the sixteenth century. It seems that Jake alone must stand firm against the dark forces of the Demontide but he may not have the power to keep it at bay. A 'piece of passion' from the editor of Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide: Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide was my first acquisition for the Oxford University Press children's list and from the first page I was hooked. I knew that I had to be the one to bring this book to the world — even if it meant dabbling in the dark art of breakneck speed publishing ! Luckily the author William Hussey and the team at OUP were up for a bit of ‘Are we crazy - can we really publish a book this quickly?’ and although we only acquired the book in July 2009, Dawn of the Demontide will be in the shops from March 4th – at least a year ahead of a ‘normal’ schedule. So why the crazy rush? Well, I’d urge you to read it and find out for yourselves. With its mix of magic and science, horror and beautiful writing, it is quite unlike anything I’ve ever read and I envy you your first foray into the world of Witchfinder... Jasmine Richards, Senior Commissioning Editor, Oxford Children’s Books
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
A nail-biting mystery is dramatically unravelled through archaeology with a clever paranormal twist. Sent to England from their home in New York, Josh and Rachel find something dark and sinister behind the closed doors of Triskellion, the picturesque village which is their new home. Helped by another outsider, they unearth long hidden secrets which still have the power to shock. The Lovereading comment:This is the first extraordinary novel in a planned trilogy, combining edge-of-the-seat suspense, gripping mystery and archaeological adventure. It’s an inventive cross between The X-Files and The Da Vinci Code; pacy and suspenseful and sure to appeal to fans of Darren Shan, Anthony Horowitz and Garth Nix. Will Peterson is the pseudonym of acclaimed novelist Mark Billingham and TV writer and performer Peter Cocks.
Shortlisted for The Branford Boase Award 2016. One of our Books of the Year 2015 - June 2015 Debut of the Month Mabel Jones is sleeping soundly when a sudden noise wakes her up. It’s Omynus Hussh, silent loris and pirate, there to press gang her into service to the captain of the Feroshus Maggot, mad wolf (he really is a wolf) Idryss Ebenezer Split. Mabel will have lots of adventures before she can return to the ‘hooman’ world! Part Pirates of the Caribbean, and with a touch of Monty Python thrown in, this is a wildly inventive, hugely enjoyable adventure that must qualify as the year’s best book to read aloud. Piracy, says the narrator, ‘It’s not all golden doubloons and swinging from chandeliers. It’s not all drunken shanties and dancing on a dead man’s chest. Not by a long plank.’ Irresistible! ~ Andrea Reece
This is a well crafted debut paranormal novel for teens but it's much more than that for it features a cleverly laid plot that revolves around a government secret agency who pull into the organisation a 14 year old Jamie whose mother has been kidnapped by some strange creatures. And yes, vampires do also come into it, most of them as baddies and involved in some quite gruesome parts to the plot but very necessary to keep the reader engaged. Much more action, suspense and yes gore than you'd expect from the typical paranormal/horror offerings at the current time and well worth a read. Suspect the next one may already be in the writing featuring Jamie who is a key protagonist you really feel for and understand. In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.
May 2013 Debut of the Month A new diary novel which will especially make girls laugh a lot! And it is illustrated by an 11 year old! Wendy tells the three stories about herself and her friends catching the tiny details which make things like the school show - in which Wendy hopes for the lead but ends up as the crocodile’s bottom - familiar but then investing them with a wackiness which makes them original and fresh. In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Wendy Quill is a Crocodile's Bottom a small number of children were lucky enough to be invited to review this title. Here's a taster....'This book is a 10/10. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves a book with a bit of excitement and a good laugh'. Scroll down to read more reviews... And Click here to download an exclusive interview with Wendy and Mina, the author and illustrator of Wendy Quill. A Piece of Passion from the Commissioning Editor My name is Jasmine Richards and I am the senior commissioning editor for children’s fiction at Oxford University Press. It is my job to find new talent and to work with authors to create books that children will love. I’m extremely proud then to present to the world, Wendy Quill is a Crocodile’s Bottom! Wendy Quill is an absolutely adorable character who you can’t help falling in love with and I think she definitely deserves to be a little bit famous. She’s a nine- year-old girl with big ideas and even if her plans don’t always work out she is never down for long.In her first adventure, Wendy Quill is a Crocodile’s Bottom, our heroine is determined to be famous. Unfortunately for Wendy, fame comes at a price—namely dressing up as a blue Munchkin, catching the plague and being the bottom of a rather blind crocodile. Wendy Quill was created by the author Wendy Meddour (she’s a real life Wendy so knows what it’s like) and illustrated by her daughter, eleven-year-old Mina May. Together they have created a book that will have you laughing with each turn of the page be it because of the funny text or hilarious pictures. Wendy Meddour has done an awesome job of capturing the tone and voice of a nine-year-old and Mina drawings are full of life and quirky details—it is quite staggering to think she was just ten when she drew these illustrations.Wendy Quill is a Crocodile’s Bottom is being published in a delectable pocket-book format which means you can take Wendy Quill with you everywhere and the book is split into three short stories which young readers can approach without feeling too intimidated. Wendy Quill is the perfect bridge between picture books and chapter books and is great as a read too and read alone as there is something different for adult and the child in every reading. Anyway, that’s why I think Wendy Quill deserves to be a little bit famous. And I hope that this funny, charming and unique book finds itself in the hands of as many young readers as possible.
April 2014 Debut of the Month - Winner of The Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2013 Set some 17000 years ago where tribes fought tribes and rubbed shoulders with sabre-tooth cats and mammoths, there was danger at every turn, yet this is a terrifically compelling adventure story starring a 13 year old boy called Wild Horse and a girl from another tribe who doesn't want to be found. Wild Horse wants to prove hiself to his tribe and he sees this as his chance to show off his skill and bravery. Fighting with spear, tooth and claw to survive, can he live to tell the tale? Fans of Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness which began with Wolf Brother, will devour Wendy Constance's brilliant and award-winning debut novel, almost in a sitting. On announcing The Times/Chicken House competition winner, The Times said Wendy E. Constance, this year's winner, still can't quite believe her triumph. "I keep pinching myself," she laughs. "I've gone from 'ordinary Wendy' to extraordinary Wendy' overnight."The Times/Chicken House prize for an unpublished new children's author is unique in that each year it picks raw talent from about 1,000 submissions, and then works with the five shortlisted authors. It has a stellar track record. Sophia Bennett's 2009 winner Threads is being developed as a series by Nickleodeon; Janet Foxley's Muncle Trogg is going to be a film from Sony Pictures Animation; last years winner, Fletcher Moss, has had The Poison Boy sold pre-publication to the US, Germany and Holland. All six previous winners have seen their work transformed. Now Constance, and her novel Brave, will have their chance. You can download the entire article here - please note the book title was changed to Brave from the original name, Like a Brother. In addition to our Lovereading4kids expert opinion for Brave a small number of our 'Kids Reader Review Panel' were lucky enough to be invited to read and review this title. Here's a taster....'you will be transported back in time to a world of mammoths, sabretooths and nomadic tribes! A gripping plot with two fantastic main characters.' Sabrina Tadjerout. Scroll down to read more ... A Piece of Passion from Barry Cunningham, Publisher, Chicken House Wendy Constance brilliantly rips us back in time to a world of the super-tough, where young and old alike survive or get eaten by something very scary. Here, sabretooth cats rub hairy shoulders with mammoths – but actually, in the end, a bit of kindness goes much further than our brave-hearted boy and skilful girl can ever have imagined. And I’m going to try that recipe for snake kebabs myself . . .
One of our Books of the Year 2014 - July 2014 Debut of the Month A dystopian story told with the refreshing addition of a dollop of good humour. Ruby thinks nothing of it when it begins to rain. Why should she? But, what she doesn’t know is that just one drop is all it takes for your blood to be infected. It’s hard to believe - especially for Ruby as the first she finds out about it is when she’s trying to snog the dreamy Caspar in an outside hot tub. With everyone in turmoil after the party when the rain starts falling, Ruby sets off to find her dad who, she hopes, will be safe in London. Ruby’s journey is a highly entertaining roller-coaster despite the convincing threat from the rain.
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.