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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.
June 2020 Debut of the Month | Falling in love, riding out change, figuring out what you want to do with your life – Ciara Smyth’s pitch perfect debut simmers with romance and deep-rooted dilemmas, delivered through witty dialogue and affecting emotional detail. Seventeen-year-old Saoirse (pronounced ‘Seer-sha’- be sure to get it right) is on the cusp of crossing the Irish Sea to read history at Oxford. Except she’s not sure she wants to go. She has more than enough on her plate dealing with her dad’s remarriage, getting over breaking-up with her girlfriend, and coming to terms with her mum’s debilitating illness. She just wants to spend her summer watching horror movies and kissing girls – no strings attached. To that end, Saoirse goes to a mate’s end-of-exams party and gets it on with his cousin Ruby. Irresistibly drawn to Ruby’s good looks and good heart, Saoirse accepts her challenge to embark on a summer romance with all the serious bits left out, in finest romcom tradition. But, as Ruby sagely points out, “the thing about the falling in love montage…is that when it’s over, the characters have fallen in love”. Super smart and funny (“If you are a girl inclined to deface school property, may I suggest the classic penis and balls, as you will avoid suspicion due to stereotyping”), Saoirse is lead fans of contemporary YA will love and root for - flaws and all - and her journey is a thoroughly entertaining, thought-provoking rollercoaster ride.
June 2020 Debut of the Month | Telling the affecting story of sixteen-year-old Cal’s battles with homophobic bullies, family upheavals, mental health and heartbreak, this hard-hitting page-turner pulls no punches from the opening coming-out scene that results in Cal’s mum needing medical attention and an almighty clash with his dad. Reeling from strife at home and school, along with a series of ill-advised one-night stands, Cal’s life seems to take an upward turn when he falls for handsome, wealthy Matt. But since the course of passion and romance rarely runs smooth, thank goodness Cal’s best friend Em and her joyous Scotch-drinking, straight-talking nan are there when he needs them. Exploring themes of homophobia, self-harm, complex family dynamics, friendship, and intergenerational bonds with clarity and sensitivity, Fall Out is underpinned by a warm message of hope and the possibilities of starting afresh. As Cal says, “You can’t pave over the faults; you can’t wash away the past but sometimes, when you make mistakes, you get a second chance.”
June 2020 Debut of the Month | At seventeen, Brooklyn hipster Cal is a successful social media journalist accustomed to living in the public eye, with a whopping 435,000 followers on the FlashFame app. But even Cal isn’t ready for the unforgiving media storm he’s thrust into when his pilot dad is shortlisted for NASA’s Orpheus mission to Mars. Initially dead against leaving Brooklyn, Cal begins to wonder whether “maybe Clear Lake, Texas, has a story out there just waiting for me to uncover.” And then there’s handsome Leon, one of the other “Astrokids”, who’s set his heart pounding before they’ve even met. On arrival, and immediately thrust into the spotlight by StarWatch reality TV show, Cal finds himself “admitting I like our new home, even this town”, which in turn “feels like I’m abandoning my old life.” Maybe this is down to his contradictory nature - Cal is anything but a straightforward teenager. He doesn’t think like one. He doesn’t speak like one. Indeed, his thought processes and dialogue can seem out of kilter with his age. He needs everything just-so, but at the same acts impulsively. For example, he can’t stop himself from broadcasting news about his dad to his followers, which - as predicted - results in him facing the wrath of StarWatch. Cal’s settling-in has a lot to do with his rollercoaster romance with Leon. It’s starts out with the thrust of a rocket launch (“This crush is strong. This crush is too powerful. This crush will be the end of me”), and then comes a crash to earth alongside tragedy striking the mission. In the aftermath of this, Cal finds himself working to expose Starwatch’s agenda, both to clear his name and save the mission, and the truths revealed sure ain’t pretty. Covering mental health issues (via Leon’s depression and Cal’s mom’s anxiety) alongside a whirlwind coming-of-age gay love story, The Gravity of Us is an entertaining YA debut that gives many underrepresented folk a chance to see themselves on the page, with the added kick of space exploration and media ruthlessness.
June 2020 Debut of the Month | At once amusing and affectionate, this early Middle Grade novel combines real-world alienation with actual aliens! Harriet feels terribly out of sorts when she moves in with Gran while her dad works away, but before she’s even had chance to say goodbye to him, she learns that her hearing aid enables her to understand alien languages, such as that spoken by the Sock Muncha she finds beneath her new bed. What’s more, Harriet discovers that Gran is part of a secret intergalactic organisation that’s working to protect Planet Earth from an invasion of Sock Munchas. Harriet runs into conflict when she’s taken on as Gran’s apprentice: how can she possibly banish her new alien friend, given that he was bullied by other Sock Muncha’s and isn’t at all like them? Alongside the action-packed alien adventure, there’s much sensitivity around making friends and making everyone feel welcome. For example, Harriet’s unquestioning acceptance of new friend Robin’s non-binary identity, which she describes as “kind of awesome.” What a sweetly empowering debut this is from a hearing aid-wearing comedian, actor and Ambassador for Action on Hearing Loss and the British Tinnitus Association.
Shortlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2020 | | Kate Read uses bold colours, composition and collage to tell the story of one famished fox’s encounter with some angry hens, making this counting book a real thriller. The Klaus Flugge judges said: ‘Visually stunning. There’s real drama here and the way the story is told is joyous. She’s done a very clever thing and created a counting book while keeping within the beats of a story.’
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?
Boundlessly energetic Layla is over the moon when she’s offered a scholarship to a fancy school, but this exciting new chapter of her life gets off to the worst possible start when she stands up to a bully, who happens to be the son of a Very Important Person. Since Layla’s wise parents “had taught her to yell in the face of injustice,” she won’t remain silent when subjected to racism and islamophobia (“Get your towelhead face out of our school. In fact, get out of our COUNTRY. You’re not welcome here”), but it’s Layla who ends up being suspended. Never one to quit, cut loose or bow out, Layla bounces back by throwing herself into a high profile inter-school robotics invention competition, with many hilarious and moving true-to-life moments along the way. Throughout I adored Layla’s openness, her aptitude for shrugging off set-backs, taking suggestions on board and embracing change. As the You Must Be Layla title suggests, she’s a one-of-a-kind heroine, and this funny, thought-provoking novel - the first children’s book from inspirational Sudanese-born broadcaster, social advocate and mechanical engineer Yassmin Abdel-Magied - is a one-of-a-kind bundle of comedy and compassion.
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 . . .
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.