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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.
July 2020 Debut of the Month | Melding the mystery of a parallel prehistoric world with real-life worries that seem too terrible to face, this emotionally-sensitive debut will enthral thoughtful, adventure-loving 8+ year-olds - think Stig of the Dump meets Wolf Brother meets A Monster Calls for younger readers. Right before the birth of his baby brother, Charlie discovers a deer tooth in Mandel Forest. He’s so thrilled, “a little shiver tingles like a breath across my shoulder blades”, and he strangely feels “the weight of someone watching me.” When his brother Dara is born with a heart problem, Charlie is gripped by anxiety. His poorly sibling reminds him of a featherless baby bird. His cry is “a horrible, thin squawk, birdlike too,” and Charlie is too scared to hold him, too scared to stick around in the hospital when the doctor arrives with the results of Dara’s tests. So, Charlie flees to the woods where he comes to the aid of a deerskin-clad boy. A lad named Hartboy who’s seeking his baby sister, just as Charlie fears he might lose his baby brother. It’s not long before Charlie realises that – somehow – he’s been transported back to the Stone Age. As he steps-up to help Hartboy, encountering wild beasts and a mysterious shadow man in woods that are at once familiar and strange to him, Charlie learns valuable life lessons that equip him for his return to the real world: “You can’t just avoid stuff forever, can you? No matter how sad it is.” Suffused in the wonders of nature and a timeless sense of myth, the adventure-spiked plot is perfectly punctuated by emotional breathers that allow Charlie to find courage, and a way home - back to his family, back to his beloved baby brother.
July 2020 Debut of the Month | Warm-hearted and mysterious The Unadoptables is a wonderfully entertaining adventure with a cast of fascinating characters set in a brilliantly evoked old-world Amsterdam and the surrounding countryside. Following the clues from the only possessions she was left with when she was abandoned as a baby and guided by her ‘Book of Theories’, the imaginative Milou leads her four friends – the least adoptable children in the very horrible Little Tulip Orphanage – to her family home where she is sure she will find her parents. Travelling through a freezing night the children arrive at their destination. But there is not the welcome they had expected. Where are Milou’s parents? And what is the mystery they need to solve? The creative ways in which the five children manage first to escape from the evil clutches of their matron and her evil accomplice Rotman and then to make a new life for themselves bamboozling neighbours and unravelling the mystery is vivid and captivating.
Oooh, there’s so much for young fans of adventure stories to enjoy in Alex English’s new book! It stars eleven-year-old Echo, who has grown up in the court of the king of Lockfort. It’s a gloomy and frankly repressive place and the king is very strict with Echo, who was left at the castle gate as a baby. She’s always been told there’s nothing beyond the kingdom’s borders – literally nothing at all – but suddenly, a challenge to that drops out of the sky, and with it the chance for Echo to explore a new world of adventure and to look for her mother. The story is full of fantastic scenes and packed with wonderful characters and English has created the sort of world that envelops young readers from the very first chapter. A glorious summer read! This is one to recommend to fans of Abi Elphinstone, Vashti Hardy and Jamie Littler.
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 | 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 a 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 | This book takes a poetic look at what it means to be alive. Nuto is a debut author – a teacher in Tasmania, who asks some of the big questions about who we all are, about friendship and our place in the universe. It’s the sort of book that will be a bouncing off point for lots of discussions – but is presented in an accessible and colourful format. Charlotte Ager’s naïve style of illustration means it will appeal across the very young and the not so young. The bold illustrations offer colour and shade in big pictures. Starting with the big questions – that we are made of the stuff of stars, and that we are tiny in comparison to the universe, it goes on to show we have the means to explore, to be both positive and negative. It shows that though we are a small short-lived speck we have the ability to change the world for the better. There are some glorious illustrations – full of colour, detail and action, as well as others that are more contemplative. A good book to have in your classroom!
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.
May 2020 Debut of the Month | There aren’t many books that can have you laughing out loud one minute, and tearing up the next, but The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates is one. When Freddie sets off on a secret journey that will take him half-way across the country, his two best friends come too; they have their own reasons for wanting to escape home for a bit. Together the three get into and out of some extraordinary scrapes, inadvertently becoming heroes in the process, and Freddie experiences an actual miracle. Freddie, Ben and Charlie are great characters and their incredible journey – which variously involves sheep, a tandem, superhero outfits and stolen treasure - both hilarious and gripping. The ending proves that the world is a wonderful place, particularly for those who go looking for adventure. Don’t miss. One to recommend to fans of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s The Astounding Broccoli Boy, or David Solomons’ My Brother is a Superhero series.
Literacy Association of Ireland Award: Age 10-13 - 2019 | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Bright Sparks charts discoveries, inventions and designs by women that have changed people’s lives, from the paper bag to the structure of DNA. Originally written for his daughter, this labour of love is a real celebration of stories still too rarely told.
May 2020 Debut of the Month | There have been many versions of the moral tale of the crow and the peacock and this one from debut picture-book artist Jo Fernihough is particularly attractive. The vibrant mixed media and collage images are full of movement and expression and immediately catch the reader’s attention. Crow is living happily and contentedly until he starts to compare his feathers and his song with other birds. From the dove to the nightingale, to the cockerel to the swan, each bird seems more magnificent than the last and crow is sure each one must be the happiest bird alive, but each in turn direct him to a bird they are envious of. But when he finally reaches the magnificent peacock he learns that he himself is the subject of envy. He is free to sing and fly free compared to the caged peacock. Crow and the reader learn the lesson about what is really important in life and that one must count your own blessings. A strong message for the current situation and beautifully conveyed in nicely repetitive text and imaginative use of typography as well glorious colour. A really worthwhile addition to the library.
April 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s a classic painterly feel to this picture book but its message is very contemporary. Clem loves exploring along the seashore and collecting treasures in her bucket. These include shells and pebbles and pieces of glass, as well as brightly coloured plastic lids, bottles and netting. She befriends a little crab, caught up in a bit of netting and it hitches a ride home with her. Clem knows the crab belongs on the beach, but will he be safe there? Then a trip to the aquarium inspires her class to protect the ocean and together they clean up Clem and Crab’s beach. It’s a lovely story, and an important one, told so effectively in Fiona Lumber’s carefully chosen words and beautiful illustrations.
April 2020 Debut of the Month | Margaret Sturton announces herself as a major picture book talent with her debut. Little rabbit Herbert loves foxes. Indeed, he loves them so much he wants to be one, making himself a pair of fox ears and a tail. At first his mummy is amused, then angry when he messes up the living room with red paint and cuts up her dress to make a tail. When she sees him out playing as a fox, despite her instruction to be a ‘good little rabbit’, she is cross again, until she suddenly realises how important it is to Herbert to be a fox. The story is full of comic moments and the little rabbit family will be recognisable to all readers. It’s also a wonderful story about identity and love, delivered lightly but most effectively. Highly recommended.
April 2020 Debut of the Month | Delving deep into Paris and Prague, and teeming with tension, automatons and assassins, Damien Love’s Monstrous Devices is an atmospheric, adventure-packed debut, which will surely appeal to fans of Jonathan Stroud’s immersive, multi-layered novels. Bookish twelve-year-old Alex’s story begins with him enduring nasty messages from bullies at school, and then he receives a tin robot in the post, accompanied by a mysterious message that reads, “This one is special”. Next morning, his unfinished essay has been completed and, on cue, as matters take an alarming turn, Alex’s charismatic grandfather appears and whisks him away to Paris as a matter of urgency. Little by little, and in cryptic terms, Alex’s grandfather reveals details of a secret world of robots that sees them journey from Paris to Prague to combat mechanical menaces. Interweaving the Czech origin of the word ‘robot’ (meaning ‘forced labour’ and derived from Karel Čapek’s ‘RUR’ play), and Prague’s 16th century legend of the golem (a man made from clay created to protect the city’s Jewish Quarter) with contemporary pace and punch, this feels at once timeless and of the 21st century.
March 2020 Debut of the Month | Newton is excited: he’s just read a sign that tells him dogs have nine lives. That’s carte blanche for Newton to do all his favourite things and be much more daring. Without a second thought he’s off to explore the nature reserve and do some incredibly risky things. He’s pursued by his friend, a much more sensible cat, who realises - as we do - that Newton has been misled. The adventure that follows is full of wonderfully reckless behaviour and narrow escapes for Newton, all the more delightful because he is totally oblivious to the danger he’s in. Newton’s joy is infectious and it’s impossible to read this without smiling at his enthusiasm. Alice McKinley depicts Newton as a plump puppy, with constantly wagging tail and beautifully expressive ears, and he’s set to become a favourite with readers young and old.
April 2020 Debut of the Month | “Numbers are great, they make sense - unlike people. You’d think this if you lived with my family.” So Anisha sets the scene for the madcap mystery that unfolds in the chaotic run-up to her Aunty Bindi’s epic wedding. Anisha loves her “sparkly” Aunty Bindi, but it’s not easy being bridesmaid to such a flamboyant figure, especially when she’s on the verge of having a “mega meltdown”! Matters take a scarier turn when Anisha finds a ransom note announcing that Tony, Bindi’s fiancé, has been kidnapped and the wedding must be called off if they want to see him again. “Why did I have to be the one who found the note?” she laments. “I DON’T LIKE DRAMA!” But, in order to prevent her already frazzled family from spiraling into further chaos, Anisha decides to find Tony herself, with the help of her best friend Milo. A hilarious race against time ensues, with clues to pursue, undercover surveillance to be done and the involvement of some decidedly curious characters (among them a weeing lobster), and the menace of Anisha’s “evil” cousins-to-be. The story shimmers with the vibrant exuberance of an Indian wedding, the special warmth of family and friends, and action-packed amusement. Special mention must go to the informative (and funny) footnotes that explain Indian food, customs and language referred to in the story, and to Emma McCann’s energetic illustrations.
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.
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