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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.
August 2021 Book of the Month | “Elizabeth North was one of the bravest and strongest women in the entire world. And I am going to tell you why”. Thus readers are introduced to How to Be Brave’s captivating story world in a manner that’s typical of its whimsical all-knowing narrative style. Adding to this, footnotes written in the amusing authorial voice are used to entertaining effect throughout the rip-roaring ride. To begin at the beginning, we are matter-of-factly informed that Elizabeth lived a charmed childhood that left to her muse “how much she loved her life. It was a strange thing for a child to think, but Elizabeth North was a strange child who lived a strange life.” Tragically, Elizabeth’s idyllic days are darkened by the unthinkable - both her parents die and she’s sent to The School of the Good Sisters, where an encounter with a rare duck - the Mallardus Amazonica - sets her on a path she will follow through her life. Skipping forward, we are introduced to Elizabeth’s daughter, Calla. Poor due to Elizabeth’s struggle to make ends meet as a scientist (and her lackadaisical approach to adulting), mother and daughter are dealt an unexpected hand when Elizabeth is invited to the Amazon to find the Mallardus Amazonica, resulting in Calla being sent to The School of the Good Sisters. The school’s old-fashioned quirks and cast of nuns and pupils are a delight. Edie is an especially fabulous creation - in her French-accented words, she’s “excellent at subterfuge and skulduggery”. When Calla uncovers shocking secrets, the adventure swells like the Amazon in rainy season. Given that “if there was a problem in Elizabeth’s life, Calla solved it,” that’s exactly what she sets out to do, in this case enlisting the help of her new friends and a Blessing of Nuns. What a marvellously rollicking story of a resourceful togetherness this is.
August 2021 Book of the Month | Two teenagers. Fifteen years. One chance to stop a bullet. As mind-blowing as a Christopher Nolan epic with the gritty realism of Top Boy, Femi Fadugba’s impressive debut is a breathtakingly ambitious exploration of free will, the physics of time-travel and the capacity of two teenagers to see a future worth fighting for.
A coming-of-age novel set in contemporary London and Hertfordshire. Fifteen-year-old Donald Leroy Samson is the son of an absentee St Lucian father and a drug-addicted English mother. Growing up in dire poverty in Hackney, East London, his life is shaped by casual violence, gang initiation, drug-dealing and knife crime. When Donny’s bored, rich, white girlfriend Zoe is offered a dubious modelling audition, the couple ‘borrow’ a barge and navigate the 29 locks on the canal system from Hertfordshire down into Kings Cross. When they start out on their journey, the future for both of them looks unpromising, like the fake audition, but as each lock is navigated and conquered, as the waters fall then rise again, their adventure takes on a new dimension. Life will never be the same again. A gritty, urban tale of redemption!
Alston is a debut author who looked in vain for a hero or heroine who looked like him in fantasy novels – and this delivers and so much more too. Amari is a child who attends a posh school on a scholarship – but really finds it hard to fit in and avoid the bullies. Her mother is a hard-working health worker, and her brother Quinton is missing – his disappearance seems be the root of Amari’s difficulties. As the holidays approach Amari receives an invitation via a mysterious messenger to be considered for something (at this stage unexplained) – by attending an interview. From here on the story becomes a hugely imaginative, funny and compelling adventure. Magic and mystery flow thick and fast from this point on – as Amari takes her chances to prove herself and to start finding out what happened to her brother. The story takes you through the development of some close and lasting friendships, against some awful magical bullies and monsters, to an exciting and nail-biting adventurous conclusion, though it leaves a possible opening for more books about Amari in future. A wonderful fun adventure addition to every child's bookshelf and any school library looking for more representation across all it’s genres.
July 2021 Debut of the Month | Opening with the arresting scene of a body being discovered, the third in a month, Chris Whitaker’s The Forevers is a thought-provoking page-turner founded on a killer concept - if you could get away with anything without consequence, if the world was about to end, what would you do? “The dead girl lay face down, ashen hair fanned out like she’d been posed. Some kind of terrible masterpiece Mae knew she’d never forget”. This is the grim reality of Mae’s present. At seventeen, she thinks back to ten years earlier, when news of the asteroid first broke - a ticking timebomb that’s set to explode. There’s no avoiding the terrible truth - “She was seventeen years old. She would die in one month”, for the Earth was “so broken not a thing would survive.” Amidst increasing rumbles and tremors, amidst people’s preparations for death, the discovery of the body of Mae’s popular peer Abi provokes questions - Did she jump? Was she pushed? The sense of time running out, and the brutal psychological impact of knowing that the end is nigh, is masterfully evoked in all its heart-stopping starkness, while the dynamics between the young adult characters are authentically realised. All in all, this near-dystopian thriller has thought-provoking bite.
July 2021 Debut of the Month | Two friends, one of Indian descent and one of African descent, have weddings to celebrate in their families. As the families gather for the occasion Amrita is exposed to old fashioned attitudes of colourism from older relatives. The idea that eating or drinking certain foods may make your skin darker is treated with a sure touch by Gangrota – but the strong message that people should celebrate their own skin colour and be happy with who they are comes across loud and clear. This is explored by the way Amrita wants to dress in a bright sunflower yellow dress (a colour thought to emphasize darkness of skin) but Mum is there to support Amrita in her choices and feel safe within herself. The title derives from both girls dressing brightly and beautifully for their family weddings. They then go on to promise each other they will live as ‘Sunflower Sisters’ always – with the joyful outcome that they open a shop selling colourful clothes for everyone. The deftness of touch in this story means no-one is belittled for their ideas, though the message comes through very clearly that colourism is not acceptable. Dias-Hayes background in fashion and textile design shines through the wonderful illustrations of clothes. Beautifully executed with a very sunny palette of colours this book is beautiful to look at, as well as powerful to read. Author, Monika Singh Gangotra shares the inspiration behind her debut picture book.
July 2021 Debut of the Month | Set in the world of gaming, Jamie Russell’s SkyWake Invasion is packed with peril, quips and gaming blips that turn out to have real-life repercussions. Fifteen-year-old gamer Casey is a whizz at the SkyWake computer game and leads an online team. When invited to play at a live tournament in London she’s forced to come clean being a girl. With her adorable younger brother Pete in tow (he’s also a keen gamer), she disproves prejudice against girl gamers in the most unlikely and terrifying of circumstances when it turns out that SkyWake is far more than a game. It is, in fact, a training scheme for evil aliens looking to recruit top gamers to fight in a war. Worse still, they’ve captured Pete, and Casey must muster all her leadership and gaming skills to save him. Interwoven to the action-packed alien adventure are themes of friendship, teamwork and proving prejudice wrong, and a narrative that skips back to scenes of Casey with her deceased dad, a bomb disposal expert who had a passion for arcade games. All of which means the funny, fast-paced tale has emotional resonance. Ending on a heart-pounding cliff-hanger, the stage is set for what promises to be an epic second instalment of the SkyWake trilogy.
June 2021 Debut of the Month | From the 2019 Macmillan prize-winner this is a powerful, dramatic and inspirational story about the difference even a child can make if they take action and get their voice heard. The delightfully curious Rosa needsa book but her library is closed for redevelopment but Rosa dn her sister decide to protest and not give up , gradually bringing everyone onboard. The vibrant richly coloured pages create a filmic sense of an inclusive community and very real people. It makes a powerful statement about the place that libraries have in a community and the vital necessity that all children can have access to the books that they need. Unfortunately, it is a book with a very current and timely message. Libraries have suffered greatly in the pandemic and the future looks bleak as more budget cutting looms. This book empowers young children to demand their rights and to recognise that they matter too. It should prompt some very interesting discussions and debate and naturally should be stocked in every library.
June 2021 Debut of the Month | Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s Ace of Spades is an explosively exceptional debut. An incisively subversive, edge-of-your-seat thriller that takes the genre to jaw-droppingly unexpected extremes as it exposes horrific, deep-rooted institutionalised racism. The action centres around an elite high school in the white part of town. It has an all-white student population, except for our two principle characters - musician and scholarship student Devon, and privileged aspiring Yale alumnus Chiamaka. Devon (Von to his proud, hardworking Ma) can’t wear his hair in twists or cornrows here, and Chiamaka, of Nigerian and Italian heritage, feels compelled to hide her natural hair, and has adopted a “kill or be killed” stance - to achieve the success she’s set on, Chiamaka knows she’ll have to be tougher than tough. Devon and Chiamaka are sent reeling when an anonymous texter, Aces, starts revealing their deepest, darkest secrets, and it doesn’t take much to realise why they’re being targeted - the colour of their skin. And so a cruel cat-and-mouse game unfolds - two mice trapped in a destructive nightmare and a malicious cat motivated by racism, with homophobia weaponised too. While there are shocks aplenty (of the rare, ingeniously interwoven variety), the story is compellingly complex, with finely considered character exposition, and no simplified, clear-cut dichotomies drawn between who we can trust, and who should be top of our suspect list. The mounting tension is powerfully palpable, as is the embedded racism Devon and Chiamaka are subjected to - it runs deeper and wider than they (or readers) can possibly anticipate. Turns out, no one can be trusted; that there’s more than one cat in this hideous game. Oh, and there are romantic entanglements too, all of which means Ace of Spades delivers on all fronts - mystery, romance and tackling important issues in explosive style. What more could a reader ask for? *** Find a must-read letter from Faridah to her readers, attached to the extract.
June 2021 Debut of the Month | New life, love, friendship and unexpected talents and dreams blossom in the wake of a teenage girl’s life-saving heart transplant. Everything I Thought I Knew, Shannon Takaoka’s enthralling debut, provokes thought and all the feels, and comes highly recommended for fans of Nicola Yoon and Sara Barnard. Seventeen-year-old Chloe was on track to attend a top US college - until she collapses and discovers she’s in urgent need of a heart transplant. Thankfully for her, she’s able to get one in time and makes a good recovery, though eight months on, things feel a bit weird. First up, Chloe’s developed a new desire to surf, which she does in secret from her worried parents in the company of attractive surf teacher, Kai. Then there’s the strange dreams that haunt her. Propelled by her new friend, Jane (a rebel to Chloe’s good girl), she begins to wonder if the source of all this weirdness might be connected to the person her new heart came from. Threaded with themes of identity (figuring out who you are, and who you might be), this is a moving and heartfelt read, with plenty of funny moments too.
June 2021 Debut of the Month | Inspired by The Secret Garden and the stylistic elegance of the golden age of children’s literature, Ella Risbridger’s The Secret Detectives radiates historic charisma and the allure of engaging self-determining characters. What’s more, it’s a rip-roaring adventure that’s guaranteed to charm the socks off fans of Robin Stevens and Katherine Rundell, while keeping them on the very edge of their seats. In a classic set-up, after finding herself orphaned, eleven-year-old Isobel Petty is plucked from her home outside Calcutta to live in England with a distant uncle. Pondering her future, Isobel declares, “England sounded very cold and unpleasant, and her uncle, worse” - not the best of starts. Life aboard the S.S. Marianna, in the charge of Mrs Colonel Hartington-Davis, is an irritation, not least due to her charge’s exasperating daughter, Letitia. “If you’re not a native and you’re not English, what are you?” she demands of Isobel. Then, while despairing of having to spend three long weeks at sea, Isobel witnesses someone being thrown overboard. When the captain insists no one is missing, Isobel sets about solving a double mystery - the identity of the culprit, and their victim. Isobel’s wit and determination are immensely appealing (as is her straight-thinking, straight-talking aspect), and I especially loved the ebb and flow dynamics between Isobel and her fellow (initially reluctant) co-investigators. In short, this is a perfectly-pitched history mystery, possibly best enjoyed by torchlight with a stack of fortifying ginger biscuits to hand. The LoveReading LitFest invited Ella to the festival to talk about The Secret Detectives. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2 you can see Ella in conversation with Paul Blezard, discussing her exciting debut children's book inspired by The Secret Garden. Check out a preview of the event here
June 2021 Debut of the Month | Caroline O'Donoghue’s All Our Hidden Gifts is an accomplished debut - the first in what’s set to be an exhilarating quartet exploring friendship, love, responsibility, and the repercussions of supernatural gifts. Thrilling, funny, and tingling with the intrigue of ancient magic, tarot cards, and a troubling disappearance, it’s a multi-layered, myth-infused inclusive mystery that will have fans of edgy contemporary YA utterly enthralled. Witty, endearingly self-effacing Maeve (“if I think I’ll get a laugh for it, I’ll do it”), goes to a posh private school in Ireland. Having driven away her best friend Lily in an attempt to find popularity, she’s accepted her lot in life as an ungifted individual. All that changes, though, when she finds an old pack of tarot cards in school and becomes the centre of attention after discovering a gift for delivering uncannily accurate readings. Maeve’s fate switches yet again when she finds a mysterious card in the pack - the menacing Housekeeper - and then Lily vanishes. Reeling with mystery, drama and real-life issues, this tackles themes of intolerance, bigotry and justice with timely, thought-provoking dynamism. What’s more, it’s an absolute page-turner.
June 2021 Debut of the Month | When her grandparents explode in their caravan toilet late one night, twelve-year-old Harley discovers a surprising truth: their toilet is a gateway to the Land of the Dead, and they are its Guardians. Well, they were. But there's no time to mourn their passing. Because Harley's baby brother has accidentally gone with them to the Land of the Dead. And Harley only has 24 hours to rescue him before he's trapped there FOREVER!
May 2021 Debut of the Month | It’s hard to make friends when you’re a dragon, Ted discovers; everyone he meets is afraid of him, though we can see he’s very kind and convivial. When the annual Bears’ Picnic Party comes round, Ted has a brainwave. He makes himself a bear costume and sets out in disguise to have fun. Of course, things don’t go quite according to plan, but by the time the bears realise what Ted really is, they’re more than happy for him to stay (which prompts a surprising wave of costume shedding by other ‘bear’ guests too …). Young children will very much enjoy this and they’ll understand why accepting dragons/bears/people for who they are is the best way to be. Lisa Sheehan’s illustrations are full of life too and packed with details that will delight children.
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.