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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.
Mr Moose and Mr Brown first meet on an aeroplane flying from America to London. Mr Moose should be with his brother Monty, but absent-minded Monty has got on the wrong plane. Mr Brown, who is a famous fashion designer (as is the book’s author Paul Smith), offers to help his new friend find his missing brother. As they travel the world, Mr Moose helps Mr Brown with his fashion range, suggesting some very interesting garments – parkas for penguins, sneakers for cheetahs, scarves for giraffes. As they fit out an Alaskan bear for snow-shoes Mr Brown has an idea … It all ends with a happy reunion at a big catwalk (moosewalk?) show. It’s an engaging story and very strong on the fun and satisfaction that comes from designing things and from creative partnerships. Sam Usher paints some wonderful scenes, including a witty reimagining of Hopper’s Nighthawks, 1942.
This is a brilliantly observed wake-up call for teenagers about life and love and the pitfalls of choosing the bad boy as your man. A story of self-discovery, broken hearts but more than anything any girl who reads this book will come out inspired not to make the same mistakes. The story revolves around three very different sort of girls; one super-confident, another whoâ€™s called a slut but doesnâ€™t care and the third whoâ€™s popular but not very smart, and how they interconnect and befriend each other all because of having the misfortune to meet the same bad boy.
March 2015 Debut of the Month An astonishingly different and chillingly striking tale that envelops the pages in a cloak of darkness and mystery. The author hurls the reader straight into the middle of the story, waiting before making introductions and explaining friendships, which effectively ensures you feel Ayla’s shock at the unknown world she finds herself in. The friendship and bravery of the children on their quest holds a torch of light to the fear, the author leaves you on the brink of doubt as you literally will the light to stay true and strong. The scarily real illustrations reach out as pages are turned, knowing that they come directly from the authors mind, as he is the illustrator, connects them even more strongly to the story. This has the feeling of a modern fairy tale about it, full of the scarily weird and vibrantly wonderful, as you turn the last page you are left standing on the edge of wanting more! ~ Liz Robinson A Piece of Passion from the editor Susan Houlden Every once in a while a first chapter lands on your desk that is simply compelling. Matt Griffin’s A Cage of Roots opens with orphan Ayla discovering herself trapped deep beneath the ground, in total darkness, with no idea of how she came to be there. We are instantly drawn into this epic fantasy adventure, and soon we meet Ayla’s mysterious giant uncles and her closest friends, Sean, Finny and Benvy, who set out together to rescue Ayla.What follows is a magical blend of this world and an ancient past. Old Irish figures rise up as the magic that lies beneath our feet and in our landscape stirs into life. Ayla and her friends face pure evil in a life-and-death quest. Matt creates some truly demonic and terrifying creatures, and he plays on our fears and hopes as he spins his tale of deep, dark secrets, awakening powers, betrayal, tests of true character and friendship, and ultimate destinies.As a graphic illustrator, Matt has added rich atmospheric images to each chapter. His storytelling style is fast-paced, hugely imaginative and, at times, humourous. A book to read well beyond midnight.
May 2012 Debut of the Month. How a young girl finds hope and a way forward after the death of her mother and the collapse of her familiar life is a deeply touching story. Cally stops talking when no one believes her that she can see her mother even though she’s dead. No one seems able to get through to Cally until she meets Sam who is blind and almost deaf. Becoming friends, Cally and Sam meet Homeless, a dog who follows them everywhere. How can Cally get to keep Homeless and how can he help her get her life back on track? The Lovereading comment: This is an outstandingly assured debut novel from a sparkling new talent. When Cally Fisher sees her dead mother, real as anything, no one believes her. So Cally stops talking - what's the point if no one is listening? The only other living soul who sees Cally's mum is a mysterious wolfhound who always seems to be there when her mum appears. But without a voice, how will Cally convince anyone that her mum is still with them, and how will she ever persuade her Dad that the huge silver-grey dog is their last link with her ? This tender and at times heart-rending story is very special and is by an author with a bright future.
One of our Books of the Year 2014 - One of the Lovereading4kids Readers' Choice Books of the Year 2014 - October 2014 MEGA Debut of the Month Eponine tells the heart wrenching story of her own life of suffering and cruelty in this emotional roller coaster taken from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Brought up in poverty, from the youngest age possible Eponine has been sent out to steal and to lie and to cheat. But somehow, deep inside her, she knows there are better ways of living a life and higher human values to hold onto. Eponine’s encounters with Cosette and Marius unlock the best emotions in her. Can she change despite the great cost to herself? A spell-binding story about one girl’s search for inner peace. A Piece of Passion from Publisher, Barry Cunningham Les Misérables literally takes your breath away. The passion and the peril in this massive story has inspired plays, TV shows, films and songs through the years. But sometimes it’s good to find the simple heart in the greatest works, which is exactly what Susan Fletcher does here with shy tragedy and hauntingly romantic beauty. It’s a simple, moving and brilliant retelling, showing what Victor Hugo himself said of his original novel – a progress from evil to good. A Note from the Author, Susan Fletcher ‘A Little in Love is my first novel aiming to appeal to both adults and young adults. But Eponine's story contains many themes I've always been interested in as an adult fiction writer – identity, survival, solitude, the natural world, different forms of love and the brevity of life – all told by a feisty protagonist. To write of these themes – and of Eponine herself – for a wider readership was a sheer delight.'
February 2013 Debut of the Month All the travails of being a teenager seem to be heaped on the shoulders of the unfortunately named, April-May February. A scholarship girl at the exclusive local school, April-May seems to have a knack of getting everything just a little bit wrong. She blames her parents – of course – and takes refuge in the Twilight stories – whenever her teachers let her! The hectic pace of the dramas and April-May’s own largely benign view of them make this is a fresh and entertaining novel which reveals that teen trouble is the same the whole world over. A Piece of Passion from the Editor, Sara O'Connor A MONTH OF APRIL MAY: I couldn't resist April-May. She's the kind of whip-smart girl I wish I could have been when I was growing up. She loves books (like I did), but she doesn't let anyone push her around. As a South African sensation, Edyth Bulbring deserves her distinctive voice to be heard around the world. It's impossible not to fall in love with this utterly delightful book - with April-May February, stuck with the craziest name ever, her dad Fluffy and her mouth-breather friend Melly. A perfect book for young teens.
April 2012 Debut of the Month. A Tiger Too Many is enchanting from the word go and very readable. The sentences are short and concise with no waffle and therefore the story goes forward quite briskly and the reader’s attention is held. Although a work of fiction it is so interwoven in historical fact that you feel the senses of sight, sound, hearing, smell and touch within the narrative giving the story a three dimensional feel to it and it’s brought to life in a very realistic way. The story is set during the first year of the Second World War and the author’s research included close consultation with a zoological historian who also lived through the War, to ensure its authenticity. Jill is the main protagonist and her story is an inspiring one for when war breaks out her courage, determination and inability to accept what might appear inevitable comes to the fore. Even when she’s evacuated to the country, leaving her mother and a tiger she has befriended at London Zoo behind, and treated cruelly by the family who takes her in, she doesn’t give up. Eventually she runs away back to London. With no sign of her mother and scenes of devastation in and around the zoo she decides to find and rescue Ronny the tiger. There’s a tear-jerking happy ending to leave readers on a high note. A Tiger Too Many is a dramatic and powerful page-turner and perfect to read aloud to a child or for a child aged 9+ to enjoy alone.
March 2015 Debut of the Month Rich in atmosphere, this is a powerful story set in a timeless world. Alice has a gift; she is a Whisperer with a special understanding of the wild and therefore a duty to protect everything that lives in it. Alice and her faithful wolf companion Storm can sense threats to their kingdom Medina that no one else believe in. They know there is something evil deep in the forest – they can feel it’s presence. Will they have the power to see off the threat to nature and to save everything they care about?
July 2015 Debut of the Month Arthur Bean seems pretty sure of himself, in no doubt that he’s a brilliant writer with a life of prizes, fame and adulation ahead of him. At least that’s the image he projects in his written correspondence with teachers and schoolmates. The letters he sends to his imagined penfriend RJ (actually his Reading Journal) tell a very different story and reveal a lot more about what Arthur, who has recently lost his mother, is really feeling. His life, including attempts to win a story-writing competition, run-ins with teachers who don’t quite appreciate his take on homework assignments, crush on fellow writer Kennedy and surprise friendship with sworn enemy Robbie Zack, is all described through notes and emails from and to Arthur. They tell an appealing, original story and make for highly entertaining reading, funny and poignant too. ~ Andrea Reece
June 2018 Debut of the Month | This cool concept, genre-subverting page-turner sees a group of affluent teenagers enmesh themselves in the life and art of a hit new YA writer with shocking consequences, as their lives become her art.Mira is obsessed with Fatima Ro’s novel and jumps at the chance to meet the author in real life. Both she and her privileged peer group are totally smitten by her style and her ‘theory of human connection’ so they conspire to get closer to her. After a couple of contrived not-so-chance encounters (like their heroine, the friends are no strangers to the art of manipulation), Fatima announces, “I want you to be my people”, which sends them reeling with joy, but becoming “her people” has grave consequences…As we discover through the retrospectively-told narratives, stricken by writer’s block, Fatima turns to the lives of her new companions as a source of material. Looking back over the past months, Penny is adamant that she and her friends were cruelly used by Fatima. “She set us all up like pawns for a fall”, Penny accuses. “She wasn’t talented enough to think of her own story.” Penny’s view is given weight when she reveals the jaw-dropping source of Fatima’s famed theory of human connection. But, as the saying goes, there are two sides to every story and, in this case, Mira’s story sees her defend her heroine to the end. Razor-sharp on the cult of celebrity, this cuttingly compelling novel is also thought-provoking on manipulation, artistic responsibility and forgiveness. The smart, unconventional narrative devices and structure (multiple points of view, novel excerpts, interview snippets) make for an addictive read, and the twists uncoil with stabs of deadly venom.
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.