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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.
March 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.
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.
March 2020 Debut of the Month | This debut novel was inspired by the author’s work creating Run the World, an organisation that empowers women and girls from marginalised backgrounds through sport and storytelling and the authenticity of this, at times harrowing story, is palpably evident. As is the skill of the accomplished writing which makes great use of typography and layout to really make every word count. This speeds the reader through the narrative, but it also cuts deep to reveal the emotions experienced by our narrator. Amber Rai is only ‘truly alive’ when running and shows great potential. But her alcoholic, abusive, misogynistic father refuses to allow her on the track. She has seen her older sister Ruby denied university and married off against her will and her downtrodden, abused mother is literally powerless to help, trapped as much by illiteracy and lack of English as the violence of her equally illiterate, unemployed husband. Amber has friends and teachers who believe in her, but she cannot explain what really goes on at home. She is a complex and believable character with very real flaws that she painfully recognises: ‘inflicting pain on others/halves your own hurt’. But the story is cleverly structured on The Anatomy of a Revolution and inspired by her reading about revolutions for history, Amber, Ruby and her mother gradually empower each other to take small steps to freedom. This is an important, rewarding, highly empathetic read which, despite the dark subject matter, offers hope but no simplistic solutions.
March 2020 Debut of the Month | The author has revealed just how much of this searing novel is based upon her own experiences at school which lends credibility and authenticity to the situations described, but she has also created utterly believable and relatable characters with truly authentic teen voices and dialogue. Within a few pages we are thrust into the raw pain of grief and utter disbelief in the aftermath of a teen suicide. The narration alternates between 15-year-old Nathan, the younger brother who discovered Al’s body and Megan the school friend who shared Al’s passion for art, but each chapter is cleverly introduced by the voice of Al himself. Both Nathan and Megan are wracked with guilt, blaming themselves for letting Al down. Nathan, by not picking up the call from Al on that fateful afternoon and Megan by sticking with the ‘cool’ kids and not acknowledging Al as a friend. Nathan wants to understand why Al was driven to suicide and Megan wants to prove to the world how special he was. Gradually we develop a deep and nuanced understanding of their growing relationship and of all the characters involved: be they friends, family or even ‘villains’. There are no cardboard cyphers here. The thought provoking, intelligent writing also reveals the overwhelming influence of social media on the lives of young people. Megan can use Instagram and Facebook to positively celebrate Al’s artwork, but together they discover the extremes of cyberbullying he had been exposed to and which ultimately pushed Al over the edge, helped by the casual spite which colours so much daily interaction on social media. This devastating, truthful and important novel is an essential school purchase, and will no doubt provoke valuable discussion both in classrooms and between peers.
March 2020 Debut of the Month | Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2020 | 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.
March 2020 Debut of the Month | Margarita Surnaite’s story can be read on different levels, but everyone will fall for her central character, Henry. Little Henry is the only one in his family, indeed in the whole of Rabbit Town, who doesn’t love books. Significantly though, it’s a book that leads him into an adventure. Finding a lost book, he tries to return it to its owner and arrives in a very different place – a big, grey city filled with busy grown-ups none of whom notice the little rabbit standing beside them. He makes friends with a little girl though, and they have lots of fun before Henry returns home, giving her the book as a parting gift. When she opens it that night, she finds the story it tells is hers and Henry’s, while he’s at home telling his family all about his adventure. An intriguing book about the power of stories, and the importance of keeping your eyes open, beautifully and sensitively illustrated.
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.
November 2019 Debut of the Month | 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.
February 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s a lovely ‘what if’ challenge in this quirky and inspiring picture book. Little Nara is an expert hat maker, creating beautiful hats for the animals in her forest studio. One day she receives a letter from a new customer – can she make a hat for Mr Mountain no less? She rises to the challenge, trying out various different materials before finding exactly the right way to make a hat for a mountain. The story unfolds beautifully, and it makes a great tale of friendship, creativity and ingenuity. There’s lots to discuss while reading and this could prompt interesting STEM conversations or projects too. This is Soojin Kwak’s debut and she is definitely an illustrator to watch.
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?
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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