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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.
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | Julia Eccleshare's Debut of the Month, February 2016 When Vince turns eight years old he discovers he has the most amazing secret. Although he has always hated animals, which is embarrassing because his father is a zoo keeper, Vince suddenly discovers that he can talk to them. And hear what they say back! After getting some fish fingers for a penguin, Vince finds himself with a long list of food requests from all the other animals. And he is enjoying the best birthday of his whole life! ~ Julia Eccleshare
Join the fantastical flying carpet race in this magical adventure novel from a debut author. Pacy, exciting and full of humour, it’s a timeless story combining good versus evil, a breathless race against time and two protagonists who must overcome their differences to succeed. The colourful, vivid setting of the mythical Arabian city of Azamed captures the true spirit of the classic One Thousand and One Arabian Nights.
Addictive, scandalous and glamorous fiction from a brand new author writing for sophisticated teens! As its title implies this is not for the faint-hearted. If you're up for a wild read where clubbing or holidaying in St Tropez is the order of the day when not at school, where meeting up off school grounds with the biggest heart-throb from the nearby boys school is seriously cool and where girls get together and 'B' about others particularly when an American beauty arrives at the school and threatens to ruin everything. It's page-turning stuff.
October 2014 Debut of the Month A simple and witty rhyming text tells how Woozy the Wizard sets about trying to make the villagers of Snottington Sneeze better after they have all gone down with a very severe kind of sneezing sickness! There are lots of jokes which are easily spotted in the illustrations too!
Winner of the 'Best of the Best' children's category at the Independent Bookshop Week Awards 2016. Chosen by Stylist magazine as one of the Cult Books of 2012. Frank, powerful, warm and often heart-breaking, Wonder is a book you'll read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page. This is a wonderful debut from a storyteller with a great future if this book is anything to go by and her characters are intensely likeable. You can discuss what you think of this book on Twitter - #thewonderofwonder.
July 2017 Debut of the Month Wolfie is no ordinary wolf, he has a secret: Wolfie likes baking. Because everyone knows wolves are meant to be growly, fierce and mean, he keeps his baking a secret, or tries to. But when his new neighbours, a trio of pigs, spot what’s going on they let the world know. Wolfie thinks everyone will laugh at him, or worse, but instead he becomes something of a celebrity, and everyone wants more of his recipes. Sweetly told, and full of good things, this is a gentle story about daring to accept who you are, and has a lovely positive message for all. Wolfie’s scone recipe is pretty yummy too! ~ Andrea Reece
Refreshingly free of vampires and werewolves this is a stunning dystopian debut novel written for teenage readers. Genetic engineering gone wrong has lead to a radically different population structure and teenage girls are forced to breed to keep the human race alive. The first in a trilogy and this edition contains a sneak preview of the sequel, Fever, and a brand new short story by Lauren DeStefano: The First Bride. Click here for the Chemical Garden fan site.
March 2015 Debut of the Month Witch Wars is the first in a charming new series: with the help of a fairy called Fran, nine year old Tiga Whicabim discovers there’s a world of witches, down below the sink pipes. Even more surprising is the news that Tiga is a witch herself (the clue is in her name for those good at anagrams), and lined up to take part in the nine-yearly Witch Wars to find the next Top Witch who will rule over all Sinkville. With crazy situations, a cast of irresistible characters, jokes, wordplay and just the right amount of dress and shopping detail this is an original and hugely enjoyable read. Laura Ellen Anderson’s illustrations match the text perfectly for flair and panache. ~ Andrea Reece
September 2014 Debut of the Month This is such a gloriously different and delightful read. The storyline sucks you in whole and clamours to be read as quickly as possible, while the beautifully bewitching writing encourages you to savour every word. Emmeline and her people rely on their fortified settlement and the virtues of honesty, bravery and discovery for survival. Every fibre in Emmeline longs for for the wilderness of the woods, her dreams hold knowledge, a promise, a future; can Emmeline walk her dreams in reality? Boorman has the wonderful ability to spirit you away to an imaginative creation that feels so very real; you experience the pain of Emmeline’s crushed foot and can literally taste the fear of the settlement when the warning alarm sounds. There may be a wait ahead for the second book in the trilogy but that gives you plenty of time to re-read this wonderful book again and again. ~ Liz Robinson
A wonderful story, both for animal lovers and young adventurers. It’s the story of a little girl who finds an abandoned wolf cub and how they become inseparable as they grow up together. Slowly the fear that the local village people have of wolves begins to dissipate, until one day Maria awakes to find Shadow has disappeared... It’s a story of happiness, sadness and an appreciation of the wonders of the world around her, but in the end it’s a little 12 year old girl’s realisation that life must go on and that there’s a reason for his departure. As with all Barefoot Books it is absolutely beautifully packaged. Winter Shadow is 80 pages of integrated text and beautiful thought-provoking illustrations – it’s the perfect gift for any child or adult for that matter of 8+.
January 2017 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Losing your way | Running for your life | Finding your feet | 12+ A beautifully bittersweet debut in which a teenage girl discovers a latent talent that shines light on the darkest of times. Fifteen-year-old Wing Jones lives with her mom, her big brother Marcus (a high school sports hero), and her brilliantly portrayed, bickering grandmothers, Chinese LaoLao and Ghanaian Granny Dee. “I can’t blend in but I don't stand out” is how Wing sums up her place in the world, and her insecurities are cruelly exacerbated by the racist prejudice of peers who mock her appearance and mixed race heritage. The family are doing their best to get on with their lives (Wing lost her cop father in a shooting) when a second tragedy strikes. But, in the midst of this agony (“I didn’t know it was possible for a heart to break in so many ways”), Wing is struck by an overwhelming urge to run and discovers that she’s an incredibly talented athlete. It turns out that nurturing this gift - and not blending in - might just be the very thing that gets her family back on track. Set in the run-up to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, this is an expansive, heartfelt tale of loss, first love and self-discovery, and readers will truly root for Wing. Highly recommended for fans of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell. ~ Joanne Owen
April 2017 Debut of the Month | In a nutshell: cybernetic adventure galore as boffin boy hero takes on the bad guys | There’s something special about William Wenton: he can crack any code, solve any puzzle faster than you can say Bletchley Park. His grandfather was the same, until he disappeared in mysterious circumstances. When the bad guys turn up for William he’s rescued by his grandfather’s friends who take him to an extraordinary secret laboratory full of amazing mechanical creatures, and then the adventures really starts. Alex Rider-level thrills and a host of amazing gadgets, many of them animate, give this the page-turner prize and it’s definitely a case of brains over brawn. ~ Andrea Reece
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.