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The books in this section all have a theme of conservation, raising environmental awareness and/or championing green issues.
September 2021 Book of the Month | Unrivalled in his capacity to conjure soulful truths that transcend time and place, David Almond’s writing never fails to get to the very heart of what it is to be human and, though its setting is modern, Bone Music is a sublimely timeless masterpiece - a raw, pure, measuredly lyrical story of a girl discovering deep bonds to nature and the distant past. Underpinned by a belief that the world can be made a better place, it will appeal to a broad range of 11+-year-olds (and adults), from dedicated bookworms, to more reluctant readers. “Why had her bliddy mother brought her here?” city girl Sylvia complains. There’s no phone signal in the wilds of Northumberland, where her mother was born, where they’re currently staying. On her first night here, Sylvia is disturbed by haunting music: “It was like something she’d dreamed before, like something coming from inside her as well as from outside her, like something she’d heard before.” Then she meets a young musician, Gabriel, who wisely remarks - out of the blue - that “the world’s bloody awful, isn’t it? … It’s bloody awful and it isn’t bloody awful. It’s bloody marvellous”. Through their forest wandering and fashioning of a bone flute from the wing of a dead buzzard, Sylvia sees the world anew and experiences life’s “bloody marvellous” aspects. As Gabriel explains, bone flutes “were used to charm the living. They were used to call the dead”, and they were used in ancient rites of passage. The magic of bone music and nature casts an unceasing spell on Sylvia (“the beauty of the world poured into her”), as does Gabriel. His wisdom has timely, timeless resonance: ‘‘Something’s wrong, isn’t it? Look at the state of the bliddy world. Look at all the anxious, troubled kids. We need more, don’t we?” And that, perhaps, gets to the heart of this remarkable book - it’s a story that stimulates reflection, provokes questions and prompts us to ask what we really need (and don’t need) while celebrating primal connections to the earth and the ancient past. What a joy.
Marnie Blue is shocked when lots of plastic rubbish starts to appear in Mermaid Lagoon. It's causing all sorts of problems and even harming the underwater animals. Marnie and her friends decide enough is enough and they must have a big green clean-up. But just where is all the plastic coming from? With the help of the local Brinies group, a new dolphin pal and a human friend, the mermaids come up with a plan to rid the lagoon of plastic junk for good.
At once a page-turning adventure set in the Californian wilderness, and an inspiring call to action for young environmentalists, Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Paradise on Fire teems with real-life issues (grief, racism, climate change and social inequalities) and emotional wisdom. Following the death of her parents in a fire, the novel’s endearing heroine, Addy, is being raised in the Bronx by her beloved Nigerian grandmother. From the outset, Addy’s grief is tangibly evoked - “Being an orphan is like being a crusted-over scab. Leave me alone. Don’t touch.” Similarly, though we never meet her directly, Addy’s grandmother feels ever-present, like a firm and loving hug that inspires confidence. “To know yourself, you need to journey, Adaugo. Remember what’s forgotten” - such advice echoes through the novel, spurring Addy to handle the most perilous of circumstances. This summer, Addy’s grandma has enrolled her on a wilderness program, which she joins with five other kids of colour for a few weeks of camping, climbing and hiking in the Californian wilderness. Usually insular, Addy flourishes at camp - her sharp mind, spatial awareness and keen cartographer’s eye come into their own here. Then, when fire strikes the forest, it falls to Addy to not only face her greatest fear, but to save her fellow campers from certain death. Gripping to the end, and underpinned by potent messages about climate change and the joys of connecting with nature, Paradise on Fire explores literal and metaphoric survival with heartfelt gusto and a mythological vibe courtesy of Addy’s name (which means “of the air. Far-seeing. Watchful”) and connection to eagles.
A heart-warming and magical story of a very special relationship between a child and a polar bear which will inspire readers of all ages to realise that they, like April, can make a difference in the battle against climate change. When animal loving April arrives on Bear Island in the Arctic Circle where she will live for the next six months while her father runs the scientific operations she is told that, despite the island’s name, there are no bears on it. The melting ice caps mean that the polar bears can no longer arrive from the nearest mainland near Svalbard. But April soon finds out that there is one bear left. And April needs to do everything she can to keep him alive. Confident of her ability to communicate with the bear and to feed him, April nourishes the bear and even plans his return to safety. Beautifully illustrated by Levi Pinfold, The Last Bear invites readers to care about the science behind the fate of an endangered species and to believe in one girl’s magical solution to the problem. **The images and illustrations in this extract are subject to copyright © Levi Pinfold and may not be used without permission.
July 2021 Book of the Month | Having demonstrated in The Gifted, the Talented and Me a real comic gift for creating believably awkward adolescent males, William Sutcliffe does it again with 13-year-old Luke. His family life has been turned upside down as first his stroppy elder sister and then his father join the climate rebellion activists ‘across the road,’ squatting in a house scheduled for demolition in a controversial airport extension plan. While poking gentle fun at Nimby’s and career protestors alike, there is an underlying core of real science and justified outrage about the environmental crisis for the planet in this hugely enjoyable story. Other serious themes are touched upon in this subtle and deceptively light-hearted narrative. The role of protest, politics and the media, the need for tolerance and understanding of different lifestyles, responsible parenting and the need for us all to stand up for what really matters. Luke learns a lot about himself and his own prejudices when he comes up against Sky – a child born into alternative lifestyles and protest, who yearns for stability and the privilege of attending school. These are both great characters, frequently displaying wisdom and courage that their elders lack. Making serious points while provoking laughter takes real skill and this excellent novel undoubtedly demonstrates that. Highly recommended.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Steve Cole’s gripping treasure hunt story is even more compelling because it is set in a real place, somewhere most of us have never heard of. Theo lives in the world’s biggest e-waste dump, Agbogbloshie in Ghana. The same age as readers, he makes a living sorting through the junk that people like us throw out – mobile phones, old DVD players, Xbox machines – and salvaging scraps of metal that he sells for cash, earning just enough to pay for food but nothing like what he needs to escape. So when Emanuel turns up asking Theo for help to find his big brother’s treasure, Theo is in; this could be his chance to escape Trashland. Their search is even more dangerous than Theo expects. Other people are after the hidden treasure too and Emanuel is anything but trustworthy. The story is tense and exciting, and readers will feel they are there with the boys, digging through the broken electronics, choking on the dump’s noxious fumes. Things work out well for Theo in the end – it would be too agonising for the readership if they didn’t – but readers will be very aware that there are many real life Theos and Emanuels still digging through the rubbish in Trashland. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers aged 8+
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2021 | A welcome addition to the stories about Hope Jones, a feisty 10 year old campaigner who has a mission to save the world! Written as a blog, in previous titles Hope has campaigned against the use of plastics and eating meat. This time, especially after her friend Selma collapses with an asthma attack, she is determined to get everyone to cut the use of their cars. Hope’s campaign doesn’t always go smoothy, even her parents are not completely supportive. But Hope is a great fighter and she finds friends, like Harry, who help her in all kinds of ways. Following Hope’s activism through her blog and the excellent illustrations that accompany it, is an inspiring journey for all. Fun to read this is also a book that can change minds and attitudes.
July 2021 Book of the Month | This is adventure number six for the Bolds, a family of hyenas living happily in Teddington disguised as humans. Let’s hope there will be more too, because there are very few stories more joyful, cheering and entertaining than these and only Paddington to compare for characters as lovable and inspirational. If you’ve read previous Bolds books, you’ll know that they’re always ready to help other animals and to open their doors to those in need. Of course therefore they give homeless aardvark Annika a warm welcome and set out to track down her missing friends, escapees from the same zoo, Charlie the skunk and Fergie the fruit bat. The latter, we discover, have been camping out in Parliament Square with friendly eco-warriors. Can the Bolds find them somewhere permanent (and quieter) to live? This is the Bolds, so of course the answer is yes. Gloriously silly, genuinely heart-warming and beautifully plotted, it all ends with a special party for twins Betty and Bobby Bold, and an ‘au revoir’ to another friend, Fifi, the singing poodle superstar. She promises to return, ‘Wherever life might take me, my heart belongs with the Bolds.’ That will be true for all the dear readers too, this one included.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month June 2021 | Too much grumpy Gupper Fog is swirling around Rubbish Island. The moon has disappeared into the sea and everything has turned topsy turvey…How can the Tindims put things right and make Rubbish Island a safe and pleasant place to live again? There’s great charm to Sally Gardner’s zany story which is amplified in Lydia Corry’s illustrations.
August 2021 Book of the Month | Young readers who like animals and dream of exciting outdoor adventures with just a touch of magic, will love Alex Milway’s new series. Rosa doesn’t know what to expect when the tiny plane drops her off at her Grandma Nan’s house on Big Sky Mountain. It’s deep in the wilderness, about 200 miles from the shops, and the nearest neighbour is a moose called Albert. Albert is a talking moose in fact and Rosa quickly makes friends with a whole host of other animals, all perfectly able to have a chat. Adventures come thick and fast, and Rosa finds herself relying for help on these capable animals. It’s great wish-fulfilment stuff, who wouldn’t want to live with animal friends and an unflappable grandma in the middle of such beautiful countryside. The animal characters provide lots of humourous moments and beneath it all there are important messages about the environment too. Wild, and gently wonderful.
Will Jakeman is extraordinary! As a tiny baby, he was sent across galaxies in his little i-cot, invented by his mother, to escape interplanetary space pirates attacking his home. Landing on planet Urf he was adopted by a kindly old couple, also coincidentally inventors. With such an amazing background, how could Will be anything else other than an inventor, and as for his inventions – wow! There’s the self-making bed, suction shoes so that you can walk up walls, but most amazing his mechanimals, fabulous mechanical creatures just the thing to take if you’re going on an adventure, or to have at your back if you’re being terrorised by a rampaging raptor. The story is interspersed with wonderful diagrams of these amazing creations, the chemical powered Crustacean Hover-sub for example or, best of all, Steel-Skull, a robotic hydrogen-powered metal gorilla. They all have special parts to play in Will’s adventures and the book is perfect for those who want their reading imagination-packed and out of this world! As an added bonus there’s lots to encourage you to sketch your own wonderful creations too.
May 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2021 | Wick lives in Harklights Match Factory and Orphanage. Run by the cruel and wicked Old Ma Bogey it is a terrible place of suffering for all the children who live there. When Wick escapes to the dangerous ‘outside’ he is adopted by the Hobs, tiny people who live a green life and devote themselves to looking after the forest and everything that lives in it. But Wick soon discovers that there are great dangers in the forest, too. And Old Ma Bogey has a hand in them. Guided by the Hobs, Wick discovers that he has a special role to play in saving the environment and all who live in it from the forces of evil.
A breathtaking tale of the rich, wild world and all its wonder from acclaimed nature writer and Costa Award-shortlisted novelist, Melissa Harrison - the perfect read for children for spring and summer! Three tiny, ancient beings - Moss, Burnet and Cumulus, once revered as Guardians of the Wild World - wake from winter hibernation in their beloved ash tree home. When it is destroyed, they set off on an adventure to find more of their kind, a journey which takes them first into the deep countryside and then the heart of a city. Helped along the way by birds and animals, the trio search for a way to survive and thrive in a precious yet disappearing world ... The breathtaking children's debut from acclaimed nature writer and literary fiction novelist, Melissa Harrison,. Inspired by 1942 classic The Little Grey Men by BB, with shades of The Borrowers. A tale of disappearing wilderness that couldn't be more relevant in today's environmental crisis, brought to life for children by three tiny, funny, eternal beings - the hidden folk.
The Branford Boase prizewinning author has produced another winner with his second book. This is the thrilling story of Queenie de la Cruz, an ordinary girl who happens to be a big fan of world’s most popular fizzy drink. When a bottle washes up at her feet on the beach near her run-down house, this is not unusual- the beach is so covered with rubbish she hardly notices it. But this bottle contains the top-secret recipe for her favourite drink. Priceless information that the big corporation wants back at any cost! The way they manipulate the media and instigate a world wide search for Queenie is genuinely scary and thought provoking. While on the run Queenie comes to realise a lot about the world and the threats it faces from big business and consumerism. She also realises the value of friendship, finds her courage to stand up for what is right and that some things are more important than money. The suspense filled plot will keep readers guessing and the powerful underlying environmental message will strike home. A story which, like his debut novel Kick, looks at the darker side of consumerism and big business and its worldwide affects, but this is so successfully wrapped up in a really great story that this will be a really popular read as well as a valuable discussion starter.
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