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The stories and novels in this section cover a range of themes from family issues to mystery adventures. You can find stories about the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren, to sibling rivalry and blended families, suitable for the smallest children up to young adults.
Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead writes books that are rich with ideas and acknowledge her readers’ intelligence and intuition. Eight-year-old Bea is the central character in her latest novel, and, typically, there’s lots going on in her life. She divides her time between her mother’s and father’s homes following their divorce and visits a therapist who helps with her anxieties. The story culminates in her father’s wedding to his new partner, Jesse. As ever, we move back and forth in time, and discover much about Bea’s inner life as well as her daily routine in New York. Relationships with family and friends propel the story and there are some real shocks and surprises for readers, plus a gradual understanding of the things that will never change for Bea. It’s beautifully written, a thoughtful, sensitive account of growing up and growing resilience and trust. Fans of Rebecca Stead will also enjoy Kate DiCamillo’s books and Susin Nielsen’s.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2020 | May 2020 Debut of the Month | Winner of the Stonewall Book Award | Shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize 2020 | Uplifting and dazzlingly unique, this coming-of-age treasure explores identity and sexuality with an emboldening message to remember that “you have the right to be you”. As a young Barbie-loving boy, mixed race Michael wonders if he’s “only half” of everything, to which his mother poignantly replies: “Don’t let anyone tell you/that you are half-black/and half-white. Half-Cypriot/ and half-Jamaican./ You are a full human being.” But he doesn’t feel like a whole human being. Dubbed a “queerdo and weirdo” by bullies and subjected to “batty bwoy” taunts through his teenage years, he leaves London for Brighton University with hope in his heart. But even here Michael feels “like Goldilocks; trying to find a group of people/the perfect fit for me”. He doesn’t feel black enough for the Caribbean Society, or Greek enough for Hellenic Society, or queer enough for the LBGT Society. Then Michael finally finds a fit at Drag Society where he becomes The Black Flamingo, “someone fabulous, wild and strong. With or without a costume on.” Michael’s journey is complex, moving and told with a raw vitality that makes the soul soar and the heart sing, with Anshika Khullar’s magnificent illustrations and the smart design adding further depth, prompting the reader to pause for thought as his story requires.
Twenty years after the publication of the book that must be in every nursery and primary school library, we have another vividly colourful jungle tale filled with a perfectly judged rhyming text that is a joy to read aloud and sharing a really positive message about being true to yourself and celebrating all sorts of achievements. Guy Parker-Rees has a very distinctive technicolour palette and has talked about his love of drawing elephants, which really shows in the endearing cast of characters here. It is time for the all -important Elephant games when, one by one, the young elephants compete to impress King Elephant Mighty and earn their Elephant Name. So the loudest becomes Elephant Noisy and the strongest Elephant Strong and so on, but right at the end is little Num-Num who did not know what his talent was and whatever he tried, failed to impress the king. He gets called Elephant Nothing at All and sadly Num- Num decides to leave. But the animal friends he gains at his new watering hole convince him of his own worth and he returns to put the king right. This positive message of affirmation is a really timely one and I can see that this text will be as universally popular as its predecessor and a classic in its own right. Indispensable for every library.
With the pizzazz and humour that make his Dragonsitter books so popular, Josh Lacey tells the story of one girl’s efforts to save the planet. Like many ten-year olds Hope Jones is worried about the state of the environment, and about plastic pollution in particular. Her dad is always saying if you want something done, you have to do it yourself, so she sets about doing what she can. Her adventures are recounted via her lively blog and we get a ringside view of her peaceful protest outside the local supermarket, interactions with local businesses, and conversations with neighbours, friends and parents of friends. As her campaign reaches more and more people, Hope realises that we can all make a difference, if we’re determined enough. There are great illustrations throughout, and it all makes for a fast, entertaining and positive read. Hooray for Hope Jones!
Following on from Lily’s Just Fine, this Scottish seaside-set romance tackles issues of self-confidence and coming-of-age confusion with a lovely lightness of touch. Alongside a sweet rollercoaster romance, the author explores how difficult it can be to find your way in the world, how difficult it is to make life-changing decisions. Gemma is one of life’s self-doubters. Painfully unsure of herself, she’s the polar opposite of her super-confident, super-enthusiastic best friend Lily, whom we met in the first of this four-book series. A talented musician, Gemma’s been offered an audition at the prestigious Glasgow Conservatoire, but she’s not sure she can face it, or if this is what she really wants. Meanwhile, Lily’s ex-boyfriend is already at uni in Glasgow. Confident coaster Jamie seems to have the world at his feet, but beneath his happy-go-lucky exterior, Jamie’s struggling - failing his assignments and only on this course due to parental pressure. As it all gets too much, he and Gemma strike up an unlikely friendship - and more - when Jamie convinces her to form a band with him. The path of their romance is far from smooth, with Gemma doubting herself at every turn, and Jamie struggling to find a new life course, but the cute couple carry readers with them every step of the way. You can’t help but root for Gemma to be happy, to feel at ease, to find her way in the world. And Jamie too. Far from being the cocksure young man people take him to be, he’s also a lost soul, floundering to find his way. With a sweet sub-plot about mentoring and empathy alongside the romantic drama, this a fun summer read with emotional wisdom.
Winner of the Awesome Book Award 2020 | June 2018 Debut of the Month | Boy Underwater is one of those rare books that manages to be both very funny and heartbreakingly sad. Being pulled to safety from the bottom of Lewisham Pool by classmate Veronique (losing his trunks in the process) is a terrible experience for Cymbeline Igloo, as it would be for any 9 year old, but it leads his mum to have a breakdown. Cym has never understood her determination to keep him away from water, but now it’s only by uncovering the family secrets that he can give her the help she needs. Cymbeline carries the story brilliantly, confiding in readers all his confusion (the adult world really is incomprehensible), his concerns and his hopes, so that we live it as he does. What he finds out is horribly sad, but leads to a new beginning, and a kind of healing. This beautifully told story is one to recommend to fans of Susin Nielsen, Ross Welford and Christopher Edge.
May 2020 Debut of the Month | At seventeen, Brooklyn hipster Cal is a successful social media journalist accustomed to living in the public eye, with a whopping 435,000 followers on the FlashFame app. But even Cal isn’t ready for the unforgiving media storm he’s thrust into when his pilot dad is shortlisted for NASA’s Orpheus mission to Mars. Initially dead against leaving Brooklyn, Cal begins to wonder whether “maybe Clear Lake, Texas, has a story out there just waiting for me to uncover.” And then there’s handsome Leon, one of the other “Astrokids”, who’s set his heart pounding before they’ve even met. On arrival, and immediately thrust into the spotlight by StarWatch reality TV show, Cal finds himself “admitting I like our new home, even this town”, which in turn “feels like I’m abandoning my old life.” Maybe this is down to his contradictory nature - Cal is anything but a straightforward teenager. He doesn’t think like one. He doesn’t speak like one. Indeed, his thought processes and dialogue can seem out of kilter with his age. He needs everything just-so, but at the same acts impulsively. For example, he can’t stop himself from broadcasting news about his dad to his followers, which - as predicted - results in him facing the wrath of StarWatch. Cal’s settling-in has a lot to do with his rollercoaster romance with Leon. It’s starts out with the thrust of a rocket launch (“This crush is strong. This crush is too powerful. This crush will be the end of me”), and then comes a crash to earth alongside tragedy striking the mission. In the aftermath of this, Cal finds himself working to expose Starwatch’s agenda, both to clear his name and save the mission, and the truths revealed sure ain’t pretty. Covering mental health issues (via Leon’s depression and Cal’s mom’s anxiety) alongside a whirlwind coming-of-age gay love story, The Gravity of Us is an entertaining YA debut that gives many underrepresented folk a chance to see themselves on the page, with the added kick of space exploration and media ruthlessness.
It’s hard to believe that this is the 27th Elmer storybook as it feels as fresh as one of the brilliantly coloured flowers in his jungle. The elephants are all set to play a trick on Elmer on his birthday. They tell the other animals to act as if they’ve forgotten, nobody is to wish him ‘Happy Birthday’. Lion thinks it’s a funny kind of joke, and lots of the other animals seem confused but the elephants are so excited they don’t stop to listen. Perhaps they should though, because the surprise doesn’t work as they’d hoped. Even so, everyone is laughing and enjoying cake on the last page. David McKee never fails to entertain and surprise, and Elmer and his many friends remain top company for the very young.
Everyone with young children will recognise the two little Huffalots at the centre of this story, and the transformation that happens to them during their day. First thing in the morning, they are very grumpy, slow to get dressed and squabbling over breakfast. As the day goes on though, and they have fun in the park and more fun at home, they change into Huffalittles, and then into something different again. Just as well too, because it’s around the end of the day that Mum shows signs of becoming a Huffalot… Eve Coy’s gorgeous illustrations of Mum and her two children are full of movement, the ordinary moments of their day beautifully observed, and the story itself will have everyone smiling.
25% Sisters 25% Sorrow 25% Joy 25% Forgiveness | From the multi-award-winning author of The Poet X and With the Fire on High comes Elizabeth Acevedo’s exceptional dual-voiced novel about loss, love and sisterhood across the sea, a story partly sparked by the fatal crash of a flight from NYC to Santo Domingo in 2001. Camino Rios has always lived in the Dominican Republic with her aunt Tia, “a woman who speaks to the dead, who negotiates with spirits”, a woman who’s like a mother to her: “Even when Mama was alive, Tia was the other mother of my heart.” Life’s not easy for them on the island, but they have it better than their neighbours as a result of Camino’s beloved Papi working in the US for most of year. To Camino, Papi is a “A king who built an empire so I’d have a throne to inherit”, and she lives for the summer months when he comes home to them. But all life is thrown into terrible disarray when she goes to meet Papi at the airport and learns that his plane has fallen from the sky, and then: “I am swallowed by this shark-toothed truth.” This story is blessed with such divinely piercing language throughout. At the same time, across the Atlantic, Yahaira Rios learns that her hero Papi has died in a plane crash. She already knew he had a wife on the island (but not of his secret daughter), and has always longed to reconcile her Dominican heritage with her American life: “Can you be from a place you have never been? You can find the island stamped all over me, but what would the island find if I was there? Can you claim a home that does not know you, much less claim you as its own?” When it emerges that Papi wishes to be buried back in DR, Yahaira’s Mami insists that she will never let her “touch foot on the sands of that tierra.” But Yahaira has other plans, not least when she’s contacted by a girl named Camino Rios who bears an undeniable resemblance to Papi, and to her too. As well as being exceptionally affecting on grief, forgiveness and family secrets, Clap When You Land is also devastatingly sharp on the exploitative tendencies of tourism. In Camino’s words: “I am from a playground place…Our land, lush and green, is bought and sold to foreign powers so they can build luxury hotels...Even the women, girls like me, our mothers and tias, our bodies are branded jungle gyms…Who reaps? Who eats? Not us. Not me.” Overflowing with truths of the heart, and truths about inequalities that need to be broken, while also addressing the complexities of what it means to be of a place, I can’t praise this highly enough.
Welcome back to Planet Omar! The second book in Zanib Mian's laugh-out-loud series, with amazing cartoon-style illustrations from Nasaya Mafaridik. Perfect for fans of Tom Gates and Wimpy Kid. Omar and his friends have been saving up their pocket money for ages so they can have the world's most epic Nerf Blaster battle. But when Omar discovers that his mosque is in trouble, they decide to donate their pennies to help save it. Then they try to raise some more money by: Doing some chores (boorrring) Selling some home-made cookies (deeelicious) Holding a talent contest (YESSSSSSS) Everything goes PERFECTLY until the money mysteriously goes missing. Can they work out who has taken it in time to stop the mosque closing down? And what exactly is Omar's sister Maryam hiding in her room...? Have you read the first book in the series, Accidental Trouble Magnet? Love Reading4Kids called it 'irresistible reading'!
Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2020 | As winter approaches, a polar bear snuggles inside the den she has made in the snowdrifts of the frozen north and waits for her cubs to be born. When they arrive they are curious about the world beyond their cosy home. As they learn about the secrets of the world Mama Bear constantly reassures them “You’re Snug with Me”.
At last all were gathered inside the ark. It heaved with animals, large and small. Mrs Noah wore a brand-new coat, with a hood and a cape - and very deep pockets. Lots of pockets. When Mr Noah builds the ark, he makes two lists - one for all the animals who will come on board and one for those troublesome creatures he will leave behind. Meanwhile, Mrs Noah gets out her sewing machine and makes a coat with very deep pockets. Lots of pockets.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2020 | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | February 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2019 | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 9 | Cleverly set within a gripping adventure, Lark is a deeply touching story of the special bond between brothers. Older brother Nicky narrates the story of the day he and his younger brother Kenny set out on a simple day out on the moors. Proposed by their father as a way of filling time while they wait nervously for their mum to return from her new life in Canada, it is meant to a fun day out tinged with a bit of nostalgia as they are retracing a walk that he used to enjoy. But the simple walk which begins in a light hearted way soon becomes a deadly dangerous adventure as the weather conditions close in, the boys get completely lost and Kenny has to show exceptional courage and intelligence to make sure he can get Kenny home safely. Anthony McGowan maintains the intensity of the story throughout while also keeping the writing simple.
Not since Adrian Mole opened his diary have the thoughts and innermost feelings of an adolescent boy been examined so precisely or with such heart. Stan is twelve, shy and a worrier, so the thought of a holiday in Italy with his friend Felix and Felix’s family freaks him out. He’s going though: we meet him at the airport drawing up a ‘duck-it’ list of things he hopes he’ll never have to do. Little does he know that he’ll tick off six out of ten of them on his holiday, and enjoy it too. The first-person narrative lets us in on all Stan’s thoughts, but he’s a good observer of others so we learn loads about the others in the holiday party too, kids and grown-ups. There are laugh-out-loud scenes and moments of pure agony, and through it all Stan is learning loads about himself and life in general. Honest, revealing, compassionate and so entertaining, this is a must read for all the Stans out there – adults, give yourselves a treat and read it too.
August 2020 Book of the Month | Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Laura Dockrill packs a really big story into this compact little book and though she tackles some big issues too, she keeps them specific to her set of characters, so that even quite young readers will understand. Sequin’s mum is a dressmaker, sewing gowns and fabulous outfits for the stars. She never takes any credit though, preferring to stay in the background and in fact, she’s literally hiding herself away in the family’s flat at the top of a tower block. When Sequin does a school presentation about her mum, no-one believes her. It makes Sequin angry with her mum, but then a terrible danger threatens them and they both have to face their real fears. It’s a story that readers will absolutely love, with a twist that they’ll want to return to again and again. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+
Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 | From acclaimed author Eve Ainsworth comes this new novella that packs a powerful punch in its openhearted, honest account of a teen girl trying her hardest to cope with her mum’s alcoholism. Violet has always seen her mum as being “strong, funny and in control”, as a “pretty, glamorous and confident” person who firmly believes, “You have to give a good impression at all times.” In contrast, Violet is “the quiet one …I’m the worrier who can never be confident.” But since her mum’s boyfriend left, Mum’s “it’s just one glass” of wine is starting to have an affect on their family life, with Violet increasingly having to pick-up caring for her little brother when Mum’s too hung-over to get out of bed. As Violet finds more empty bottles around the house, and finds herself having to lie to cover her mum, matters come to a scary head and she knows she has to be brave and seek help. Truly brilliant at capturing Violet’s conflicted feelings – an excruciating pull between love and anger – this compelling, moving story will engross fans of true-to-life fiction, while casting sensitive light on a tough subject. And, since this is published by the ever-brilliant Barrington Stoke, this book is especially suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers, with its expert attention to vocabulary, layout, font and paper.
Will Levine has two passions in his life, the local wildlife reserve behind his school and the turtles he has found there. The rest of his life is a bit of a disaster in his eyes – he is given an unkind nickname at school, due to a facial difference, he has to cope with an upcoming Bar Mitzvah, and he has a community service he needs to fulfil for a boy who is confined to a hospital room. Then, to make matters worse, the county plans to sell off the nature reserve. Plus, there is a looming surgical procedure for Will – who hates having blood tests, never mind anything else. How can he make these things work for him – how can he survive it all, when all he really wants to do is look after his turtles and hide away. Slowly Will responds to the needs of RJ who is stuck in the hospital, and they build a strong and wildly adventurous friendship that takes Will away from his comfort zone and helps RJ experience things he would never have chance to do himself. As well as the obvious empathy the book elicits from its readers there is a wonderful amount of humour, and some passing knowledge gained about turtles too! A wonderful story for all of life’s outsiders – offering hope and new perspectives.
This dramatic and touching play brings Manchester during the Second World War and its people to life, and provides a variety of opportunities for school classes to explore both historical and literacy topics in an involving and creative setting. Also includes helpful tips on staging and costume.
Bear loves lots of things, like Mommy and Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa, and his best friend Bruno. But there’s room in his big bear-y heart for other things too, like wearing his underpants on his head, the funny noise Bruno makes when he has windypops, and eating ice cream and apple pie.
Special 40th Anniversary Edition | It’s hard to believe that Not Now Bernard is 40 years old. It’s as fresh and funny as the day it was first written and, best of all, just as shocking. In fact, it doesn’t matter how many times you read it, the end is always an absolute thrill and if that’s not genius, I don’t know what is. In the story Bernard tries unsuccessfully to get his parents’ attention, getting the same reply each time: ‘Not now, Bernard’. Even when he’s eaten by a monster, his parents don’t notice! Parents have to feel uncomfortable, while children themselves are alive to the fact that the monster is probably Bernard (and that we’ve all got a bit of monster in us). One of the greatest books for children ever written.
Yoga has never seemed more tempting than in this lovely new book, written by Fearne Cotton and illustrated by Sheena Dempsey. Eleven little children, the ‘Yoga babies’, are shown doing different yoga poses, always with a parent or adult nearby, and the benefits are clear: yoga is just right for stretching, developing physical skills, calming and relaxing – and it looks great fun too. The text is in rhyme, perfect for reading aloud, and the illustrations are full of details that little children will recognise, while also clearly demonstrating ten different yoga poses. Fearne Cotton clearly finds yoga hugely satisfying and helpful and the book conveys her passion very well indeed.
April 2020 Debut of the Month | Margaret Sturton announces herself as a major picture book talent with her debut. Little rabbit Herbert loves foxes. Indeed, he loves them so much he wants to be one, making himself a pair of fox ears and a tail. At first his mummy is amused, then angry when he messes up the living room with red paint and cuts up her dress to make a tail. When she sees him out playing as a fox, despite her instruction to be a ‘good little rabbit’, she is cross again, until she suddenly realises how important it is to Herbert to be a fox. The story is full of comic moments and the little rabbit family will be recognisable to all readers. It’s also a wonderful story about identity and love, delivered lightly but most effectively. Highly recommended.