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Paul’s life changes in totally unexpected ways when he discovers a little ghost living in the keyhole of his front door. The two quickly become friends and no wonder, Zippel the ghost is irresistible – funny, mischievous and thoroughly well-meaning, if totally baffled by modern life (he’s particularly fascinated by the flush on the toilet). Together they have some excellent adventures, Zippel getting up to all sorts of tricks in an old castle and taking ingenious revenge on a couple of bullies who’ve been tormenting Paul. Full colour illustrations by Axel Scheffler perfectly capture the droll humour of the stories and this is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. Buy a copy and don’t be surprised if you find readers checking out keyholes in the hope of finding their own Zippel.
November 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2019 | The delightful Meerkats are back for a new and special Christmas adventure. Everyone in the Meerkat family is excitedly getting ready for the perfect Christmas in their home in the Kalahari Desert. But Sunny is sure that something is missing. Well, many things! His Book on Christmas tells him that the perfect weather needs to be snow, the perfect presents have to be in a huge pile, the perfect dinner has to include well-boiled sprouts while the perfect music to accompany it all has to be Christmas carols. Donning his Christmas hat, Sunny sets off on an adventure to find somewhere more Christmassy. Visiting his friends around the world, Sunny finds that some have snow, some have presents, some have sprouts but all have something missing …
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2019 | A touching story about family interactions – and hair! When Dad takes his son to have his hair cut they spin the stories of Rapunzel and Sampson into the excitement of a hair cut. The new look brings new power! But when Dad goes away there are no more haircuts. The little boy gets more and more lost as his hair grows longer and longer. It is as if his thoughts and feelings are all tangled up in the wayward curls. How will he ever feel happy again? Poet Joe Coehlo tells the story of a moment of sadness in a child’s life with great sensitivity and a suitably hopeful ending.
From the one-of-a-kind author of The Poet X comes a one-of-a-kind novel suffused in YA’s finest features - friendship, shifting family relationships, fighting to find your voice, romantic passion – and more besides, thanks to the exuberant drive of its teen mom protagonist. Emoni has an extraordinary gift for creative cooking and a complicated home life. Her mom, whose family is “straight-from-the-Carolinas Black” died in childbirth, which caused her grief-stricken Puerto Rican dad to head home to his island. As a result Emoni was raised by his mother, the fabulous ‘Buela. Emoni is used to hearing other people’s problems with her dual heritage (“it’s like I’m some long-division problem folks keep wanting to parcel into pieces, and they don’t hear me when I say: I don’t reduce, homies. The whole of me is Black. The whole of me is whole”), but since falling pregnant in her freshman year she has a new set of struggles to contend with. It’s not easy being a teenage mom while also studying, working and dealing with Babygirl’s judgmental paternal grandmother, but somehow Emoni keeps it all going, finding soulful solace in the kitchen: “I’m happier in the kitchen than anywhere else in the world…my food doesn’t just taste good, it is good – straight up bottled goodness that warms you and makes you feel better about your life”. Enrolling on a culinary arts class makes Emoni even more determined to accomplish her gastronomic career goals, and also brings her heatedly close to new boy Malachi. But with multiple obstacles at every turn, when life reaches boiling point her best friend and family step-up as supporting sous chefs. Spiced with inspirational wisdom (“Taking risks and making choices in spite of fear – it’s what makes our life story compelling” says one of Emoni’s teachers; “The world is a turntable that never stops spinning; as humans we merely chose the tracks we want to sit out and the ones that inspire us to dance,” says Emoni), this luminous novel challenges multiple stereotypes and dances to its own love-infused, inspirational beat.
A new Timmy Failure book is always a cause for celebration and this is another glorious mix of humour, surrealism, incompetent detection – and chickens. Timmy is on holiday in Florida with his mum and her new husband. With Total the polar bear hiding out in Cuba he needs a new sidekick – step up Emilio Empanada, willing if nervous unpaid intern. Together they cause the kind of chaos and confusion that is Timmy’s natural state, while adopting a chicken along the way, and it’s wonderfully funny. The description of a surprise meeting with his father for Timmy tugs at the heartstrings as well as finding the funny bone. Stephan Pastis’s cartoon illustrations are a joy in themselves and this is clever, original, inspired fun.
A cracking Christmas presentation box comprising a seasonal storybook and snow globe gift. This fully-illustrated seasonal storybook plus snow globe looks like a real labour of love, with no corners cut on the smart gift box packaging that comes replete with golden cloth lining. The story tells how Mrs Claus allocates a personal elf to each child, and it falls to the elf to watch over the child to determine whether they’ve been naughty or nice so Mrs Claus and Santa can “decide what gifts you will receive from your list”. The tale is told from the point of view of Gabriel, an almost-ten-year-old, who’s lost all sense of the magic of Christmas now his dad has a new family who have “everything I could ever want”, while he and his mum will be stuck making their own Christmas decorations and eating chicken. Monumentally disgruntled, Gabriel disobeys his mum and flees to find his dad’s new town. Then, in a strange and initially terrifying turn of events, he encounters one of Santa’s reindeers and – wait for it – his very own elf! The elf certainly has his work cut out persuading Gabriel that Santa is real, but with the help of a magical snow globe and through showing Gabriel the true spirit of Christmas much like the ghosts in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, he manages to do just that. With its mix of real-life worries and seasonal magic, this captures the feeling of being on the brink of not believing in Father Christmas and is underpinned by the message that love is the best gift of all. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading Ambassador
Smart, incisive, brimming with the breath of human experience and written with engaging age-appropriate verve, this clever concept (“a tale told in ten blocks”) is perfectly executed. For the chorus of kids whose lives play out on these impeccably-written pages, the walk home from school represents a rare time of freedom; a period of limbo between being under the watchful eyes of teachers and parents. Unsupervised, the kids reveal their true selves, most of them dealing with hidden heartache and anxieties alongside goofing around, self-reflecting and navigating their way through Middle School. As always with Jason Reynolds, the characterisation is ingeniously vivid, with deep insights expressed through, for example, the different ways kids open their lockers. Many of the stories are intensely poignant, such as that of the Low Cuts crew whose bad behaviour is fuelled by a desperate love for their sick parents. The moment it turns out that Bit the hustler is a “son who was scared. A son who loved his mum” is shatteringly powerful. There’s much humour too, such as the laugh-out-loud scene in which smelly Gregory is slathered in VaporRub by friends seeking to beautify him before he visits a girl he’s keen on. Bittersweet, hard-hitting and powerfully perceptive, these pitch-perfect reader-centric stories shine a light on oft-overlooked lives and ring with empathy and authenticity.
This endearing character-driven treasure from the award-winning author of Dear Martin is a race-against-time romance replete with real-life hardship, class conflict and hope. Rico is a high school senior who works at Gas ‘n’ Go after class to keep her family afloat and then races home to look after her little brother so her mom can pick up extra shifts. In the intensity and exhaustion of this hamster-stuck-in-a-ball situation Rico’s lost sight of what she wants for her future, but selling a jackpot-winning lottery ticket gives her new focus: to find the little old lady she believes won the ticket. Then maybe – just maybe – she’ll be rewarded with a life-changing cut of the multi-million-dollar winnings. To this end, Rico reluctantly enlists the help of handsome, rich “Zan-the-Man”, a tech whizz who “has no idea what it’s like to constantly be on the brink of not having what you need to survive.” But, as Rico discovers, while Zan’s set to take over the throne of his family’s toilet paper empire, his dad has made sure he knows the value of money. Their opposite-side-of-the-tracks narrative plays out with heated banter and feverish frisson, with class conflict rearing its head at every turn as Rico struggles to accept Zan’s generosity just like her mom refuses to apply for government support. Quirkiness comes courtesy of interludes told from the points of views of inanimate objects - the winning ticket, a taxi, a stash of $100 dollar bills, Zan’s fancy bed sheets, a salt shaker – and the novel’s conclusion is as thrilling and life-affirming as it is unexpected. Readers will be left rooting for Rico and Zan to forge the futures they deserve.
October 2019 Book of the Month | Kate Milner, winner of the 2018 Klaus Flugge Award for most promising newcomer to children’s book illustration has certainly lived up to her laurels with this delicate and subtle picturebook, which packs a real emotional and political punch. It is a cause of great shame to many, in this country and in the 21st century, that more children than ever are living in poverty and that there has been a huge expansion in the use of foodbanks. Mum works really hard and watches every penny, but today is a no money day. Her little girl, who tells the story, takes great pleasure in life from the simple, free activities they share- visits to the library and dressing up in the charity shops. Unlike her humiliated Mum, she loves the visits to the food bank for the drink and biscuits and the kind ladies to talk to. On the way home they play the maybe one day game- dreaming of pets and washing machines and new warm clothes. They go to bed and “because of kind people our tummies are full”. Nothing is laboured in text or image- the colours are subdued but still there. The despair and tiredness of the mother is evident in every expression and nuance of body language, but so is the warmth and love between them and so is the irrepressible spirit of a child who knows they are loved even if as the pictures subtly show us, she is clearly malnourished. This is a book which can be used with a very wide range of children and will encourage empathy and discussion of a very current and appalling crisis in our society.
October 2019 Book of the Month | New Yorker Leah is a tenacious, snarky queen of quips. She’s also an exceptional chess player but decides to give up the game after losing a match that, had she won, would have seen her move up the rankings to grandmaster status. Feeling the pressure of her mom and coach, feeling that she’s let down her beloved dad, she decides to get a tattoo, “proving to myself and the world that there is life after chess and that I’m not just a pawn for other people to push around.” Leah’s certainly not a girl given to being pushed around but, with the skills of a master weaver, the author sensitively shows how grief’s deep wounds underpin her anger and tendency to drive people away. When her tattoo plan is foiled by one of her blog readers, Kit, who makes big bucks from illegal chess hustling, Leah winds up making a thousand dollars in a couple of hours. It’s through the police busting one of the illegal games that she finds out about chessboxing, “the ultimate contest of brains and brawn”. The thrill Leah feels for this hybrid sport’s speed and tension is palpable, and she’s a natural at it too, with her boxing coach praising her exceptional resilience: “You never know what’s inside a fighter until they’re flat out on the canvas”, a perceptive comment that encapsulates Leah’s story journey. She’s grappling with grief, but making emotional breakthroughs and learning new skills, to the point that she’s ready to fight Death (a formidable champion chessboxer) in Vegas. With a truly pulse-quickening climax, this exceptional novel rages with raw emotion. It’s a bona fide page-turner seared with life-affirming insights into grief, friendship and finding new paths.
Expect this whimsical and gorgeously illustrated picture book to infect children with an urge to go exploring, if not bird-spotting. Otto’s family are obsessive bird-spotters, indeed, so deep is their passion that they’ve turned their home into a hide. Otto though loves exploring and it’s on one of his trips that he finds, and secretly brings home, a very unusual baby bird. He’s able to hide it from his family because his new friend proves surprisingly good at camouflage. But, as the bird grows (and grows), Otto realises that it’s missing its family and recruits his own to help track them down. There’s lots to enjoy in the story and Graham Carter’s glowing illustrations are full of treats too, the camouflage scenes are particularly delightful. A funny, original story with satisfying underlying themes of adventure, friendship and family.
The eagerly-anticipated sequel to Tom Fletcher's bestselling magical adventure, The Christmasaurus. 'She is the best-kept Christmas secret of all,' whispered Santa Claus. 'Which is surprising, because she is so powerful that Christmas itself would not exist without her. She is older than time itself, yet still as young as tomorrow. She is known only as the Winter Witch.' A year has passed since a boy named William Trundle had an incredible adventure with the most extraordinary dinosaur: the Christmasaurus. Now, William is about to be swept back to the North Pole and meet the icy, mysterious and magical Winter Witch, whose power to control time allows Santa to travel all around the world on Christmas Eve. And when William learns that the fate of Christmas hangs in the balance, he and the Christmasaurus must risk everything to save it . . . Full of magic, music, and a friendship like no other, The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch is the most enchanting Christmas read for the whole family.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2019 | October 2019 Debut of the Month | A warm-hearted picture book about a special friendship in which free spirited Emily tempts anxious and pampered Frederick to brave the outdoors and enjoy some wonderful and unexpected adventures. Emma Chichester Clark’s illustrations capture the magic of the children’s friendship and play perfectly.
Interest Age 5-8 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2019 | A wonderful adventure for a little girl who overcomes all her fears and gets an unexpected flight in a hot air balloon. Nick-named Scaredy Cat -Sophie by her sister, Sophie seems to be frightened of almost everything and so gets left out of a family trip to the fair to see a famous balloonist show off the tricks of his trade. Alone after the family have gone, Sophie’s great longing to see the amazing balloonist go up, up in the sky inspires her to overcome her fear and bravely set off for the fair alone. Soon Sophie finds that she too has an unexpected and very exciting trip ahead of her! Based on a story of Sophie Blanchard one of the first female astronauts this is a charming story that will encourage all readers to be brave. High quality cream paper and a special easy to read font ensure a smooth read for all.
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.
September 2019 Book of the Month | Hitting rock bottom, hanging on, and coming back from the edge. Brian Conaghan has an incredible talent for telling it like it is. His characters are authentic and absorbing; flawed underdogs with serious troubles, like 17-year-old Maggie whose dad “drank his liver into a spreadable pâté”, and whose laid-off dinner lady mum is “gifted in the art of attracting pure dickheads”. And Maggie? Maggie’s “an island: the way I dress; the music I listen to; the patter my brain discharges; everything”. Maggie’s struggling to deal with the tragic loss of her best friend Moya whose death she feels excruciatingly guilty about. Moya was a “mad riot” of a girl, but as Maggie “couldn’t be arsed with all the love-struck vom” Moya was spewing, because she didn’t speak out against the Internet trolls, she believes she was a “failure friend”. Alongside her grief, guilt and self-harm, Maggie struggles with her mother’s severe depression, but also tingles with the hope that comes from starting art college: “now’s the time to make something of myself.” Indeed, she soon forms a band with new friends. Throughout, Maggie’s love of bands like The Smiths looms large, as does her relationship with her depressed mother. Maggie’s rage at her mother’s condition derives entirely from her primal love for her. She’s desperate for Mum to be happy, and her scheme to help her find happiness is heart-achingly poignant. Grief, depression, self-harm, online abuse, this novel is no walk in the park, yet it never drags the reader down. On the contrary. It’s sensitive, insightful, funny (Maggie is a master of biting one-liners), and genuinely uplifting as Maggie and Mum begin to find their way back to the world, with glinting prospects of love and new life.
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.
Uncle Gobb is back for a third utterly ridiculous, absolutely hilarious and totally originally told adventure. Michael Rosen and Neal Layton use a brilliant integration of words and pictures to tell this meandering and many-layered story which engages readers with the complexity and creativity of storytelling.
Soar into space with this glorious love story of alien folk, from the creators of The Gruffalo and Stick Man. The Smeds (who are red) never mix with the Smoos (who are blue). So when a young Smed and Smoo fall in love, their families strongly disapprove. But peace is restored and love conquers all in this happiest of love stories. There's even a gorgeous purple baby to celebrate! With fabulous rhymes and breathtaking illustrations, this book is literally out of this world!
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