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The resurgence in crime stories for young readers, led so stylishly by Lauren Child (Ruby Redfort), Lauren St John (Kat Wolfe Investigates) and Robin Stevens (Murder Most Unladylike) continues and readers will find their interest piqued and their brain cells given a good workout by this new detective series. Agatha (after Christie) Oddly has a nose for mystery. Just as well – a hit and run in Hyde Park where she lives with her park keeper dad, leads her into some very strange and really rather dangerous goings on, involving an attempt to destroy the city of London and a very secret, secret society. Added treats for readers include Agatha’s quirky best friend Liam and her rivalry with a bunch of snobby girls at her posh school (she’s on a scholarship).
Surely one for fans of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell, this smart coming-of-age story reels with romance, life lessons and big questions about finding your way. Seventeen-year-olds Reagan and Dee are “friends for infinity”, but they’re also opposites: “In a fairytale, she’d play the good fairy. I’d be the evil witch’s screwup step cousin”, Reagan remarks with characteristic wryness. While Reagan has a history of bad girl behaviour (underage drinking, court appearances and picking bad boys), Dee is a country music superstar who “acts either thirty years old, like a composed professional” or, when she’s with Reagan, “like a twelve year old”. But this summer Reagan plans to get her life back on track as she joins Dee’s first major headline tour. With both girls trying to get over broken relationships, this summer road-trip is a fresh start for them both, but their plans are immediately tainted when a magazine runs a salacious story about Dee. Enter Matt Finch, Dee’s wholesome label-mate. He’s invited to join her tour as a ploy to shift press attention from the alleged “scandal” to speculation that there might be something between him and Dee. The truth is, it’s Reagan who falls for Matt, with his understated handsomeness and a straight-talking vibe she totally relates to. As their romance ignites with electrifying passion, there’s a rocky road ahead for all three as further salacious allegations are made and various mounting pressures threaten friendships and burgeoning romance. The music tour set-up makes this an entertaining escapist page-turner, with the relatable real-life conundrums and dramas providing thought-provoking profundity – the essential ingredients of a rollicking summer read.
There’s something fishy going in in this cat’s house alright, but unfortunately nothing to do with the kind that ends up in a dishy. Why are the family oblivious to requests for fish treats and instead busy decorating, looking dreamy and buying little bootees? Children will cotton on to what’s going on much quicker than the increasingly grumpy and worried cat narrating the story and will love filling the gaps between the words and the pictures. They’ll also love Cat’s expression when the new baby arrives home. Polly Dunbar’s illustrations are child-centered, deceptively simple and satisfying, and the book is a wonderful way to explore feelings. It will be particularly helpful too to any child about to become a big brother or sister, after all Cat is still loved by the family, and particularly by the new baby!
June 2018 Book of the Month | Hilarious and heartfelt Judy Blume-brilliant tale of a girl who’s struggling to come to terms with her parents’ divorce. Oh, and George Clooney makes a cameo appearance too. From the off, this novel fizzes with energy and funniness (the cat poo/stepsister incident is truly inspired), but beneath the laughs, the hilarious detective episodes and slapstick moments, Violet is struggling to come to terms with the fact that her director dad has moved to LA and has new twin daughters with a younger actress. To make matters worse, after serial-dating a succession of loser boyfriends, Mom has now hooked up with the dorkiest guy imaginable. Even worse still, he’s called Dudley Wiener. Something must be done! And so with typical verve, Violet writes to her mom’s celebrity love, George Clooney, in the hope that they’ll hook up. Then, a fortunate turn of events (plus some conniving) present Violet with an opportunity to actually meet him… What could possibly go wrong? Fast-paced and featuring a fabulous cast of side characters (especially best friend Phoebe and love interest Jean-Paul), this is a riotously funny read with an inspiring lightly-told message - “You have to be open to new experiences. You have to take the good with the bad.”
June 2018 Debut of the Month | Joseph Coelho dedicates this lovely picture book to ‘everyone who misses someone’ and it’s particularly apposite for any child who has recently lost a grandparent. The story is narrated by a little girl who describes happy times with her grandad, ordinary everyday experiences interspersed with vivid metaphor, ‘if all the world were deep space, I’d orbit my grandad like the moon and our laughs would be shooting stars’. As the story continues, it’s clear Grandad has died, but writing down her memories ensures he will always be with her. Joseph Coelho is a fine poet and this is a joy to read aloud; Allison Colpoy’s illustrations make it beautiful to look at too and it deserves a place in every child’s collection.
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.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2018 | Full of hope and wonder but also shot through with deep feelings of sadness this is a beautiful story about the importance of belonging. Azi’s home is with his grandfather on a Mediterranean island but he has always known that it isn’t where he was born. When Grandfather goes missing Azi, together with the dog who has befriended him and a young girl who is visiting the island, sets out to find him and to discover the truth about where he really comes from. Sarah Lean has created an original and touching story based on true stories about migration. Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for May 2018 Square by Mac Barnett A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge A Perfect Day by Lane Smith Gaspard the Fox by Zeb Soanes & James Mayhew Wonder Goal! by Michael Foreman The Sand Dog by Sarah Lean The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell Plantopedia by Adrienne Barman
June 2018 Book of the Month | Wonderfully chilling, this is another thrilling treat from E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars. Two girls, in an intense relationship are both looking for escape but at what cost? When one disappears events suddenly become darker and we fall into a world of murder, fraud and villainy as identities are blurred and friendships crossed. There's a fine line between superhero and supervillain when someone needs to save herself. Lockhart's writing is edgy, fast paced and keeps you guessing until the end. Creepy, provocative and daring the protagonists (Jule and Imogen) continually leave you with a sense of unease as they draw you in not knowing what to believe and where the novel will take you next. We're looking in from the outside but Lockhart only lets you see what she wants you to before shocking you over and over with the sudden twists in events. Brilliant as always, E. Lockhart continues to enthrall with this, her latest thought provoking novel. ~ Shelley Fallows - You can also find Shelley here.
By the always-current Sophy Henn this new series for children just starting to read on their own is to be celebrated. Jeanie, aged 7 ¾, has a special relationship with her grandma, known to the family as Bad Nana. She doesn’t mind her name, in fact, Jeanie says, ‘I think she quite likes it’. Bad Nana isn’t really bad, and if she’s often up-to-no-good, completely embarrassing or a little bit cheeky, she’s always good fun. There’s certainly lots of fun to be had in the different stories Jeanie shares with us. Children are fascinated by the way old people have a license to misbehave, and they will be delighted by Bad Nana’s exploits which break all the rules of good behaviour. The illustrations, also by Sophy Henn, are stylish and distinctive, but children will immediately recognise themselves in Jeanie. This lovely, hugely appealing book is one to recommend to fans of Lauren Child and her Clarice Bean stories in particular.
A sublimely fresh and moving exploration of how it feels to be teetering on that giddy precipice between childhood and adulthood. Marcie is on the verge of everything changing. About to leave school and head to university, she feels lost, left in limbo. She’s struggling with family, she has yet to discover her own dreams and she simply doesn’t know what she wants. Cue the re-entry of her childhood imaginary best friend, Thor, a boy with bear arms whom Marcie cast from her life some years ago. Through their alternating narratives, we learn that both Marcie and Thor are heading towards a time of epic transformation, and together they navigate these terrifying tides of change. Spiced with pithy life lessons - ”A rollercoaster’s only fun because you know you’re getting off at some point” - this really is an unusually ingenious novel. The wildly off-the-wall set-up casts a soulful spell that becomes more potent when readers take time to take-in every single word. A rare gem.
In a Nutshell: Fractured families | First love | Fresh starts | 16-year-old Holly feels like an outsider, except when she’s swimming at her local pool: “Under the surface, deep in the blue-lit water, nobody can see me. There’s nobody to judge the clothes I wear, or the way my hair frizzles”. It’s at the pool she meets Ed, who’s “not like the boys at school who are either geeky or cocky and smart-arsed and think they’re all that. He’s different”. While romantic feelings, evoked in all their dizzying wonder, swell poolside, at home the seas are stormier. Struggling with depression, Holly’s mum has “become so inward-looking that she hasn’t a clue what I do with my time”. But as Holly’s home-life begins to brighten, Ed reveals that he’s grappling with a serious domestic situation of his own. Warm-hearted, highly readable and romantic, with the bleaker elements of both teenagers’ lives handled with a sensitive lightness of touch, readers will undoubtedly root for Holly and Ed to find their happy ever after. ~ Joanne Owen
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