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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.
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.
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.
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.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2019 | October 2019 Book of the Month | A young meerkat travels the world looking for Christmas in this festive card-packed picture book, perfect for fans of The Jolly Christmas Postman and the modern classic, Meerkat Mail. Sunny isn't quite sure if Christmas in the desert with his meerkat family is the right sort of Christmas - there's no snow, no fir trees and no figgy pudding! So he heads off on a journey round the world looking for the picture perfect Christmas . . . before realizing he might have left it at home after all. From the twice winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal and the creator of Tidy, Cyril and Pat and Again!, Meerkat Christmas is a witty and heartwarming celebration of festive fun and family love that shows Christmas can be whatever you want it to be.
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.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2019 | Once a month, Dad takes his son to the barbers, come rain or shine. But when Dad disappears, this little boy's hair grows big, ginormous, out of control - and so do his feelings. A touching and melodic story of family separation from a child's perspective from the author/illustrator duo who brought us the Amnesty International recommended picture book Luna Loves Library Day.
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.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Grace is intrigued by the idea of spending the summer in the ancient house that is an important part of her family history. As she learns to heal herself following a life-changing accident and a family breakdown, Grace finds she is also able to help new friends. Like the original Flambards books, this offers at several levels from great story to psychological insights.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | The lighthouse keeper’s daughter, Lampie, becomes a maid at the very strange house of Admiral Black. It is rumoured that there is a monster in the attic but, as Lampie soon comes to realise, not everything strange and different is monstrous. This has the qualities of the great fairy tales but with a bite which resonates with the contemporary world.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Winner of the Victorian Premier YA Prize for Literature, and Best Young Adult Novel at the Aurealis Awards - two of Australia's most prestigious writing awards | As he is still vulnerable following his daughter, Beth’s death, detective Michael Teller is sent to investigate the seemingly simple case of a fire at a Children’s Home. Beth narrated most of the book which takes us to very dark places. Brilliantly structured, informed and passionate, this is a thought-provoking consideration of issues relevant to all young adult readers.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Danny is sure that the new boy in his class won’t want to become his friend: nobody else does. When they discover they both love the same computer game, Danny becomes more and more confused by Eric’s strange family life and the gaps in his knowledge. The truth takes him to some strange, dark places. Unique, relevant and wonderful.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Love is a wonderful thing, and it doesn't have conditions in this novel about sister and brother Lenny and Davy as they deal with the fact that Davy is very different from everyone else around him. Davy is growing. And growing and growing. He is diagnosed with a rare form of gigantism. But he and Lenny are also trying to figure out where their father went, if they have a grandmother, what is going to be in the next issue of the encyclopaedia that is heading their way in the post and which letter is their favourite, as each one opens up the world to the siblings just a bit more. In this exquisite book about love and loss and caring for your family, Karen Foxlee has created a heart-rending and hopeful book that delights and surprises. W is for Wonderful, and that is Lenny's Book of Everything. Unforgettably wonderful.
October 2019 Debut of the Month | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Everyone needs a hug sometimes, even the least cuddly creatures. Everyone finds reasons not to hug tortoise or hedgehog but the wise owl explains that there is someone special for everyone and they just have to be found. Children will love the presentation of the story in this very satisfying book with a very happy ending.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | 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.
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.
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 | Amara knows exactly what she wants for her 12th birthday: to visit her father’s family in New York. She understands it will be very different to Beavertown, Oregon, the small town she’s grown up in, but can’t wait to explore the big city and get to know her family properly. The trip is eye-opening in lots of ways as she learns more about her father and his childhood, about her family, and even her own history. Renée Watson shows us that families are complicated, that it’s never too late to change or make amends, and that we can all carry on learning even as we grow up. Quiet, though full of drama, and skilfully told, this is a touching and thought-provoking story with well-drawn, engaging characters; a book that will make a real impact on its reader.
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!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2019 | | Award winning Elizabeth Laird brilliantly brings to life thirteen year old Safiya’s new world as a refugee after her family flee from their comfortable home in Damascus because of the war in Syria. Safiya, her brother and father arrive in Jordan with nothing and must turn to relatives for help. Safiya has to adjust to living in a tent without running water. Suddenly, she is cleaning and washing and finding clever ways of making do on very little rather than going to school. But resourceful Safiya never gives up hope of going back to a better way for life or of finding her missing twin sister. A House without Walls is a vivid picture of a family facing an extreme experience with courage and imagination.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2019 | Temper tantrums are brilliantly visualised in this witty story about how Ravi deals with his. Poor Ravi! The youngest and smallest in the family he is always the slowest and the shortest and the last one to get what he wants. It makes him feel terrible! And when Ravi feels terrible he ROARS. His face goes red, he grows two furry ears, sharp teeth and a stripey tail. Now he can get what he wants but there is a price to pay: will anyone want to play with him? Tom Percival’s illustrations keep the message light hearted without trivialising it.
August 2019 Debut of the Month | 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.
Jason Reynolds is the master of giving voice to children and teenagers who exist - and often struggle - on the margins of society. Against tough competition, this exceptional novel might be his finest yet. Matt has recently lost his beloved mom and feels excruciatingly lonely in his grief. By page two, when Matt comes home to a house that was “totally silent. And it had no smell,” the author encapsulates the raw invisibility of grief with visceral power. Haunted by how his mom made him feel “like the luckiest kid in the world...like I was somebody important”, and needing something to occupy his mind (and some cash), Matt takes a job helping family friend and funeral director Mr Ray, and unexpectedly finds that attending funerals and witnessing the grief of others makes him feel less alone. With his dad otherwise disposed after seeking solace in whiskey, Mr Ray is heart-meltingly supportive, reaching out to Matt while his “old man is getting himself together”. It’s at one of his work funerals that Matt begins to form a beautiful bond with Lovey, a young woman who’s experienced more pain and loss than even Matt can imagine. As Lovey opens Matt’s world and heart, they discover that they’re also bonded by a tragic moment that shaped both their lives. Readers will hope with all their hearts that Lovey and Matt’s futures are presaged by Bob Marley’s “every little thing gonna be alright” lyrics that ring out during a momentous shared taxi ride. Boldly honest and bathed in empathy, Matt’s all-consuming, touching tale possesses a rare power to leave a lasting imprint.
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