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May 2018 Debut of the Month | This sparkling debut weaves the captivating folklore of Baba Yaga with the thrills of a classic venturing-out-into-the-world quest, replete with primal conflicts, tantalising twists and an unforgettable protagonist that readers will truly root for. Twelve-year-old Marinka yearns to live in a “normal house” and to have a “normal family”, but instead her house has chicken legs, and her grandmother is a Yaga, a Guardian of The Gate between this world and the next. Worse still, in Marinka’s eyes, is that it’s her destiny to become a Yaga herself, to take on the duty of giving the dead “one last wonderful evening” before they “return to the stars”. Baba Yaga has long warned Marinka of the dangers of venturing too far in the world of the living, but her desire “to have friendships that last more than one night” is so strong that she’s prepared to risk everything. Teetering on the cusp of childhood and adulthood, Marinka’s frustrations and determination to find her own way in the world will truly strike a chord with the intended readership. This age-old conflict is delivered with heart and skillfully interwoven with the glorious trimmings of the original folklore. Add to this the twists, the unveiling of truths and the critical choices Marinka must make and you have a heartily satisfying novel that’s ideal for fans of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. Older readers might also enjoy Circus of the Unseen, which offers an alternate re-working of Baba Yaga’s infinitely enthralling Slavic folklore. Radiant with wonder and wisdom, this is an exceptional debut.
***Recommended for 16+ due to content. Book of the Month for May 2018 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018 |In a Nutshell: love, truth and the power of release | A gripping, soulful novel about a life-changing day, which will surely change the lives of those who read it. "Where on earth had this day come from? And where was it headed?" remarks 17 year-old Adam as a single day unfurls wave after wave of shattering disruption: first a revelation from his brother, next an ultimatum from his foul boss, then a destabilising announcement from his beloved best friend. And alongside Adam's unraveling, there’s the mesmerising narrative of the ghost of a murdered girl who’s risen from a lake in search of release. Partly modeled on two of the author’s most admired books (Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever), with this remarkable novel Ness once again demonstrates his profound understanding of the complexities of being a young adult, and of the human condition more generally. Adam’s story is pinpricked with truly nerve-touching moments, perhaps most poignantly between him and the overbearing father he fears coming-out to. At one point his dad reveals that he wishes Adam could be honest with him, and then Adam begins to let go. While revealing truths can be excruciatingly painful, doing so might also bring refreshing, life-affirming release. Heartbreaking, intense and acutely honest, this novel casts a subtle spell of hope. ~ Joanne Owen
In a nutshell: comic capers deliver sensitive story of grief and recovery Arnold is unlike anyone Leon has ever met before. He’s honest to the point of rudeness, takes everything said completely literally, yet still has a way of identifying what’s really important to people. The two become friends and – unknown to his family – Leon moves Arnold in while his foster parents are away. It doesn’t take long for Arnold to realise that the family, grieving the death of Leon’s twin Lenny, desperately need to start talking again. Amongst madcap adventures, including an inadvertent robbery attempt on a bank, comes real understanding and a sense of healing. Rob Stevens manages to tell a story of heartbreak with humour and sensitivity and readers will be left feeling genuinely uplifted for knowing Leon and Arnold. ~ Andrea Reece
“When your whole family is obsessed with Love and Romance it sets some pretty high expectations, believe me”, explains 16-year-old Tilly, the witty narrator of this bright and breezy book. Tilly’s on tenterhooks as her grandmother’s highly anticipated romance novel is published. Nothing unusual there - aspiring writer Tilly has long been involved with Gran’s work, from filing, typing and researching, to suggesting improvements. But this book is different. It almost wasn’t completed, due to Gran being hospitalised while writing it, which meant Tilly took on the tasks of copy-editing, proof-reading and (wait for it...) secretly rewriting the ending to Gran’s successful series. From her myriad “Meet cute” date moments, to her ritual of choosing a hat before writing a new book, Gran’s quirks are a joy, and the portrayal of her illness is incredibly touching. Tilly’s massively relieved when Gran is delighted with her ending, so much so that she asks Tilly to write her next novel. Tilly accepts the challenge, but how can she follow the “write what you know” rule when she’s never been in love? What’s more, after boldly resolving to fall in love for real, she discovers that real-life romance can’t be plotted. Rather, it brings twists and turns that are way beyond the author’s control. Delightful on the everyday dramas of family life, first love and fiction’s edifying allures, this is perfect for aspiring writers and fans of funny contemporary YA.
Izzy feels as if colour is leaching from her world, and literally. Plagued by nightmares of a shadowy, threatening figure, when she wakes in the morning colours appear to have been stripped out of the mural her mother painted for her. With her mother in a coma following an accident, Izzy’s world is already changed utterly, but extra pressure is added by her former best friend’s thoughtless, casual cruelty. Meeting Toby, whose own life was changed after a terrible accident, and the discovery of a young cygnet that needs their help, gradually restores Izzy’s understanding of her world. A touching novel of hope, friendship and resilience written with quiet assurance and a real sense of loss and recovery.
Everyone at Barry's school has gone football crazy, but Barry gets thrown out of the team (the Mogden Maniacs) for being completeerly rubbish. Then it turns out that his best friend Bunky is a super striker - so Barry becomes his manager. The cup final match is approaching and Bunky's getting carried away with his football fame - can Barry keep his head in the game? Join everyone's favourite Loser on his tenth hilarious adventure! Barry Loser: I am not a loser was selected as a Tom Fletcher Book Club 2017 title. Future Ratboy and the Invasion of the Nom Noms is shortlisted for the Lollies Award 2017.
Francis and Pieter are brothers. As shadow of one war lingers, and the rumbles of another approach, the brothers argue. Francis is a fierce pacifist, while Pieter signs up to fight. What happens next will change the course of Francis's life forever . . . and throw him into the mouth of the wolf.
We’re used to the Little Princess behaving badly, but this new story shows a different side to her, and is surprisingly tender. She’s proud of her dad, the king, but still wishes he could do things the other dads in the palace can, and, for example, teach her to ride and cook, and swim. Her maid takes it upon herself to instruct her little mistress in these things, but things don’t go well. Feeling fed up and a failure, there’s only one person the Little Princess wants, only one person who can make her smile again … The illustrations have the boundless energy that is the hallmark of Tony Ross, but are also full of warmth and affection. ~ Andrea Reece
Cape Town is the setting for Jaco Jacobs’ quirky adventure, but the emotions described will be familiar to all young readers. It’s the holidays and Marnus is bored, fed up too of being pushed around by his wheeler-dealer little brother, overlooked by his parents, and teased by his big brother. Everything changes when he meets Leila; within minutes he’s drawn into her campaign to save a tree in the local park, and actually camped out in its branches in defiance of the man from the water board, and his own mum. Their joint protest turns Marnus and Leila into special friends, and introduces them to a host of other eccentric characters too. When Marnus finally goes home, he’s quite a different boy. A lovely story about the importance of standing up for what you believe in and accepting who you are. Readers who relish Marnus’ adventure will also enjoy The Wilderness War by Julia Green.
April 2018 Debut of the Month | Space, family relationships, friendships – they’re all cleverly and vividly described in this highly entertaining story. Stan, our nerdy but very likeable hero, wants nothing more than to win a telescope in the science fair so that he can study space, his passion. The main obstacle to this and indeed all Stan’s hopes and wishes, is his little brother Fred, a dinosaur-obsessed five-year-old tornado of destruction and unpredictability. Super-orderly Stan resorts to a range of charts and measuring devices to fill us in on his life – pie-charts, ordinary charts, illustrated diagrams, Venn diagrams – and together with his lugubrious, sometimes agonised delivery, it makes for fast and very funny reading. Readers will be on Stan’s side from the start, and this will speak to anyone who has, is or knows a younger brother or sister.
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