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August 2018 Debut of the Month | What if your favourite YouTuber's life was a lie? What if you were the one to expose it? YouTuber LilyLoves has an amazing life: a rockstar boyfriend, a totally Insta-worthy London flat and a collection of beauty products that seems to grow daily (thanks, PO Box). Sixteen-year-old Melissa's life is way less amazing - LilyLoves is the only thing getting her through it. She's Lily's biggest fan and spends hours each night watching her videos and liking her posts. Melissa wants that life for herself - or at least to look like she has it . . . As Melissa starts to grow in confidence - and followers - she discovers a crushing secret about Lily - the ultimate YouTube lie. Does she share Lily's secret and crush her fame? Or will they both continue to live a lie - both online and off? My [Secret] YouTube Life is the addictive debut novel from Charlotte Seager.
One of our 2018 Books of the Year | September 2018 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: love, trust, truth, and being true to yourself | This engaging and refreshingly candid sequel to the bestselling The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things tackles big issues (body shaming, date rape, parental pressure) with big-hearted verve, sincerity and charm. Vibrant, witty, purple-and-green-haired Virginia attends a prestigious private Manhattan school but despite this privileged background, her life’s not exactly a bowlful of cherries. On good days Virginia considers herself to be curvy. On bad days she’s “plain old fat”. She comes from “a family of fat-shamers” and is constantly undermined by her high-achieving older siblings. Virginia has a boyfriend, though, Froggy. Except she’s no longer into him, which is another source of tension – she is, after all, the girl who wrote: “if you’re a chunky chick and you managed to get a nice boyfriend, don’t ever let him go”, so it’s quite a struggle for Virginia to decide whether she should let him go. Then, while you’re 110% rooting for her to make the right decision, fate intervenes in the form of a chance encounter with cute artist Sebastian. He’s attentive, complimentary and makes her feel pretty. As they become closer (and cuter), complicated connections emerge when Virginia’s big brother Byron is arrested for a serious offence, leaving the lovebirds with a whole lot of conflicts you’ll be desperate for them to resolve. The story is a real edge-of-your-seat page-turner, but Virginia is the true star of this well-plotted piece. At once ambitious and insecure, she zings from the page as a firecracker of relatable, true-to-life contradictions, while Byron’s appalling actions – and their painful repercussions – expose male privilege with thought-provoking poignancy. Highly recommended for fans of Rainbow Rowell and Holly Bourne. ~ Joanne Owen
October 2018 Debut of the Month | Awarded the Amnesty CILIP Honour commendation from the Carnegie shortlist 2018 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018 | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | In a Nutshell: Fighting for Justice | Black Lives Matter | | Stunning, vital wake-up call of a novel about racism, social inequality and not giving up told through the eyes of an incredible, unforgettable sixteen-year-old. Starr straddles two very different worlds. She has one foot in Garden Heights, a rough neighbourhood ruled by gangs, guns and dealers, and the other in an exclusive school with an overwhelmingly wealthy white student population. One night she’s at a party when gunshots are fired and Khalil, her friend since childhood, takes her to his car for safety. Khalil is unarmed and poses no threat, but he’s shot dead by an officer right in front of her. It will take a lot of courage to speak to the police, and to face the media who choose to highlight that Khalil was a “suspected drug dealer”, while omitting to mention that he was unarmed. But, with their neighbourhood under curfew and a tank on the streets, Starr risks going public. Danger escalates as the hearing approaches (and beyond), but Starr isn’t about to give up fighting for Khalil, and for what’s right. Alongside the intense struggles and conflicts faced by Starr’s family and community, there are some truly heart-melting moments between Starr and her white boyfriend Chris (their shared love of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is super cute), and also between Starr and her parents. Complex, gripping, stirring and so, so important – I can’t recommend this remarkable debut enough. ~ Joanne Owen
One of our 2018 Books of the Year | August 2018 Book of the Month | In a nutshell: classic time-slip adventure with some contemporary twists | Sally Nicholls is adept at balancing excitement with humour, creating original page-turning stories that are rich with insight. Well-versed in time travel plots Alex and Ruby quickly guess what’s happened when they fall through an old mirror into 1912. They make friends with the children of the house, Dora and Henry (one of whom could be a great-grandparent) before being caught up in adventure: someone has stolen a valuable antique cup from charming Uncle Atherton, on the eve of his wedding too. High drama ensues including a race after the thieves in a vintage car. It’s a thoroughly satisfying adventure, with a proper sense of what the past would actually be like (much grubbier and smellier than Alex and Ruby expect), and tinged with real sadness too: the children are all too aware of what is in Henry and Ruby’s future. ~ Andrea Reece For more engaging and surprising time-travel adventure try Evie’s Ghost by Helen Peters. The Editor at Nosy Crow says: “A fast-paced, thoroughly enjoyable adventure from the always-entertaining Sally Nicholls. I couldn’t stop reading it!”
Friendship is at the heart of this gentle, thoughtful picture book. Little squirrel friends Sorrel and Sage are delighted that they are just the same. But when Sorrel goes to stay with Sage for a sleepover, she realises that their houses are very different: Sage’s house has branches that go on forever, peppered with pine cones and the softest green needles. Sorrel worries that her house is small and slim and wobbles in the wind. Wanting Sage to think they are just the same, Sorrel makes excuses to stop her friend visiting. She needn’t worry, when Sage does come for a sleepover, they have the best time ever. Children will enjoy the story very much, and discussing what makes a best friend. Susan Varley’s delicate ink and watercolour illustrations are full of warmth and detail.
In a nutshell: friendship and understanding can change the world Two young people under extraordinary pressure are at the heart of Siobhan Curham’s compassionate, affecting and ultimately uplifting novel. Hafiz is a refugee newly arrived in Britain after two terrifying years on the road. His parents are still in Syria. Stevie’s mother is suffering with depression, spending most of her time asleep and relying on her daughter for everything. Money is tight and Stevie struggles to keep her predicament a secret from school and classmates. Brought together by accident the two become friends, bonding as much over a shared love of strong coffee and arcade claw machines as through their joint loneliness and isolation. Both their lives are changed as a result. Tender and convincing, the story demonstrates that with friendship, unity and humanity there’s hope even in the most extreme circumstances. ~ Andrea Reece
Katherine Webber’s story is set in Palm Springs the desert landscape beloved of her central character Reiko and on-off boyfriend Seth providing a dramatic backdrop to a story that changes moods and directions to make this a rich and rewarding read. To most, Reiko would seem to have it all: she’s clever, beautiful, rich with a loving family, already favourite to be Homecoming Queen. Close friends know however that she’s never recovered from the tragic death of her sister five years earlier; readers know that Reiko sees and talks to the ghost of Mika in her room each night. It’s a chance meeting with Seth, one of the uncool kids, that turns into a friendship then a relationship. Her friends are astonished when they finally go public as a couple, what can Reiko see in Seth? We wonder too, but as the story unfolds perspectives change in really interesting and revealing ways. A thoughtful, intelligent and moving YA novel.
UKLA Shortlist Book Awards - 2019 | Will is only fifteen but he’s experienced more violence and loss than most people might in an entire lifetime. His big brother Shawn was recently shot dead, right in front of him, but as “everybody knows”, “gunshots make everybody/deaf and blind especially/when they make somebody/dead”. While his mom mourns, “sobbing into her palms”, Will knows what he has to do. He must follow the three rules: No crying. No snitching. Revenge. Armed with Shawn’s gun, Will heads down six floors in an elevator on his revenge mission, thinking he knows exactly who he’s going after. When the “spooky ass” elevator stops at each floor and ghosts from the past step into the “vertical coffin”, doubts set in as Will is presented with more facts and finally comes face to face with some big choices (do some rules need to be broken? Does he want out of the cycle?), and more besides. The writing is crisp, clever and dazzlingly compact, with a whole family history and personally-charged societal issues conveyed with powerful precision. The line and page breaks are perfectly constructed, words and phrases frequently have multiple meanings, and Chris Priestley’s raw and resonant illustrations are hauntingly powerful.
In a nice twist on the Pied Piper story, the children of Whiffington wake up one morning to discover that all the grown-ups have disappeared, stolen away in the night by – what? Amidst the chaos of unmade beds, unbrushed teeth and unwashed dishes, Lucy Dungston is determined to rescue her mum, even when she realises that the revolting Creakers are the kidnappers. There isn’t a child in the land who hasn’t imagined something lurking under the bed, and the idea of the bumbling, muttering, smelly Creakers will give them a delicious thrill. It’s a fun adventure with a great set of lively young characters and some very exciting scenes. One to recommend to fans of Hamish and the World Stoppers by Danny Wallace and The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | July 2018 Book of the Month | Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | Shortlisted for the Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award 2018 | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2017 | | A book to break your heart, quicken your blood and stir your soul by one of the most outstandingly distinctive writers to have emerged in a long, long time. New Yorker Joe Moon was only seven when he took the call in which his big brother Ed told him he'd been arrested because “they think I done something real bad”. That “something” led to Ed winding up on death row, convicted of murdering a cop, though he insists he’s innocent. Ten years later, now Ed’s execution date has been set, Joe travels to Texas to say goodbye. The sublimely-formed structure slips between present and past, recounting the brothers’ troubled upbringing - how their Mom took off; how Aunt Karen took control and decided that Bible study and never mentioning Ed again was the only route to their salvation. While she insists that there’s no point wasting life or money helping someone who wasn’t sorry, Joe sees things differently. “He's my brother,” and that’s really all that matters. He has to see him. Lawyer Al, who’s taken on Ed’s case for free, offers some hope, but time is running out. “It's better to be guilty and rich, I reckon,” Joe remarks, as he experiences the excruciating injustices of a legal system in which the harshness of a sentence depends on where a crime takes place, who the victim was, and who you can afford to pay to represent you (crucially, Ed had no representation when he was first arrested). Once again, Crossan's free verse form is breathtakingly powerful - always the right word, in the right place, at the right time. Yes, this is harrowing and heartbreaking, but the kindness of the strangers Joe meets in Texas is achingly uplifting, as is the deep bond of love between Joe and Ed. This really is a magnificent feat of writing.
Pity the poor McScurvy children, Vic and Bert – they used to sail the ocean with their pirate parents, until they lost their ship. Now they have to wear shoes and do homework. And their baby sister Maud is an absolute terror, a blue-eyed, golden-haired tyrant! Maud it is who sparks the adventure, one that will bring the children – and some newly made frenemies – up against Captain Guillemot the Third, aka the Hipster Ripster. At stake is their ship, their future, and the family treasure the Blighty Bling. It’s fast and funny, and a great example of kids versus adults adventure: the junior McScurvys may squabble a bit, but they are loyal, brave and determined. Great fun, and Eric Heyman’s black and white illustrations add to the sense of excitement and adventure.
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