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Ro Snow is the girl no-one notices - she doesn't go to parties and she doesn't have friends over. Besides, even if anyone tried to call on her they'd discover that no. 56 Arcadia Avenue isn't her house at all - it's her decoy house. Because her real home, a few doors down, is a tip of rubbish and paper and she can't remember the colour of the carpet it's been so long since she's seen it. Her mum, Bonnie, is a hoarder and Ro lives in terror of social services finding out about the squalor she is forced to live in. But when Noah moves in next door, Ro can't hide the truth from him and she finds herself opening up for the first time in her life. And then there's the new girl at school, the adorable and persistent Tanvi who can see that carefully hidden something-special in Ro too. And it's not long before Ro's carefully constructed castle of loneliness is crumbling down around her, but if she's out in the open, so is her painstakingly guarded secret ...
July 2018 Debut of the Month | One of our 2018 Books of the Year | July 2018 Debut of the Month | Based on the author's own unconventional upbringing on a Thames Barge, Mud is an unusual and touching roman a clef. Lydia tells her father he is ruining her life when he announces that the family - she has one sister, two brothers and a much loved cat - will be going to live on a boat, and that his girlfriend Kate and her three children will be moving in too. His casual reference to Swallows and Amazons makes her shudder and it's hard to imagine any teenager would enjoy their new life - the boat is leaky and uncomfortable, adults and children alike squabble, and the atmosphere is far from happy. At least Lydia makes a new friend - the fabulous, straight-talking Kay - while other bright spots of life away from home include teenage parties and a burgeoning romance. Events are recounted by Lydia via diary entries, and she is a wonderful storyteller - funny, honest, with a wry self-deprecatory tone that endears her to readers. It's a story that could be very sad - Lydia's father's drinking becomes a real problem and eventually Kate leaves him; but Lydia's quirky stoicism, and descriptions of the love and support of her friends and siblings keep it an uplifting read. This is a great story for teenagers, but would be enjoyed by readers of any age. ~ Andrea Reece ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ As the 1980s dawn, Lydia finds herself caught in a maelstrom of monumental change herself, which she recounts in her unassumingly witty diary. Her mum died three years ago and her dad has remarried Kate, which means she now has a new stepmum, new stepsiblings, and then - horror of horrors – her dad announces that they’re all moving to a new home. On a boat. Cue much conflict and upset courtesy of two families trying to get on in ramshackle surroundings, her dad’s increasingly worrying behaviour and her big sister flying the nest for Cambridge University. Lydia’s articulation of her grief is deeply moving; those moments that leave her “overwhelmed suddenly by the strangeness of my mother just not existing anymore.” Throughout Lydia is a loveable bundle of self-effacing honesty and contemplation, and her astute observations cut to the core: “Everyone has to grow up, don’t they? Everyone has to go away one day.” As Lydia navigates these swirling new waters, she practices the art of getting on with things and discovers the delights of genuine friendship. Funny, poignant and perfectly-formed, this is a triumph of true-to-life storytelling. ~ Joanne Owen
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018 | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | November 2017 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2017 Award-winning Kate Saunders takes readers on a wondrous fantasy adventure in the best tradition of children’s stories in which there is another world to ours in which strange and silly things can and do happen. The story is tinged with sadness as the adventures stem from beautifully conveyed feelings of grief that it is often hard to express. Mourning the death of her much-loved sister, Emily finds herself having the most curious dreams in which soft toys came alive and do the most extraordinary things. When Ruth, a neighbour whose son died as a child, dreams the same things, the pair begin an adventure in which the worlds of reality and storytelling and make-believe seem to flow together effortlessly and the absurd becomes the everyday. For both Emily and Ruth, learning to laugh again at the happenings in the imaginary world of Smokeroon provides them with exactly the comfort and imaginary release they so badly need.
July 2018 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2018 | | July 2018 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2018 | A wonderfully funny romp of a story full of all kinds of imaginative nonsense including a cast of talking animals. Young Jack is an unlucky boy; his father vanished before he was born and his mother is in prison for a crime she swears she didn’t commit. As a result, Jack must live with his horrible uncle and cousin with only a cupboard for a bedroom. Driven by his passion for horses, Jack finds solace with an aged scrap-yard owner and his two horses with some very surprising skills of their own! It’s a friendship that leads Jack into a wonderful adventure I which he fulfils all of his wildest dreams. Unlikely and carefree, this is a perfect story for reading aloud. Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for July 2018: A First Book of the Sea by Nicola Davies Junkyard Jack and the Horse That Talks by Adrian Edmondson All About Families by Felicity Brooks A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker Sleep by Kate Prendergast The Storm Keeper's Island by Catherine Doyle The Cook and the King by Julia Donaldson
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 | | 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 | | 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.
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