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In a nutshell: unmissable, the teenage trials and tribulations of a middle child | In Mia Campbell-Richardson, Lisa Williamson has created one of the stroppiest, most self-absorbed heroines ever to grace the pages of a novel. The middle of three daughters, Mia has convinced herself that she is unloved and overlooked by her parents in favour of her awe-inspiringly successful sisters. Indeed, when Grace, Cambridge-bound big sister returns home from her gap year pregnant – to the shock of all – Mia responds by laughing; it’s hardly surprising the atmosphere at home is tense. No matter how badly she behaves however, readers will remain on Mia’s side, such is the skill and sensitivity of Williamson’s portrait of a girl who for all her outward confidence is as nervous and insecure on the inside as the rest of us. As the story unfolds Mia has to acknowledge her anxieties, and that helps her renew relationships with her family. Sharply observed, painfully honest in its depictions of young teens, this is another impressive novel from one of the most exciting young authors around. Recommended for readers who enjoy the trials and tribulations of Mia are Trouble by Non Pratt and The Baby by Lisa Drakeford. ~ Andrea Reece A message from the author, Lisa Williamson: “I like writing about people who are different from me and Mia most definitely fits the bill. She's everything I wasn't as a teenager – loud, confident, brash and daring. I'd have probably been terrified of her, at the same time as secretly wanting to be in her squad. I think that's perhaps why I wanted to get inside her head so much. I wanted to break down the mystique of the coolest girl in the year and actually get to know the person behind the big hair and fiery attitude. As I kind of suspected, there was a lot more than meets the eye. ‘All About Mia’ is a story about sisters, discovering and accepting your strengths and weaknesses and learning to forgive the people you love. It's chaotic and funny and moody and unexpected – just like its heroine – and I can't wait for you to enter Mia's world. I've absolutely loved getting to know Mia, the good, the bad and everything between. As I prepare to unleash her on the world, I really hope you do too!”
February 2018 Debut of the Month In a Nutshell: Brave British Muslim keeps her head after losing her heart An important, engaging debut in which a bright British Muslim is drawn down a dark path. Tingling with heart and urgency, and astute on the complexities of radicalisation, this rivetingly authentic read shows that representation really does matter. Fifteen-year-old Muzna has a passionate ambition to become a novelist, but her parents have other plans. Boys, make-up and hair removal are strictly forbidden, and they want her to become a doctor – “#BrownGirlProblems”, as Muzna describes her predicament. When labeled a terrorist by a classmate in her new school, “Guy Candy” Arif sticks up for her, and it’s not long before they strike up a friendship, and more. She starts attending meetings with Arif and his older brother Jameel, and her eyes are opened to the media’s anti-Muslim bias, and to Western demonisation of Islam. The brothers encourage her to pray, and she’s gifted a hijab, which she hides from her parents, since her father insists “it was only the 'ignorant’ who clung to Islamic teachings”. Being sharp-minded and questioning, Muzna is keen to understand different facets of Islam, but she’s conflicted when Jameel says her parents aren’t “real Muslims”, and he can’t be right when he declares “writers of fiction are among the worst of people”, can he? Muzna’s conflicts are sharply evoked, and there are moments that will have you begging her to listen to her friends when they reach out to her. But the truth only fully hits Muzna as time is running out, and she must summon the strength to remain true to the talented, intelligent young woman she is. Inspired by author’s shock at hearing that three British schoolgirls had flown to Syria to join the ‘Islamic State’ in 2015, this is a timely, thought-provoking debut that also packs in powerful universalisms about growing up, falling in love and discovering who you are. ~ Joanne Owen
In a nutshell: two lonely children, an enchanted house and a magical world The real world and the magical are cleverly mixed in this exciting story. Angel and Bavar are both orphans, both lonely. She is fascinated by him, the towering boy with a knack for making himself invisible in class. Following him home, she is amazed to see that he lives in a huge mansion, but what she finds inside is even more extraordinary: Bavar’s home and family are magic and the spirits of his ancestors still inhabit their portraits, shouting their opinions from the walls. What’s more, Bavar is responsible for keeping monsters out of this world, monsters who might have had something to do with Angel’s parents’ deaths. As much a story of an unusual and touching friendship as it is a tale of monsters and magic this is thoroughly original and full of charm. ~ Andrea Reece
March 2018 Debut of the Month A huge story is packed into this striking and thoroughly involving picture book. Erik is one of the youngest members of his wolf pack and definitely the most reckless. He thinks his family’s rules are silly and one day, when no-one’s looking, stomps off to be a real lone wolf. He climbs higher, wobbles further and skies faster – right into disaster. Stuck at the bottom of an icy crevasse, Erik wishes for his wolf pack. Fortunately for him, they arrive to save him but Sara Finan’s painterly illustrations show readers just how dangerous and scary the snow and ice are, as well as how much safer and happier Erik is back with his loving family. ~ Andrea Reece
January 2018 Book of the Month In a nutshell: thoroughly charming mini-mysteries in school and family setting It’s no mystery why the Dot McCluskey stories are so popular: Dot is a wonderfully lively central character and her friendly direct-to-reader narratives put them at the centre of her busy world. Dot and best friend Beans like nothing better than solving mysteries and there are two in her new adventure: the mystery of a missing card and the mystery of Dot’s birthday party – just what is her mum planning? Dot’s warm, loving home life is beautifully described and her school day is just as recognisable and as fun. With Clara Vulliamy’s own black and white illustrations complementing the text this is a joy, and perfect for newly independent readers. ~ Andrea Reece Fans of Dot’s adventures will also enjoy Wendy Quill’s escapades, as described by Wendy Meddour. Publisher, Ruth Alltimes says: “Dot is destined to be the new ‘book-best-friend’ of young girls everywhere; she is impishly funny, aspirational and so full of curiosity that girl readers will be drawn into her world of mini mysteries! Clara Vulliamy's signature stylish, witty artwork creates an irresistible young fiction package.”
‘Money doesn’t matter, nor colour, creed, nor name - /In each and every family, the love we feel’s the same’: these are the concluding lines and the overriding theme of this attractive picture book. Over busy, vibrant pages a number of families are seen going about their daily lives, sharing meals, going to school, enjoying days out, and experiencing difficult times too. Each family is different: there are two parent families, single parent families, same-sex parents, grandparents bringing up a child, and a couple with an adopted child. The text but mostly the illustrations make clear that the families have much more in common than things that divide them. There’s a stylish retro feel to the illustrations, children will enjoy poring over the pictures to spot details while the message is more important now than ever. ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: very funny, very true story of family dynamics Be careful what you wish for, and blood is thicker than water – both lessons to be learned from this very funny story of sibling rivalry and love. Jonny is fed up with big brother Ted’s teasing, and website www.siblingswap.com seems to offer a way out. In just a few clicks Jonny’s arranged to swap Ted for a more suitable brother (though with hindsight he should probably have ticked the boxes ‘living’ and ‘human’). Overnight Ted has gone, and a new brother is on the doorstep. To Jonny’s surprise, none of the brothers he receives match up to Ted, and some are downright dreadful. It’s great fun, the succession of brothers keeps the action moving at top-speed, as Jonny gradually realises how much he’s missing Ted. Illustrations by Nathan Reed add to the fun, and this is a great read for anyone with a sibling. One to recommend to fans of My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons and The Parent Agency by David Baddiel. ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: tune in for more hilarious radio-show action Christian O’Connell follows up his debut with another laugh-out-loud story starring junior radio DJ Spike. Spike, sidekick Artie and producer Holly are happily broadcasting from Spike’s garden shed and have a loyal audience, but will their show’s highlights - the highly illegal cat hunt, that time they caused a Christmas-present explosion and the embarrassing parent phone-in – be good enough to win Spike the chance to star on a real radio show? As usual, life at home complicates things: his grandad is determined to enter the same competition, while Dad’s band has been chosen to appear on a TV talent show. The plot is packed with funny scenes, and O’Connell - apparently effortlessly - makes the book as friendly and direct as his radio show. He’s certainly on the same wavelength as the book’s intended audience and with its brilliant illustrations by Rob Biddulph this will be another hit. Readers will also enjoy Harry Hill’s real-life show-biz inspired comedy Matt Millz. ~ Andrea Reece
There are stories about people who want to live forever. This is not one of those stories. This is a story about someone who wants to stop... Alfie Monk is like any other nearly teenage boy - except he's 1,000 years old and can remember the last Viking invasion of England. Obviously no one believes him. So when everything Alfie knows and loves is destroyed in a fire, and the modern world comes crashing in, Alfie embarks on a mission to find friendship, acceptance, and a different way to live... ... which means finding a way to make sure he will eventually die.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2018 Celebrating thirty-five best-selling years, Whatever Next! is a classic story of a child’s imaginative adventure. It’s bath time for Baby Bear but he is determined to fit in a quick trip to the moon beforehand. Can he do it? Sure he can. Finding a space rocket under the stairs, a helmet in the kitchen and some boots by the door Baby Bear is soon off and away floating high in the sky, up through the stars and all the way to the moon. A gloriously imaginative story brought to life in Jill Murphy’s wonderful illustrations. ~ Julia Eccleshare Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for January 2018 Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by by Mem Fox Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal Emmeline and the Plucky Pup by Megan Rix Whatever Next! by Jill Murphy The Girl Who Saw Lions by Berlie Doherty The Poesy Ring by Bob Graham
A new board book edition of the picture book classic, in a size that's perfect for little paws! A timeless storybook classic full of bright colourful pictures that accompany a simple, repetitive text. Children will delight in all the wonderful sound effects and Mr Bear's reaction to the noises that stop him going to sleep until...you'll find out when you read it to your toddler. The familiar noises, repetition and beautiful illustrations make this delightful picture book an all-time favourite with children and adults everywhere. Click here for an activity sheet related to this book !
In a nutshell: Really? An Uncle Gobb story in a nutshell? You’re having a laugh | Malcolm, his best friend Crackersnacker and Malcolm’s awful homework-obsessed, bean counting (unless it’s literal bean counting – see page 1) Uncle Gobb of Gobb Education are back for another helping of riotous adventure that sends all three on a trip to the United States. Packed with humour and word play that delights in turning logic, literalism and much of the story line on its head this will have readers in hysterics. Neal Layton’s smudgy energetic illustrations match the zany anarchy of Michael Rosen’s story brilliantly. ~ Andrea Reece
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