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June 2019 Book of the Month, A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month June 2019 | The opportunities the suffragette movement offered for bright girls like Daisy, the twelve year old star of this exciting and award-winning story, is brilliantly capture in a book that is full of bustle and energy and danger. Growing up in cramped conditions in the East End of London Daisy’s life is hard. When she’s not at school where she is always in trouble for being too smart, she helps her mum with her younger sister and baby twin brothers. But Daisy has always had dreams of a brighter future: she knows that when she grows up she wants to become a nurse like the great Florence Nightingale. But Daisy is watching her own mother have little chance of doing what she really wants so what chance will she have since she is just a girl? When Daisy meets the suffragettes everything changes. It is scary to think what she would have to give up but Daisy is prepared to do anything to enjoy the new kind of freedom they are offering. Barbara Mitchelhill is skilfully at bringing this important and fascinating moment to life.
June 2019 Book of the Month | Border Guards and suspicion keep the inhabitants trapped on a nameless island surrounded by a supposedly poisoned sea and scraping an existence from the land. Bonnie lives with her Granda, who is growing increasingly frail. Bonnie has no patience for what passes as education, although such rule breaking is punishable. When she discovers, first a boat, and then the injured boy who arrived in it, she hides both, which is even more dangerous because any contact with outsiders is unheard of. Her mother left by sea when Bonnie was a baby. Could this be Bonnie’s route to freedom? But she has both the boy and her beloved Granda to worry about and the mystery of her mother to solve and the Guards on her trail. This is a thrilling read, a truly heart-stopping adventure which has no need to labour the details of the dystopian society in which it is set. The setting is so vividly realised and the nuances of the relationships are so movingly portrayed that the reader is absolutely in the moment with Bonnie. A beautifully written book with a powerful but ultimately hopeful message.
June 2019 Book of the Month | This beautifully observed story will resonate with children and adults alike and will repay reading over and over. Mia and Ben are best friends – the joy of their relationship perfectly depicted in Richard Jones’s illustrations which are full of the details of children’s lives but with a richness of colour and texture and composition that heightens the emotions. Everything changes when the sort of domestic tragedy familiar to lots of children happens – Ben’s family move away. At first the two are lonely and sad, but the story shows that their friendship still connects them and always will. Powerful feelings are expressed delicately and poignantly through words and pictures and this is an outstanding picture book.
“There are some things that shape every minute of forever”, and seventeen-year-old Lexi knows that more than most. Five years ago her life was thrown into turmoil by her older brother’s horrific actions, actions that left her traumatised, stigmatised and excruciatingly conflicted: “How do you condemn your own brother?” Now Lexi’s goal is to “survive a full school year - 180 days - hiding behind a new name, new home, new persona”, this time living with her aunt. Seeing as her “history always finds a way to suffocate everyone in its path,” Lexi fears getting close to anyone, but she strikes up a friendship with Ryan who’s also “wrapped in secrets”, and then embarks on a magnificent romance with Marcus, who shares her experience of being an outcast. I loved the powerfully positive portrayal of both Marcus and Ryan - it was refreshing to encounter such compassionate, non-judgmental, luminously 3D teen boy characters. The novel is brilliant in its portrayal of relatable real-life, coming-of-age universals - fitting in, standing out, anxieties, friendships, falling in love - within the context of Lexi’s agonising situation. Her story is impressively honest in its portrayal of life’s darknesses, and also shot-through with heart and hope as she finds friends she can truly trust, and her own inner strength to survive.
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.
June 2019 Debut of the Month | Shortlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2019 | In this wonderfully warm role reversal story a little girl assigns herself the role of parent and spends a day ‘looking after’ her daddy. She makes sure he’s up early, that he gets lots of exercise and keeps a watchful eye on him in the supermarket. The pictures tell a quite different story to the text though and it’s clear who’s really in charge. What’s also clear is just how much fun the two have together and how much love there Is between them. The illustrations are realistic and full of tenderness. This is Eve Coy’s first picture book and she is very talented. The Klaus Flugge Judges said: the images tell their own stories; really good interplay between text and illustration; I smiled all the way through.
Following their adventures in The Battle of the Blighty Bling, the McScurvy children are back where they belong on their pirate ship Sixpoint Sally. But not for long: as they prepare to enter the famous Hornswaggle Boat Race their nemesis, Captain Guillemot, aka the vainest pirate on the south coast, steals their ship from right under their noses, and with their parents on board to boot. They can’t let him get away with that, and with the help of their friends Arabella and George, go all out to get the boat and their parents back – and win the race in the process. It’s another fast-paced comic adventure and any right-minded child will love the McScurvy’s can-do attitude, not to mention their wilful disregard of rules and good behaviour.
May 2019 Book of the Month | Another insightful and compassionate free verse novel from the queen of this increasingly admired form, this time exploring the transformative relationship between an abused runaway teenager and an elderly lady with dementia. Allison has grown up “stepping on eggshells” to circumvent her father’s violence. While she often wonders whether his behaviour was “all my fault”, one of his outbursts compels her to run away. With nowhere to go, she finds sanctuary in the house of an elderly woman called Marla. Marla has dementia and thinks Allison is Toffee, her best friend from childhood. After spending some time in Marla’s company, Allison decides to “stop correcting her… I like the idea of being sweet and hard, a girl with a name for people to chew on.” Moreover, in meeting Marla, Allison has found an unlikely kindred spirit: “I am not who I say I am. Marla isn’t who she thinks she is… Here, in this house, I am so much happier than I have ever been”. Returning the favour, Allison enriches Marla’s life – she listens, she indulges Marla’s desire to dance - while Marla’s carer and son show no real regard for her happiness, as if she’s beyond life, which makes Allison’s attentiveness all the more heart warming. Both vulnerable, they find strength through each other. With incredibly moving insight, Marla says of Allison’s dad, “none of it was about you. It was about him. It’s always about him. Surely you know that.” The writing is compellingly fluid, flowing freely between Allison’s precarious present and the tragic, abusive circumstances that sent her careering down this path. While fleeting, the impact of their time together is monumental, and I felt privileged to have spent time in their company.
With diary entries written by eleven-year-old Libby Scott, based on her own experiences of autism, this pioneering book, written in collaboration with esteemed author Rebecca Westcott, hasbeen widely praised for its realistic portrayal of autism. Tally is eleven years old and she's just like her friends. Well, sometimes she is. If she tries really hard to be. Because there's something that makes Tally not the same as her friends. Something she can't cover up, no matter how hard she tries: Tally is autistic. Tally's autism means there are things that bother her even though she wishes they didn't. It means that some people misunderstand, her and feel frustrated by her. People think that because Tally's autistic, she doesn'trealise what they're thinking, but Tally sees and hears - and notices - all of it. And, honestly? That's not the easiest thing to live with. Perfect for fans of Wonder and The Goldfish Boy, this sucker punch to the heart is valuable reading for children and adults alike. Endearing, insightful and warmly uplifting, Can You SeeMe? is a story of autism, empathy and kindness that will touch readers of all ages.
May 2018 Book of the Month | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 | When a billionaire phone-tech entrepreneur challenges the Year Eleven pupils in her former school to switch off their phones for six weeks, Esther is determined to rise to the occasion. With her American-born dad, sister and baby nephew now living in New York, she has her sights firmly fixed on the £1000 prize, which she’d use to visit them, plus she could do with a break from the constant peer pressure to share super model style selfies. But almost immediately, Esther’s FOMO (fear of missing out) “is at emergency levels”, not least because she has no idea what her friends are up to. As a result, she and a few fellow participants set up a support group in her mum’s new cafe, among them River, who gives an impassioned speech about how social media users are “just pawns in the hands of people making money out of us”. Alongside an engaging exploration of the pros and cons of online life, there’s a sensitive sub-plot about the complications of family life, with the downsides of digital media touched-on through that too (her mum’s café is struggling to find customers in the wake of a poor online review), and reference to being aware of “fake news” and inaccurate reporting. Thought-provoking and topical, this pacey read is especially suitable for reluctant and dyslexic teen readers. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+
April 2019 Book of the Month | The tables are turned in Jeff Kinney’s new comic adventure and the wimpy kid telling the story and steering the action is Rowley Jefferson, Greg Heffley’s best friend. As Greg’s long-suffering sidekick he deserves his turn in the spotlight, though as he apologetically points out, most of the book is still about Greg. The boys’ escapades, quarrels and daft schemes are just as funny as when we hear them via Greg. No-one does the straight to camera narrative style of the diary better than Kinney and no matter how straight Jeff tells it, our understanding of the action is often quite different to his. This is as authentic and funny as the original Wimpy Kid books and makes just as irresistible reading.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2019 | Award-wining Nicola Davies has created a beautiful story which makes its powerful point brilliantly by focusing on the plight of a single child refugee. A little girl’s way of life - one that will be familiar to children around the world - is totally destroyed when the war comes. Having lost everything, alone and facing terrible danger, she travels across the world in search of a new home. But who will help her to find one? Nicola Davies never preaches, instead she allows her story and Rebecca Cobb’s equally sensitive and warm-hearted illustrations to carry the message with their own integrity and eloquence. The book is endorsed by Amnesty International.