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September 2019 Book of the Month | Hitting rock bottom, hanging on, and coming back from the edge. Brian Conaghan has an incredible talent for telling it like it is. His characters are authentic and absorbing; flawed underdogs with serious troubles, like 17-year-old Maggie whose dad “drank his liver into a spreadable pâté”, and whose laid-off dinner lady mum is “gifted in the art of attracting pure dickheads”. And Maggie? Maggie’s “an island: the way I dress; the music I listen to; the patter my brain discharges; everything”. Maggie’s struggling to deal with the tragic loss of her best friend Moya whose death she feels excruciatingly guilty about. Moya was a “mad riot” of a girl, but as Maggie “couldn’t be arsed with all the love-struck vom” Moya was spewing, because she didn’t speak out against the Internet trolls, she believes she was a “failure friend”. Alongside her grief, guilt and self-harm, Maggie struggles with her mother’s severe depression, but also tingles with the hope that comes from starting art college: “now’s the time to make something of myself.” Indeed, she soon forms a band with new friends. Throughout, Maggie’s love of bands like The Smiths looms large, as does her relationship with her depressed mother. Maggie’s rage at her mother’s condition derives entirely from her primal love for her. She’s desperate for Mum to be happy, and her scheme to help her find happiness is heart-achingly poignant. Grief, depression, self-harm, online abuse, this novel is no walk in the park, yet it never drags the reader down. On the contrary. It’s sensitive, insightful, funny (Maggie is a master of biting one-liners), and genuinely uplifting as Maggie and Mum begin to find their way back to the world, with glinting prospects of love and new life.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2019 | | Award winning Elizabeth Laird brilliantly brings to life thirteen year old Safiya’s new world as a refugee after her family flee from their comfortable home in Damascus because of the war in Syria. Safiya, her brother and father arrive in Jordan with nothing and must turn to relatives for help. Safiya has to adjust to living in a tent without running water. Suddenly, she is cleaning and washing and finding clever ways of making do on very little rather than going to school. But resourceful Safiya never gives up hope of going back to a better way for life or of finding her missing twin sister. A House without Walls is a vivid picture of a family facing an extreme experience with courage and imagination.
September 2019 Debut of the Month | Jo is the kind of open, honest, amusing character readers immediately care about. Told through her wittily illustrated diary, Jo’s tale begins with a(nother) upheaval. She and her family have just moved to their new Chinese takeaway, but her hopes for a fresh start are immediately dashed when she sees there’s no living room, and she has to share a room with little sister Bonny while big brother Simon lives with their grandparents. Jo’s experience of feeling “doubly different” is poignantly portrayed – she’s an outsider at school because she’s Chinese, and an outsider among her wider Chinese family because her own family is dysfunctional, and because she doesn’t speak the same language. Thank goodness, then, that she forms a friendship with fellow outcast, Tina the Goth, who stands up to racist school bullies. But while Jo begins to feel hopeful about her future and takes steps towards realising her dream of working in fashion, she and Bonny are increasingly neglected by their parents, and then there’s Dad’s aggressive outbursts. The mid-1980s setting prompts many amusing references, from ra-ra skirts and Gary Kemp’s perm, to sending drawings to Take Hart and going to Wimpy for a Knickerbocker Glory - but above all this is a highly readable, highly empathetic, impactful novel about familial abuse and neglect, trying to fit in, and finding your way in the world. Based on her own experiences, author Sue Cheung’s big-hearted story will chime with readers of 12+ who know how it feels to fall between cracks and dream of a different life.
Interest Age 5-8 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2019 | A wonderful adventure for a little girl who overcomes all her fears and gets an unexpected flight in a hot air balloon. Nick-named Scaredy Cat -Sophie by her sister, Sophie seems to be frightened of almost everything and so gets left out of a family trip to the fair to see a famous balloonist show off the tricks of his trade. Alone after the family have gone, Sophie’s great longing to see the amazing balloonist go up, up in the sky inspires her to overcome her fear and bravely set off for the fair alone. Soon Sophie finds that she too has an unexpected and very exciting trip ahead of her! Based on a story of Sophie Blanchard one of the first female astronauts this is a charming story that will encourage all readers to be brave. High quality cream paper and a special easy to read font ensure a smooth read for all.
September 2019 Book of the Month | Amara knows exactly what she wants for her 12th birthday: to visit her father’s family in New York. She understands it will be very different to Beavertown, Oregon, the small town she’s grown up in, but can’t wait to explore the big city and get to know her family properly. The trip is eye-opening in lots of ways as she learns more about her father and his childhood, about her family, and even her own history. Renée Watson shows us that families are complicated, that it’s never too late to change or make amends, and that we can all carry on learning even as we grow up. Quiet, though full of drama, and skilfully told, this is a touching and thought-provoking story with well-drawn, engaging characters; a book that will make a real impact on its reader.
Uncle Gobb is back for a third utterly ridiculous, absolutely hilarious and totally originally told adventure. Michael Rosen and Neal Layton use a brilliant integration of words and pictures to tell this meandering and many-layered story which engages readers with the complexity and creativity of storytelling.
Soar into space with this glorious love story of alien folk, from the creators of The Gruffalo and Stick Man. The Smeds (who are red) never mix with the Smoos (who are blue). So when a young Smed and Smoo fall in love, their families strongly disapprove. But peace is restored and love conquers all in this happiest of love stories. There's even a gorgeous purple baby to celebrate! With fabulous rhymes and breathtaking illustrations, this book is literally out of this world!
The story follows little Turtus as he hatches and makes his way towards the sea along with the other little turtles. However, he does not feel that he is like his brothers and sisters and this is confirmed as his journey continues. Eventually, he encounters his mother who explains that his father was in fact a giant land tortoise and assures him that he will meet him one day. This is a charming picture book using an effective, fairly natural and simple rhyme format which tends to appeal to young children. The illustrations are varied and appealing and match the text extremely well. Intrigue draws us in at the onset with the mystery of what is a 'Turtus' and reappears at the end of the tale when the reader is left with the expectation of eventually meeting Turtus' father in the next book. The story is also effective on other levels with its educational value and as an introduction to the fact that we are all different and can have a variety of different family situations. My granddaughter is 7 and really enjoyed this story and wants to know what happens next! Val Rowe, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
September 2019 Debut of the Month | Ten-year-old Frank loves code and numbers; they’re a way to make sense of the world, as well as providing secret languages to share with his friends and his mum. Frank’s five-year-old brother Max is autistic and for him the world is often a scary place, when anything unexpected, too loud or too bright can cause him to have a meltdown. The story is narrated by Frank and every reader will understand his frustration at the unfairness of life. We know that he loves Max, but we know too how hard Max makes life for all the family. Frank is then faced with something even more terrible when tragedy strikes. With the help of those around him we watch Frank find a way to make sense of what has happened and the bravery to cope with the different world. Katya Balen has worked with neuro-divergent children and there’s a powerful sense of truth and understanding in her beautifully told story. If they like Wonder by R. J. Palacio they'll love The Space We're In.
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.
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
August 2018 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2018 | Oscar the talking dog is back for a wittily entertaining third adventure with his friend and owner Sam. Oscar’s problem is the very big white cat who suddenly arrives to live next door; Oscar hates all cats but he hates Carmen especially because she sits in all his favourite places. Sam is more worried that there’s a thief on the loose and his mother’s ring has gone missing. Is there a connection between Oscar and Sam’s worries? And can they help the police solve the mystery? With lots of twists and turns along the way Oscar and Sam play a key role in this fun adventure. - Julia Eccleshare Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for August 2018 Once Upon A Wild Wood by Chris Riddell Oscar and the CATastrophe by Sarah Horne Run Wild by Gill Lewis Peril in Paris (Taylor & Rose: Secret Agents) by Katherine Woodfine The Garden of Hope by Isabel Otter
A cracking Christmas presentation box comprising a seasonal storybook and snow globe gift. This fully-illustrated seasonal storybook plus snow globe looks like a real labour of love, with no corners cut on the smart gift box packaging that comes replete with golden cloth lining. The story tells how Mrs Claus allocates a personal elf to each child, and it falls to the elf to watch over the child to determine whether they’ve been naughty or nice so Mrs Claus and Santa can “decide what gifts you will receive from your list”. The tale is told from the point of view of Gabriel, an almost-ten-year-old, who’s lost all sense of the magic of Christmas now his dad has a new family who have “everything I could ever want”, while he and his mum will be stuck making their own Christmas decorations and eating chicken. Monumentally disgruntled, Gabriel disobeys his mum and flees to find his dad’s new town. Then, in a strange and initially terrifying turn of events, he encounters one of Santa’s reindeers and – wait for it – his very own elf! The elf certainly has his work cut out persuading Gabriel that Santa is real, but with the help of a magical snow globe and through showing Gabriel the true spirit of Christmas much like the ghosts in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, he manages to do just that. With its mix of real-life worries and seasonal magic, this captures the feeling of being on the brink of not believing in Father Christmas and is underpinned by the message that love is the best gift of all. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading Ambassador
Little dragon Drake and his father live in a quiet valley. One day his father decides Drake is a big boy, and sends him off to burn down a few houses in the nearby village. Drake is alarmed but sets out to do as he is told. He targets a little wooden house, but the boy who lives there has a better idea and encourages Drake to burn down the school. Fortunately, the teacher is a quick thinker too and Drake returns home without having burned anything down, though with something to placate his dad. In its quiet way, this is a very funny story and it unfolds with exceptional fluency, the story carried by a longer-than-usual picture book text, full-page colour illustrations and black line vignettes. It poses interesting questions about following orders or doing what’s right, and whether it’s better to be admired or feared! ~ Andrea Reece
March 2016 Debut of the Month Twelve year old Suzy’s confusion following the death of her best friend fuels this roller-coaster debut novel. When Franny drowns in a freak accident during the school holiday Suzy finds herself dealing not with the death of her best friend as her mother thinks but with the far more devastating loss of their friendship sometime earlier. Suzy copes by becoming electively mute and by constructing a story to explain what happened to Franny. Moving back and forth between Suzy’s obsessive behaviour after Franny’s death as she finds out everything she can about the lethal jellyfish who is, she is sure, responsible for it and, the last few months before Franny’s death when the friendship unravelled is clever as she loses Franny to the cool set.
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | Longlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award and October 2016 Debut of the Month Twelve year old Suzy’s confusion following the death of her best friend fuels this roller-coaster debut novel. When Franny drowns in a freak accident during the school holiday Suzy finds herself dealing not with the death of her best friend as her mother thinks but with the far more devastating loss of their friendship sometime earlier. Suzy copes by becoming electively mute and by constructing a story to explain what happened to Franny. Moving back and forth between Suzy’s obsessive behaviour after Franny’s death as she finds out everything she can about the lethal jellyfish who is, she is sure, responsible for it and, the last few months before Franny’s death when the friendship unravelled is clever as she loses Franny to the cool set.
Shortlisted for the 2012 Branford Boase Award for outstanding Debut novel and 2012 Carnegie Medal. The Carnegie judges said: A hugely engaging and enjoyable novel that conveys a terrific sense of place in its vivid descriptions of the brutality and terrible beauty of Australian outback life. The voice of the central character Danny is always convincing, and his relationship with his camel surprisingly moving. In fact so real are all the characters that they leave the reader wanting to know more. The Branford Boase judges said: A fabulous piece of writing. The voice was completely right and the writing doesn't falter. A Lovereading4Kids 'Debut of the Year 2011'. 11+. A stunning coming-of-age story with a gripping Australian outback setting and a strong and interesting plot. Danny’s life is in turmoil: his older brother has recently died in a freak accident; his sister is pregnant and won’t say who the father is. Danny observes the profound changes in his family and finds refuge in training a camel and introducing the newly arrived girl from England into the ways of the outback. Passionate about the farm and particularly the cattle mustering, Danny captures the danger and excitement of the farm while also observing his family with affection and some confusion. A debut novel to look out for. Shortlisted for the North East Teenage Book Award and for the Coventry Inspiration Awards in the Simply The Book (age 14+) category. Longlisted for the Southern Schools Book Award.
July 2017 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Loss, love, and the struggle to survive the most savage of storms A compelling coming-of-age story, an exploration of loss, and a gripping, multi-layered mystery, this had me hooked from the opening lines, and will surely be loved by fans of Wonder, and Louis Sachar. Ethan Truitt (twelve years and four months old) has moved from his beloved Boston to Palm Knot, a “drooping and faded” backwater. His parents say it's because Grandpa Ike needs their help, but Ethan knows they’re lying. He knows they moved “because of what I did to Kacey”, his best friend. Being the new kid in class is hard for anyone, but especially so for Ethan, who doesn’t think he deserves friends, not after the accident he blames himself for. Then Coralee blasts into his life. She’s a whirlwind of a girl, a teller of big tales, a keeper of big secrets. Several mysteries are smoothly interwoven with the path of their relationship, and their personal struggles. What’s with the jewels they find in abandoned Blackwood House? Why does Kacey’s dad keep calling Ethan’s parents? And why won’t Grandpa Ike let anyone in his room? Poignant, tender, and budding with shoots of hope, this is a mighty fine debut about guilt, grief, friendship and healing. ~ Joanne Owen
Alice Angel has known only a life of rules, restriction and punishments as she strays from the rigid path of Victorian proprietary that her mother has set out for her. After a chance encounter with a charming stranger, and a final incident with her family that sees her condemned to the madhouse, Alice sees her opportunity to run...
May 2017 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Taking a stand for the people you love A touching tale of a teen girl’s endearing love for her grandmother, and the awe-inspiring, life-enhancing trip they take together. Zoe Bird is a wonderful whirlwind of a character. Her voice fizzes with energy - and anger. Alongside having to deal with a whole lot of nastiness at the hands of her bullying cousin Madi (AKA Saint Suckhole), she’s trying to cope with the fact that her beloved grandmother has Alzheimer’s. Granny is Zoe's closest friend, an ally who knows that Zoe has “the biggest heart in the world”. But Granny forgets things, and it’s getting worse. She sometimes goes to the store in her dressing gown, she’s failing to take care of herself, and she keeps mentioning her son Teddy, an uncle Zoe has never met. So Zoe’s parents decide that it’s time for her to move into an old people’s home, but not for long… A family revelation leads Zoe to break Granny out of the home and they take a trip that leads to unexpected discoveries, and unforeseen joy. Zoe’s relationship with Granny is nothing short of beautiful. I cried, I laughed, then cried some more at her bravery and absolute, unflinching emotional and physical support of her grandmother. By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, and always life-affirming, this will be adored by readers who enjoyed Jacqueline Wilson at a younger age. ~ Joanne Owen