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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.
In a nutshell: charming story of boy who can talk and joke with the animals | Lucky Vince – not only is his dad a zoo keeper but Vince has inherited the family trait and can talk to the animals. They can talk to him too of course, and sing, and what an eccentric but lovable bunch they are. In this adventure Vince recruits their help to track down stolen jewellery – the reward is a massive Swiss Roll, so wouldn’t you? Sophie Thompson’s narrative style is charming – she frequently breaks off to address the reader direct, and as though we are just the kind of people she really likes. She has a lovely turn of phrase – ‘There was a rittle-rittle-rootle and a frithy-frith-fatootle in the hedge’ - while the animals’ songs, interspersed throughout the story, are enormous fun. Illustrations by Rebecca Ashdown make this as good to look at as it’s fun to read aloud. Readers will also enjoy Harriet Whitehorn’s Violet stories, and The Bolds by Julian Clary and David Roberts. ~ Andrea Reece
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2018 | | Best friends Molly and Beth have a very special power: they can time travel! When Molly’s dad comes to live nearby, the girls realise that he is very lonely. He doesn’t see his only brother and he flatly refuses to have any kind of pet. How can the girls help him? Going back in time to the 1970s, Molly and Beth try to find out something from the past that can help them to cheer Dad up. Arriving at the time of Dad’s childhood they find that much was very different in the 1970s – cassettes for playing music, unfamiliar groups like The Bay City Rollers, some very weird hairstyles and clothes and no mobile phones! They also find out the misunderstanding when they were little boys that explains why Dad and his brother aren’t friends. A great new adventure for Molly and Beth who previously appeared in Time After Time and Stand By Me.
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | In a nutshell: sad | funny| touching | Susin Nielsen has won many fans for her poignant, character-driven stories of young people in difficult situations. Ambrose, the eponymous word nerd, is just such a central character: he’s isolated and lonely – shocked by the sudden death of his father his mother is anxious and over-protective – socially awkward too. His life changes when he strikes up a kind of friendship a neighbour, without telling his mum because Cosmo is a former drug addict with a prison record. This in turn leads to more friends as the two join a local Scrabble club, and a happy outcome for each. Readers will totally believe in this friendship, and root for Ambrose and Cosmo. A feel-good story filled with memorable characters, and one that sneaks all sorts of truths about life past its readers too. Readers who enjoy Word Nerd will also like A Seven Letter Word by Kim Slater, which also uses Scrabble as a hook for a moving story about struggling young people, while Stacey Matson writes satisfying, heart-warming stories about kids overcoming problems. ~ Andrea Reece
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2018 | Award-winning illustrator Michael Foreman’s own love of football suffuses this story which perfectly captures the thrill all footballers have of scoring the winning goal. As the new boy in a small local team a young boy dreams that one day he will be out on the pitch and will the strike the winning goal at the World Goal. Full of action and detail, Michael Foreman’s illustrations capture how his youthful dreams and reality merge to create a classic football story. 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
Annabelle has lived in Wolf Hollow all her life: a quiet place, still scarred by two world wars. But when cruel, manipulative Betty arrives in town, Annabelle's calm world is shattered, along with everything she's ever known about right and wrong. When Betty disappears, suspicion falls on strange, gentle loner Toby. As Wolf Hollow turns against him, and tensions quickly mount, Annabelle must do everything in her power to protect Toby - and to find Betty, before it is too late.
One of our special picks for Mothering Sunday The ahhh-factor is at its highest setting in this sweet but sturdy little board book. On each page a different mummy and child enjoy having simple fun together, whether that’s zooming round the shops, playing in the park or splashing in the bath (mummy penguin and her little one are particularly adorable). These are scenes that will be very familiar to little children, and they’ll recognise too the very special mummy love that’s depicted in every scene. The rhyming text is fun to read aloud, and the pictures are full of things to spot and discuss. Perfect for Mother’s Day! ~ Andrea Reece Our special Mothering Sunday Picks Guess How Much I Love You Gift Set by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram Something for Mummy by Ted Dewan Mother's Day by Shirley Hughes With My Mummy by James Brown That's Not My Chick by Fiona Watt Superhero Mum by Timothy Knapman Me and My Grandma by Alison Ritchie
September 2014 Book of the Month Pixies, ghouls, and a granny who is stuck in the old ways are just some of the characters in this highly entertaining and action-packed story set in a witchy world that is as new fangled as our own. Cauldron’s are so yesterday, Flo would never be seen dead with one. She talks to her friends on a skychatter and, if she’s going to travel, she’d take a skycab rather than ride on a wobbly broomstick. Flo is passionate about saving pixies who are almost extinct while Grandma dreads an invasion of ghouls who she thinks are about to attack the Witchworld. Chris Riddell’s illustrations bring this ebullient world, so like our own and so different, vividly to life.
One of our Books of the Year 2015 - September 2015 Book of the Month This second adventure for witchkid Flo Skritchett is likely to prove as popular as the first. A huge part of the fun of the stories is the parallel witch society Emma Fischel has created: parents will envy Flo’s mum’s witchwasher – the witch washing machine – while young readers will long for a skychatter, so much more stylish than a mobile phone. The other fun thing about magical worlds is that they offer so many more chances for children to be heroic, and that’s the case here too. Having already seen off an invasion of ghouls, albeit with the help of her highly eccentric granny and other Skritchett family members, now Flo has to face the terrifying Haggfiend, and virtually single handed – save for a gang of loyal trolls and her best friends. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the story, and the book fairly crackles with energy, excitement and humour too. ~ Andrea Reece Kirsty from Nosy Crow says: “Shiveringly exciting and with such a great voice – Emma plays beautifully with the witch genre and the results are spelltastic"
January 2017 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Losing your way | Running for your life | Finding your feet | 12+ A beautifully bittersweet debut in which a teenage girl discovers a latent talent that shines light on the darkest of times. Fifteen-year-old Wing Jones lives with her mom, her big brother Marcus (a high school sports hero), and her brilliantly portrayed, bickering grandmothers, Chinese LaoLao and Ghanaian Granny Dee. “I can’t blend in but I don't stand out” is how Wing sums up her place in the world, and her insecurities are cruelly exacerbated by the racist prejudice of peers who mock her appearance and mixed race heritage. The family are doing their best to get on with their lives (Wing lost her cop father in a shooting) when a second tragedy strikes. But, in the midst of this agony (“I didn’t know it was possible for a heart to break in so many ways”), Wing is struck by an overwhelming urge to run and discovers that she’s an incredibly talented athlete. It turns out that nurturing this gift - and not blending in - might just be the very thing that gets her family back on track. Set in the run-up to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, this is an expansive, heartfelt tale of loss, first love and self-discovery, and readers will truly root for Wing. Highly recommended for fans of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell. ~ Joanne Owen
This is a stunning piece of writing for young teenagers. Part-action, part family drama the plot cleverly interweaves two stories. The first is of two brothers who with their mother are on a trip of a lifetime in the frozen arctic north. The second is the story of their older teenage stepsister who is coming to terms with the reappearance of her mother in her life. Doyle weaves a brilliant portrait of family life, love and loss. It’s Doyle at his exciting best.
In a tradition of stories going right back to Beowulf, referenced in the book, this is a tale of stolen treasure, trickery and courage. Aidan is struggling to keep things together at home: his mother has been sectioned and his father seems almost paralysed with despair. It falls to Aidan to deliver the sacks of mail his postman father is hiding in their garden shed. So when thieves steal his bike Aidan has to go after them. It’s here that magic – old magic – intrudes into the contemporary setting. There are no portals suddenly opening, it’s not the sort of magic to bring special powers; hard to define, harder to pin down – ‘a sort of stillness that moved’ says Aidan – human lives are of no consequence to it and if Aidan emerges a hero it’s due to his own strengths. Gripping, compulsive reading, an exceptional book. Authors Sara Crowe (Bone Jack), Rupert Wallis (All Sorts of Possible) and Natasha Carthew (The Light that Gets Lost) all understand old magic and have written similarly powerful and enthralling stories. ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: a clever bit of detection in the classroom | This satisfying, entertaining classroom crime caper thoroughly respects its young readers’ intelligence. Smashie and Dontel are smart as they come and when the school hamster disappears from his cage they decide to unravel the mystery. Little do they know that in fact their classroom has been the scene of not one but three crimes; it will take all their ingenuity and teamwork to find the culprits. Their approach to crime solving is as rigorous as any grown up detective and during the course of the book readers will learn terms such as ‘exonerate’, ‘caveat’ and ‘circumstantial evidence’. With a cast of delightfully eccentric teachers and quirky students, there’s as much to make readers to laugh as there is to stimulate their grey matter and this is highly recommended. If this whets readers’ appetites for idiosyncratic young detectives, Alexander McCall Smith’s Precious Ramotswe series will be right up their street. ~ Andrea Reece