No catches, no fine print just unconditional book loving for your children with their favourites saved to their own digital bookshelf.
New members get entered into our monthly draw to win £100 to spend in your local bookshop plus lots lots more...Find out more
Find the latest books for fans of fantasy stories and magical tales! We have extracts to download for most of our books plus expert reviews.
April 2021 Debut of the Month | Magical, mischievous and mysterious, Everyday Magic is an enchanted mix of The Witches, Nevermoor and Lemony Snicket. Nine-year-old Alfie Blackstack's parents have met a very unfortunate end. Now he's living in the dark and cobwebby Switherbroom Hall with his mad-haired Aunt Gertie and warty Aunt Zita, who would really like to pickle him. Before long, Alfie realises his aunts aren't just the weird local chemists, they're witches!
April 2021 Book of the Month | Michelle Paver has done it again in the eighth book in her epic, emotional Chronicles of Ancient Darkness Stone Age series that began with Wolf Brother. Skin Taker reels with a rollercoaster sense of adventure, shadowy atmosphere and an infectious spirit of survival as Torak, Renn and Wolf must find new ways to exist during the midwinter Dark Time, when new dangers are awoken and devastation looms. Torak remains the brave, brash protagonist readers have long known and admired, yet his character has been deftly developed too, and he’s here presented with fierce challenges - and responses - that befit his experiences. Though its setting is aeons ago, and though Torak’s world is suffused in otherworldly spirit magic, Paver has a remarkable skill for making her stories richly relatable. The emotional dilemmas and relationships have resonance; the detail and atmosphere of the natural world are truly tangible, and what an exhilarating immersion in the wild this offers adventure-seeking readers. Read a Q&A with Michelle Paver about Viper's Daughter, as she returned to the Wolf Brother series after over a decade.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Derek Landy’s riotously inventive Skulduggery Pleasant series first blasted its way onto bookshelves back in 2007, and fresh fantastical thrills keep on coming in Dead or Alive - no mean feat for book fourteen in a series. With the world teetering on the brink of irrevocable, devastating change, this penultimate novel sees Skulduggery, Valkyrie and Omen face their most trying test (yet…). As wildly witty and exhilarating as ever, this doorstopper of a page-turner sizzles with a burning sense of time slipping away, for if Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie can’t rid the world of Damocles Creed, the world’s people will be wiped out. Even Valkyrie is thrown by the imminent prospect of making the ultimate sacrifice: “Valkyrie woke, jumped out of bed and managed to get halfway to the bathroom before she threw up. They were going to kill Creed. They were going to kill Creed and nothing would be the same again.” The dialogue dances, desperation escalates, and fans will be left longing to know how Skulduggery’s awe-inspiring story will end.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Bravo to Jonathan Stroud! With its cast of charismatic characters and extraordinary world-building (think broken Britain with Wild West vibes), The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne is an audacious firecracker. And, in even better news for fans of funny, inventive adventure fiction, this is but the beginning of what’s set to be an extraordinary series. “Britain was a land of ruin…the country was maimed and broken - but full of strange fecundity and strength”. It’s also brimming with the likes of bears, wolves, flesh-eating spear-birds and gruesome cannibal creatures, all of which whip-smart, cuss-uttering Scarlett takes into her swaggering stride. She makes an unforgettable impression from the off: “A slight slim figure in a battered brown coat, weighed down with…all the paraphernalia of a girl who walked the Wilds.” After killing four grown men who’d tried to rob her, Scarlett struts into a bank and proceeds to hold it up (turns out she needs money to repay a debt). On fleeing the scene, Scarlett finds a crashed bus, all its passengers dead but for a lone boy hiding in the toilet. Enter Albert Browne, “awkward, skinny and wide-mouthed, like a frightened skeleton”, and seemingly a piece of powdery chalk to Scarlett’s pungent cheese. Her scathing sarcasm (and Albert’s obliviousness to it) provides many a laugh: “You just holler if I get in your way,” she seethes as he admires a seed pod while she sets about making a fire, cooking a bird and establishing a camp for them, and all while they’re being pursued. But, for all his unworldliness, Albert turns out to have hidden talents. Sensing he might be of use to her after all, Scarlett agrees to help him accomplish his own mission. Albert wants to reach the Free Isles, remnants of London that “don’t have any restrictions on who you are or what you can do. They welcome people who are...different”, unlike the dictatorial High Council of the Faith Houses, which is “desperate to keep the old ways going”, and “on the watch for any kind of deviation.” Trouble is, as their respective pursuers close in, time and space is running out for our unforgettable outlaws. What a story, what characters, and what a wait it will be until the second instalment. I defy any reader not to fall for Scarlett and Albert, and to become gasp-out-loud, laugh-out-loud invested in their quest.
March 2021 Book of the Month | Forna has taken her own experiences of sexism and racism that she experienced as a woman from Sierra Leone living in the US on which to base this novel. This has created a powerful depiction of the oppression and cruelty meted out to women who are different from a society’s accepted roles. Set in the patriarchal fantasy world of Otera, this is based in an ancient kingdom, where a woman’s worth is only as good as her proven purity. This purity is proven by the woman being made to bleed – in a brutal ceremony when they reach the age of 16. When Deka bleeds gold this is deemed the colour of impurity, and she is declared a demon. Not only is she thrust out of the home and society she has known since birth, but she is also subjected to unspeakable acts of brutality and violence by the ruling priesthood. The fact Deka does not die from all the brutality gives one hope she is different and may have some role in the future of Otera. This proves so – Deka is rescued and taken to a training ground for women where she finds a friendship and sisterhood amongst others also found to be impure. As they train the ‘impure’ girls are paired with soldiers from the Imperial jatu fighting force – and some form deep and lasting friendships with their partners. The characters here are hugely diverse with Black, Asian and Brown main, and minor characters, with a recognition of diverse sexuality too. The power of this novel is in the strong, horrifying but ultimately hopeful end of this story. There is much violence – in both punitive killing and re-killings of demons by the priests, but also in the violent backstories of some of the girls (including an instance of rape.) The book explores themes of feminist possibility whilst being based in a fantasy world taking inspiration from ancient West African culture. A powerful read, not for the faint-hearted but very definitely giving hope for the future, showing that there is a place to be whatever you wish to be – homemaker or fighter. This is a strong start to what promises to be a trilogy. Read more about The Gilded Ones in a Q&A with Namina Forna.
Sally Gardner’s stories of the Tindims, little people who, like nautical Borrowers, collect up the rubbish floating in the sea and reuse it, are as full of adventure as they are of charm, mixing a refreshing innocence with a real sense of urgency about the need for humans to change our ways. In this story Tiddledim the explorer is sailing into Turtle Bay, Granny Gull is baking cakes and just about everyone else is searching for the Bottlerama, the special instruments Tindims use to welcome visitors to Rubbish Island. Made from ten green bottles, it makes a sound as if the clouds are singing. But the Bottlerama needs fixing, and the Tindims can’t find enough glass bottles, though they’ve got lots (and lots) of plastic ones. Things work out happily, and the story ends with the Tindims singing along to their new Bottlerama, while a whale has been helped in the process too. The story will appeal to all eco-conscious young readers as well as those who dream of independent adventures. The font is dyslexia friendly and with illustrations by Lydia Corry throughout (as well as a simply gorgeous colour map on the inside cover) these stories are accessible to all readers. Printed in dyslexia-friendly font with pictures on every page and perfect for the reluctant reader.
An exhilarating, electrically atmospheric novel about being brave enough to believe in yourself and those you love. Hattie is a fiery, utterly believable, unforgettable protagonist who learns from her mistakes and discovers the best – and most magical – thing she can be is herself. She’s a role model for young readers seeking stability and courage in an unstable world, and the beating heart of a truly thrilling adventure.
Little Kitty is sooo cute, the pinkest, fluffiest, prettiest little kitten, especially with her unicorn horn tied firmly to her head. You see, Little Kitty feels very unicorn-y, and thinks she may well be one. Her companions – friends seems too strong – Gecko and Parakeet tease her mercilessly, concluding ‘You’re a cat, and that’s that’. When a real unicorn arrives, the boys are very impressed, while poor little Kitty feels tiny and embarrassed. But as she slinks off, horn abandoned, the unicorn stops her. He loves her fuzzy ears and silver whiskers, and suddenly Kitty recognises a fellow Kitty-corn. As they play together, children will understand the joy they share and the happiness that comes from being true to the inner-you.
Trust no witch . . . Iraya Adair has spent her life in a cell. Heir of an overthrown and magically-gifted dynasty, she was exiled from her home on the island nation of Aiyca when she was just a child. But every day brings her closer to freedom - and vengeance. Jazmyne Cariot grew up dressed in gold, with stolen magic at her fingertips. Daughter of the self-crowned doyenne, her existence is a threat to her mother's rule. But unlike her sister, Jazmyne has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother's power. Sworn enemies, the two witches enter a deadly alliance to take down the woman who threatens both their worlds. But revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain - except the lengths Iraya and Jazmyne will go to win this game. Two witches. One motive. And a very untrustworthy alliance.
The Sapphire Crystal is an exciting adventure that takes Melina and her friend Lisa into a parallel fantasy world. They seem to have discovered special powers that they must use to help save their own world. We follow them as they try to overcome the evil forces that surround them. The story is full of twist and turns and makes for a terrific read for young adults and would make a good film! Thoroughly enjoyable. Maureen Gourlay, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Meixing Lim and her family have arrived in the New Land to begin a New Life. Everything is scary and different. Their ever-changing house is confusing and she finds it hard to understand the other children at school. Yet in her magical glasshouse, with a strange black and white cat, Meixing finds a place to dream. But then Meixing's life comes crashing down in unimaginable ways. Only her two new and unexpected friends can help. By being brave together, they will learn how to make the stars shine brighter. A Glasshouse of Stars is based on the author's childhood and beautifully illustrates the importance of friendship, kindness and love.
Set ten years after the events of Dragon Daughter, which featured revolutionary dragon-rider Milla, this sparkling sequel tells the story of Milla’s cousin, Joe. On his twelfth birthday Joe is out-of-this-world excited about attending the Hatching Ceremony, desperately hoping that this is the day he’ll be bonded with a dragon. But when Joe inadvertently ruins the ceremony and Milla must step in to rescue the situation, “Joe fled from his parents’ home, knowing he’d never be able to return.” Ashamed to his bones, Joe has an epiphany after taking refuge in a cavern (“a home for a monster”) and meeting a stranger named Winter: “His old life was over. He’d messed it up spectacularly, but it was finished. He couldn’t hurt his parents any more. This was the new start he’d been looking for… Until he had become someone his parents could be proud of, he would stay dead.” With the sweeping atmosphere of a classic hero story, Joe’s story is shot-through with themes of acceptance, making amends, courage and concord, against a backdrop of political - and volcanic - eruptions. What’s more, the author’s vibrant, visual storytelling paints a truly sensory picture of a world and its compelling cast of characters. Read more about the series as we chat with Liz Flanagan
Return to the spellbinding world of Ross Mackenzie’s Evernight in this darkly brilliant sequel. The Evernight has been defeated and the sun has returned, thanks to Larabelle Fox and her friends Joe and Double Eight. But a new threat is emerging from the mists of the Veil, the dangerous forest that surrounds the Silver Kingdom’s southern lands. Lara and Joe journey to Lake End to discover what’s really happening, all the while trying to stay one step ahead of the secret police . . .
Imogen’s life at home is not all perfect so it’s no surprise that she follows the strange silver moth that arrives from nowhere – even when it leads her through a door in a tree! And there’s no stopping her little sister Marie from following…Like any magic opening, the door leads the two girls into an extraordinary world where almost anything can – and will – happen! As in the best traditions of children’s stories, Imogen and Marie meet a wealth of larger-than-life characters including a spoiled prince and a dancing bear as they journey through a richly-imagined world of possibilities. Chris Riddell’s illustrations bring the magic to life perfectly.
The wolves are circling and a young king will face his greatest challenge in the explosive finale of the instant #1 New York Times-bestselling King of Scars Duology. The Demon King. As Fjerda's massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm - and even the monster within - to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king's gift for the impossible. The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost. The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart. King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.
Hot on the heady heels of Havenfall in which Maddie saved her Uncle Marcus’s inn (a safe haven between unstable ancient worlds), Sara Holland’s Phoenix Flame crackles with tension, family secrets, devastating dilemmas, and more than a dash of romance. Though the Silver Prince has been banished, Uncle Marcus seems to be recovering, and handsome Brekken made it back from Fiordenkill, Maddie’s summer of high-stakes assignments in Havenfall is far from over. “I don’t feel safe. Not yet,” she remarks as she glides into a glamourous ballroom hoping to have a peace treaty signed. It’s not long before she must brave it to frosty Fiordenkill where, beneath its ethereal, fairytale appearance, beyond the beautiful “ice bridges and palaces of packed snow”, the black-market trade of souls must be stopped. Charged with magic and Maddie’s fierce fight to protect the inn and all it represents, it’s intoxicating stuff and, unusually for epic fantasy, it’s short, without compromising on the world-building front, which makes it an excellent gateway into the genre. Bravo to Sara Holland for packing so much action, intrigue and richly evocative detail into under 250 pages. Some of our readers were lucky enough to review the first in this brilliant series, Havenfall - find out what they thought!
When a library book falls from a rowing boat and sinks to the bottom of the sea, it sets in motion a huge adventure. A little girl called Olive loses the book, it’s found by an enormous octopus. What is it, he wonders, and what’s it for? Fascinated, Octopus sets out to collect every book he can find, pinching Olive’s bedtime story and the lighthouse keeper’s favourite romance novel; soon the town is empty of books and the townspeople have nothing to read. Inspired by her favourite stories, Olive sets off like a detective or a fearless explorer to get the book back. In the process she makes a new friend and the gorgeous final pages show story thief turned story teller as Olive and Octopus entertain the town from their new story ship. From the creator of Otto Blotter, Bird Spotter, it’s another funny, exciting and inspiring adventure. Graham Carter’s vivid, colourful illustrations glow with energy and are full of wonderful, intriguing details. Octopus himself is a triumph, and children will be delighted at the different uses he finds for books!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2021 | Best-selling author/ illustrator David McKee created Mr Benn his iconic character over 50 years ago and he has been a star of books and TV programmes ever since. Mr Benn’s Big Game is a classic David McKee story which quietly but firmly promotes good – this time not shooting wild animals. When Mr Benn goes to his favourite dressing up shop he tries on a khaki uniform and is transported to the jungle where he is in charge of a group of very keen big game hunters. Can Mr Benn stop them shooting the wonderful animals in the jungle? Making use of a very cunning plan – and in the best tradition of children’s stories – he does just that! Fans of Elmer will love this earlier introduction to some familiar loveable elephants.
March 2021 Debut of the Month | Stella is apprehensive about spending the summer in the Shetland idlasn with her grandpa. Although she grew up there things have changed and since her grandma died her grandpa has become much more bad-tempered. But she still loves the myths and old stories her grandma told her, and recognises the island as home. Maybe it’s no wonder then that she turns out to have a magical connection to the place of her birth. Stella is a weather weaver, able to call down clouds and pluck wind out the sky. When her island is threatened by a terrifying sea witch, it’s up to her to keep her home safe. It’s a thrilling story of magic, nature and the age-old theme of good versus evil, and makes perfect reading for wild March days (or any time of the year). One to recommend to fans of Catherine Doyle’s Storm Keeper trilogy.
March 2021 Book of the Month | Jeanne Willis is one of our funniest writers for children, but she can do poignancy and tenderness with equal skill. Hom is the story of a shipwreck. A young boy is washed up on a desert island and there discovers Hom, a peace-loving hairy little creature, the last of his kind. The two become best of friends, playing and laughing together; after all, as the boy says, ‘We’re much more alike than different.’ When the chance of escape from the island comes, the boy decides not to take it, in case the arrival of bigger people puts Hom into danger. It’s a touching story of friendship, family and the importance of kindness, to others but to our planet too. Adults will realise that Hom is short for Hominid, his presence a reminder of our past, our connections to the natural world, and its fragility. Illustrator Paddy Donnelly creates a wonderfully lush and vibrant desert island, and his characters are equally warm and alive.
Clementine - though she is usually called Oiya (Oy, you) by her dreadful Aunt and Uncle – has dreams of a magic place she may have once known. Her only friend is the cat Gilbert (called Giblets by Aunt Vermillia and Uncle Rufus) as Clementine has a Cinderella-like existence working all day and then being locked away in the cellar at night. She glimpses the sky through looking up the chimney in her cellar, until one day she looks out of a window in the house and sees the magic place she has imagined… Then follows a great adventure through the Great Black City as Clementine miraculously escapes and tries to find her magic place. Clementine is a very determined little girl, many would have given up in her circumstances, but she knows she can fine her magic place. The book is a very tactile object, a lovely size for smaller hands as they get involved in this wonderful adventure. Black and white illustrations on virtually every page – Wormell is feted for his wood cuts and lino cuts – with a nod to the style of Gustav Doré, give this an authentic Dickensian feel. The generous illustrations paired with the fast-paced story make this a book children will enjoy reading for pleasure!
Casting Mona Lisa as a self-important, been there, done that, bought-the-t-shirt-in-the- museum-gift-shop character (“She loved the attention! She loved the crowds…I know everything and everyone knows me”), Yevgenia Nayberg’s Mona Lisa in New York presents a playful, strikingly-illustrated picture book ode to New York’s distinctive wonders through its unique, irreverent take on a 500-year-old enigma. After journeying across the ocean “so people far away could also admire her beauty”, and being marvelled at by crowds in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mona Lisa is in for a shock when she decides to wander the city alone at night and gets lost. No problem, she thinks. Everyone knows who I am. Except they don’t. In fact, “No one paid any attention to her.” Thankfully, she encounters Tag, a graffiti art character from Brooklyn. While Mona Lisa is loath to accept that she’s the same as Tag, and while she initially insists that she knows everything, Tag kindly takes her hand and shows her NYC in all its kaleidoscopic glory - they listen to jazz in Harlem, eat pizza in the Bronx, salsa dance on the High Line, and swim on Brighton Beach. “Turns out there’s so much I didn’t know,” she admits when they part. It also turns out that New York has captured Mona Lisa’s heart. Great for introducing little ones to New York, this will also make an excellent springboard for talking about art and culture in all their forms.
Check out the latest activities in our KidsZone.