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Winner of the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Susin Nielsen’s new novel features unforgettable central characters, and is beautifully written; her ear for dialogue – young teen to teen, young teen to parent, young teen to emergency services – pitch perfect. Despite being a story of homelessness and poverty, it will leave readers cheered and thoroughly reassured about the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Twelve-year old Felix lives with his mother Astrid, only rarely seeing his dad. Astrid has a flexible attitude to truth and Felix has developed a chart to measure the lies she tells as they navigate their lives. These range from ‘the invisible lie’, through the ‘no-one gets hurt’ to the biggest, the ‘someone might lose an eye’ lie. As they struggle to cope living in a (stolen) camper van, Astrid uses her panoply of lies to the full and Felix reluctantly goes along with it, ready to support his mother even when it’s really difficult. Nielsen gives him good friends, and a talent for memorising facts, both of which help to set up a better future for him. Both painful and funny, this is a book that will have readers alternatively shouting at its central characters, and cheering them on.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2020 | July 2020 Debut of the Month | Warm-hearted and mysterious The Unadoptables is a wonderfully entertaining adventure with a cast of fascinating characters set in a brilliantly evoked old-world Amsterdam and the surrounding countryside. Following the clues from the only possessions she was left with when she was abandoned as a baby and guided by her ‘Book of Theories’, the imaginative Milou leads her four friends – the least adoptable children in the very horrible Little Tulip Orphanage – to her family home where she is sure she will find her parents. Travelling through a freezing night the children arrive at their destination. But there is not the welcome they had expected. Where are Milou’s parents? And what is the mystery they need to solve? The creative ways in which the five children manage first to escape from the evil clutches of their matron and her evil accomplice Rotman and then to make a new life for themselves bamboozling neighbours and unravelling the mystery is vivid and captivating.
July 2020 Book of the Month | From the author of exceptional YA novels like What Momma Left Me and Piecing Me Together comes this beautiful bighearted story for 7+ year-olds – a true treasure about everyday family life, being yourself and making the best of things, with an unforgettable African American heroine at its luminous heart. Keen cook Ryan and her family live in Portland, Oregon, and she’s not best pleased when they have to move to a smaller house as a result of her dad’s new job paying less than the one he lost a while back. But Ryan’s not the kind of girl to complain for long, or to let anything get her down. She’s one of life’s thinkers and doers, whose loving parents have infused her with a life-affirming sense of self-worth and pride in her heritage: “I remember what Mom always tells me, how she named me Ryan because she wanted me to feel powerful, to remember that I am a leader every time someone calls my name. Dad is always telling me our people come from royalty, that my ancestors lived in Africa and were kings and queens and inventors and hard workers. Mom tells me their strength is running through my veins.” Told through manageable interlinked vignettes, this soulfully illustrated gem - the first in a series - sits in the tradition of Judy Blume’s young fiction and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series, but it’s also refreshingly unique. The pitch-perfect evocation of Ryan’s grace and warmth, and her positive perspective will entertain and inspire young readers, while helping them understand the world and handle change.
Oooh, there’s so much for young fans of adventure stories to enjoy in Alex English’s new book! It stars eleven-year-old Echo, who has grown up in the court of the king of Lockfort. It’s a gloomy and frankly repressive place and the king is very strict with Echo, who was left at the castle gate as a baby. She’s always been told there’s nothing beyond the kingdom’s borders – literally nothing at all – but suddenly, a challenge to that drops out of the sky, and with it the chance for Echo to explore a new world of adventure and to look for her mother. The story is full of fantastic scenes and packed with wonderful characters and English has created the sort of world that envelops young readers from the very first chapter. A glorious summer read! This is one to recommend to fans of Abi Elphinstone, Vashti Hardy and Jamie Littler.
Are you ready to meet the worst parents ever? Sure, some parents are embarrassing – but they’re NOTHING on this lot. These ten tales of the world’s most spectacularly silly mums and deliriously daft dads will leave you rocking with laughter. Pinch your nose for Peter Pong, the man with the stinkiest feet in the world… jump out of the way of Harriet Hurry, the fastest mum on two wheels… watch out for Monty Monopolize, the dad who takes all his kids’ toys… and oh no, it’s Supermum! Brandishing a toilet brush, a mop and a very bad homemade outfit…
'This Book Wants to Make You Laugh' is an interactive book for very young children by Justine Avery, which tries to do exactly that...make you laugh or at least smile. The wonderfully whimsical illustrations by Daria Yudina go a long way in helping the book achieve it's aim. The story is a manageable length for shorter attention spans and each turn of the page provides a surprise, which should delight the reader and spark a love for books and reading in a fun way. The book itself and the animals in it are shown as having human characteristics and there are also picture puzzles to provide amusement and broaden experience. I think children will thoroughly enjoy the laughter. Drena Irish, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Winner of the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Sami gets by in Boston on the money his grandfather makes on the street playing his rehab. When the instrument is stolen, Sami needs to find $700 to get it back. All he has is a man United key ring. It’s only going to be possible if Sami is prepared to accept help. This is a great book for readers not quite ready for YA fiction. It is raw, relevant but full of hope.
This new episode in The Unmapped Chronicles series plunges readers head-first into heart-stopping adventure deep in a rain forest closely modelled on the Amazon, but thrillingly, magically different. Twins Fox and Fibber Petty-Squabble (fabulous names are one of the hallmarks of Elphinstone’s writing) find themselves in Jungledrop, one of the Unmapped Kingdoms, and in a vital race against time with the thoroughly villainous harpy Morg; for the first time in their eleven years, the two siblings will have to work together if they’re going to secure the future of two worlds. This is a hugely satisfying fantasy adventure filled with everything that makes the hearts of young readers sing. Readers who enjoy Jungledrop should look out for Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor series or Dominique Valente’s sparkling Starfell books.
It is August in Paris and budding art historian Khayyam should be having the time of her life - but even in the City of Lights she can't stop worrying about the mess she left back home in Chicago. Only when she meets a cute young Parisian - who happens to be a distant relative of the novelist Alexandre Dumas - do things start to get interesting, as she starts to unveil the story of a 19th century Muslim woman whose path may have intersected with Dumas, Eugene Delacroix and Lord Byron. Two hundred years earlier in the Ottoman empire, Leila is the most favoured woman in the Pasha's harem. Her position is meant to be coveted; but she is struggling to survive as she fights to keep her true love hidden from her jealous captor. Echoing across centuries, as Khayyam uncovers the scintillating truth of Leila's long-forgotten life, her own destiny is transformed forever.
August 2020 Book of the Month | Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Laura Dockrill packs a really big story into this compact little book and though she tackles some big issues too, she keeps them specific to her set of characters, so that even quite young readers will understand. Sequin’s mum is a dressmaker, sewing gowns and fabulous outfits for the stars. She never takes any credit though, preferring to stay in the background and in fact, she’s literally hiding herself away in the family’s flat at the top of a tower block. When Sequin does a school presentation about her mum, no-one believes her. It makes Sequin angry with her mum, but then a terrible danger threatens them and they both have to face their real fears. It’s a story that readers will absolutely love, with a twist that they’ll want to return to again and again. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+
Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 | From acclaimed author Eve Ainsworth comes this new novella that packs a powerful punch in its openhearted, honest account of a teen girl trying her hardest to cope with her mum’s alcoholism. Violet has always seen her mum as being “strong, funny and in control”, as a “pretty, glamorous and confident” person who firmly believes, “You have to give a good impression at all times.” In contrast, Violet is “the quiet one …I’m the worrier who can never be confident.” But since her mum’s boyfriend left, Mum’s “it’s just one glass” of wine is starting to have an affect on their family life, with Violet increasingly having to pick-up caring for her little brother when Mum’s too hung-over to get out of bed. As Violet finds more empty bottles around the house, and finds herself having to lie to cover her mum, matters come to a scary head and she knows she has to be brave and seek help. Truly brilliant at capturing Violet’s conflicted feelings – an excruciating pull between love and anger – this compelling, moving story will engross fans of true-to-life fiction, while casting sensitive light on a tough subject. And, since this is published by the ever-brilliant Barrington Stoke, this book is especially suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers, with its expert attention to vocabulary, layout, font and paper.
June 2020 Book of the Month | Spending time with Beattie, Mimi and Zelda, aka the Bad Mermaids, is always fun, but there are extra delicious thrills in their latest adventure. Their friend, spy mermaid Meri Pebble, has been sent on a secret mission. She’s working undercover checking on the Sushi Sisters, after an anonymous tip that the celebrity pranksters are planning to destroy all humans. The little mermaids (plus Steve, their talking pet seahorse) go with her disguised as the GLAM squad, in charge of the Sushi Sisters’ wardrobe, hair and make up. The seabed is set for adventure, intrigue, and some very fashionable outfits! Sibéal Pounder’s stories are absolutely fabulous, told with real flair and wit, and it’s not hard to sea (sorry!) why they’re so popular with young readers.
June 2020 Book of the Month | Check your bookshelves, everyone. We bet they’re full of books about bears, yes? Well it’s time to make room for books about alpacas, starting with this one about alpaca Alfonso! Alfonso loves a good story and when he realises that all his favourite books star bears, but don’t feature any alpacas at all, he sets out to change things. He persuades his friend Colin – a bear – to help, but succeeds only after energetically demonstrating just how great alpacas are. This has to be one of the liveliest picture books of the year, and Alfonso’s passion, enthusiasm and determination gleam from every page. While it makes for wonderful reading, it’s also saying something very important: everyone should see themselves represented in books, and all our reading experiences will be the better if they do.
June 2020 Book of the Month | Teeming with drama and compelling code-cracking action, this WWII thriller is driven by the lives of three young people determined to make their mark on the war effort, and by the life-affirming relationship between fifteen-year-old Louisa and the elderly woman she’s employed to look after. Aspiring pilot Louisa is alone in the world. Her white English mother was killed in a London bomb blast, and her black Jamaican dad died on a ship that was torpedoed only three days after her mother died. Through her grief brave Louisa “burns to fight back” and takes a job looking after Jane, an elderly German woman who’s been imprisoned in an alien detainment camp. While travelling to stay with Jane’s niece in her Scottish pub, they form a beautiful bond, finding common ground in their love of music and the fact that they’re both outsiders in Britain - Jane because she’s German, and Louisa because she’s mixed race and subjected to racism. In Scotland they meet fellow outsider, Ellen, a driver for the local RAF airfield who tries to hide her traveller heritage. Ellen’s active role makes Louisa more determined to do something herself, so she takes her chance when a German defector lands at the airfield and leaves a codebreaking Enigma machine. It’s not long before Louisa, Ellen and young flight lieutenant Jamie step-up their war efforts, as their story builds to an impeccably conducted, pulse-quickening crescendo. Alongside being a gripping thriller, this is a truly moving, inspirational novel. Louisa’s passion for music and learning, her wit and ambition, are exhilaratingly infectious. I’d love to know what she does next.
Award-winning Neil Gaiman brilliantly weaves a spell-binding story taking readers up and away on a wild fantasy in which dinosaurs and space travel happily coexist. And all because…Dad has to go out and by the milk! Chris Riddell’s line illustrations capture the invention perfectly. Children of all ages (and lots of childish grown-ups) will be swept along laughing with glee as Dad tries to get the milk home...and possibly save the universe along the way!
June 2020 Debut of the Month | At seventeen, Brooklyn hipster Cal is a successful social media journalist accustomed to living in the public eye, with a whopping 435,000 followers on the FlashFame app. But even Cal isn’t ready for the unforgiving media storm he’s thrust into when his pilot dad is shortlisted for NASA’s Orpheus mission to Mars. Initially dead against leaving Brooklyn, Cal begins to wonder whether “maybe Clear Lake, Texas, has a story out there just waiting for me to uncover.” And then there’s handsome Leon, one of the other “Astrokids”, who’s set his heart pounding before they’ve even met. On arrival, and immediately thrust into the spotlight by StarWatch reality TV show, Cal finds himself “admitting I like our new home, even this town”, which in turn “feels like I’m abandoning my old life.” Maybe this is down to his contradictory nature - Cal is anything but a straightforward teenager. He doesn’t think like one. He doesn’t speak like one. Indeed, his thought processes and dialogue can seem out of kilter with his age. He needs everything just-so, but at the same acts impulsively. For example, he can’t stop himself from broadcasting news about his dad to his followers, which - as predicted - results in him facing the wrath of StarWatch. Cal’s settling-in has a lot to do with his rollercoaster romance with Leon. It’s starts out with the thrust of a rocket launch (“This crush is strong. This crush is too powerful. This crush will be the end of me”), and then comes a crash to earth alongside tragedy striking the mission. In the aftermath of this, Cal finds himself working to expose Starwatch’s agenda, both to clear his name and save the mission, and the truths revealed sure ain’t pretty. Covering mental health issues (via Leon’s depression and Cal’s mom’s anxiety) alongside a whirlwind coming-of-age gay love story, The Gravity of Us is an entertaining YA debut that gives many underrepresented folk a chance to see themselves on the page, with the added kick of space exploration and media ruthlessness.
It’s headmistress Mrs Bottomley-Blunt who declares 4B to be LITERALLY the Worst Class In The World, and she may have a point. After all, there was the school trip to the zoo when Harvey Barlow smuggled a penguin back on the bus, the time they tried to tunnel to Finland, and the Show and Tell incident with Manjit’s dog, Killer… Everyone has bad luck though, and after reading this very funny book, most people will agree with Stanley Bradshaw and decide they wouldn’t have 4B any other way. Stanley’s descriptions of their antics, recounted in two separate stories, are highly entertaining: Joanna Nadin captures the chaos and excitement of primary school perfectly, and young readers will recognise the setting and the characters, not least long-suffering teacher Mr Nidgett. Short sentences, lots of pictures and clever repetition of words and phrases plus the lively action make this a perfect first chapter book. One to recommend to fans of Patricia Butchart’s Wigglesbottom Primary series ready to move onto something more challenging.
Twenty years after the publication of the book that must be in every nursery and primary school library, we have another vividly colourful jungle tale filled with a perfectly judged rhyming text that is a joy to read aloud and sharing a really positive message about being true to yourself and celebrating all sorts of achievements. Guy Parker-Rees has a very distinctive technicolour palette and has talked about his love of drawing elephants, which really shows in the endearing cast of characters here. It is time for the all -important Elephant games when, one by one, the young elephants compete to impress King Elephant Mighty and earn their Elephant Name. So the loudest becomes Elephant Noisy and the strongest Elephant Strong and so on, but right at the end is little Num-Num who did not know what his talent was and whatever he tried, failed to impress the king. He gets called Elephant Nothing at All and sadly Num- Num decides to leave. But the animal friends he gains at his new watering hole convince him of his own worth and he returns to put the king right. This positive message of affirmation is a really timely one and I can see that this text will be as universally popular as its predecessor and a classic in its own right. Indispensable for every library.
Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead writes books that are rich with ideas and acknowledge her readers’ intelligence and intuition. Eight-year-old Bea is the central character in her latest novel, and, typically, there’s lots going on in her life. She divides her time between her mother’s and father’s homes following their divorce and visits a therapist who helps with her anxieties. The story culminates in her father’s wedding to his new partner, Jesse. As ever, we move back and forth in time, and discover much about Bea’s inner life as well as her daily routine in New York. Relationships with family and friends propel the story and there are some real shocks and surprises for readers, plus a gradual understanding of the things that will never change for Bea. It’s beautifully written, a thoughtful, sensitive account of growing up and growing resilience and trust. Fans of Rebecca Stead will also enjoy Kate DiCamillo’s books and Susin Nielsen’s.
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