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April 2020 Book of the Month | Twelve-year-old Ross is dealt a devastating blow when he’s told he has an extremely rare form of eye cancer and is likely to lose sight in both eyes. Based on author Rob Harrell’s personal experience of eye cancer, and spiced with his cool comic-strips of Ross’s Battbutt and Batpig characters, Wink has all the freshness and pitch-perfect narrative voice of a Louis Sachar story, with its own unique warmth and wit.As Ross struggles with the strangeness of undergoing immediate radiation treatment, he also faces a terrible time at school. Cruelly called the “Cancer Cowboy” on account of having to wear a hat, he’s also the subject of malicious memes. While Ross’s personal plight is at the huge heart of this novel, it’s equally as powerful in its portrayal of the wider impact of devastating diagnoses, most poignantly when Ross’s friend Isaac distances himself from their Oreo-sealed friendship pact. But as Isaac retreats, he makes life-changing new friends as a result of his treatment. First there’s fellow patient Jerry, a wise-cracking old guy who rebuffs Ross’s desire to be normal. According to Jerry, “Different moves the needle. Different is where the good stuff happens. There’s strength in difference.” Then there’s Frank, the adorable radiation tech guy who teaches Ross to play guitar, which has tear-jerkingly transformational effects.What an authentic, emotional, amusing and all-round awesome read this is.
First published in 1975, this extraordinary story of the friendship between the gentle Tuck family and ten-year-old Winnie feels older than its years, but also of our age, in the magical way true classics do. The story is enthrallingly set-up by juxtaposing three apparently unconnected happenings during the “strange and breathless days” of a hot August. As the Prologue states, and as things turn out, “things can come together in strange ways.” Dissatisfied at home, Winnie longs to do “something that would make some kind of difference in the world.” Certain this will never happen “if I stay in here like this,” she explores her family’s wood and chances upon a “glorious” boy who stops Winnie in her tracks, and warns her against drinking from a spring. Winnie meets the boy’s family - the Tucks - and discovers a “big, dangerous secret” that must ever be revealed if their way of life is to be preserved, if the equilibrium of humanity is to be maintained, for the spring seems to have granted the Tucks everlasting life. In their company, in their warm-hearted, higgledy-piggledy home, Winnie “discovered the wings she’d always wished she had”. For their part, the Tucks say she’s the best thing that’s happened to them in “at least eighty years.” Then, when a yellow-suited stranger seeks to disrupt the Tuck’s lives, Winnie bravely leaps on her opportunity to make a difference. Dazzlingly written (how about this for a description of sunset? “The sun was dropping fast now, a soft, red sliding egg yolk”), this is a wondrously wise story. Take Tuck’s remarks about the nature of life and death: “You can’t have living without dying. So you can’t call it living, what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road.” With a bittersweet ending that brings tears to the eyes and warmth to the soul, I couldn’t love this book more. It’s that rare kind of tale that speaks of all things, to all ages.
Secrecy is a big thing for super-heroes (ask Batman) and so far, the Heroes’ Alliance have been keeping the world safe and their identities unknown. But now all that has changed: evil Nicholas Knox has blown their cover and is working to destroy them forever, and take over the world (of course). All that’s standing in the way is one normal eleven-year old, aka Murph Cooper, aka Kid Normal plus his very special friends. This series is hugely popular with readers, deservedly so, and it ends as it began – in style! There are bizarre baddies, lots of great gags, and some wonderfully witty put-downs. Plus, more action than you could throw a comic book at. Adventures don’t come much faster, funnier or more feel-good. Don’t miss! Looking for more clever, funny, super-hero adventure? David Solomons, Danny Wallace and Shane Hegarty are the authors for you.
Full of bravery, hope, dreams and humour this is a wonderfully doggy adventure as Paolo escapes from his confinement in a hairdressing salon and enjoys everything that is on offer in the stunning city of Rome. Paolo knows that Rome is full of beauty and magic but how will he ever be able to get out and see it? Seizing his moment when the salon door is left open, Paolo embarks on a whirlwind and dangerous adventure full cats, dogs, statues and even opera. Claire Keane’s fabulous illustrations create a glorious evocation of Rome – mostly from a dog’s point of view!
Stylish and beautifully conceived, this entertaining new picture book by artist/ designer Marion Deuchars is a visual treat as well as a strong story about artistic competition - and collaboration. Bob loves making art and is very jealous when everyone starts talking about Roy, the amazing new artist in town. His work is apparently fantastic! Who is this new artist and what is so special about his work? Why is he the best in town? Bob does everything he can to compete with Roy until he realises that working together might be more fun!
Sheffield provides the setting for this family adventure, and the city’s steelworkers its inspiration. Spending time with their grandma, Sean and his little sister are immediately taken with the statue of three steelmen outside the Meadowhall Centre, especially when their cousin tells them about a mystery surrounding it and involving their mum and uncle. Sure enough, there is something magical about the statue and another too: one of two young female steelworkers. As the children find out more, they travel back in time for an exciting adventure. The story began with Meet Me by the Steelmen, shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, and this is another engaging story which cleverly and vividly brings the past to life. Older readers should look out for Berlie Doherty’s Carnegie winner Granny was a Buffer Girl, which also takes the steel industry for inspiration.
Ben Miller cleverly mixes real science and observations of real life into a mind-expanding story, and gives it something of the feel of a fable too. Harrison is generally a good boy, but he does have trouble with his temper. He loses it spectacularly at another boy’s birthday and, to make a point, the party entertainer sends him home with – wait for it – a black hole. It’s useful for getting rid of things he doesn’t like, but when he accidentally loses things that matter, he needs science, determination and the help of his family to put things right. The science is real enough to make us think it could happen, and the storytelling more than good enough to make us wish it had. If The Boy Who Made the World Disappear sparks a desire for more science based adventure, look out for books by Christopher Edge and Ross Welford.
Winner of the Newbery Medal | Shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize | This is a brilliantly fresh and original story with a puzzle at its heart. When Miranda’s best friend Sal is punched in the stomach by another boy for no apparent reason everything begins to unravel. Where the threads lead and how Miranda follows them is beautifully and simply told despite the fact that the story they tell is complex and thought-provoking. This is a great book.
Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal 2014 - Winner of the 2013 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize | Award-winning Rebecca Stead tells a wonderfully touching story with great sensitivity within an exciting and dramatic adventure. Georges (his unusual name is part of his problem) has just moved to a new apartment block and he immediately gets caught up in a game with Safer, a boy who lives on another floor. Safer’s spying game seems fun and his family, sister Candy and brother Pigeon provide an interesting and supportive alternative home for Georges while things in his own family are out of kilter. But then Georges begins to have his doubts… Gradually everything he has been protecting himself from spins out of control and the reader discovers the sad truth he has been hiding himself from. A very special story that is not to be missed.
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.
April 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.
Five amazing children . . . one most un-ordinary adventure. In all the years that Elinora Gassbeek has been matron of the Little Tulip Orphanage, not once have the very strict Rules for Baby Abandonment been broken. Until the autumn of 1886, when five babies are left in outrageous circumstances: One in a tin toolbox. One in a coal bucket. One in a picnic hamper. One in a wheat sack. And finally, one in a coffin-shaped basket. Those babies were Lotta, Egg, Fenna, Sem and Milou. And although Gassbeek might think they're 'unadoptable', they know their individuality is what makes them so special - and so determined to stay together. Then a most sinister gentleman appears and threatens to tear them apart. The gang decide to make a daring escape, fleeing the frozen canals of Amsterdam for an adventure packed with puppets and pirate ships, clock-makers and cruel villains - and with only a scrap of a clue to guide them. But is their real home - and their real family - already closer than they realise?
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.
'Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more powerful than a child in possession of a plan.' Eleven-year-old twins, Fox and Fibber, have been rivals for as long as they can remember. Only one of them will inherit the family fortune and so a race is afoot to save the dwindling Petty-Squabble empire and win the love of their parents. But when the twins are whisked off to Jungledrop, a magical Unmapped Kingdom in charge of conjuring our world's weather, things get wildly out of hand. An evil harpy called Morg is on the loose. And if she finds the long-lost Forever Fern before the twins, both Jungledrop and our world will crumble. Suddenly, Fox and Fibber find themselves on an incredible adventure in a glow-in-the-dark rainforest full of golden panthers, gobblequick trees and enchanted temples. But, with the fate of two worlds in their hands, will the twins be able to work together for once to defeat Morg and her dark magic? Live a life filled with adventure with Abi Elphinstone in this magical series where a whole new world is waiting to be discovered...
Leander is an orphan, making his way in the world on just his wits. So when he meets Madame Pinchbeck, a mysterious woman who promises to give him a job and a home in return for his mother’s precious locket, he leaps at the chance. But Pinchbeck’s bargain isn’t a fair one. Instead she enchants the locket, turning it into a magical cabinet and trapping Leander inside to be summoned and vanished at will. And Leander isn’t the only child Pinchbeck has captured. Along with his new friends, Charlotte and Felix, he finds himself in a race against time to break Pinchbeck’s spell, before one of them vanishes forever…
This is an absolutely visually beautiful book. It teaches, in short verses, about the wonders that we can find when we go exploring outdoors. One main theme is the respect that we should have for all living things and their environment. The illustrations are in gorgeous watercolour, what a talented artist! There is so much to look at and discuss and easily relates to the child's experiences when out and about. Fun verses encourage the reader to match the rhymes. A superb follow up to the previous book 'What Wonders Do you see when you Dream?' Chris Woolfenden, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
March 2020 Debut of the Month | Newton is excited: he’s just read a sign that tells him dogs have nine lives. That’s carte blanche for Newton to do all his favourite things and be much more daring. Without a second thought he’s off to explore the nature reserve and do some incredibly risky things. He’s pursued by his friend, a much more sensible cat, who realises - as we do - that Newton has been misled. The adventure that follows is full of wonderfully reckless behaviour and narrow escapes for Newton, all the more delightful because he is totally oblivious to the danger he’s in. Newton’s joy is infectious and it’s impossible to read this without smiling at his enthusiasm. Alice McKinley depicts Newton as a plump puppy, with constantly wagging tail and beautifully expressive ears, and he’s set to become a favourite with readers young and old.
March 2020 Book of the Month | Iris takes refuge with her grandma, Mimi, to escape the chaos at home, caused by her two-year old twin siblings and her dad’s DIY repairs. There’s a different kind of disorder in Mimi’s house which is chock full of items collected over the years, chiefly boxes of photos she’s taken and developed. Among the photographs of other people’s weddings are family portraits and its one of these that sets Iris on a hunt to unravel an old mystery, even as Mimi’s memories are fading. The story is beautifully told, as much about Iris and her search for order and happiness as it is about Mimi and her struggle with dementia. A poignant, thoughtful examination of family relationships, memory and loss, that ends on a note of hope and renewal.
A hero with a difference! Fizzlebert Stump wants to make changes to his life. Bored with life in the circus, he is determined to run away and join…the Library! How Fizzlebert sets out to achieve his goal and gets kidnapped by some unlikely villains for his audacity is a riotous romp which will be loved by all fans of Mr Gum! In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Fizzlebert Stump the Boy who ran away from the Circus (and joined the Library) a small number of children were lucky enough to be invited to review this title. Scroll down to read their reviews...
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2020 | March 2020 Book of the Month | The wonder of nature and in particular the growth cycle of a tiny seed are beautifully captured in Britta Teckentrup’s luminous illustrations and simple text which, more widely, celebrates finding your own way in the world whoever you are. What happens when one tiny seed takes a long time to get growing? It soon discovers that the faster growing seeds have taken all the space and light. Undaunted, and guarded first by ant and ladybird and later by more and more creatures of the woodlands, the tiny seed begins its own journey seeking out spaces that enable it to flourish and fulfil its potential. It’s a joy to dwell on the illustrations and to let message sink in.
The third in a sequence of stand-alone historical novels, set at key points in the history of the divided island that is currently front and centre in Brexit negotiations, this could not be more topical and very possibly prescient in describing the situation in 1921 and the partition of Northern Ireland and the hard border which quite literally fractures communities. The author talks in the end pages of the book about growing up in this border area with the army and customs check points and how much the community enjoys today’s freedom of movement and is terrified of losing that. But this beautifully written novel is not an ‘issue’ novel, it is full of brilliantly realised characters and a pitch perfect evocation of the period. The story of the bold 14-year-old heroine, Polly and her struggles to find her way forward in life cleverly mirrors the struggles of the newly emerging country. She ran away to Belfast to escape of life of drudgery looking after the men in her family after her mother’s death from influenza. She finds refuge in Helen’s Hope, a feminist hostel where young women live and work together, a haven of tolerance and diversity in an area wracked with division and hatred. The non-partisan mission of this hostel sums up the greatest strength of this fascinating and moving novel in that it absolutely does not demonise either side, while being completely up front about the terrible things that are happening. There are bad, mean and cruel characters but this is not because of the ideologies they follow, but because some people are like that, and we even get insights into why that might be. The second book in this sequence, Star by Star, went on to become the best selling book ever from this small imprint and won Children’s Books Ireland’s Honour Award for Fiction 2018. I can see similar accolades for this ‘sister’ novel and can highly recommend all three (the first being Name Upon Name) as invaluable purchases to support the history curriculum, but absolutely as engaging reads for pleasure too.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2020 | Award-winning author and designer Coralie Bickford-Smith follows up The Fox and the Star with a wonderful new fable celebrating belonging and the importance of understanding those around you. Poetically told, the simple text which is beautifully designed on the page to match the spirit of the words, tells of the importance of shelter and its power to encourage confidence and tolerance as well as empowering development and independence. The interdependence of the bird and the tree in this story is a beautiful telling of a universal theme.
This classic children’s book (first published in the 1960s) follows the ‘fortunately, unfortunately’ format, and is an example of storytelling at its very best. Tiger finds Boy sitting on a rock and demands he run to avoid being eaten. Boy explains he’s too tired to run, he’s just escaped Rhino. He recounts his narrow escapes (‘That’s good,’ says Tiger) and Rhino’s determined pursuit (‘That’s bad’) until his story concludes with a wonderful twist that will delight children. There’s an air of spontaneity and excitement that’s hard to beat and Aliki’s bold, expressive, child-like illustrations look as fresh as ever in this handsome new edition.