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Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award 2019 | Debut of the Month January 2020 | Winner of the 2017 Time/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition | Rich in drama, and suffused in the spirituality and atmosphere of the author’s native Northern Punjab, Jasbinder Bilan’s debut is a delightful, hope-bathed treat for 9+ year-olds. With money tight, Asha’s father has gone to the big city to work in a factory, having promised to send money home, and to return to their village in the Himalayan foothills for Diwali. But when the money stops arriving and her mum runs into trouble with a lender, Asha makes a big, brave decision: she will cross the world’s highest mountains to find her father. Accompanied by best friend Jeevan, and with the magical, protective presence of her nanijee – her grandmother’s spirit bird – Asha sets out on a truly transformative journey of a lifetime. Along the way, the friends encounter dangerous beasts of the animal and human kind, but they never give up hope, with Asha’s infectious sense of justice, self-belief and spirituality keeping them firmly fixed on their goal. This is perfect for fans of the Himalayas-set Running on the Roof of the World and the adventure stories of Eva Ibbotson and Katherine Rundell.
January 2020 Book of the Month | With a concept based entirely upon the universal truth that as soon as somebody tells you not to think of something, you immediately do so and the quite philosophic concept of visualisation of language heard or read, this book will have young( and old) readers in stitches. Stamped with a No Silliness Allowed warning on the front cover, we can anticipate plenty of silliness ahead despite the firm instructions from the very serious scientist introducing the amazing book that has the power to show a picture of the reader’s thoughts. Sadly, it all goes wrong for him as soon as he uses pink elephants as an example of what not to think about and quickly escalates as he thinks of more terrible scenarios involving elephants, mice, panties and their bottoms. The explosive finale causes him to order the reader to put the book down and “Don’t even think about” picking it up again…..This is bound to be instantly disobeyed in every home and classroom! The zany illustrative style is perfectly suited to this story and the clever use of the only white space being within the speech bubbles immediately emphasises the instructional and increasingly shouty nature of the scientist’s words. Both great fun and a creative inspiration, this is a must have purchase!
January 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s love, friendship and challenging prejudice aplenty in this debut novel by a LGBTQ+ parenting expert. Introverted Izzy has just started Year 8 and is wildly excited when her favourite teacher announces auditions for a Christmas production of Guys and Dolls. Though shy, she’s come to love acting because on stage she “could be whoever I wanted.” And Izzy’s not the only member of her family who wants - and needs - to be who they really are, as she discovers when her dad tells the family he’s transgender and is about to begin transitioning. Though he gently explains, “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s nothing dirty, I’m not ill”, Izzy’s older sister reacts angrily, her little brother accepts it in the same way he understands Spider Man and Peter Parker’s different identities, while Izzy feels quiet worry about how their lives will change. The family’s journey is honestly and sensitively portrayed as they endure hurtful prejudice alongside many heart-melting moments, such as the gorgeous scene in which the three siblings think-up their new name for Dad. This is at once an important support tool for children in similar situations, and a barrier-breaking, empathy-inducing story for all.
As cat-owners everywhere know, all cats are equipped with super-powers and Gwynneth Rees’s series stars a band of feline heroes who use their powers to fight villains (a kind of moggie MI6). In this episode, new recruits Tagg and Sugarfoot have to infiltrate the infamous Hit Cats to stop a prison break. Can they do it, and could they really end up fish-sliced if they get caught? Rees keeps things fun, but suitably tense too and it’s another satisfying adventure in a very enjoyable series. Illustrations by Becka Moor add to the fun. If you like the Super Cats series, look out for Dermot O’Leary’s Toto the Ninja Cat books too.
January 2020 Debut of the Month | Nizrana Farook sets her story on the island of Serendib, now known as Sri Lanka, and transports readers to a vivid, larger-than-life world where young people can be bold, true and have some extraordinary adventures. Twelve-year old Chaya is a thief with a heart of gold, stealing from the king’s palace to help those in her village. She makes a mistake when she takes jewels from the queen’s bedroom though, triggering a series of events that leads to Chaya and two friends, villager Neel and merchant’s daughter Nour, fleeing into the rainforest on the king’s elephant. There are brushes with death, but great camaraderie too and it all ends with a much-needed righting of wrongs. Great stuff! Readers swept up in Chaya’s story – and who couldn’t be? – will also enjoy Costa Book Award winner Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan.
There are lots of reading jokes in this book within a book, within a book: pirates and robbers settle down with their favourite stories and the Three Bears discover Goldilocks reading their favourite book (after having eaten their porridge, of course). It’s all written in bubbly rhyming verse matched with vigorous illustrations which make extensive play of the central joke.
This is a sensitive, often funny and thoroughly engaging story of teenagers coming to terms with who they are. It’s easy to think in these liberal times that anything goes, but teens will be quick to point out that growing up is as difficult as it’s ever been. It’s particularly hard for David, one of the two central characters in this assured debut. David has known since the age of eight that he wants to be a girl. Teased as a freak at school, he feels he can’t even tell his family. New boy Leo seems to have problems too and when the two become friends they discover they have more in common than they ever thought. This ultra-readable, highly entertaining story could also provide readers with some much needed reassurance that normal is as normal does.
Twice winner of the Carnegie Medal, Berlie Doherty is one of our finest writers for young people and Deep Secret is a beautifully told story of people, place, changing times and lasting memories. At its heart are two young girls, identical twins Grace and Madeleine, but it’s just as much the story of their community, the people of a small Derbyshire village. It’s 1945, a time of change for the whole country but particularly for the characters in the book: the valley in which they live is to be flooded for a reservoir and they must all leave their homes. Even before the waters arrive, stories float to the surface and we learn so much about the people of the valley and their history. It’s a wonderfully touching description of a lost way of life, and when a tragic event occurs drama and pain follows before finally acceptance and understanding. This is the kind of story that resonates with readers long after the final page, and highly recommended.
Telling a little white lie now and then is harmless, right? But what if it leads to you being a household name and international celebrity? Cole is the boy who fooled the world and finds himself trapped in a huge web of lies... can he break free? The brand new, read-in-one-sitting mystery from the bestselling author of The Goldfish Boy.
Children’s mental health and wellbeing are a high priority for all schools and parents. This wonderfully reassuring book is from the award-winning Rachel Bright, teamed with illustrator Chris Chatterton who has created the most adorable little dinosaur: The Worrysaurus. Parents will immediately recognise the behaviour of a natural worrier - the child that likes to plan ahead and to have thought of everything before setting out to enjoy a lovely picnic. But it is not long before the overthinking gets out of control and a suggestion from a similarly nervous lizard feeds his anxieties just as children can do to each other. But Worrysaurus has a very helpful strategy in place and he remembers his mother’s advice. He has a tin of precious things in his bag and, going through them one by one, they give him the strength to set the butterfly of worry free. Even tiny children know all about the feeling of butterflies in the tummy so this is universally relatable. He shares a lovely picnic with the anxious lizard and they learn to live in the moment instead of worrying about what might happen. While this can simply be read as an enjoyable rhyming story, it will be most useful to prompt discussion and sharing. It will work well for this purpose with children in Key Stage One and Two making it a very useful purchase indeed.
Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2019 | Empathetic, insightful and buzzing with drama, the brilliant Jenny Downham has done it again in this vital, true-to-life treasure about a young woman’s struggle to stand up to her bully-boy stepfather.“She threw things and slammed things and swore. She was clumsy and rude and had no friends. Her teachers thought her dim-witted. Her family despaired.” On the verge of turning sixteen, Lexi is a firework of frustration. Her furious outbursts are getting worse now John, her soon-to-be-stepdad, has taken over their family home, and his son – Lexi’s best friend (and long-time crush…) – has moved away to uni. On top of that, her younger half-sister is John’s favoured child, while she’s blamed for everything that goes wrong, including - most viciously of all - what happened to her beloved granddad. It’s no coincidence that the intensification of Lexi’s rage coincides with John’s increasingly coercive behaviour. Thanks to his constant criticism and angry desire to have everything exactly how he likes it, Lexi can see that her mum has become a shadow of herself. Trapped in this unbearable situation – one in which no one listens or believes her - what else can Lexi do but kick out?Interwoven with fairy tale motifs that combine to create a satisfying whole at the novel’s heartrending climax, this is a brilliantly exacting exposé of coercive control and emotional abuse, and a powerful portrayal of a young woman’s refusal to give in. Lexy is a dazzlingly-created character that readers will root for and empathise with. Her battle to break the abuse elicits much compassion and sympathetic fury, while her irrepressible wit provokes plenty of laughs.
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
Iris's grandmother, Mimi, has started to put jam on her scrambled eggs and tie blue ribbons around her fingers to remind her of stuff. Her house, always full of things, is becoming harder and harder to navigate, and when Iris goes to stay, she feels as if a whole life is becoming muddled up. As her grandmother's memory fades, a mystery is uncovered. Who is Coral, and what happened to her?
The Mr Men are going on a fun-filled trip to the Emerald Isle! Mr Quiet has always spoken few words, but Mr Chatterbox has decided to take him to kiss the Blarney Stone in Ireland in the hope he'll learn to chat more! Join the Mr Men and Little Miss as they visit the Titanic Experience, climb the Giant's Causeway, go fishing in Galway and enjoy the Kilkenny Arts Festival on their way to Blarney Castle. But will Mr Quiet be granted the gift of the gab when he kisses the famous Blarney Stone? Mr Men and Little Miss Celebrations introduce children to all the exciting occasions that people celebrate including birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, Easter, sporting events ... and even a trip to the moon.
This gripping must-read for sports fans fizzes with a powerful message about picking yourself up and self-belief, and a poignant portrayal of gang culture coercion. I cannot praise Dan Freeman’s compassion-rich writing enough. Life’s not easy for twin fourteen-year-olds Kaine and Roxy growing up on their London estate. Their dad’s lost his job and mum works all hours. But Roxy and Kaine aren’t your average teenagers. He’s a super-talented footballer with Premier League potential, and she’s an outstanding tennis player, tipped for the top. Oh, and they can’t stand each other. After being close as kids, they’ve grown apart, with Roxy loathing the fact that Kaine’s always in trouble, and Kaine hating the way Roxy gets all the attention and support, overlooked even when a scout for a Premier League club comes to watch him. Both a bundle of frustration, Kaine is tempted into dangerous territory. If only Mamma, their Barbados-born grandmother, was around to keep Kaine on the right track. Mamma’s warm, wise presence is felt throughout the novel. She was the person Kaine turned to in times of need. She’d feed him soul food, remind him that he’s special, urge him to “do the extraordinary.” Sage advice comes from Kaine’s supportive PE teacher too, who counsels “There are paths in life, there are choices. And you are at one of those crossroads now”. When tragedy strikes as Kaine loses his way it takes a whole lot of soul-searching for him to turns things round and become the extraordinary young man he is. And Roxy tackles her profoundly life-changing situation with heartrending courage too. With overriding messages of hope, compassion, doing the right thing and staying true to yourself, this is an absolute galáctico, Grand Slam winner of a novel.
February 2020 Debut of the Month | A celebration of the wonder of reading! Mabel HATES books. She gets given loads of them but has no interest at all in reading them. But, one night, the books piled up in her room come alive. The stories jump out of their covers and off the pages so that they can show Mabel their story worlds. She is intrigued by a detective adventure, excited by the chance to board a spaceship and take a trip to the moon, delighted by the thought of accompanying a knight on his quest to seek castles and to duel with dragons. But, there is no way she can find out what happens next in these stories unless she begins the read the books! An entertaining celebration of why reading is such fun.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Another insightful and compassionate free verse novel from the queen of this increasingly admired form, this time exploring the transformative relationship between an abused runaway teenager and an elderly lady with dementia. Allison has grown up “stepping on eggshells” to circumvent her father’s violence. While she often wonders whether his behaviour was “all my fault”, one of his outbursts compels her to run away. With nowhere to go, she finds sanctuary in the house of an elderly woman called Marla. Marla has dementia and thinks Allison is Toffee, her best friend from childhood. After spending some time in Marla’s company, Allison decides to “stop correcting her… I like the idea of being sweet and hard, a girl with a name for people to chew on.” Moreover, in meeting Marla, Allison has found an unlikely kindred spirit: “I am not who I say I am. Marla isn’t who she thinks she is… Here, in this house, I am so much happier than I have ever been”. Returning the favour, Allison enriches Marla’s life – she listens, she indulges Marla’s desire to dance - while Marla’s carer and son show no real regard for her happiness, as if she’s beyond life, which makes Allison’s attentiveness all the more heart warming. Both vulnerable, they find strength through each other. With incredibly moving insight, Marla says of Allison’s dad, “none of it was about you. It was about him. It’s always about him. Surely you know that.” The writing is compellingly fluid, flowing freely between Allison’s precarious present and the tragic, abusive circumstances that sent her careering down this path. While fleeting, the impact of their time together is monumental, and I felt privileged to have spent time in their company.
When Fabio’s plane crashes in a town with no water, there’s a mystery to solve – and it’s going to be thirsty work! Agatha Christie meets The Lion King in this hilarious illustrated mystery series by the author of Captain Pug.
From the author of the phenomenally successful The King Who Banned the Dark comes a new tale about community and our relationship with the environment and nature. Once upon a time a group of friends were seeking a place to call home. The desert was too hot, the valley was too wet and the mountain was too windy. Then they found the forest. It was perfect. The leaves gave shelter from the sun and rain, and a gentle breeze wound through the branches. But the friends soon wanted to build shelters. The shelters became houses, then the houses got bigger. All too soon they wanted to control the environment and built a huge wooden wall around the community. As they cut down the trees, the forest becomes thinner, until there is just one last tree standing. It is down to the children to find a solution.
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