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November 2018 Book of the Month | One of our 2018 Books of the Year | Breath-takingly fierce, smart and tender, Only the Ocean is a story of survival and courage in the midst of darkness that will thrill fans of Patrick Ness and Sarah Crossan. The two girls sat at opposite ends of the boat and Kel dug and stretched the oars into the ocean like her life depended upon it because it did. `Just so you know,' said Rose, `everything, and I mean everything, is your fault.' Kel Crow lives in a dead-end swamp with her deadbeat family and a damaged heart. But she has a plan to escape. It's a one-two-three fortune story that goes: stow away on the ship, kidnap the girl, swap the girl to pay for passage to America and a life-saving operation. But the ocean is an untameable force, and wrecks ships and plans alike ... Sweet, raw and uncompromising - this is the story of an unforgettable relationship forged on an epic journey.
August 2019 Debut YA Book of the Month | In her first YA novel, Costa-shortlisted Kit de Waal responds to classic Moby Dick by tearing the power away from obsessive Captain Ahab and giving it to a teenage girl. Dinah's whole world is upside down, dead things and angry men and cuts all over her head that are beginning to sting.... Seventeen-year-old Dinah needs to leave her home, the weird commune where she grew up. She needs a whole new identity, starting with how she looks, starting with shaving off her hair, her 'crowning glory'. She has to do it quickly, because she has to go now. Dinah was going to go alone and hitch a ride down south. Except, she ends up being persuaded to illegally drive a VW campervan for hundreds of miles, accompanied by a grumpy man with one leg. This wasn't the plan. But while she's driving, Dinah will be forced to confront everything that led her here, everything that will finally show her which direction to turn... In her first YA novel, Costa-shortlisted author Kit de Waal responds to the classic Moby Dick with entirely new characters, a VW campervan, and by tearing the power away from obsessive Captain Ahab and giving it to a teenage girl who's determined to find a new life, far away from her unconventional upbringing.
Lann knows nothing of his mysterious past, but by his fifteenth birthday he will come face to face with destiny. For Lann must wield the Dreadblade, an ancient sword forged to defeat terrible monsters. Across the mountains a King has been murdered. His daughter, Astrid, is a warrior with no desire to bear the crown. Only she can uncover her father's killer before her brother is framed for the crime. Evil is stirring. Lann and Astrid are the kingdom's last defence. Together, they must face the greatest darkness their world has ever known.
What a luminously life-enhancing read this is. The story of ADHD afflicted underdog Felix, who “can’t concentrate or keep still”. His East German Granddad now (embarrassingly) drives the pink car that used to belong to his deceased Grandma, whose death has hit them all hard. Felix and Granddad’s grief is laid bare with heart-wrenching authenticity, but theirs is a complex relationship: “I love my granddad and I think he loves me, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.” After an altercation, Felix and Granddad forge an understanding, and look forward to a “neuangfang” (new start) that begins with a list of “Ten things I’d like to teach Felix”. Unfortunately, in Felix’s eyes Granddad’s list comprises the “ten more boring things in the world”, but Felix works through it until only the most dreaded activity remains - playing chess. He tries to wriggle out of it, but “crafty” Granddad has been surreptitiously teaching Felix chess skills and he’s soon hooked by the game, with unexpected positive side effects. A thrilling team tournament is followed waves of pulse-quickening twists that will thrust readers to the edge of their seats, heart in mouth. Throughout, the rollercoaster ride of primary school life - fallings out, friendship, fear of not fitting in - is explored in all its intense and comic complexity, and the representation of working class realisms is spot-on too. Felix’s mum and dad have both been “working stacks since Dad’s plumbing business went bust last year”. But, best of all, the magic of the relationship between children and their grandparents is dazzlingly conjured. I adored it.
July 2019 Book of the Month | It’s more than 150 years since the publication of Alice in Wonderland and it is delighting today’s readers as much as it ever has. Both a tribute to and a celebration of Lewis Carroll’s story, this collection includes new adventures by eleven favourite contemporary children’s authors, each of whom has been inspired by Alice. With such an extraordinary set of characters and scenes to take as starting points, the stories are wonderfully varied. Pamela Butchart chooses to write about the Queen of Hearts in a follow up story, while Swapna Haddow picks the Mock Turtle. There’s an environmental message in Lauren St John’s lively story ‘Plum Cakes at Dawn’, while Robin Stevens puts the real Alice into her Oxford set story. Together they make for a sparkling collection, one well worth tumbling back down the rabbit hole to enjoy.
Luke's dad has bought a lot of gadgets recently and not one of them works as it's supposed to. Maybe it's because a machine-from-the-future is stalking Bromley, playing havoc with all the tech and trying to stop Star Lad going on a date. Could this be the Rise of the Machines? Luke knows what he must do - he just needs his fellow SCARF members to help, or it will be the end of everything... Cover artwork by Robin Boyden
Being the person you want to be, proving detractors wrong, overcoming fears, and revealing the importance of seeing beyond stereotypes - beauty vlogger and dictionary-lover Tulip does all this and more in this hugely entertaining novel. While she’s frequently dismissed for being “stupid, vain and self-obsessed”, Tulip knows there’s no friction between being having a brain and being a successful vlogger. She adores the metamorphic magic of make-up, the fact you “can transform yourself ” and “make every day beautiful.” As Tulip points out to handsome posh boy Harvey when he belittles her passion, her vlog represents “creativity and hard work and self-expression.”Keen to prove that Harvey’s got her wrong, Tulip takes a place on his dad’s Bear Grylls-esque survival show. With Harvey as her team leader and her fellow contestants expecting her to fail, Tulip digs deep and surprises everyone with her resourcefulness and team-spirited outlook, but not before many comic mishaps, terrifying challenges and conflicted swirls of romance.Funny, gripping and with an inspirational feel-good feminist theme, this will have readers rooting for Tulip every step of the way.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month June 2019 | Meet Harry Stevenson. He doesn't live in a castle, or a witch's cottage, or anywhere exciting like that. His home is in a flat with seven-year-old Billy and his mum and dad. And at first glance, Harry doesn't seem any different from your average guinea pig. He has ginger fur and sparkly black eyes and likes nothing more than snacking on a piece of broccoli. But don't be fooled! Harry may just want to sleep and eat (and then eat some more) but somehow he always manages to get swept up in adventures: whether it's surfing the Pacific on a picnic plate or accidentally attaching himself to a helium balloon.
Winner of the An Post Irish Book Awards Teen & Young Adult Book of the Year 2018 | Longlisted for The CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | Heart wrenching, honest, funny and bold, this exceptional novel about the life, loves and agonies of a young carer, and the love between a mum and her sons, is a storytelling triumph. Seventeen-year-old Bobby Seed is a devoted son and big brother and an all-round firework of wit and charm, wise and strong beyond his years. He’s also a young carer to his mum who’s suffering from debilitating MS. Bobby has to “brush his mother’s locks every day, sort out her medicine, sponge her clean three times a week, ooze positivity” even when all he wants to do is “punch the shit out of a walk or wail in the shower”. In his situation “the worry of death never leaves you”, but that doesn’t stop the brilliant banter between Bobby and his mum. Theirs is a beautiful, tender relationship. Bobby does what he does for her “because she’s my Mum. That pure and simple”. Bobby’s spirits are kept up by best friend Bel and attending Poztive support group for young carers. It’s there he falls for Vespa-riding Lou, who helps him fulfill his mum’s unexpected birthday request as her deterioration quickens. But then comes the ultimate request. Can he do what Mum needs to alleviate her excruciating pain and loss of function? Always warm and witty, and never sentimental, this raw portrait of real-life ravages is suffused in the magic of the human heart. Bobby is an unforgettable, inspirational character – we could all do with taking a leaf from Bobby’s book of strength and wit - and author Brian Conaghan is a writer of the highest rank.
June 2019 Debut of the Month | A range of simple stories for new readers, with beautiful colour illustrations. Milly loves going to story time at her local bookshop. Mrs Minty is an encyclopedia of books and knows the perfect story for every occasion ... tales of mischievous children and faraway lands, magical beasts and daring adventures. But the bookshop is old and creaky, just like Mrs Minty herself. And then one day Milly arrives to find the shop gone. What has happened to Mrs Minty and her irreplaceable bookshop? A warm and uplifting tale about the importance of stories.
May 2019 Book of the Month | Like all classics of American middle grade fiction - as this may well be esteemed in future - this is radiant with humour, heart and a whole lot of indelibly authentic child-centred observations and emotions. With his dad away on army service, and faced with being plunged into the jungle of middle school, Carter already has plenty on his plate when his family inherits the services of an eccentric British butler. While Carter is quick to revolt against the butler’s rigorous regime of tea-drinking, homework and housekeeping (including folding underwear, can you believe it?!), the butler’s ways, wisdom and polite-but-firm guidance (AKA being “a pain in the glutes”) casts a healing spell over the family’s soul, exactly when they need it most. Then, as the butler shares his love of “the most lovely and sportsmanly game that mankind has yet conceived” (AKA cricket) with Carter’s schoolmates, Carter himself comes to share his troubles and release his anger and grief so he can keep the metaphoric “bails from coming down”. Suffused with the same warmth, compassion and originality of the author’s stunning debut, Orbiting Jupiter , this funny, moving middle grade novel is a true treasure with broad appeal and rich rewards.
May 2019 Book of the Month | I am not who I say I am, and Marla isn't who she thinks she is. I am a girl trying to forget. She is a woman trying to remember. Allison has run away from home and with nowhere to live finds herself hiding out in the shed of what she thinks is an abandoned house. But the house isn't empty. An elderly woman named Marla, with dementia, lives there - and she mistakes Allison for an old friend from her past called Toffee. Allison is used to hiding who she really is, and trying to be what other people want her to be. And so, Toffee is who she becomes. After all, it means she has a place to stay. There are worse places she could be. But as their bond grows, and Allison discovers how much Marla needs a real friend, she begins to ask herself - where is home? What is a family? And most importantly, who am I, really?
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