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There are seven brand new Paddington stories in this lovely collection and the little bear is the same lovable character he’s ever been - well meaning, inquisitive, innocent, responsible for comical misunderstandings and mishaps wherever he goes. Paddington appears in a TV cookery show and the settings for the new stories are right up to date but the language is of another age - ‘I should cocoa’ says Mr Brown – and gives the stories a particular charm. At a time when we need these values more than ever, Michael Bond continues to champion tolerance and openness – we’re reminded that Paddington is an immigrant on the second page of the first story. ‘Bears may come and bears may go, but there’s only one Paddington’ says Judy. Hear, hear. Readers looking for modern day stories in the same vein should look at Clara Vulliamy and Polly Faber’s Mango and Bambang series or The Bolds by Julian Clary and David Roberts.
Twins Ben and Fee will be the envy of children everywhere: their school is a tall ship and alongside ordinary lessons they learn seamanship and how to sail. No surprise therefore that there’s plenty of opportunity for adventure, which in this latest episode actually takes place on land, although in Australia, the end point of their latest voyage. The action is pretty well non-stop, and in a satisfying sub-plot, some of the threats come from the actions of an unprincipled group of fellow-students. This is another thrilling adventure with an underlying message about fair-play and doing the right thing.
In a nutshell: rags to riches ghostly mystery story Roald Dahl would surely approve of this exciting story, which rivals Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the importance it places on delicious sweets! Archie is astonished to learn that he’s heir to Archibald McBudge of Honeystone Hall, owner of McBudge’s Fudge and Confectionary Company. Archie loves the hall, which seems to be home to all sorts of strange creatures, and he loves the fudge factory too. There’s just one problem: no-one knows the secret ingredient that makes McBudge Fudge so delicious, and without it the factory will close. Can Archie solve the clues left by his uncle, and can he avoid his revolting relatives the Puddingham-Pyes too? With nods to Harry Potter too, it’s a tasty mix of fantasy, adventure, comedy and detection which will definitely have readers coming back for more. ~ Andrea Reece
Shortlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | April 2018 Book of the Month | An utterly absorbing novel based on the real-life phenomenon of a group of Zimbabwean schoolchildren claiming to have experienced an extra-terrestrial encounter. With over fifty children asserting that they saw the same spaceship, and the same evil-eyed aliens, American psychiatrists have come to investigate. It could be a form of mass hysteria, but why are all the accounts and depictions so completely identical? How could so many kids tell the exact same lie for so long, and why would they lie? Alongside being gripped by the uniquely mysterious event at the heart of the novel, I was bowled over by the author’s mastery of multiple narratives. The intertwined lives of six young people affected by the encounter are explored in all their brutal complexities, and the novel’s real-life origins will surely draw in more reluctant readers. Magnetic, haunting, and richly rewarding.
April 2018 Book of the Month A heart-wrenching and powerful YA story exploring themes of loss, love and discovery, from award-winning, bestselling author, Gayle Forman The story is told over the course of one day with flash backs to the past to help us engage with the characters and understand what has brought them to this place and this moment in time. Through Harun we learn to understand love through his own loss and fears. The love he feels is alien and not acceptable within the society he lives in. He is ashamed, obsessed and utterly lost. Freya is a star in the making but is following a difficult path and is torn between the need for adoration and the ‘friends’ and sense of belonging she fears she will lose if she can no longer sing. Her lack of self-love is evident as she fears losing her voice will mean losing her place in the world and the acceptance she craves. Nathaniel is a tortured soul and his sadness pours from the pages as we slowly discover the tragedy that has driven him to New York. Each character is suffering their own pain and yet when they are brought together they find the strength to try a different path. But is friendship enough to heal the pain of the past? This is a tender, sad and yet uplifting tale that shows the power of friendship in times when we feel desperate and unable to find a solution. Three strangers come together and show that strength can be found with each and every one of us no matter what our individual troubles may be. That we too can find our way to a life we truly deserve when we are true to ourselves. Beautiful, tender and very important, Gayle Forman has yet again captured a coming of age take that will fill you with hope, love and courage. ~ Shelley Fallows - You can also find Shelley here.
April 2018 Book of the Month The Champions are poor but happy. Each of them - Mum, Alex and Grandpa Gus - has their own job and works hard. Mum is a sandwich maker, Gus mends cars, Max mows lawns and sometimes washes cars too, which is how he discovers that Grandpa Gus used to design and make them. The story of how Grandpa was cheated out of his business by the unscrupulous Grabber family, and how Max manages to make things right again, is told in this charming new story from Alexander McCall Smith. Funny, exciting and with a proper sense of decency and fair play this will definitely appeal to readers. Kate Hindley’s illustrations lively illustrations are an extra treat.
Calum is used to living on his own; his mother left years ago and his truck driver father is often away for days at a time. So he’s not happy when his dad moves his new Polish girlfriend and her son into their home. To make it worse, Calum and his friends have been systematically bullying the boy at school, mostly because of his nationality. But various events change Calum’s view of Sergei, and the world in general, in a story that is determinedly down-to-earth but still able to encompass dreams and wish-fulfilment. Slater references both Kes and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner in the book and their influence is clear in her warm, truthful and insightful depiction of working-class life. Readers who enjoy 928 Miles from Home should look out Bubble Wrap Boy or Being Billy by Phil Earle.
Children who like their stories filled with larger-than-life characters, crazy comedy and the reassuring sense that love and goodness will win out, will really enjoy A.L Kennedy’s Uncle Shawn books. In the first book in this series, little Badger Bill needed rescuing from a particularly nasty couple; now the tables are turned and everyone’s best friend Uncle Shawn has been locked up by the awful ‘Dr’ P’Klawz, whose ambition is to rid the country of all types of fun and – above all – Unusualness. The action is fast and very funny, and leaves readers in no doubt that unusualness in every form is to be encouraged. Filled with some wonderful images (P’Klawz grins ‘like a cruel iceberg’) it’s made for reading aloud, and Gemma Correll’s black and white illustrations are an added treat.
A gorgeous and emotionally resonant debut novel about a half-Japanese teen who grapples with social anxiety and her narcissistic mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school. From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.
In a nutshell: football-set story, accessible to all readers Jackson Law is a talented footballer, newly signed to the United youth squad. Real life carries on though, and a budding romance with the girl he’s always fancied brings him up against her thuggish ex. Jackson’s got a lot to lose now which lays him open to the lad’s threats and blackmail, but he discovers that his team mates are there to support him on and off the pitch. There’s just the right mix of footballing action and domestic drama and the story unfolds at a pace that will keep all readers turning the pages. An enjoyable and exciting contemporary story. ~ Andrea Reece
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