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September 2019 Book of the Month | 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.
Shylo is the smallest rabbit in his family, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t strong, courageous and clever too. Indeed, he’s a key member of the Royal Rabbits whose duty it is to protect Queen and country from their warren under Buckingham Palace. When Shylo returns home for a visit, he finds that the peace of the countryside has been disrupted. A no-good rabbit called Harlequin has set up a commune and persuaded the other rabbits that together they’ll find the legendary Golden Carrot, though it will bring great risk to them and national security. He’s reckoned without little Shylo and his fellow rabbits-in-arms though … A perfect mix of excitement and charm, this story also neatly delivers messages about the importance of self-belief, generosity and true courage. There’s a wonderful cast of characters, it reads aloud beautifully and Kate Hindley’s delightful illustrations are full of life and energy.
Ash’s story is “probably the same as anyone else’s, more or less, just perhaps with more gas masks and a goat.” The goat is a Tennessee Fainting Goat named Socrates who lives with the isolated Canary community deep in the Arizona desert. The gas masks Ash mentions are needed by the Canaries on account of them suffering from debilitating environmental illnesses that doctors deny the existence of. And so begins a thoroughly thought-provoking novel that tackles huge health and environmental issues. Ash journeyed to the community in search of his missing stepbrother, Bly. The folk here cannot live in towns or cities due to all the chemicals and smells and electrical fields that trigger incapacitating Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. When Ash gets sick himself he discovers firsthand how it feels to have your symptoms rebuffed by medics who decide, “This is all in your head”, and pretty much declare, “I can’t cure you so you must be mad.” His frustration and pain is tangible. Indeed, Ash’s narrative is brilliantly compelling throughout. He’s a born storyteller whose voice chimes with authentic cadences and detours. Ash and Bly’s poignant family story is intertwined with much food for thought about a diverse spread of subjects - genetics, bacteria, antibiotics and human shortsightedness and greed. As former scientist Finch comments, “We are filling the world full of chemicals that we have precisely no idea about, and one not-so-fine day the chickens will come home to roost. With the canaries.” Ash comes to some sharp realisations too. Under the warm, wise tutelage of Mona, he furiously states that, “one day, doctors are gonna finally realize that there ain’t no god-dang difference between the body and the mind anyhow”. This remarkable novel is underpinned by its acute portrait of fractured folk forging an existence in a fractured world that seems on the brink of end times. But “maybe there’s time for one final chance,” Ash wonders, which will leave readers with a glint of hope and plenty to ponder.
A magical adventure to delight the imagination. The curl-up-on-the-sofa snuggle of a series from a uniquely talented author. Tilly Pages is a bookwanderer; she can travel inside books, and even talk to the characters she meets there. But Tilly's powers are put to the test when fairytales start leaking book magic and causing havoc . . . On a wintery visit to Paris, Tilly and her best friend Oskar bravely bookwander into the land of fairytales to find that characters are getting lost, stories are all mixed-up, and mysterious plot holes are opening without warning. Can Tilly work out who, or what, is behind the chaos so everyone gets their happily-ever-after? The second enthralling tale in the bestselling Pages & Co series.
September 2019 Book of the Month | Amara knows exactly what she wants for her 12th birthday: to visit her father’s family in New York. She understands it will be very different to Beavertown, Oregon, the small town she’s grown up in, but can’t wait to explore the big city and get to know her family properly. The trip is eye-opening in lots of ways as she learns more about her father and his childhood, about her family, and even her own history. Renée Watson shows us that families are complicated, that it’s never too late to change or make amends, and that we can all carry on learning even as we grow up. Quiet, though full of drama, and skilfully told, this is a touching and thought-provoking story with well-drawn, engaging characters; a book that will make a real impact on its reader.
Mumsnet and Gransnet hosted a bedtime story-writing competition among their users. Former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen selected the ten best to create this vibrant anthology which has something for everyone. There are traditional stories, funny stories, magical stories and everyday stories. Each is beautifully illustrated by some of the best new talents in picture books.
Mumsnet and Gransnet hosted a bedtime story-writing competition among their users. Former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen selected the ten best to create this vibrant anthology which has something for everyone. There are traditional stories, funny stories, magical stories and everyday stories. Each is beautifully illustrated by some of the best new talents in picture books. ***You might also like the Mumsnet Book of Animals, featuring 10 prize-winning animal stories from the members of Mumsnet and Gransnet.
The nights are drawing in and this is a perfect book for winter bedtime reading (and just the thing too to slip into a stocking if it’s not too early to start thinking about that kind of thing). The collection contains fourteen different stories, including winning versions of classic tales by Hans Christian Anderson (The Princess and the Pea, The Little Mermaid) and the brothers Grimm (The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Rapunzel). There are fun new stories too about fairies, dolls and even a trainee tooth fairy. With bright, attractive illustrations that nicely match the different stories, this is a collection that will give a great deal of pleasure. ~ Andrea Reece
A hardback treasury of stories in full colour including well-known classics such as 'Treasure Island' and 'Sinbad the Sailor', alongside brand new stories about robots, pirates, monsters and knights. A lovely gift that will be treasured for years to come. Younger children will love hearing these stories read aloud to them, and then enjoy reading the stories on their own as they get older.
Paddington’s new adventures on the big screen have reminded everyone of just why the little bear from Darkest Peru is such a favourite in his adopted homeland. Paddington is generous, warm-hearted, an innocent who brings out the best in those around him (even hardened criminals in this new story), but inadvertently causes chaos on a regular basis. That’s certainly the case in this new story and film. The plot hinges on a beautiful pop-up book of London: Paddington wants it for Great Aunt Lucy, but someone a lot less nice is after it too. Anna Wilson’s lively story version captures all the fun and excitement of the film, and all that we love about Paddington too. Andrea Reece
March 2013 Book of the Month Fizzlebert Stump’s Circus is back for a second riotous show during which everything can – and does – go terribly wrong. The new act features the very, very hairy Barboozul family which includes Wystan, the bearded son. Fizzlebert - his mum is a clown and dad is a strongman - is used to oddities but he has never come across a bearded boy. Will the two become friends? Many strange things happen at the Circus before anything as obvious as that happens in a delightfully chaotic and imaginative romp. This is Fizzlebert Stump’s second adventure - which began with Fizzlebert Stump The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library)
A story of circus rivalry, learning who you really are, and the problem of oddly-shaped vegetables. Fizzlebert needs to reunite his friend the Bearded Boy with his long-lost parents, and find himself a new act. Luckily, the strongest girl in the world is there to help... Brilliantly bonkers and perfect for fans of Mr Gum and Lemony Snicket. Some of our readers were lucky enough to review the first and second Fizzlebert books - Freya Hudson, age 10 said - 'I have read both the Fizzlebert books. If you like funny, exciting and entertaining books, read about Fizzlebert Stump. The author keeps the reader gripped by the way he ends each chapter, making you want to read on to find out what happens next. Even my mum enjoyed this book and I had to keep telling her what was happening!' Click on the links to read more reviews for Fizzlebert Stump The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) and Fizzlebert Stump and the Bearded Boy.
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award A Julia Eccleshare Book of the Month November 2016 Award-winning A.F. Harrold blends reality and imagination in a moving and thought-provoking story about friendship, loneliness and being brave when things are difficult. Bullied at school and unsupported at home, Frank makes an unusual friendship with Nick, the weird boy in her class who everyone else shuns. After Nick rescues Frank from the bullies, she goes round to his house where she discovers something very unusual. What should Frank believe about what she sees? And should she keep Nick’s secret? Levi Penfold’s illustrations add to the illusory feel of this story that tests imagination and belief and leaves the reader wondering. ~ Julia Eccleshare Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for November 2016 The Song from Somewhere Else by A. F. Harrold and Levi Pinfold Murder in Midwinter by Fleur Hitchcock Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul Rover and the Big Fat Baby by Roddy Doyle and Chris Judge Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith The Giant's Necklace by Michael Morpurgo and Briony May Smith
Greta Zargo is an unusual 11-year-old. An orphan she’s lived on her own since the age of 8 thanks to an unfortunate but legally-binding error on her parents’ otherwise carefully thought-out will. A junior reporter on the local paper, Greta is determined her summer scoop will be solving the mystery surrounding a series of cake thefts. Meanwhile, in outer space a huge space-going robot is heading towards Earth to take over our planet. The two stories zing along in parallel before coming together beautifully at the book’s climax, and thanks to another typo on a key document. The comical characters and situations will thoroughly entertain young readers while the author’s delight in words ad language adds another dimension. Readers who enjoy Greta’s adventure should look out for books by Andy Stanton and Philip Ardagh, who employ similarly knowing narrative voices, and will also enjoy Norton Juster’s classic The Phantom Tollbooth.