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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.
Perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce, Maggie Stiefvater and Cassandra Clare this is a literary fantasy about war, racial identity and first love, in which Frost has left her homeland to travel to the neighbouring country of Ruan in the hope of finding a deity she believes will rid her of a curse. It is a refreshing and provocative real-world take on the fantasy genre: in this world there is no magic and the setting is more akin to Northern India or Tibet than the usual Tolkien-inspired pseudo-Europe. Zoe Marriott's first novel, The Swan Kingdom, was chosen as a USBBY Outstanding International Book. Her third book, Shadows on the Moon, won the prestigious Sasakawa Prize.
May 2012 Book of the Month. Matters of life and death and the role of a passionate romance in them lie at the heart of this spellbinding story of how the worlds of the dead and the living cross over and collide. Gottfried Academy is no ordinary school…It’s a place where Latin thrives and the Undead and the living make friends. Renee is a Monitor at the Academy; she can sense death even though she can’t predict it. And she has a vital role to play among the Undead. When Renee meets Dante she knows he is her soulmate. But he is an undead. Will Renee give up her life to save him?
Winner of the German Teen Literature Prize, this is a hugely entertaining hair-raising and tender story of two boys on the road trip of a lifetime. Mike tells the story of the summer that changes his life. With a reputation as the dullest boy in the class his life is changed when new boy Tschick arrives. Tschick doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him; his clothes are scruffy and he frequently arrives smelling of alcohol and clearly drunk. When Tschick turns up in a car in the empty summer holiday and dares Mike to join him Mike throws caution to the wind and steps right in. Underage for driving and with no map and no plan the boys have an extraordinary – and illegal - journey during which they meet some surprising people and some very tricky situations before returning home almost safely and very much changed.
A mouse-eye view of the world: Christopher Mouse describes the many adventures heâ€™s had in his life. Itâ€™s simple fare, plainly told and delightfully mousey with it. Like most mice, Christopher has been owned by good and bad children all of whom he views philosophically. Heâ€™s had some dramatic escapes and an interesting spell in the museum. It makes fine reading and useful reflection on humans and mice alike.
One of our Books of the Year 2014 A funny and fast-paced adventure with a brilliant cast of eccentric characters and a great setting in a circus. Adventurous Hannah lives in a very, very dull village with parents who think safety comes before excitement. When she meets Billy Shanks and his not altogether agreeable camel Narcissus she begins an adventure that has all the excitement she needs! Can Hannah and Billy stop the dastardly rogue circus owner before his horrible plan to rob the village can be completed? A circus is a place for all kinds of very clever tricks. David Tazzyman’s illustrations capture the whole perfectly.
The Austen of audacity, Armitage Shanks, circus master and dastardliest of villains is back and up to no good, to the delight of fans of these wacky, inventive and hugely entertaining books. And indeed, readers are promised (warned?) that this book will be the Shankiest ever written, for there’s not one Shanks centre stage, but two – Armitage we learn has an identically horrible twin, Zachary Shanks. The real hero of the books is of course the thoroughly nice young Billy and it’s more than likely that not only will he be able to see off even two Shanks, but that the effort will be very well worth reading about. Few writers match the frenetic humour and anarchic wit of these stories - they give even Mr Gum a run for his money. Free-wheeling fun! ~ Andrea Reece
Longlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award | Set in a near-future version of London, where a drug called Concentr8 has been extensively prescribed to young people diagnosed with ADHD, this is the brilliantly provocative second young adult novel from the bestselling author of Are You Experienced? and New Boy. Against a backdrop of rioting in the capital, a group of socially disaffected friends, led by angry, charismatic Blaze, pull a knife on a man as he leaves work at the Mayor’s office. While the friends wonder why they’ve taken someone hostage, an ambitious journalist investigates whether the withdrawal of Concentr8 might have triggered the rioting. A political scandal unfolds when it emerges that not everyone was medically assessed before being put on the pacifying drug, suggesting that something far more sinister is going on. Told through several authentic first person narratives, and interspersed with revealing excerpts from medical reports, sociological texts and tweets, this gripping, politically-charged novel explores the big issue of how young people get lost and failed by society, and why they might turn to criminal and anti-social behaviour. A fast-paced, thought-provoking rollercoaster of a read.
Set in a frightening future version of London in which the lives of two teenage boys cruelly collide in a divided city, this gripping page-turner has pertinent contemporary resonance, and packs powerful moral and emotional punches. Read it to be thrilled, chilled, and to have your eyes well and truly opened. Teenagers Alan and Lex are on either side of a war policed by drones. Lex lives on The Strip, a bombed-out territory in which the poverty-stricken inhabitants are under constant drone surveillance. “In this city, death seems to perpetually hover nearby, like a needy bully”, Lex remarks, while his dad is part of The Corps resistance movement that’s fighting the bullies, rendering him a top target for the military. On the other side of the divide, fatherless Alan was written off at a young age – “Nobody ever thought I'd amount to anything" - but his talent for gaming has secured him his perfect job as a drone pilot, a role in which he has “absolute power without a single boot on the ground”. But, while he’s proud to protect his country from “terrorists who want to destroy us”, Alan is forced to confront a magnitude of moral dilemmas when he’s tasked with killing a high profile target, who turns out to be Lex’s dad… The dual-narrative device works to great effect as we see both boys wrestling with issues of ethics, family conflict and, in Lex’s case, the overwhelming experience of first love. Ambitious and assured, this keenly plotted thriller also probes deep into the human heart, and comes recommended for fans of Patrick Ness and Malorie Blackman. ~ Joanne Owen
UKLA Longlist Book Awards - 2019 | Set in a frightening future version of London in which the lives of two teenage boys cruelly collide in a divided city, this gripping page-turner has pertinent contemporary resonance, and packs powerful moral and emotional punches. Read it to be thrilled, chilled, and to have your eyes well and truly opened. Teenagers Alan and Lex are on either side of a war policed by drones. Lex lives on The Strip, a bombed-out territory in which the poverty-stricken inhabitants are under constant drone surveillance. “In this city, death seems to perpetually hover nearby, like a needy bully”, Lex remarks, while his dad is part of The Corps resistance movement that’s fighting the bullies, rendering him a top target for the military. On the other side of the divide, fatherless Alan was written off at a young age – “Nobody ever thought I'd amount to anything" - but his talent for gaming has secured him his perfect job as a drone pilot, a role in which he has “absolute power without a single boot on the ground”. But, while he’s proud to protect his country from “terrorists who want to destroy us”, Alan is forced to confront a magnitude of moral dilemmas when he’s tasked with killing a high profile target, who turns out to be Lex’s dad… The dual-narrative device works to great effect as we see both boys wrestling with issues of ethics, family conflict and, in Lex’s case, the overwhelming experience of first love. Ambitious and assured, this keenly plotted thriller also probes deep into the human heart, and comes recommended for fans of Patrick Ness and Malorie Blackman.
May 2019 Book of the Month | “I am normal. I like being normal”. Such is the mantra of fifteen-year-old Sam. But when he’s uprooted from his Stevenage comp and thrust into the North London Academy for the Gifted and Talented being normal just doesn’t cut it. Simple as. No ifs or buts. To fit in at this “poncey arty farty school” for “Exactly the Kind of People [Sam] Instinctively Hated”, a person needs to stand out. Gel one’s hair in eight directions. Be the offspring of, for example, an Argentinian tango dancer, or a French electro-pop pioneer. The comic characterisation of Sam and his family is as impeccably tuned as a Primrose Hill piano, from his mum’s foray into Hampstead yummy mummy blogger-dom, to his unicorn-obsessed little sister. Sam’s hilariously honest, self-deprecating tone is utterly engaging and put me in mind of an older incarnation of Luke from David Solomons’s fabulously funny Superhero books. Talking of funny, Sam’s turning point turns out to be his talent for comedy (“making people laugh was a thrilling buzz”), and so he finds himself in the unlikely position of performing in the school play. This entertaining romp around pressures to fit in and teenage boy-dom in all its involuntary undercarriage-twitching awkwardness truly shows the diverse talent of its author, whose previous YA novels are every bit as brilliant, but have heavier themes. This is a laugh-out-loud witty wonder of a book.