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A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2020 | February 2020 Book of the Month | A spellbinding and warm-hearted sequel to A Pinch of Magic with the three Widdershins sisters Betty, Charlie and Fliss, now free from the curse that has held them prisoners on a remote island, back for a new thrilling adventure. This time the sisters have to deal with a mysterious stranger who comes with her own will-o’-the-wisp and a secret island which isn’t even on any map. And they have to find Charlie when she goes missing. As ever, the sisters are clever and brave and adept at managing the magic that surrounds them.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2020 | 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.
The Mr Men have a fun and busy time in Ireland in this new adventure in the much-loved series. The reason for their trip? Mr Chatterbox decides that Mr Quiet needs to learn the gift of the gab and where better for that than the Blarney Stone? Joining them on their trip are Little Miss Lucky, eager to find a four-leaf clover, Mr Noisy, who has a wonderful time singing at a Kilkenny folk festival, and Little Miss Splendid. They have a great time, visiting the Titanic Exhibition in Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway as well as Dublin. There are jokes and comic incidents galore, but readers will get a good sense of the Emerald Isle too. Fun first reading.
A BRILLIANT new DOG MAN book for World Book Day 2020 packed with three humorous stories. Dav Pilkey's wildly popular DOG MAN series appeals to readers of all ages and explores universally positive themes, including: empathy kindness persistence and the importance of being true to one's self
Sophie is the odd one out at school and even in her family. Not only is she super-smart with a photographic memory, but she can read minds too. So when she discovers she’s not actually human, strange as that is, things suddenly start to make sense. With a new friend, Fitz, also not human, she travels to another world to discover more about who she really is. Meanwhile, in the human world, strange fires are causing terrible problems – can Sophie help? And even in her new home, she’s in danger, thanks to the mysterious secrets buried in her memories. A riveting story that will really appeal to fans of magic, adventure and mystery.
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.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2020 | | Manners matter as Mr Gnome finds out the hard way! Mr Gnome is a grumpy old thing who will always say NO rather than yes. He says NO to helping a hedgehog get an apple off its spines and NO to anyone joining him on his fishing trip. But when he says NO to a witch it has very terrible consequences!
Following the success of The King Who Banned the Dark, Emily Haworth-Booth has created another timely, beautiful and enthralling fable. As the best stories do, it starts ‘Once upon a time …’ A group of friends looking for somewhere to live choose a peaceful forest, but the longer they live there, the more trees they cut down, and the loss of the trees leads to all sorts of problems. Fortunately, the children of the settlement choose to quietly protect the last tree, and from there rebuild a caring and happy society for themselves and their parents. The artwork, mostly retro green and black, feels timeless and deliberately child-like, but the story is urgent, contemporary and thought-provoking, and will speak direct to readers of all ages.
Fabio the flamingo and Gilbert the giraffe are the animal Holmes and Watson, solving mysteries from their office on the banks of the Laloozee river. A trip in Gilbert’s new plane leads them off the beaten track to a small town where there’s something fishy going on with the water supply. Red herrings are scattered all over the place before Fabio solves the case, identifying the culprits. It all makes for fun and flamboyant reading (love Emily Fox’s illustrations and the fluorescent colour scheme). Fabio and George are a great comic double act and there’s real satisfaction to be had as they work out the crimes too.
Renée Watson’s remarkable What Momma Left Me is a wise and nourishing story rooted in themes of resilience, healing and love. With high school on the horizon, African American Serenity is struggling to piece her life back together following the brutal death of her beloved momma and the loss of her dad. Amidst this sensitively evoked maelstrom, Serenity finds hope in the form of her wholesome grandparents, church (where Grandpa is a pastor), brother Danny and new friend and confidante Maria, a bright beam of light who harbours her own bleak secrets. Serenity handles her grief, set-backs and challenging dilemmas with dignity, her grandparents a constant, calming presence as they impart wisdom, such as this nod to Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I Rise’ poem: “That’s why we say ‘we rise’, children. There have been lots of things that have tried to keep us down. But we’ve got resilience running through these veins.”Empathetically charting Serenity’s grief, first romance and growing up (what Serenity does to save Maria from an unsafe situation shows strength and wisdom way beyond her years), this huge-hearted novel comes highly recommended for its honesty, depth and engaging readability, along with Watson’s Piecing Me Together and Watch Us Rise (the latter co-authored with Ellen Hagan).
Imparting an infectious passion for politics, speaking-out and trying to make a difference, Yes No Maybe So, co-authored by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed, is a resonant, readable page-turner with an adorable cross-cultural romance at its heart. Jamie Goldberg is a self-professed klutz with confidence issues and a commitment to campaigning for his local Democrat candidate. While he hates being the centre of attention and has no interest in “power for its own sake”, Jamie is certain that “I want to be a history changer. I want to help draw the line.” It’s on the campaign trail that he meets Maya. With her parents recently separated, their vacation plans cancelled, and her best friend distracted with college plans, Maya figures she’d just as well do something during the summer. The Islamophobia Maya experiences while canvassing elicits a mix of shock, anger and defiance. “We don’t want the racist asshole guy to win, right?” she says of the bigot who slurs her during one doorstep encounter. “He already did win. In 2016,” Jamie quips of the US President. As the heat of the campaign intensifies, not least when they stand against a Republican bill seeking to ban head and face coverings in public spaces, and Jamie’s car is defaced with an anti-Semitic sticker, so too does their friendship, with their cross-cultural relationship portrayed with authentic empathy. Maya and Jamie’s dual narrative plays out with page-turning urgency and their awakenings – political, personal and romantic – are a genuine joy to experience. While Jamie has to learn from his Ramadan-related gaffes, and there are conflicts to navigate, their friendship – and more – transcends boundaries.
The summer holidays are dragging on and Harry Potter can't wait for the start of the school year. It is his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and there are spells to be learnt and (unluckily) Potions and Divination lessons to be attended. But Harry needs to be on his guard at all times - his worst enemy is preparing a terrible fate for him. With characteristic wit, fast-paced humour and marvellous emotional depth, J.K. Rowling has proved herself yet again to be a master storyteller.
Shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2020 | Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2020 | How can I hold myself together, when everything around me is falling apart? Neena's always been a good girl - great grades, parent-approved friends and absolutely no boyfriends. But ever since her brother Akash left her, she's been slowly falling apart - and uncovering a new version of herself who is freer, but altogether more dangerous. As her wild behaviour spirals more and more out of control, Neena's grip on her sanity begins to weaken too. And when her parents announce not one but two life-changing bombshells, she finally reaches breaking point. But as Neena is about to discover, when your life falls apart, only love can piece you back together.
Interest Age 5-8 | There’s poignancy as well as humour in this new story from Jonathan Meres. Young Frank is desperate for a new bike, but he knows that money doesn’t grow on trees, so when his big sister offers to pay him to help with her paper round, he agrees. Despite the 6.00am starts, it’s actually good fun and both Frank and Lottie are excited when they make friends with an old lady as they deliver papers to her care home. Their friendship proves very important as the story reaches its end. There’s lots to enjoy here, the story is short but very rewarding and Meres’ understanding of his readers is spot on.
If you love Tom Gates, the Wimpy Kid, or Nikki Maxwell of Dork Diaries fame, then you need to get to know Max Crumbly. Like these hapless anti-heroes, Max has a habit of getting into trouble – this episode opens with Max and his crush Erin Madison trapped in a dumpster full of smelly rubbish – mainly in an effort to escape school bullies or teachers. He recounts his adventures in a breathless, as-it-happens mix of text and image, which is vivid, action-packed and guaranteed to keep the pages turning and readers laughing. It all works too because author Rachel Renée Russell understands her protagonist and her readers so well, ensuring that Max is always a credible and sympathetic character.
February 2020 Book of the Month | 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.
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.
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017 and awarded the Amnesty CILIP Honour | Shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2016. | A heartfelt, harrowing insight into life as a Rohingya refugee in an Australian detention centre, told through the unforgettable voice of an unforgettable boy. Subhi is one of the Limbo kids in a permanent Australian detention centre, the first to be born in the camp after his Maá and big sister Queeny fled violent persecution in Burma. While he’s only experienced life within the cruel confines of the camp, Subhi’s rich imagination has conjured a magical, solace-giving world in which the Night Sea from his Maá’s tales brings him treasures from his dad. Stories are Subhi’s lifeline. He needs them “to make my memories” and imagines a blanket of stories, a “gigantic blanket big enough to warm everyone”. A new story treasure transforms Subhi’s world in the form of Jimmie, a local girl who finds her way into the camp. She too knows heartache. She’s lost her mum, who used to tell her special tales and gave her a bone sparrow necklace that “carried the souls of all her family”. When Jimmie enters Subhi’s life, he wonders if she’s his guardian angel, though he hadn't expected an angel to have more holes in her clothes than him. And, on meeting Subhi, Jimmie realises that she’s “never had a friend she wanted to share everything with before”, and so she shares her mum’s stories with him, stories he reads to her since she’s unable to read them herself. Subhi's unique voice will weave its way into your heart and under your skin. His descriptions of life in the centre are hauntingly evocative. You feel, for example, the heat of days that get his “skin creeping” and make everything “jangly and loud and scratchy”. Through Subhi, readers experience how it might feel to have no home or voice, and how friendship can lighten the darkest of circumstances. One hopes, as Subhi’s Maá says, that “someday they see we belong.” Both elegant and raw, this is an important and timely novel that bears witness to the risks people take to make their voice heard, and to the resilience of the human spirit.
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.