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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.
This is an absolutely visually beautiful book. It teaches, in short verses, about the wonders that we can find when we go exploring outdoors. One main theme is the respect that we should have for all living things and their environment. The illustrations are in gorgeous watercolour, what a talented artist! There is so much to look at and discuss and easily relates to the child's experiences when out and about. Fun verses encourage the reader to match the rhymes. A superb follow up to the previous book 'What Wonders Do you see when you Dream?' Chris Woolfenden, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
25% Illness, 25% Friends, 25% Kindness, 25% BatPig | Twelve-year-old Ross is dealt a devastating blow when he’s told he has an extremely rare form of eye cancer and is likely to lose sight in both eyes. Based on author Rob Harrell’s personal experience of eye cancer, and spiced with his cool comic-strips of Ross’s Battbutt and Batpig characters, Wink has all the freshness and pitch-perfect narrative voice of a Louis Sachar story, with its own unique warmth and wit.As Ross struggles with the strangeness of undergoing immediate radiation treatment, he also faces a terrible time at school. Cruelly called the “Cancer Cowboy” on account of having to wear a hat, he’s also the subject of malicious memes. While Ross’s personal plight is at the huge heart of this novel, it’s equally as powerful in its portrayal of the wider impact of devastating diagnoses, most poignantly when Ross’s friend Isaac distances himself from their Oreo-sealed friendship pact. But as Isaac retreats, he makes life-changing new friends as a result of his treatment. First there’s fellow patient Jerry, a wise-cracking old guy who rebuffs Ross’s desire to be normal. According to Jerry, “Different moves the needle. Different is where the good stuff happens. There’s strength in difference.” Then there’s Frank, the adorable radiation tech guy who teaches Ross to play guitar, which has tear-jerkingly transformational effects.What an authentic, emotional, amusing and all-round awesome read this is.
A daring dog takes a whirlwind tour of Rome in search of freedom in new picture book from beloved storyteller Mac Barnett and masterful illustrator Claire Keane. Paolo the dachshund is trapped. Though he lives in Rome, a city filled with history and adventure, he is confined to a hair salon. Paolo dreams of the sweet life-la dolce vita-in the Eternal City. And then, one day, he escapes! Paolo throws himself into the city, finding adventure at every turn. Join our hero as he discovers the wonders of Rome: the ruins, the food, the art, the opera, and-of course-the cats. Readers will cheer the daring of this bighearted dog, whose story shows that even the smallest among us can achieve great things.
Stylish and beautifully conceived, this entertaining new picture book by artist/ designer Marion Deuchars is a visual treat as well as a strong story about artistic competition - and collaboration. Bob loves making art and is very jealous when everyone starts talking about Roy, the amazing new artist in town. His work is apparently fantastic! Who is this new artist and what is so special about his work? Why is he the best in town? Bob does everything he can to compete with Roy until he realises that working together might be more fun!
March 2020 Debut of the Month | Newton is excited: he’s just read a sign that tells him dogs have nine lives. That’s carte blanche for Newton to do all his favourite things and be much more daring. Without a second thought he’s off to explore the nature reserve and do some incredibly risky things. He’s pursued by his friend, a much more sensible cat, who realises - as we do - that Newton has been misled. The adventure that follows is full of wonderfully reckless behaviour and narrow escapes for Newton, all the more delightful because he is totally oblivious to the danger he’s in. Newton’s joy is infectious and it’s impossible to read this without smiling at his enthusiasm. Alice McKinley depicts Newton as a plump puppy, with constantly wagging tail and beautifully expressive ears, and he’s set to become a favourite with readers young and old.
Iris takes refuge with her grandma, Mimi, to escape the chaos at home, caused by her two-year old twin siblings and her dad’s DIY repairs. There’s a different kind of disorder in Mimi’s house which is chock full of items collected over the years, chiefly boxes of photos she’s taken and developed. Among the photographs of other people’s weddings are family portraits and its one of these that sets Iris on a hunt to unravel an old mystery, even as Mimi’s memories are fading. The story is beautifully told, as much about Iris and her search for order and happiness as it is about Mimi and her struggle with dementia. A poignant, thoughtful examination of family relationships, memory and loss, that ends on a note of hope and renewal.
The year is 1921. Ireland has been at war for two years. Communities are torn apart by bitter hatred - and now a hard border splits the island. In Belfast, Helen's Hope hostel is a progessive space where young women live and work together - a haven of tolerance and diversity in a fractured city. But some people hate Helen's Hope and its values. Another pitch-perfect historical novel from the prize-winning author of Star by Star.
Susin Nielsen’s new novel features unforgettable central characters, and is beautifully written; her ear for dialogue – young teen to teen, young teen to parent, young teen to emergency services – pitch perfect. Despite being a story of homelessness and poverty, it will leave readers cheered and thoroughly reassured about the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Twelve-year old Felix lives with his mother Astrid, only rarely seeing his dad. Astrid has a flexible attitude to truth and Felix has developed a chart to measure the lies she tells as they navigate their lives. These range from ‘the invisible lie’, through the ‘no-one gets hurt’ to the biggest, the ‘someone might lose an eye’ lie. As they struggle to cope living in a (stolen) camper van, Astrid uses her panoply of lies to the full and Felix reluctantly goes along with it, ready to support his mother even when it’s really difficult. Nielsen gives him good friends, and a talent for memorising facts, both of which help to set up a better future for him. Both painful and funny, this is a book that will have readers alternatively shouting at its central characters, and cheering them on.
March 2020 Debut of the Month | Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2020 | Told in narrator Newt’s distinctive phonetic English, this dark debut dazzles with originality and delivers a potent case for combatting inequality. Bearmouth is home to a grim mining business, where men and children labour under inhumane conditions to make their Master wealthy. They work under the earth, under the omniscient Mayker who - so workers are told - “sen us down into the dark Earf/To atone for the sins o our forefarvers an muvvers”. Naïve Newt hasn’t seen daylight in years, but takes pride in being taught to read and write by fatherly Thomas, blithely accepting this lot until the arrival of new boy Devlin. Devlin’s talk of “revolushun” makes Newt feel that things are “unravellin slowly slowly lyke a bootlayce comin all undun.” Life in Bearmouth is beyond bleak, but the sparks of Devlin’s revolutionary spirit catch light and drive Thomas to ask the Master for “more coinage” for the workers, to question why they must pay for essential clothes, to demand to know when the promised safety lamps are coming. Then when tragedy strikes, Newt too realises that things “ent bloody well ryte” and takes on Devlin’s insurgent tendencies, with explosive effects. Emotionally engaging, this searingly original novel about standing up to abuses of power and fighting for freedom is radiant with story-telling excellence.
January 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s love, friendship and challenging prejudice aplenty in this debut novel by a LGBTQ+ parenting expert. Introverted Izzy has just started Year 8 and is wildly excited when her favourite teacher announces auditions for a Christmas production of Guys and Dolls. Though shy, she’s come to love acting because on stage she “could be whoever I wanted.” And Izzy’s not the only member of her family who wants - and needs - to be who they really are, as she discovers when her dad tells the family he’s transgender and is about to begin transitioning. Though he gently explains, “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s nothing dirty, I’m not ill”, Izzy’s older sister reacts angrily, her little brother accepts it in the same way he understands Spider Man and Peter Parker’s different identities, while Izzy feels quiet worry about how their lives will change. The family’s journey is honestly and sensitively portrayed as they endure hurtful prejudice alongside many heart-melting moments, such as the gorgeous scene in which the three siblings think-up their new name for Dad. This is at once an important support tool for children in similar situations, and a barrier-breaking, empathy-inducing story for all.
January 2020 Debut of the Month | Nizrana Farook sets her story on the island of Serendib, now known as Sri Lanka, and transports readers to a vivid, larger-than-life world where young people can be bold, true and have some extraordinary adventures. Twelve-year old Chaya is a thief with a heart of gold, stealing from the king’s palace to help those in her village. She makes a mistake when she takes jewels from the queen’s bedroom though, triggering a series of events that leads to Chaya and two friends, villager Neel and merchant’s daughter Nour, fleeing into the rainforest on the king’s elephant. There are brushes with death, but great camaraderie too and it all ends with a much-needed righting of wrongs. Great stuff! Readers swept up in Chaya’s story – and who couldn’t be? – will also enjoy Costa Book Award winner Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan.
There are lots of reading jokes in this book within a book, within a book: pirates and robbers settle down with their favourite stories and the Three Bears discover Goldilocks reading their favourite book (after having eaten their porridge, of course). It’s all written in bubbly rhyming verse matched with vigorous illustrations which make extensive play of the central joke.