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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.
Mr Moose and Mr Brown first meet on an aeroplane flying from America to London. Mr Moose should be with his brother Monty, but absent-minded Monty has got on the wrong plane. Mr Brown, who is a famous fashion designer (as is the book’s author Paul Smith), offers to help his new friend find his missing brother. As they travel the world, Mr Moose helps Mr Brown with his fashion range, suggesting some very interesting garments – parkas for penguins, sneakers for cheetahs, scarves for giraffes. As they fit out an Alaskan bear for snow-shoes Mr Brown has an idea … It all ends with a happy reunion at a big catwalk (moosewalk?) show. It’s an engaging story and very strong on the fun and satisfaction that comes from designing things and from creative partnerships. Sam Usher paints some wonderful scenes, including a witty reimagining of Hopper’s Nighthawks, 1942.
Selected by a distinguished independent panel of experts including our editorial expert, Julia Eccleshare, for Diverse Voices - 50 of the best Children's Books celebrating cultural diversity in the UK. This highly personal story was partly influenced by Bali Rai's own experiences, it looks at the impact cultural traditions can have on young people growing up in modern times and the book will resonate with all who have experienced the pressure of expectation at the hands of their family.
If your New Year resolution was to spend ten minutes a day reading to your children, then this attractive collection of fairy stories from around the world would be a very good book with which to start. It contains ten stories, each of which will take ten minutes to read, and they are just the thing for bedtime. There are old favourites such as Beauty and the Beast and Pinocchio alongside lesser known stories such as The King’s Pudding, a funny animal story from Indonesia, and, as with all the best fairy tales, they will catch and hold listeners’ attention to the very end. Each story finishes with order restored and the good rewarded, perfect for lights out! ~ Andrea Reece
Best-selling Australian author/ illustrator Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton have created a fantastical treehouse which will tickle the imagination of all readers. It’s a house with everything – and if there is something it lacks, it can easily be created! The guys are full of crazy and inventive ideas some of which have very unexpected and disastrous results. When Andy and Terry aren’t having fun in their tree house doing terrible things like turning their neighbour’s cat into a canary they are meant to be writing a book! The jokes about the book being created within a book are good.
One of our Books of the Year 2015 The World’s Best Treehouse just got BETTER! Crazy, inventive, imaginative and mischievous Aussie writing duo, Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton tickled many a kid with their hilarious creation of The 13-Storey Tree House, where anything is possible. Terry and Andy have so much fun in their ideal treehouse, they never get any work done. Well now they're doomed, because they’ve just added 13 more storeys. Get your climbing shoes on and come on up to The 26-Storey Treehouse! Perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Brilliant World of Tom Gates and Barry Loser. Packed with hilarious cartoons and zany text, this book will leave readers in stitches and begging for more.
In a nutshell: gritty but uplifting story of a life transformed by an unexpected friendship 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. ~ Andrea Reece
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.
Long before Harry Potter got to Hogwarts, Mildred Hubble had been learning similar skills at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. Unfortunately, Mildred is the very worst pupil in the school. Now back for a second year, things aren’t going any better. Everything Mildred does just goes horribly wrong. She drops a bucket from a great height on the stern Miss Hardbroom, she fails to keep her cat on her broomstick and she even turns herself into a frog. Gorgeous line illustrations add to the charm of the Worst Witch stories. ~ Julia Eccleshare
Shortlisted for the 2012 Branford Boase Award for outstanding Debut novel. Shortlisted for the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize. An atmospheric, quirky and moving debut novel, set in India with incredibly well drawn characters and a multi-stranded storyline rich in detail. It's an accomplished novel that will draw out all manner of emotions from the reader so be warned you'll need tissues on hand!
Get into the Spirit of Christmas! | In a nutshell: a Christmas story for one and all! | Matt Haigh invents a brand new Christmas story in his tale of how a weedy little boy called Nikolas became the jolly bearded figure we know as Father Christmas. It’s one of the many achievements of his book that readers will want to hold it the truth. Nikolas and his father are poor – Nikolas has only ever had two presents, and one of them was a turnip – but he still understands that happiness is more important than money. This is proved when his father heads off on a money-making expedition to find Elfhelm, the village of the elves, leaving Nikolas with his nasty aunt. Nikolas follows his father and thereby meets elves, becomes magic, befriends the reindeer Blitzen, acquires the trademark red hat, and renews his determination to spread joy and good will to all. It’s a wonderful adventure, exciting, often very funny though not without its darker moments, and never sentimental. ~ Andrea Reece
Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit - and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords - and hunt for allies in unexpected places. In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all. Contains mature content. Not suitable for younger readers.
Introducing Axelle Anderson: fashion's most stylish detective. With an effortlessly enchanting writing style, wry humour and completely irresistible characters, this fresh and fabulous series from Carina Axelsson is bang on trend. Some of our readers were lucky enough to review the second in the Model Under Cover series - Stolen with Style....here's a taster - 'This book is a dark tale full of suspense and mystery, you couldn’t write a better detective tale. Any girl could relate to Axelle.' Read more reviews here!