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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.
November 2019 Debut of the Month | 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!