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April 2021 Book of the Month | Ten-year-old Billie Upton Green opens up her doodle diary to readers, and what a treat it proves: a fabulously lively and idiosyncratic record of an eventful couple of weeks in her life. When a new girl joins her class, Billie is determined to make her feel welcome, even though Janey seems a bit of a show-off. She’s disconcerted that Janey doesn’t know what it means to be adopted, like Billie, or that you can have two mums, also like Billie. It gets harder to like Janey though when it appears she’s stealing Billie’s best friend, Layla. This also seems, to Billie, to put Janey in the frame for a sudden spate of thefts at their school, but the culprit is someone else altogether and by the end of the book, Billie, Layla and Janey are firm friends, the three of them performing a special dance at Billie’s mums’ wedding. Readers will love Billie’s adventures, and her funny, doodle-filled way of sharing them, as much as they love the Dork Diaries or Wimpy Kid stories, and it’s great too to see such a warm celebration of diverse family life.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Derek Landy’s riotously inventive Skulduggery Pleasant series first blasted its way onto bookshelves back in 2007, and fresh fantastical thrills keep on coming in Dead or Alive - no mean feat for book fourteen in a series. With the world teetering on the brink of irrevocable, devastating change, this penultimate novel sees Skulduggery, Valkyrie and Omen face their most trying test (yet…). As wildly witty and exhilarating as ever, this doorstopper of a page-turner sizzles with a burning sense of time slipping away, for if Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie can’t rid the world of Damocles Creed, the world’s people will be wiped out. Even Valkyrie is thrown by the imminent prospect of making the ultimate sacrifice: “Valkyrie woke, jumped out of bed and managed to get halfway to the bathroom before she threw up. They were going to kill Creed. They were going to kill Creed and nothing would be the same again.” The dialogue dances, desperation escalates, and fans will be left longing to know how Skulduggery’s awe-inspiring story will end.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Bravo to Jonathan Stroud! With its cast of charismatic characters and extraordinary world-building (think broken Britain with Wild West vibes), The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne is an audacious firecracker. And, in even better news for fans of funny, inventive adventure fiction, this is but the beginning of what’s set to be an extraordinary series. “Britain was a land of ruin…the country was maimed and broken - but full of strange fecundity and strength”. It’s also brimming with the likes of bears, wolves, flesh-eating spear-birds and gruesome cannibal creatures, all of which whip-smart, cuss-uttering Scarlett takes into her swaggering stride. She makes an unforgettable impression from the off: “A slight slim figure in a battered brown coat, weighed down with…all the paraphernalia of a girl who walked the Wilds.” After killing four grown men who’d tried to rob her, Scarlett struts into a bank and proceeds to hold it up (turns out she needs money to repay a debt). On fleeing the scene, Scarlett finds a crashed bus, all its passengers dead but for a lone boy hiding in the toilet. Enter Albert Browne, “awkward, skinny and wide-mouthed, like a frightened skeleton”, and seemingly a piece of powdery chalk to Scarlett’s pungent cheese. Her scathing sarcasm (and Albert’s obliviousness to it) provides many a laugh: “You just holler if I get in your way,” she seethes as he admires a seed pod while she sets about making a fire, cooking a bird and establishing a camp for them, and all while they’re being pursued. But, for all his unworldliness, Albert turns out to have hidden talents. Sensing he might be of use to her after all, Scarlett agrees to help him accomplish his own mission. Albert wants to reach the Free Isles, remnants of London that “don’t have any restrictions on who you are or what you can do. They welcome people who are...different”, unlike the dictatorial High Council of the Faith Houses, which is “desperate to keep the old ways going”, and “on the watch for any kind of deviation.” Trouble is, as their respective pursuers close in, time and space is running out for our unforgettable outlaws. What a story, what characters, and what a wait it will be until the second instalment. I defy any reader not to fall for Scarlett and Albert, and to become gasp-out-loud, laugh-out-loud invested in their quest.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | What happens when Mum and Dad can no longer rely on technology to keep them informed? Following a nationwide collapse in everything technical, Stella’s family sets off to visit Grandma on the other side of the country because they can’t reach her on Skype. It’s a road trip with a difference – no phones, no sat nav, no paying for a meal with a credit card. Stella makes a great narrator as she watches her father, shorn of his usual helping tools, navigate this new situation. In doing so she lightly reveals the pitfalls that would beset us all if all the screens went blank while also gently leading readers to see that there could be some benefits.
You can always trust Tony Ross to teach little ones a useful lesson with loads of humour and the perfect level of cheekiness. The grown-ups keep telling the Little Princess to wash her hands – after she’s been playing in the mud, after she’s used her potty, and after she’s sneezed, but why, she asks. The maid explains, gleefully and very vividly, and you can guarantee the Little Princess will never not wash her hands again. She still gets the last word, and the last laugh though! Full of Ross's brilliant touches of characterisation and silliness, this will be a hit with toddlers and parents alike.
April 2021 Debut of the Month - A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Scooter McLay is a kid to be reckoned with who has a passion for clever inventions. As his parents own and run the very best jam factory, his inventions are to do with jam-making. And, to make sure no one can compete with them he has to keep the family’s special jam-making recipes as top-secret as possible. Working alone, Scooter is pretty good at keeping his inventions well-hidden but when Fizzbee the friendly alien arrives through the factory window it gives the audacious Daffy Dodgy the chance she has long waited for. She slips into the jam factory and steals Scooter’s secret files….How Scooter and Fizzbee see off the danger is a warm-hearted and madcap adventure. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
The Smidgens are about the same size as Borrowers (small enough to fit into an old peanut butter jar) and, like Pod, Arrietty and co., build their homes from things the Big Folk (you and me) leave behind or lose. You won’t have seen them, because not only are they very small and very good at hiding, there just aren’t that many around; in fact Gafferty and her family think they’re the last of the Smidgens. It’s only when Gafferty and little brother Gobkin run into the witchy Claudia Slymark and her sinister-ish, ghostly sidekicks, that they discover there are more Smidgens living nearby – and just as well too. Claudia is after something the Smidgens have, and the chase leads to some real high jinks (in some very high places too). Little people are endlessly fascinating – who doesn’t love the idea of being small enough to fit into a doll’s house or toy train – but the Smidgens’ adventures are funny as well as charming and with just the right amount of 21st century edge and sharpness. The first in a series which is certain to capture children’s imagination.
Zoe Antoniades’ stories of twins Cally and Jimmy are fantastically lively and lots of fun. There are four separate self-contained stories in the book, each one narrated by Cally, as she watches, exasperated, while her minutes-younger brother gets into trouble again and again. She knows Jimmy can’t help it really – he has ADHD – and always sticks by him so that things have a habit of working out well in the end. Their Greek family, especially their Yiaiyia (Granny), are another of the joys of the book and one episode describes their trip to Cyprus, where Jimmy outdoes himself causing chaos. The stories are accessible, absolutely believable, and readers will feel by the end that they have a new set of friends. Highly recommended.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Award-winning author and former Children’s Laureate Anne Fine has a rare gift for revealing family relationships accurately and painfully but with laugh out loud humour. She is at her best unpicking the complicated feelings around family break up and exploring the devious means all parties have of keeping secrets and uncovering the truth. When Scarlet’s dynamic mother decides to leave her quieter father Scarlet has to go with her. Luckily, she can still see her dad at weekends and she still has her best friend Alice to share everything with. Gradually Scarlet finds that there are other people to think about too including her mother’s new boyfriend and the possible new partner for her father. She also finds she has a lot to learn about her parents as individuals as well as in relationship to her. Anne Fine is as full of family insight and humour as ever.
Introducing a personalised children’s book especially for twins! | This is a special twin edition of the brilliant Birthday BOO! If you want to give a really special birthday surprise to twins in your life, then this is the book to do it. Produced by Tickled Moon, the story is personalised to allow both children to be a central character in the story. And what a story it is too! Imagine what it would be like if an enormous monster turned up on your birthday to surprise you by shouting, ‘Boo!’ – hmmm, maybe not quite the present you were hoping for. Fortunately, our young heroes are smart as well as kind and find a way to make the monster feel at home. The lively text is great fun to read aloud and will be irresistible to youngsters when they realise they really are the star of the story (in a nice touch, you can even reference their favourite food). With bright, bold colour illustrations by Jodie Wonford this birthday treat really delivers. The Birthday BOO for Twins! is priced at £24.95 for a Hardcover and is available on Tickled Moon’s website.
Little ones will be tickled pink by Tickled Moon’s charming personalised picture books. They make a wonderful present to enjoy in the moment and treasure for years. The quality of the production values and personalisation options outshine other customisable picture books I’ve encountered, and Jodie Wonford’s illustrations are full of energy and life, from the charming monster character of the Boo! books to the atmospheric landscapes of The Joyful Adventures. The books cover a range of occasions and family needs. For example, The Birthday Boo! can be personalised for solo children or twins. There are also two Christmas-themed books - The Christmas Boo! and The Christmas Wrapper, the latter of which can include up to four names in addition to the main personalisation. Alternatively, the beautiful “book for two” option (The Joyful Adventures) makes the perfect present for a pair of siblings, and a whopping eight additional loved ones can get a mention in this enchanting adventure story. No matter which book you choose, for whatever occasion, each option can be printed with a personal dedication, making an already special gift even more special. “The Joyful Adventures” is priced at £19.95 for a Softcover and is available on Tickled Moon’s website.
If you want to give a really special birthday surprise to a small person in your life, then this is the book to do it. Produced by Tickled Moon, the story is personalised to make the child a central character in the story. And what a story it is too! Imagine what it would be like if an enormous monster turned up on your birthday to surprise you by shouting, ‘Boo!’ – hmmm, maybe not quite the present you were hoping for. Fortunately, our young hero is smart as well as kind and finds a way to make the monster feel at home. The lively text is great fun to read aloud and will be irresistible to youngsters when they realise they really are the star of the story (in a nice touch, you can even reference their favourite food). With bright, bold colour illustrations by Jodie Wonford this birthday treat really delivers. The Birthday BOO! is priced at £19.95 for a Softcover and £24.95 for a Hardcover and is available on Tickled Moon’s website.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Abandoned by their original owners, cats Pasha and Poop (yes, really) find forever homes with the lovely Wilde family. But the cats of their new neighbourhood are terrorised by the pawful Scaredy Cat. With flashing eyes, and an ability to walk through walls, he forces everyone to follow his cruel rules for cat behaviour, and woe betide those that try to resist. Pasha is determined to stand up to the bullying, but can he persuade Poop and the other cats that they have nothing to fear but fear itself? Typically for Patterson, the story races along, the cats taking turns to narrate, and it’s a perfect mix of excitement, adventure and comedy. It comes to a wonderful climax in a pet cemetery of all places, and amongst the fun there are important messages about finding the strength in yourself to do what’s right.
Aldrin Adams discovers that he has the world's most unusual and secret SUPER-POWER: By eating very stinky cheese before bedtime, Aldrin can enter people's dreams and nightmares, and help them with their problems. The trouble is, Aldrin has problems of his own. Dad's not been himself since Mum died, their cheese shop (C'est Cheese!) is under threat of closure, and Aldrin's struggling at school. But things go from bad to worse when Aldrin realises something - or someone - is trying to steal his cheesy super power for their own evil plan for world domination! And this time, Aldrin might need more than the stinkiest of Bries to save the day!
The Branford Boase prizewinning author has produced another winner with his second book. This is the thrilling story of Queenie de la Cruz, an ordinary girl who happens to be a big fan of world’s most popular fizzy drink. When a bottle washes up at her feet on the beach near her run-down house, this is not unusual- the beach is so covered with rubbish she hardly notices it. But this bottle contains the top-secret recipe for her favourite drink. Priceless information that the big corporation wants back at any cost! The way they manipulate the media and instigate a world wide search for Queenie is genuinely scary and thought provoking. While on the run Queenie comes to realise a lot about the world and the threats it faces from big business and consumerism. She also realises the value of friendship, finds her courage to stand up for what is right and that some things are more important than money. The suspense filled plot will keep readers guessing and the powerful underlying environmental message will strike home. A story which, like his debut novel Kick, looks at the darker side of consumerism and big business and its worldwide affects, but this is so successfully wrapped up in a really great story that this will be a really popular read as well as a valuable discussion starter.
A laugh-out-loud, record-smashing adventure packed with heart, humour and a whole lot of kumquats, from Jenny Pearson, the breakout talent of 2020, illustrated by Erica Salcedo. Lucy is a fixer of broken things. But there's one thing she can't fix and that's her unhappy mum. Until she comes up with an INCREDIBLE plan. Along with her best friend, Sandesh, Lucy is going to SMASH a world record. Because she's convinced that starry Paul Castellini - Record Smashers TV host and all-time crooner - is the answer to her mum's problems. But breaking a world RECORD when watermelons, kumquats, two baddies and a 30 cm shatter-resistant school ruler are involved isn't quite as easy as Lucy thought. Can she learn that sometimes happiness doesn't come with a plan?
Not since Adrian Mole opened his diary have the thoughts and innermost feelings of an adolescent boy been examined so precisely or with such heart. Stan is twelve, shy and a worrier, so the thought of a holiday in Italy with his friend Felix and Felix’s family freaks him out. He’s going though: we meet him at the airport drawing up a ‘duck-it’ list of things he hopes he’ll never have to do. Little does he know that he’ll tick off six out of ten of them on his holiday, and enjoy it too. The first-person narrative lets us in on all Stan’s thoughts, but he’s a good observer of others so we learn loads about the others in the holiday party too, kids and grown-ups. There are laugh-out-loud scenes and moments of pure agony, and through it all Stan is learning loads about himself and life in general. Honest, revealing, compassionate and so entertaining, this is a must read for all the Stans out there – adults, give yourselves a treat and read it too.
Dog Man and Petey face their biggest challenges yet in the tenth Dog Man book from worldwide bestselling author and illustrator Dav Pilkey. Dog Man is down on his luck, Petey confronts his not so purr-fect past, and Grampa is up to no good. The world is spinning out of control as new villains spill into town. Everything seems dark and full of despair. But hope is not lost. Can the incredible power of love save the day? Dav Pilkey's wildly popular Dog Man series appeals to readers of all ages and explores universally positive themes, including love, empathy, kindness, persistence, and the importance of doing good.
The first book in the hilarious new series for children by the bestselling creator of Hurrah For Gin. Lottie Brooks is 11 3/4 and her life is already officially over - not only is she about to start high school without any friends or glamorous swooshy hair, she's just discovered she's too flat-chested to wear A BRA! She might as well give up now and go into hibernation with her hamsters Sir Barnaby Squeakington and Fuzzball the Third. Lottie navigates the many perils of growing up in this fantastically funny new illustrated series for a 9-12 audience, filled with friendship, embarrassing moments and plenty of lols. Hilarious, relatable and full of heart, for fans of funny and chaotic family stories.
Scare yourself silly with Rowley Jefferson's Awesome Friendly Spooky Stories by Jeff Kinney, the #1 international bestselling author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid! Grab a flashlight, crawl under the covers, and dive into the twisted, unexpectedly hilarious world of Rowley Jefferson's imagination. You'll meet zombies, vampires, ghosts, and much more in these comically terrifying tales. Rowley's spooky stories might leave you laughing, but beware-you could end up sleeping with the lights on! And don't miss Rowley Jefferson's first two awesome friendly books, the instant #1 bestsellers Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal and Rowley Jefferson's Awesome Friendly Adventure!
When Finney the fox proudly announces he’s written a book, his friend points out it’s all there, except the story. Finney is sure he’s full of stories though, and he is – the only trouble is, they’re all old favourites. Fortunately, the two friends work out that we’ve all got one, very unique story to tell – our own! Finney’s tale will intrigue and entertain children who will understand, better than adults, that their own story is one of the best. Finney and his friend are jolly little characters and the illustrations a feast of bold primary colours and inky black shapes.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | This wonderfully absurd book starts with Rock Pigeon – who loves dressing up in disguises! Grandpouter Pigeon turns up on his farm to recruit Rock to a wonderfully mixed group of pigeons who all fight animal-based crimes! This is just a wonderful series of three odd crimes the group set out to solve – where are all the breadcrumbs, who is kidnapping bats, and can they stop a dinner disaster? These are fast moving tales, highly illustrated with black and white illustrations that move the stories along at a madcap pace. Young emerging readers will power through the book giving them confidence and a huge slice of fun as they read ‘a proper chapter book’. Funny books for this age group are always very welcome – and this one (the start of a series) – is so well done I am sure children will lap them up. The added bonus is a simple guide at the end of the book to the different sorts of pigeons who create the crime solving gang.
From Alex English, author of Sky Pirates, and Ben Cort, illustrator of Aliens Love Underpants and Aliens Love Dinopants comes this all-singing, all-dancing, all-stomping-and-romping rhyming picture book that sees a naughty dinosaur make a whole of lot of mayhem - for an unexpected, touching reason. A little girl is enjoying some extra-special cake in her granny’s kitchen when the walls are set a-trembling by none other than a mighty roaring dinosaur. When the bright, brash brontosaurus speeds off with Gran, the girl scoots after them. The chase takes her through the playground, along the high street, through fields and into the woods, where she loses sight of them and begins to worry they won’t be found before Mummy’s due at 6 o’clock. What can be done? “I WANT MY GRAN!” she cries. When the dinosaur creeps from the trees, he confesses that loneliness had driven him to steal Gran, and so they come to a rather lovely arrangement that keeps everyone happy. With a rousing “STOP THAT DINOSAUR!” refrain to join in with, a thrilling sense of time running out, and lovely messages about making unexpected friends, and all the wonderful things grannies do (read stories, make apple pie, kiss your bruises, hug you when you cry), this is as charming as it’s funny, and a sure-fire read aloud hit.
The island of Brutalia is known for its violence, its treacherous rocks and its ravenous ravens who like nothing better than feasting on the body parts of the rock’s victims, together with a truly horrible King and Queen, who relish punishments for the downtrodden citizens. Mort is different. He would not hurt a fly and now the death of his uncle has seen him appointed Royal Executioner and his first task is to execute his best friend Weed. How he manages to avoid this fate will keep young readers enthralled. This is reminiscent of Dahl or Mr Gum in the relish with which gruesome (but never actually gory) plot details are revealed. There is very silly slapstick violence that always plays for laughs rather than frights. Each chapter opens with jokes from the ever-present Ravens, usually based upon what they can eat, and this quickly becomes a favourite feature alongside the jokey asides from the narrator. The lively text layout and variety of font make this an accessible read. The generous illustrations suit the comedic mode perfectly and I can see this rapidly becoming a popular series.
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