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One of our 2018 Books of the Year | July 2018 Debut of the Month | Based on the author's own unconventional upbringing on a Thames Barge, Mud is an unusual and touching roman a clef. Lydia tells her father he is ruining her life when he announces that the family - she has one sister, two brothers and a much loved cat - will be going to live on a boat, and that his girlfriend Kate and her three children will be moving in too. His casual reference to Swallows and Amazons makes her shudder and it's hard to imagine any teenager would enjoy their new life - the boat is leaky and uncomfortable, adults and children alike squabble, and the atmosphere is far from happy. At least Lydia makes a new friend - the fabulous, straight-talking Kay - while other bright spots of life away from home include teenage parties and a burgeoning romance. Events are recounted by Lydia via diary entries, and she is a wonderful storyteller - funny, honest, with a wry self-deprecatory tone that endears her to readers. It's a story that could be very sad - Lydia's father's drinking becomes a real problem and eventually Kate leaves him; but Lydia's quirky stoicism, and descriptions of the love and support of her friends and siblings keep it an uplifting read. This is a great story for teenagers, but would be enjoyed by readers of any age. ~ Andrea Reece ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ As the 1980s dawn, Lydia finds herself caught in a maelstrom of monumental change herself, which she recounts in her unassumingly witty diary. Her mum died three years ago and her dad has remarried Kate, which means she now has a new stepmum, new stepsiblings, and then - horror of horrors – her dad announces that they’re all moving to a new home. On a boat. Cue much conflict and upset courtesy of two families trying to get on in ramshackle surroundings, her dad’s increasingly worrying behaviour and her big sister flying the nest for Cambridge University. Lydia’s articulation of her grief is deeply moving; those moments that leave her “overwhelmed suddenly by the strangeness of my mother just not existing anymore.” Throughout Lydia is a loveable bundle of self-effacing honesty and contemplation, and her astute observations cut to the core: “Everyone has to grow up, don’t they? Everyone has to go away one day.” As Lydia navigates these swirling new waters, she practices the art of getting on with things and discovers the delights of genuine friendship. Funny, poignant and perfectly-formed, this is a triumph of true-to-life storytelling. ~ Joanne Owen
July 2018 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2018 | A wonderfully funny romp of a story full of all kinds of imaginative nonsense including a cast of talking animals. Young Jack is an unlucky boy; his father vanished before he was born and his mother is in prison for a crime she swears she didn’t commit. As a result, Jack must live with his horrible uncle and cousin with only a cupboard for a bedroom. Driven by his passion for horses, Jack finds solace with an aged scrap-yard owner and his two horses with some very surprising skills of their own! It’s a friendship that leads Jack into a wonderful adventure I which he fulfils all of his wildest dreams. Unlikely and carefree, this is a perfect story for reading aloud. Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for July 2018: A First Book of the Sea by Nicola Davies Junkyard Jack and the Horse That Talks by Adrian Edmondson All About Families by Felicity Brooks A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker Sleep by Kate Prendergast The Storm Keeper's Island by Catherine Doyle The Cook and the King by Julia Donaldson
David Solomons is a simply brilliant writer for children and his My Brother is a Super-Hero series is consistently funny, entertaining and true. Indeed, the further-fetched the stories get, the more rooted they are in real life. As fans know, Luke was cruelly robbed of the super-powers that should have been his when Zorbon the Decider bestowed them on his swotty big brother Zack. But now the situation is reversed (sort of) because on their way back from a parallel Earth, Zack and Luke swapped bodies – Luke’s 11 year old mind is in Zack’s 14 year old body, and vice versa. The stage is set for another hilarious but properly exciting story, situation comedy and mistaken identity gags sitting alongside super-hero in-jokes. It all comes to a climax at the wonderfully-named Great Minds Leisure Park, where Luke confronts a worthy arch-enemy!
A week in the life of Eric Doomsday contains more chaos than most 7 year old boys could possibly achieve..but what fun! After a disastrous magic show which descended into a food fight Eric really needs to improve his reputation at school or he'll never be invited to another party again. Cue the school Talent Show and Eric sees the perfect opportunity to win back some credibility. Unfortunately for Eric the judges turn out to be aliens, here on a voyage to inspect and destroy UUURRTH. And unfortunately for the aliens Eric has a few tricks up his sleeve. This is a great early reader, with short chapters, lively artwork and the jokes keep on coming. Bonkers and brilliantly entertaining.
Baby Frank, immediately distinctive in a stripy black and white Babygro, wants a pet. In fact he really, really wants a pet. But his parents won’t allow it, pets are too expensive to keep they say. It leaves Frank with just one option and he becomes a bank robber! Soon he has all the pets he ever wanted, from a meerkat to a rhino, and his parents finally notice. Children will love Frank’s logic and naughtiness and it’s hard to say which illustrations are more fun: the bank heists or the hidden menagerie. Jim Whalley narrates it all in suitably deadpan rhyme while Steve Collins’s witty, expressive illustrations will delight young and old. Great fun!
Mirror Magic is perfect for children who like their stories full of magic and excitement. Orphans Ava and her big brother Matthew move to the town of Wyse, the last place in Britain with a working connection to the magical fairy Underworld. Access between the two worlds is through mirrors but according to the autocratic Lord Skinner the magic is fading away and fewer and fewer mirrors are working. Ava suspects Lord Skinner is not be trusted and her suspicions are confirmed when she meets a fairy boy, Howell. What follows is a story of conspiracy, intrigue and adventure, some genuinely creepy adversaries balanced by magical hats, a somewhat caustic talking book and entertaining transformations. Clever and lots of fun it comes with a reminder too that it is better to be shaped by our kindness than our fears. Readers who enjoy this book should also read Howl’s Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci series by the incomparable Diana Wynne Jones.
Wally-watchers will find lots to entertain them in this pocket-sized puzzle-packed volume. As well as search and find challenges, there are quizzes, mazes, memory games and even the odd page of jokes all of them stamped with the unmistakeable images of Wally, his friends and his world. As an extra treat, a fold-out board game is tucked neatly into the back cover. Just the thing to give the brain a work-out over the summer or to while away a long journey. And for more Where's Wally activity fun check out Where's Wally? Across Lands Activity Book!
Nat Luurtsema made a splash with her first story about Lou Brown in Girl Out of Water, which saw her training a team of the school’s hottest boys in synchronised swimming. Now Lou is back in a new adventure which is just as slick and funny as the original and filled with sharp observations of teen and family life. Despite a variety of problems – both parents are now unemployed, her best friend Hannah has been co-opted into the prom committee by the class mean girls, and even lovely boyfriend Gabe is spending more time with his (all female) debating teammates than with her – Lou stays cheerful, and the worse things get for her, the funnier they are for readers. Guaranteed to make you laugh out loud, this is another perfect summer read. Definitely one to recommend to fans of Holly Smale’s Geek Girl series.
June 2018 Book of the Month |Narrated at breathless speed by super-excited puppy Junior, this new series is spot-on for newly confident readers. Junior’s honest, direct, puppy’s-eye-view account of his life with new owner Ruff Catch-a-bone (aka much-loved Patterson character Rafe Khatchadorian) is one of non-stop domestic drama. Junior’s enthusiasm for life is catching, and it’s impossible not to be completely caught up in his descriptions of his daily activities. Excitement comes in the form of puppy-obedience training, and reaches a climax at a local dog show. Junior’s future depends on him winning a prize, which he does, but in a typically funny and unexpected way. Great fun, and super-readable too, helped by well-spaced, large type and Richard Watson’s comic illustrations.
Following hot on the heels of Resurrection, this eleventh instalment of Skulduggery Pleasant’s incomparable exploits offers everything devoted fans have come to expect - all-out action, astonishing twists, riotously witty repartee – and more, for this latest epic ramps up the stakes on the emotional front. Intrepid, intelligent, endlessly entertaining Valkyrie Cain is no stranger to fighting to keep her friends and family from harm, but this gripping story sees her having to face her biggest battle yet when a cruel killer captures her little sister, Alice. Worse still, she has just twelve hours to track her down. The sense of urgency and anxiety is heart-poundingly evoked, and I thoroughly enjoyed discovering more about Omen.
Hot on the heels of the first Rory Branagan adventure comes this new story and The Dog Squad is every bit as sharp and quirky, and possibly even funnier. Dogs in Rory’s neighbourhood are going missing and he’s determined to track down the thieves, especially when his beloved Wilkins Welkin is snatched. Confined to his bedroom, his foot in a surgical boot, Rory can only watch as his associate Cassidy sneaks into the chief suspect’s house. It’s all a bit Rear Window in fact, but with the added joys of a comic dog fight, the intervention of Mrs Welkins and her slipper, and Rory’s big brother’s nascent moustache. Meanwhile Rory’s efforts to find out why his father left them continue and two new clues are revealed. This parallel plotline adds an extra layer and touch of genuine poignancy while Ralph Lazar’s illustrations match the text in wit and idiosyncrasy.
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