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Who better to introduce children to the world of ancient Greek myth than gladiator Julius Zebra (and if you don’t know, he really is a zebra). Julius and his band have already survived being kidnapped by Romans and thrown into the Colosseum, a stay in Britannia and a shipwreck in Egypt, but can they survive a challenge from the hero Heracles (or as Julius knows him Hairy Keith)? It brings them into contact with the Minotaur and King Midas, and ends with a trip into the underworld no less. The story is brilliantly funny as always, and action packed while there’s loads of proper information on ancient life amongst the silliness. Glorious stuff!
Shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Award 2016 Best Story | This is Frank Cottrell Boyce’s first standalone novel since Cosmic in 2008 and it’s been well worth the wait. The smallest and weakest boy in his class, Rory Rooney makes an unlikely superhero. But all that seems set to change when he suddenly and inexplicably turns green, surely the markings of a superhero. Stuck in a hospital isolation ward with two other remarkably green children – including his nemesis, school bully Grim Kommissky – Rory discover his superpowers and becomes Astounding. The adventure that follows is by turns hilarious and heart-warming, further proof if it were needed that Cottrell Boyce is one of the wittiest, warmest and most inventive children’s authors of today.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017 | Longlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award | With all the invention, originality and insight that is typical of his writing for children, Frank Cottrell Boyce takes the sad story of Laika, the first living creature to orbit Earth, and uses it as inspiration for a story about the importance of home. As ever, it’s both brilliantly funny and extraordinarily moving. Prez is living with a temporary foster family when he opens the door to Sputnik. Prez sees an alien – in a kilt – everyone else sees a dog. Over the course of the summer Prez and Sputnik have some amazing adventures and break a lot of laws, including some of the laws of physics, but in the process they save the world, and reunite Prez with his grandfather. As wild as a cartoon strip, this wonderful story pinpoints all the best things about life on Earth. No-one writes like Frank Cottrell Boyce, and readers who enjoy this will also love his books Cosmic and The Astounding Broccoli Boy. Jamie Thomson’s Dark Lord books are also very funny, and just as good on human nature as is My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons.
February 2019 Book of the Month | This is book ten in this excellent series which recounts – via email exchanges – the escapades of young Eddie Smith-Pickle and his eccentric Uncle Morton, dragon aficionado and explorer. In this episode, Eddie’s first email to his long-suffering mother is entitled Confession and gets straight to the point: he’s not in Glasgow as mum believes, but 4,329 miles further away. Uncle Morton has persuaded his nephew to accompany him to Mongolia to witness the legendary Great Dragon Battle Ceremony. The trip turns out to be every bit as exciting as you’d expect, and it’s only the arrival of Uncle Morton’s own dragons, Ziggy and Arthur, that prevents Eddie ending up as a dragon’s dinner. The email format ensures the stories are told with the utmost economy, but they’re also full of humour and wit. This is sophisticated storytelling in a really accessible format, no wonder the series has now reached number ten.
Max Einstein is a genius; aged 12 she’s already enrolled herself at university, where she’s careful to score perfect Cs in every test (she doesn’t want to stand out). She’s also an orphan who lives in a squat. Two very different groups of people have plans for Max though – the CMI (Change Makers Institute) and the equally mysterious but far more sinister Corp. Whisked away to study with other super-brainy kids, she’s challenged to bring about real change for good. The spirit of Einstein runs through this – it’s endorsed by the Einstein Archives – and in particular his belief that the imagination is more important than knowledge. Max uses her imagination and compassion together to dream up ways to improve the world. If anyone’s going to save the planet it will have to be the next generation, and this book could be the inspiration they need. As with lots of Patterson’s children’s books, this is smart, funny and fast moving, with real heart beneath the slick packaging.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2019 | Winner of the UKLA 2018 Book Award 3-6 | An EmpathyLab Read for Empathy book 2018 | Simplicity is the charm of this picture book story of the unlikely friendship between very different vegetables. Lee is a very green pea and so are all of his friends except for Colin who is a very orange carrot. Colin can’t do all the things that the pea-friends can do such as roll or bounce. Nonetheless, it turns out that they can all be very good friends. Julia Eccleshare's Picks for January 2019: Lark by Anthony McGowan Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea by Morag Hood Dear Zoo Snuggle Book by Rod Campbell Whatever Next! by Jill Murphy Billly and the Minpins by Roald Dahl Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen The Skylarks' War by Hilary McKay
February 2019 Book of the Month | The Heffleys head off on holiday in this latest Wimpy Kid adventure. It’s supposed to be a dream break but, as recounted by wimpy kid Greg in his usual doleful, deadpan way together with the action-filled comic-strip style illustrations, is pretty much a non-stop catalogue of disasters, from the moment the Heffleys pick up the wrong luggage on their (delayed) flight, to insect, bird and lizard attacks, a burst banana boat and nightmare cruise. It makes for very funny reading of course, and Kinney as ever absolutely nails family and teen life – I particularly enjoyed the subplot describing the miserable time had by big brother Roderick. Holiday reading doesn’t get any better than this.
January 2019 Debut of the Month | OK, here’s the plot of this hugely entertaining and very funny book: ogres that sleep under Britain’s standing stones have been awakened by a malignant gnome called Leatherhead Barnstorm. He has the Doomstone Sword and therefore control of all the dwarves and is marching on Perth. Out to stop him are our heroes dwarf Mossbelly MacFearsome and the eleven-year-old he’s appointed as the Destroyer, Roger Paxton. The stage is set for a thoroughly rambunctious fantasy adventure, packed with wonderful characters, unexpected moments, a bevy of fabulous fights and some very nasty little monsters. An ogre-sized helping of fun and adventure, this is one to push into the hands of fans of Danny Wallace, Shane Hegarty and Will Mabbitt.
December 2018 Book of the Month | Santa turns to modern gadgets to deliver his presents in this gentle, humorous story. He still uses reindeer, though the sleigh has been updated to a nice old open-topped car, but resorts to a jet-pack in busy cities - well, it makes parking much easier - and he keeps a check on deliveries via an iPad. His best laid plans go wrong though when he drops it but fortunately the little girl he’s delivering to is a digital native and can fix it for him. The story may hinge on modern technology for its drama but there’s a charmingly vintage feel to Angela Perrini’s illustrations and the final message - one of kindness and generosity- is thoroughly traditional.
December 2018 Book of the Month | Irrepressible young dog Junior is back with a dog’s-eye view of Christmas, or as he knows it Crisp-Mouth.This will be his first Crisp-Mouth, but he’s heard all about it from one of the old dogs at the dog’s home, and now settled with the Khatchadorians is very excited at the prospect of filling his mouth with canine crispy crackers! His enthusiasm knows no bounds, and it proves a real struggle to be good, especially as Junior consistently gets things WRONG… Junior’s breathless narrative style and Richard Wilson’s illustrations make this super-readable, and newly confident readers will love this funny story and its bouncy, endlessly optimistic narrator.