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May 2018 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Intense exposé of extreme misogyny and male privilege An unflinching novel about brutally toxic masculinity, male collusion and how justice systems and society at large are still appallingly rigged against women. Life is tough for Ellie and her dad in their decrepit ghost town. Ellie’s mom ran out on them when she was still a baby, she’s cripplingly lonely and her dad never fulfilled his dream of becoming a filmmaker. Convinced – and told by her peers - that she’s ugly, Ellie’s dream is “to be pretty. That’s part of what makes a girl,” she remarks. “Girls who are pretty are likeable. Pretty is power.” So when privileged Caleb tells her she’s pretty, she craves him, even though she also “hated how he made me feel uncomfortable”. His attention legitimises and comforts her, even when he dumps her, even when he’s humiliates her. And then it’s too late. He and his family are monstrous, and Ellie can’t escape. The brotherhood of abuse portrayed here will sicken and shock, while your heart will ache for Ellie, for her dad, and for the love and friendships she deserved to enjoy. Relentlessly raw and unusually framed, this is perhaps best recommended for fans of crime fiction with conscience. Bold in its bleakness, this steers well clear of any kind of happy-ever-after Hollywood ending. In real life baddies don’t always get what they had coming. In real life not everyone has a best friend to turn to. On a positive note, this might just enrage to the point of inspiring readers to take a stand on issues of systemic misogyny, and it makes a strong case for the need to take time to truly get to know people, to find friends you can open up to. ~ Joanne Owen
May 2018 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Fight to forge a happily ever after | When Jay’s father died, her life imploded in every way imaginable. Not only did she lose her vibrant, supportive dad, but she and her mum also lost their comfortable life. Her mum’s now struggling to pay the rent and although Jay helps out by working, it’s not enough to make ends meet so they’re forced to move in with relatives. Jay’s formidable Aunty Vimala demands strict adherence to traditional Indian values - girls must work hard around the home, and definitely must not have male friends. Boys, on the other hand, such as Aunty Vimala’s sons, are afforded freedoms and can do no wrong. Jay and her mother cook and clean to pay their way alongside trying to keep up with their respective ways out - in Jay’s case, this means doing well at school in order to go to university, while her mum is training to be a teacher. Already trapped and isolated, Jay’s situation plummets further when she’s brutally assaulted by a relative. Her experience and response to this terrible event are powerfully conveyed, as is her traumatic journey to recovery. She’s left feeling broken, and this in turn threatens to break her relationship with her mum. This is an unflinching, multi-layered exposition of male privilege, male abuses of women, and the clash of cultures. With hard-hitting clarity it also shows how girls are silenced, made to feel ashamed of their bodies, ashamed of wrongs done to them. Ultimately this is poignant personal story of a girl’s fight to rebuild and re-connect with herself and those who love her after a truly harrowing experience. ~ Joanne Owen
April 2018 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Falling Angels | Rising Hope | Falling in Love Compelling magic realist debut in which a fallen angel named Teacake helps heal a teen girl’s grief. Across the world angel-like Beings are falling from the sky. Their winged bodies seep golden blood on impact with the earth, and then they die. In the aftermath of the first sightings, the world exploded in an apocalyptic frenzy, yielding religious cults and angel-exploiting money-makers. Alongside this, Jaya is also dealing with a personal apocalypse – the sudden death of her mother. While Jaya struggles with her guilt-ridden grief, and with losing contact with Leah, the best friend who might also have been her girlfriend, she’s also irritated by her dad’s fanatical angel-chasing. But, as things turn out, it’s Jaya who’s there when an angel falls, and, for the first time, this angel survives. Angels don’t exist in Jaya’s mum’s Hindi religion so she pushes aside any thoughts that this is somehow a sign. But amidst the frenzy of the Edinburgh festival and the aggressive fanaticism of the Standing Fallen cult, Jaya does everything she can to protect this shimmering rose-gold Being from harm. The angels are never explained, or fully understood, but that isn’t necessary, for this isn’t about hard scientific facts, this is about matters of the soul. It’s a charming debut, radiant with humanity and heart. ~ Joanne Owen
We all want our children to be happy and resilient, but may not realise that they can be taught skills to make them happier people. Written by a psychologist with the charity Action for Happiness, this book explains ten keys to happier living and sets out practical, fun activities for children to do that will make a real and lasting difference to their lives. The text is friendly and reassuring, broken down into easily accessible paragraphs or charts while bright graphics with animated characters make it attractive to look at too. Each of the ten chapters has tips for children to use in their everyday lives, including a section on developing mindfulness. Happiness really matters, and the more children and adults who read this book, the better. ~ Andrea Reece
March 2018 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Hearty hope-filled ode to food-love, self-love and living out loud As energising as a super food salad, as satisfying and nourishing as your favourite home-cooked meal, this delectable novel about feeling comfortable in your own skin has been prepared with sisterly love and comes served on a bed of inspiration. Meet your new favourite character, Bluebelle, also known as BB, or Big Bones. She’s a one-woman carnival of confidence and style. She likes “being big. Because there’s something of me. I feel wholesome, there alive”, but she’s super-aware of all the double-standards around size and gender. While it’s OK for boys to “want to seem big”, in contrast “it seems the world wants us girls to be tiny and petite and taken care of. What’s all that about?” BB becomes further entangled in this web of weight obsession when a nurse tells her to lose weight and keep a food diary. She gets on with her life - working in a coffee shop, exchanging top bantz with her adventurous sister, and writing the diary - until a family misfortune throws her off-course. How BB handles this situation will truly make your heart sing. Stuffed with lashings of laugh-out-loud loveliness (just wait until you read about Bum Tills...), relatable real-life truths and love in all its complicated, dizzying forms (food-love, friend-love, sisterly-love, boy-love, self-love), this is, quite simply, the best YA book about self-esteem and body image I’ve ever read. ~ Joanne Owen
March 2018 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2018 A funny and touching family story with a difference just because the Lotterys themselves are a unique and diverse family leading a deliberately alternative life and with more complicated relationships than is usual. With four parents from different cultures, seven children and five pets for a start, things are bound to be lively. When an estranged grandfather with dementia joins them, a whole load of new situations arise as well as new scope for understanding and kindness. Written with great verve and a deep understanding of families and what holds them together The Lottery Plus One is both fun and thought provoking. ~ Julia Eccleshare A Piece of Passion from editor, Venetia Gosling: ‘it’s a smart, funny and wise novel with a wonderful family set-up and family dynamic which readers will love. Emma has done a wonderful job of reflecting the world conveying it through the warmth and muddle of this very modern family.’ Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for March 2018 The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue King Coo by Adam Stower Splish, Splash, Ducky! by Lucy Cousins We Are Not Frogs! (Little Gems) by Michael Morpurgo The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear by Margrete Lamond Song of the Dolphin Boy by Elizabeth Laird What Do People Do All Day? (50th anniversary edition) by Richard Scarry Bird House by Libby Walden Bug Hotel by Libby Walden Alone Together by Clayton Junior The Lost Penguin by Claire Freedman
March 2018 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Thrilling fantasy and West African folklore An exceptional fantastical debut that weaves dark magic, powerful female protagonists and West African folklore into a richly rewarding novel, the first in what promises to be a truly epic trilogy if this opening installment is anything to go by. There was a time when Orisha was alive with magic but, under the command of a new king, those with magical gifts are now targets, and the fabulously rebellious, outspoken Zélie has been orphaned. Her heritage is of the Reaper Clan. Her mother was able to summon souls, and now Zélie, who has retained her magic, seeks justice for her mother’s death. Fuelled by thoughts of “the way her corpse hung from that tree” and “the king who took her away”, she’s determined to rise, and nothing will stop her. And so Zélie must seize control of her powers and venture forth to fight the crown prince. Throughout, the world-building and evocation of clan magic is astoundingly detailed, conjured with a vibrant visual sensibility, and Zélie is a one-of-a-kind young woman whose journey exhilarates, astounds and inspires. ~ Joanne Owen A message from the author: Dear Reader, There are so many things I want to say to you, but the most important is simple: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Children of Blood and Bone is the book of my heart in every way, shape, and form. It holds the magic and adventure that have made me an avid lover of fantasy and storytelling my whole life. It has thediverse cast I have always wanted to see in my favorite stories, but never got to. But above everything else, this story has my heart because it’s given me something to hold onto during very dark chapters in my life. This book was written during a time where I kept turning on the news and seeing stories of unarmed black men and children being shot by the police. I felt afraid and angry and paralyzed and helpless, but this book was the one thing that helped me feel like I could do something about it. I told myself that if just one person could read it and have their hearts or minds changed, then I would’ve done something meaningful against a problem that often feels so much bigger than myself. And now this book exists and you are reading it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. There are so many things I hope for this story, but I there want to end this letter with all the things I hope it gives you. I hope Children of Blood and Bone brings you an epic fantasy adventure like nothing you’ve ever experienced. I hope you see a glimpse into my Nigerian heritage and the beautiful cultures and people Africa holds. I hope this story makes you want to pick up a staff and ride on the back of a giant lionnaire. I hope if you’ve never seen yourself as the hero of a story, this book hanges that. I hope this novel makes you think and feel. I hope it propels you to help those who suffer the fate of the maji in the world around us.But most of all, I hope this book is only the beginning of our adventures together. Sending my love and appreciation, Tomi.
March 2018 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: It takes courage for the show to go on Highs, lows, love and laughter - this big-hearted circus-set debut has it all. Siblings Finch and Birdie Franconi are high-flying trapeze artists in their family circus school. They’re fearless in flight, and also in fashion. Their no-nonsense attitude and endlessly inventive ensembles of bright blazers, tutus, paisley print, polka print and outlandish accessories certainly make them stand-out at school, and also attracts the attention of brainy new boy Hector. Reluctant at first, Finch agrees to teach seemingly hapless Hector circus skills, but when Birdie has an accident on the trapeze, his world begins to unravel. Finch feels fear for the first time, and it falls to Hector to show him that the show must go on. Alongside the tension and turmoil around Birdie’s condition, and the radiant razzle-dazzle of the circus, there’s a magnificent (if rocky-roaded) romance, and many words of wisdom come courtesy of Birdie’s blog posts: “You can’t control everything. That’s where courage comes in; sometimes you have to just go for it”. Complex questions are put under the spotlight as the main characters try to navigate their way in the world, wondering who they are, who they should be, how they fit in, and these big issues are all explored with clarity, humour and a whole of lot of heart beneath Franconi’s exhilarating Big Top. ~ Joanne Owen
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | In a Nutshell: how to hope for the best even when you’ve been through the worst | Susin Nielsen puts her protagonists through the most terrible situations, but always manages to keep the tone of her novels light, positive and ultimately uplifting. Teenager Petula’s little sister died in tragic circumstances and the effect on the family has been shattering: her parents are both coping in their own way, but growing further apart, while Petula sees danger and threats in everything. Because of her terrible anxiety she’s been signed up to a youth art therapy group which is where she meets Jacob. Jacob has his own tragedy to deal with, but his arrival changes the dynamics of the group and helps all the different members to move on in one way or another. He and Petula become a couple, but there’s a growing realisation for her and readers that he’s not been completely honest. Readers will be gripped by Petula’s story and the way she tells it; Nielsen gives her a totally authentic teen voice, loaded with cynicism, sarcasm, humour and flashes of hope. Recommended for readers who enjoy Nielsen’s poignant, sensitive novels is I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloane. ~ Andrea Reece *** Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Take the quiz & find out! OptimistsQuiz.com
In a Nutshell: Time-travel, tyranny and tension This suspenseful sequel to Movers takes readers on an exhilarating time-travel trip as Patrick tries to return to his own time to save his family’s fate. In 2083, overcrowded and ailing planet Earth is home to two types of people, Movers and Non-Movers, and Movers like Pat possess the ability to bring their Shadow – a person from the future to whom they’re connected – to their own time. But Pat has been has been lurched forward 300 years into an unfamiliar future by Bo, his own Shadow. On finding himself in 2383, Pat is tormented by fears for his family: “anything could have happened to the people I love. It’s the not-knowing that’s driving me crazy”. Now he and Bo are occupying the same time “neither of us can move the other”, yet Pat must return to his family, and so they set off on a terrifying quest through a dangerous and dynamically-depicted dystopian world. While the concept is pretty complex, the writing is clear and thrillingly fast-paced, and this comes recommended for younger teen fans of sci-fi and dystopian fiction. ~ Joanne Owen
March 2018 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Young carers learn to live for today Tender in both name and tone, this involving debut tackles tough themes with heart-wrenching honesty. Marty’s mum struggles to get out of bed, while for Marty it’s the going to bed that’s the problem, “because that’s when the thinking starts… Give me the mornings anytime. Give me the light”. Marty’s life was on track until his dad died, but he’s now all but dropped out of school and is terrified of what might happen if the social workers knew how ill his mum has become. But it’s the social workers who give him a leaflet about a young carers group, which is where he meets Daisy… Daisy has problems of her own. Her beloved brother Harry has debilitating muscular dystrophy. During one young carers meeting, Daisy is passionate about wanting to see the world, which seems impossible to Marty. His world is poorer and smaller. It’s confined to his estate and revolves around his mum. But, while they come from different worlds, they’re united by that fact that they both feel powerless when it comes to what matters most. Daisy can’t make Harry well, and Marty can’t bring back his dad or fix his mum. Consequently, they find solace - and more - in each other. Honest on the realities of mental illness, grief and how it feels to be a teen carer, this truly touching read shines a bright light of love and hope through Daisy and Marty’s darkest days. ~ Joanne Owen
This beautifully illustrated version of John Lennon’s song Imagine vividly encaptures the message of the lyrics. Illustrator Jean Jullien chooses to make his central character an ordinary city pigeon. Travelling by train and boat as well as through the air it crosses the world, olive branch of peace in its beak, a bag emblazoned with the symbol for nuclear disarmament slung round its neck. It meets different birds on its way, stopping to break up squabbles and fights before settling down on a branch for the night, only to be joined by a colourful flock of friends. The juxtaposition of words and pictures will demonstrate even to the very youngest the concept of a world with no countries, no possessions, no war; a world where we can all live as one. ~ Andrea Reece
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