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January 2018 Book of the Month This twisting tale of shady secrets, a destructive alter ego and a feverishly fast-tracked romance will leave fans of psychological thrillers reeling, as 17 year-old Ella Black is taken on a terrifyingly transformative journey from suburban Kent to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Aspiring artist Ella has long lived with a secret. She’s plagued by violent impulses from an inner demon she’s named Bella, Bad Ella. And then, out-of-the blue, her parents whisk her off to Rio de Janeiro, and she suspects that something is seriously wrong. Her worries are somewhat offset when she instantly falls for Christian, a Cuban American vacationing in Rio, but then, as Ella lies to her parents about him, she discovers that her entire life is a lie. Knowing that her parents have deceived her is upsetting enough, but the truth is even more disturbing, and so she flees and finds herself in an inconceivably precarious situation. While the real-world dangers are bad enough, the deepest danger is the monster buried in Ella’s past, a monster that’s just resurfaced. Driven by Ella’s intense, in-your-face first person narrative, this is a rollercoaster ride of a read for those who like their thrillers to have an outlandish edge. ~ Joanne Owen
In a nutshell: dark, spellbinding fantasy from a master of the form Holly Black’s new series stars a girl caught between the human and the Faerie worlds. Jude was just a child when she witnessed the murder of her parents by Madoc, a Faerie lord. Madoc took Jude and her sisters back to Elfhame with him and brought them up as his own. Jude is reminded constantly of her position as an outsider and a rivalry with the arrogant Prince Cardan seems to offer the means to prove herself as she desperately wants; instead it leads her into a deadly court intrigue. Jude is a fascinating character, stubborn, brave, defined by her powerlessness and her obsession with finding power, and this is fantasy adventure at its brilliant, intelligent, thought-provoking best. Readers who enjoy The Cruel Prince must also read Philip Reeve’s Railhead books and Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series. ~ Andrea Reece
January 2018 Book of the Month | In a nutshell: bewitching tale of love, suspense and witchery Adriana Mather’s story of a young girl overcoming a centuries old supernatural feud is a heady combination of intrigue, romance and ghostly goings-on. The central character is descended from Cotton Mather (as is the author), notorious for his part in the Salem Witch Trials, and when she returns to the town, Sam’s presence reawakens an old curse; soon people are dying. New York-raised Sam won’t stand for any kind of bullying – human or paranormal – and is determined to find out exactly what’s going on. In this she’s helped by hunky, if long-dead Elijah. Bold, resolute and with the sarky outlook and deadpan delivery of a latter-day Buffy, Sam is a great character, and this hugely entertaining while Mather also cleverly parallels the 17th century witch trials with the kind of bullying young people face today, making this rewarding reading in lots of different ways. ~ Andrea Reece
A modern classic in the making, this hilarious and heartwarming story explores the true meaning of family and friendship. Reminiscent of Pippi Longstocking, Heidi and Anne Shirley, Astrid is a feisty and irrepressible heroine who will help readers navigate the complexities of family and friendship with plenty of warmth, wit and humour.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | November 2017 Book of the Month In a nutshell: gripping, sometimes heart-breaking story of a dog and his boy Guardian award-winner Andy Mulligan brings his own sensibility to a much-loved model - boy and dog form special relationship - adding a particular humour, seriousness and depth. It’s love at first sight for Tom and Spider, but a series of accidents results in Spider running away from home. The animals he meets are almost universally cruel, their animal natures leading them to torment Spider and other animals too; a vixen offers to help him home but loses her life in the process. Things get bleaker still, until Spider finally fights his way back to Tom. A thrilling climax allows the two of them, both bullied, to emerge as heroes. Original, thought-provoking and with a dark humour, this is an ultimately uplifting read, and very memorable. Andrea Reece
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award In a nutshell: the unbeatable power of the imagination | Piers Torday’s beautifully written book is an extraordinary allegory, a story of courage and love, and of the life-affirming importance of stories. It’s Christmas Eve and Mouse, his sisters and mum are driving across the snowy moors to his grandparents’ house when their car plunges off the road. Thrown clear Mouse begins a journey for help, but as a knight in one of the fantasy stories that mean so much to him in real life. It’s an epic journey too, full of strange characters, friends and enemies alike, and despite the dreamlike atmosphere the reader is never in any doubt as to how dangerous it is, or how much depends on Mouse reaching the castle. Not many books change readers’ views of the world, this might be one of them. ~ Andrea Reece
A new story about Willy the chimp is always exciting. Willy is off to the park when he notices a cloud following him. No matter how hard he tries he can’t escape it, and while everyone else is having fun, Willy sits and shivers. The police can’t help, and hiding inside just gets him hot and bothered. Only when Willy shouts at the cloud do things improve: in the resulting cloudburst Willy dances in the delicious cool rain, joyful and Fred Astaire-like! Browne is an extraordinarily adept storyteller and this funny, wry story explores feelings of anxiety and apprehension. As ever there’s so much to look at in the surreal illustrations, and children will discover more in each reading. ~ Andrea Reece
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
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | There should be more books like this: in bright, appealing illustrations it tells children how people of different faiths cover their heads to show their love for God. Working on the principle that learning about each other makes it easy for us to be more understanding and therefore tolerant, each page features a man, woman or child with a short, friendly line of text to explain who they are and to name their headpiece (phonetic pronunciation is provided too). Amongst others, we’re introduced to a Sikh man in a Turban, a woman in a Tichel and a young boy in a Kippah. Their smiling faces immediately engage our attention making this a great book to encourage dialogue and discussion. ~ Andrea Reece For free colouring sheets, teaching tools and a look inside the book, please visit www.hatsoffaith.com
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | October 2017 Book of the Month This inspirational novel about three young Suffragettes from very different backgrounds is at once a riveting character-driven read, and an outstandingly rich account of British social history between 1914 and 1917. Seventeen-year-old Evelyn is exasperated by the unfairness of a society in which her academically disinterested brother is afforded the expensive privilege of going up to Oxford while her genuine desire to broaden her mind is dismissed as pointless. “These university women lead very sad lives, I'd hoped for better things for you - a husband, and a family, and a home of your own,” her mother poo-poo’s. But, shirking familial disapproval, Evelyn joins the Suffragette movement and finds herself at the heart of a highly-charged rally, with serious repercussions. Then there’s May, a flamboyant fifteen-year-old who revels in being different and is encouraged to do so by her liberal Quaker mother. May is also a passionate Suffragette, and passionate, too, about Nell, a working class girl from Poplar. The flowering of their love and lust is brilliantly portrayed, as is the contrast between their respective backgrounds. Then, the political conflict of WWI heralds personal conflicts for the three young women, not least when Nell’s desire to contribute to the war effort angers pacifist May. The nature and struggles of masculinity are also excellently explored through, for example, Nell’s brother who wrestles with "feeling much less of a man than he should be”. This novel is the perfect tribute to the incredible women who blazed a trail during the early twentieth century, and its inspirational scope and storytelling excellence cannot be praised enough. I loved it. ~ Joanne Owen
August 2017 Book of the Month Take a tour of one of the most complex, diverse and downright unusual places on the entire planet - the human body! Find out all about what makes YOU tick, from the wonders of the human brain to the tingling in your ticklish toes.
Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2018 | July 2017 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Classic coming-of-age love story This radiant story of summer love, family secrets and following your dreams begins with an almighty bang. On the penultimate day of her school year, Emerald’s alcoholic mother goes into rehab and, with her dad frantic at work, she’s sent to Dublin to stay with her grandmother. There she meets aspiring songwriter, Liam. He’s immediately smitten by Emerald’s “beautiful crooked smile”, and could listen to her for hours, and the feeling is mutual. As they fall head-over-heels, Emerald faces uncomfortable truths about her selfie obsessed friends, and even worse about her family, while Liam struggles to bear the weighty load of his father’s expectations. While no one can question how smitten they are, one question remains: will their love withstand an unfiltered exposure of truth? This moving, funny, life-affirming tonic is as satisfying as a long glass of iced lemonade on a sultry afternoon. That special sensation of spending a summer falling in love – of dusk picnics on the beach, of stealing away to uninhabited spaces – is captured in all its giddy, weak-at-the-knees gloriousness. ~ Joanne Owen
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