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This reworked fairy tale provides children with a memorable demonstration as to why honesty is definitely the best policy. Princess Arabella is bored in the castle and decides to change places with a local shepherd boy. But guess what? Watching sheep all day is pretty dull too so to liven things up she pretends she’s being attacked by wild animals, causing the villagers to rush up the mountain to save her. When they finally realise she’s telling lies, she’s left to face a dragon on her own. It’s a great way to initiate discussion about why it’s not good to lie, and about considering others too, wrapped in a nicely delivered and exciting story. ~ Andrea Reece
Take a tour round the inside of the human body in this unusual and quite excellent information book. It examines our component parts, from cells to blood, bones, liver, lungs and the brain, explaining how they function – and thereby how we function – though colourful, intricate cross-section diagrams, each one full of busy little people demonstrating the myriad different actions involved. In this way complex processes are broken down into comprehensible steps. Short passages of text illuminate things further. You can’t help but be drawn in by the look of the pages and this is an absolutely fascinating and thoroughly effective introduction to the workings of the human body. ~ Andrea Reece
In a Nutshell: Personal awakenings on a transformational summer trip | An insightful coming-of-age story about a bisexual teenager’s first experience of love in all its dizzying bliss and complexity. Fifteen-year-old Aki is determined to stop putting things off, and determined to stop living hypothetically: “If I wanted my life to change, then I had to do something. Or at least try.” With that firmly in mind, Aki and best friend Lori make a pact “to have a fling” during their summer trip to Mexico with her dad’s church mission. And that’s where she meets Christa. While Aki’s known that she’s bi for a while, she’d “never known it was possible for a person to look as cute as Christa did”, and the attraction is mutual. But, as the hypothetical starts to get very real and very intense, the young women have some serious complications to deal with, not least the fact that Christa might just have a boyfriend back home, and very strict parents she’s terrified of coming out to. Alongside its elegant portrayal of sexual awakening and safe sex, the novel also explores Aki’s inspirational political stirrings (she oversees a big debate at the summer camp, and becomes passionate about health care issues). As Aki remarks near the end of the tale, “I could do anything. All of us could. We were only as limited as we let ourselves be”, which is a rather wonderful message of hope to come away with. ~ Joanne Owen
Kevin the cuddly koala is king of the staying-still kings. He feels secure high up in his tree so turns down all the invitations from his friends to come down and play, until one terrible day his tree crashes to the ground. But even as his worst fears are realised Kevin notices he feels fine, that life can be great when you try something new. Rachel Bright’s joyous, funny rhyming text and Jim Field’s vibrant illustrations will encourage even the most cautious of readers to embrace life and there should be a place for this on bookshelves high and low! ~ Andrea Reece
Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2018 | Drawn from Debi's own experiences and with a moving testimony at the end of the book explaining how depression has affected her and how she continues to cope, Debi hopes that by sharing her own experience she can help others who suffer from depression, and to find that subtle shift that will show the way out.
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | Longlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award There’s something appealing just about the format and feel of this book – a small hardback, it looks inviting and eminently readable. And it is just that. Alex is getting by at school through the simple expedient of making himself invisible. But the balance of power there changes with the arrival of mysterious notes from someone calling themselves Icarus, promising to fly. As excitement spreads, and Alex learns who Icarus is, the knowledge is both thrilling and troubling – after all, Icarus’s flight ended in tragedy. Ultimately, though it considers some of the most depressing and depressingly familiar aspects of human behaviour, this is a story of hope, with a little nod to magic in it too. ~ Andrea Reece From the same publisher, and in the same pick-up-able format, the Costa shortlisted Jessica’s Ghost takes a similarly thoughtful and life-affirming look at friendship.
January 2017 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Coping with bipolar disorder | Finding the courage to shed secrets | Intense, insightful exploration of how it feels to live with bipolar disorder, and finding the strength to reveal who we really are. Sixteen-year-old Mel Hannigan’s life is a precarious balancing act. She’s on a strictly managed cocktail of meds to control her dysphoric mania, a form of bipolar disorder which makes sufferers feel simultaneously manic and depressed. Mel is also mourning the death of her brother, who suffered from the same condition and believed that “everyone has a super power.” Mel identifies hers as “the ability to not think about anything I don't want to think about", which she lives out by keeping her condition secret from everyone but her family. But, while this secrecy is how Mel seeks to maintain equilibrium, along with working in an old people’s home, it’s also what causes a huge falling out with her friends. She’s locked into this cycle of secrecy until her new doctor remarks that in order to enjoy the intimacy she craves, she needs to give people the “chance to know and love the real you”. Along her turbulent journey, Mel’s vital relationships with the people she meets in the home are stirringly portrayed, especially David, the grandson of a resident, to whom she opens up. Heart-rending, empathy-inducing and uplifting, reading this novel is an immersive, all-consuming experience that really does resonate long after the final page. ~ Joanne Owen
A unique shimmering hardback edition of an internationally bestselling classic. Best-selling and glorious Guess How Much I Love You has delighted children – and adults - for a quarter of a century. Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare want to tell each other just how much they love each other. But how do you measure love? Luckily, the two Hare’s know just how much they mean to each other. And Anita Jeram’s illustrations convey that brilliantly. Julia Eccleshare *** Celebrate over twenty years of sharing love to the moon and back with this fantastic Storytime Event Kit full of ideas for your own Little Nutbrown Hare party with games, suggested activities and a lovely party invite - download it here!
November 2016 Book of the Month In a Nutshell: Race against time | Racing hearts | The difference a day makes | Intense tale of fate, fraught families and migrant lives told over the twelve hour period in which a teenage girl falls madly in love while desperately seeking to save her family from deportation. Natasha has been making solitary pilgrimages to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services office for some time, but time has all but run out. On this morning’s last ditch visit the worst is confirmed: she and her family must return to Jamaica in ten hours. “What about college?” she pleads. “Do you have any idea what it’s like not to fit in anywhere?” While she's angered by the officer’s naïve assumption that her life will turn out irie in Jamaica, he offers Natasha a lifeline when he sets up a meeting with a top attorney, and so she sets off across New York to meet him. Meanwhile, Daniel’s story begins to unfold. Born in the US to South Korean migrants, Daniel is on his way to an interview for Yale when he’s smitten by a girl he happens to see. That girl is Natasha, and their attraction is mutual, and strong. But Natasha believes in science, not in “unprovable” things like love, though she can’t deny her rapidly intensifying feelings for Daniel. But it’s not long before Natasha has to meet the lawyer, and Daniel has his interview and so they must part. Then a combination of snap decisions and chance throws them back together, and they fall deeper in love as time ticks down. I adored the author’s debut, Everything, Everything, and this confirms her status as a writer of considerable talents. Expansively thought-provoking, incisively told and breathtakingly smart on love, identity and the shifting relationships between young adults and their parents, this is YA at its finest, and its exploration of migrant experiences (“for most immigrants, moving to the new country is an act of faith”) is insightful and timely. ~ Joanne Owen
A delightful version of the bestselling picture book which lets you piece together just how much Big and Little Nutbrown Hare love each other with this jigsaw-edition of this much loved classic. Best-selling and glorious Guess How Much I Love You has delighted children – and adults - for a quarter of a century. Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare want to tell each other just how much they love each other. But how do you measure love? Luckily, the two Hare’s know just how much they mean to each other. And Anita Jeram’s illustrations convey that brilliantly. Julia Eccleshare *** Celebrate over twenty years of sharing love to the moon and back with this fantastic Storytime Event Kit full of ideas for your own Little Nutbrown Hare party with games, suggested activities and a lovely party invite - download it here!
November 2016 Book of the Month 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
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | In a nutshell: sad | funny| touching | Susin Nielsen has won many fans for her poignant, character-driven stories of young people in difficult situations. Ambrose, the eponymous word nerd, is just such a central character: he’s isolated and lonely – shocked by the sudden death of his father his mother is anxious and over-protective – socially awkward too. His life changes when he strikes up a kind of friendship a neighbour, without telling his mum because Cosmo is a former drug addict with a prison record. This in turn leads to more friends as the two join a local Scrabble club, and a happy outcome for each. Readers will totally believe in this friendship, and root for Ambrose and Cosmo. A feel-good story filled with memorable characters, and one that sneaks all sorts of truths about life past its readers too. Readers who enjoy Word Nerd will also like A Seven Letter Word by Kim Slater, which also uses Scrabble as a hook for a moving story about struggling young people, while Stacey Matson writes satisfying, heart-warming stories about kids overcoming problems. ~ Andrea Reece