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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.
In a Nutshell: Trafficked children * Friendship and freedom * Sublime transformations A poignant and poetic novel that gives voice to the oft-forgotten children imperiled to trafficking and slavery. Eleven-year-old Esra, storyteller Miran and six-year-old Isa have been enslaved by a gang. They’re locked in a room beneath the house and must tend to The Jungle. “The tattoo on my arm… says I am owned”, Esra explains, but she knows a different truth. She knows that no marks on her skin can say who she really is. “One day, I will be free”, she resolves even as she’s being beaten. There’s a chance to escape, but Miran is too injured to do so. “With our souls tied together, we won’t ever be apart”, he whispers before urging Esra to flee with Isa. While Miran is hospitalised and captured by the police, Esra struggles to keep up her spirits. Then she and Isa form a bond with a “strange” boy named Skeet and together they make a man from the mud of the river. When Riverman takes on a life of his own, he might just lead them to the freedom they’ve been seeking. I adored the author’s previous novel, the hauntingly moving The Bone Sparrow, and this more than confirms her majestic writing skills, and a style that will surely be adored by fans of David Almond. By turns harrowing, heart-wrenching, and magical, this is an incredibly powerful - and incredibly important - novel. Joanne Owen
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
Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | In a Nutshell: Soaring soundtrack to resilience and love Real-life grit, gripping mystery, magnificent love story - this second novel from the highly-acclaimed author of Orange Boy is a mighty fine feast of contemporary YA. Sixth-former Indigo hasn’t had the easiest start in life, to say the least. She was only four when her dad murdered her mother, and she now lives with foster mum Keeley. But, while Indigo has a harrowing family history, nothing can suppress her wit and style. She has zebra-striped hair, loves Blondie, and Bailey is besotted with her. With his striking gingery-brown afro and musical talents, he’s no wallflower either, though their backgrounds couldn't be more different (Bailey has a teacher mum and social worker dad and lives in a “posh house” in Hackney). As they strike up a friendship - and more - Indigo is handed another rough deal when her sister announces that she’s going to cut all ties with Indigo, and then there’s the homeless man from her past, who asks Bailey to help him “make things right” for her. Before he knows it, Bailey’s up to his neck in the most difficult of decisions. From the first-rate dialogue that allows the characters’ hearts and souls to shine with authenticity, to the deftly-woven mystery, this is a life-affirming wonder. Londoners will love the in-the-know references to the likes of bus routes, and the music references are top-notch. Real-life grit, gripping mystery, magnificent love story - this second novel from the highly-acclaimed author of Orange Boy is a mighty fine feast of contemporary YA. Sixth-former Indigo hasn’t had the easiest start in life, to say the least. She was only four when her dad murdered her mother, and she now lives with foster mum Keeley. But, while Indigo has a harrowing family history, nothing can suppress her wit and style. She has zebra-striped hair, loves Blondie, and Bailey is besotted with her. With his striking gingery-brown afro and musical talents, he’s no wallflower either, though their backgrounds couldn't be more different (Bailey has a teacher mum and social worker dad and lives in a “posh house” in Hackney). As they strike up a friendship - and more - Indigo is handed another rough deal when her sister announces that she’s going to cut all ties with Indigo, and then there’s the homeless man from her past, who asks Bailey to help him “make things right” for her. Before he knows it, Bailey’s up to his neck in the most difficult of decisions. From the first-rate dialogue that allows the characters’ hearts and souls to shine with authenticity, to the deftly-woven mystery, this is a life-affirming wonder. Londoners will love the in-the-know references to the likes of bus routes, and the music references are top-notch. Joanne Owen
We’re all different: some of us like running, some of us like sleeping, some of us like being cheeky; some of us don’t like being on our own, or making lots of noise, but that’s just how people are, and it’s fine, just as it’s fine for Jackson to like bees, but not honey. This bright, attractive picture book uses children’s own words alongside lively illustrations to make important points about confidence, self-awareness and the value of personal opinion. Royalties will go to the NSPCC who have given this important little book their backing. ~ Andrea Reece
June 2017 Book of the Month | In a nutshell: families lost and remade through love, friendship and music Lexie is a rescuer: it starts when she finds a lost tortoise and leads to her setting up the Lost and Found group at school. That’s meant to be a talking session for the lonely, but turns instead, thanks to the input of school bad boy Marley, into a vibrant musical band. Forming the Lost and Found helps Lexie understand her own feelings - she’s been looking for her mum who disappeared when Lexie was just nine. It also helps her finally accept the love of her foster family. It’s a typically heart-warming story, filled with characters young readers will understand, and shows how we can all find communities to love and support us. Cathy Cassidy writes with the insight and lightness of touch that marks out Jacqueline Wilson, and this new series will be another favourite with readers. ~ Andrea Reece
Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2018 | In a nutshell: politics and the personal combine in a thoughtful, well-told and moving story Catherine Barter’s excellent novel is primarily the story of a girl’s search to find out more about her mother, but that’s just part of a complex set of themes and plotlines which include terrorism, politics and activism, as well as family relationships. She holds everything together with real skill and in central character Alena has created a completely believable and sympathetic heroine, with a memorable voice. Alena’s mother died when she was a toddler and she’s been brought up by her brother and his boyfriend. Their happy home-life is disrupted when Alena finds photos of her mother at Greenham Common, for some reason this really upsets Danny. Nick is hurt when Danny accepts a job with a politician he regards as dangerous populist; meanwhile, someone is planting bombs in supermarkets. The personal and the political merge making for compelling reading. ~ Andrea Reece A Letter from the Author: Dear reader, For much of the time I was writing Troublemakers, I was working at a radical bookshop, Housmans, in King’s Cross. (I still am.) Housmans is thriving right now. Our shelves are floor-to-ceiling crammed with books celebrating the history of protest and activism, and books that map out alternative futures, offering ideas and strategies for a better, fairer, more peaceful world. In turbulent times like these, maybe it’s not surprising that we’re busier than we’ve ever been. This is a time when we’re perpetually reminded of the threat of terrorism, and our fears are used to justify all kinds of political manoeuvring, from immigration crackdowns to enhanced surveillance powers. Today’s teenagers have grown up in this climate: it’s probably hard to imagine anything else. And there’s a few politicians who are expert at exploiting fear to bolster their own strength. There’s a character a lot like this in Troublemakers. This book was partly inspired by the fearful times we live in. Watching the news can make it can seem like it’s safer to stay at home rather than go out into the world and try to make a change – but still, a lot of people right now are doing exactly that. The main character in Troublemakers, Alena, is coming to realise that her mother was that kind of person: an activist who wasn’t afraid of trouble. The more Alena learns, the more she wonders if she might be that kind of person, too. But her older brother, her guardian, is more concerned with keeping her safe even when that means telling lies. Troublemakers is about families, loss, and dealing with the things we can’t change. But it’s also about the things we can change, and sometimes the necessity of trying, regardless. While I was writing it, I thought a lot about some of the big anti-war protests that took place while I was growing up. Terrible things were unfolding in the world, but it was inspiring to see thousands of people collectively standing up to power. Following a certain U.S. election, we’ve just witnessed another huge, international mass protest. Hopefully it’s given some inspiration to today’s teenagers, the next generation of activists. I’m sure I’m not the only bookseller to dream about seeing their own book on the shelves, and after a long of time of writing away at evenings and weekends, I’m so excited that Troublemakers is soon to be published. If you read it, I really hope you enjoy it. With best wishes, Catherine Barter
June 2017 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Love, loss, friendship and secrets A tear-jerking, soul-stirring, heart-warming debut about losing a sister, and the ensuing aftermath of grief and mystery. Sixty-five days have passed since Juniper’s effervescent big sister, Camilla, was killed in a car crash on their way home from a party. Since that devastating event, she’s been holding herself together by rating each day on cards in her Happiness Index. No wonder then, that losing one of the cards throws Juniper into further turmoil, especially when this particular card reveals a secret she’d rather no one knew. While frantically searching for the missing card - befriending bad-boy Brad as she does so - Juniper is also determined to discover the identity of her sister’s secret love. The mystery surrounding Juniper’s missing card untangles compellingly, as do the personal revelations (sometimes hard-coated bad boys have the softest of centres). While the novel doesn’t shirk from showing the shattering effects of loss, Juniper’s desire to help others, her zesty, sardonic outlook, and the friendships she forms, are hugely uplifting. The characters feel poignantly true-to-life, making this a richly rewarding must-read for fans of Jandy Nelson and aficionados of authentically-voiced contemporary YA. ~ Joanne Owen
In a nutshell: absurd comedy genius | Timmy Failure is the best worst detective in children’s fiction, and a wonderful comic creation. In this adventure he’s having to ply his trade very surreptitiously indeed – Mum has banned all detective work until the school holidays. To make things worse, forced to share his room with his cousins, he must set up his office in a garden shed at the local hardware superstore, a place referred to always as Home Despot. Additional trials in Timmy’s life include piano lessons, and trips to orthodontist Mr A Goni. The plot brings even the most surreal strands together and it’s very satisfying. Timmy narrates with the exasperated air of the misunderstood genius and his version of events is just one of the things that makes these books so enjoyable. ~ Andrea Reece Timmy Failure will appeal to fans of those other thwarted heroes Tom Gates, Barry Loser and Greg Heffley.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | May 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
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