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Here at LoveReading4Kids, we want to ensure that every child, however sceptical or unconfident he or she is, is given the chance to become a voracious reader. Turn hesitant and unconfident readers into book-lovers.
April 2021 Debut of the Month - A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Scooter McLay is a kid to be reckoned with who has a passion for clever inventions. As his parents own and run the very best jam factory, his inventions are to do with jam-making. And, to make sure no one can compete with them he has to keep the family’s special jam-making recipes as top-secret as possible. Working alone, Scooter is pretty good at keeping his inventions well-hidden but when Fizzbee the friendly alien arrives through the factory window it gives the audacious Daffy Dodgy the chance she has long waited for. She slips into the jam factory and steals Scooter’s secret files….How Scooter and Fizzbee see off the danger is a warm-hearted and madcap adventure. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
From the award-winning author of Izzy Gizzmo Pip Jones, comes Madam Squeaker – a touching story of making yourself heard, no matter how small your squeak is. With a little mouse searching for the courage to save her home and find her voice, this heartfelt and funny tale is sure to be a hit with young readers and grown-ups alike. Featuring vibrant and amusing illlustrations by Paula Bowles, Madam Squeaker boldly joins the critically acclaimed Little Gem collection.
If you like zany, action-packed adventures full of armour, weapons, dastardly enemies and pint-sized heroes, then this is the book for you. Knight Sir Louis is King Burt’s top knight, so when the kingdom is threatened by a dreadful damsel, he knows who to call. Knight Sir Louis might be small, but he’s not afraid of anything (except – maybe – wasps) so he rides out on his marvellous mechanical steed Clunkalot, armed with his trusty sword, Dave. The adventures that follow are anything but straightforward – one of the many joys of this book is the way the plot progresses in lurches, tangents, and sideways. To quote author Gary Northfield, it’s a masterclass in silliness and one that will have readers doubled over in laughter, while also wishing they had a horse like Clunkie and a kingdom to protect. Packed with illustrations and broken up into short (some very short) chapters, it’s great for readers who struggle with longer books too. Brilliant fun, it’s one to recommend to fans of Julius Zebra or Bunny Vs Monkey.
Gizmo the dachshund has moved to the country. He didn’t really want to, but where Grannie goes, he goes. However, life in the village of Puddle, unprepossessing as it sounds, turns out to be rather exciting. He makes friends with next door neighbour Jilly the Irish wolfhound and before you know it is helping her find new owners near to home for her four puppies. It’s a real challenge, and the other village dogs can’t come up with a solution, but then Gizmo has a brilliant idea, one that uses his unique skills, learned at the foot of Grannie’s typewriter (she was a journalist). It’s highly entertaining, the illustrations – in full colour – are very appealing and this is great for children ready for solo reading.
What a special person Marcus Rashford is, on and off the pitch. With a focus on his football, this excellent little biography also gives readers a good idea of his life and how he’s got to where he is today. The stats of course speak for themselves, he’s a brilliant footballer and the book provides some analysis of why he scores so many goals. It also tells us about his early football games, playing in his tiny back garden with brothers Dwaine and Dane, before joining the youth academy at Manchester United (born in Wythenshawe, he’s always been a fan). No matter how successful he’s been, he’s never forgotten the community he grew up in as the book explains, and its final stat, after all those goals, penalties and assists, is the money he’s raised for charity FareShare: £20 million. Author and illustrator write with all the enthusiasm of real football fans, peppering the pages with jokes and extra football facts, making this very appealing and super-readable. There’s a quiz at the end to test the reader’s memory and a useful glossary too.
October 2020 Book of the Month | What a witty feast of sing-song verse and visuals this is. Chris Riddell’s vibrant characters whish and whoosh in rhythm with Neil Gaiman’s rambunctious rhymes to create a hearty banquet befitting a pirate crew. The swaggering story begins when a brother and sister are introduced to their babysitter, a certain scar-faced, grey-haired, peg-legged ship’s cook called Long John Mc Ron. Moments after their parents have left, Long John opens the door to an entire crew of hungry pirates, and so he does what any respectable ship’s cook would do – he cooks up “Pirate Stew! Pirate Stew! Eat it and you won’t be blue. You can be a pirate too!” With a rib-tickling twist that will send readers into fits of giggles, Pirate Stew is buccaneering blast of a book that demands to be read aloud, acted out and treasured like ill-gotten gains!
If you’ve ever looked at a furry ball of purry cat asleep in the sunshine and wondered what they are getting up to in their dreams, then you’ve got something in common with Philip Ardagh. In these exciting, comic and purr-fectly written little adventures, he imagines his feline star, Furry Purry Beancat exploring one of her other eight lives while asleep. In the first story, she finds herself on a pirate ship, a pirate ship’s cat. She arrives at a particularly exciting moment too as the ship is under attack from fellow pirates. With her captain locked up in his cabin, things look bleak, but Furry Purry Beancat soon discovers that the ship’s rats are a resourceful bunch and together they turn the tide in favour of their own pirate crew. It helps that one of the opposing pirates, a huge chap called Ten-Tun, falls for Beancat, but really, who wouldn’t? The little story is packed with incident and adventure as well as some gloriously comic moments thanks in the main to the young rats. It’s irresistible reading, made even more so by fabulous black and white illustrations by Rob Biddulph. All in all, this is a real treat, and it’s great to know that there will be eight more Furry Purry Beancat stories to come.
It’s headmistress Mrs Bottomley-Blunt who declares 4B to be LITERALLY the Worst Class In The World, and she may have a point. After all, there was the school trip to the zoo when Harvey Barlow smuggled a penguin back on the bus, the time they tried to tunnel to Finland, and the Show and Tell incident with Manjit’s dog, Killer… Everyone has bad luck though, and after reading this very funny book, most people will agree with Stanley Bradshaw and decide they wouldn’t have 4B any other way. Stanley’s descriptions of their antics, recounted in two separate stories, are highly entertaining: Joanna Nadin captures the chaos and excitement of primary school perfectly, and young readers will recognise the setting and the characters, not least long-suffering teacher Mr Nidgett. Short sentences, lots of pictures and clever repetition of words and phrases plus the lively action make this a perfect first chapter book. One to recommend to fans of Patricia Butchart’s Wigglesbottom Primary series ready to move onto something more challenging.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Rabbit and Bear: Book 4 Rabbit is worried: trees in their forest are disappearing and, worse still, the stream has moved – even unflappable Bear declares herself ‘close to being slightly worried’ at that. The cause is the arrival of Castor Canadensis, a beaver, who is delighted with engineering as a means of building ‘New, Bigger and Better things’ in the name of ‘Progress’. It suits some of the animals, but definitely not all. Fortunately, Bear finds a way to get the animals working together, so that Castor’s hard work benefits them all, himself included. As ever, there’s as much insight as humour, and it’s a superb read aloud story. Gough and Field make creating books this good look simple, because they’re both masters at what they do. Treat yourself, and buy all four books.
This is the fifth book in this terrific series for young readers, and Sam Wu has already conquered his fear of ghosts, sharks, the dark and spiders (with the help of his friends of course) but zombies – in fact, zombie-werewolves – that’s a whole new kettle of scariness. They happen to be living in the basement in his arch-nemesis Ralph Zinkerman’s home too. Can Sam overcome his fear and save the day? There are surprises and mishaps galore before a terrific climax that sees zombies (or are they?) rampaging all over the local museum. Great adventure, great fun and wonderful to look at too thanks to Nathan Reed’s illustrations.
Each of the 15 subjects selected for this collection gets a lively, well-designed, double-paged spread with bite sized and accessible chunks of information about the life and career of each extraordinary individual. These range from the familiar – David Attenborough, Michelle Obama, Nelson Mandela, Mo Farrer etc- to those that were completely new to me and, I am sure, to most young readers! These include Britain’s first female spy- Krystyna Skabarek; Aeham Ahmad, the pianist of Yarmouk and Keiko Fukuda Sensei, who became the only woman to be awarded the 10th Dan in Judo at the age of 98! The illustrations by Annabel Tempest are very effective in capturing both time and place as well as the character and emotions of the individual. Written by a graduate of the Penguin Random House WriteNow scheme, which endeavours to ensure that books and authors better reflect the society we live in, this is a rich resource for KS1 libraries and classrooms. It will support the study of lives of significant individuals in the past and show good examples of resilience and positive role models. It is a book which will be dipped into and read with pleasure but lack of contents or index means that it is less useful as a research tool. But this is an author to watch: one whose evident passion for writing information texts which are set to ignite curiosity in young readers shines through.
With a lively rhyming text supplied by James Carter, a popular performance poet in schools and highly effective illustrations, typography and layout, this tells the story of how we moved from wanting wings to fly; to seeing animals in the stars; to sending them up in rockets via a variety of flying machines taking us ever higher. It all leads to that fateful day in 1969 and the Moon landing and beyond. Then we have a lovely positive and inclusive message about the possibility of any reader becoming an astronaut. Another nice touch is the Rocket acrostic of space facts to finish on. This is a lovely accessible addition to the space resources you need this year.
April 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2019 | Fifty years since the moon landing and a new generation want to know all about it! Written in letters from Charlie Tanner, an enquiring eight year old and his enthusiastic and easily excitable hound Jasper to a Rocket Scientist, Jasper Space Dog is a clever mix of fun and facts. Charlie and Jasper’s letters raise many of the questions that everyone wonders about such as Is the moon made of cheese? and Is there a man on the moon and does he have a dog? The Rocket Scientist’s simple answers give the true scientific details in an easily accessible form. There’s much to enjoy as well as much to learn from this introduction to an important topic. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for Jasper: Space Dog.
February 2010 Book of the Month | Treasure, tropical islands, shivering timbers – everyone loves a pirate story and this one is particularly fun, especially for newly confident readers. The crew of the Golden Earring are a rum bunch, from grumpy Captain Halibut to hapless cook Cannonball. Their antics are observed by the animals on board – Cutlass the parrot, Patch the ship’s cat and Monty, the ship’s monkey. When a treasure map is discovered, only the animals know how dangerous finding it will be – how can they keep the humans safe? It’s all lots of fun, a jaunty, thoroughly satisfying story full of incident and humour. Illustrations by Kate Pankhurst make this as fun to look at as it is to read. Ooo-arrrs all round!
Lucky Isadora – she’s won a holiday in the sun for herself and her family in an art competition. At first everything seems perfect – a bit bright for her vampire dad but he loves the hotel spa – but a surprise meeting with her mermaid friend Marina shows Isadora what her mum suspected: the sea is full of litter. Fortunately, working as a team, fairies, mermaids and vampires can clean up the mess and persuade the humans to change their ways too. This is another lively and engaging story in this excellent series, mixing a fun adventure with an important message, deftly delivered. Half-vampire, half-fairy, Isadora is 100% brilliant especially for those growing in reading confidence.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | May 2021 Book of the Month | It wasn’t until 2013 that the men who served on the Arctic Convoys in the Second World War were properly honoured for their bravery. But anyone reading Tom Palmer’s typically vivid and powerful short novel will understand exactly what they went through, and what kept them going. Arctic Star features three young friends, Royal Navy recruits, and follows them on the perilous journeys they make escorting merchant vessels across the Arctic as they deliver supplies to the Russians. The sea is wild and treacherous, icy cold, and of course, they are hunted through the waters by German battleships, planes and submarines. Palmer packs not just a huge story, but a huge amount of information and atmosphere into this short book, and in Frank, Joseph and Stephen, he creates three young men readers won’t forget in a hurry. The climax of the story is the deadly battle between HMS Belfast and the Scharnhorst, and it will leave readers exhausted, but full of compassion and sympathy for all the men caught up in this terrifying field of war. Historical fiction doesn’t get much better than this.
The Boy Who Grew Dragons Book 5 | The Boy Who Sang with Dragons is the fifth and final book in this outstanding series and in it Tomas discovers the final pieces of information about the amazing dragons that grow in his grandad’s garden on their wonderful dragonfruit tree. But Tomas can’t help feeling upset when he realises that his friend Aura’s links with the dragons go back further than his. Could she really be the Queen of the Dragons? Fortunately, Grandad is on hand for a chat and as the two chew things over (literally – Grandad’s pockets are always full of toffees), Tomas realises there’s nothing to worry about. All these stories are full of magic, adventure and comedy and this is a triumphant finish to a series that gives young readers dragon-sized helpings of pleasure and fun.
May 2021 Book of the Month | Ten-year-old Billie Upton Green opens up her doodle diary to readers, and what a treat it proves: a fabulously lively and idiosyncratic record of an eventful couple of weeks in her life. When a new girl joins her class, Billie is determined to make her feel welcome, even though Janey seems a bit of a show-off. She’s disconcerted that Janey doesn’t know what it means to be adopted, like Billie, or that you can have two mums, also like Billie. It gets harder to like Janey though when it appears she’s stealing Billie’s best friend, Layla. This also seems, to Billie, to put Janey in the frame for a sudden spate of thefts at their school, but the culprit is someone else altogether and by the end of the book, Billie, Layla and Janey are firm friends, the three of them performing a special dance at Billie’s mums’ wedding. Readers will love Billie’s adventures, and her funny, doodle-filled way of sharing them, as much as they love the Dork Diaries or Wimpy Kid stories, and it’s great too to see such a warm celebration of diverse family life.
The grounds of a country house in the summer months of 1914 provide the setting for Emma Carroll’s spooky novella and she uses it to explore themes of growing understanding and the awful, looming threat of war. Brought together after an accident puts him temporarily into a wheelchair requiring someone to push it, Leo and Fran form an upstairs-downstairs friendship. Fran is unsettled by a series of strange, seemingly supernatural coincidences that seem to be warnings of things to come, while Leo is obsessed by events in Europe and what they may lead to. Their different worries merge in a deliciously spooky scene where the two young people encounter the ghosts of an Anglo-Saxon army, something they interpret as a warning of what is to come; sure enough, the story concludes with the announcement of World War I. Despite a sense of foreboding, we know that their friendship will endure and feel certain that, whatever happens, the future will hold good things for both. Emma Carroll is one of our foremost authors of historical fiction for children and creates a tangible sense of the tension of those summer months as well as an appealing, believable set of characters. Published by Barrington Stoke, the book is accessible to all readers, including those with dyslexia, and highly recommended.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Perfectly-pitched for fans of funny fiction who are ready to move on from early chapter books, Bethany Walker has hit the spot with her debut, Chocolate Milk, X-Ray Specs and Me! This is the kind of book laughter-loving readers of seven upwards will become drawn into and pore over, exhilarated by the silliness of the fast-paced story and absorbed by the ultra-energetic medley of words, pictures and design. Jack Noel’s illustrations do a stupendous job of bringing the craziness to life, with a fine use of typefaces, doodles, postcards and newspaper clippings among the book’s visual features. And what of that craziness? Well, it’s all centred around ten-year-old Freddy who exchanges drama-laden letters with his mum and dad who he thinks are working at a Brussels sprouts farm. In fact, the truth is much crazier…Then there’s the super-strange happenings at school, plus Grandad’s X-ray specs and impending wedding. In Freddy’s words, “OH NO! I’ve just realized I’m going to have to watch Grandad and Mrs Allbright KISS at the registry office. That might be EVEN MORE yucky than sprouts!” What a brilliant blast of a book this is.
Best mates Connor and Ethan think their dreams have come true when they get to spend their summer holidays on Starville, a gigantic space station. They’re selling ice cream for Ethan’s uncle Nick but what the two really want to be is detectives. Well, before you can say purple tufted grotsnobbler, the boys are chasing villains and even more exciting, working to save Starville when someone sets it on a course to smash into the moon. The story zips along as fast as their borrowed hover-scooter and you won’t believe who’s the evil genius behind the plot to knock Starville off orbit … Drama, excitement and some out of this world characters, Space Detectives has it all, not to mention fabulous illustrations by Dapo Adeola, an extra special treat in a book that really delivers.
You might know Bunny vs Monkey from the totally brilliant Phoenix Comic. This new book brings together a collection of their comic adventures in one chunky but portable, full colour (obviously) paperback – how great is that! If you are new to the duo, Bunny lives in a peaceful forest with his nice (but dim) friends, Weenie the Squirrel and Pig. Other than the occasional run in with a bear, all is calm until the arrival of Monkey, hell-bent on world domination. (In Monkey’s defence, he was launched into space by scientists with that aim, but the mission failed and he fell back to earth just over the hill from their laboratory). He’s helped in his scheming by a skunk with its own underground laboratory and the two cause no end of trouble for Bunny. With titles like Wrestlepocalypse, Fish Off and The Whuppabaloo, these mini adventures are hugely inventive, wonderfully daft and always very, very funny. Bunny vs Monkey would tempt the most reluctant reader - you can find more books we think are suitable for Relucant Readers here.
When Melvin Pebbles moves to the town of Donut Island, he has no idea what’s in store: before he’s even unpacked his vast collection of toy bags (unopened, toys still inside to preserve the mystery), he’s been adopted into the Daily Donut Club by new friend, Rhubarb Plonsky, and by the end of the book, together with third Donut Club member Yoshi Fujikawa, will have foiled an alien invasion and bid to brainwash his new neighbours. As you’d expect from the creator of the inimitable Barry Loser series, this is a blissfully surreal mystery adventure, as weird as it is wonderful, and certain to have readers laughing out loud from beginning to end. Jim Smith’s illustrations are as playful as the plot, and make the whole package even more of a treat. Comic genius!
January 2021 Debut of the Month | Some readers will already be familiar with robot Freddy, who stars in Neill Cameron’s Mega Robo Bros cartoon strip, but everyone will find masses to enjoy in this new series. Freddy’s robot superpowers include the ability to fly, use lasers and super-strength but none of these talents are appreciated by the teachers at the primary school he attends and indeed, after he accidentally flies through the staffroom window, the head introduces a robotic code of conduct which forbids all of the above, with a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ penalty clause too. Freddy tries, he really does, but it’s not easy being the only robot in his class. Plus, his friend Fernando has lots of ideas for games that lead to trouble, and then when the two fall out, Freddy finds himself partnered with someone who instigates even more bad behaviour. The inevitable third strike comes at the school’s Project Outcome Evening but Freddy gets one amazing last chance to put his Awesome Robotic Abilities to the use for which they were intended. This action-packed story is wildly funny and school life brilliantly well observed (I love Freddy’s long-suffering human parents too). Through it all, Freddy is learning about himself and his friends, and readers will be too. With cartoon illustrations by Cameron on every page even the most reluctant reader will race through this. Superb! David Almond’s latest book Brand New Boy also uses a robot story to explore ideas of understanding, acceptance and human nature.
September 2020 Book of the Month | Cally and Jimmy are twins but more different people it would be hard to meet. Cally is generally quiet and well-behaved, while Jimmy is anything but (his ADHD doesn’t help). It’s Cally who narrates the four separate stories contained in this very enjoyable new book, and she gives us a really good idea of what it’s like to live with the most-annoying-brother-in-the-whole-wide-world, describing the many times he gets them both into trouble, but she absolutely captures the fun they have together too. There’s a starring role for their wonderful grandma, or Yiayia as they know her (Mum is Greek) and just a lovely sense of this family. Recommended reading and hopefully there’ll be more adventures to come for the twins.
Shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2021, Best Story | Funny, action-packed and full of great characters, I can recommend Serena Patel’s new story to anyone – indeed, everyone – who’s at primary school. They’ll giggle with recognition at the setting and be thoroughly caught up in the story. In this new adventure, the second in a series, our hero Anisha is set to show off her volcano project at the science fair and has high hopes of winning the prize and a trip to the national space centre. But disaster strikes when her volcano erupts prematurely and floods the school. Anisha is disqualified and begins to suspect sabotage. With the help of her best friend Milo and his pet rat, she sets out to find the culprit. Anisha’s family are as much a part of the story as her schoolmates and readers will put down the book feeling they have increased their circle of friends considerably. Illustrations throughout by Emma McCann add to the overall liveliness of the telling. Great stuff! This is one to recommend to fans of Konnie Huq’s Cookie books which also feature a direct talking, lively, science-obsessed central character and are just as much fun to read. Some of our Kids Reader Review Panel were lucky enough to review the first in the series, Anisha, Accidental Detective - read their reviews here!
Meet Mina Mistry, primary school student and would-be private investigator. She’s smart, observant and has a great sidekick in the shape of her best friend, cuddly toy Mr Panda. All she needs is a case to solve and there’s one right under her nose: how come their school dinners are such a danger to their teeth, in direct contrast to what their headmaster says and school dinner lady wants? Hmmm. Against the backdrop of a wonderfully wacky charity fundraising event, and assisted by her Granny Meera, Mina uncovers some dodgy goings-on in the school office. Mina is a lively character and her assorted school friends and family members make an excellent supporting cast. This is very readable, lots of fun and a satisfying mystery too.
From the creator of I Swapped My Brother On The Internet comes this fizzily energetic feast of fun that sees aspiring inventor Keith get more than he bargained for after entering a Junior Mega Brain Quiz and winding up competing against his genius sister. Keith is one of life’s dreamers, and something of an underdog readers will really root for. He has his sights set on going to an Inventors’ Fair in Paris, but his mum and dad just don’t have the cash. Never one to let a problem stand in his way, Keith observes how his super-smart sister Minerva (appropriately named after the Roman goddess of wisdom) has won money for some of her many achievements. And so, while “there was no Roman god Keith”, our ever-hopeful hero hits on the idea of inventing a machine to steal Min’s brain so he can win a Junior Mega Brain Quiz and use the prize money to pay for Paris. From attempting to drink coffee while wearing a child-genius outfit (black leggings, black polo neck and giant sunglasses), to becoming an instant TV hit with a hashtag and band of devoted followers, Keith’s story is a hilarious, heart-warming delight from start to finish, and a great read for readers who loved David Solomons’s My Brother is a Superhero series.
Wayside School | The inimitable Louis Sachar has done it again in this new Wayside School caper. Sachar totally gets Primary age readers - sees the world through their eyes, speaks to them in a wry voice that rings with understanding and funny details. What’s more, the bitesize chunks of plot (essentially inter-connected vignettes that form a satisfying whole) keep readers hungry for more, while the off-the-wall (yet believable) comic characters are guaranteed to induce gaggles of giggles. As a new year begins, Mrs Jewls’s pupils have a big bunch of stuff on their plates. An Ultimate Test looms ahead of them, while a Cloud of Doom looms overhead, growing bigger and more powerful each day. Back in class, the pupils are tasked with collecting one million nail clippings to get a sense of just how massive one million is, while Mrs Jewls’s paperclip appreciation is taken to crazy heights (“she marvelled at the magnificent metal masterpiece”) when she’s revealed to keep a secret stash of them in a locked room. Then there’s Mrs Surlaw the librarian, who has a GIANT stuffed walrus and arranges books according to their length, and the author’s cameo appearance as Louis the yard teacher (fun fact - the author actually used to be Louis the yard teacher). Perfectly complemented by Aleksei Bitskoff’s wittily detailed illustrations, this is clever, comic joy. You might also love The Worst Class in the World from Joanna Nadin or the Middle School series from James Patterson.
Young Eric’s world is changing – his mum is about to marry his teacher, aka The Bodge, and alarmingly Auntie Rosie has sent a special present from South America. Eric has had some unusual experiences with his auntie’s gifts in the past and is very alarmed about this one, particularly when he discovers what the present - a fertility symbol – actually is! His efforts to find and dispose of it lead to typically comic and unforeseen circumstances, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief when his mum finally gets to walk down the aisle. These stories are perfect for newly confident readers who will completely get the fact that they know more than Eric about what’s going on, and will find so much to make them laugh too.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Shortlisted for the Laugh Out Loud Book Awards 2020 | A deliciously dotty fantasy in which almost anything becomes believable. Max longs for a pet but even in his wildest dreams he had never thought that the pet might be a flying pony. But, one stormy night and with a loud Doof!, Kevin turns up on Max’s balcony. Kevin is a flying horse who can also talk. He has few demands except that he needs a constant supply of biscuits – especially custard creams. Soon Max and Kevin are an unstoppable duo putting right all the things that are going wrong in a town surrounded by storm water and besieged by naughty sea-monkeys. It’s all pell-mell action and madcap fun.
It’s a big day in junior inventor Izzy Gizmo’s house: a letter has arrived with an invitation to an Invention Convention. At first, Izzy is uncharacteristically unsure, pointing out that her machines don’t always work. Following a wonderfully robust response to that from her Grandpa - “Cobblers!” he shouts – they pack up her tools and set off for Technoff Isle in an extraordinarily wonderful, amphibious vehicle, designed by Izzy. The plot moves forward as energetically as Izzy’s contraption, with the young inventors challenged to an invention competition. Izzy seems to be in trouble when one of her competitors selfishly hoards all the materials available for herself, but there’s very little that Izzy can’t tackle with her limitless ingenuity and creativity. Picture book stars don’t come much more inspirational or resilient than young Izzy, but she’s thoroughly human too, not above getting frustrated or bad-tempered and often in need of encouragement from Grandpa and her friend Fixer the crow. The story is a joyful celebration of inventions and inventiveness with an excellent message for young readers. Pip Jones’ rhyming text and Sara Ogilvie’s action-packed illustrations match each other for wit and energy. This is a story guaranteed to fire the imagination, and let’s face it, the world needs more Izzy Gizmos. This review first appeared on Books for Keeps.
A new Timmy Failure book is always a cause for celebration and this is another glorious mix of humour, surrealism, incompetent detection – and chickens. Timmy is on holiday in Florida with his mum and her new husband. With Total the polar bear hiding out in Cuba he needs a new sidekick – step up Emilio Empanada, willing if nervous unpaid intern. Together they cause the kind of chaos and confusion that is Timmy’s natural state, while adopting a chicken along the way, and it’s wonderfully funny. The description of a surprise meeting with his father for Timmy tugs at the heartstrings as well as finding the funny bone. Stephan Pastis’s cartoon illustrations are a joy in themselves and this is clever, original, inspired fun.
The seventeenth laugh-out-loud, fully illustrated Tom Gates adventure! Tom's doing everything possible to stay out of trouble but somehow he's got THREE sad faces on the school achievement chart! And getting another sad face means Mr Fullerman won't let him go onthe SCHOOL TRIP! Moany Marcus Meldrew is making things worse and now Tom's annoyed his grumpy sister Delia. Can his best friend Derek help? Will Rooster the dog stop eating his homework? ABOUT THE SERIES: Written in diary form Full of Tom's doodles and pictures & his amazing sense ofhumour The Brilliant World of Tom Gates, was the winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize! Perfect gifts for boys & girls who love to laugh themselves silly
October 2019 Book of the Month | P.G. Bell’s debut The Train to Impossible Places established him as a writer of hugely exciting, inventive and satisfying adventure, and its sequel, The Great Brain Robbery, is just as good, if not even better. Once again 11-year-old Suzy is aboard the Impossible Postal Express tearing through the fantastical realms that make up the Union of Impossible Places, and this time it’s a do or die mission to save Trollville from a thoroughly nasty villain. Suzy is much more at home now with fuzzics, the strange mix of science and magic that lies at the heart of troll technology, though there are still some fabulous surprises in store for her and readers. Adventure doesn’t come more exciting or entertaining, and this is one train young readers really mustn’t miss. Read more about The Train to Impossible Places series!
Paul’s life changes in totally unexpected ways when he discovers a little ghost living in the keyhole of his front door. The two quickly become friends and no wonder, Zippel the ghost is irresistible – funny, mischievous and thoroughly well-meaning, if totally baffled by modern life (he’s particularly fascinated by the flush on the toilet). Together they have some excellent adventures, Zippel getting up to all sorts of tricks in an old castle and taking ingenious revenge on a couple of bullies who’ve been tormenting Paul. Full colour illustrations by Axel Scheffler perfectly capture the droll humour of the stories and this is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. Buy a copy and don’t be surprised if you find readers checking out keyholes in the hope of finding their own Zippel.
October 2019 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | This book put smell, the Cinderella of the senses, into the spotlight. It examines smelly facts about the human body, some of them really rather disgusting, as well as the power and importance of our sense of smell. It looks at how animals use smell and how plants use it too to attract insects or keep animals away. And it looks at smells and smelling through history before taking a last look at weird and wonderful odours. With unusual facts and information on every page it’s well worth a nose. I was particularly fascinated by the ‘odorous occupations’ highlighted in panels throughout the book and children will be definitely tempted to try out the smelly experiments and activities it suggests too.
Clementine - though she is usually called Oiya (Oy, you) by her dreadful Aunt and Uncle – has dreams of a magic place she may have once known. Her only friend is the cat Gilbert (called Giblets by Aunt Vermillia and Uncle Rufus) as Clementine has a Cinderella-like existence working all day and then being locked away in the cellar at night. She glimpses the sky through looking up the chimney in her cellar, until one day she looks out of a window in the house and sees the magic place she has imagined… Then follows a great adventure through the Great Black City as Clementine miraculously escapes and tries to find her magic place. Clementine is a very determined little girl, many would have given up in her circumstances, but she knows she can fine her magic place. The book is a very tactile object, a lovely size for smaller hands as they get involved in this wonderful adventure. Black and white illustrations on virtually every page – Wormell is feted for his wood cuts and lino cuts – with a nod to the style of Gustav Doré, give this an authentic Dickensian feel. The generous illustrations paired with the fast-paced story make this a book children will enjoy reading for pleasure!
August 2019 Book of the Month | Climbing up into Andy Griffith’s and Terry Denton’s ever-growing treehouse guarantees a burst of brilliant, zany, fast-moving comic adventure. In this episode – which picks up on their World Book Day mini-book – illustrator Terry gets to be the narrator, with some alarming results. Indeed, Andy is forced to rescue them by using the old ‘it was all a dream’ ending, which in turn leads to them being pursued and arrested by the Story Police. As always, the story is told through a combination of words and pictures, both equally inventive, entertaining and surreal. It’s no wonder that these stories are so loved by readers, long may the treehouse continue to sprout new storeys.
June 2019 Book of the Month | Kids who like their adventures wild, funny and full of the unexpected will love Adam Stower’s King Coo stories. Starring ordinary schoolboy Ben and his best friend, the totally extraordinary Coo, a bearded girl who lives a secret life with her wombat Herbert in some woods near Ben’s home, they are a brilliant mix of action, invention and jokes of all kinds – verbal, visual, slapstick. This escapade sees the two friends thwart a band of thieves who are intent on stealing priceless golden artefacts from the local museum. For all the zaniness, the plot makes perfect sense and Stower’s excellent illustrations move it along at pace. One to recommend to fans of Tom Gates or Timmy Failure.
As book-loving children know, all the best stories start in the library and that’s certainly the case here. Kit would rather be looking for wildlife in her local cemetery but her friends make her take a detour via the library where she discovers some amazing things: a librarian who’s also a wizard, a dragon sleeping in the basement, and her own magical powers. All these things are put to good use to stop a wicked landowner, whose plans to turn the library into a carpark are actually cover for something even more despicable. This will be great fun for children who like stories overflowing with magic, and Kit and her friends are very appealing characters.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month June 2019 | Harry Stevenson may look like an ordinary guinea pig and he may behave like an ordinary guinea pig in that he spends his time eating and sleeping. But Harry Stevenson is not your average creature in a cage. Although he has no special powers he seems to get caught up in some amazing adventures. This volume contains two wild and wacky adventures in which Harry does all kinds of unexpected and crazy things. They are fun to read and perfect for readers who are just starting out.
Following their adventures in The Battle of the Blighty Bling, the McScurvy children are back where they belong on their pirate ship Sixpoint Sally. But not for long: as they prepare to enter the famous Hornswaggle Boat Race their nemesis, Captain Guillemot, aka the vainest pirate on the south coast, steals their ship from right under their noses, and with their parents on board to boot. They can’t let him get away with that, and with the help of their friends Arabella and George, go all out to get the boat and their parents back – and win the race in the process. It’s another fast-paced comic adventure and any right-minded child will love the McScurvy’s can-do attitude, not to mention their wilful disregard of rules and good behaviour.
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!
An action-packed thriller which pitches a band of heroes with superpowers against a ruthless villain bent on world domination – Gwyneth Rees’s new book already has lots going for it, but when readers realise that its superheroes are a bunch of cats, well, it becomes purrfect. Kitten Tagg has only just discovered his parents have superpowers, and that he’ll develop one too, when he finds himself whiskers deep in danger and adventure, in a confrontation with the totally wicked Nemesissy. Can Tagg thwart her evil plans and save his family? It’s lots of fun, and properly exciting too especially when Tagg’s brother is suspended over a shark tank (shades of James Bond). This is a very funny page-turner, and Becka Moor’s illustrations of the cat heroes and villains are wonderful too. One to recommend to fans of Dermot O’Leary’s ninja cat Toto.
April 2019 Book of the Month | The tables are turned in Jeff Kinney’s new comic adventure and the wimpy kid telling the story and steering the action is Rowley Jefferson, Greg Heffley’s best friend. As Greg’s long-suffering sidekick he deserves his turn in the spotlight, though as he apologetically points out, most of the book is still about Greg. The boys’ escapades, quarrels and daft schemes are just as funny as when we hear them via Greg. No-one does the straight to camera narrative style of the diary better than Kinney and no matter how straight Jeff tells it, our understanding of the action is often quite different to his. This is as authentic and funny as the original Wimpy Kid books and makes just as irresistible reading.
There’s monster-sized fun for readers to be had at the Nothing To See Here Hotel – after all, it is the world’s number one holiday destination for magical creatures. In the company of the proprietors’ son, the irrepressible Frankie Banister (who is part troll by the way), we get best seats for the action which here concerns the return of Frankie’s great-great-great-grandfather Abraham, as a ghost. You’d think great-great-great-granny Regurgita would be happy to see her husband back, but nothing goes as you’d expect in these stories, and maybe everyone should be a bit suspicious of Abraham. Adventures don’t come more extraordinary or more enjoyable than these, and any readers with a taste for fast-moving, fabulously funny illustrated tales should book in asap.
Any child who loves dogs will enjoy Shoo Rayner’s adventure story. Walker can’t have a dog because of his mum’s allergies, so he sets up as a dog walker. It’s the perfect solution, and while he’s out walking his new best friend, spaniel Stella, he realises that he can talk to dogs, and they can talk to him. This proves very useful especially when Walker discovers local bully, landowner Arlington Wherewithal is up to something quite nasty. With nods to 101 Dalmatians – there’s a jolly recreation of the starlight barking – this is a very satisfying story, a nicely rounded adventure with some great characters, human and canine. Let’s hope there’s more to come from Walker and his dog friends.
Chosen by Cressida Cowell, Guest Editor May 2020 | Young readers will have great fun on planet Omar! Our hero's tales of everyday life with his family and at school will keep everyone amused. Omar is worried because the family have just moved house - will he make friends at school? He does of course, but Daniel the school bully seems to have it in for him. A school trip to the Science Museum sees the two of them lost in London, but Omar knows just what to do and in the process realises that maybe he'd got Daniel wrong. The real pleasure of this book is Omar - his imagination, the pleasure he finds in ordinary things, his infectious zest for life make this irresistible reading. The book also offers insight into the life of an ordinary Muslim family, something we don't often get, and indeed, Zanib Mian has said that she wrote the book to counter negative stereotypes of Muslims. It's another reason to recommend this book, and I'm already looking forward to a new story and a return to Planet Omar. Our Guest Editor, Cressida Cowell said, "this is a very funny, illustrated series which has characters with heart who you really care about. I’d say if you’re a fan of Wimpy Kid and Tom Gates, you’d like this series…"
This new book, part of the Prehistoric Beasts Uncovered series, brings us hot off the press scientific information on Triceratops, one of the most recognisable of all the dinosaurs. It shows how these new discoveries are constantly adding to and even changing what we know about the creatures, and reminds young would-be palaeontologists that there’s still lots to discover. The discovery of a Triceratops tooth in 2017 proved that the animals lived in Appalachia, now the eastern part of the USA, far outside the area they were thought to inhabit. Now scientists can look for Triceratops fossils in whole new areas, and new discoveries will certainly be made. Other pages show how modern technology has revealed new information about Triceratops eating habits, but that scientists learned lots too by recreating battles between Triceratops using plastic models. Full colour throughout and with a useful glossary, this is an inspiring information book. ~ Andrea Reece A Piece of Passion from Publisher Ruth Owen: I love science and I love dinosaurs – so it was a fantastic opportunity to work with author and palaeontologist, Dougal Dixon, to create and publish our new series. It was also fascinating to work with the artists, from around the world, who created the life-like 3D artworks of the animals featured in the series. Every year new fossil discoveries are made, or advancements in technology allow us to gather more evidence from bones that were dug from the ground decades ago. This means the books are just jam-packed with the latest information on these incredible animals. From seeing T. rex skin for the first time, to an investigation that recreated T. rex’s sinister, blood-curdling sounds, I was learning new things every day. I didn’t want the project to end and I hope that readers have as much fun reading the books as we did making them! The Prehistoric Beast Uncovered series includes; Tyrannosaurus Rex - King of the Dinosaurs Megaladon - The Largest Shark That Ever Lived Triceratops - The Dinosaur Built to Do Battle Titanosaur - The Giant Earth Shaking Dinosaur
April 2021 Book of the Month | Abandoned by their original owners, cats Pasha and Poop (yes, really) find forever homes with the lovely Wilde family. But the cats of their new neighbourhood are terrorised by the pawful Scaredy Cat. With flashing eyes, and an ability to walk through walls, he forces everyone to follow his cruel rules for cat behaviour, and woe betide those that try to resist. Pasha is determined to stand up to the bullying, but can he persuade Poop and the other cats that they have nothing to fear but fear itself? Typically for Patterson, the story races along, the cats taking turns to narrate, and it’s a perfect mix of excitement, adventure and comedy. It comes to a wonderful climax in a pet cemetery of all places, and amongst the fun there are important messages about finding the strength in yourself to do what’s right.
June 2021 Book of the Month | There are some books you just don’t want to end, because you’re enjoying being with the characters so much. Something I Said is one of those books. It stars thirteen-year-old Carmichael Taylor, a young man who loves words as much as he hates geography, and who can never resist a bon mot, even when – as it frequently does – it lands him in trouble with his teachers. He’s offered a special chance to redeem himself with a role in the school talent show. It’s supposed to be opportunity to show off what he does best in a spoken word performance, instead it turns into an impromptu stand-up comedy show and goes both much better than he could have hoped, and much, much worse. Car is a terrific central character – honest, open, mixed-up and so funny - and his descriptions of his life, family and friends bring readers into the heart of his world. As with the best of this kind of fiction, by the end of the book Car knows more about himself than he does at its opening, and so do we. Readers who enjoy Car’s adventures will also like Worst. Holiday. Ever by Charlie Higson and should look out for Simon Mason’s Garvie Smith Mysteries too.
Boyce in renowned for the humour and empathy in his novels – and this latest is definitely one of the most entertaining, engaging and just plain fun stories. Noah accidently ends up stowing away on his big sister’s school geography field trip. The trip was planned to visit the Orinoco Wonder Warehouse in Letterkenny but, due to the teacher (Mr Merriman) programming the satnav wrongly, the mini-bus he’s driving ends up on an island – and what appears to be an uninhabited island at that! Mr Merriman eventually appears to notice the island they are on is not the trips original destination – and leaves the children on the minibus at the top of a cliff whilst he goes to investigate. Unfortunately, he forgets to apply the handbrake properly! Happily, children being children, they have descended from the minibus just before it falls over the cliff… Having set this wonderful scene we hear how the children survive through a series of amusing letters from Noah to his parents – which he posts in a letterbox on the island. Strangely – as there never appears to be a collection – he gets replies. Whilst on the island it appears that Noah has broken the internet, and no-one has a phone connection – so the children are thrown back on their own ingenuity to survive. Noah also finds a treasure map and they all set off in search of the treasure having adventures along the way. With such a complex plot, with so many threads, it would be so easy for any lesser novelist to lose control of some elements, but Cottrell-Boyce has no such worries and keeps the reader engaged at all times. The humour is laugh out loud funny, with a heart-warming group of characters who develop throughout the story. Highly recommended – an engaging read that will keep readers spellbound.
The Branford Boase prizewinning author has produced another winner with his second book. This is the thrilling story of Queenie de la Cruz, an ordinary girl who happens to be a big fan of world’s most popular fizzy drink. When a bottle washes up at her feet on the beach near her run-down house, this is not unusual- the beach is so covered with rubbish she hardly notices it. But this bottle contains the top-secret recipe for her favourite drink. Priceless information that the big corporation wants back at any cost! The way they manipulate the media and instigate a world wide search for Queenie is genuinely scary and thought provoking. While on the run Queenie comes to realise a lot about the world and the threats it faces from big business and consumerism. She also realises the value of friendship, finds her courage to stand up for what is right and that some things are more important than money. The suspense filled plot will keep readers guessing and the powerful underlying environmental message will strike home. A story which, like his debut novel Kick, looks at the darker side of consumerism and big business and its worldwide affects, but this is so successfully wrapped up in a really great story that this will be a really popular read as well as a valuable discussion starter.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Stewart Foster has made an award-winning name for himself as an author who writes stories which provide real insights into other lives, often with characters who must negotiate some quite challenging emotional territory. This fourth novel takes him into some very personal history having been a foster carer himself, and tells the story of Sam McCann, a boy who longs for a permanent home and a real family. Sam is an unforgettable and not always likeable character and the Perfect Parent Project he launches with his best friend Leah may be genuinely funny in Sam’s almost wilful bad choices and the consequent inescapable disasters that occur, but we gradually find out more of his back story and begin to understand his impulses and empathise with his lack of self-esteem and the setbacks he has endured. Sam is also learning along the way. Recognising his own self-obsessed neglect of his friend’s problems and waking up to the importance of the relationships under his nose and the unimportance of the qualities he had thought were paramount for a parent. These being the BMW, the latest gadgets and the Disneyland holidays that show that he is, in many ways, a very typical eleven year old! Never patronising nor preachy, this engaging, highly entertaining and fast paced story will prompt some valuable discussion about other lives and experiences as well as deepening children’s understanding of their own emotional responses. An absolute must for empathy collections, this will also be a popular leisure read.
It's tough fitting in when you're born to stick out! From the moment Stick Boy and his family move to Little Town, there is way more to worry about than being the new kid. There's a mysterious plot involving Baron Ben's new Mega Mall, pop star Jonny Vidwire and the highly suspicious HomeBots that are infiltrating every home in town. Can Stick Boy and his friends uncover the evil plan behind it all before it's too late? An incredibly exciting and extremely funny new world for middle grade readers and fans of DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, TOM GATES and TIMMY FAILURE.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | From award-winning Jon Mayhew comes this book-themed blast of bedlam, replete with puns aplenty and breakneck pace. Despite his name, reluctant hero (and reluctant reader) Kian Reader is not a fan of reading. In fact, “I hate reading. It’s boring,” he declares. “Book are really rubbish…Only losers read books”. Annoyingly for Kian, his mum’s new boyfriend Anthony is campaigning to keep the local library open, jiggling a placard while dressed in a Gruffalo costume in the presence of the mayor and Kian’s super-strict new English teacher. Talking of whom, when Kian is forced to visit the library to do his English homework, he becomes embroiled in a perilous plot after inadvertently ingesting the world’s sole sample of Reader Serum, a powerful potion that gives him super reading powers. What’s more, he’s now wanted by F.A.R.T. (the Fellowship Against Reading Texts), an organisation that’s already hypnotised famous local children’s author Martin Marvello. Alongside Kian’s crazy encounters with dastardly Doctor Badd, I loved the details of family life, and the friendship between Kian and his mates Asif and Prissy. Being such a riotous read, The Spybrarian is a sure-fire way to convince self-professed “Books are boring!” claimants that reading is anything but boring. And, once they’ve enjoyed the outlandish adventures, young readers should head here to download an awesome activity pack.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | A whole lot of heart fizzes through this humorous Middle Grade mystery by Adam Baron, the Carnegie-nominated author of Boy Underwater. With masses of mystery, and mix-ups aplenty, it’s a twisty rib-tickling tale of teddy bear detection, with plenty of plot for capable Middle Grade readers to get their teeth into, plus dialogue that’s ideal to have fun with aloud. The lively design adds an extra element too, with lots of capitalised words, well-considered layouts and oodles of exclamations. When Brighton girl Jessica finds a tatty teddy in a river, she has little idea of what craziness it will lead to, and she’s also worried about her dad, who’s lost all his energy and stopped working. Meanwhile, Charlton Athletic obsessed Cymbeline is shocked to discover his house has been burgled. Why on earth were the thieves only interested in his toys? What’s more, Cym’s having to adjust to Mum’s boyfriend and daughters moving in, while his out-of-work actor dad lets him down when he fails to deliver a promised trip to Barcelona’s Camp Nou. Tonnes of twists later, the two families find themselves connected by the teddy bear (Mr Fluffy or Mr Goldy, depending on which family you talk to), a Brighton-Charlton football match and Henry VIII. Readers of nine upwards will giggle at the recognisable muddles of everyday family life (not to mention a spot of sibling strife), while the winding mystery will keep older readers gripped and turning the pages.
For the adventurer in your life - young or old - discover a dazzling lost classic and escape to distant shores... Eepersip is a girl with the wild in her heart. She does not want to live locked up behind the walls of a house. So she runs away - first to the Meadow, then to the Sea, and finally to the Mountain. Her heartbroken parents follow their daughter, trying to bring her home safe, but Eepersip has other ideas... Republished by Penguin with a new introduction and hand-inked illustrations by beloved artist Jackie Morris, The House Without Windows is a timeless fable about wildness, freedom and the redemptive power of the natural world.
If you love Tom Gates, the Wimpy Kid, or Nikki Maxwell of Dork Diaries fame, then you need to get to know Max Crumbly. Like these hapless anti-heroes, Max has a habit of getting into trouble – this episode opens with Max and his crush Erin Madison trapped in a dumpster full of smelly rubbish – mainly in an effort to escape school bullies or teachers. He recounts his adventures in a breathless, as-it-happens mix of text and image, which is vivid, action-packed and guaranteed to keep the pages turning and readers laughing. It all works too because author Rachel Renée Russell understands her protagonist and her readers so well, ensuring that Max is always a credible and sympathetic character.
February 2020 Debut of the Month | The Bigwoof Conspiracy is a monstrously amusing mash-up of Scooby Doo and The Twilight Zone - think Louis Sachar’s Fuzzy Mud with added farcical fun.Quirky UFO-obsessed Lucy is an inspirational, one-of-a-kind heroine who unapologetically follows her own path and won’t stop until the truth is exposed. And Lucy’s search for the truth behind the hairy beast she spies in the woods lies at the heart of this madcap adventure. On this same night Lucy meets Milo, a smartly-dressed boy from the city whose dad is the new owner of the Sticky Sweet factory her own dad works at.When a teacher disappears and she and Milo step-up their quest to secure photographic evidence of hairy Bigwoof, Lucy winds up in big trouble, while pondering even bigger questions. Why did Milo’s dad delete his photo of the hairy beast? Why are folk disappearing from Sticky Pines? And what’s the deal with the factory’s creepy clown henchmen? There’s definitely something fishy going on and Lucy won’t rest until she’s found the source of the stink! I loved Lucy’s tenacious commitment to truth (“I require that the world not run on lies”), her ingenious curse vocabulary (including “Crudberries!” and “Oh, for the love of Björk!”), and the book’s “do the right thing” theme. Bursting with comic capers, this comes especially recommended for reluctant readers who’ve lost their reading mojo.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | July 2019 Book of the Month | Characteristically, Gill Lewis skilfully conjures a vivid sense of landscape and wildlife in a story starring a character driven by her love of wild things and determination to achieve justice for them. Bobbie lives on a sheep farm in the Scottish Highlands with her parents and strong-willed, somewhat eccentric grandma. In a shocking opening chapter, Granny’s little dog dies suddenly and horribly, poisoned by bait intended to kill a magnificent young golden eagle. Bobbie and her granny know that the local landlord’s gamekeeper is responsible, and that he’s a threat to all birds of prey in the area. Can they prove it, and protect the eagle? Readers will be gripped by the story and quickly come to understand Bobbie’s love for the eagle and her passion to stand up for it and all wild birds. It’s a terrific story, told with real impact, one for all animal lovers. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+
I don’t think Raúf has put a foot wrong so far with her novels to date – and this is no exception. Told from the interesting perspective of the bully in school, Hector gains our sympathy quite unexpectedly – we can see how and why he gets the blame, often deservedly, but also when it’s not really his fault. But when a prank on a homeless person gets out of hand this leads to Hector being befriended - somewhat reluctantly at first, by Mei-Li – who introduces Hector to the shelter she helps in and thus to an understanding of some of the pressures and causes of homelessness. An important social message for all – but this book is also a who-done-it trying to solve mysterious, slightly odd crimes whilst the graffiti left at the scenes of these crimes seem to indicate that homeless people are involved in some way. Can Hector and Mei-Li get to the bottom of these crimes? Can Hector’s new understanding help him be less of a bully? Could Hector turn out to be a bit of a hero? Written with great empathy, this book has themes of friendship and kindness whilst celebrating the fact people can change – and often for the better. Another success for Onali J Raúf.
Leonard looks like a cat, sounds like a cat and – in lots of ways – behaves like a cat. But Leonard is an alien, an alien who has arrived in the wrong body for a trip to Earth – he was meant to be a Yellowstone Park ranger - and needs to get home. Fortunately, he’s adopted by just about the only human on our planet who can save him. Olive is a young girl, also far from home and lonely. The two form a special friendship and, with the help of two amiable if eccentric grown-ups, embark on an amazing journey of adventure and discovery. Leonard might not get to tick off all the human activities on his to do list – one of which is the ‘preparation and consumption of a cheese sandwich’ – but he and Olive learn the most important things there are to being human, to being alive. It’s a story filled with wonder, but truths too, is often funny, sometimes tense, always enjoyable and has important things to say about home and where we can find it. Readers who love Leonard – and lots will – should also read Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s alien adventure Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | No matter how exciting, zany and surprising the action, you can always be sure that Frank Cottrell-Boyce will build his stories on real human emotions, and that’s as true of this brilliantly funny, original and touching novel as of any of its predecessors. Alfie ‘swerves’ both school and the Limb Lab, where he should be going to learn how to control his state-of-the-art new hand, by hanging out at the airport. But everything changes when, through various happy accidents, he finds an enormous robot called Eric in Lost Property. Eric holds the Allen key to the book’s mysteries, both a generations-old legend, and the secrets that Archie is keeping from the reader and himself. Beautifully told and full of characters readers will love, this book will have you laughing out loud one minute, in tears the next. Robot Eric, unfailingly polite, kind and helpful and trying to explain himself through misremembered jokes is an iron man for our time. Unmissable. Once readers have finished this, point them in the direction of Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s other books including The Astounding Broccoli Boy and books by Ross Welford. Peter Brown’s story The Wild Robot is another great automaton adventure.
January 2020 Book of the Month | This is the fourth and indeed final book in Peter Bunzl’s hugely enjoyable Cogheart adventure series. Lily, the girl with the clockwork heart, and her friends Robert and Malkin the ‘mechanimal’ fox, are off to New York with her father to meet up with Robert’s mother and sister. The adventures start the minute they step off their ocean liner (the series is set in a steampunky late 19th century) and involve kidnap, stolen jewels and a heartbroken boy willing to do anything to put his family back together. There are wonderful scenes of adventure with escapades taking place on trains, hotel balconies and most thrillingly in an underwater diving vessel. Non-stop as the action is, there’s always time for Lily to realise what really matters and that love and friendship keep the world’s heart ticking. An excellent series and while each book stands alone, I’d recommend treating young readers to the set.
If you like Star Wars, you’ll love Alastair Chisholm’s space adventure. The action takes place on board the transport ship Orion as it heads out from Earth to a new colony far away. Reaching their destination requires ship and passengers making a series of Jumps through space and time, and surviving a Jump means entering a state of deep suspended animation. Emerging from one of these, Beth discovers that none of the adults can be woken, and that she is now acting captain with a ‘crew’ of fellow youngsters. There are tensions between the children, some alarming encounters with aliens and – much more terrifying – space pirates, all made worse when Beth begins to suspect that the ship itself may not have their best interests at heart. It all makes for a terrifically taut and entertaining page-turner, with twists and surprises galore. Don’t miss!
Amazing True-Life Tales; Astounding Wildlife Facts | A mix of inspiring true stories and fascinating facts and information, all presented across bright, colourful pages with striking, atmospheric illustrations, this is a terrific book for anyone who loves animals. Amongst the animal heroes whose stories we hear are Balto, a sledge dog who helped deliver live-saving medicine in the Alaska winter; Wojtek, the bear who became a favourite with Polish soldiers in World War 2; and Machli, a tiger who fought with an enormous crocodile to save her cubs. There are lots more too, animals who were never given names but whose actions demonstrate incredible intelligence and resilience. As Jess French says in her introduction, there’s always something new to learn about animals, and this book proves that time and time again.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards 2020, Best Book with Facts | Young people looking for inspiration will find it in the true stories told in this book. In punchy, direct text and eye-catching illustrations it introduces 29 young people who have each done something extraordinary and overcome the challenges facing them. Some of them are famous already, their names known across the world: Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg. Other names are less well known but their stories are just as inspirational: Ayesha Farooq, Pakistan’s first female fighter pilot; young Malawian inventor William Kamkwamba. Alongside their stories are tips for readers on how to get your voice heard or, accompanying stories of amazing physical feats, how to push yourself beyond what you think is possible. It’s a book to show just how much can be achieved with courage and determination.
Roger Paxton is an ordinary kind of boy and a very reluctant hero – which is unfortunate as he’s tasked with saving the world from a massive goblin invasion. At least he’s got a good team on his side, including the marvellous and utterly fearless dwarf captain Mossbelly Macfearsome. This is a wonderfully raucous bit of fantasy adventure full of thrilling scenes, some irresistible characters, and very entertaining details (I love the fact that the goblins smell of burnt toast and fart into bottles to make their drinks fizzy). The story is set at Hallowe’en and this would make a terrific October read, but it would be fun to share at any time of the year. You could go on from this to Terry Pratchett, it’s that much fun.
Rediscover the magical secrets at King's Cross station in a 25th anniversary illustrated edition of Eva Ibbotson's classic, The Secret of Platform 13. Under Platform 13 at King's Cross Station there is a secret door that leads to a magical island . . . It appears only once every nine years. And when it opens, four mysterious figures step into the streets of London. A wizard, an ogre, a fey and a young hag have come to find the prince of their kingdom, stolen as a baby nine years before. But the prince has become a horrible rich boy called Raymond Trottle, who doesn't understand magic and is determined not to be rescued. The Secret of Platform 13 is an exciting magical adventure from Eva Ibbotson, the award-winning author of Journey to the River Sea, in a special edition illustrated by Beatriz Castro.
Produced in association with the British Museum this highly illustrated book gives kids a real sense of what life was like in Ancient Rome. It does so by asking them to put themselves in the sandals of their young forbears and compare aspects of their lives – humorously, mainly the worst bits. For example, they’re asked to imagine how horrendous school maths would be if all the letters were numbers, as they were for the Romans – it gives a whole new meaning to long division. There are sections on food, medicine (SO much better now) and family life too plus an index and glossary. Entertaining, accessible and full of information this merits X out of X.
Jo Simmons’ new book had me laughing out loud more than once and kids will love it too. Due to numerous family crises, Tom’s super-important 11th birthday party is on hold, so he takes matters into his own hands planning a party and ways to cheer up his family. If I tell you that this involves a DIY gladiatorial contest, some chicken whispering, and bacon sarnies raining down from the sky, you’ll realise why the eventual party really is unforgettable. An absolute hoot and great on the dynamics of family life too.
Winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards 2020, Best Story category | Shortlisted for the Children's Book Award 2020 | Prue is a young farm girl whose older brother, Francis, had a natural talent for engineering. But after his untimely death, the family have been shattered by grief. Everything changes when a stranger arrives at the farm. A new, incredible technology has been discovered in the city of Medlock, where a secretive guild of inventors have found a way to bring spirits of the dead back into the world, capturing their energy and powering animal-like machines. Unaware that Francis has died, the Ghost Guild wants him to join them as an apprentice. Prue poses as "Frances" and goes to Medlock to learn the craft - but she's on a mission of her own, to bring her brother back home. And to find Francis, she needs to find a way to help the ghost machines remember the people they used to be. But if she succeeds, the whole society could fall apart.
April 2019 Book of the Month | Lauren St John knows just how to create the perfect children’s adventure stories. Her junior detectives Kat Wolfe and Harper Lamb return for a second outing in this new book, another enthralling adventure that combines crumbling cliff edges, dinosaur bones, an A list celebrity who isn’t what she seems and, of course, lots of glorious animals. As they investigate a suspicious death, Kat and Harper face real dangers, but quick-thinking and teamwork, not to mention a bit of luck, see them through. There’s an important eco-message contained in the adventure too and this is exactly the kind of book to encourage children’s interest in the environment and their world as the pages keep turning. Thoroughly recommended.
Spending time with the eponymous Jacky (Ha-Ha because she’s both funny and a stammerer) is always great fun and, as ever, there’s lots to hold the attention and keep the pages turning in this new book. It’s summer 1991 (cue amusing explanations for kids about the way we used to live), and Jacky’s holidays are action-packed. She’s got a summer job at the fair, is appearing as Puck in a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream, experiencing her first crush, and trying and failing to match-make for her friends. Even when things veer towards the tragic, you can rely on Jacky to keep readers laughing, and to ensure there’s a happy ending, just like Puck in fact. ~ Andrea Reece
March 2018 Book of the Month | In a nutshell: wildly comic adventures | Danny Wallace is a very funny man, and his Hamish stories, brilliantly illustrated by Jamie Littler, are an unbeatable mix of comedy and adventure. Hamish has been left in charge of his hometown Starkley while his secret-agent-type dad is away on important business. It’s not long (page 28) before Hamish suspects there’s something going on. Basically, the town is under threat from its babies, who are rising up en masse – a terrifying thought, when there’s more than one baby born every minute and they know just how to get what they want. Can Hamish and the PDF get to the nappy-clad bottom of things before it’s too late? Quirky, original, fast-moving adventure, deftly delivered – do yourself a favour and make it a bedtime read aloud. ~ Andrea Reece
At once hard-hitting and heart-stirring, Black Brother, Black Brother confirms Jewell Parker Rhodes as an exceptional writer whose work resonates with authenticity, empathy, and powerful truths about race and equality. One of the few black boys at his prestigious school, 7th grader Donte has a hard time of it, to say the least. “I wish I were invisible…Sometimes I feel like I’m swimming in whiteness. Most of the students at Middlefield Prep don’t look like me. They don’t like me either.” He’s singled out by teachers, and subjected to racist bullying by his classmates: “You dress thug”. “Your dreads are dreadful.” “Why can’t you be like your brother?” “Can your brother find you in the dark?” The brother in question is Trey, who presents as white and, as a result, occupies a very different place in the world. As Donte is arrested - for nothing - he experiences (yet again) that “Black is not invisible”. So, he resolves to get his own back on the student who got him in trouble, and the best way to do that is to beat the boy at his own game - fencing. Donte’s first-person narrative is pitch-perfect and incredibly powerful, and the brothers’ family life is beautifully portrayed too. Their dad is a computer architect whose family were “poor seafarers from Norway”. Their mom is a social justice lawyer whose family is “descended from captured Africans.” But despite the love and support of his brother and parents, Donte’s loneliness is powerfully palpable, especially when he’s suspended. This makes his determination to track down and learn from an African American Olympian fencer all the more moving, all the more inspiring. What an incredible tale of triumph and fortitude this is. Mention must also be made of the author’s afterword, in which she lays bare historic and cultural prejudices against darker skin, the falsehood of black/white categories, and her fascinating reasons for featuring fencing.
Rachel Rennee Russéll’s Dork Diaries are huge favourites with tweenage readers and no wonder, she’s completely in touch with how they think, and what they worry about too. Nikki is looking forward to the end of term and the summer holidays when suddenly she’s hit by CRUSH-IT IS – like a TON of bricks! The signs are all there: pounding heart, sweaty palms and so many butterflies fluttering in her stomach she feels queasy. Like most things in her life, the path of true love doesn’t run all that smoothly, mostly thanks to the arrival of handsome exchange student André and the machinations of long-time enemy Mackenzie. But with the help of her friends, Nikki gets things back on track and this typically funny and lively read will be another hit with her fans. ~ A review for Crush Catastrophe
November 2020 Debut of the Month | Sami is a very ordinary 13-year-old boy, attending school, playing football, PlayStation and has his own iPad – the only thing different about Sami is that he lives in Damascus. As the war in Syria creeps closer, until a bombing of a local mall affects his family, everything has been good. Now Sami and his family have to leave their home, their friends and their beloved Jadda (grandmother) – not just to move to another town but to start a long and perilous journey to the safety of the other side of the world – to England. The journey, and therefore the story, are not for the fainthearted – Dassau tells the story of the journey, the fear and the privations authentically and we vividly share Sami’s upset, anger and fear throughout every page. The portrait drawn of the family in such a stressed and frightening situation has the reader on the edge of their seat and pulling at our hearts all the way through. Written with a deep understanding and meticulous research into similar journeys this is a book that will not leave you for a very long time. The switches from adversity to hope to despair in Sami keep your heart in your mouth and is so realistic I was raging at the government for its inhuman treatment of desperate refugees. Read this book – it’s needs to be in classrooms and on bookshelves everywhere – it will change you and stay with you.
Not since Adrian Mole opened his diary have the thoughts and innermost feelings of an adolescent boy been examined so precisely or with such heart. Stan is twelve, shy and a worrier, so the thought of a holiday in Italy with his friend Felix and Felix’s family freaks him out. He’s going though: we meet him at the airport drawing up a ‘duck-it’ list of things he hopes he’ll never have to do. Little does he know that he’ll tick off six out of ten of them on his holiday, and enjoy it too. The first-person narrative lets us in on all Stan’s thoughts, but he’s a good observer of others so we learn loads about the others in the holiday party too, kids and grown-ups. There are laugh-out-loud scenes and moments of pure agony, and through it all Stan is learning loads about himself and life in general. Honest, revealing, compassionate and so entertaining, this is a must read for all the Stans out there – adults, give yourselves a treat and read it too.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Highly Commended in the Branford Boase Award 2020 | Ten-year-old Frank loves code and numbers; they’re a way to make sense of the world, as well as providing secret languages to share with his friends and his mum. Frank’s five-year-old brother Max is autistic and for him the world is often a scary place, when anything unexpected, too loud or too bright can cause him to have a meltdown. The story is narrated by Frank and every reader will understand his frustration at the unfairness of life. We know that he loves Max, but we know too how hard Max makes life for all the family. Frank is then faced with something even more terrible when tragedy strikes. With the help of those around him we watch Frank find a way to make sense of what has happened and the bravery to cope with the different world. Katya Balen has worked with neuro-divergent children and there’s a powerful sense of truth and understanding in her beautifully told story. If they like Wonder by R. J. Palacio they'll love The Space We're In.
Patrick Neate’s Small Town Hero melds a sensitive handling of real-life loss with alternate world weirdness to create a surprising, unique novel. There’s grief and gaming, family secrets and football, and the interwoven themes of loss and science will appeal to readers who liked Christopher Edge’s The Many Worlds of Albie Bright and are now a little older. Everything changed for thirteen-year-old Gabe when his dad died in a car accident. First there’s his grief, which has created a “black hole inside me.” Then there’s his unsettling new ability: “the stories I imagine become real.” Reeling with grief and confusion, Gabe finds he’s not entirely alone when he spends more time with his estranged Uncle Jesse, writer of an online game called Small Town Hero, which - to make matters even weirder – appears to echo Gabe’s life. Jesse believes “there aren’t just a few realities, but a countless number” and explains that when Gabe shifts realities and sees alternate versions of his present and future life, he’s crossing something called an “event horizon”. As Gabe’s reality-shifting plays out, he also falls out with his best friend. Still, he has Soccer School to look forward to, and here Gabe takes on pertinent football wisdom from one his Watford icons: “Football’s a game of moments. You get the ball, you choose a pass and, whether you chose right or wrong and did it well or badly, the moment’s gone and you gotta move on…the game makes you live in the here and now – you can’t change what’s gone and you can’t see what’s coming.” For similar books you can find an exciting and varied selection in our new Gritty Reads section
Larabelle Fox is an orphan, a tosher who searches the sewers for any ‘treasure’ she can find, in the sewer system under Kings Haven. She is ranged against rival toshing gangs who want to rob her, as well as the powerful King’s Witch who wants to revive the Evernight in a bid to gain total power for herself. Unbeknownst to Lara she has found exactly what the King’s Witch and her awesomely scary djinn Shadow Jack are looking for – a box, long lost in the sewers. Can Lara discover what she can do with the box and its contents before the world succumbs to the evil of the Evernight? This is a wild magical delight of a story. The bad guys are wickedly bad and seemingly undefeatable, whilst Lara and her friend Joe Littlefoot seem small and powerless. But they have quick wits and goodness on their side, as well as the witches, though it will mainly be down to Lara that a defence is put up to the Evernight.This is the sort of book that will create a buzz of enjoyment, the fantasy world is well built, believable, cinematic and child friendly. The magic is fun, the friendship believable, the story is refreshing, and the feisty heroine is a delight to follow. I shall look forward to more books in this series.
December 2019 YA Debut of the Month | This compelling, nuanced tale is set in the town of Lucille in a future society where evil, the ‘monsters’, have been eliminated in an epic struggle by the ‘angels’ to create a better world for their children to grow up in. Jam, our selectively-nonverbal, black, trans heroine, is one of those children. When she accidentally spills her blood onto her mother’s painting, a creature called Pet emerges. Looking like a monster but here to hunt a monster preying on the family of her best friend, a boy named Redemption. But the identities of the victim and the predator are still unknown and Jam and Redemption have to face what their society fails to acknowledge: that monsters exist and hide in plain sight- that evil still resides in humanity. One of the huge strengths of this book is that Jam’s trans status is not there to score diversity points. The story does not centre around gender identity, but also does not ignore the impact upon the character and plot in a very natural, unforced way. Dialogue is used extremely creatively too. Emezi Jam speaks aloud in quotation marks and sign language is indicated with italics and when Jam and Pet speak telepathically, Emezi uses no punctuation marks whatsoever. On top of that, dialects, phrases, and cultural traditions from across African American communities appear throughout, giving a real flavour and authenticity to the narrative. Emezi has spoken of her inspiration being teenagers discomforted by the monsters in plain sight in our current society. This is a thought-provoking reading experience that could inspire valuable discussion in a lot of classroom contexts.
February 2020 Book of the Month | This gripping must-read for sports fans fizzes with a powerful message about picking yourself up and self-belief, and a poignant portrayal of gang culture coercion. I cannot praise Dan Freeman’s compassion-rich writing enough. Life’s not easy for twin fourteen-year-olds Kaine and Roxy growing up on their London estate. Their dad’s lost his job and mum works all hours. But Roxy and Kaine aren’t your average teenagers. He’s a super-talented footballer with Premier League potential, and she’s an outstanding tennis player, tipped for the top. Oh, and they can’t stand each other. After being close as kids, they’ve grown apart, with Roxy loathing the fact that Kaine’s always in trouble, and Kaine hating the way Roxy gets all the attention and support, overlooked even when a scout for a Premier League club comes to watch him. Both a bundle of frustration, Kaine is tempted into dangerous territory. If only Mamma, their Barbados-born grandmother, was around to keep Kaine on the right track. Mamma’s warm, wise presence is felt throughout the novel. She was the person Kaine turned to in times of need. She’d feed him soul food, remind him that he’s special, urge him to “do the extraordinary.” Sage advice comes from Kaine’s supportive PE teacher too, who counsels “There are paths in life, there are choices. And you are at one of those crossroads now”. When tragedy strikes as Kaine loses his way it takes a whole lot of soul-searching for him to turns things round and become the extraordinary young man he is. And Roxy tackles her profoundly life-changing situation with heartrending courage too. With overriding messages of hope, compassion, doing the right thing and staying true to yourself, this is an absolute galáctico, Grand Slam winner of a novel.
Shortlisted for CILIP Carnegie Medal 2021 | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Smart, incisive, brimming with the breath of human experience and written with engaging age-appropriate verve, this clever concept (“a tale told in ten blocks”) is perfectly executed. For the chorus of kids whose lives play out on these impeccably-written pages, the walk home from school represents a rare time of freedom; a period of limbo between being under the watchful eyes of teachers and parents. Unsupervised, the kids reveal their true selves, most of them dealing with hidden heartache and anxieties alongside goofing around, self-reflecting and navigating their way through Middle School. As always with Jason Reynolds, the characterisation is ingeniously vivid, with deep insights expressed through, for example, the different ways kids open their lockers. Many of the stories are intensely poignant, such as that of the Low Cuts crew whose bad behaviour is fuelled by a desperate love for their sick parents. The moment it turns out that Bit the hustler is a “son who was scared. A son who loved his mum” is shatteringly powerful. There’s much humour too, such as the laugh-out-loud scene in which smelly Gregory is slathered in VaporRub by friends seeking to beautify him before he visits a girl he’s keen on. Bittersweet, hard-hitting and powerfully perceptive, these pitch-perfect reader-centric stories shine a light on oft-overlooked lives and ring with empathy and authenticity.
We all love strange stories and bizarre, unexplained events: do aliens exist? Are ghosts real? Is the Bermuda Triangle really a thing? Was there actually a curse on Tutankhamun’s tomb? This book examines these four questions, plus another six equally mesmerising, but challenges readers to use logic, intelligence and the facts to determine the truth. Author Kathryn Hulick presents thoroughly researched accounts, packed with information because, as she empahises, evidence is the most important thing. She ensures that the sources are reliable and then encourages readers while keeping an open mind to consider everything really carefully. It makes for a great read, especially when some of those mysteries – the Kraken – turn out to be strange but true. A book that glories in mystery, but also the power of science and human intelligence.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | May 2019 Book of the Month | Like all classics of American middle grade fiction - as this may well be esteemed in future - this is radiant with humour, heart and a whole lot of indelibly authentic child-centred observations and emotions. With his dad away on army service, and faced with being plunged into the jungle of middle school, Carter already has plenty on his plate when his family inherits the services of an eccentric British butler. While Carter is quick to revolt against the butler’s rigorous regime of tea-drinking, homework and housekeeping (including folding underwear, can you believe it?!), the butler’s ways, wisdom and polite-but-firm guidance (AKA being “a pain in the glutes”) casts a healing spell over the family’s soul, exactly when they need it most. Then, as the butler shares his love of “the most lovely and sportsmanly game that mankind has yet conceived” (AKA cricket) with Carter’s schoolmates, Carter himself comes to share his troubles and release his anger and grief so he can keep the metaphoric “bails from coming down”. Suffused with the same warmth, compassion and originality of the author’s stunning debut, Orbiting Jupiter , this funny, moving middle grade novel is a true treasure with broad appeal and rich rewards.
This is a special large print edition of J.K. Rowling's gloriously inventive The Tales of Beedle the Bard, an essential classic for all Harry Potter fans. Full of magic and trickery, these classic tales both entertain and instruct, and remain as captivating to young wizards today as they were when Beedle first put quill to parchment in the fifteenth century.
A Different Dog is the story of the special relationship that develops between a boy and a dog and how it saves them both. It’s beautifully told in short, spare sentences that will make it accessible to all readers, and full of unexpected twists. The boy at the centre of the story – we never learn his name – is poor, lonely and bullied by other children because of his selective mutism. The dog he rescues from a car crash that has killed its owner is subject to its own set of painful compulsions, finding out why is one of the surprises and rewards of the story. This will absorb readers, from the opening page to its warm, uplifting final line. Readers will also enjoy Pippa Goodhart’s A Dog Called Flow, which tells another satisfying story of the special, healing bond between a boy and a dog. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
Exhibiting the same intense sense of place as in her highly acclaimed debut, The Smell of Other People’s Houses, and set once again in Alaska and the American West during the 1990’s, this collection demonstrates absolutely remarkable storytelling and authenticity. Every word in each short story counts in bringing another character so vividly to life that we become completely immersed in their lives. These troubled teens encounter love, loss, coming of age, grief, abuse, and friendships with the minutiae of daily life often revealing or foreshadowing a deeper and darker truth. All the narratives share the backdrop of an increasingly devasting forest fire and the history of a little girl’s disappearance. Each story relates to these major events in different ways and the links between the individual stories and these shattering events gradually become apparent. What is also revealed is the universal dichotomy of small communities, where everybody knows everybody and yet does not actually know them at all. The struggle to get your voice heard and for people to accept your truth is at the heart of these beautifully crafted stories. This is a book which should be garlanded with awards and will definitely linger long in the reader’s mind.
Optimist and aspiring actress Willa is the privileged daughter of separated actor parents. Her plans to spend summer in London are scuppered when her parents decide to ship her off to rural Italy to stay with an aunt she’s never met, which is what brings her to LA airport and into contact with Alice... Glass-half-empty-Alice has lost her mum and her marine biologist dad is sending her to stay with his new girlfriend in London, the prospect of which fills her with horror. When the girls meet in the airport lounge, they’re envious of each other’s summers. Alice would love to visit Italy to fulfill a dream of her mum’s, while Willa is desperate to attend a London theatre course. While Willa and Alice live worlds apart, they look remarkably alike and so they switch identities to experience a summer holiday like no other. With slip-ups and suspicions aroused from the off, the fast-paced escapist action escalates into a flurry of comic capers and cute crushes, plus there are plenty of heart-melting moments too. Alice gets to visit the worry-purging waterfall her mum never saw, while Willa reassesses her ambitions, and both find new friendships.
Winner of the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2020 | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | February 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2020 | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 9 | Cleverly set within a gripping adventure, Lark is a deeply touching story of the special bond between brothers. Older brother Nicky narrates the story of the day he and his younger brother Kenny set out on a simple day out on the moors. Proposed by their father as a way of filling time while they wait nervously for their mum to return from her new life in Canada, it is meant to a fun day out tinged with a bit of nostalgia as they are retracing a walk that he used to enjoy. But the simple walk which begins in a light hearted way soon becomes a deadly dangerous adventure as the weather conditions close in, the boys get completely lost and Kenny has to show exceptional courage and intelligence to make sure he can get Kenny home safely. Anthony McGowan maintains the intensity of the story throughout while also keeping the writing simple.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | This pacey page-turner teems with tension, twists and terror from the moment Irish girl Niamh arrives in London for a drama course and finds herself in a storm of vicious attacks on fellow students. Accelerating the fear factor, the victims look like Niamh, and bear marks reminiscent of those made by Spring Heeled Jack, a Victorian folklore figure who was said to slash his victims with metal claws. Amidst this terror, Niamh takes up her placement in a Victorian museum, where she plays the role of a factory owner’s daughter who died a gruesome and untimely death. No wonder, then, that Niamh is glad to befriend Jess, a self-proclaimed “history nerd” who’s thrilled to visit the museum’s parlour that was once used by “the infamous Madame Josephine...Fortune teller, hypnotist, and mistress of the occult.” Then there’s creepy Will who works there, and gorgeous Tommy who sets Niamh’s heart a-pounding. Entertaining and menacing in equal measure, and loaded with cliff-hangers and red herrings, this accomplished debut brings old school Point Horror novels to mind.
January 2021 Book of the Month | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 What a book! Alex Wheatle’s writing buzzes with energy and captures twelve-and-a-half-year-old Welton’s experience of being in love in all its heart-pounding, stomach-flipping, confusing giddiness alongside a run of seriously bad luck. With Wheatle’s outstanding Jamaica-set historic novel Cane Warriors one of my favourite books of recent years, this confirms the author’s status as a writer of huge talent, with the ability to infuse all genres with a special kind of magic. Things begin to go downhill for Welton the moment he finally plucks up courage to ask out Carmella, “one of the most delicious-looking females in school.” But, somehow, he manages to retain an infectiously upbeat stance throughout, punctuating his problems with Star Wars related exclamations (“Oh, for the life of Yoda!”) as he navigates everything life throws at him - from Hulk-like moustachioed bully Brian and the strife between his divorced parents, to his intense fear of being “lamed and shamed” by Carmella. Welton’s wit and entrepreneurial spirit is especially hilarious and sees him selling damning insults to classmates for 50p a cuss. Fresh, funny and authentic, readers will truly root for Welton - while he’s one of a kind, his voice and experiences will resonant far and wide. What’s more, being published by Barrington Stoke, this zesty page-turner is highly readable and produced with reluctant and dyslexic readers in mind, with manageable chapter lengths, a specially selected font and cream paper.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Co-written by YA author Sara Shepard and 16-year-old Instagram celebrity and actress Lilia Buckingham, Influence is at once blisteringly entertaining and grippingly gritty - think guilty pleasure gossip site meets down and dirty exposé of the unfiltered underside of social influencer life. With an ultra-twisty plot that’s sure to keep readers on their toes, the story opens with rising social star Delilah moving to LA. Thanks to the video that propelled her to fame as “Puppy Girl”, she’s set to hit the bigtime, especially when glamourous, super-famous Jasmine befriends her, though both young women want more from life. Delilah aspires to be known for animal activism, diabetes awareness and anti-bullying messages rather than cute canine content, while Jasmine longs to be free from the constraints of her tightly-controlled brand image, not least so she can live out her true sexuality. Then there’s outwardly cheery Fiona, famed for her fashion and beauty YouTube channel, but inwardly weighed down by OCD and The Voice in her head that tells her she’s worthless. At the top of the tree is Kardashian-esque famous Scarlet. She and handsome Jack, a mega YouTube prankster star, are worshipped as “Jacklet”, with countless crazily devoted fans following their every move, as Delilah experiences first-hand when she and Jack strike up a bond, and it’s not long before a tsunami of duplicity and devastation explodes. Through the lives of the four female influencers we see bitchy backstabbing, the pressures of brand ambassadorship, the hollowness of consumer culture and the ruthlessness of fervent fans. Ultimately, though, when this thrilling rollercoaster ride winds up, the book chimes a message of authenticity. In Jasmine’s words, “Embrace who you are, not who the internet wants you to be.”
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | In English teacher Louise Reid’s first venture into the verse novel, she uses the form magnificently using layout and different font sizes and styles to show as well as tell Lily’s story. We meet her in the opening poem, Roadkill at her lowest ebb. Bullied at school and battered and abused outside it, betrayed by childhood ‘friends’ and mentally trapped in a self-critical prison. This is an unflinching portrait of a girl who does not fit in and who hates herself. But it is also a picture of a family in poverty and the link between poverty and obesity is well known, but not often acknowledged and ‘fat shaming” is a particularly insidious and dangerous form of bullying where the victims are often blamed. The author also gives a voice to Bernadette, the loving mother equally trapped in her own misery, overweight and virtually housebound and to Lily’s feelings for her which veer back and forth from love to shame and blame. The layers of characterisation and backstory are subtly and delicately revealed in this beautifully paced narrative. Equally touching is the depiction of her father, quiet, loyal and desperate to help. It is at his suggestion that Lily takes up his old hobby of boxing. With training and the gym comes fitness, but more importantly other support structures and tentative friendships and Lily’s bravery helps Bernadette take some positive steps too. Their journey is not easy but never anything other than utterly convincing and psychologically authentic. This important novel has home truths for both sexes to ponder and a cleverly neutral cover and the highly accessible verse format means that it can be promoted to even the most reluctant of readers. We explore the powerful themes in Louisa's follow-up verse novel Wrecked in a Q&A with the author.
October 2020 Book of the Month | In this brilliant and emotionally gripping sequel to her best-selling debut novel, Dear Martin, the author’s focus shifts to a minor character: Vernell LaQuan Banks Jnr. Unlike Justyce, the hero of the first book who is now a law student at Yale, Quan is incarcerated and charged with the murder of a policeman. In Dear Martin, Justyce wrote letters in his journal to his hero Martin Luther King Jnr to work through his thoughts and vent his frustrations about life as a Black American. Here Quan actually does write to Justyce, inspired by reading that self-same journal and through these and a series of flashbacks his painful story is revealed. From the trauma of witnessing his dad’s brutal arrest and the domestic abuse his mother experiences from her new partner, to taking responsibility for protecting his small step-siblings to the extent of stealing food to feed them, Quan had none of the love and support that helped Justyce overcome the tragedies in the first book. In fact it is the need for a ‘family’ that embroils Quan into joining the Black Jihad and then loyalty to them which keeps his mouth shut about the fact that it was not his gun, left at the scene, which fired the fatal bullet. Through these letters we can really see Quan developing as a character and benefiting from studying with the tutor Justyce sent him. Evaluating himself and how he got there as well as the obvious racial disparities in the criminal justice system and how hopeless the future seems for black youths like him. Eventually the truth about his mental state, his coerced confession and the police procedural failure to gather ballistics evidence is revealed and Justyce launches a legal challenge to get the charges against Quan dropped and, just as importantly, find a way to reconcile him with his family and to be released from obligations to the other ‘family’. This is an unforgettable insight into lives where options and choices are so limited by systemic and institutional racism that despite every effort to the contrary the pathway to prison seems inevitable. In the afterword the author reveals just how many true stories are so authentically reflected here. Dear Justyce is an absolute must read, giving a voice to those who need it the most.
August 2020 Debut of the Month | In this rip-roaringly feminist re-imagining of Cinderella, our justice-seeking heroine, Sophia, seeks a princess rather than a prince, and bodice-ripping is done in the name of shedding the shackles of patriarchy. Giddily entertaining, and spiced with dagger-sharp dialogue and romantic attraction, one message beams bright through Sophia’s story - “do not be silent. Raise your voice. Be a light in the dark.” Though 200 years have passed since Cinderella’s time, a twisted version of her legacy lives on in Lille, where the present-day Prince Charming, King Manford, has decreed that girls must recite the fairy tale daily and, at the age of sixteen, they will be sent to the palace to be chosen by a man at a grand ball. Attending the ball is law, and, in the words of Erin, Sophia’s best friend and lover, “It is our only hope for making some kind of life”, for those not chosen are doomed to an even worse existence than being married off. As Sophia’s father admits, “I’d rather see you unhappy than imprisoned or killed.” Such is the impossible situation. So, Sophia goes to the ball, still hoping to escape with Erin, still burning with anger that the “founding tenet of our laws is that women, no matter their standing, are at the mercy of the fickle whims of men.” At the grandiose selection event, girls are put on show for the male suitors, some of them old enough to be Sophia’s grandfather, “but that doesn’t stop them from shamelessly ogling the young girls.” As shocking events unfold here, she flees and finds a sisterly comrade in flame-haired Constance, who also sets her heart alight. As the feminist fugitives go on the run, Constance reveals truths about Cinderella’s real story - a story that was suppressed and twisted into patriarchal propaganda by men in power. And so they embark on a quest to find the White Wood, the last known location of the original fairy godmother, who might just hold the key to further truths that will help Sophia rouse revolution. What an inventive, entertaining and flamboyantly feminist treat this is.
Shortlisted for CILIP Carnegie Medal 2021 - Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | From the multi-award-winning author of The Poet X and With the Fire on High comes Elizabeth Acevedo’s exceptional dual-voiced novel about loss, love and sisterhood across the sea, a story partly sparked by the fatal crash of a flight from NYC to Santo Domingo in 2001. Camino Rios has always lived in the Dominican Republic with her aunt Tia, “a woman who speaks to the dead, who negotiates with spirits”, a woman who’s like a mother to her: “Even when Mama was alive, Tia was the other mother of my heart.” Life’s not easy for them on the island, but they have it better than their neighbours as a result of Camino’s beloved Papi working in the US for most of year. To Camino, Papi is a “A king who built an empire so I’d have a throne to inherit”, and she lives for the summer months when he comes home to them. But all life is thrown into terrible disarray when she goes to meet Papi at the airport and learns that his plane has fallen from the sky, and then: “I am swallowed by this shark-toothed truth.” This story is blessed with such divinely piercing language throughout. At the same time, across the Atlantic, Yahaira Rios learns that her hero Papi has died in a plane crash. She already knew he had a wife on the island (but not of his secret daughter), and has always longed to reconcile her Dominican heritage with her American life: “Can you be from a place you have never been? You can find the island stamped all over me, but what would the island find if I was there? Can you claim a home that does not know you, much less claim you as its own?” When it emerges that Papi wishes to be buried back in DR, Yahaira’s Mami insists that she will never let her “touch foot on the sands of that tierra.” But Yahaira has other plans, not least when she’s contacted by a girl named Camino Rios who bears an undeniable resemblance to Papi, and to her too. As well as being exceptionally affecting on grief, forgiveness and family secrets, Clap When You Land is also devastatingly sharp on the exploitative tendencies of tourism. In Camino’s words: “I am from a playground place…Our land, lush and green, is bought and sold to foreign powers so they can build luxury hotels...Even the women, girls like me, our mothers and tias, our bodies are branded jungle gyms…Who reaps? Who eats? Not us. Not me.” Overflowing with truths of the heart, and truths about inequalities that need to be broken, while also addressing the complexities of what it means to be of a place, I can’t praise this highly enough.
March 2020 Book of the Month | The novel of The Crossover is a Newberry Medal Winner, and a Coretta Scott King Award Winner in the US and was Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in the UK. This graphic novel version is the whole story complete with large and small two-coloured illustrations gracing every page. This is a deceptively simple read – a novel in verse about siblings getting through middle school, their lives, their crushes, their family interactions, and basketball. The boys are twins Josh and Jordan Bell, sons of a famous basketball player, and aiming to make a mark in the world of basketball. There are rivalries between the boys, they revel in their differences, but family holds them together whatever the world throws at them. The words and pictures work so well together, you will be on the edge of your seat, rooting for the team as they play and crying with the twins when thigs go awry. To tell such a complex story with so few words, with such emotional depth – Alexander is a master of devastating and uplifting storytelling. Anyabwile’s illustrations enhance a superb story – adding expressions and movement to an already great novel.
Shortlisted for the 2021 Branford Boase Award | Shortlisted for CILIP Carnegie Medal 2021 | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | March 2020 Debut of the Month | This debut novel was inspired by the author’s work creating Run the World, an organisation that empowers women and girls from marginalised backgrounds through sport and storytelling and the authenticity of this, at times harrowing story, is palpably evident. As is the skill of the accomplished writing which makes great use of typography and layout to really make every word count. This speeds the reader through the narrative, but it also cuts deep to reveal the emotions experienced by our narrator. Amber Rai is only ‘truly alive’ when running and shows great potential. But her alcoholic, abusive, misogynistic father refuses to allow her on the track. She has seen her older sister Ruby denied university and married off against her will and her downtrodden, abused mother is literally powerless to help, trapped as much by illiteracy and lack of English as the violence of her equally illiterate, unemployed husband. Amber has friends and teachers who believe in her, but she cannot explain what really goes on at home. She is a complex and believable character with very real flaws that she painfully recognises: ‘inflicting pain on others/halves your own hurt’. But the story is cleverly structured on The Anatomy of a Revolution and inspired by her reading about revolutions for history, Amber, Ruby and her mother gradually empower each other to take small steps to freedom. This is an important, rewarding, highly empathetic read which, despite the dark subject matter, offers hope but no simplistic solutions.
The sequel to the international bestseller One of Us is Lying Welcome back to Bayview High . . . It's been a year since the events of One Of Us Is Lying. But nothing has settled for the residents of Bayview. Not now someone has started playing a sinister game of Truth or Dare. Choose truth? You must reveal your darkest secret. Choose dare? Well, that could be even more dangerous. Even deadly. When the game takes an even darker turn, suddenly no one at Bayview High knows who to trust. But they need to find out who is behind the game, before it's too late.
May 2018 Book of the Month | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 | When a billionaire phone-tech entrepreneur challenges the Year Eleven pupils in her former school to switch off their phones for six weeks, Esther is determined to rise to the occasion. With her American-born dad, sister and baby nephew now living in New York, she has her sights firmly fixed on the £1000 prize, which she’d use to visit them, plus she could do with a break from the constant peer pressure to share super model style selfies. But almost immediately, Esther’s FOMO (fear of missing out) “is at emergency levels”, not least because she has no idea what her friends are up to. As a result, she and a few fellow participants set up a support group in her mum’s new cafe, among them River, who gives an impassioned speech about how social media users are “just pawns in the hands of people making money out of us”. Alongside an engaging exploration of the pros and cons of online life, there’s a sensitive sub-plot about the complications of family life, with the downsides of digital media touched-on through that too (her mum’s café is struggling to find customers in the wake of a poor online review), and reference to being aware of “fake news” and inaccurate reporting. Thought-provoking and topical, this pacey read is especially suitable for reluctant and dyslexic teen readers. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+
In a nutshell: football-set story, accessible to all readers Jackson Law is a talented footballer, newly signed to the United youth squad. Real life carries on though, and a budding romance with the girl he’s always fancied brings him up against her thuggish ex. Jackson’s got a lot to lose now which lays him open to the lad’s threats and blackmail, but he discovers that his team mates are there to support him on and off the pitch. There’s just the right mix of footballing action and domestic drama and the story unfolds at a pace that will keep all readers turning the pages. An enjoyable and exciting contemporary story. ~ Andrea Reece
Jess’s mother was the first victim of a serial killer who came to be known as the Magpie Man, and ten years later the case is still unsolved, and the death toll stands at thirteen. A chance to be part of a YouTube reality show for teenagers gives Jess an idea; what if while being filmed, she can goad the Magpie Man into revealing himself? This inevitably raises reader’s questions about the social responsibility of media companies and the way both police and responsible adults allow Jess to take this reckless attitude to her own safety. But in reality, it seems that Jess lost two parents the day her mother was killed, her quest for the killer is also a chance to rescue her father from a deep depression. She luckily has good friends, both old and newly discovered in this process, looking out for her. The plot constantly twists and turns and keeps the reader inexorably gripped throughout. The ultimate reveal of who and why is both satisfactory as well as surprising. Told entirely in the first person the character development of Jess is outstanding and the subtle nuances of grief and the way in which bereavement affects other people and their treatment of you is very well done. A novel that is entirely current and yet with the age-old thrill of a complex mystery.
From the one-of-a-kind author of The Poet X comes a one-of-a-kind novel suffused in YA’s finest features - friendship, shifting family relationships, fighting to find your voice, romantic passion – and more besides, thanks to the exuberant drive of its teen mom protagonist. Emoni has an extraordinary gift for creative cooking and a complicated home life. Her mom, whose family is “straight-from-the-Carolinas Black” died in childbirth, which caused her grief-stricken Puerto Rican dad to head home to his island. As a result Emoni was raised by his mother, the fabulous ‘Buela. Emoni is used to hearing other people’s problems with her dual heritage (“it’s like I’m some long-division problem folks keep wanting to parcel into pieces, and they don’t hear me when I say: I don’t reduce, homies. The whole of me is Black. The whole of me is whole”), but since falling pregnant in her freshman year she has a new set of struggles to contend with. It’s not easy being a teenage mom while also studying, working and dealing with Babygirl’s judgmental paternal grandmother, but somehow Emoni keeps it all going, finding soulful solace in the kitchen: “I’m happier in the kitchen than anywhere else in the world…my food doesn’t just taste good, it is good – straight up bottled goodness that warms you and makes you feel better about your life”. Enrolling on a culinary arts class makes Emoni even more determined to accomplish her gastronomic career goals, and also brings her heatedly close to new boy Malachi. But with multiple obstacles at every turn, when life reaches boiling point her best friend and family step-up as supporting sous chefs. Spiced with inspirational wisdom (“Taking risks and making choices in spite of fear – it’s what makes our life story compelling” says one of Emoni’s teachers; “The world is a turntable that never stops spinning; as humans we merely chose the tracks we want to sit out and the ones that inspire us to dance,” says Emoni), this luminous novel challenges multiple stereotypes and dances to its own love-infused, inspirational beat.
October 2019 Book of the Month | New Yorker Leah is a tenacious, snarky queen of quips. She’s also an exceptional chess player but decides to give up the game after losing a match that, had she won, would have seen her move up the rankings to grandmaster status. Feeling the pressure of her mom and coach, feeling that she’s let down her beloved dad, she decides to get a tattoo, “proving to myself and the world that there is life after chess and that I’m not just a pawn for other people to push around.” Leah’s certainly not a girl given to being pushed around but, with the skills of a master weaver, the author sensitively shows how grief’s deep wounds underpin her anger and tendency to drive people away. When her tattoo plan is foiled by one of her blog readers, Kit, who makes big bucks from illegal chess hustling, Leah winds up making a thousand dollars in a couple of hours. It’s through the police busting one of the illegal games that she finds out about chessboxing, “the ultimate contest of brains and brawn”. The thrill Leah feels for this hybrid sport’s speed and tension is palpable, and she’s a natural at it too, with her boxing coach praising her exceptional resilience: “You never know what’s inside a fighter until they’re flat out on the canvas”, a perceptive comment that encapsulates Leah’s story journey. She’s grappling with grief, but making emotional breakthroughs and learning new skills, to the point that she’s ready to fight Death (a formidable champion chessboxer) in Vegas. With a truly pulse-quickening climax, this exceptional novel rages with raw emotion. It’s a bona fide page-turner seared with life-affirming insights into grief, friendship and finding new paths.
September 2019 Book of the Month | Hitting rock bottom, hanging on, and coming back from the edge. Brian Conaghan has an incredible talent for telling it like it is. His characters are authentic and absorbing; flawed underdogs with serious troubles, like 17-year-old Maggie whose dad “drank his liver into a spreadable pâté”, and whose laid-off dinner lady mum is “gifted in the art of attracting pure dickheads”. And Maggie? Maggie’s “an island: the way I dress; the music I listen to; the patter my brain discharges; everything”. Maggie’s struggling to deal with the tragic loss of her best friend Moya whose death she feels excruciatingly guilty about. Moya was a “mad riot” of a girl, but as Maggie “couldn’t be arsed with all the love-struck vom” Moya was spewing, because she didn’t speak out against the Internet trolls, she believes she was a “failure friend”. Alongside her grief, guilt and self-harm, Maggie struggles with her mother’s severe depression, but also tingles with the hope that comes from starting art college: “now’s the time to make something of myself.” Indeed, she soon forms a band with new friends. Throughout, Maggie’s love of bands like The Smiths looms large, as does her relationship with her depressed mother. Maggie’s rage at her mother’s condition derives entirely from her primal love for her. She’s desperate for Mum to be happy, and her scheme to help her find happiness is heart-achingly poignant. Grief, depression, self-harm, online abuse, this novel is no walk in the park, yet it never drags the reader down. On the contrary. It’s sensitive, insightful, funny (Maggie is a master of biting one-liners), and genuinely uplifting as Maggie and Mum begin to find their way back to the world, with glinting prospects of love and new life.
Jason Reynolds is the master of giving voice to children and teenagers who exist - and often struggle - on the margins of society. Against tough competition, this exceptional novel might be his finest yet. Matt has recently lost his beloved mom and feels excruciatingly lonely in his grief. By page two, when Matt comes home to a house that was “totally silent. And it had no smell,” the author encapsulates the raw invisibility of grief with visceral power. Haunted by how his mom made him feel “like the luckiest kid in the world...like I was somebody important”, and needing something to occupy his mind (and some cash), Matt takes a job helping family friend and funeral director Mr Ray, and unexpectedly finds that attending funerals and witnessing the grief of others makes him feel less alone. With his dad otherwise disposed after seeking solace in whiskey, Mr Ray is heart-meltingly supportive, reaching out to Matt while his “old man is getting himself together”. It’s at one of his work funerals that Matt begins to form a beautiful bond with Lovey, a young woman who’s experienced more pain and loss than even Matt can imagine. As Lovey opens Matt’s world and heart, they discover that they’re also bonded by a tragic moment that shaped both their lives. Readers will hope with all their hearts that Lovey and Matt’s futures are presaged by Bob Marley’s “every little thing gonna be alright” lyrics that ring out during a momentous shared taxi ride. Boldly honest and bathed in empathy, Matt’s all-consuming, touching tale possesses a rare power to leave a lasting imprint.
“There are some things that shape every minute of forever”, and seventeen-year-old Lexi knows that more than most. Five years ago her life was thrown into turmoil by her older brother’s horrific actions, actions that left her traumatised, stigmatised and excruciatingly conflicted: “How do you condemn your own brother?” Now Lexi’s goal is to “survive a full school year - 180 days - hiding behind a new name, new home, new persona”, this time living with her aunt. Seeing as her “history always finds a way to suffocate everyone in its path,” Lexi fears getting close to anyone, but she strikes up a friendship with Ryan who’s also “wrapped in secrets”, and then embarks on a magnificent romance with Marcus, who shares her experience of being an outcast. I loved the powerfully positive portrayal of both Marcus and Ryan - it was refreshing to encounter such compassionate, non-judgmental, luminously 3D teen boy characters. The novel is brilliant in its portrayal of relatable real-life, coming-of-age universals - fitting in, standing out, anxieties, friendships, falling in love - within the context of Lexi’s agonising situation. Her story is impressively honest in its portrayal of life’s darknesses, and also shot-through with heart and hope as she finds friends she can truly trust, and her own inner strength to survive.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | May 2019 Book of the Month | “I am normal. I like being normal”. Such is the mantra of fifteen-year-old Sam. But when he’s uprooted from his Stevenage comp and thrust into the North London Academy for the Gifted and Talented being normal just doesn’t cut it. Simple as. No ifs or buts. To fit in at this “poncey arty farty school” for “Exactly the Kind of People [Sam] Instinctively Hated”, a person needs to stand out. Gel one’s hair in eight directions. Be the offspring of, for example, an Argentinian tango dancer, or a French electro-pop pioneer. The comic characterisation of Sam and his family is as impeccably tuned as a Primrose Hill piano, from his mum’s foray into Hampstead yummy mummy blogger-dom, to his unicorn-obsessed little sister. Sam’s hilariously honest, self-deprecating tone is utterly engaging and put me in mind of an older incarnation of Luke from David Solomons’s fabulously funny Superhero books. Talking of funny, Sam’s turning point turns out to be his talent for comedy (“making people laugh was a thrilling buzz”), and so he finds himself in the unlikely position of performing in the school play. This entertaining romp around pressures to fit in and teenage boy-dom in all its involuntary undercarriage-twitching awkwardness truly shows the diverse talent of its author, whose previous YA novels are every bit as brilliant, but have heavier themes. This is a laugh-out-loud witty wonder of a book.
Hang in there. Sometimes your kids just don't want to read. It might be the content or style of the book that fails to grab their attention, especially as children grow older and might feel they have moved on from a genre or author they once loved. Children can sometimes lose confidence in their reading ability, particular when compared to friends or classmates. There might be new distractions, sport or music or other extracurricular activities that are now competing for their attention. And as children get older they tend to move away from the bedtime story ritual, and might replace that precious reading time before sleep with gaming, social media or other screen based entertainment.
But never fear! We have a wide range of page-turners we think are perfect for less confident or unenthusiastic readers.
Our recommended reads are from both mainstream and specialist publishers. Specialist publishers tend to focus on titles for readers whose reading age is lower than the interest age so if you have a child who finds reading difficult, or who aren’t yet ready to cope with long books, or who simply don’t enjoy books then try one of these titles - each will be clearly marked with its reading age and interest age. The specialist publisher Barrington Stoke is a past master at convincing reluctant readers that books are cool and is at the forefront of this specialist publishing. Their books are short, sharp and sound, skilfully written by some of the top children’s authors around and edited with real flair.
When a reader is hooked on a story, their reading ability will improve and reading becomes a habit. The books in this section have exciting, gripping, absorbing stories. We’ve thought long and hard about the selection and we feel every one of the books selected provides a powerful and unputdownable story, even for the most sceptical reader.
Our lists is broken down by age of child. Books that are given two age ranges have a content that is suitable and relevant to a wider age range, but the reading age is shown as the primary age range.
You might also be interested in our Dyslexia-Friendly Super-Readable books, printed in a special dyslexia-friendly font created to make reading easier, with accessible layouts and spacing to stop the page from becoming overcrowded and are printed on paper with a gentle tint to help reduce visual stresses.
The Little Gems series are perfect for reluctant readers with quality stories, short chapters and highly illustrated, and cover a wide range of fiction and non-fiction themes to suit every reader. The reading age is 5-8 but the content is suitable to 7-10 year old dyslexic and struggling readers.
And the experts at Barrington Stoke have put together a great guide with top tips to help you help your child to love reading - you can download it here.
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