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Informative, candid and trusted, book reviews by our own book experts are unique to LoveReading4Kids. But the children of our loyal members are also prolific readers with a real passion for sharing their love of books. So, we decided to invite them to join what we are now calling the 'Children's LoveReading4Kids Reader Review Panel'. All the titles in this category have not only been selected and reviewed by our editorial experts but they have also been reviewed by our kids reader review panel, a panel of book lovers across the UK.
June 2021 Book of the Month | Honest, authentic and (ultimately) uplifting, Holly Bourne’s The Yearbook will strike a powerful chord with young women on the brink of leaving secondary school. Realistically raw in its portrayal of toxic relationships (from poisonous school peers to abusive partners), with an underdog protagonist readers will wholeheartedly root for, and a sweet, slow-burning romance that will melt the most cynical of hearts, this is classic contemporary YA. Budding journalist Paige lives a lonely, isolated life - “the undeniable truth was that I was invisible as well as unlovable. Nobody could see me see me at all, let alone look at me and see the potential to store their heart there. People don’t fall in love with wallpaper. Or silence.” At the same time, her parents’ marriage shows the jeopardies of falling in love with the wrong person. She and her mum walk on eggshells around her erratic, coercively controlling dad who flips from jolly joker to enraged monster over the tiniest thing. At least Paige has the school newspaper to keep her occupied - until it’s hijacked by malicious narcissists from the official Leavers’ Committee who want to create a yearbook. As Paige’s family life disintegrates, she realises that the infiltrators steering the yearbook are re-writing history. The same goes for Paige’s dad and his ilk - people who think “they’re the hero of their own story, but, actually, in the pursuit of being so important, they’re often the villain of everyone else’s”. Thankfully, though, hope comes in the form of her independent-minded aunt Polly (“she seemed to genuinely care for me”) and soul-lifting Elijah, who supports Paige’s quest to find her voice and speak the truth after they meet through a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.
June 2021 Book of the Month | Set in an unspecified time not too dissimilar to now, and in a country that strongly resembles our own, this tense, gripping graphic novel demonstrates just how quickly civilisation can fall apart. Bea lives with her dad, big sister and little brother; her mother has already had to flee their country, which is in the midst of a civil war, the forces of the state fighting the rebel Free Kingdom movement, with civilians bearing the brunt, enduring food shortages, power cuts and bomb attacks along with casual brutality from both sides. The family know they’ll have to leave soon, and the book describes the events that trigger their decision to go and live as refugees. The story describes what it’s like to live in a society where trust has collapsed, and where everyone is scared and desperate. But it underlines too the power of family to hold together during the most difficult times and the importance of hope. Powerful and original, it makes for thought-provoking reading, text and illustrations carrying a very strong message. Brian Conaghan explores similar territory in his prize-winning dystopian novel The Bombs That Brought Us Together while the refugee experience is captured in A M Dassau’s Boy, Everywhere.
Kids are always being told that if they ‘dream their dreams’ one day those dreams will come true. ‘Living the dream’ is a very different experience for 11-going-on-12-year-old Malky in Ross Welford’s absorbing, vastly entertaining novel. Blackmailed into a bungled burglary, Malky becomes owner of a set of Dreaminators, mysterious machines that make dream worlds real and give the dreamer powers to control them. At first, Malky and his co-dreamer, little brother Seb, enjoy their night-time adventures, especially those in a Stone Age world closely based on Seb’s favourite storybook where they make friends, go hunting, and Seb has high hopes of riding a mammoth. If it seems too good to be true, of course it is, and as Malky’s ability to control what’s happening in his dreams weakens, everything – awake or asleep – starts to go wrong. When Seb is taken prisoner in a dream and falls into a life-threatening coma in real life, Malky has to face up to his responsibilities, not to mention the fears and anger his dreams have disguised, in one last terrifying dream. At least he has new friends there to help. The story is cleverly told and plotted, moving back and forward in time, from dream to reality, with Doctor Who ease. It’s full of humour too, e.g. a wonderful scene in the school canteen in which Malky does all the things he’s always dreamed of doing, not realising he’s actually awake. Core too are the really big things in life – friendship, love, family, learning about yourself and understanding others. It’s a book that delights in the fact that the inside of our head is bigger far than the outside. Readers who enjoy Welford’s excellent books will also race through Christopher Edge’s out-of-this world adventures.
The Devonian period is often called ‘the Age of the Fishes’, and of all the fishes, the Dunkleosteus was the scariest and most powerful of all, the apex predator. Huge, with an armoured head, and the fastest bite you can imagine, it ate everything, including other Dunkleosteuses (i?). None of that helped of course when the Dunkleosteus faced a mass extinction event, in its case, it was a victim of the Late Devonian mass extinction, the only one that might have been caused by trees. In the second in his excellent series on extinction, Ben Garrod brings this amazing creature back to life, and explains all that we think happened during the Late Devonian era. This is non-fiction at its very best – completely up to date, packed with information explained clearly and through some excellent analogies, it tells us everything about the period and creature in question, and lots about our own world too. Buy the set!
Kirsty Applebaum’s The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke takes a timeless folkloric concept and transforms in into a heartfelt contemporary story that will surely grip readers who enjoy adventures infused with magic. “The buzzing shifts. Shudders down my neck. Squeezes past my shoulder, my elbow, my hand. Pushes out through the ends of my fingers.” That’s how Lonny Quicke experiences his special, secret gift. He’s a lifelong, which means he has the power to heal and bring creatures back from the dead. But, as he explains, “talents like this don’t come free, you know. There’s always a price. Give a bit of life, lose a bit of life.” That is to say, by extending the lives of others, he shortens his own, which is why Lonny’s watchmaker dad keeps him and his little brother in the forest, safe from the rest of the world. The thrilling climax that surges during the Farstoke Lifeling Festival will keep readers on the edge of their seats, willing all to be well for Lonny and Midge as they face tremendous decisions and high-risk situations. Exploring loss and illness within its folkloric premise, this is a thoughtful tale, told with clarity and heart.
May 2021 Book of the Month | With absolutely no sign of the tricky second novel syndrome following, as it swiftly does, the critically acclaimed Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates, Jenny Pearson shows again her ability to make the reader laugh aloud while also tackling some really emotional ‘big’ topics . As a primary teacher she knows her audience inside out and creates very real and believable characters even if they are involved in extraordinary adventures. The capacity of children to become obsessed with the Guinness Book of World Records is familiar to every librarian and so the theme of this story is spot on. Young readers will adore that every chapter is headed by ever more outlandish world records (and to read about the author’s own favourites at the end) and will relish the antics of Lucy and Sandesh in their record attempts. I love the fact that the text is peppered with Don’t Try this at Home warnings too! The lively illustrations only add to the book’s already significant shelf appeal. But it is the reason for the World Record attempt that gives the hilarity a much deeper impact. Lucy’s single parent Mum suffers from depression and is hospitalised at the beginning of the book. Lucy’s poignant quest to find her Mum’s happiness tellingly reveals the internal struggles of children faced with parental mental health issues and will provide an invaluable opportunity for other children to empathise or indeed talk about their own difficulties. The fact that Lucy realises that she does have a strong support network with her eccentric, yet wise, Aunt Sheila and with her incredibly loyal friend Sandesh, will provide these children with comfort and hope that things will get better. This novel positively sparkles with kindness, heart and humour and I predict young readers will be fighting to get hold of it!
May 2021 Book of the Month | Despite being set in the 1920’s in the imaginary country of Afalia, this stunning and inventive story, from twice Carnegie medal winning author McCaughrean, has powerful messages about the current state of politics, big business and environmental exploitation in our world and most loudly of all about the need for reliable and independent news sources. The story is partly revealed by facsimile newspaper cuttings and it is fascinating to see the progression from real information to manipulation of popular opinion by ruthless and deadly corrupt officials. Gloria, a naive 15-year-old maid to the Suprema, Alfalia’s ruler, is at the heart of the story. As flooding and disaster threaten to overwhelm the country, the Suprema runs away, and Gloria is inveigled by the Suprema’s husband into temporarily impersonating her. As they discover the full extent of the corruption and misinformation, they face an uphill battle to save lives and stand up for what is right. Meanwhile a second narrative follows the fate of people in the neglected North (in another real life parallel) and a dog’s epic quest to find his boy. The canine conversations are just one of the pleasures provided in this multi-layered narrative populated by such a vivid cast of characters and with so many twists and turns keeping the reader enthralled. Ultimately the novel demonstrates the resilience of man and nature and the ability of people to do the right thing given half a chance. This really is vintage McCaughrean and highly recommended. As our Guest Editor in April 2021 Geraldine McCaughrean tells us more about The Supreme Lie and her other brilliant novels.
Fresh-voiced and thought-provoking contemporary YA exploring friendship, trust, messing up and trying to do the right thing in the aftermath of a teen girl going on the run with a teacher. Fabulously forthright Eden has always been the kind of student teachers “call ‘spirited’ when they're trying to be nice and 'disruptive' when they're not”. The last thing anyone expected was for her level-headed, flute-playing, star student bestie Bonnie to run off with the school music teacher, but that's exactly what happens, right before they're due to sit their GCSES, and Eden is the only one who knows where Bonnie is. She knows this is wrong, that Bonnie should come home, but she’s promised not to tell, and she can’t betray her friend. Bonnie was the one who made Eden feel at home in a new school when she was placed with a new foster family. Until Bonnie, Eden hadn't had a proper friend. And exploring friendship - how it feels, what it means, the joys, the obligations, the codes of loyalty - is at the heart of this involving novel. No one believes Eden when she says Bonnie hasn't been in touch, but how long can she keep lying? And what price will be paid for her loyalty, when she knows Bonnie is making a massive mistake? Alongside Eden’s struggle, understanding why Bonnie left is also thoughtfully explored - the pressures she put on herself to perform at school, the weight of expectation, the fears and doubts that made her more susceptible to grooming, the desire to feel understood. This novel tackles serious issues head-on, and with tremendous empathy, never shirking from the complexities of both Eden and Bonnie’s predicaments. Eden’s adoptive parents are a delight, as is her relationship with super-sweet boyfriend, Connor. They’re true friends, and the very model of a healthy relationship: loving, supportive and respectful of each other. Sara Bernard has done it again.
Sixteen-year-old Steffi has been selectively mute since she was five. No-one really knows why, least of all her, but teenage readers will recognise the different pressures that she feels so acutely. Her mutism heightens her loneliness, and the loss of her much-loved step-brother in an accident has added terribly to her isolation. We meet her as she’s starting sixth form, set on reaching university, the pressure to speak greater than it’s ever been. Things change when Steffi meets Rhys, who is deaf. Steffi can sign and as their relationship grows we realise that real communication takes many forms. This is very much a story of two individuals but it will resonate with readers, who will understand Steffi’s problems, and be reassured by its message that you don’t have to be noisy to have lots to say, or to be heard. Readers will also enjoy Holly Bourne’s excellent Spinster Club books, or the Zelah Green books by Vanessa Curtis. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
16-year-old Brightonians Caddy and Rosie have been best friends all their lives, their relationship enduring even when Caddy’s aspirational parents send her to a private school. But when an enigmatic new girl arrives at Rosie’s comprehensive, Caddy’s longing for “something of some significance to happen” in her “hopelessly average” life is set in motion, along with a shift in the dynamic of her relationship with Rosie. While Caddy is initially terrified that the beautiful, impulsive Suzanne will replace her, the three of them form a deep friendship. As Suzanne’s self-destructiveness escalates, it emerges that she’s struggling to cope with the ordeal of having suffered physical abuse at the hands of her stepfather, and Caddy finds herself laying everything on the line to save her downward spiraling friend.This powerful, punch-packing debut is an utterly compelling, authentic portrait of the intricate ebbs and flows of friendship, and of a young adult trying to navigate the tempestuous waters of past traumas. Accessible and profoundly moving, Caddy, Rosie and Suzanne’s story is sure to resonate with many a young woman - a phenomenal feat for any writer, let alone a first-time novelist.
May 2021 Book of the Month | Multi-award-winning Brian Conaghan specialises in misfits, characters on the edge looking in, and he has a wonderful ear for authentic dialogue and for giving us male protagonists with emotional depth. He creates characters that rapidly find a place in your heart and who will make you laugh out loud and shed a few tears. This is the first time that he has written for a younger audience and does so without losing any of his trademark authenticity or sharp, wisecracking dialogue. Brian’s older teen fans will also find this an enjoyable read. Lenny blames himself and his size for everything. He believes his Mum and Dad blame him too. His beloved older brother is in a Young Offenders Institute as a result of defending Lenny against some thugs beating him up. His coping strategy is to hide and his favourite bunking off school place is a canal side bench. Tossing his IrnBru can into the canal introduces him to Bruce- another outsider- living in a cardboard home hidden away on the bank. Despite this traumatic start the pair strike up a life-changing friendship. The reader will gradually get to hear their stories as Lenny is able to talk to Bruce, unlike his parents or teachers and inveigles him into helping to avoid a school dilemma and then to accompany him on an epic journey to see his brother. But Bruce is no pushover and Lenny has to face up to some stiff challenges in return and in so doing discovers courage, resilience and talents that he would not have believed he had. We eventually learn Bruce’s heart-breaking story too, but without any saccharine ending we feel there is hope and a future for both. Warm hearted and memorable this should go to the top of your wishlist for school libraries and every child's bookshelf. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
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.
Unrivalled in his capacity to conjure soulful truths that transcend time and place, David Almond’s writing never fails to get to the very heart of what it is to be human and, though its setting is modern, Bone Music is a sublimely timeless masterpiece - a raw, pure, measuredly lyrical story of a girl discovering deep bonds to nature and the distant past. Underpinned by a belief that the world can be made a better place, it will appeal to a broad range of 11+-year-olds (and adults), from dedicated bookworms, to more reluctant readers. “Why had her bliddy mother brought her here?” city girl Sylvia complains. There’s no phone signal in the wilds of Northumberland, where her mother was born, where they’re currently staying. On her first night here, Sylvia is disturbed by haunting music: “It was like something she’d dreamed before, like something coming from inside her as well as from outside her, like something she’d heard before.” Then she meets a young musician, Gabriel, who wisely remarks - out of the blue - that “the world’s bloody awful, isn’t it? … It’s bloody awful and it isn’t bloody awful. It’s bloody marvellous”. Through their forest wandering and fashioning of a bone flute from the wing of a dead buzzard, Sylvia sees the world anew and experiences life’s “bloody marvellous” aspects. As Gabriel explains, bone flutes “were used to charm the living. They were used to call the dead”, and they were used in ancient rites of passage. The magic of bone music and nature casts an unceasing spell on Sylvia (“the beauty of the world poured into her”), as does Gabriel. His wisdom has timely, timeless resonance: ‘‘Something’s wrong, isn’t it? Look at the state of the bliddy world. Look at all the anxious, troubled kids. We need more, don’t we?” And that, perhaps, gets to the heart of this remarkable book - it’s a story that stimulates reflection, provokes questions and prompts us to ask what we really need (and don’t need) while celebrating primal connections to the earth and the ancient past. What a joy.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead writes books that are rich with ideas and acknowledge her readers’ intelligence and intuition. Eight-year-old Bea is the central character in her latest novel, and, typically, there’s lots going on in her life. She divides her time between her mother’s and father’s homes following their divorce and visits a therapist who helps with her anxieties. The story culminates in her father’s wedding to his new partner, Jesse. As ever, we move back and forth in time, and discover much about Bea’s inner life as well as her daily routine in New York. Relationships with family and friends propel the story and there are some real shocks and surprises for readers, plus a gradual understanding of the things that will never change for Bea. It’s beautifully written, a thoughtful, sensitive account of growing up and growing resilience and trust. Fans of Rebecca Stead will also enjoy Kate DiCamillo’s books and Susin Nielsen’s.
"Ed loves reviewing the books and it definitely encourages his reading, both solo and with me (which I love)." Tracey Parker (parent)
"Daniel has seen his review on the website for The Dark – he is so excited!" Cat Bisland (parent)
Since its inception, LoveReading4Kids and its sister site LoveReading have taken a different approach to book reviews, relying uniquely on the selection and review of books by editorial experts. On LoveReading4Kids one of our expert reviewers is Julia Eccleshare (who is also the Children's Books Editor at The Guardian) and she knows what makes a good read whatever the genre and actually reads the books before telling you what she thinks - radical we know, but sometimes old-fashioned ways are the best.
In 2012 however, to complement our expert reviews we decided to invite children of LoveReading4Kids members to join the newly created Kids Reader Review Panel.
We've now attracted over 500 children aged from 4 right up to late teen and 100's of books have now been read and reviewed by them. Many of them even have their own book blogs and help us to spread the word of mouth still further on a book they've enjoyed.
Panel members reviews are loaded onto the site and complement those of our own Lovereading editorial experts. We're even now receiving feedback from visitors to LoveReading4Kids that the 'Kids Reader Review Panel' reviews are as valued as those of our own LoveReading book experts! With that in mind, we thought it would be very helpful to everyone if we created a category and put all the books that have also been reviewed by some of our Kids Reader Review Panel members, in one easy to find place.
Here are a few testimonials from parents, teachers and importantly direct from some of our 'Kids Reader Review Panel'
The whole class are desperate to get copies of your books and are disappointed if their name doesn't come out of the hat. The more books the better! I've gone from having a class of boys who won't read to a class who get upset if they don't get chosen to read. It's brilliant! Jane Edwards, Little Sutton Primary School, Ellesmere Port (Teacher)
I just wanted to say thanks for the opportunity to do this for your site. Ed loves reviewing the books and it definitely encourages his reading, both solo and with me (which I love). Tracey Parker (parent)
Daniel has seen his review on the website for The Dark – he is bringing it into school for Show and Tell on Friday – he is so excited! Cat Bisland (parent)
Just wanted to say thanks so much for uploading Cara's book review - she had the biggest smile ever when I showed it to her! It will have given her and her family a real boost. Great site too! Jill Rooney (parent)
Thanks for giving up the opportunity to review books for your website, this is proving really popular with our pupils and books are literally flying off my desk at the moment! It’s also great to see the reviews that the kids have written online Amy Bennett, Thomas Cowley School, Lincs (teacher)
The book reviewing has been a real treat for us, thank you for a wonderful experience. Tracey Upchurch (parent)
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