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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.
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.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Bravo to Jonathan Stroud! With its cast of charismatic characters and extraordinary world-building (think broken Britain with Wild West vibes), The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne is an audacious firecracker. And, in even better news for fans of funny, inventive adventure fiction, this is but the beginning of what’s set to be an extraordinary series. “Britain was a land of ruin…the country was maimed and broken - but full of strange fecundity and strength”. It’s also brimming with the likes of bears, wolves, flesh-eating spear-birds and gruesome cannibal creatures, all of which whip-smart, cuss-uttering Scarlett takes into her swaggering stride. She makes an unforgettable impression from the off: “A slight slim figure in a battered brown coat, weighed down with…all the paraphernalia of a girl who walked the Wilds.” After killing four grown men who’d tried to rob her, Scarlett struts into a bank and proceeds to hold it up (turns out she needs money to repay a debt). On fleeing the scene, Scarlett finds a crashed bus, all its passengers dead but for a lone boy hiding in the toilet. Enter Albert Browne, “awkward, skinny and wide-mouthed, like a frightened skeleton”, and seemingly a piece of powdery chalk to Scarlett’s pungent cheese. Her scathing sarcasm (and Albert’s obliviousness to it) provides many a laugh: “You just holler if I get in your way,” she seethes as he admires a seed pod while she sets about making a fire, cooking a bird and establishing a camp for them, and all while they’re being pursued. But, for all his unworldliness, Albert turns out to have hidden talents. Sensing he might be of use to her after all, Scarlett agrees to help him accomplish his own mission. Albert wants to reach the Free Isles, remnants of London that “don’t have any restrictions on who you are or what you can do. They welcome people who are...different”, unlike the dictatorial High Council of the Faith Houses, which is “desperate to keep the old ways going”, and “on the watch for any kind of deviation.” Trouble is, as their respective pursuers close in, time and space is running out for our unforgettable outlaws. What a story, what characters, and what a wait it will be until the second instalment. I defy any reader not to fall for Scarlett and Albert, and to become gasp-out-loud, laugh-out-loud invested in their quest.
April 2021 Debut of the Month | Alfie Blackstock isn’t surprised to find himself an orphan. After all, his parents had always been careless. Comic, intriguing, full of possibilities, this opening sets the tone for the book that follows. Adopted by his aunts Gertrude and Zita, who we quickly realise are witches, Alfie settles into a new life in the remote village of Little Snoddington. He’s in need of friends his own age, if only to share all the extraordinary things that go on around him, and the arrival of the Famous Fagan Family Circus provides just that, in the form of daring young trapeze artists Calypso. When Calypso’s sister disappears, Alfie is there to help even though that means taking on the evil Head Witch – it’s what friends are for, after all. Full of humour and excitement, and with a proper emphasis on the importance of bravery, loyalty and friendships, Jess Kidd’s adventure story will delight young readers. One to recommend to fans of Nevermoor and Abi Elphinstone’s Unmapped Chronicles series.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Michelle Paver has done it again in the eighth book in her epic, emotional Chronicles of Ancient Darkness Stone Age series that began with Wolf Brother. Skin Taker reels with a rollercoaster sense of adventure, shadowy atmosphere and an infectious spirit of survival as Torak, Renn and Wolf must find new ways to exist during the midwinter Dark Time, when new dangers are awoken and devastation looms. Torak remains the brave, brash protagonist readers have long known and admired, yet his character has been deftly developed too, and he’s here presented with fierce challenges - and responses - that befit his experiences. Though its setting is aeons ago, and though Torak’s world is suffused in otherworldly spirit magic, Paver has a remarkable skill for making her stories richly relatable. The emotional dilemmas and relationships have resonance; the detail and atmosphere of the natural world are truly tangible, and what an exhilarating immersion in the wild this offers adventure-seeking readers. Read a Q&A with Michelle Paver about Viper's Daughter, as she returned to the Wolf Brother series after over a decade.
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.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2021 | Fitting in is hard for most teenagers because it is a time when being the same and therefore accepted seems the most important thing. And Sander has a particular problem because he has Silver-Russell syndrome, a condition which affects one in a hundred thousand, which means he will always be shorter than everyone else. Sander has to work through all the familiar feelings of being an outsider while also dealing with feelings that relate especially to knowing that he will always be so short. But gradually Sander discovers that much about conforming is unimportant and that what matters most to him, friendship in particular, is not affected by his size. Beautifully observed, this captures so much about adolescence from many angles and, in doing so, celebrates the importance of accepting difference. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
March 2021 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2021 | Catherine Doyle brilliantly weaves together magic and mythology and friendship and weather in a story that blows the reader along with the Storm Keepers themselves. Can Fionn Boyle keep Arranmore safe from the Morrigan and her brothers? Will the magic in the last candle be enough? Catherine Doyle is a gifted story teller. While she conjures up enough terrifying dark moments as the battle against the forces of darkness rage to give a real sense of fear she is also warm hearted and has the lightest of touches. The result is the creation of a magical world that will captivate readers.
Five fantastic children on the adventure of a lifetime | Warm-hearted and mysterious The Unadoptables is a wonderfully entertaining adventure with a cast of fascinating characters set in a brilliantly evoked old-world Amsterdam and the surrounding countryside. Following the clues from the only possessions she was left with when she was abandoned as a baby and guided by her ‘Book of Theories’, the imaginative Milou leads her four friends – the least adoptable children in the very horrible Little Tulip Orphanage – to her family home where she is sure she will find her parents. Travelling through a freezing night the children arrive at their destination. But there is not the welcome they had expected. Where are Milou’s parents? And what is the mystery they need to solve? The creative ways in which the five children manage first to escape from the evil clutches of their matron and her evil accomplice Rotman and then to make a new life for themselves bamboozling neighbours and unravelling the mystery is vivid and captivating.
"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)