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April 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.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | What happens when Mum and Dad can no longer rely on technology to keep them informed? Following a nationwide collapse in everything technical, Stella’s family sets off to visit Grandma on the other side of the country because they can’t reach her on Skype. It’s a road trip with a difference – no phones, no sat nav, no paying for a meal with a credit card. Stella makes a great narrator as she watches her father, shorn of his usual helping tools, navigate this new situation. In doing so she lightly reveals the pitfalls that would beset us all if all the screens went blank while also gently leading readers to see that there could be some benefits.
Gripping from the first moment on, this is a scary, an unputdownable and a brilliantly plotted fantasy. One minute all the adults are there - next they're gone! Only the children remain and they are trapped, cut off from the outside world and, scarily, left to rule themselves. Can they survive? With no guidance, gangs start to form. Danger lurks at every corner and everyone has to make a choice – to be cruel or humane. It’s a chilling prospect and the new world order is scary for all. It's Lord of the Flies for the Heroes generation with just a dash of the X-Men thrown in for good measure.
This is the third in this hi-octane thriller featuring four teenagers, each of whom have different psychic powers, which together can defeat almost anything. The problem is that government agents want them to help to infiltrate the criminal underworld but of course the criminal world also want them to help fulfil their crimes. As with the first two this one is relatively short and a real page-turning read.
The fourth in this hi-octane series featuring four teenagers, each of whom have different psychic powers, who together can defeat almost anything. One of them Dylan has her hands chock full as she tries to discover the truth behind his father's death, the scientist who created the medusa gene that gives these children their powers. It's a roller coaster ride.
Set in a dystopian future world where the Earth has been overwhelmed with its own trash- an all too feasible scenario- and where the rubbish stored in space now completely encircles the planet. Very different life-styles have evolved, from the privileged few inhabiting the mountain top City of Glass and the earth dwellers scraping a living amongst the rusting junk below in Boxville- the City Of Rust. Above them all, the feared Junker clans make their fortunes mining the rubbish in space. There is a definite Star Wars feel to this setting enhanced by the drone racing that our heroine Railey and Atti her robotic gecko pilot excel in. Atti and their drone have been built by Ralley’s half Junker, master engineer, Gran. But when they are pursued by an apparent bounty hunter, Gran is lost, and they are rescued by two Junker kids. They discover a destiny for Atti and their drone that Gran had never revealed to them. Their task is to save the planet from extinction by a junk bomb and its powercrazed creator. The pace never lets up in this action-packed adventure. The wisecracking but caring relationship between Atti and Railey really engages the reader. The colourful and exotic cast of other characters and the vividly imagined world building will give this real appeal to gaming fans. A memorable debut.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2021 | Jokes a-plenty in this fresh and witty version of a Year 6 school camp with a difference. Set in a not-so-very-different space world in which the kids travel around on flykes and eat bounce cakes (the bounce ingredient ensures they bounce straight into your mouth when you drop them), it captures all the pleasure and pain of a residential school trip. Friendship, first love and having fun fuel this entertaining and slice-of-life story. A Moon Boy Loves My Best Friend is the third book in the Moon Girl series, but all of the books work perfectly as a standalone read.
You've heard of Little Badman, right? No? Oh. Well. . . Doesn't matter. You will do one day. He's gonna be big. Little Badman, aka Humza Khan, has saved the world TWICE. So it's lucky when Humza and his friends narrowly avoid being hit by rock from outer-space. What does get hit is a box of delicious samosas, which turn . . . Radioactive! Now the trio have superpowers, which is pretty cool. What's less cool is the giant hamsters on the loose. Looks like a job for Little Badman and his crew.
A brand new Skulduggery Pleasant novella for World Book Day: a hilarious and thrilling standalone story in the internationally bestselling series – perfect for new readers, and essential for Skulduggery fans… Three ancient gods are freed from their prison with only one desire: to destroy the planet and everyone on it. To save us all, Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie Cain must go undercover in a Dublin school. Skulduggery has to blend in with the teaching staff, while Valkyrie has to pass for an ordinary schoolgirl. Above all else, no matter what happens, they both must act completely and utterly normal. We are so dead.
The Cloud Children is a fantasy story for I’d say younger children. We meet brother and sister Simon and Katie and they are quickly whisked away on a cloud to start their year of adventures as Cloud Children. I found that everything moved quite quickly at the beginning, and I think there is some room for more detail early on, I would have liked to know more about Simon and Katie and their personalities as the story started. The interesting quirk to this storyline is that the siblings are chosen to serve as Cloud Children for a year, but when they arrive back home no time has passed at all (think Peter Pan but time stops so the parents can’t miss them?). I think that this has been included in the storyline as a reassurance for younger readers about Simon and Katie disappearing for a year of adventures. Part of their role as Cloud Children is to travel the world and help people. I think that this aspect of the novel is nice and allows for morals to be integrated into the story. There are also illustrations dotted throughout the book which I thought were a nice touch. In all, I think it is a nice adventure story. It’s a chapter book, although the chapters are quite short and I think that the story itself would appeal most to younger readers. Perhaps this is a book for readers looking to gain their independence, with some support from a parent or teacher.
Neal Shusterman’s incisive, inventive Game Changer raises the bar for speculative YA fiction as it confronts privilege, racism, sexism, homophobia and the devastating consequences of not speaking out head-on. It’s also an absolute page-turner, alive with relatable characters and authentic young adult voices. “There are choices we make, choices that are made for us, and things we ignore long enough until all choices have fallen away. I’ve been plenty guilty of ignoring stuff I don’t want to deal with.” This quote from protagonist Ash sums up the dominant sentiment underpinning this powerful novel. He’s a High Schooler with a diverse friendship group, which, at one time, he believed “checked my box of social responsibility. Like there was nothing more for me to do than have some brown at the table.” In Ash’s case that’s his Black best friend and team-mate Leo. A talented American footballer, Ash loves “the way it felt to smash through an offensive line”. Then, after one such smash, he finds himself knocked into a changed reality. At first, the shift in Ash’s universe is barely perceptible, but with each game, with each smash, he’s knocked into increasingly changed parallel worlds that provide jaw-dropping perspectives on our own. At one point he’s shifted into a shocking segregated reality in which all his teammates are white. Shusterman also shines a glaring light on coercively controlling relationships, homophobia and how “we vilify the difference in others” and “glorify the differences in ourselves.” Tension builds brilliantly as Ash works to return to his world with renewed insights, with the parallel world set-up serving as a smart allegory for us all to do better - to make choices that will make the world a fairer place. Through Ash readers are called to question their own actions - and inaction - such as when he admits that “Sometimes I would rationalize the intolerance of friends and look the other way. You know how a friend says a joke that maybe shouldn’t have been said? Rather than calling them out on it, you let it go. Pretend it doesn’t matter.” This gripping ground-breaker exposes the inexcusable upshots of looking the other way.
Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 | The sequel to The Starlight Watchmaker, which was much admired, The Deep-Sea Duke is a glorious and original story that, like much of the best fantasy, deals with real-life issues, such as climate change, identity and love. Android Hugo and baby planet Ada are spending the college holidays with their best friend Dorian on his home planet, Hydrox. Dorian is a prince and Hugo feels out of place and self-conscious from the minute the three of them step out of their spaceship. He’s upset too when Dorian tells that when their studies finish, he’s going to return to Hydrox permanently; will Hugo ever see his friend again? Things seldom turn out as we expect though, and an encounter with an influx of cute but snappy sea otters reveals Hugo as he really is, even to himself. Clever and strange and full of truths and insight, all delivered in a dyslexia-friendly 100 pages, this is another satisfying and eye-opening story from a writer who can always surprise. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+
Necropolis is a Young Adult dystopian fiction with a thrilling concept. In a time where society is becoming more restrictive and segregated, Wyn embarks on a perilous quest to prove the gender divide imposed by her society wrong, as she goes undercover in the army. Will the challenges she faces as a recruit on top of her fight to remain undercover derail her ambitions before she’s had time to achieve her goal? With mention of ‘The Breakdown’ and the illusive nature of the Necropolis, you are immediately drawn in to a different world. As I read I was keen to learn more about this world and Wyn’s journey. The plotline progresses quickly and this is a story that you could enjoy easily over a weekend. In a society that is quite this strict about the gender divide, I think that there could have been a bit more tension built as Wyn enquired about joining up, and I found Mrs Clay’s critical outbursts in History and eagerness to help Wyn a little bit overzealous and at odds with my expectations of a restricted society within a dystopian novel. Regardless of this I found the plotline enjoyable and Wyn very endearing. This is an interesting story.
Shortlisted for the Excelsior Award Black 16+ KS5 | One part thriller, one part meditation on a life of violence, Pulp is unlike anything award-winning Brubaker & Phillips have ever done before. This celebration of pulp fiction set in a world on the brink is another must-have hardcover from one of comics' most acclaimed teams.
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