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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
August 2020 Debut of the Month | It's 200 years since Cinderella found her prince, but the fairytale is over. Sophia knows the story though, off by heart. Because every girl has to recite it daily, from when she's tiny until the night she's sent to the royal ball for choosing. And every girl knows that she has only one chance. For the lives of those not chosen by a man at the ball ... are forfeit. But Sophia doesn't want to be chosen - she's in love with her best friend, Erin, and hates the idea of being traded like cattle. And when Sophia's night at the ball goes horribly wrong, she must run for her life. Alone and terrified, she finds herself hiding in Cinderella's tomb. And there she meets someone who will show her that she has the power to remake her world ... An electrifying twist on the classic fairytale that will inspire girls to break out of limiting stereotypes and follow their dreams!
Book Band: Grey Ideal for ages 8+ | Maxx the alien is sent to earth to study humans and specifically to learn about their feelings. His education comes on in leaps and bounds when he makes a human friend, Jibreel. The two have fun together, but there are real worries and sadnesses in Jibreel’s life too – he’s a refugee and is separated from his mother, and to a group of boys in his class, he’s the ‘alien’. Fortunately, Maxx is there to apply his other-worldly logic to the problem. Zanib Mian has a real gift for comedy and dialogue too and this is extremely funny, while at the same time it makes some very serious points. In the new Bloomsbury Readers series, the story is perfect for children growing reading confidence and understanding, with short chapters and frequent illustrations. A separate ‘Reading Zone’ section at the end lists discussion points and also encourages readers to think about the book’s narrative structure.
March 2020 Debut of the Month | Shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2020 | Winner of the Older Readers' category of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2020 | Told in narrator Newt’s distinctive phonetic English, this dark debut dazzles with originality and delivers a potent case for combatting inequality. Bearmouth is home to a grim mining business, where men and children labour under inhumane conditions to make their Master wealthy. They work under the earth, under the omniscient Mayker who - so workers are told - “sen us down into the dark Earf/To atone for the sins o our forefarvers an muvvers”. Naïve Newt hasn’t seen daylight in years, but takes pride in being taught to read and write by fatherly Thomas, blithely accepting this lot until the arrival of new boy Devlin. Devlin’s talk of “revolushun” makes Newt feel that things are “unravellin slowly slowly lyke a bootlayce comin all undun.” Life in Bearmouth is beyond bleak, but the sparks of Devlin’s revolutionary spirit catch light and drive Thomas to ask the Master for “more coinage” for the workers, to question why they must pay for essential clothes, to demand to know when the promised safety lamps are coming. Then when tragedy strikes, Newt too realises that things “ent bloody well ryte” and takes on Devlin’s insurgent tendencies, with explosive effects. Emotionally engaging, this searingly original novel about standing up to abuses of power and fighting for freedom is radiant with story-telling excellence. The Branford Boase judges said : ‘Astounding!’; ‘I loved every single second’; ‘plot, story and voice are superb’; ‘I was totally invested in the characters’; ‘interesting, challenging and original’.
In a Nutshell: Inter-galactic girl power The all-female crew of a glass starship find themselves in the firing line of a fearsome bounty hunter in this high-energy, epically-plotted sci-fi YA-fusion. Andi is captain of the Marauder starship. To her crew, she’s simply their strong commander, leading them on a regular, run-on-the-mill mission. But Andi has a secret. To others, she’s known as the Bloody Baroness, a ruthless mercenary whose power extends throughout the galaxy. This double-life begins to unravel at breakneck speed when the Marauder journeys into unfamiliar territory, and the crew find themselves at the mercy of a figure from Andi’s past. And that’s just the start of it… Co-written by two women, one a prominent Book Tuber, this sprawling space opera epic is packed with plenty of paranoia, intrigue and all-out action, and comes recommended for fans of YA fantasy who are looking to broaden the boundaries of their reading galaxy. ~ Joanne Owen
April 2017 Debut of the Month | In a nutshell: cybernetic adventure galore as boffin boy hero takes on the bad guys | There’s something special about William Wenton: he can crack any code, solve any puzzle faster than you can say Bletchley Park. His grandfather was the same, until he disappeared in mysterious circumstances. When the bad guys turn up for William he’s rescued by his grandfather’s friends who take him to an extraordinary secret laboratory full of amazing mechanical creatures, and then the adventures really starts. Alex Rider-level thrills and a host of amazing gadgets, many of them animate, give this the page-turner prize and it’s definitely a case of brains over brawn. ~ Andrea Reece
In a tradition of stories going right back to Beowulf, referenced in the book, this is a tale of stolen treasure, trickery and courage. Aidan is struggling to keep things together at home: his mother has been sectioned and his father seems almost paralysed with despair. It falls to Aidan to deliver the sacks of mail his postman father is hiding in their garden shed. So when thieves steal his bike Aidan has to go after them. It’s here that magic – old magic – intrudes into the contemporary setting. There are no portals suddenly opening, it’s not the sort of magic to bring special powers; hard to define, harder to pin down – ‘a sort of stillness that moved’ says Aidan – human lives are of no consequence to it and if Aidan emerges a hero it’s due to his own strengths. Gripping, compulsive reading, an exceptional book. Authors Sara Crowe (Bone Jack), Rupert Wallis (All Sorts of Possible) and Natasha Carthew (The Light that Gets Lost) all understand old magic and have written similarly powerful and enthralling stories. ~ Andrea Reece
June 2017 Book of the Month | In a nutshell: rollicking, thought-provoking dystopian adventure | As the TV series of The Handmaid’s Tale sets everyone thinking, publication of Who Runs the World? seems very timely. It imagines a very different dystopian future to Attwood’s, one in which women are in charge. A generation after a deadly virus wiped out all the men, lead character River has grown up in an all-female world, looked after by a community of ‘mummas’ and ‘granmummas’. The general peace and harmony of their lives is shockingly disturbed when River finds a teenage boy, sick but alive. The book examines not just our attitudes to gender but poses wider questions about politics, power and the way we operate as a society. Bergin keeps the tension high throughout, the action unfolding at almost breathless speed, but still manages to intersperse humour and moments of tenderness. Read it and think! ~ Andrea Reece
February 2018 Debut of the Month In a nutshell: sci-fi and fantasy blend in high-action, thought-provoking adventure Musician and entertainer will.i.am has collaborated with science of the future specialist Brian David Johnson to create an epic adventure. WaR seamlessly combines fantasy favourites wizards with robots, long beloved in sci-fi but now accepted as a crucial part of all our futures. Flipping back and forth in time, it stars feisty teenager Sara, whose mother is creating the first fully intelligent robot. This puts Sara at the centre of a power struggle, spanning centuries, between wizards and robots. As the story unfolds however, Sara must reconcile the two factions to defeat a common enemy. In this she’s helped by a young wizard called Geller and a robot, Kaku. Intriguing, refreshing and packed full of ideas, the momentum of the story sweeps readers along to its dramatic conclusion (at the CERN institute!). Real science is scattered throughout, and sci-fi has never seemed so now. ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: thoroughly charming and original fantasy adventure Joan Lennon’s new fantasy adventure is hugely entertaining, with a vividly described other/future world, and as unusual and appealing band of unlikely heroes as you could hope to meet. When they realise that the mountain on which they live is moving, Pema’s family send him to the nuns on its summit for help. Things don’t go to plan, and instead Pema and a girl called Singay, reluctant and rebellious novice, break into the mountain itself. There they find Rose, an alien, inadvertently responsible for the moving mountain. The three set off together to save the world, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Their journey will be dangerous, and full of more unexpected adventures. Lennon breathes real life into the quest formula, filling the story with light, life and humour, and making us feel more and more attached to her characters as the story unfolds. ~ Andrea Reece One to recommend to fans of Angie Sage and the Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell.
Filled with camaraderie, wit, action and intelligence, the second book in S. J. Kincaid's futuristic trilogy (the first of which was Insignia) continues to explore fascinating and timely questions about power, politics, technology, loyalty and friendship. There are nefarious new enemies to outwit, old friendships that take on new faces, a romance that Tom is encouraged to betray, and an increasing desire on Tom's behalf to demand nothing less than 'justice for all' - even if he sabotages his own future in the process. But what will his idealism cost? Vortex is the second book in the Insignia Trilogy - we invited our Lovereading4kids kid reading panel to review the first in the series, Insignia - click here to read what they thought.
Interest Age 9+ Reading Age 8 | Set in a future world in which kids risk their lives for real playing an online fantasy game, Virus is a nerve-tingling combination of science-fiction and martial arts extravaganza. Scott knows that playing Virtual Kombat will put his life in danger, but the only way to destroy the game is from the inside, and he really wants to avenge the death of his friend. In this he’s helped by a group of techno-hackers, but when it comes to the crunch, his tae kwon do skills mean he’s on his own against powerful opponents. Chris Bradford is an expert at keeping the tension high and this is page-turning, super-readable adventure.
Earthling Tommy and his four Milky Way friends are Galactic Knights - on a mission to save the Universe from pending destruction. Time is running out and the knights have many challenges in their way: they face the dreaded Beast of Hellsbells, must resist the allure of fame on an intergalactic gameshow and escape the deathly intents of the sherbet-addicted Nack Jickelson and the suicidal Chocolate Terrorists. All the while evil mastermind A-Sad-Bin-Liner is planning to unleash his plot of mass destruction and Tommy will be forced to choose between his friends and his ambition, between the universe and his own life.
The hilarious adventures of earthling Tommy Storm as he is suddenly transported to join a training school in the Milky Way. Is Tommy, a well-known loser on earth, about to become the saviour of earth and the universe? Not if evil mastermind A-Sad-Bin-Liner succeeds in unleashing his plot of mass destruction. The intergalactic adventures are action packed and totally compelling. It's funny, fast-paced science fiction for fans of Star Wars, Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Space Balls and Red Dwarf.
This is a fantastic new series, perfect for boys aged 6+ who are just starting out on the fun of reading alone, or perhaps for those boys who aren’t yet hooked on reading but will become so having met Tommy Niner, from award-winning and bestselling author Tony Bradman. He has created, in Tommy Niner a nine-year old boy whose home is a spaceship along with his dad, grand dad and the Stardust’s onboard computer Ada. Wild and wacky adventures ensue and they do get themselves in a bit of danger from time to time but each time one of them manages to save the day. There will be more Tommy Niner adventures to come.
March 2018 Debut of the Month | In a nutshell: robot story with real heart Christopher is a ‘proper’: a real boy with a soul. His best friends Jack, Rob, Manda and Gripper are ‘mechanicals’ riveted together from metal and wires, but still some of the warmest and most real characters you will ever meet in fiction. When strange facts about Christopher’s past come to light, he is stolen away, and his mechanical friends put themselves in real danger to bring him back. With elements of The Wizard of Oz and a touch of Philip K. Dick, Pádraig Kenny has created a thoroughly intriguing and involving adventure story full of characters that readers will really care about. He also poses interesting and important questions about what being human means. This is a story to recommend to fans of Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart or Philip Reeve’s epic Mortal Engines series. ~ Andrea Reece
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