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April 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.
From the agonising loneliness of grief, to the wonders of new friendships and a newfound father-son bond, Cath Howe’s How to be Me will stir readers to joy as it steers through Lucas’s profound sadness. His pitch-perfect narration is sublimely child-centred, with fine details that raise smiles and tug the heart. Tender and thoughtful, what a warm beam of a book this is, with the transformative, restorative power of music (and cats) threaded throughout. “Vanessa’s going to be your new mum, Lukie. You could at least look a bit excited about it.” Lucas’s dad’s words strike him to the core - his mum died three years ago, and Vanessa is nothing like her, while his wealthy banker dad is hardly ever around. Dad is a bluster of confidence, busyness, and quick fixes, which is why he sends Lucas to drama club - Dad thinks this will fix Lucas’s reluctance to speak up in public, but Lucas is horrified: “Why hadn’t Dad asked me? Why did he never ask me?” But that’s the thing about Dad - he always thinks he knows best, though he doesn’t know Lucas at all. Thankfully, the horrors of drama class shrink when Lucas befriends Keely and her beautiful, bighearted family. Keely is a delight - straight-talking, observant, funny, caring. Life also looks up also when his drama teacher realises he’s an incredible pianist. With an enthralling finale that builds in beautiful waves, and an inclusive, readable style, I adored every word of this treasure.
Zoe Antoniades’ stories of twins Cally and Jimmy are fantastically lively and lots of fun. There are four separate self-contained stories in the book, each one narrated by Cally, as she watches, exasperated, while her minutes-younger brother gets into trouble again and again. She knows Jimmy can’t help it really – he has ADHD – and always sticks by him so that things have a habit of working out well in the end. Their Greek family, especially their Yiaiyia (Granny), are another of the joys of the book and one episode describes their trip to Cyprus, where Jimmy outdoes himself causing chaos. The stories are accessible, absolutely believable, and readers will feel by the end that they have a new set of friends. Highly recommended.
Imagine what it would feel like to always be asked the same question, to only be seen for your disability? Well Joe is very cross about that- he just wants to play pirates and so he ignores the other children and eventually they become curious and eventually they all join in the imaginative game and great fun is had by all. In a letter to parents and careers at the end of the book the author tells us about losing his own leg and so we have no doubt that this reflects an authentic lived experience. He also gives wonderfully straightforward advice about the conversations parents can have with their own children about disability. This is the very opposite of a “worthy” issues-based book. It is a funny and very enjoyable read that will nevertheless perform an urgently needed task and generate very useful discussion at home and school. An absolute essential purchase for all schools and early years settings. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
10-year-old Joy’s family have always travelled the world – Mum working as a nurse, Dad as a chef with Claude and Joy – sisters but totally different characters – until now. They have returned to the UK and are all crammed into Grandad’s house where normality reigns supreme! Both girls have to go to school – for the first time ever – and find it difficult to settle and find life as engaging as it used to be. Joy has always looked for silver-linings but at the moment she finds it incredibly hard to find any, until she meets Benny who becomes a firm friend. She and Benny met beneath an ancient tree in the school grounds – but then the local authority plans to tear the tree down. Can Joy find her silver-lining in such an awful plan? She and Benny start a fight for what they believe in – the future of the ancient tree. Written with all Valentine’s usual skill and empathy we are drawn into the world of Joy and her difficult transition to life without the globe-trotting. The characters are clearly drawn, with an authentic family dynamic. The perfect length for readers enjoying a longer read as their next step. This promises to be the first in a series, and I am sure Joy and her family, with their resilience and courage will have many fans.
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.
Imagine what it would feel like to always be asked the same question, to only be seen for your disability? Well Joe is very cross about that- he just wants to play pirates and so he ignores the other children and eventually they become curious and eventually they all join in the imaginative game and great fun is had by all. In a letter to parents and careers at the end of the book the author tells us about losing his own leg and so we have no doubt that this reflects an authentic lived experience. He also gives wonderfully straightforward advice about the conversations parents can have with their own children about disability. This is the very opposite of a “worthy” issues-based book. It is a funny and very enjoyable read that will nevertheless perform an urgently needed task and generate very useful discussion at home and school. An absolute essential purchase for all schools and early years. settings. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
The first book in the hilarious new series for children by the bestselling creator of Hurrah For Gin. Lottie Brooks is 11 3/4 and her life is already officially over - not only is she about to start high school without any friends or glamorous swooshy hair, she's just discovered she's too flat-chested to wear A BRA! She might as well give up now and go into hibernation with her hamsters Sir Barnaby Squeakington and Fuzzball the Third. Lottie navigates the many perils of growing up in this fantastically funny new illustrated series for a 9-12 audience, filled with friendship, embarrassing moments and plenty of lols. Hilarious, relatable and full of heart, for fans of funny and chaotic family stories.
Scare yourself silly with Rowley Jefferson's Awesome Friendly Spooky Stories by Jeff Kinney, the #1 international bestselling author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid! Grab a flashlight, crawl under the covers, and dive into the twisted, unexpectedly hilarious world of Rowley Jefferson's imagination. You'll meet zombies, vampires, ghosts, and much more in these comically terrifying tales. Rowley's spooky stories might leave you laughing, but beware-you could end up sleeping with the lights on! And don't miss Rowley Jefferson's first two awesome friendly books, the instant #1 bestsellers Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal and Rowley Jefferson's Awesome Friendly Adventure!
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 confirming 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 | Co-written by Brendan Kiely and the always-exceptional Jason Reynolds, All American Boys is an immensely powerful, timely novel about police brutality against young Black men. Shining a stark light on white privilege and the racism implicit in not speaking out, it’s a punch-packing wake-up call for us all to stand up and plant ourselves on the right side of history. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong colour. It all goes wrong for Black sixteen-year-old Rashad when a cop jumps to the unfounded conclusion that he’s shoplifted a bag of chips. Rashad’s arrest is brutal and the cop, Paul, leaves him with internal bleeding and broken bones. There were witnesses though, among them Quinn, a rising basketball star from Rashad’s school who also happens to know Paul. In fact, Paul has been like a father to Quinn since his dad died on service in Afghanistan, which puts him in a tricky situation - speaking out against Paul would sever his friendship and support ties. But Quinn’s decision to keep quiet unravels when footage of the incident is picked up by the media, with everyone in town taking a side. As a powerful “Rashad is absent” school campaign gains momentum along with plans for a big protest march, Quinn realises that not speaking up is a form of racism, that as an “All-American” white boy he can walk away from anything. “Well, I was sick of it,” he decides. “I was sick of being a dick”. Aware that his dad had inspired Paul to become a cop to “make a difference in the world”, Quinn resolves to be like his dad too, but not in the sense of being loyal to his country and family, which is how people always frame his father’s heroism. Quinn means in the sense of standing up for what he believes in; being “someone who believed a better world was possible - someone who stood up for it.” Packed with plenty of moments that will make you melt and tear up (such as Rashad’s relationship with the hospital shop volunteer, and the bonds between him and his buddies and big brother), this is a smart, incisive, rousing read for our times.
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.
The absolutely brilliant, extra special new bestseller from multi-million copy selling author and illustrator Liz Pichon. A laugh-out-loud, fully illustrated collection of stories starring Tom Gates and his friends, family and foes! Featuring: A delicious chicken pie Getting stuck in a lift with Delia A teacher swap at school Some tiny ants in tiny pants and the adventures of Wafer Boy... Tom Gates is TREMENDOUS and so are his TALES! ABOUT THE SERIES: Every page STUFFED full of laughs, stories, doodles and creative FUN 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 Don't miss SHOE WARS - the epic standalone by Liz Pichon.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2021 | Join Luna as she throws herself into all the fun of the day. Dressing up as her favourite character (a unicorn), joining all her friends in a great storybook adventure and making her own mini character. Above all, Luna loves buying her World Book Day book, meeting the author and illustrator and getting her book signed. Having done all of that she knows she has had a perfect World Book Day! Fiona Lumbers’s wonderfully warm and busy illustrations capture the magic of World Book Day perfectly.
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.
Introducing Alex - the formidable, purple-haired President of her high school’s Feminist Society, which is quite a role given that St Mary’s is a strict co-ed Catholic boarding school ruled by servants of the patriarchy. Determined to get kicked-out from said patriarchal prison, Alex sets about staging a performance of The Vagina Monologues - a sure-fire way to secure her expulsion, while enlightening pupils, priests and nuns, and de-stigmatising the word “vagina”. Author Flynn Meaney has outstanding flair for creating authentic, engaging characters and dialogue, not least through Alex’s quips and comebacks. But, while she’s razor-sharp, with an ability to wither the bolshiest of boys, Alex is also the person people go to “for the stuff you can’t say to a nun or your room-mate”, and a loyal, loving friend, especially when supporting her own roommate. A romantic Disney Princess to Alex’s invincible warrior, Mary Kate’s relatable dreams and worries balance Alex’s irrepressible rebelliousness, and their friendship is a life-affirming joy. Then there’s Hockey Player Pat, who’s not quite the boorish jock Alex initially takes him for. In fact, he comes up with a cunning way for The Vagina Monologues to be performed. The question is, can Alex bring herself to cooperate with her no-sex-before-marriage-advocating nemesis for the greater good? With a flamin’ hot finale, this rip-roaring read blazes with rebellion, friendship and the power of speaking out.
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