Are you a fan of School Stories? Check out all our School Story book reviews, read extracts and compare prices.
Blockbuster author James Patterson delivers a genuinely hilarious—and surprisingly poignant—story of a wildly imaginative kid that you won't forget. Now released on Netflix you can find out more about the movie Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life at middleschoolmovie.com.
In a nutshell: the perfect story for keen young ballerinas | Jean Ure understands exactly what makes ballet such an all-consuming passion for young dancers and conveys that excitement perfectly in Born to Dance, the first in a new series. Maddy is born into ballet royalty – her mother was a famous ballerina, her father’s a top choreographer, even her brother and sister are rising stars. Though she’s occasionally frustrated by her family’s single-minded dedication, she loves to dance too. At school she picks out new girl Caitlyn as a fellow ballerina, and is surprised when Caitlyn doesn’t want to be friends, then mystified when she sees her dancing – whoever is teaching her is getting some things very wrong. The two do become friends though, and when Maddy discovers how Caitlyn is learning to dance, she’s determined to help. Maddy is a warm, thoroughly engaging central character, with just a touch of the Emma Woodhouse about her, and the ballet scenes will leave readers itching to stand at the barre. One to recommend to fans of Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes. Jonathan’s Leap by Celia Purcell is another strong contemporary ballet story with a boy in the ballet shoes. ~ Andrea Reece
January 2017 Book of the Month | In a nutshell: In all honesty, a book to have readers laughing aloud | Poor Beaky Malone: once an accomplished fibber, he’s now condemned to be completely, even brutally honest at all times thanks to an encounter with a little old lady who just might have been a witch. Barry Hutchison takes this comic set up and plays it brilliantly as Beaky blurts out one embarrassing truth after another; funnier but more painful for Beaky still, his teachers never believe him. Forced to spend the school trip partnered with the school’s nastiest bully Beaky can’t stop himself telling everyone that Wayne wet his pants in year 6, making for a particularly tense day. It’s cleverly structured and the characters are deftly drawn too so that we feel for Beaky even as we laugh at him. Readers who laugh at Beaky will also enjoy Frank Cottrell Boyce’s The Astounding Broccoli Boy, My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons or The Parent Controller by David Baddiel. ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: super-readable story | robot rumpus at high school | Uh-oh, things are not running smoothly in the Hayes-Rodriguez household, which is highly unusual, because Mum, a robot scientist, has invented a host of machines to ensure it does. Something has upset the robots, and suddenly it’s chaos. With Mum busy on something else, it’s up to Sammy and his little sister Maddie to work out what’s gone wrong. It’s James Patterson’s mission to get and keep kids turning pages, and he’s a master of the art. Sammy’s wise-cracking narration hooks readers from the first, the action is pretty well non-stop, and the cartoon illustrations come thick and fast too; yet there’s still space for feelings and emotions too. Other authors creating addictive and irresistible page-turners for young readers include Steve Cole, Liz Pichon and Jim Smith. ~ Andrea Reece
The Worst Witch is an absolute classic and an essential title for every child's bookshelf, and it is reissued here with a special jacket to accompany the new CBBC series. The trials and tribulations of a disastrous new girl at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, a gloriously witchy boarding school, The Worst Witch has magic galore. Unfortunately for Mildred Hubble, most of it has a habit of going badly wrong. Her broomstick won’t fly straight, her cat is tabby not black and she manages to turn her arch-enemy into a toad. Nice short chapters with stunning illustrations also by Jill Murphy make this a perfect title to share with young children but older children will be equally at home with it.
In a nutshell: auld lang syne with the Spinster Club The end of What’s A Girl Gotta Do saw the three members of the Spinster Club heading off their different ways, now in this special short novel, Holly Bourne reunites them in the pressure cooker of a New Year’s Eve party: how have they coped? We discover that Lottie is planning to move to America, that Amber isn’t enjoying uni life as much as she’s been making out, and that Evie is struggling to support her boyfriend with his anxiety disorder. After an awkward start, they finally have one of those conversations that characterise their friendship, helping each other realise what is best for them, and giving themselves the confidence to go after it. Bourne understands her readership perfectly and writes for them with huge insight and affection, and this is a typically authentic, funny, and inspiring read. Readers will also enjoy Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven. ~ Andrea Reece
November 2016 Debut of the Month In a Nutshell: Shocking school shooting | Heartache behind headlines A thoroughly thought-provoking tale of a family’s struggle with grief and guilt in the aftermath of an atrocious act committed by a loved one. It’s Britain, 1996, and sixteen-year-old Sam is plunged into unimaginable turmoil the day his brother Charlie walks into their school and shoots his peers before turning the gun on himself. From that fateful day, Sam’s mum lunges from denial to utter distress, while his dad shuts himself away in the garage (the moment readers discover what he was doing there will bring a lump to the throat, at the very least). In addition, the entire family is ostracised by their community. “Perhaps people thinks it’s a disease they might catch - a contagious need for death and disorder”, Sam wonders. Already eaten up by guilt - would this have happened if he’d been a better brother to Charlie? - Sam is asked not to return to school, which leaves him feeling like he’s being forced to do his brother’s life sentence. His therapist suggests that starting a new school might be his “turning point” and, as things turns out, he’s unexpectedly invited into a new social circle: “They were accepting...they offered you a place without condition or question”. But, while Sam finds strength in these new friendships, not least in his burgeoning romantic feelings for Izzy, his home life is deteriorating further, and the hate mail and abuse intensifies as a petition to ban hand-held guns gains ground nationally. This big-hearted book doesn’t shirk from tackling big issues, emotions and questions - how do we survive and recover a sense of hope through the most destructive personal tragedies? What leads an individual to commit mass murder, and where does the blame lie? What role does the media play in inciting abuse and prolonging grief? It also gives voice to the oft-forgotten victims of such tragedies, and will make readers think, and see comparable real-life events through different lens. ~ Joanne Owen
Shortlisted for Best Crime Novel for Children aged 8-12, CrimeFest Gala Awards 2017 |Shortlisted for the Children's Book Award 2017 - Books for Older Readers | One of our Books of the Year 2016 | November 2016 Book of the Month A festive feast of ghastly goings on for fans old and new of the A Murder Most Unladylike series. Astute, smart and daring they may be, but trouble sure seems to follow detective duo Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong around. It seems that even a Christmas Holiday to Cambridge is filled with cads, murderers and mysteries. Soon after arriving in Cambridge, Daisy and Hazels’ detective senses are tingling as they suspect that a series of practical jokes and a dose of sibling rivalry are much more deadly than they seem. Yet time is of the essence and Daisy (somewhat reluctantly) agrees to join forces with a local detective agency to try and get to the bottom of the murderous goings on before Christmas day. But has Daisy finally met her match with the rival agency? This is frightfully good. There’s a touch of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie magic within these pages and it makes for an exciting read. Daisy is a determined, shrewd young lady who doesn’t miss a thing and along with her methodical, quick witted partner Hazel, they make a formidable duo. Throw in some hot chocolate, cakes, snow and of course deadly mistletoe and you have all the ingredients for a thrilling murder mystery. Stevens just seems to be going from strength to strength with this wonderful series, I can’t wait to see where our fantastically feisty detectives end up next. ~ Shelley Fallows
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | In a nutshell: sad | funny| touching | Susin Nielsen has won many fans for her poignant, character-driven stories of young people in difficult situations. Ambrose, the eponymous word nerd, is just such a central character: he’s isolated and lonely – shocked by the sudden death of his father his mother is anxious and over-protective – socially awkward too. His life changes when he strikes up a kind of friendship a neighbour, without telling his mum because Cosmo is a former drug addict with a prison record. This in turn leads to more friends as the two join a local Scrabble club, and a happy outcome for each. Readers will totally believe in this friendship, and root for Ambrose and Cosmo. A feel-good story filled with memorable characters, and one that sneaks all sorts of truths about life past its readers too. Readers who enjoy Word Nerd will also like A Seven Letter Word by Kim Slater, which also uses Scrabble as a hook for a moving story about struggling young people, while Stacey Matson writes satisfying, heart-warming stories about kids overcoming problems. ~ Andrea Reece
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | Longlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award and October 2016 Debut of the Month Twelve year old Suzy’s confusion following the death of her best friend fuels this roller-coaster debut novel. When Franny drowns in a freak accident during the school holiday Suzy finds herself dealing not with the death of her best friend as her mother thinks but with the far more devastating loss of their friendship sometime earlier. Suzy copes by becoming electively mute and by constructing a story to explain what happened to Franny. Moving back and forth between Suzy’s obsessive behaviour after Franny’s death as she finds out everything she can about the lethal jellyfish who is, she is sure, responsible for it and, the last few months before Franny’s death when the friendship unravelled is clever as she loses Franny to the cool set.
In a nutshell: Black cats | Magic | Fun Grace-Ella’s life is magically transformed when a black cat strolls into her house and makes himself at home. Mr Whiskins is a witches’ cat, and Grace-Ella discovers that she is a witch. She’s always struggled at school with reading and spelling, but casting spells is a whole new kettle of frogs! At last she’s found something she’s really good at. Lots of adventures follow, including accidental bewitchings of both her mum and her teachers. It all culminates in an unusual Hallowe’en party when Grace-Ella manages a thoroughly deserved bit of magical comeuppance on the school bully. The first in a series, Grace-Ella Spells for Beginners is a lively helping of fun, magic, friendship and being true to yourself. Young readers are sure to identify with Grace-Ella. ~ Andrea Reece A Piece of Passion from Janet Thomas, Editor at Firefly Press: Everyone at Firefly Press loved Grace-Ella from the moment Mr Whiskins walks into her house on page one. In her first book, Sharon has managed to write a story for 7-9 year olds that feels both traditional and up-to-date, fresh and comforting, and Adribel’s got this balance in her beautiful illustrations as well. It’s about trusting yourself and being honest about who you are, and the scene where Grace-Ella bravely tells her best friends she’s a witch is one of my favourites. It’s also very funny with spells going wrong, school adventures and a madcap Halloween party where the magic goes wild. Everyone who has read it so far has wanted their own Mr Whiskins!
Check out the latest activities in our KidsZone.