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We've collected together our very favourite summer reads into this special section. Just click on an age range below to see our selection of summer treats and once you've chosen your story pick the format that suits you best, whether it's physical or digital. The titles will be refreshed throughout the summer months so it will be well worth coming back to take a peek. And there is our usual recommendations for Summer Activity books too. Happy browsing!
August 2019 Debut of the Month | There’s a real feel of Richard Scarry’s Busy Town to this sturdy board book, though it’s totally contemporary, and packs in a satisfying little story too. It’s a bright, sunny morning on Treacle Street and Marcel is busy delivering the post. His bright, red trolley is full of parcels – lift a flap and peep inside to see them – and over the next pages we find out who they’re for. There are leg warmers for the dance school, eggs and flour for the pie shop, and new wheels for the garage. On each page there’s a friendly new character to meet, a flap to lift, and lots and lots of things to spot and count, all illustrated in Kate Hindley’s bright, vibrant illustrations. A lovely book for pre-schoolers.
July 2019 Book of the Month | This witty, hugely entertaining and stylishly illustrated picture book offers an explanation of anger that is absolutely spot on. ‘Swarm of bees!’ cries the narrator, ‘You are so angry! What will you do?’ And the bees are angry, because a boy has hit their hive with a tomato. They swirl from page to page, a furious crowd of yellow and black spots, meeting a variety of possible targets - a sailor, his mother, people in a block of flats. Meanwhile, we see that the boy with the tomatoes has thrown them at everyone in the book – who’s angriest now? Fortunately, the beekeeper recaptures the swarm and a parent similarly calms down the boy. Peace is restored after the busy, buzzing pursuit. Every child understand it can feel good to be angry, but will agree with the message here that it can feel better to stop.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2019 | A fun way of looking at prejudice that quickly makes it clear that even if someone is different to you the two of you can still be friends. Here, the Reds, who are round and eat red apples, are happy to be red. And the Yellows, who are square and eat bananas, love being yellow. How can the two groups ever get to like each other? And then there are the Blues who wear blue bow ties and are shaped like triangles and love being blue. They are different again and no one likes them at all. The arguments between the groups get sillier and sillier as they squabble over everything and make a lot of daft rules. Will they ever get to like one another? Then A Different comes along. Where will he fit in? Suddenly difference seems fine and what colour you are doesn’t seem to matter so much. Lots to think about as the expressive colour block characters work out how to live together.
This is a book to delight all young fans of heavy machinery. A little puppy gets a dream wake-up call: ‘Dugger Dugger Digger’. Sure enough, there’s a Dalmatian driving a digger past his window, and before long with a ‘Brmmm Brmmm Whee’ there’s a camel in a crane. What’s making the ‘Dump Splat Crash’? Turn the page to see a duck in a dump truck. There’ll be even more excitement too when the final page reveals what all these machines and workers have been creating! Rebecca Elliott’s trucks are satisfyingly chunky, loud and vibrant and there’s lots of fun to be had in joining in with the sounds they make. To quieten things down, see if children can spot Dalmatian’s friend Little Mouse, who’s hiding on every page.
Lydia Monks’ Twit Twoo School stories are perfect for reading with children just about to start school and Rabbit Races Ahead is both a fun adventure story and a cleverly delivered lesson about kindness and thinking of others. Rabbit can’t wait for sports day. She knows she’ll come first in every race, and she does. Why aren’t her friends more pleased for her, she wonders? Fortunately, the long distance race is still to come and instead of rushing to the finishing line, Rabbit interrupts her race to help her friends. She wins a special cheer and realises that it feels good to be kind, even better in fact than coming first. The bright illustrations are lovely to look at and this is a hugely appealing book for the very young.
Here’s another laugh-out-loud adventure story starring everyone’s favourite caped potato superhero. It’s carnival time in the supermarket and all the veggies are lending a hand except – you guessed it – Evil Pea. He’s determined to suck all the fun and the colour from the carnival – literally, with his dastardly Colour-Suck-A-Thon-5000 machine. Can Supertato save the day? You betcha! Adventures don’t come dafter or more colourful and this is premium entertainment for all the family.
It’s definitely a case of (very) slow and steady winning the race in this amusing and original picture book. Sloth is inspired by the superhero story he finds in a comic book left in the jungle so when mean Anteater starts stealing fruit from the other animals he – leaps is definitely the wrong word – goes into action. It turns out that moving very slowly and looking like a bit of tree are actually useful superpowers. Sloth is an engaging hero and Starling fills the jungle scenes with movement and character. The action builds to a rewarding conclusion, and neatly delivers a message about the value of different types of ability.
July 2019 Debut of the Month | A trip to the natural history museum with Grandad fills George with a passion for bugs. He determines to build up a collection and though it’s not easy at first slowly learns the best ways to catch them, filling jars with butterflies, beetles, worms, moths and spiders. It’s satisfying, but something’s not right. Grandad notices it too: with no bugs, everywhere is too quiet, dull and sad. Together they release the bugs and transform their garden into an insect sanctuary. The story is filled with action and movement and the pages are packed with detail. I love the way George chases after his bugs with such a loping stride and the relationship between him and his grandfather is tender and convincing.
This reassuring tale of friendship and kindness will charm young readers. Friends Bear and Spider are as different as you can be, and not just in size either. Spider loves the outdoors – the sunshine, the breeze, the colourful plants and the bugs of course. Bear likes nothing more than a ‘tidy day’ at home, followed by a nice cup of tea in his cosy chair. But when Spider’s kite blows away into the forest Bear agrees to help him find it, even when it starts to rain. Bear and Spider make a comic couple in Jacob Grant’s crayon-and-ink illustrations, Spider silent but hugely expressive perched on his friend’s shoulder. The final picture shows the two of them enjoying a cup of tea, while flying kites – a lovely image of compromise and happiness that will have everyone smiling.
June 2019 Book of the Month | This beautifully observed story will resonate with children and adults alike and will repay reading over and over. Mia and Ben are best friends – the joy of their relationship perfectly depicted in Richard Jones’s illustrations which are full of the details of children’s lives but with a richness of colour and texture and composition that heightens the emotions. Everything changes when the sort of domestic tragedy familiar to lots of children happens – Ben’s family move away. At first the two are lonely and sad, but the story shows that their friendship still connects them and always will. Powerful feelings are expressed delicately and poignantly through words and pictures and this is an outstanding picture book.
Full of fun and adventure, this stylish lift-the-flap board book promotes the wonders of imaginative play with verve. When Ted stands by the fridge eating an ice cream, lifting the flap transports him and his readers to explore a “cold, snowy iceberg”. Standing at the bottom of the stairs leads Ted to a giddy goats’ mountaintop. Designed with care and executed with energy, this is pitch-perfect for exploring-mad pre-schoolers.
February 2019 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2019 | What better present can a princess receive than a pudding making machine! Soon puddings and cakes of all sorts are spilling out of the machine as the young Princess Hannah takes control of her fabulous birthday present. But the present has an unfortunate impact on the princess; it reveals that she has never had to share. Luckily, her friends take matters into their own hands and soon they too are pulling the levels and turning the wheels and together they all make the most fabulous puddingly treats – including a giant meringue. The moral is well mixed into this bubbly tale which is vibrantly told in verse by Sally Duran.
Shortlisted for the Children's Book Award 2017 - Books for Younger Children | Shortlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award | Syd and Grandad’s tropical adventure tells a much bigger story and conveys an important message about loss and love. Grandad’s house is at the bottom of Syd’s garden and Syd can go round any time he wants. One day Grandad isn’t in any of his usual places and Syd finds him in the attic. There’s a big metal door at one end, and through it a ship, ready to take Grandad and Syd to a faraway island. Grandad doesn’t need his stick on the island and is very much at home with the cheery parrots and bright flowers. He decides to stay behind, though he’ll miss Syd very much. Simply told and beautifully illustrated this is a very special book
An enchanting four-book series featuring the adventures of Anna and her array of animal friends The temperature is rising, which can only mean one thing: it's summer! Bookings are up at Hotel Flamingo and the hotel is getting busy. Anna is excited to receive word from King Penguin royalty asking to holiday in their Royal Suite. But there's a lot to get done, and it's not easy to manage the needs of the penguins when there's a heatwave on and a huge ice shortage. Help! Can Anna get Hotel Flamingo back to its usual shining self and have happy guests all round?
TV Tie-ins | Everyone’s favourite little dog has graduated to Disney Junior TV which will introduce the extraordinary adventures of the canny canine and his sidekick Sir Bobblysock to a whole new audience and what a treat they have in store! The standing joke throughout the successful series, illustrated in great style by the award winning Alex T Smith, has been the complete ignorance of Mr and Mrs Shiny Shoes (never viewed beyond knee height) who think their pet sleeps all day and young readers delight in knowing better. The appeal of these tales, whether in picture book as here or in storybook format has always been the multi layered and witty narrative that gives an adult reader as much fun as the child. Sir Bobblysock is particularly hilarious in this episode when it seems that everything conspires to stop him getting his beloved strawberries for breakfast! All the strawberries have been taken for the Pawhaven tennis championships. Claude of course saves the day and accidentally discovers he could be a tennis ace. But actually being kind and allowing the unfortunate Kimberley to win is far more important even when it may cost Sir Bobblysock his strawberries! Pure reading for pleasure and a great introduction to series to entice new readers.
As the season of school sports day approaches this is a perfectly timed new outing for the irrepressible and hilarious cake loving heroine of the Waterstones Prize shortlisted I really want the cake! Cakes play an important part in this tale too, but first this little girl tries and tries to win. She really wants to win! It all starts with a race and she is in the lead but trips. A calamity repeated across every school in the land and so this is very good preparation for little would-be athletes. Time and again her ambition is thwarted. Her friend wins everything. The sense of injustice felt is so perfectly captured in the bold expressive illustrations that reveal the little girl’s impulsive character and her constantly changing emotions. But one day her friend does not win and very surprisingly for our heroine the friend does not mind at all and congratulates the winner. Our heroine is encouraged to forget about winning and just to do what she loves which is baking cakes of course! Then the loyal friend finds a Bake Off competition which our heroine approaches with proper humility having recognised how much she enjoyed the process. She surprises herself by winning and the celebrations are genuine. Resilience triumphs in this completely relatable story which will prompt useful discussion as well as laugh out loud moments.
June 2019 Debut of the Month | Children who like reading will love this gentle story. Milly’s favourite thing is story time at her local bookshop. She’s been going since she was very little and the shop owner Mrs Minty can always recommend the perfect book. Milly likes helping in the shop too and she notices it’s looking older and shabbier than it used to. When the bookshop suddenly closes, Milly can’t bear the thought it might not reopen, and her response prompts other people to make their feelings known too. With gorgeous atmospheric full colour illustrations, the story is warm and reassuring and a testament to the power of stories and the importance of community. A lovely book to share.
For those of you who don't know, Fabio is indeed the world's greatest flamingo detective, a kind of pink, long-legged Hercule Poirot. He's assisted in his work by his friend Gilbert, a giraffe, who is very well-meaning but mostly at least one step behind Fabio when it comes to solving their cases. This story concerns the dramatic theft of a priceless jewel from a passenger on the Ostrich Express and, as detective stories go, it's very satisfying indeed, with a twist in the tail that readers won't see coming, while Fabio, Gilbert and their various animal co-stars are delightful characters. Illustrations on every page - in flamboyant, dayglo pinks and oranges, make this as interesting to look at as it is to read, and this is a perfect book for readers just enjoying reading on their own.
February 2010 Book of the Month | Treasure, tropical islands, shivering timbers – everyone loves a pirate story and this one is particularly fun, especially for newly confident readers. The crew of the Golden Earring are a rum bunch, from grumpy Captain Halibut to hapless cook Cannonball. Their antics are observed by the animals on board – Cutlass the parrot, Patch the ship’s cat and Monty, the ship’s monkey. When a treasure map is discovered, only the animals know how dangerous finding it will be – how can they keep the humans safe? It’s all lots of fun, a jaunty, thoroughly satisfying story full of incident and humour. Illustrations by Kate Pankhurst make this as fun to look at as it is to read. Ooo-arrrs all round!
August 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2019 | Best-selling author and illustrator Judith Kerr tells a wonderfully warm and funny story about the very many things that go wrong when Tommy’s little sister Angie brings home the school rabbit. Snowflake is the star attraction in Angie’s class: he is at the centre of every subject in the curriculum and Angie adores him. But Tommy does not. (And he doesn’t adore Angie very much either…) Tommy recounts the terrible things that go wrong when Snowflake is in the house starting with him peeing on the trouser leg of a visiting famous actor. As far as Tommy is concerned it would be much better if Snowflake went back to school. But luckily for all Snowflake accidently brings Angie and Thomas’s family huge and unexpected good luck! A new family story full of all Judith Kerr’s hallmark good cheer, this will delight readers of all ages.
A self-confessed ‘white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer’ Neil Armstrong became the most famous man on the planet when he walked on the moon in 1969. This concise but information-packed biography provides the background to his life, from his birth in Ohio in 1930 through his experiences as a pilot in the Korean war, to those era-defining small steps on the moon. It also describes in just the right detail the political and technological developments that made the Apollo 11 trip possible. The text is clear and accessible, supported by frequent illustrations, diagrams and ‘Did you know?’ information boxes and it provides both a timeline and index. This is one of a number of books in carefully-thought out new series. For further reading on this theme visit our special feature - 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing.
June 2019 Book of the Month | Kids who like their adventures wild, funny and full of the unexpected will love Adam Stower’s King Coo stories. Starring ordinary schoolboy Ben and his best friend, the totally extraordinary Coo, a bearded girl who lives a secret life with her wombat Herbert in some woods near Ben’s home, they are a brilliant mix of action, invention and jokes of all kinds – verbal, visual, slapstick. This escapade sees the two friends thwart a band of thieves who are intent on stealing priceless golden artefacts from the local museum. For all the zaniness, the plot makes perfect sense and Stower’s excellent illustrations move it along at pace. One to recommend to fans of Tom Gates or Timmy Failure.
As book-loving children know, all the best stories start in the library and that’s certainly the case here. Kit would rather be looking for wildlife in her local cemetery but her friends make her take a detour via the library where she discovers some amazing things: a librarian who’s also a wizard, a dragon sleeping in the basement, and her own magical powers. All these things are put to good use to stop a wicked landowner, whose plans to turn the library into a carpark are actually cover for something even more despicable. This will be great fun for children who like stories overflowing with magic, and Kit and her friends are very appealing characters.
Following their adventures in The Battle of the Blighty Bling, the McScurvy children are back where they belong on their pirate ship Sixpoint Sally. But not for long: as they prepare to enter the famous Hornswaggle Boat Race their nemesis, Captain Guillemot, aka the vainest pirate on the south coast, steals their ship from right under their noses, and with their parents on board to boot. They can’t let him get away with that, and with the help of their friends Arabella and George, go all out to get the boat and their parents back – and win the race in the process. It’s another fast-paced comic adventure and any right-minded child will love the McScurvy’s can-do attitude, not to mention their wilful disregard of rules and good behaviour.
April 2019 Book of the Month | The tables are turned in Jeff Kinney’s new comic adventure and the wimpy kid telling the story and steering the action is Rowley Jefferson, Greg Heffley’s best friend. As Greg’s long-suffering sidekick he deserves his turn in the spotlight, though as he apologetically points out, most of the book is still about Greg. The boys’ escapades, quarrels and daft schemes are just as funny as when we hear them via Greg. No-one does the straight to camera narrative style of the diary better than Kinney and no matter how straight Jeff tells it, our understanding of the action is often quite different to his. This is as authentic and funny as the original Wimpy Kid books and makes just as irresistible reading.
July 2019 Book of the Month | Winner of the BAMB Reader's Award for Middle Grade Fiction | Shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2019 | A fabulous new adventure for Fionn Boyle, the new Storm Keeper of the windswept and magical island of Arranmore. Fionn has only recently inherited his role and title from his grandfather. He knows his powers are still only fledgling and certainly not strong enough to resist the powerful magic of Morrigan the terrible sorceress who longs to take control. When Fionn sees thousands of the terrifying Soulstalkers arriving on the island by ferry he knows that an almighty battle for control of the island is about to take place. Can he find the lost army? And can he and the islanders hold strong against Morrigan and her power? Catherine Doyle has added a thrilling new chapter to The Storm Keeper's Island, her first story about Fionn and the amazing island of Arranmore.
Top marks again for Robin Stevens: her excellent 1930s set crime series just gets better and better. After various adventures, schoolgirl detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are back at the boarding school they love, but almost before you can say ‘Agatha Christie’ a dormmate claims to have witnessed a murder, with sudden death striking in the heart of Deepdean School itself. As the plot unfolds, all sorts of tensions and insecurities come to light, and even the normally unassailable Daisy seems suddenly vulnerable. Scrupulously researched, carefully plotted and as good on friendships and family relationships as it is on clues and red herrings this is top quality reading.
David Solomons is utterly brilliant, and My Cousin is a Time Traveller is a work of comedy genius. It’s full of pitch-perfect observational humour, with a plot that magnifies real fears (machines taking over the world) to ridiculous and hilarious levels (led by toasters and a washer-dryer*); and it packs more and better superhero in-jokes into one chapter than the Marvel film franchise has managed in its entire oeuvre. And there’s a terrifically exciting story too. Simply the best entertainment to be had between two covers. *after all, there’s more technology in the average washing machine than there was in the Apollo space programme that sent a rocket to the Moon.
July 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2019 | Award-winning Carl Hiaasen has a rare gift for telling very entertaining stories which combine great adventures which have a strong ecological message with touching family stories which tell what really matters in relationships between parents and children. In Squirm, Billy Dickens, a lover of snakes in his home in Florida and a passionate watcher of bald eagles too, takes off to Montana to find his Dad who moved out when he was only small. In a completely new landscape with big mountains and dangerous animals such a grizzly bears, Billy finds his dad’s new family and eventually tracks down his dad who is permanently on some secret trek or another. When the two finally meet, Billy discovers that the mystery surrounding his dad is rooted not in something sinister but in their shared determination to protect animals in the wild. Full of danger, the battle to keep the animals safe is a fast-paced one making this a thrilling read as well as a heart-warming story.
June 2019 Book of the Month | Border Guards and suspicion keep the inhabitants trapped on a nameless island surrounded by a supposedly poisoned sea and scraping an existence from the land. Bonnie lives with her Granda, who is growing increasingly frail. Bonnie has no patience for what passes as education, although such rule breaking is punishable. When she discovers, first a boat, and then the injured boy who arrived in it, she hides both, which is even more dangerous because any contact with outsiders is unheard of. Her mother left by sea when Bonnie was a baby. Could this be Bonnie’s route to freedom? But she has both the boy and her beloved Granda to worry about and the mystery of her mother to solve and the Guards on her trail. This is a thrilling read, a truly heart-stopping adventure which has no need to labour the details of the dystopian society in which it is set. The setting is so vividly realised and the nuances of the relationships are so movingly portrayed that the reader is absolutely in the moment with Bonnie. A beautifully written book with a powerful but ultimately hopeful message.
April 2019 Book of the Month | Lauren St John knows just how to create the perfect children’s adventure stories. Her junior detectives Kat Wolfe and Harper Lamb return for a second outing in this new book, another enthralling adventure that combines crumbling cliff edges, dinosaur bones, an A list celebrity who isn’t what she seems and, of course, lots of glorious animals. As they investigate a suspicious death, Kat and Harper face real dangers, but quick-thinking and teamwork, not to mention a bit of luck, see them through. There’s an important eco-message contained in the adventure too and this is exactly the kind of book to encourage children’s interest in the environment and their world as the pages keep turning. Thoroughly recommended.
July 2019 Debut of the Month | Caterpillar Summer is one of those apparently quiet books that actually have a huge and lasting impact on readers. It’s the story of Cat - Caterpillar - and her little brother Henry, nicknamed Chicken, and the three weeks they spend on holiday with the grandparents they’ve never met before on the North Carolina coast. The children’s father is dead and their mum works hard as a children’s book illustrator and lecturers to support them. Cat feels the weight of responsibility to help and in particular to look after her little brother who is autistic. When their planned holiday with friends falls through Mum has no option but to take them to stay with her parents, though she hasn’t spoken to her father since Cat was born. Living with Lily and Macon by the beach, Cat finds time to make friends and with her grandma taking care of Chicken, to think about what she needs. She’s also able to work out the issues between her mum and her grandad, who she’s come to love, and effect a reconciliation. The story is beautifully told, the landscapes both interior and exterior, perfectly described and it manages to be authentic and hopeful. Highly recommended. Andersen Press are particularly good at finding contemporary novels that give children the opportunity to consider what really matters - see also Susin Nielsen and Aoife Walsh.
With an ability to see ghosts, eleven year old Jake Green is licensed to help them make their transition to the Afterworld, a fully paid-up junior employee of the Embassy of the Dead, though more often than not, he’d rather be playing computer games with his best friend Sab. In this new adventure he and his sidekick, schoolgirl poltergeist Cora (she’s very handy with her hockey stick) have a massive challenge – how to stop the rise of Fenris and the dawn of the Age of Evil. The story is ingenious, fast-moving, full of action-packed scenes and the characters – living and dead – are hugely appealing. Dead good reading in fact.
Following the four March sisters for a year, and narrated by candid, clumsy Jo, the story begins at a time of great upheaval for the March family. Dad is working away as a humanist minister in war-torn Syria, Mum has recently lost her job as a social worker and, consequently, they’ve had to move house. Sensitive, shy Beth just wants “Daddy to come home”. Fashion mad Meg is frustrated by not being able to buy new clothes, while trying to figure out what to do with her future. Sharp-tongued, artistic Amy constantly bickers with Jo, who’s doggedly determined to become a novelist. Despite their own troubles, the family volunteer at a centre for Middle Eastern refugees on Christmas Day. It’s here Jo meets Lateef, a refugee who’s been adopted by a wealthy lawyer, and she immediately senses that he’s “going to be my best friend in the whole world”. In fact, he becomes close to the entire family as they ride a rollercoaster of worries and coming-of-age revelations alongside a whole lot of love and friendship. Written in a highly accessible style, this affectionate update re-maps the personalities, aspirations and uncertainties of the original March sisters to create a new landscape of their lives, one that’s suffused in the spirit of the original and a contemporary freshness as it explores the timeless themes of sibling strains and solidarity, and feeling a sense of home.
This riveting read-in-one-sitting nail-biter tells the tale of 18-year-old New Yorker Magda, who’s been sent to live with her wealthy grandparents in their summer home on the edge of a forest. Though feeling “frozen on the inside” by the cocktail of medication she must take following a tragic scandal at her elite school, Magda falls head over heels in love (and lust) with “wild boy” Bo, who “has all the self-assurance of an alpha, but none of the swagger” and lives in the woods in which a few young women have been found dead. As Magda gets to know Bo’s wild-living family (even confessing all about her dangerously duplicitous past to his Earth Mother mom), more bodies are found, with some pinning the murders on a man called Dr Goodnight. When Magda turns detective to discover his identity (or, indeed, if he even exists), it becomes impossible for her to know who she can trust ahead of the high-octane climax that will have readers perched on the very edge of their seats.
Follow The Very Hungry Caterpillar on a journey through nature in this book packed with sticker scenes, puzzles, colouring-in and games. Discover wonderful weather, glorious greenery, colourful creatures and lots more - all without leaving the pages of this book! Big stickers make this the perfect first activity book for little nature explorers everywhere.
July 2019 Book of the Month | Cassandra Clare certainly knows how to write on an epic scale - following hot on the heels of Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows, this third and final book in The Dark Artifice trilogy is a true beast of a book due to its wildly imaginative world, doggedly determined characters, and its sheer size and scope. “There was blood on the Council dais, blood on the steps, blood on the walls…Later Emma would remember it as a sort of red mist”. Amidst this gory scene, Julian clutches Livvy Blackthorn, “resisting all efforts by the guards to lift her dead body away from him”. But, while death looks down upon them and Julian grieves, the Clave is on the brink of war and swift action must be taken if the Shadow World is to survive. To this end, Julian and Emma embark on a jeopardous journey to recover the Black Volume of the Dead, battling great peril alongside grappling with their forbidden love. And then the secrets they uncover in the Court risk destroying everything they value, and everyone they love. The sense of urgency is dazzlingly evoked and swells to a suitably heart-pounding finale to this opulent love-and-justice-driven trilogy, with the many plot threads woven together in Clare’s typically extravagant style. The Dark Artifices Trilogy is our Series of the Month - find out more. Take a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for The Dark Artifices.
Set in the 1930s and inspired by Much Ado About Nothing, this thrilling feast of coming-of-age edginess is giddy with the glamour of freethinking artists, and tingles with romantic tension. Constrained by her life in England, aspiring natural historian Bea constantly battles her parents’ attempts to marry her off: “As far as my parents are concerned, daughters aren’t a terribly useful asset. I’m not supposed to go out in the world and actually do things.” But being “too big, too loud, too clever – too much”, Bea has her own ideas about her future, which she’s able to embrace when she’s sent to stay with her wealthy uncle in Italy and discovers with glee that “things at Villa di Stelle might not be so respectable after all.” Among the villa’s vibrant collective of artists is handsome painter Ben, and sparks fly between he and Bea from the off. A lighthearted challenge sees them set out to enjoy a summer romance without falling in love, until events at a decadent party to invoke rain turn out to be explosive in more ways than one. As the heavens crack open, fireworks fly between Ben and Bea and their lives will never be the same again. Alongside Bea’s awakening of body and heart, she also realises that she cannot return to her previous life. She wants what the artists’ have: an “all-consuming passion for their work...a purpose, a vocation.” With the conflict between her free-spirited nature and societal constraints exacerbated by her Italian experiences, with the world now opened up to her, the gateway cannot be closed. The author’s Great Gatsby-esque A Sky Painted Gold was a 2018 favourite of mine, and this is every bit as bathed in coming-of-age hope and a sense of being on the brink of something special.
From passionate, all-consuming love-at-first-sight, to possession, obsession, jealousy and control, the subject of emotional abuse in relationships is here explored from every complex, confusing angle. What a devastatingly vital feat of YA fiction this is. Talented country songwriter Gemma has just started college and feels like she’s riding a wave of change: “Starting college feels like such a massive step, like suddenly the world’s got that much wider.” And then a further tidal wave sweeps Gemma up when she locks eyes with a handsome stranger – Aaron, a charismatic young app-developer who overwhelms her with big romantic gestures and expensive gifts that seem to show how much he gets her, far more than her family do, as Aaron is wont to remind her. He points out that Gemma’s passion for songwriting will always play second fiddle to her brother’s football talent, that her friends don’t appreciate her like he does. Before Gemma knows it, Aaron’s controlling, manipulative ways seep through her veins like an undetected virus and, when he isolates her from her loved ones, her world closes in, with shattering repercussions. At once tense, compassionate and (importantly) brutally honest, readers will plead with Gemma, rage at Aaron, and gasp as the crippling extremes of his toxic behaviour are made manifest. But there’s a glimmer of light through the dark, especially in the form of Gemma’s friends – Ghanaian feminist Esi who warns her to slow down and step away, and kind-hearted Callum, her loyal music partner.
Being the person you want to be, proving detractors wrong, overcoming fears, and revealing the importance of seeing beyond stereotypes - beauty vlogger and dictionary-lover Tulip does all this and more in this hugely entertaining novel. While she’s frequently dismissed for being “stupid, vain and self-obsessed”, Tulip knows there’s no friction between being having a brain and being a successful vlogger. She adores the metamorphic magic of make-up, the fact you “can transform yourself ” and “make every day beautiful.” As Tulip points out to handsome posh boy Harvey when he belittles her passion, her vlog represents “creativity and hard work and self-expression.” Keen to prove that Harvey’s got her wrong, Tulip takes a place on his dad’s Bear Grylls-esque survival show. With Harvey as her team leader and her fellow contestants expecting her to fail, Tulip digs deep and surprises everyone with her resourcefulness and team-spirited outlook, but not before many comic mishaps, terrifying challenges and conflicted swirls of romance. Funny, gripping and with an inspirational feel-good feminist theme, this will have readers rooting for Tulip every step of the way.
Rob and Maegan both have a whole lot on their plates. Rob’s rich dad attempted suicide after he was caught embezzling their community and he’s now severely disabled, unable to speak or do anything for himself. Until eight months ago, “Everyone wanted to be me,” but now Rob’s an outcast, tainted by his father’s fraud, which is something Maegan also knows a thing or two about. Previously an academic overachiever, pressures led her to cheat in last year’s exams, which in turn led to hundreds of her peers’ marks being invalidated. Connected by a Calculus project and their dads (Maegan’s cop father was first on the scene when Rob’s dad shot himself), the two outcasts strike up an unlikely friendship, and more. Alongside their romance and the gripping twists, I loved the moving camaraderie between Rob and Owen, whose single mom was thrown into crippling financial hardship by Rob’s dad. For a book that packs-in plenty of big issues, it’s also an entertaining page-turner - the perfect YA package with the overriding messages that “one mistake doesn’t define you”, and “one choice doesn’t determine your whole future.”
“There are some things that shape every minute of forever”, and seventeen-year-old Lexi knows that more than most. Five years ago her life was thrown into turmoil by her older brother’s horrific actions, actions that left her traumatised, stigmatised and excruciatingly conflicted: “How do you condemn your own brother?” Now Lexi’s goal is to “survive a full school year - 180 days - hiding behind a new name, new home, new persona”, this time living with her aunt. Seeing as her “history always finds a way to suffocate everyone in its path,” Lexi fears getting close to anyone, but she strikes up a friendship with Ryan who’s also “wrapped in secrets”, and then embarks on a magnificent romance with Marcus, who shares her experience of being an outcast. I loved the powerfully positive portrayal of both Marcus and Ryan - it was refreshing to encounter such compassionate, non-judgmental, luminously 3D teen boy characters. The novel is brilliant in its portrayal of relatable real-life, coming-of-age universals - fitting in, standing out, anxieties, friendships, falling in love - within the context of Lexi’s agonising situation. Her story is impressively honest in its portrayal of life’s darknesses, and also shot-through with heart and hope as she finds friends she can truly trust, and her own inner strength to survive.
Eighteen-year-old Birdie is fanatical about mystery and crime fiction, a world in which she immersed herself while being brought up by her strict grandparents following the death of her mom. Birdie’s perception of detectives reveals much about her own aspirations and personality: “Detectives were cool, calm, and capable. They were usually loners, helping people from a distance...underdogs that people miscalculated.” Now, following the death of her gran and with the support of her mom’s fabulously flamboyant best friend, Birdie tries to find her own way in the world by taking a summer job as a night clerk at a glamorous historic hotel. It’s here that she forms a swoon-some, life-changing relationship with Daniel, the hotel’s handsome, hearing-impaired night driver, as they try to solve a real-life mystery involving a guest. Then, alongside the edge-of-your-seat twists and turns of their investigation, and their fast-blossoming, fated romance, it turns out that Daniel is harbouring secrets of his own. Underpinned by relatable real-life complications and curveballs aplenty, this engaging feast of young adult fiction fizzes with multiple mysteries and the jittery joys of first love. Head here to discover the author’s previous novels, which come equally recommended for their compassionate championing of offbeat, authentic young adult characters.
March 2019 Book of the Month | Smart, soulful, authentic and original, there’s no doubt that Zentner is an outstanding YA writer. His debut novel was a southern gothic gem, his second an incisive account of grief and guilt, while this is a contemporary coming-of-age classic, replete with a heartrending road trip, feverish romance and LOLs aplenty. About to graduate from high school, best friends Josie and Delia host a humorous horror movie show on public access TV, with Delia channeling her estranged dad’s love of low-budget fright fests and Josie working towards a career in TV. Experts in the art of witty back-and-forth tennis-rally banter, the girls are super close, but unsettling changes are on the horizon. Delia is desperately torn-up by being abandoned by her dad and, having tracked him down to Florida, has to decide whether she wants to contact him, just when it looks like Josie is about to leave her to take up an internship in another city. While this simmers, and as Delia struggles with being “the mother to my mother”, they’re invited to attend Shivercon. Seeing this gathering of horror moviemakers as the ideal opportunity to meet and enlist the support of an iconic presenter, they embark on a twelve-hour road-trip to Florida with Josie’s new boyfriend Lawson in tow, and Delia now set on seeing her dad. Josie and Lawson’s unexpected romance is as head-over-heels uplifting as Delia’s reunion with her dad is poignant, and there are plenty of entertaining plot twists and moments of everyday magic as this novel wends to a heartfelt conclusion.
Kate Pankhurst’s picture information books celebrate the lives of some of the world’s most inspiring women and they fill the pages of this excellent activity book too. You can cut out and make butterflies while reading about 17th century naturalist Maria Merian; dream about travelling the world while colouring in balloons and learning about pioneering aeronaut Sophie Blanchard; and detail your characteristics while discovering DNA with Rosalind Franklin. It’s fun and informative, each page offering something different to do and a new history to enjoy. At the back, just before the pages of pull-out stickers, there’s a chance to make a list of all your own hopes and dreams for the future – readers should have no trouble filling the page after what they’ve read. A great activity book for girls and boys too.
As bright and colourful as the books about him, this Elmer activity book is full of fun drawing and colouring activities, all starring our favourite patchwork elephant and his friends. In day-glo primary colours there’s a lovely sunny feel to it and quite a few jokes have sneaked their way in too, guaranteeing smiles all round. Just the thing to pass the long summer days.
With the school summer holidays approaching, thoughts turn to activity books and this one will have them dreaming of space even while stuck in the back of the car. There are all sorts of activities and challenges, some based on the solar system, some on our means of discovering it – one particularly lovely spot-the-difference for example features Herschel’s telescope, and readers are given the opportunity to design and draw their own telescope and spacecraft. It all looks absolutely gorgeous, no wonder given that the illustrations are by Christopher Wormell, and will keep them occupied for hours while conveying information that will last a lifetime.
With the Easter holidays on the horizon, this is a particularly attractive and appealing activity book. Children will find over 100 different things to do, including drawing and colouring in, word games and look and find, as well as some simple craft activities. All of the activities are themed on the UK countryside and wildlife so while having fun, readers will also learn about the animals, plants and insects around us, and even the sky above our heads, and will feel inspired to go out and see things for themselves. The illustrations by Debbie Powell are stylish and eye-catching while the text is engaging and direct. Interactive, educational and lots of fun too.
Are you addicted to your smartphone? Phones are fun and useful but online life can be overwhelming - often leaving us feeling anxious, sad or lacking in confidence. Brimming with clever activities, puzzles, life hacks and relaxation techniques, this interactive journal is the ultimate remedy!
Fans of David McKee’s friendly little elephant – and let’s face it, who doesn’t love Elmer? – will thoroughly enjoy this fun activity book. Each page is a feast for the eyes, busy scenes of Elmer’s friends with various challenges for readers. There are things to spot, characters to find, and lots to count too. Though there isn’t a story as such, the book is still brimful of the warmth and conviviality that are Elmer’s trademarks, and of course it’s always a pleasure to gaze at McKee’s fabulous illustrations.
August 2019 Book of the Month | Inside this sturdy and pretty little box, children will find the story of Alice in Wonderland, but told via 20 double-sided puzzle pieces (and with some thoroughly modern twists – the White Rabbit sports a natty baseball cap and unlocks flamingos from what looks a lot like a bike docking system). It’s up to readers to put the pieces of the story together which, of course, allows for endless new and different versions. The illustrations by Anne Laval are bright, lively and attractive, and surely Lewis Carroll would have thoroughly approved of the concept. Great fun for children who enjoy reading and creating their own stories.
When they've been reading all year at school, it's not surprising kids want to run around frantically outside and have some fun when summer finally arrives. But the long holidays are also an ideal time to build on good reading habits, and foster a real life-long love of books away from the classroom...
Our summer reading selection this year has been "such fun to put together," says one of our Lovereading4kids 'expert voices' Julia Eccleshare. We're sure children of all ages will have a great deal of fun reading every one of them. Some are from well-known and well-loved children's authors, others are from exciting new authors. They are all fantastic reads.
July 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing, when humans first set foot upon the Moon, and there is an array of newly published literature to mark this momentous event, from lift-the-flap board books to detailed non-fiction titles.
If your kids aren't so keen on stories check out our Non-Fiction section, packed full of interesting reads. 360 Degrees presents non-fiction in wonderfully imaginative ways and our 30 Seconds category has lively factual books which will be perfect for keeping the kids interested. Little People, Big Dreams is a brilliant picture book series which shows the childhood and early influences of the most eminent and outstanding people men and women Stephen Hawking to Amelia Earhart.
Our Book Awards section includes the top books from 2018 and 2019, across a wide age range. The UKLA Book Awards 2019 has books from ages 3 to teen, all recommended by classroom teachers. And don't forget to check out the Klaus Flugge award awarded to the most promising debut illustrator and the Branford Boase to the most outstanding first novel.
Our Best Kids Books Ever survey is a great source of quality children's literature, listing the top five books from our reviewers, our favourite authors and illustrators and industry experts. It is well worth a look!
And if you are looking for activity pages to keep the kids busy we have a great selection in our Kids Zone, along with videos, polls for fun and competitions.
There’s something to appeal to all!