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Here at LoveReading4Kids our team of experts have put together this list of the best Christmas books for kids of all ages, complete with reviews and extracts, to make your job of choosing that little bit easier. We'll be adding more books over the next few weeks so don't forget to keep visiting!
Former Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson followed up her best-selling The Gruffalo with a story about The Gruffalo’s Child. Now celebrating it's 15th anniversary it is reissued in a special hardback. An entertaining story for the very young as the little mouse outwits the Gruffalo’s Child with a plan that is just as cunning as the original one he hatched to frighten away the Gruffalo. Axel Scheffler’s illustrations once again capture the humour of the text and the fear that lurks behind the joke. The Gruffalo's Child 15th Anniversary Edition features a wrap-around snowy wood play scene and press-out characters for an interactive reading experience, plus additional book content including material from author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler, The Gruffalo's Child Song and tips for putting on a Gruffalo's Child show!
You can rely on Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet to put a fresh and funny take on the festive season. The creators of Supertato have another surprising, comic central character in this super-silly story: a rogue Christmas tree! All the other houses have a decorated Christmas tree in their window – the one at number 32 is pink – but at number 34 the tree has put its foot down and is refusing to play its part. The baubles are in despair, pleading with it to get into its pot and play its part, to no avail. Fortunately, the tree is as vain as it is stubborn, and not too bright either, and the decorations find a way to trick it into behaving. Where else will you be able to enjoy the sight of baubles and tinsel chasing a Christmas tree round the house? Told in rollicking rhyme this is a Christmas must-have.
Share this sturdy little book at bedtime for a perfectly charming festive read, full of frosty scenes, inviting flaps to lift, and the friendliest little bunny characters. Read it in the day, and ideally before a walk in the park, and it turns into a set of instructions for a special holiday adventure, with an invitation to join a very jolly elf chase. With shades of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, there’s lots of repetition, lots of actions to copy (skate, skate, glide) and lots of fun. A lovely book to make the Christmas holidays even more fun.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2019 | A joyful combination of Christmas, a heavy snow fall and a farmyard all of which are explored in double page spreads filled with flaps which makes this a book to enjoy time after time. Poppy and Sam are excitedly waiting for Christmas. They write their letters to Santa - Sam wants a train set while Poppy asks for a new bike with a basket; they set up the Christmas tree and they settle down to wait…will Santa come? And will he bring them the presents that they want? The addition of a hidden duck on some spreads and a hidden kitten on all spreads increase the fun of looking carefully at the pictures.
This beautiful, atmospheric book captures the special magic of Christmas for readers of all ages. A young boy, just beginning to wonder whether Father Christmas is real, lies in bed hoping to hear sleigh bells. But instead of a sleigh, a huge train pulls up outside and takes him, together with other pyjama-clad children, off to the North Pole. There the boy meets Father Christmas and choses his present – a sleigh bell. It rings for him that Christmas and every one until he’s an old man, the sound always equalling the first gift of Christmas. This is a book that really does conjure up all that is magic about Christmas and Liam Neeson’s reading on the accompanying CD does it full justice, his rich voice full of doubt, breathless anticipation and joy. Start a Christmas tradition and enjoy this with the whole family on Christmas Eve.
November 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2019 | The best-selling series of Usborne touchy-feely titles get a welcome addition with this great new title. Perfect for very small fingers to explore, these books combine strongly outlined pictures which include patches of different textures. These patches invite very young children to get up close to the animals and engage! Just like the little mouse in the pictures does. Here he checks out the polar bear’s claws which are too shiny, nose which is too squashy and tongue which is too rough. It is only when he gets to the lovely fluffy tummy that he knows he’s found the polar bear that belongs to him!
December 2019 Book of the Month | ‘‘Twas the night before Christmas …’ but we’re on a snowy hillside where a lonely tree shivers in the cold. As it longs to be in the brightly lit little town below, suddenly footsteps suddenly approach. Somebody very important collects the tree and puts it at the centre of some special celebrations, before leaving with the familiar words: ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!’ Taking inspiration from Clement C Moore’s classic poem, Chris Naylor-Ballesteros’ new book is filled with the joy of Christmas, and captures all its sense of magical anticipation. In a handsome small format, there’s a full page illustration on each right hand page and they tell the story with as much vivacity as the lines of verse opposite. It all concludes with a sparkling double page spread, the tree glowing in the foreground as St Nick flies off into the Christmas night silhouetted against the moon. If this doesn’t set you up for Christmas and its jollities, nothing will!
Generosity, unexpected kindness and warm welcomes are at the heart of this story, making it perfect Christmas reading. It’s closing time on Christmas Eve in a big department store and all the shoppers and staff have gone home leaving only Clawdia the cat – and a family of lively mice. They lead her a merry dance around the shop, stopping occasionally to point out scenes that make her rethink her ‘bah, humbug’ attitude to Christmas. A surprise ending sees Clawdia and the mice enjoying a proper Christmas day. The message is lovely and the hectic chases around Christmas displays are lots of fun. As good as any John Lewis ad!
December 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2019 | The delightful Meerkats are back for a new and special Christmas adventure. Everyone in the Meerkat family is excitedly getting ready for the perfect Christmas in their home in the Kalahari Desert. But Sunny is sure that something is missing. Well, many things! His Book on Christmas tells him that the perfect weather needs to be snow, the perfect presents have to be in a huge pile, the perfect dinner has to include well-boiled sprouts while the perfect music to accompany it all has to be Christmas carols. Donning his Christmas hat, Sunny sets off on an adventure to find somewhere more Christmassy. Visiting his friends around the world, Sunny finds that some have snow, some have presents, some have sprouts but all have something missing …
November 2019 Debut of the Month | Mr Moose and Mr Brown first meet on an aeroplane flying from America to London. Mr Moose should be with his brother Monty, but absent-minded Monty has got on the wrong plane. Mr Brown, who is a famous fashion designer (as is the book’s author Paul Smith), offers to help his new friend find his missing brother. As they travel the world, Mr Moose helps Mr Brown with his fashion range, suggesting some very interesting garments – parkas for penguins, sneakers for cheetahs, scarves for giraffes. As they fit out an Alaskan bear for snow-shoes Mr Brown has an idea … It all ends with a happy reunion at a big catwalk (moosewalk?) show. It’s an engaging story and very strong on the fun and satisfaction that comes from designing things and from creative partnerships. Sam Usher paints some wonderful scenes, including a witty reimagining of Hopper’s Nighthawks, 1942.
Another hilarious helping of bonkers supermarket superhero adventure, and possibly the best yet in this brilliant picture book series. Evil Pea is up to his usual tricks and when he manages to freeze Supertato things look bad: putting Operation Freezification into action he transforms the supermarket into a winter wonderland – to the surprise delight of the veggies! But Supertato is able to free himself, with the help of some chilis, and soon the supermarket shelves are turned. Great fun, wonderful to read and very cleverly illustrated and designed, Evil Pea Rules deserves a place in every shopping basket this Christmas.
December 2019 Book of the Month | Greta Thunberg is the inspiration for this heartfelt and moving allegory. A little girl lives happily in a beautiful forest until the actions of neighbouring giants start to threaten her home and the wild animals who share it. The fictional Greta, like her real-life counterpart, begins a strike and is gradually joined by more and more people until the giants take notice. In this story they change their ways and everyone lives happily. Simply but powerfully the story explains the impact of human activity on the climate and our world, but reassures children that there’s something they can do: within notes about Greta Thunberg at the end is her quote, “No one is too small to make a difference.”
December 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2019 | Winner of the 2018 Caldecott Medal | A stunning near wordless picture book which will inspire the story teller in all of its readers. While Matthew Cordell draws on some themes familiar from the traditional Red Riding Hood story he has created a quite different and hugely heart-warming drama about trust and friendship. Dressed in a bright red coat a little girl sets off to walk home from school. Snow is beginning to fall. At the same time, a pack of wolfs, including a young wolf cub, set out into the same falling snow. The snow turns into a blizzard and soon both the little girl and the wolf cub are lost. How can either of them survive? Luckily, they come together so that bth can get home safely.
September 2019 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | Matt Sewell is a passionate bird spotter as well as gifted artist and his enthusiasm shines through in this sumptuous book. He’s selected favourite birds from around the world, the exotic as well as the everyday, and each one featured is illustrated in his beautiful and expressive watercolour. The passages of text that accompany the illustrations include fascinating facts as well as information on the bird’s appearance and habitat, and some of the facts are really quirky – how the Australian Southern drongo came to provide the slang term for an idiot for example. This is a book to delight, intrigue and inspire as well as inform
Most people like good, but Sofia likes better. When her Abuelo (Grandad) hurts himself on a mountain of rubbish outside their local landfill site, she determines to take action and turn ‘Mount Trashmore’ into a park. It’s not easy, and she needs all her courage to enter City Hall and put her ideas to the grown-ups in charge. With the help of friends and neighbours, Sofia proves that everyone has the power to change their world. It’s another uplifting and positive story in the thoroughly excellent The Questioneers series, and go-getter Sofia is a wonderful role-model for us all. Credit to David Roberts for his typically stylish and action-packed illustrations too.
November 2019 Book of the Month | Not since The Snowman have readers been taken on such a magical, snowy journey of love and adventure. Phoebe lives in a gloomy orphanage run by the cruel Griselda Bone. The two clash frequently, and often over Phoebe’s creative response to her school work: Griselda does not approve of words like ‘whispery’ and ‘flumping’. Locked up in the snow overnight, Phoebe and her little dog Herb are surprised by a huge and magical snow dragon, who takes them on an extraordinary ride through the skies. Filled with snowflakes, starlight and revelling in the power of the imagination this is a gorgeous story for Christmas nights and Fiona Woodcock’s illustrations are very special indeed.
There’s a moral to this lively tale for everyone who lives on a small island. The setting is a farm run by animals. At first, all is good: the animals work hard and are friends, free ‘to live and work where they chose’. But trouble is brewing. The geese, who reside with the ducks on a lush little island, start to resent the other animals. Their grumbling gets worse until they decide that the best thing for them to do is to leave the rest of the farm and live on their own. Despite the misgivings of the ducks, the geese destroy the footbridge to the farm. 48% of readers may not be surprised to learn that things don’t work out as the geese expect, but all readers will be glad that by the end of the book the bridge has been rebuilt. Animal farms traditionally have lessons for readers – Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury for example – and this one is delivered with impact and charm. A book to get everyone talking, but to leave them smiling.
The Moomintrolls are all tucked up in bed, sleeping their long winter sleep when the Hemulen falls into their attic and tells them they need to get ready for Christmas. With no experience of Christmas, the Moomintrolls are a bit rattled, but manage to prepare everything in time – tree, presents, a feast. They share it with the little creatures of Moominvalley, who appreciate it all very much indeed. Funny, cosy and reassuring, this charming little story will put everyone in the mood for Christmas and the new paperback edition is just the thing for winter bedtimes.
October 2019 Book of the Month | Written for and about “the swift and sweet ones/who hurdled history and opened a world of possible”, for those who “survived America by any means necessary. And the ones who didn’t,” this is an inspiring ode to the author’s forebears and to the world-changing feats of unforgettable Black American figures. Author Kwame Alexander’s initial inspiration for this book came in the year his second daughter was born, the same year Barack Obama became the first African American president of the USA. As a result, Alexander wanted his daughters “to know how we got to this historic moment”, which is exactly what this stirring book does. The chained slaves who kept faith, the elite Olympians, the innovative musicians, the seminal scientists, the courageous activists - people from all walks of life are celebrated in Alexander’s poetically poised words, and gloriously illustrated by Kadir Nelson, with much for young children to ponder and ask questions about. As well as being a wonderful way for parents to explore Black American history with their little ones on a one-to-one basis, this will also work well with older children in a classroom context. Indeed, this is one of those rare and wonderful picture books that defies age boundaries - a radiant, resonant unforgettable tour de force, as befits its theme.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2019 | October 2019 Debut of the Month | A warm-hearted picture book about a special friendship in which free spirited Emily tempts anxious and pampered Frederick to brave the outdoors and enjoy some wonderful and unexpected adventures. Emma Chichester Clark’s illustrations capture the magic of the children’s friendship and play perfectly.
A Collection of Natural Wonders, Marine Marvels and Undersea Antics from Across the Globe | The 5th title in the best-selling Atlas of Adventures series, that has now been translated into 31 languages, is a highly topical guided tour of marine wonders from each of the world’s five oceans, taking the reader from the depths of the Marianas Trench to colourful reefs, kelp forests, tropical beaches and to seabird’s rocky nesting sites. Each featured animal (and often these are often the fascinatingly less familiar examples) is given a double-page spread with a full-colour backdrop illustrating the habitat with illuminating snippets of text invitingly laid out, including useful maps that show the locations of the animals. A stand-out feature of this series is the humorous writing which instantly engages young readers and makes the books accessible to a wide age group. The beautiful illustrations include some fun oddities too- an octopus playing the violin or a penguin with a bucket and spade, and these are listed at the back for readers to search for throughout the book. A recurrent theme is the the dangers of floating plastic and other pollution which comes together at the end in a spread titled “Oceans in Danger.” With an excellent index this is another great example from this team of an invaluable information resource that is an entertaining and absorbing book which can be dipped in and out of and read with great pleasure. A recommended addition to any school library.
Whether you travel on the London Underground every week (as millions do) or just once in a blue moon, this fascinating and beautifully illustrated book will intrigue you. It seamlessly mixes facts and human stories to explain the history of the tube from 1845, when Charles Pearson proposed an ‘Arcade Railway’ to cope with congestion on the roads, to today when 100 million people travel through Waterloo station alone every year. You’ll meet the people whose vision shaped the trains, their lines and the stations, and learn quirky facts about everything from lost property to ‘Mind the Gap’ announcements. Sarah McMenemy’s pen and ink illustrations are equally atmospheric whether representing passengers in Victorian times or today, and David Long, a Blue Peter Prize winner, knows just how to entertain and inform at the same time.
Bring the Bolds into your home for some festive fun and frolics! Julian Clary’s stories of the Bolds, a family of hyenas who live in Teddington disguised as humans, are full of fun, mischief and charm, and so is this Bolds-themed Christmas activity book. Packed with David Roberts’ fabulous illustrations it’s gorgeous to look at and the different activities featured are certain to keep everyone smiling too. Naturally the jokes are of a particularly high standard – Mr Bold’s job is to write cracker jokes after all – but there are some good riddles too as well as puzzles and, best of all, lots of chances to draw or write about the Bolds. Lots of fun and a perfect Christmas gift.
Winner of the Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize 2019 | A special edition for junior readers of the superb Planetarium in the Welcome to the Museum series, this book dazzles. It takes readers on a journey into space, explaining clearly and sometimes poetically, where our planet is in the Solar System, how we have found ways to look out across it, and what we have discovered about the universe. Information is conveyed though precise descriptions catching all of the awe-inspiring sense of time and distance, while Christopher Wormell’s illustrations are both beautiful and illuminating. Opening with a section on telescopes and observatories, and ending with the end of the universe, via sections on the night sky, stars and galaxies, this really is a book to treasure, and although the text has been adapted for younger readers, it will fascinate those of any age.
October 2019 Book of the Month | P.G. Bell’s debut The Train to Impossible Places established him as a writer of hugely exciting, inventive and satisfying adventure, and its sequel, The Great Brain Robbery, is just as good, if not even better. Once again 11-year-old Suzy is aboard the Impossible Postal Express tearing through the fantastical realms that make up the Union of Impossible Places, and this time it’s a do or die mission to save Trollville from a thoroughly nasty villain. Suzy is much more at home now with fuzzics, the strange mix of science and magic that lies at the heart of troll technology, though there are still some fabulous surprises in store for her and readers. Adventure doesn’t come more exciting or entertaining, and this is one train young readers really mustn’t miss.
Nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | Nominated for the CILIP Greenaway Medal 2019 | Katherine Rundell, author of Rooftoppers, Wolf Wilder and The Explorer, fills her first picturebook with the wit, verve and touches of whimsy that distinguish her novels, as well as with a series of typically striking images. Theo is spending a lonely Christmas Eve at home while his parents work late, when four battered old decorations he’s just discovered and added to the tree, suddenly come to life. The robin, tin soldier, angel and rocking horse are a demanding bunch, particularly the horse which eats anything and everything. Following their orders, Theo takes them outside and helps each find what they need, before they in turn transform his Christmas. Emily Sutton’s illustrations are perfect for the story, matching both its sense of tradition and anything’s-possible-magic and adventure. A story that is just right for Christmas but worth reading any day of the year.
October 2019 Book of the Month | Here’s another inspiring, information-packed picture book in what’s becoming something of a series (see also Great Women Who Made History and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World). It tells the stories of pioneering women who achieved amazing things, often in the face of prejudice or downright hostility from society. There are familiar names – Rosalind Franklin is included – plus lots that are lesser known, but just as fascinating: balloonist Sophie Blanchard for example, and Sarah Breedlove, beauty entrepreneur. Their stories are told through lively, engaging text and pictures, it’s a treat to read. Kate Pankhurst is something of a fantastically great woman herself, and there’s lots for all readers to marvel at and enjoy in this book.
Little mouse Winston stars in a perfect Christmas adventure. Even for a mouse, he’s small but Winston’s got a big heart and when he finds a lost letter for Father Christmas he’s determined to see it delivered. His expedition is full of challenges, but along the way he’s helped by some equally warm-hearted and generous animals, including a beautiful white cat and a rat who ‘works’ at the famous Fortesque’s department store. Winston’s good deed is rewarded and the little mouse finds a warm bed and a new family for Christmas. The book is divided into 24 ½ chapters – one a day for 1st – 24th December plus a treat for Christmas morning! Interspersed are festive craft activities too and there can’t be a better book to set readers up for Christmas. Alex T Smith’s illustrations are gorgeous – big, busy and dramatic scenes but always with our little hero centre stage.
Clementine - though she is usually called Oiya (Oy, you) by her dreadful Aunt and Uncle – has dreams of a magic place she may have once known. Her only friend is the cat Gilbert (called Giblets by Aunt Vermillia and Uncle Rufus) as Clementine has a Cinderella-like existence working all day and then being locked away in the cellar at night. She glimpses the sky through looking up the chimney in her cellar, until one day she looks out of a window in the house and sees the magic place she has imagined… Then follows a great adventure through the Great Black City as Clementine miraculously escapes and tries to find her magic place. Clementine is a very determined little girl, many would have given up in her circumstances, but she knows she can fine her magic place. The book is a very tactile object, a lovely size for smaller hands as they get involved in this wonderful adventure. Black and white illustrations on virtually every page – Wormell is feted for his wood cuts and lino cuts – with a nod to the style of Gustav Doré, give this an authentic Dickensian feel. The generous illustrations paired with the fast-paced story make this a book children will enjoy reading for pleasure!
December 2019 Book of the Month | Set in 1912, this action-packed adventure feels both classic and contemporary, with Marina, its young heroine, yearning to break free from societal constraints to become the “new woman” she’s read about in modern magazines. Namely, the kind of woman who is “mistress of her own destiny”. Frustratingly, Marina’s father dismisses her desires outright. Being a naval captain he’s often away at sea and, with her mother gone, Marina is about to be shipped off to boarding school when all she really wants to do is set sail with her dad. So much so, Marina ends up stowing away on his ship. As his mission is vitally urgent, Captain Denham has little choice but to continue with Marina aboard. As their perilous voyage progresses, the thrilling dangers of enemy sightings, superstitious shipmates and icebergs are interlaced with myth and mystery as Marina feels an inexplicable “urgent tugging in her chest to go north” after being accused of possessing the power to “call up storms”. Indeed, Marina’s affinity with the sea adds an extra edge of intrigue throughout, leading to an eerie explanation as the novel twists and swells to its pulse-quickening crescendo.
December 2019 Book of the Month | Handsomely illustrated this information book is full of stories of adventure and exploration and takes readers to some of the wildest, most distant places on the planet, from the polar regions to the deepest underground caves. Each location is brought to life through maps and the geographical vital statistics but most vividly through the stories of the men and women who were among the first to explore them. Expect to get up close to the Matterhorn, the Arabian Desert and both poles while learning too about the threats to these beautiful places from climate change. Tyler’s striking graphic illustrations make the information even more memorable and there’s a useful glossary too.
Award-winner Katherine Rundell has already taken readers on thrilling journeys over rooftops, across the Russian steppes and of course deep into the forest. She understands absolutely children's longing for wild adventure and no-one is better suited to write new stories for Kipling's Jungle Book characters. This very handsome book, which features beautiful colour illustrations by Kristjana S Williams, tells five different stories, and with each perfectly-imagined episode adds to what we love about Kipling's unforgettable characters, including Bagheera, Baloo, Shere Khan and Kaa. It opens too with a story about one of the most interesting characters, Mowgli's fierce wolf-mother Raksha, who has long deserved more time in the spotlight. These are stories of bravery and cunning, full of excitement and danger, but most of all they are stories of loyalty and community, and by the time they reach the end, readers will be daydreaming themselves into the jungle family. Mowgli links all the stories, and has his own of course, and is exactly the same impetuous, selfish, boasting but warm-hearted, generous boy drawn so vividly by Kipling. In fact the book does exactly what sequels should but seldom manage - it tells us new stories that grow out of the originals, and enhance and enrich them.
November 2019 Debut of the Month | Lina, born into a Soviet prison camp, has to find her way in the world when she escapes with some very disreputable characters. She is chased by her best friend, shadow wolves and a terrifying sorceress taking revenge on humankind. Without her friend Bogdan and her slow discovery of the magic she has she would perish – and she very nearly does on several occasions – in this gripping, bewitching story. The story combines all the best elements of a straightforward adventure with friends and a magically invested tale, echoing some of the folk tales of the area. The reader can taste the fear engendered by Svetlana the sorceress, and marvel at the bravery of the two young heroes in their battles against her and also the sheer determination needed to survive the awful winter climate. This novel will have a wide appeal, with characters that are carefully drawn – and appealing to both boys and girls. The mix of horror, magic and adventure make it very readable – a great read for a winters evening.
Our World Explained in 12 Simple Maps | Maps are endlessly fascinating to children but this book will really open up the world to them. In Prisoners of Geography Tim Marshall reveals how geography has affected civilisations and how countries’ histories – and the lives of their people – have been shaped by the position of mountain ranges, valleys, rivers and coastlines. Take Russia for example: even as it grew bigger and more powerful over the centuries, it’s always been exposed to attack from the west because of the North European Plain, and still is. In another chapter he explains why it’s so important to China that it controls Tibet, and the islands in the South China Seas. By showing the ways geography, history and politics converge he makes complicated stuff – the situation in the Middle East for example – accessible and fascinating. It’s a book to get readers of any age thinking and seeing things differently.
Anyone who dreams of escape and adventure will love this book! Purporting to be the illustrated journals of an unknown explorer, discovered by Teddy Keen in a remote part of the Amazon, its almost 200 pages are packed with information on how to explore and survive in the wild. This covers pitching camp, making and sailing rafts, creating shelters in environments from deserts to the Arctic, as well as first aid and some ‘life-saving scenarios’. The pages are a mix of how-tos and anecdotes, with sketches and occasional full-colour double page illustrations and it’s guaranteed to light the flame of adventure in all readers! You don’t need to be in a far-off place to start an expedition of course, and the book makes clear that back gardens, parks and canals are all suitable locations for adventuring. An irresistible call to step into the wild.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2019 | Full of Meg Rosoff’s delightful wit and evident affection for dogs, the is a great return for McTavish the big-hearted rescue dog who is already well-known for the good care he takes of all those around him. This time it is Betty who needs help. When Pa Peachey gets a new job the whole family is upheaved. Everyone is excited about it except for Betty. Not only has she got to move house but she also to say goodbye to her old friends and go to a new school. Betty does not want to be the new girl: she is terrified. Luckily, McTavish thinks of the best possible way to turn her arrival at a new school into a triumph rather than a catastrophe.
This follow up to the hugely popular Official Handbook of the Magical Unicorn Society will entrance fans of the original and new readers alike. It is again written by the mysterious Selwyn E Phipps, president of the Magical Unicorn Society, and tells eight separate stories, each one featuring a different unicorn. There are Water Moon Unicorns, Storm Chasers, Ice Wanderers and of course the Golden Unicorn. Each story is full of magic and mystery and is preceded by a short profile of the unicorn it features while the pages are full of delicate, atmospheric colour illustrations. It all makes for a beautiful book which really will send shivers of delight through anyone who dreams of one day, somewhere, somehow, seeing a unicorn.
Ordinary Kids with Extraordinary Stories | Young people looking for inspiration will find it in the true stories told in this book. In punchy, direct text and eye-catching illustrations it introduces 29 young people who have each done something extraordinary and overcome the challenges facing them. Some of them are famous already, their names known across the world: Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg. Other names are less well known but their stories are just as inspirational: Ayesha Farooq, Pakistan’s first female fighter pilot; young Malawian inventor William Kamkwamba. Alongside their stories are tips for readers on how to get your voice heard or, accompanying stories of amazing physical feats, how to push yourself beyond what you think is possible. It’s a book to show just how much can be achieved with courage and determination.
The Sky at Night presenter Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock was bitten by the space bug as a kid and does an excellent job of passing on her passion in this inspiring book. She encourages us to copy Einstein in his ‘thought experiments’ and follow her on an imagined journey through space to the very edge of the Solar System. The book features amazing NASA photos alongside full colour illustrations and is packed with up-to-date information presented in blocks of text or via charts and diagrams. It does exactly what books like this should: answering all the questions readers will have, while inspiring them to future journeys of discovery.
December 2019 Book of the Month | It’s autumn and the happiness and warmth of manor house Plas-y-Fran, now home to orphan Seren, is about to be disturbed by the arrival of the sinister Tylwyth Teg, or Fair Family. First, it’s Mrs Honeybourne in her red, velvet gloves, claiming to be a governess for Seren and her friend Tomos, but even stranger and much more frightening figures follow. Can Seren stand up to the Fair and save Tomos and her adopted family? A story of danger, courage and strength, Seren’s adventures will send delicious shivers down the spine. Catherine Fisher is a superb storyteller, breathing new life into old stories and setting them free like the wind whirling autumn leaves. This is the second story about Seren and also stars her magical clockwork companion Crow but stands on its own. Highly recommended especially for winter nights. If you like this, you’ll like Amy Wilson, Sophie Anderson and queen of magical stories, Diana Wynne Jones.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2019 | Emma Carroll brings her own Somerset countryside vividly to life in this enthralling tale and you can even detect the West Country tones of her spirited young heroine, Fortune Spicer, as you read. Fair Maidens Lane, where she lives, is a successful hamlet running well, despite an absence of men. But as the story opens a matriarch is arrested. An atmosphere of suspicion is spreading across the land from King James’ obsession with witches and unscrupulous men are using this as a weapon for financial gain. Sent away by her mother, disguised as a boy for her own protection, Fortune ends up as a servant at Barrow Hall only to find a master even more against witches than the king, but also happy to exploit the opportunity to raise funds for a terrible new trade in human beings. When the natural disaster overtakes them all, Fortune survives, but must fight torture and a trial for witchcraft to prove she is not to blame for the flood. The claustrophobic atmosphere of male oppression, corruption and real menace is wonderfully well done, and Fortune is a redoubtable heroine learning to have faith in herself and to seek her own destiny. As with all her novels this author wears her research lightly but provides a genuine learning experience and a genuine feeling for the period and for the characters she brings so memorably to life. .......................... Emma Carroll brings her own Somerset countryside vividly to life in this enthralling tale and you can even detect the West Country tones of her spirited young heroine, Fortune Spicer, as you read. Fair Maidens Lane, where she lives, is a successful hamlet running well, despite an absence of men. But as the story opens a matriarch is arrested. An atmosphere of suspicion is spreading across the land from King James’ obsession with witches and unscrupulous men are using this as a weapon for financial gain. Sent away by her mother, disguised as a boy for her own protection, Fortune ends up as a servant at Barrow Hall only to find a master even more against witches than the king, but also happy to exploit the opportunity to raise funds for a terrible new trade in human beings. When the natural disaster overtakes them all, Fortune survives, but must fight torture and a trial for witchcraft to prove she is not to blame for the flood. The claustrophobic atmosphere of male oppression, corruption and real menace is wonderfully well done, and Fortune is a redoubtable heroine learning to have faith in herself and to seek her own destiny. As with all her novels this author wears her research lightly but provides a genuine learning experience and a genuine feeling for the period and for the characters she brings so memorably to life. Joy Court
Set in a flooded future world, Tom Huddleston’s book is a thrilling adventure, in which two young people are caught up in a world of pirates, gangsters, power struggles and corruption. Kara and Joe live in a floating slum on the edge of what is left of London after rising seas have drowned our civilisation. They’ve always been told that the Mariners, gangs who live entirely at sea, are terrorists. But then Joe’s life is saved by a Mariner, who entrusts him with a secret map. It’s a story that poses questions about our future, individual responsibility and the morals of political activism. Timely, thought-provoking, and action-packed.
October 2019 Book of the Month | A new book by Chris Riddell is something to celebrate, especially one that gives his unique imagination free rein, as this does. There’s all sorts of trouble in the Kingdom of Thrynne: in the town of Troutwine, King Rat and his followers use threats of violence to extort money from its citizens; in the city of Nightingale, the Clockmaker’s sinister army of tin men enforces his tyrannical rule; and even in the village of Bream, deep in the Great Wood, the magical trees and the giants they shelter are in danger. In the very best tradition of fantasy adventures, three children and three bespoke enchanted objects are all that stand between magic and its destruction. The story positively crackles with invention and each chapter seems to introduce a wonderful new character before the storylines converge for a thrilling climax (fortunately one that leaves the door open for sequels). Fairytale adventure has never seemed so polished or ingenious. Young readers are spoiled for choice now when it comes to magical adventure, and readers of Guardians of Magic must also look out for Cressida Cowell’s Wizards of Once series.
May 2019 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2019 | Enduringly fascinating and inspiring, the story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s ascent of Everest is always worth re-visiting. This strong narrative biography matched with atmospheric illustrations brings the two men to life from their childhoods in New Zealand and Nepal respectively to their amazing feat of climbing the world’s highest mountain. Alexandra Stewart and Joe Todd-Stanton capture something about the personalities of the two and the reasons that they felt the need to take on this great challenge. Most successfully, in words and pictures they describe the extraordinary landscape of Everest and the surrounding mountains and in particular the enormous dangers and the unique magic of mountaineering - especially when you take on the challenge of the highest mountain in the world.
J.K. Rowling has said how much she admires Jim Kay’s illustrations for the Harry Potter books and no wonder: he’s the perfect artist for her stories, bringing the people, creatures and natural world of her imagination to life in such a way that they seem to spill out from the pages. The Goblet of Fire is where things start to take a turn for the dark in the Harry Potter stories, and Kay is more than up to that. The book opens with a terrifying visit to the Riddle House, home to Lord Voldemort. Surrounded by brambles and thorns it’s a dark, malevolent presence on pages that are heavy with menace. It’s not all death and destruction of course – there are many comic images too: a wonderful representation of the heavily stamped letter Mrs Weasley sends to the Dursleys; fabulous paintings of Hogwarts witches and wizards refusing to be bound by their frames. And best of all, there are dramatic paintings of dragons, so realistic you can practically hear them snorting as you turn the pages. It’s glorious – a treat for Harry Potter fans old and new, and for anyone who appreciates great illustration.
We all love strange stories and bizarre, unexplained events: do aliens exist? Are ghosts real? Is the Bermuda Triangle really a thing? Was there actually a curse on Tutankhamun’s tomb? This book examines these four questions, plus another six equally mesmerising, but challenges readers to use logic, intelligence and the facts to determine the truth. Author Kathryn Hulick presents thoroughly researched accounts, packed with information because, as she empahises, evidence is the most important thing. She ensures that the sources are reliable and then encourages readers while keeping an open mind to consider everything really carefully. It makes for a great read, especially when some of those mysteries – the Kraken – turn out to be strange but true. A book that glories in mystery, but also the power of science and human intelligence.
This is the fourth title by the duo of past Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen and writer Annemarie Young in this ground-breaking series which sets out to offer students a balanced view of the big topics and challenges the modern world faces. Having previously tackled meaty topics like Humanism, What is Right and Wrong and a similarly must-have purchase on Refugees and Migrants, this latest title could not be more perfectly timed for elucidating the forthcoming election campaign. Once again, the topic is broken down layer by layer. It looks at the whole spectrum of political views at international examples and examines what politics means in different contexts and situations, with each stage offering additional things to think about and consider and inviting the reader to reflect on their own experiences and feelings. Featuring personal statements from the authors and from four people involved in politics in different ways- Nimko Ali, Michelle Dorrell, James Graham and Sir Stephen O’Brien the overall message conveyed by the book is the very opposite of didactic. The content reflects the view that politics is about the use of power in all situations: in personal relationships, in business and the media and by the state. There is a particularly good section on how language can be used (and misused) and another on why politics causes such division and disagreement. The ground rules in the latter section should be studied by all prospective MPs! With the excellent index and glossary and further information sources this invaluable resource clearly articulates why everyone should care about politics. Highly recommended.
Winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2016 | Award-winning Neil Gaiman shows all his story telling skills in this gripping fusion of familiar fairy tales told in a dark-hearted version with some original characters. Especially a bold-hearted queen. Not far from where the queen lives, a princess is under the spell of an enchantress who has put a whole country to sleep. Despite it being the eve of her wedding day, the bold queen decides to take action. Slipping into her mail shirt she arms herself with her sword and sets off out of the palace accompanied by the three dwarves who will lead her through the tunnels…The dark magic, great courage and spell-binding imagination that power this story is perfectly realised in Chris Riddell’s awesome illustrations.
Edith Pattou’s epic story is partly inspired by the old Norwegian fairy tale ‘East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon’, though readers will also recognise elements of the more familiar ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Though the story is told from the different perspectives of its main characters, at its heart is a young girl, Rose, the child born facing North and therefore full of dreams of travel and adventure, and who is saved from death by a great white bear. When later Rose betrays of the bear, it is her quest to make good the harm she has caused that drives the plot. Filled with magical scenes and unforgettable characters, this is a rich and rewarding read, filled too with fascinating research into map-making, Viking ships and Inuit life, all of which play an essential part in Rose’s journey to find the land of the Troll Queen and her true love. As spell-binding and mysterious as the best folk-tales always are.
What a majestic conjuration of Middle Grade magic this is – think Alice in Wonderland in a dazzling theatrical setting. The year is 1870 and Celeste is a lowly orphan who runs errands in a Royal Opera House. She wakes one day haunted by a dream in which an enigmatic emerald suited-man spoke ominously of her involvement in a game called the Reckoning. Celeste recalls a shipwreck from the dream too and then, back in what appears to be real life, the opera house’s huge galleon-shaped crystal chandelier splinters into a thousand pieces and everyone thinks Celeste is someone else. The opening in which she cascades into the story world is as exhilaratingly bewildering as Alice’s entry to Wonderland: “Down she falls. Oh, how the world has tumbled.” Why does everyone think she’s a gifted dancer called Maria? Why can’t everyone see her? And so an intricate, suspenseful tale of identity plays out as Celeste struggles to untangle the truth, with dreadfully high stakes. Gardner’s cast of larger-than-life characters is vibrantly drawn, and special mention must be made of vindictive diva Madame Sabina and her awful daughter, and Celeste’s ally Viggo. But the true star of this production is - of course – Celeste, whose resolve is adeptly expressed through the thoughts of the mysterious man in the emerald suit: “Seldom has he met a child with strength enough to move on to the final part of the game.” This is a dream of a book for confident readers who relish fiction that ignites their imaginations and delight in flexing their cerebral muscles.
November 2019 Book of the Month | Amy Wilson’s new novel is just the thing to curl up with as the nights draw in. Stella Brigg lives with her nan and friend Peg in a little house on the edge of the forest and if that sounds normal enough, Nan is actually a ghost, and Peg is an imp. All three are in hiding from the Shadow King whose creeping magic is slowly destroying the forest and the creatures, magical ones included, who live within it. Lonely and isolated, there’s one thing Stella wants more than anything, and that is to go to school. She finally does, only to discover that there’s almost as much magic in the corridors of Broadmere Academy as there is at home. With new-found friends, and a new determination and confidence, she’s finally ready to take on the Shadow King. Friendship and fun are as important to the story as magic and spell-making, and it’s a cleverly crafted and thoroughly entertaining adventure. A story to recommend to fans of Sophie Anderson’s fantasy adventures.
October 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2019 | Follow in Greta Thunberg's footsteps and join the global mission to save our planet from climate change. With in-depth text and data, this necessary and timely book will answer readers' questions on what climate change means, what its consequences will be, and what must be done to protect our world.
September 2019 Book of the Month | Amara knows exactly what she wants for her 12th birthday: to visit her father’s family in New York. She understands it will be very different to Beavertown, Oregon, the small town she’s grown up in, but can’t wait to explore the big city and get to know her family properly. The trip is eye-opening in lots of ways as she learns more about her father and his childhood, about her family, and even her own history. Renée Watson shows us that families are complicated, that it’s never too late to change or make amends, and that we can all carry on learning even as we grow up. Quiet, though full of drama, and skilfully told, this is a touching and thought-provoking story with well-drawn, engaging characters; a book that will make a real impact on its reader.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2019 | | Award winning Elizabeth Laird brilliantly brings to life thirteen year old Safiya’s new world as a refugee after her family flee from their comfortable home in Damascus because of the war in Syria. Safiya, her brother and father arrive in Jordan with nothing and must turn to relatives for help. Safiya has to adjust to living in a tent without running water. Suddenly, she is cleaning and washing and finding clever ways of making do on very little rather than going to school. But resourceful Safiya never gives up hope of going back to a better way for life or of finding her missing twin sister. A House without Walls is a vivid picture of a family facing an extreme experience with courage and imagination.
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.
November 2019 Book of the Month | Reading a new Frances Hardinge novel is always an adventure into a new, carefully constructed world - where things are never quite as one might imagine as you begin. Here two friends, raised together in poverty and scavenging are leader and led, counterpoint to each other, one believing in friendship above all, the other of a very much darker outlook. They live on one of a series of islands that form the Myriad, each island with its own long dead gods, each with its own strange traditions and stories. The sea surrounding the islands hides many things within it, wrecks, bones as one may expect, but also the undersea where danger lurks ready to take any who venture too far and spit them out utterly changed. In this world Hardinge has created a masterpiece of tension, fear and friendship. A slow coming to the realisation of the world that they inhabit, and a look at power and how it can be manipulated for politicians, gods and evildoers own nefarious ends. It makes your mind race with the adventure but pulls you up to consider the philosophy behind the characters motivations. A truly great read – I think I may have to read it again now!
October 2019 Book of the Month | New Yorker Leah is a tenacious, snarky queen of quips. She’s also an exceptional chess player but decides to give up the game after losing a match that, had she won, would have seen her move up the rankings to grandmaster status. Feeling the pressure of her mom and coach, feeling that she’s let down her beloved dad, she decides to get a tattoo, “proving to myself and the world that there is life after chess and that I’m not just a pawn for other people to push around.” Leah’s certainly not a girl given to being pushed around but, with the skills of a master weaver, the author sensitively shows how grief’s deep wounds underpin her anger and tendency to drive people away. When her tattoo plan is foiled by one of her blog readers, Kit, who makes big bucks from illegal chess hustling, Leah winds up making a thousand dollars in a couple of hours. It’s through the police busting one of the illegal games that she finds out about chessboxing, “the ultimate contest of brains and brawn”. The thrill Leah feels for this hybrid sport’s speed and tension is palpable, and she’s a natural at it too, with her boxing coach praising her exceptional resilience: “You never know what’s inside a fighter until they’re flat out on the canvas”, a perceptive comment that encapsulates Leah’s story journey. She’s grappling with grief, but making emotional breakthroughs and learning new skills, to the point that she’s ready to fight Death (a formidable champion chessboxer) in Vegas. With a truly pulse-quickening climax, this exceptional novel rages with raw emotion. It’s a bona fide page-turner seared with life-affirming insights into grief, friendship and finding new paths.
This endearing character-driven treasure from the award-winning author of Dear Martin is a race-against-time romance replete with real-life hardship, class conflict and hope. Rico is a high school senior who works at Gas ‘n’ Go after class to keep her family afloat and then races home to look after her little brother so her mom can pick up extra shifts. In the intensity and exhaustion of this hamster-stuck-in-a-ball situation Rico’s lost sight of what she wants for her future, but selling a jackpot-winning lottery ticket gives her new focus: to find the little old lady she believes won the ticket. Then maybe – just maybe – she’ll be rewarded with a life-changing cut of the multi-million-dollar winnings. To this end, Rico reluctantly enlists the help of handsome, rich “Zan-the-Man”, a tech whizz who “has no idea what it’s like to constantly be on the brink of not having what you need to survive.” But, as Rico discovers, while Zan’s set to take over the throne of his family’s toilet paper empire, his dad has made sure he knows the value of money. Their opposite-side-of-the-tracks narrative plays out with heated banter and feverish frisson, with class conflict rearing its head at every turn as Rico struggles to accept Zan’s generosity just like her mom refuses to apply for government support. Quirkiness comes courtesy of interludes told from the points of views of inanimate objects - the winning ticket, a taxi, a stash of $100 dollar bills, Zan’s fancy bed sheets, a salt shaker – and the novel’s conclusion is as thrilling and life-affirming as it is unexpected. Readers will be left rooting for Rico and Zan to forge the futures they deserve.
This is the third in Simon Mason’s award-winning Garvie Smith crime series and you won’t find a better, more entertaining or more stylishly written whodunnit. His hero Garvie Smith is very smart – indeed, he’s a virtual maths genius – but very lazy, whether it comes to housework, schoolwork or his new job as a fencer (delivered courtesy of his friend Smudge). The disappearance of the teenage daughter of the house behind the fences they are fixing is something that exercises Garvie and he’s much better placed to solve the mystery than the police, of whom he has a very low opinion. The story he untangles is full of double-dealing and deceit and Mason creates a world of dark cynicism that Chandler would recognise and envy. Garvie solves the crime but is definitely left with cracks in his hard-boiled exterior. A brilliant page-turner for all readers, and a sharply observed and often very funny bit of YA.
This captivating collection comprises intensely poignant profiles of people and places; of domestic life and wild landscapes, especially Scotland’s “dark and stormy waters”, with flashes of crimson running through the poems in the form of fire, a fox, red shoes, a red balloon. Among the cast of memorable characters is Mrs Dungeon Brae, terrifying in both life and death, and The Knitter, who “knits to keep death away” and urgently recounts big life occasions knitting has accompanied her through, all the while “casting on, casting off”. Then there’s the grandmother lamenting the fact that “it’s no like the past for grannies these days...nobody knows how to make a conversation/ let alone make a home-made meal or a fresh baked scone.” Brimming with humanity - with love, anger, frustration and flashes of humour - this engaging, accessible anthology makes a richly rewarding gift for language lovers of all ages.
Courageous Captain Caledonia has lost pretty much everything. Her family have been killed by atrocious Aric Athair and his brutal Bullet crew and she’s now set on avenging their deaths. With vibrant world-building and crisply compelling characterisation from the off, Caledonia is soon confronted by a crippling choice: should she offer to help to the Bullet boy who saves her best friend, or would that put her entire crew in jeopardy? “She didn’t think she’d done a good thing. Keeping a Bullet on board was the most foolish thing she could think of...Maybe they’d all end up dead.” The boy’s behaviour confuses Caledonia - it’s impossible to tell whether his “attempt to appear small and non-threatening...was genuine or deceitful”, and then he claims he can help her... Swirling with sisterly solidarity, buzzing with intrigue and action, and tingling with tension, this is great for readers who love female-fronted fantasy, such as the novels of Melinda Salisbury, Sarah J Maas and Cassandra Clare.
September 2019 Book of the Month | Hitting rock bottom, hanging on, and coming back from the edge. Brian Conaghan has an incredible talent for telling it like it is. His characters are authentic and absorbing; flawed underdogs with serious troubles, like 17-year-old Maggie whose dad “drank his liver into a spreadable pâté”, and whose laid-off dinner lady mum is “gifted in the art of attracting pure dickheads”. And Maggie? Maggie’s “an island: the way I dress; the music I listen to; the patter my brain discharges; everything”. Maggie’s struggling to deal with the tragic loss of her best friend Moya whose death she feels excruciatingly guilty about. Moya was a “mad riot” of a girl, but as Maggie “couldn’t be arsed with all the love-struck vom” Moya was spewing, because she didn’t speak out against the Internet trolls, she believes she was a “failure friend”. Alongside her grief, guilt and self-harm, Maggie struggles with her mother’s severe depression, but also tingles with the hope that comes from starting art college: “now’s the time to make something of myself.” Indeed, she soon forms a band with new friends. Throughout, Maggie’s love of bands like The Smiths looms large, as does her relationship with her depressed mother. Maggie’s rage at her mother’s condition derives entirely from her primal love for her. She’s desperate for Mum to be happy, and her scheme to help her find happiness is heart-achingly poignant. Grief, depression, self-harm, online abuse, this novel is no walk in the park, yet it never drags the reader down. On the contrary. It’s sensitive, insightful, funny (Maggie is a master of biting one-liners), and genuinely uplifting as Maggie and Mum begin to find their way back to the world, with glinting prospects of love and new life.
Jason Reynolds is the master of giving voice to children and teenagers who exist - and often struggle - on the margins of society. Against tough competition, this exceptional novel might be his finest yet. Matt has recently lost his beloved mom and feels excruciatingly lonely in his grief. By page two, when Matt comes home to a house that was “totally silent. And it had no smell,” the author encapsulates the raw invisibility of grief with visceral power. Haunted by how his mom made him feel “like the luckiest kid in the world...like I was somebody important”, and needing something to occupy his mind (and some cash), Matt takes a job helping family friend and funeral director Mr Ray, and unexpectedly finds that attending funerals and witnessing the grief of others makes him feel less alone. With his dad otherwise disposed after seeking solace in whiskey, Mr Ray is heart-meltingly supportive, reaching out to Matt while his “old man is getting himself together”. It’s at one of his work funerals that Matt begins to form a beautiful bond with Lovey, a young woman who’s experienced more pain and loss than even Matt can imagine. As Lovey opens Matt’s world and heart, they discover that they’re also bonded by a tragic moment that shaped both their lives. Readers will hope with all their hearts that Lovey and Matt’s futures are presaged by Bob Marley’s “every little thing gonna be alright” lyrics that ring out during a momentous shared taxi ride. Boldly honest and bathed in empathy, Matt’s all-consuming, touching tale possesses a rare power to leave a lasting imprint.
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.
Interest Age Teen, Reading Age 8 | August 2019 Book of the Month | Holly Bourne weaves her special magic in this punchy, touching, believable story of female friendship. Sophia is heartbroken since being unceremoniously dumped by school heartthrob Aidan Chambers. Her best friends Mia and Alexis are sympathetic but certain Sophia is better off without him. Nonetheless, they’ll indulge her by trying a bit of amateur witchcraft if it’ll make her feel better. Their home-made spells conjure other things into the light including Mia’s self-harming, something everyone’s known about, but been unable to mention. By the end of the story, readers will understand that real magic has happened, the kind of transformation that trust, kindness and friendship can and does effect every day. Within the book’s short extent, Bourne creates living, breathing characters and a story that will connect directly with readers. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+
Masterfully melding the contemporary world with a richly evoked fantasy realm, this is a fairy tale re-telling of the finest order. Harper has lived a tough life, what with her mom being sick and her brother forced to take on their absent father’s violent debt collection work. She has cerebral palsy but “can move quickly when I want to”. She’s a fighter too, so when she’s snatched by a stranger and deposited in Ironrose Castle, in the heart of a parallel realm called Emberfall, her captors are thrown off-guard. “Most of the girls Grey drags from her world won’t touch a blade or a bridle,” Prince Rhen observes with admiration. And Rhen has seen plenty of girls in his time. Blighted by a curse inflicted by a spurned enchantress, he’s forever fixed at the age of eighteen until someone truly falls for him. This curse has seen his kingdom all but disintegrate and many die and, if he fails with Harper, Rhen will be “condemned to spend eternity as a monster.” With Harper adamant she’s not going to fall for him and Rhen certain the curse will never be broken, they make a pact: “I’ll help you save your country and you’ll help me get home,” Harper agrees. The road ahead is paved with pulse-quickening perils, alongside Harper’s tortuous conflict between love for her family and doing the right thing in Emberfall, not to mention her growing feelings for Rhen. There’s a tangible frisson between them, but is it love? As time ticks on and the powers of the malevolent enchantress heighten, worlds collide to take the stakes even higher. Replete as it is with romance, relatable coming-of-age conflicts and all-out action, fans of Cassandra Clare, Marissa Meyer and Sarah J. Maas will relish this novel, the first in the Cursebreakers series, and its cliffhanger climax will leave readers aching for the sequel.
Sarah J. Maas devotees certainly have a treat in store with this luxurious collector’s edition of the first book in her outrageously popular A Court of Thorns and Roses series. The story that spurred the series is here presented in a beautiful black slipcase that’s embellished with gold foiling. The book itself features a stunning gold foil depiction of a forest scene on its cover, lavish metallic ink endpapers, intricate fairy tale-esque illustrative detail on every page, plus a handsome newly drawn map of the Faerie Lands of Prythian. It’s a beguiling package that befits the tale itself, an enchanting story that follows nineteen-year-old Feyre’s magical, epic quest through the beautiful, dangerous faerie lands. Reeling with romance, intrigue and outright “immortal horror”, Feyre’s journey feels timeless in setting and atmosphere, and contemporary in much of its straight-talking delivery.
Find the perfect silly joke in this collection from Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, the creators of the internationally bestselling Treehouse series. Q: How do monkeys make toast? A: They put it under a gorilla! Q: What's grey and powdery? A: Instant elephant mix! From Bears to Birds, Penguins to Pirates, School to Space, The Treehouse Joke Book is packed full of hilarious jokes and silly one-liners that will make anyone laugh their socks off. The perfect gift for any Treehouse fan, join Andy and Terry as they find the ideal joke for any occasion!
With its compact format, violet ink decoration and unabridged text, this mini edition of Throne of Glass is the perfect stocking-filler for completest collector devotees, and a glam gift for newcomers to the series. But what of the story printed on the fine-papered glory of this mini-format? It’s a seductive cocktail of all-out action and fighting for survival in a wildly imagined fantasy world, with a smart, sassy eighteen-year-old assassin at its pounding heart. After a year of slavery and being “escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point” Celaena Sardothian is called to the castle and issued with a task that may secure her release. If she succeeds in defeating a band of warriors, she’ll be freed to serve as the King’s Champion. But with evil afoot, and duplicity, distrust and paranoia in abundance, our headstrong, sharp-tongued heroine must summon all her physical and intellectual strength.
Studies have shown that time in nature can have a positive impact on physical health, mental health and development so if you’re worried about your children spending too much time indoors, it’s well worth getting hold of a copy of this book. It’s full of information and activity ideas to make a trip out, whether into the countryside or a local park, a fun experience for all. Colour illustrations give it the friendly feel of a picture book, but colour photographs of trees, leaves and flowers make it a useful information book too. With helpful notes for adults at the back plus suggestions for further reading, it’s a valuable guidebook and one that will inspire fun days out, and even a lifetime love of nature.
Invent 100s of games with friends and family | Featuring over fifty stylishly rendered boards, this is an interactive doodle book with a difference, and certainly takes the lingering trend for adult colouring-in books to the next level. Most of the book comprises unfinished boards for users to transform into their own tabletop games – twenty designs in all, followed by twenty-five sets of rules for players to choose to follow, each of which encourages creativity with suggestions for fashioning your own versions of classic board games. There’s also plenty of options for users to invent their own entirely new games, with a superb “Stuck for Ideas?” section that suggests fun themes and mash-ups, among them “Throne of Crowns” and “Uninvited Ghost”. There are suggestions specially devised for younger players too (for example “The Magical Maze” and “Lost Pets”) making this a compendium of creativity for all ages. Taking an average of half an hour to create each game and a further half an hour to play, this provides a plethora of opportunities to exercise one’s cerebral muscles while having a whole lot of fun.
November 2019 Book of the Month | Prepare to explore ten of the most haunted places on Earth in this striking book, and then to learn their secrets ingeniously with the help of coloured lenses. With the naked eye, the huge colour illustrations are just a jumble of lines; enticing, but baffling. View the same pages through one of three different coloured lenses, and suddenly a whole new vista springs into life. The red lens shows the people who inhabited these special places (ranging from Bran Castle, Romania to San Juan Chamula Cemetery, Mexico), the green lens shows us the place and its surroundings in detail, while best of all the blue lens magics up the ghostly and supernatural beings that haunt it. Short, sharp snippets of information accompanying vignettes on the following page tell us more about our discoveries. It’s a treat to explore, deliciously spooky and the illustrations are super stylish.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | The twelve poems in this book, one for each month, will inspire a year of nature watching and who knows, quite likely some poetry writing too. There’s drama and excitement in the opening poem which describes a legendary fight between warring starlings – ‘the Rorschach of the winter months’ - over Cork in the 1600s; other poems are quieter and February’s gives a beautiful close up view of frog spawn, opening up memories from Coelho’s own childhood. Many of the poems in fact reflect his own personal experiences and responses to nature, April showers, trips to the beach, walks through winter leaves, giving the poems a particular intensity and emotional impact. Kelly Louise Judd’s folk-are inspired illustrations make this as beautiful to look at as it is to read aloud. A superb collection and a lovely book to give.
October 2019 Book of the Month | A brief guide capturing the courage and creativity of the exceptional African American author, poet, playwright, and civil rights activist. Maya Angelou used her tremendous writing talent to get her voice, and the voice of millions of other African Americans, listened to as she supported many important causes including the Civil Rights Movement.
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.
Poems to help you change the world | Highlighted as a recommended read for National Poetry Day (3rd October), three of our best poets for children come together in this excellent new anthology with a challenge for their young audience: go out and help change the world. Alongside poems on the many threats to the environment and the natural world are poems that pose ‘tricky questions’ about how we choose to live. There are poems to make children laugh, to inspire them and inform them; above all here are poems that will provoke a reaction. It might be something practical, like deciding to change the contents of your lunchbox, or it might mean making a change to the way you understand the world. It ends with Liz Brownlee’s quiet but powerful poem ‘Snow’, a beautiful example of how the smallest things can effect change.
Kids love collecting and what could be bigger and better than collecting mountains? The Wainwrights Pocket Log and Tick List is a handsome little book, small enough to pop into a pocket and take up into the Lakeland fells. Conveniently grouped in accordance with the famous Wainwright Pictorial Guides, the pocket log has a dedicated page for each of the 214 Wainwright Fells and kids will love to record details of their walks and keep a tally of their achievements. With a velvet-like cover and gilded pages it has a quality feel and would be a welcome addition to any young walker's Christmas stocking.
If, like actor Reece Shearsmith and author David Nicholls, you were growing up in the late 70s or early 80s, you may well remember this book. All About Ghosts was a huge favourite with young readers then, a thrilling examination of the world of the supernatural, full of terrifying stories of ghosts and ghost hunting. Due to genuine popular demand, publisher Usborne has brought it back, exactly as it appeared in 1977. Will it thrill and engage today’s kids as it did their parents? You betcha! There’s page after illustrated page of spooky myths, legends and true stories as well as theories and debate on the possible existence of ghosts. As spine-tingling today as it ever was, and just as certain to set the imagination racing.
Books make perfect Christmas presents!
With so many books for children and teenagers published each year it's sometimes daunting to make that final choice for a present for those dear to you. Here at Lovereading4kids we've read 1,000s of books published this year and filtered that down to just the best (in our humble view). And don't forget most of the titles have a free Opening Extract to let you decide for yourself if the book is perfect.
And for even more choice why not have a look at some of the other special categories on the site.
Our Green Reads section has books which are highly topical covering everything from recycling and biodiversity to global warming and eco-tips, both fictional and factual. Perfect gifts for eco-warriors.
The Little Guides to Great Lives series is an entertaining and informative non-fiction series of biographies covering the lives of some of history's most inspiring and talented people, from artists to aviators and scientists to revolutionaries.
The Little Gems are short chapter books for newly independent readers, all colourfully illustrated and with extra activities included and make great stocking fillers!
If you're still stuck then our most visited area of the site is a must for you to look at. Book Awards is positively choking with stunning reads, all winners or shortlisted for big awards announced during 2019.