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Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | May 2021 Book of the Month | It wasn’t until 2013 that the men who served on the Arctic Convoys in the Second World War were properly honoured for their bravery. But anyone reading Tom Palmer’s typically vivid and powerful short novel will understand exactly what they went through, and what kept them going. Arctic Star features three young friends, Royal Navy recruits, and follows them on the perilous journeys they make escorting merchant vessels across the Arctic as they deliver supplies to the Russians. The sea is wild and treacherous, icy cold, and of course, they are hunted through the waters by German battleships, planes and submarines. Palmer packs not just a huge story, but a huge amount of information and atmosphere into this short book, and in Frank, Joseph and Stephen, he creates three young men readers won’t forget in a hurry. The climax of the story is the deadly battle between HMS Belfast and the Scharnhorst, and it will leave readers exhausted, but full of compassion and sympathy for all the men caught up in this terrifying field of war. Historical fiction doesn’t get much better than this.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | Tom Palmer’s riveting After the War was sparked by the true story of Jewish Polish, Czech and German children who were sent to safety in the Lake District after surviving the horrors of Nazism. Addressing big questions - how does hope, humanity and friendship survive unimaginable horrors? How do we begin again? – in a highly-readable style (as is typical of Palmer and publisher Barrington Stoke), this is a thought-provoking, edifying read. Trevor Avery of the Lake District Holocaust Project sets the context in the book’s foreword: “A group of young people arrived in the Lake District in the summer of 1945 and stayed for a few months, the last of them leaving in early 1946. Although they only spent a short time in the area, it was a profoundly important experience for them, and they made a big impression on those who met them at the time.” A sense of this being a “profoundly important experience” is clear from the outset, as revealed when young Yossi first glimpses England, his imagined paradise: “This was the place where they had been told they would be safe. A place where there would be no German soldiers and no concentration camps.” But despite the peace, despite “the lush green hills under a bright blue sky” and the “huge clusters of trees, swallows flitting above them”, Yossi feels unsettled. The brick buildings remind him of concentration camps, and he’s haunted by terrible memories, disturbed by nightmares, and longs for news from his family - will his father ever be found and come for him? Details of everyday life are strikingly evoked, and springboard deeper insights into the children’s experiences – a bike ride reminds Yossi of when he had to surrender his bike to the Nazis, immediately after he and his dad witnessed a horrific attack. An opportunity to attend a Rosh Hashanah celebration triggers his recollection of the terrifying time the SS destroyed his synagogue. A storm over Lake Windermere reminds him of bomb explosions. This device works perfectly, and Yossi’s enduring trauma is palpable. Then, at his lowest, a memory of his father’s words pulls him from the depths of despair: “if we let ourselves go, the Germans will think that they were right: that we are not human.” An exceptional telling of exceptional true events.
It's the proudest moment of Jack's life - his debut as a professional footballer. Now he has a chance to achieve his dream of playing for his country. But it's 1914 and the world is at war. Talk of sportsmen's cowardice leads to the formation of a Footballers' Battalion and Jack has little choice but to join up. The promise of a Cup in Flanders offers a glimmer of hope, but Jack and his teammates will have to survive a waking nightmare if they are ever to play again. A stunning new edition of Tom Palmer's bestselling novel based on the true story of WWI war hero and footballing legend Jack Cock.
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.
Roll up! Roll up! A new season is about to begin at the Shortbread family's circus! The big-top is ready and everyone is excited to get started. But as the shows begin chief clown Mr Birdcage is in a bit of a pickle - none of his hilarious props seem to be working! When budding detectives Billy, Fern and Joe get on the case to investigate, they soon discover that the props have been tampered with! But who would want to sabotage Mr Birdcage and why?
Borderlands First XV have their sights set on becoming the best school rugby team in the world. But while the boys focus on their matches, many of their parents are serving overseas in the armed forces, and everyone is worried as conflict grows in the Central Asian Republic. New pupil Woody is a footballer by nature and must decide if he's prepared to give rugby his all. Rory feels like he's losing his focus, distracted by thoughts of his parents in danger. And Owen finds himself a t the centre when conflict breaks out within the team. With so many hurdles to face along the way, how far will they get in the rigorous schools' tournament?
Winner of the Books for Confident Readers and the overall Winner of the Children's Book Award 2020 | Though the title refers directly to D-Day, and much of the action takes place on or near the D-Day beaches, Tom Palmer skilfully and thoughtfully enables readers to consider war in general, what it means to those involved – soldier and civilian – and even why it still goes on. Jack is excited about his school trip to the D-Day landing beaches. His father is a reservist and the two spend happy hours together re-enacting the Allies’ landing on Jack’s PlayStation. But a number of things come together to change Jack’s view of war, and his trip to France becomes a very different experience to the one he is anticipating at the book’s opening. Palmer introduces some complex ideas and emotions while ensuring that the book is accessible to all readers (in Barrington Stoke’s Conkers series it is written with reluctant and dyslexic readers in mind). His characters are always convincing and Jack’s reactions to the things he learns entirely credible. Compelling, thought-provoking, this is a very fine short novel.
There’s all the fun of the circus in Alexander McCall Smith’s new series, and a satisfying bit of junior sleuthing. Young Billy, Fern and Joe are performers in their family circus, but there’s a bit of Sherlock Holmes about them too: as their friend Mr Birdcage points out, they’re clever, and they like helping people. So when they notice a sad boy in the audience and find out his granny has gone missing, they set about finding her, using some of their circus skills in the process. Readers will be delighted to know that the circus’s troupe of dog stars play a part as well. It’s a lovely story and as ever filled with the all-embracing sense of kindness and integrity that is characteristic of McCall Smith’s writing.
Who’s the more interesting character? Snow White, or the wicked queen? And who’s got the more interesting back-story, Sleeping Beauty or the 13th fairy? The incomparable Kaye Umansky stands up for our favourite fairy tale villains in this collection, telling their stories with her trademark humour and verve. Snow White’s stepmother is irredeemably, gloriously wicked, bored rigid by her stepdaughter and unrepentant even when found out. Cinderella’s stepsisters are just horrible, and, fascinatingly, unashamedly so. As for the 13th fairy and the witch of the gingerbread cottage, Umansky shows us that they were just misunderstood. Her twists on the tales are very readable and very funny too and this collection is highly recommended.
When Troy is caught up in a terrorist attack that takes the lives of his parents, he discovers an amazing power - bullets can't harm him. With this secret uncovered he's soon recruited into a underground organisation where he meets Scarlet, a girl with her own remarkable talent, and the two put their powers to use... Exhilarating action meets heart-pounding suspense in this three-part novel.
Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8+ | Expert Review for Brock by Julia Eccleshare: Nicky knows he must do everything in his power to save the innocent and brave badger. But fighting the three local bullies whose cruelty towards it seems to know no bounds is an incredible challenge. With his father drifting into depression and his younger brother needing constant supervision, Nicky has enough on his hands already but he knows the real value of nature and knows he cannot stand by and see such wilful destruction. A powerful story about the importance of protecting wildlife.Expert review for Pike by Andrea Reece:Not a word is wasted in this fine novel. On one level it is a thriller: fishing on Bacon Pond Nicky spots a glint of gold in its murky depths, and recognises the Rolex owned by a local gangster. It seems to be still attached to his wrist. Nicky feels that the gangster owes him and his family, and sets out to retrieve the Rolex with the help of his brother Kenny. Nicky’s search for the watch results in a series of events that will change his and his family’s life for the better. McGowan writes in prose as spare and effective as that of Barry Hines, to whom the book is dedicated, and there’s an extraordinary depth and elegance to this story. An outstanding novel.Expert review for Rook by Andrea Reece:This finely written story speaks directly to readers in language that is frill free but shines with original, precise imagery. It opens with a scene in which a young rook is attacked by a larger bird. Nicky and his younger brother Kenny save it. As the bird hovers between life and death, Nicky’s own future is in the balance: an incident with the school bully sees him facing expulsion, at the same time he’s tentatively trying to start a relationship with a girl he fancies. For all his nerve Nicky is vulnerable, and things could easily go wrong for him, instead they start to look up. He isn’t expelled, Sarah likes him too, and Rooky is taken in by the animal sanctuary despite being, in Nicky’s dad’s words, ‘too common and too scruffy and too much trouble. Bit like us, eh?’ There’s a lot of story effortlessly packed into this short novel and readers will be very happy for Nicky. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers of 13+
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Shortlisted for the Children's Book Awards 2019, Books for Older Readers Category | Interest Age 8-10 Reading Age 8 | World War One remains a subject of fascination for readers of all ages, but Tom Palmer finds an original way in to the topic in this poignant new story. Lily is a keen fell runner, though she’s fed up of coming in as runner up in races. A visit to her grandparents reveals a surprise: her great-grandfather ran on the fells too. His experiences are recounted vividly in his diary, both his runs in his beloved Cumbria and his experiences as a soldier, recruited to run between positions on the front line, carrying crucial information to the allies. Their shared experiences form a powerful connection, and help Lily to understand herself better, and also to help her grandma when she needs it most. Today and yesterday are seamlessly woven together in a story that will move readers in lots of different ways.
February 2018 Book of the Month | Hari lives in a biggish city in India with his sister and aunt. He’s always cheerful and enjoys helping support them all delivering tiffin boxes for the nearby take-away and running his own sweet-making business. He spends some of the proceeds on tickets to the cinema and particularly likes musicals. When he accidentally stumbles onto a real film set, his special talent is suddenly revealed: when Hari dances, everyone has to join in. It makes him a local celebrity then, with the help of his friend Mr Ram, Hari uses his gift to spread happiness further afield. The story is as tempting and delicious as Hari’s coconut barfi, and its engaging narrator will have readers almost convinced it’s a true story; the world would certainly be a better place if it was. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+.
Shortlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | Interest Age 8-12 | Full of magic, myth and a wonderful sense of family, and illustrated throughout with Jackie Morris’s beautiful, atmospheric paintings, this is perfect winter reading. Sol lives in Seattle with his dad but doesn’t feel he belongs, and when an Arctic Fox appears at the docks, he identifies with the small white creature, so alien, so wild. The arrival of the fox brings a change in Sol’s life, a return to the wild landscapes of Alaska and a place he can finally feel at home. Jackie Morris recognises perfectly the deep-seated importance to every one of us of wild creatures and wild landscapes, and this is a book to treasure.
Seth isn’t like other boys: he can see ghosts. In the second of this new series he is in London staying with his friend Nadiya and her family while his mother undergoes treatment for cancer. Exploring near the hospital, Seth and Nadiya run into a huge crowd of angry ghosts, the spirits of slaves forced by the Romans to build an amphitheatre. As the children work out what’s stirred the ghosts up, disturbing similarities between past and present come to the fore. It’s a typically exciting and involving story from Tom Palmer and, in publisher Barrington Stoke’s Conkers series, is accessible to all readers, no matter their fluency.
April 2017 Book of the Month | Interest Age 8-12 Reading Age 8 | | This characteristically sharp and witty comedy of modern life by Meg Rosoff stars a rescue dog who saves his new family, not from fire or external threat, but from themselves. When Mum Peachey in quiet protest withdraws from family life to concentrate on her own spiritual health, chaos ensues: there’s no-one to pick up the washing, cook the dinners, or make sure everyone gets to school on time. From his dog basket in the corner new arrival McTavish observes all and, without ever doing anything a dog wouldn’t do, successfully trains his new family to behave properly. A clever, funny and extremely stylish novella, and a wonderful bit of domestic satire.
Interest Age 8-12 | In a nutshell: true hearts and heroines in Victorian London | Inspired by an artefact at the Hunterian Museum Georgia Byng tells a story about a young girl born with no nose, that will inspire readers to be proud of who they are, no matter what they believe their imperfections to be. It also teaches that being kind and generous, and accepting of other people, leads to happiness. Ashamed of her appearance Alice hides from the world, living a lonely life until her friend Daisy shows her another way. Daisy is bad at spelling but ignores it, ‘becus I am so cleva in so menny other ways’. When Alice starts to make friends with others, people willing to accept her the way she is, her life changes. The story is simply but beautifully told, and illustrations by award-winner Gary Blythe make this little book very special. ~ Andrea Reece The story was inspired by a Victorian prosthetic nose at the Hunterian Museum in London. Georgia Byng says, “When I was thinking about Alice’s story, I was thinking about the woman with her false nose … And I hope this woman’s real life, one where she came to terms with her no-noseness, will inspire the people who read The Girl With No Nose to be proud of who they are, no matter what their imperfections are.” The Conkers imprint has quickly and successfully established itself: offering the very best authors and illustrators, all heavily illustrated throughout, in a range of gorgeous formats. High quality cream paper and a special easy to read font ensure a smooth read for all.
Four girls bond over a school project to create a blog. The subject? Their mums. Its title? OMG – or Our Mums Grrrrr. It’s quite possible to love your mum loads but still be driven mad by her as this demonstrates. Each girl is horribly embarrassed by her mum – too clingy, too pushy, too loud – grumbling online helps them let off steam and more importantly enables them to talk about the issues with their mums. This contemporary story is warm and rewarding, as good on the girls’ relationships with each other as it is on their feelings for their mums. Nicely designed it’s a great addition to the Barrington Stoke Conkers series, easy-to-read, packing a great story in a short extent. ~ Andrea Reece
Young readers wondering what’s so special about Shakespeare as celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of his death get underway would do well to read Tony Bradman’s cheerful story of life at the Globe circa 1611. The cast of characters includes Toby Cuffe an orphan boy, and William Shakespeare himself. Sent to the Globe to do some pickpocketing, Toby is too intrigued by the action on stage to make a successful getaway. He’s caught but the Globe’s owners give him a break and a job – he loves it, and even gives Shakespeare the idea for The Tempest. Tony Bradman’s enthusiasm for Shakespeare and his plays is infectious and makes clear why a visit to the Globe was such a treat. Praise is due too to illustrator Tom Morgan-Jones, whose ‘inky daubs’ are as lively and vivid as the text.
One of our Books of the Year 2015 - November 2015 Julia Eccleshare's Book of the Month | Award-winning Michael Morpurgo is always at his best when writing about the countryside and the animals in it. Here, in a story inspired by his wife’s childhood, he writes about young Clare, visiting Devon for the summer holiday from her home in London, and forging a very special friendship with an old man and his horse. Michael Morpurgo brings the sights, sounds and smells of a hot summer in the English countryside vividly to life. Catherine Rayner’s delicate illustrations capture the scenes perfectly too.
Julia Eccleshare's Pick of the Month, November 2015 Children’s Laureate of Ireland Eoin Colfer tells a touching story of a young boy trying to live up to his father which means doing something that goes against his nature. Bobby’s father is the bravest and best fisherman in the area and, now school is finished, Bobby has joined him on the boat. But times are hard. The fish are all being eaten by seals. Bobby’s dad puts a bounty price on the head of seals; every person who brings in a seal fin will get £1. But can Bobby kill a seal? Especially, can he kill his pet seal? Bobby’s dilemma is delicately explored in Eoin Colfer’s words and Victor Ambrus’s illustrations. ~ Julia Eccleshare Barrington Stoke constantly prove that dramatic, thought-provoking stories can be told in less than 100 pages. Eoin Colfer’s short often very funny novel concerns a boy facing a difficult decision: should he follow his father’s instructions and club a seal to protect his family’s livelihood, or should he ignore his responsibility and let the animal live? The choice he makes will mark him adult or child. In fact, by a twist of fate happy for boy and seal, he doesn’t have to make the decision, but just considering it defines him still. In this snapshot of one crucial episode in Bobby’s life, Colfer gives us details that bring the boy, his friends and town completely to life. Victor Ambrus’s illustrations are equally vivid and dynamic, showing us exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling. ~ Andrea Reece The Conkers imprint has quickly and successfully established itself: offering the very best authors and illustrators, all heavily illustrated throughout, in a range of gorgeous formats.
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