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Secrets and lies . . . secrets and lies . . . Fourteen-year-old twins, Kaine and Roxy, used to be close, but now they can hardly bear to be in the same room. Roxy hates the way her brother behaves - Kaine might be brilliant at football but he's always in trouble and cares nothing about his family. And Kaine despises the way his supposedly-perfect sister, dominates their parents in her ambition to reach Wimbledon. But the twins are both hiding dangerous secrets of their own, secrets that could destroy everything they are working towards - and both Roxy and Kaine's survival hangs precariously in the balance. Gripping, twisting, and real, this book is UNSTOPPABLE.
The Dark is Rising Sequence | This is the first of a brilliant and award-winning fantasy sequence. It's a book that grips you from the start and will transport you from your earth world to a world of fantasy. The characters are brilliantly imagined and the fantasy world so realistically described that you feel you're there. It's midwinter and Will Stanton, the seventh son of a seventh son, discovers his destiny on the eve of his birthday. Will must learn to harness the powers of the Old Ones and embark on a quest to vanquish the terrifyingly evil magic of the Dark, an evil entity that threatens the world's very existence. The Dark is Rising won the author numerous international awards, including the Newbery Medal. Whether you're 11 or 111 you'll love it. It's a novel that stands alone; however, there are sequels, four of them to complete the series, all reissued this month.
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.
A new Timmy Failure book is always a cause for celebration and this is another glorious mix of humour, surrealism, incompetent detection – and chickens. Timmy is on holiday in Florida with his mum and her new husband. With Total the polar bear hiding out in Cuba he needs a new sidekick – step up Emilio Empanada, willing if nervous unpaid intern. Together they cause the kind of chaos and confusion that is Timmy’s natural state, while adopting a chicken along the way, and it’s wonderfully funny. The description of a surprise meeting with his father for Timmy tugs at the heartstrings as well as finding the funny bone. Stephan Pastis’s cartoon illustrations are a joy in themselves and this is clever, original, inspired fun.
What a luminously life-enhancing read this is. The story of ADHD afflicted underdog Felix, who “can’t concentrate or keep still”. His East German Granddad now (embarrassingly) drives the pink car that used to belong to his deceased Grandma, whose death has hit them all hard. Felix and Granddad’s grief is laid bare with heart-wrenching authenticity, but theirs is a complex relationship: “I love my granddad and I think he loves me, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.” After an altercation, Felix and Granddad forge an understanding, and look forward to a “neuangfang” (new start) that begins with a list of “Ten things I’d like to teach Felix”. Unfortunately, in Felix’s eyes Granddad’s list comprises the “ten more boring things in the world”, but Felix works through it until only the most dreaded activity remains - playing chess. He tries to wriggle out of it, but “crafty” Granddad has been surreptitiously teaching Felix chess skills and he’s soon hooked by the game, with unexpected positive side effects. A thrilling team tournament is followed waves of pulse-quickening twists that will thrust readers to the edge of their seats, heart in mouth. Throughout, the rollercoaster ride of primary school life - fallings out, friendship, fear of not fitting in - is explored in all its intense and comic complexity, and the representation of working class realisms is spot-on too. Felix’s mum and dad have both been “working stacks since Dad’s plumbing business went bust last year”. But, best of all, the magic of the relationship between children and their grandparents is dazzlingly conjured. I adored it.
June 2019 Book of the Month | After stories set in jungles and on the Russian steppes, Katherine Rundell has chosen the streets of Prohibition New York for her latest, but it’s just as full of the sense of peril and freedom from rules that characterises her earlier books, with central character Vita facing possibly the greatest danger yet. Newly arrived from England, Vita is determined to win back her family home, the fabulous Hudson Castle, acquired from her grandfather in a distinctly shady way by mob boss Victor Sorrotore. This will involve breaking and entering – and legend has it the castle is impregnable – and safe cracking, but Vita is fortunate enough to have as associates an extremely talented pickpocket and two fearless young circus performers. Rundell revels in setting her characters these kind of challenges and also in exploring the kind of physical and mental daring required to undertake them. She likes to equip her protagonists with right and with love too, the latter proves a formidable weapon for Vita. Beautifully written and full of scenes that both thrill and enchant, The Good Thieves is Rundell at her classy best. Readers who are captivated by Katherine Rundell’s wild children will also enjoy Stop the Train or The Middle of Nowhere by Geraldine McCaughrean, or books by classic children’s writers such as Joan Aiken and Eva Ibbotson.
Eighteen-year-old Birdie is fanatical about mystery and crime fiction, a world in which she immersed herself while being brought up by her strict grandparents following the death of her mom. Birdie’s perception of detectives reveals much about her own aspirations and personality: “Detectives were cool, calm, and capable. They were usually loners, helping people from a distance...underdogs that people miscalculated.” Now, following the death of her gran and with the support of her mom’s fabulously flamboyant best friend, Birdie tries to find her own way in the world by taking a summer job as a night clerk at a glamorous historic hotel. It’s here that she forms a swoon-some, life-changing relationship with Daniel, the hotel’s handsome, hearing-impaired night driver, as they try to solve a real-life mystery involving a guest. Then, alongside the edge-of-your-seat twists and turns of their investigation, and their fast-blossoming, fated romance, it turns out that Daniel is harbouring secrets of his own. Underpinned by relatable real-life complications and curveballs aplenty, this engaging feast of young adult fiction fizzes with multiple mysteries and the jittery joys of first love. Head here to discover the author’s previous novels, which come equally recommended for their compassionate championing of offbeat, authentic young adult characters.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Winner of the Victorian Premier YA Prize for Literature, and Best Young Adult Novel at the Aurealis Awards - two of Australia's most prestigious writing awards | As he is still vulnerable following his daughter, Beth’s death, detective Michael Teller is sent to investigate the seemingly simple case of a fire at a Children’s Home. Beth narrated most of the book which takes us to very dark places. Brilliantly structured, informed and passionate, this is a thought-provoking consideration of issues relevant to all young adult readers.
For those of you who don't know, Fabio is indeed the world's greatest flamingo detective, a kind of pink, long-legged Hercule Poirot. He's assisted in his work by his friend Gilbert, a giraffe, who is very well-meaning but mostly at least one step behind Fabio when it comes to solving their cases. This story concerns the dramatic theft of a priceless jewel from a passenger on the Ostrich Express and, as detective stories go, it's very satisfying indeed, with a twist in the tail that readers won't see coming, while Fabio, Gilbert and their various animal co-stars are delightful characters. Illustrations on every page - in flamboyant, dayglo pinks and oranges, make this as interesting to look at as it is to read, and this is a perfect book for readers just enjoying reading on their own.
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.
It’s definitely a case of (very) slow and steady winning the race in this amusing and original picture book. Sloth is inspired by the superhero story he finds in a comic book left in the jungle so when mean Anteater starts stealing fruit from the other animals he – leaps is definitely the wrong word – goes into action. It turns out that moving very slowly and looking like a bit of tree are actually useful superpowers. Sloth is an engaging hero and Starling fills the jungle scenes with movement and character. The action builds to a rewarding conclusion, and neatly delivers a message about the value of different types of ability.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Sisters Nik and Norva would agree that they are slightly obsessed with murder mystery series on the television so, when a body is discovered in their block of flats, they are sure they are the right people to discover the truth. Balancing jokey dialogue and insights into the reality of city life, Sharna Jackson has written a very likeable, fast-paced book.