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June 2019 Debut of the Month | Children who like reading will love this gentle story. Milly’s favourite thing is story time at her local bookshop. She’s been going since she was very little and the shop owner Mrs Minty can always recommend the perfect book. Milly likes helping in the shop too and she notices it’s looking older and shabbier than it used to. When the bookshop suddenly closes, Milly can’t bear the thought it might not reopen, and her response prompts other people to make their feelings known too. With gorgeous atmospheric full colour illustrations, the story is warm and reassuring and a testament to the power of stories and the importance of community. A lovely book to share.
April 2018 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Falling Angels | Rising Hope | Falling in Love Compelling magic realist debut in which a fallen angel named Teacake helps heal a teen girl’s grief. Across the world angel-like Beings are falling from the sky. Their winged bodies seep golden blood on impact with the earth, and then they die. In the aftermath of the first sightings, the world exploded in an apocalyptic frenzy, yielding religious cults and angel-exploiting money-makers. Alongside this, Jaya is also dealing with a personal apocalypse – the sudden death of her mother. While Jaya struggles with her guilt-ridden grief, and with losing contact with Leah, the best friend who might also have been her girlfriend, she’s also irritated by her dad’s fanatical angel-chasing. But, as things turn out, it’s Jaya who’s there when an angel falls, and, for the first time, this angel survives. Angels don’t exist in Jaya’s mum’s Hindi religion so she pushes aside any thoughts that this is somehow a sign. But amidst the frenzy of the Edinburgh festival and the aggressive fanaticism of the Standing Fallen cult, Jaya does everything she can to protect this shimmering rose-gold Being from harm. The angels are never explained, or fully understood, but that isn’t necessary, for this isn’t about hard scientific facts, this is about matters of the soul. It’s a charming debut, radiant with humanity and heart. ~ Joanne Owen
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | | Susin Nielsen puts her protagonists through the most terrible situations, but always manages to keep the tone of her novels light, positive and ultimately uplifting. Teenager Petula’s little sister died in tragic circumstances and the effect on the family has been shattering: her parents are both coping in their own way, but growing further apart, while Petula sees danger and threats in everything. Because of her terrible anxiety she’s been signed up to a youth art therapy group which is where she meets Jacob. Jacob has his own tragedy to deal with, but his arrival changes the dynamics of the group and helps all the different members to move on in one way or another. He and Petula become a couple, but there’s a growing realisation for her and readers that he’s not been completely honest. Readers will be gripped by Petula’s story and the way she tells it; Nielsen gives her a totally authentic teen voice, loaded with cynicism, sarcasm, humour and flashes of hope. Recommended for readers who enjoy Nielsen’s poignant, sensitive novels is I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloane.
January 2018 Debut of the Month High school student Dill knows what it is to feel “the crushing weight of destiny”. His granddad went mad after a copperhead viper killed his daughter, and his dad, a fanatical Pentecostal minister, makes his congregation handle deadly serpents to prove their faith. While his father is now in prison for a terrible crime, Dill feels shackled by these family demons, and also by poverty, bullying and a fiercely religious mum who blames Dill for his father’s imprisonment. Dill also knows he’s lucky to have friends like Travis and Lydia. While staff-wielding Travis finds sanctuary from his violent drunk of a dad in fantasy books, Lydia is an energetic fashion blogger from the right side of the tracks. But everything shifts as the three friends embark on their last year of high school. Lydia is all set to study journalism in New York, Travis is excited about his burgeoning relationship with a fellow fantasy geek, but Dill has no hope for his future. He’s terrified of losing Lydia, and terrified that he’s already been poisoned by his family’s legacy. He finds some solace in song-writing but, when tragedy strikes, Dill descends to a very dark place and it takes supreme strength and love to untangle himself from the strangling grip of grief and despair. This southern gothic story about small-town small-mindedness, religious fanaticism, wrestling family demons and the redemptive power of friendship really is an exquisite gem; an unforgettably haunting tale that imprints itself on your heart. ~ Joanne Owen
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2018 An eye-opening book, The Girl Who Saw Lions (originally published as Abela) is the touching and profound story of two girls who apparently have nothing in common. The two girls tell their own stories. Abela, growing up in Tanzania, is surrounded by suffering. Her father has already died and now her mother and her baby sister are desperately ill. When they die too, Abela is sent off to England and an uncertain future as an illegal immigrant. Rosa, growing up in England, has everything she could possibly want. There is no reason why these two should become sisters. Their individual stories and the story of how they come together through adoption make a beautiful, satisfying and complete story. ~ Julia Eccleshare Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for January 2018 Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by by Mem Fox Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal Emmeline and the Plucky Pup by Megan Rix Whatever Next! by Jill Murphy The Girl Who Saw Lions by Berlie Doherty The Poesy Ring by Bob Graham
AND THEN THERE WERE SHOTS. Everybody ran, ducked, hid, tucked themselves tight. Pressed our lips to the pavement and prayed the boom, followed by the buzz of a bullet, didn't meet us. After Will's brother is shot in a gang crime, he knows the next steps. Don't cry. Don't snitch. Get revenge. So he gets in the lift with Shawn's gun, determined to follow The Rules. Only when the lift door opens, Buck walks in, Will's friend who died years ago. And Dani, who was shot years before that. As more people from his past arrive, Will has to ask himself if he really knows what he's doing. This haunting, lyrical, powerful verse novel will blow you away.
In a nutshell: dark, spellbinding fantasy from a master of the form Holly Black’s new series stars a girl caught between the human and the Faerie worlds. Jude was just a child when she witnessed the murder of her parents by Madoc, a Faerie lord. Madoc took Jude and her sisters back to Elfhame with him and brought them up as his own. Jude is reminded constantly of her position as an outsider and a rivalry with the arrogant Prince Cardan seems to offer the means to prove herself as she desperately wants; instead it leads her into a deadly court intrigue. Jude is a fascinating character, stubborn, brave, defined by her powerlessness and her obsession with finding power, and this is fantasy adventure at its brilliant, intelligent, thought-provoking best. Readers who enjoy The Cruel Prince must also read Philip Reeve’s Railhead books and Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series. ~ Andrea Reece
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award In a nutshell: the unbeatable power of the imagination | Piers Torday’s beautifully written book is an extraordinary allegory, a story of courage and love, and of the life-affirming importance of stories. It’s Christmas Eve and Mouse, his sisters and mum are driving across the snowy moors to his grandparents’ house when their car plunges off the road. Thrown clear Mouse begins a journey for help, but as a knight in one of the fantasy stories that mean so much to him in real life. It’s an epic journey too, full of strange characters, friends and enemies alike, and despite the dreamlike atmosphere the reader is never in any doubt as to how dangerous it is, or how much depends on Mouse reaching the castle. Not many books change readers’ views of the world, this might be one of them. ~ Andrea Reece
Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2018 | In a nutshell: politics and the personal combine in a thoughtful, well-told and moving story Catherine Barter’s excellent novel is primarily the story of a girl’s search to find out more about her mother, but that’s just part of a complex set of themes and plotlines which include terrorism, politics and activism, as well as family relationships. She holds everything together with real skill and in central character Alena has created a completely believable and sympathetic heroine, with a memorable voice. Alena’s mother died when she was a toddler and she’s been brought up by her brother and his boyfriend. Their happy home-life is disrupted when Alena finds photos of her mother at Greenham Common, for some reason this really upsets Danny. Nick is hurt when Danny accepts a job with a politician he regards as dangerous populist; meanwhile, someone is planting bombs in supermarkets. The personal and the political merge making for compelling reading. ~ Andrea Reece A Letter from the Author: Dear reader, For much of the time I was writing Troublemakers, I was working at a radical bookshop, Housmans, in King’s Cross. (I still am.) Housmans is thriving right now. Our shelves are floor-to-ceiling crammed with books celebrating the history of protest and activism, and books that map out alternative futures, offering ideas and strategies for a better, fairer, more peaceful world. In turbulent times like these, maybe it’s not surprising that we’re busier than we’ve ever been. This is a time when we’re perpetually reminded of the threat of terrorism, and our fears are used to justify all kinds of political manoeuvring, from immigration crackdowns to enhanced surveillance powers. Today’s teenagers have grown up in this climate: it’s probably hard to imagine anything else. And there’s a few politicians who are expert at exploiting fear to bolster their own strength. There’s a character a lot like this in Troublemakers. This book was partly inspired by the fearful times we live in. Watching the news can make it can seem like it’s safer to stay at home rather than go out into the world and try to make a change – but still, a lot of people right now are doing exactly that. The main character in Troublemakers, Alena, is coming to realise that her mother was that kind of person: an activist who wasn’t afraid of trouble. The more Alena learns, the more she wonders if she might be that kind of person, too. But her older brother, her guardian, is more concerned with keeping her safe even when that means telling lies. Troublemakers is about families, loss, and dealing with the things we can’t change. But it’s also about the things we can change, and sometimes the necessity of trying, regardless. While I was writing it, I thought a lot about some of the big anti-war protests that took place while I was growing up. Terrible things were unfolding in the world, but it was inspiring to see thousands of people collectively standing up to power. Following a certain U.S. election, we’ve just witnessed another huge, international mass protest. Hopefully it’s given some inspiration to today’s teenagers, the next generation of activists. I’m sure I’m not the only bookseller to dream about seeing their own book on the shelves, and after a long of time of writing away at evenings and weekends, I’m so excited that Troublemakers is soon to be published. If you read it, I really hope you enjoy it. With best wishes, Catherine Barter
June 2017 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Love, loss, friendship and secrets A tear-jerking, soul-stirring, heart-warming debut about losing a sister, and the ensuing aftermath of grief and mystery. Sixty-five days have passed since Juniper’s effervescent big sister, Camilla, was killed in a car crash on their way home from a party. Since that devastating event, she’s been holding herself together by rating each day on cards in her Happiness Index. No wonder then, that losing one of the cards throws Juniper into further turmoil, especially when this particular card reveals a secret she’d rather no one knew. While frantically searching for the missing card - befriending bad-boy Brad as she does so - Juniper is also determined to discover the identity of her sister’s secret love. The mystery surrounding Juniper’s missing card untangles compellingly, as do the personal revelations (sometimes hard-coated bad boys have the softest of centres). While the novel doesn’t shirk from showing the shattering effects of loss, Juniper’s desire to help others, her zesty, sardonic outlook, and the friendships she forms, are hugely uplifting. The characters feel poignantly true-to-life, making this a richly rewarding must-read for fans of Jandy Nelson and aficionados of authentically-voiced contemporary YA. ~ Joanne Owen
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | May 2017 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Coping with bipolar disorder | Finding the courage to shed secrets | Intense, insightful exploration of how it feels to live with bipolar disorder, and finding the strength to reveal who we really are. Sixteen-year-old Mel Hannigan’s life is a precarious balancing act. She’s on a strictly managed cocktail of meds to control her dysphoric mania, a form of bipolar disorder which makes sufferers feel simultaneously manic and depressed. Mel is also mourning the death of her brother, who suffered from the same condition and believed that “everyone has a super power.” Mel identifies hers as “the ability to not think about anything I don't want to think about", which she lives out by keeping her condition secret from everyone but her family. But, while this secrecy is how Mel seeks to maintain equilibrium, along with working in an old people’s home, it’s also what causes a huge falling out with her friends. She’s locked into this cycle of secrecy until her new doctor remarks that in order to enjoy the intimacy she craves, she needs to give people the “chance to know and love the real you”. Along her turbulent journey, Mel’s vital relationships with the people she meets in the home are stirringly portrayed, especially David, the grandson of a resident, to whom she opens up. Heart-rending, empathy-inducing and uplifting, reading this novel is an immersive, all-consuming experience that really does resonate long after the final page. ~ Joanne Owen
In a Nutshell: School life, suspense, and stepping from the shadows of grief and guilt An emotionally-charged, edge-of-your-seat thriller in which a young woman experiences a rollercoaster ride of guilt, grief and complex friendships. Twin sisters Harper and Jenna had always wanted to go to boarding school like the St Clare’s twins, and Harper gets to do just that when her dad wins big on a work lottery syndicate. But, far from fulfilling a lifelong dream, Harper wants to go to Duncraggan Academy to escape the guilt she feels for her sister’s anorexia-related death. While secretly grappling with this, she makes great friends, and then new girl Kirsty is invited into their peer group. She and Harper bond when Kirsty confides that she’s also lost a sister, but things get way out of control when Kirsty becomes Harper-obsessed and claustrophobically clingy. Tension builds to a jaw-dropping crescendo as truths are revealed, loyalties are tested, and a whole lot of understanding is needed. Gripping and gratifyingly multi-layered, fans of thrillers with emotional depth will find much to love here. ~ Joanne Owen