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The stories and novels in this section cover a range of themes from family issues to mystery adventures. You can find stories about the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren, to sibling rivalry and blended families, suitable for the smallest children up to young adults.
Not since Adrian Mole opened his diary have the thoughts and innermost feelings of an adolescent boy been examined so precisely or with such heart. Stan is twelve, shy and a worrier, so the thought of a holiday in Italy with his friend Felix and Felix’s family freaks him out. He’s going though: we meet him at the airport drawing up a ‘duck-it’ list of things he hopes he’ll never have to do. Little does he know that he’ll tick off six out of ten of them on his holiday, and enjoy it too. The first-person narrative lets us in on all Stan’s thoughts, but he’s a good observer of others so we learn loads about the others in the holiday party too, kids and grown-ups. There are laugh-out-loud scenes and moments of pure agony, and through it all Stan is learning loads about himself and life in general. Honest, revealing, compassionate and so entertaining, this is a must read for all the Stans out there – adults, give yourselves a treat and read it too.
Mina Mistry, primary school pupil and would-be private investigator, is back and ready to tackle another criminal case, assisted as ever by her best friend (and toy), Mr Panda. The new mystery concerns pets, specifically missing pets. First, her friend Holly’s hamster Harriet disappears, then Danny’s toad, then all the animals from the local petshop. What, or even who, could be behind the thefts and why? You can rely on Mina to solve the puzzle! The mystery is convincing and Mina’s accounts both of her detecting and ordinary school life always very lively. It’s an entertaining and readable adventure with just the right mix of real life and Scooby Doo style meddling! If pint-sized detectives are your thing, look out too for Stephan Pastis’ brilliant Timmy Failure books and Serena Patel’s new Anisha Accidental Detective series.
February 2021 Debut of the Month | A heart-warming and magical story of a very special relationship between a child and a polar bear which will inspire readers of all ages to realise that they, like April, can make a difference in the battle against climate change. When animal loving April arrives on Bear Island in the Arctic Circle where she will live for the next six months while her father runs the scientific operations she is told that, despite the island’s name, there are no bears on it. The melting ice caps mean that the polar bears can no longer arrive from the nearest mainland near Svalbard. But April soon finds out that there is one bear left. And April needs to do everything she can to keep him alive. Confident of her ability to communicate with the bear and to feed him, April nourishes the bear and even plans his return to safety. Beautifully illustrated by Levi Pinfold, The Last Bear invites readers to care about the science behind the fate of an endangered species and to believe in one girl’s magical solution to the problem. **The images and illustrations in this extract are subject to copyright © Levi Pinfold and may not be used without permission.
Take your first steps with Antiracist Baby! Or, rather, follow Antiracist Baby's nine easy steps for building a more equitable world. With bold illustrations and thoughtful, yet playful, text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism.
With five delicious eggs to find and count, it's a perfect springtime adventure! Can you help the bunnies climb trees, peek into nests and look under leaves to find their eggs? You'll have to lift the flaps to search for the tasty prizes - and there might be some surprises along the way too!
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | A laugh-out-loud, against-all-odds triumph of a story, perfect for fans of The Boy at the Back of the Class, The Goldfishboy and Wonder. A celebration of dreaming big and standing out, the story is based on the author's own experiences with her son, Lenny, who also has a stammer. Billy's voice is engaging and endearing: his story will start conversations, promote kindness and empathy and hugely entertain while doing so - the middle-grade magic formula!
Young children will find lots to laugh at in this jolly story of a little dragon who can’t help losing his temper, and they’ll learn ways to manage their own anger too. When Fergal gets cross, he really gets cross, and being a dragon this results in burned buns (he couldn’t wait to eat them), scorched suppers (he didn’t want the veg), goalposts burned to cinders (he really didn’t want to play in goal). It upsets his friends and it’s making him unhappy too. Fortunately Mum has a useful suggestion – take a breath and count to ten. It works, while Fergal’s friends have helpful tricks of their own too. Robert Starling’s illustrations are full of life and character, and this is very good for sharing.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2019 | Empathetic, insightful and buzzing with drama, the brilliant Jenny Downham has done it again in this vital, true-to-life treasure about a young woman’s struggle to stand up to her bully-boy stepfather.“She threw things and slammed things and swore. She was clumsy and rude and had no friends. Her teachers thought her dim-witted. Her family despaired.” On the verge of turning sixteen, Lexi is a firework of frustration. Her furious outbursts are getting worse now John, her soon-to-be-stepdad, has taken over their family home, and his son – Lexi’s best friend (and long-time crush…) – has moved away to uni. On top of that, her younger half-sister is John’s favoured child, while she’s blamed for everything that goes wrong, including - most viciously of all - what happened to her beloved granddad. It’s no coincidence that the intensification of Lexi’s rage coincides with John’s increasingly coercive behaviour. Thanks to his constant criticism and angry desire to have everything exactly how he likes it, Lexi can see that her mum has become a shadow of herself. Trapped in this unbearable situation – one in which no one listens or believes her - what else can Lexi do but kick out?Interwoven with fairy tale motifs that combine to create a satisfying whole at the novel’s heartrending climax, this is a brilliantly exacting exposé of coercive control and emotional abuse, and a powerful portrayal of a young woman’s refusal to give in. Lexy is a dazzlingly-created character that readers will root for and empathise with. Her battle to break the abuse elicits much compassion and sympathetic fury, while her irrepressible wit provokes plenty of laughs.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | The Invisible is the story of a young girl called Isabel and her family. They don't have much, but they have what they need to get by. Until one day, there isn't enough money to pay their rent and bills and they have to leave their home full of happy memories and move to the other side of the city. It is the story of a girl who goes on to make one of the hardest things anyone can ever make...a difference. And it is the story of those who are overlooked in our society - who are made to feel invisible - and why everyone has a place here. We all belong.
February 2021 Book of the Month | Forna has taken her own experiences of sexism and racism that she experienced as a woman from Sierra Leone living in the US on which to base this novel. This has created a powerful depiction of the oppression and cruelty meted out to women who are different from a society’s accepted roles. Set in the patriarchal fantasy world of Otera, this is based in an ancient kingdom, where a woman’s worth is only as good as her proven purity. This purity is proven by the woman being made to bleed – in a brutal ceremony when they reach the age of 16. When Deka bleeds gold this is deemed the colour of impurity, and she is declared a demon. Not only is she thrust out of the home and society she has known since birth, but she is also subjected to unspeakable acts of brutality and violence by the ruling priesthood. The fact Deka does not die from all the brutality gives one hope she is different and may have some role in the future of Otera. This proves so – Deka is rescued and taken to a training ground for women where she finds a friendship and sisterhood amongst others also found to be impure. As they train the ‘impure’ girls are paired with soldiers from the Imperial jatu fighting force – and some form deep and lasting friendships with their partners. The characters here are hugely diverse with Black, Asian and Brown main, and minor characters, with a recognition of diverse sexuality too. The power of this novel is in the strong, horrifying but ultimately hopeful end of this story. There is much violence – in both punitive killing and re-killings of demons by the priests, but also in the violent backstories of some of the girls (including an instance of rape.) The book explores themes of feminist possibility whilst being based in a fantasy world taking inspiration from ancient West African culture. A powerful read, not for the faint-hearted but very definitely giving hope for the future, showing that there is a place to be whatever you wish to be – homemaker or fighter. This is a strong start to what promises to be a trilogy.
Slowly Alice starts to build a life for herself, at a new school with new friends. But she can't escape the feeling she is being watched. That he might be lurking, waiting to ruin everything again. That Mum might be about to break her promise. That, just when Alice is starting to feel safe, everything will be taken away from her.
February 2021 Book of the Month | Renée Watson is one of my favourite contemporary YA writers and her latest novel, Love is a Revolution, embodies everything that makes her stories shine - it’s honest, relatable, driven by an inspiring Black girl, and sparkles with a self-empowerment vibe. Nala’s summer plans are sent reeling when she goes to an open mic night for her “cousin-sister-friend” Imani’s birthday, an event organised by the Harlem Inspire community project Imani is heavily involved with. Here Nala fall head-over-heels for committed activist Tye and finds herself telling little white lies to impress him - that she’s vegan, that she’s running a big project at her Jamaican Grandma’s Senior Living residence. Talking of Grandma, I especially loved the book’s beautiful portrayal of inter-generational relationships - the shared wisdom, the compassion and kindness, the sense of family and community, and Nala’s body positive exuberance is uplifting too. Her disorientation and self-doubt derive from elsewhere, like not knowing what she wants to do with her life, and feeling she’s not good enough, not quite worthy of Tye’s love. Though fireworks explode when Nala’s fibs are found out, after taking Grandma’s advice on-board to the empowering soundtrack of her favourite musician, she discovers that self-love and self-care are forms of revolution - they’re her route to transformative self-acceptance through embracing who she really is.