No catches, no fine print just unconditional book love and reading recommendations for your students and children.
You can create your own school's page, develop tailored reading lists to share with peers and parents...all helping encourage reading for pleasure in your children.Find out more
Find the latest books for fans of fantasy stories and magical tales! We have extracts to download for most of our books plus expert reviews.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Imogen’s life at home is not all perfect so it’s no surprise that she follows the strange silver moth that arrives from nowhere – even when it leads her through a door in a tree! And there’s no stopping her little sister Marie from following…Like any magic opening, the door leads the two girls into an extraordinary world where almost anything can – and will – happen! As in the best traditions of children’s stories, Imogen and Marie meet a wealth of larger-than-life characters including a spoiled prince and a dancing bear as they journey through a richly-imagined world of possibilities. Chris Riddell’s illustrations bring the magic to life perfectly.
Bethan Woollvin won the Macmillan Children’s Book Competition with her first book Little Red and has since produced some wonderfully engaging picture books all looking at elements of traditional fairy tales. I Can Catch a Monster is the story of Erik, Ivar and Bo who live in a land of forests and monsters. Erik and Ivar set off to catch some monsters for themselves, leaving their sister Bo behind as she is ‘too small’. Bo knows she is smart and brave, so she sets off to hunt her own monster. The monsters Bo meets are varied and include a Griffin, a Kraken and a dragon – but rather than fight them (as she knows her brothers will try) she learns something from each of them and becomes the centre of humanity in the book. This picture book tells the story in a series of illustrations which give the impression of being made in old printmaking techniques using a limited palette of colours which emphasizes the bold, simple illustrations used throughout. As one might hope– Bo turns out to be bold, to have more understanding of the natural world – and to be a brave female role model for the readers. This simple take on traditional quest tales will be a favourite – and provides a lovely counterpoint for the old tales with all their slaying and death! Bethan was once asked to describe her books in three words – she chose ‘bold, dark and sneaky’ *– this is most definitely all of those but also delightful and endearing – do read it!
October 2020 Debut of the Month | Elsetime is a wonderfully atmospheric timeslip adventure story with two great characters – three, if you count Magpie, the wise young crow who befriends the two human protagonists. Needle is a mudlark, gathering lost treasures from the river shoreline in the 1860s. Through a mysterious magic, he finds himself fifty years in the future, on the same spot and the eve of a terrible flood that he knows will cause death and destruction (as the real River Thames flood did in 1928). His new friend, talented young apprentice jeweller, Glory, is one of those whose lives is at risk. Can they save the town and their neighbours, and can Needle find a way to return home to his family? The plot swirls and sparkles and will keep readers on tenterhooks; this accomplished historical fantasy adventure is full of treasures for readers.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | Some girls like ballet; some like football; Aveline Jones likes ghosts. And anyone who enjoys a creepy, well-plotted, atmospheric ghost story will love this book. The setting is a little West Country fishing port, where Aveline is staying with her aunt while her mother is away. Hallowe’en is approaching and Aveline is unsettled by the village’s custom of leaving life-size manikins of children outside the houses – it’s seriously spooky. A visit to the local second-hand bookshop begins an adventure that will reveal the reason for the dolls, and one that sees Aveline herself caught up in an old tragedy that still haunts the villagers. It’s deliciously creepy reading, just the thing to add a frisson of fear as the nights draw out and highly recommended!
September 2020 Debut of the Month | If you like books in which ordinary children suddenly have wonderful magical adventures and, in the process, realise just how much adults don’t know, or choose to pretend isn’t real, then you will love The Silver Arrow. Eleven-year-old Kate and her younger brother Tom are gifted an adventure by their rich and totally irresponsible Uncle Herbert. It’s Kate’s mum who labels him irresponsible, Kate and Tom have never even met him until he turns up on Kate’s birthday with an amazing present – a steam locomotive. That night the children climb on board, staying on even as the train starts to move and Uncle Herbert advises them they really should think about jumping off – and there begins the best adventure you could ever hope to have, in which the train turns out to be able to communicate, the passengers are wild animals who climb on and off at the stops, except for a small band including a porcupine, black mamba, fishing cat and a white-bellied heron, who become the children’s special friends. There’s so much that Kate and Tom learn, not just about driving steam trains but about our world, its animals, and humans too. It all makes for the journey of a lifetime, and this is one train adventure-loving readers mustn’t miss. There’s an important environmental message for all youngsters reading the book too, and it’s even better for that.
This emotive, richly-detailed novel illuminates a dark period of history with grace and lyricism through a perfectly-paced plot. England, 1659 – an era of terror and persecution for women who might be accused of witchcraft. One such woman is Mary’s grandmother, the wise woman who raised her, someone the community once turned to in times of birth, sickness and death. But those times have passed. When her grandmother is hanged for witchcraft after a ludicrous trial, Mary fears for her own life, but she’s swiftly and quietly brought to safety by a woman she doesn’t know, with a passage to America arranged for her. In the New World Mary will adopt a new identity and make a new life among Puritans. Mary’s life in Salem is described in evocative detail - the heat that “does not fade with the setting sun”, the fireflies, the “dour” people whose “faces show a history of work and hardship.” But the Puritans find Salem too soft for them, and so they press further into the wilderness, to the Beulah (‘Bride of God’) settlement. Life is strict, and worsens for Mary when old superstitions re-emerge after she uses her healing wisdom. It’s while searching for herbs in the woods that she befriends Jaybird, a Native American boy, and meets his shaman grandfather. The novel tells of their history and spiritual beliefs with an engaging deftness of touch, but since the Puritans regard Native Americans as “the Devil’s instruments”, as people who live “in sin, and in degradation”, Mary’s association with Jaybird adds to their suspicion of her. Presented as pages from Mary’s journal found centuries later, this is an engaging joy from start to cliff-hanger finish. As Witch Child ends, so Sorceress begins...
This captivating sequel sees contemporary Native American Agnes discover deep connections to her ancestress Mary, whose story enchanted readers in Witch Child. Deftly interweaving narratives of the past and present, and laced with atmosphere, authenticity and insights into Native American culture, this is an exhilarating, emotion-driven feast for fans of historical fiction. Agnes is proud of her Native American heritage, though her fellow anthropology students don’t call her by her tribal name, Karonhisake - Searching Sky. After reading the historic diaries of Mary Newbury and being struck by a vision type experience, Agnes feels compelled to contact the researcher who found Mary’s diaries. She has a hunch that Mary might be the young woman she’s heard stories about on her home reservation. As things turn out, her formidable Aunt M, a medicine woman, is already miles ahead of her in knowing this. Bristling with intrigue and ethical commentary on the acquisition and appropriation of Native American objects (“What right they got to any of that stuff? Bunch of grave robbers!”), this tells the remarkable tales of two remarkable young women connected across time.
This is a reinvention of the most radiant, vital kind; an inspirational re-working of The Twelve Dancing Princesses to devour over and over, and to share aloud. Following the death of his wife, Queen Laurelia, King Alberto “became the sort of person who ate a whole cake without offering anyone else a slice, and who punished his girls for things that weren’t their fault at all.” While Queen Laurelia had “been the one watching them, nurturing their imaginations, their educations”, the King takes away his daughters’ freedoms in the name of keeping them safe. The palace is transformed into a tomb, and “only melancholy was allowed to illuminate the girls’ days”. But brave, clever Frida stands up to her father. “This isn’t fair, and you know it,” she protests. “You cannot tell us how to grieve”. And then, with the grace and strength of a lioness and the potency of her imagination, Frida leads her sisters in a fight to re-find life. The writing pirouettes with the lithe power of a devoted dancer, with Angela Barrett’s elegant illustrations in perfect accord. What a sumptuous, stirring celebration of sisterhood this is. For more books with a feminist feel check out Work it Girl - Inspiring and Informative Books on Feminism.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | When Abi’s newly forged family moves to an eccentric new home which is totally covered in ivy, strange things begin to happen to her and to her step-brothers Louis and Max. With their parents either away or too busy to notice, Abi finds herself falling into the books she is reading – she can feel the damp of the sea and taste the salt on her fingers - while Louie tempts an unusual and dangerous animal companion into his bedroom from the ivy. Can Abi and Max help Louie get rid of his dangerous new friend and will things get back to normal when their parents come home? Hilary McKay’s storytelling is vivid; she makes magic seem real while also showing why believing in it is so important.
It’s more than 150 years since the publication of Alice in Wonderland and it is delighting today’s readers as much as it ever has. Both a tribute to and a celebration of Lewis Carroll’s story, this collection includes new adventures by eleven favourite contemporary children’s authors, each of whom has been inspired by Alice. With such an extraordinary set of characters and scenes to take as starting points, the stories are wonderfully varied. Pamela Butchart chooses to write about the Queen of Hearts in a follow up story, while Swapna Haddow picks the Mock Turtle. There’s an environmental message in Lauren St John’s lively story ‘Plum Cakes at Dawn’, while Robin Stevens puts the real Alice into her Oxford set story. Together they make for a sparkling collection, one well worth tumbling back down the rabbit hole to enjoy.
August 2020 Debut of the Month | In this rip-roaringly feminist re-imagining of Cinderella, our justice-seeking heroine, Sophia, seeks a princess rather than a prince, and bodice-ripping is done in the name of shedding the shackles of patriarchy. Giddily entertaining, and spiced with dagger-sharp dialogue and romantic attraction, one message beams bright through Sophia’s story - “do not be silent. Raise your voice. Be a light in the dark.” Though 200 years have passed since Cinderella’s time, a twisted version of her legacy lives on in Lille, where the present-day Prince Charming, King Manford, has decreed that girls must recite the fairy tale daily and, at the age of sixteen, they will be sent to the palace to be chosen by a man at a grand ball. Attending the ball is law, and, in the words of Erin, Sophia’s best friend and lover, “It is our only hope for making some kind of life”, for those not chosen are doomed to an even worse existence than being married off. As Sophia’s father admits, “I’d rather see you unhappy than imprisoned or killed.” Such is the impossible situation. So, Sophia goes to the ball, still hoping to escape with Erin, still burning with anger that the “founding tenet of our laws is that women, no matter their standing, are at the mercy of the fickle whims of men.” At the grandiose selection event, girls are put on show for the male suitors, some of them old enough to be Sophia’s grandfather, “but that doesn’t stop them from shamelessly ogling the young girls.” As shocking events unfold here, she flees and finds a sisterly comrade in flame-haired Constance, who also sets her heart alight. As the feminist fugitives go on the run, Constance reveals truths about Cinderella’s real story - a story that was suppressed and twisted into patriarchal propaganda by men in power. And so they embark on a quest to find the White Wood, the last known location of the original fairy godmother, who might just hold the key to further truths that will help Sophia rouse revolution. What an inventive, entertaining and flamboyantly feminist treat this is.
This is book three in the Mermaid School series which is already a firm favourite with lots of young readers. In this episode, mermaid Marnie Blue and her friends have a new PE teacher, Mr Marlin, aka snarlin’ Marlin, motto ‘if you don’t come first, you lose!’. He reinstates the old Golden Glory sports day competition, and though to Marlin winning is everything, Marnie is more concerned with making sure her friends are happy, and with tracking down the whereabouts of the long-lost Golden Glory Crown. The set up allows for lots of fun and games, friendly and not-so-friendly rivalry, and a gentle emphasis on the importance of fair play. The story also moves along the sub-plot, involving Marnie’s glamorous auntie Christabel and her romance with a handsome human! Spending time with Marnie and her friends is fishy fun, and their undersea world will be very tempting to young landlubbers. Pretty illustrations by Sheena Dempsey add to the charm. One to recommend to fans of The Worst Witch and readers who like Marnie should get to know Lyla, star of Rebecca Patterson’s new Moon Girl series too. There are some great reviews from our Kids Reader Review Panel for the first in this series - Mermaid School - read them here!