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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.
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.
Kesia Lupo's We Are Bound By Stars is a fine follow-up to We Are Blood and Thunder, a richly-realised fantasy epic in which intrigue, trickery and powerful gifts from the gods throng through a cast of colourfully compelling characters. If you’re a fan of female-fronted fantasy, of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J. Maas, this series is sure to be your chalice of char. Beatrice is one of three female mask-makers in the kingdom of the Wishes, a cluster of volcanic islands ruled by a Contessa. As a result of a secret pact the Contessa made with Mythris, patron god of the Wishes, the chosen triplet mask-makers are taught to create masks with powers that aid “the Contessa in discovering and destroying her enemies”, as long as the chain of inheritance remains intact. As a middle sister, Beatrice makes Grotesques, masks that “draw power from expression”, creations with the power to manipulate emotions, but she’s desperate to flee this life of bondage. Then there’s Livio, born into a powerful family, destined to be the first male leader in aeons, but his magic is overwhelmingly wild. When his path collides with Beatrice’s, it falls to them to prevent devastating insurgency, as menacing masked assassins close in on their heels. Can they cut the strings of a controlling puppet master? Can they change the course of destiny? As their tales twist along a troubled path, the sense of time running out, of high-stakes decisions, of human emotions are grippingly evoked within a tangled web of magical trickery.
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!
Fans of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl novels will relish this action-packed, gadgets-a-go-go new series. In fact, this cracking book heralds a second cycle of Fowl escapades as the eponymous eleven-year-old Fowl Twins are none other than the younger siblings of Artemis himself. But only Myles bears any resemblance to the twins’ big bro. A stickler for dressing smart, Myles is smart in mind too, with an exceptional IQ and a penchant for taming his wild hair with special seaweed gel that nourishes both the hair and brain. Beckett, on the other hand, is more of a crash-bang-wallop kind of boy, and prone to sulk when forced to wear any kind of clothing. But it falls to them both to step into Artemis’s shoes when the fairy folk need help while he’s away. As they bicker and irritate each other to hilarious effect, the twins are visited by a mysterious nun who sends Beckett’s imagination into overdrive: “Myles, it’s a nun with a helicopter! You hardly ever see that. This is the start of our first real adventure. It has to be - I can feel it in my elbows.” And he isn’t wrong, for it turns out that stylish Sister Jeronima of Bilbao is on a mission to prove that magic creatures really exist, and her “organisation has eyes everywhere.” Adding to the cast of jump-off-the-page characters, we meet the dastardly Duke of Scilly, who’s desperate to get his hands on the tiny troll Beckett finds near their fortress, and Lazuli, an ambitious pixie-elf hybrid known as a ‘pixel’. Heady with high-stakes high jinks and high-octane action, this fiendishly funny firebrand of a book will keep kids reading long after the lights were supposed to be out. And when they’ve raced through this, they’ll be desperate to dive into book two, The Fowl Twins: Deny All Charges.
June 2020 Book of the Month | Spending time with Beattie, Mimi and Zelda, aka the Bad Mermaids, is always fun, but there are extra delicious thrills in their latest adventure. Their friend, spy mermaid Meri Pebble, has been sent on a secret mission. She’s working undercover checking on the Sushi Sisters, after an anonymous tip that the celebrity pranksters are planning to destroy all humans. The little mermaids (plus Steve, their talking pet seahorse) go with her disguised as the GLAM squad, in charge of the Sushi Sisters’ wardrobe, hair and make up. The seabed is set for adventure, intrigue, and some very fashionable outfits! Sibéal Pounder’s stories are absolutely fabulous, told with real flair and wit, and it’s not hard to sea (sorry!) why they’re so popular with young readers.
Written to be read aloud, The Ickabog is a fairy tale, set in an imaginary land, and is a complete stand-alone story unrelated to the author’s other work. It will appeal to children between the ages of 7 and 9 but can be enjoyed by the whole family. The story will be translated into a number of other languages, and made available on the website shortly after the English language version appears.
May 2020 Book of the Month | The third book in Cressida Cowell’s new Wizards of Once series is full of magic – magical adventures and magical creatures, and it overflows with the magic of great storytelling. Our heroes, Wish the young Warrior girl and Xar the boy wizard, are continuing their dangerous quest to defeat the witches they accidentally freed in book one and which threaten both their worlds. They travel on a magic flying door, accompanied by their friends – sprites, a giant, snowcats, a werewolf and Bodkin, Wish’s young bodyguard – and come up against some awesome enemies. In hot pursuit are their parents, Xar’s father King Encanzo the enchanter and Wish’s mother, Warrior Queen Sychorax, both terrifying, both determined their children will do as they are told. Who will succeed? Can Wish and Xar change the course of history and write their own happy ending? We don’t know yet, but readers of all ages will be wishing with all their hearts that they can. Cressida Cowell’s invention and ambition for her characters is boundless, and this unputdownable story is as full of ideas and intelligence as it is of excitement.
May 2020 Book of the Month | Set ten years after the events of Dragon Daughter, which featured revolutionary dragon-rider Milla, this sparkling sequel tells the story of Milla’s cousin, Joe. On his twelfth birthday Joe is out-of-this-world excited about attending the Hatching Ceremony, desperately hoping that this is the day he’ll be bonded with a dragon. But when Joe inadvertently ruins the ceremony and Milla must step in to rescue the situation, “Joe fled from his parents’ home, knowing he’d never be able to return.” Ashamed to his bones, Joe has an epiphany after taking refuge in a cavern (“a home for a monster”) and meeting a stranger named Winter: “His old life was over. He’d messed it up spectacularly, but it was finished. He couldn’t hurt his parents any more. This was the new start he’d been looking for… Until he had become someone his parents could be proud of, he would stay dead.” With the sweeping atmosphere of a classic hero story, Joe’s story is shot-through with themes of acceptance, making amends, courage and concord, against a backdrop of political - and volcanic - eruptions. What’s more, the author’s vibrant, visual storytelling paints a truly sensory picture of a world and its compelling cast of characters.
There are adventures galore in the second episode of this new series starring little mermaid Marnie and her friends and family. This time the action is all to do with the annual entertainment extravaganza that is the Clamshell Show. Marnie really wants the part of Queen Maretta, but so does her friend Orla, and nasty new mergirl, show-off Gilly Seaflower too. When the curtain finally goes up, there’s as much drama behind the scenes as on stage, and the sudden surprise appearance of a human! Marnie and her friends are very appealing characters – naughty aunt Christabel is a hoot – and their underwater world very tempting. Pretty illustrations by Sheena Dempsey add to the all-round charm. Young readers should dive in straightaway. Fans of The Worst Witch will enjoy the lively stories in Mermaid School, and readers who like Marnie should get to know Lyla, star of Rebecca Patterson’s new Moon Girl series too.
Written by the first Children’s Laureate for Wales, Wilde is a wonderful mix of old legends in a contemporary school setting. The heroine, Wilde, is plagued by strange, supernatural and downright strange events that all seem to gang up and make her stand out from the crowd. Set in Wales, near a waterfall which has a long history of association with witches – founded on a gruesome tale of death caused long ago in the falls – and a set of strange experiences for Wilde as she tries to settle into her new school all combine to create a beautifully written modern witchy story. When a local drama practitioner is brought into class to help facilitate a play about the local legend for the end of term it seems as if something has stirred and the witch is trying to curse and frighten everyone. Can Wilde survive all of this – still be herself and yet manage to fit in to the new school? The book is written with an obvious love of old legends, the sense of place in the book is palpable and Wilde is a delightful lead character – well drawn and thoroughly engaging. This book promises to be equally as feted/praised as Williams previous two novels, Gaslight and Seaglass.
May 2020 Book of the Month | David Solomons is the perfect author to write new Doctor Who books – he’s a sci-fi/comics fanatic, brilliantly funny and a dab hand at creating adventure stories too (all of which you’ll know if you’ve read his My Brother is a Superhero books). This new story sees the Doctor and her companions Yaz, Graham and Ryan come face to face with the Minotaur – yes, the monster from the labyrinth but also in fact a deadly bit of alien software. The adventure takes us to all sorts of settings and via a range of different transport – there’s a great scene on a speeding London bus – and while there’s lots to make readers laugh throughout, it’s properly thrilling too. A very satisfying Time Lord adventure and thoroughly recommended.
Bursting with ideas and vivid scenes, Philip Caveney’s new adventure is rollicking good reading. Orphan Boy makes his escape from life as a stable-hand (unpaid) to seek his fortune in distant Ravalan with his father’s book of inventions, but immediately runs into trouble in the shame of a pair of unscrupulous crooks. He’s saved by a girl called Lexi and her father’s band of travelling players. Together they make their way to Ravalan where the stories converge with suitable drama. The actors are as colourful as you could want, and there’s action and humour aplenty (peril too) together with just the right amount of romance. Great fun! For more theatrical adventures Vivian French’s The Steam Whistle Theatre Company is excellent.