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Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal 2014 - Winner of the 2013 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize | Award-winning Rebecca Stead tells a wonderfully touching story with great sensitivity within an exciting and dramatic adventure. Georges (his unusual name is part of his problem) has just moved to a new apartment block and he immediately gets caught up in a game with Safer, a boy who lives on another floor. Safer’s spying game seems fun and his family, sister Candy and brother Pigeon provide an interesting and supportive alternative home for Georges while things in his own family are out of kilter. But then Georges begins to have his doubts… Gradually everything he has been protecting himself from spins out of control and the reader discovers the sad truth he has been hiding himself from. A very special story that is not to be missed.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2020 | Winner of the Newbery Medal | Shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize | Multi-award winning When I Reach You is a sophisticated and thought-provoking time travelling story that fizzes with excitement and energy as it encourages readers to explore how the future can shape the present. Miranda, a six grader in a New York school, tells a brilliant story that weaves together the details of her everyday school and home life with a series of inexplicable events which create a mystery that it is hard to unravel. Part of the thrill of the story is that Rebecca Stead expects of lot of her readers! With much referencing of Madeline L’Engle’s classic A Wrinkle in Time, the book that Miranda loves best, there are detailed conversations about now and the future about how and whether they come together. With not a word wasted When You Reach me is not only a story to fall in love with but also an irresistible spur to thinking!
Secrecy is a big thing for super-heroes (ask Batman) and so far, the Heroes’ Alliance have been keeping the world safe and their identities unknown. But now all that has changed: evil Nicholas Knox has blown their cover and is working to destroy them forever, and take over the world (of course). All that’s standing in the way is one normal eleven-year old, aka Murph Cooper, aka Kid Normal plus his very special friends. This series is hugely popular with readers, deservedly so, and it ends as it began – in style! There are bizarre baddies, lots of great gags, and some wonderfully witty put-downs. Plus, more action than you could throw a comic book at. Adventures don’t come much faster, funnier or more feel-good. Don’t miss! Looking for more clever, funny, super-hero adventure? David Solomons, Danny Wallace and Shane Hegarty are the authors for you.
First published in 1975, this extraordinary story of the friendship between the gentle Tuck family and ten-year-old Winnie feels older than its years, but also of our age, in the magical way true classics do. The story is enthrallingly set-up by juxtaposing three apparently unconnected happenings during the “strange and breathless days” of a hot August. As the Prologue states, and as things turn out, “things can come together in strange ways.” Dissatisfied at home, Winnie longs to do “something that would make some kind of difference in the world.” Certain this will never happen “if I stay in here like this,” she explores her family’s wood and chances upon a “glorious” boy who stops Winnie in her tracks, and warns her against drinking from a spring. Winnie meets the boy’s family - the Tucks - and discovers a “big, dangerous secret” that must ever be revealed if their way of life is to be preserved, if the equilibrium of humanity is to be maintained, for the spring seems to have granted the Tucks everlasting life. In their company, in their warm-hearted, higgledy-piggledy home, Winnie “discovered the wings she’d always wished she had”. For their part, the Tucks say she’s the best thing that’s happened to them in “at least eighty years.” Then, when a yellow-suited stranger seeks to disrupt the Tuck’s lives, Winnie bravely leaps on her opportunity to make a difference. Dazzlingly written (how about this for a description of sunset? “The sun was dropping fast now, a soft, red sliding egg yolk”), this is a wondrously wise story. Take Tuck’s remarks about the nature of life and death: “You can’t have living without dying. So you can’t call it living, what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road.” With a bittersweet ending that brings tears to the eyes and warmth to the soul, I couldn’t love this book more. It’s that rare kind of tale that speaks of all things, to all ages.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Hitting rock bottom, hanging on, and coming back from the edge. Brian Conaghan has an incredible talent for telling it like it is. His characters are authentic and absorbing; flawed underdogs with serious troubles, like 17-year-old Maggie whose dad “drank his liver into a spreadable pâté”, and whose laid-off dinner lady mum is “gifted in the art of attracting pure dickheads”. And Maggie? Maggie’s “an island: the way I dress; the music I listen to; the patter my brain discharges; everything”. Maggie’s struggling to deal with the tragic loss of her best friend Moya whose death she feels excruciatingly guilty about. Moya was a “mad riot” of a girl, but as Maggie “couldn’t be arsed with all the love-struck vom” Moya was spewing, because she didn’t speak out against the Internet trolls, she believes she was a “failure friend”. Alongside her grief, guilt and self-harm, Maggie struggles with her mother’s severe depression, but also tingles with the hope that comes from starting art college: “now’s the time to make something of myself.” Indeed, she soon forms a band with new friends. Throughout, Maggie’s love of bands like The Smiths looms large, as does her relationship with her depressed mother. Maggie’s rage at her mother’s condition derives entirely from her primal love for her. She’s desperate for Mum to be happy, and her scheme to help her find happiness is heart-achingly poignant. Grief, depression, self-harm, online abuse, this novel is no walk in the park, yet it never drags the reader down. On the contrary. It’s sensitive, insightful, funny (Maggie is a master of biting one-liners), and genuinely uplifting as Maggie and Mum begin to find their way back to the world, with glinting prospects of love and new life.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2020 | Full of bravery, hope, dreams and humour this is a wonderfully doggy adventure as Paolo escapes from his confinement in a hairdressing salon and enjoys everything that is on offer in the stunning city of Rome. Paolo knows that Rome is full of beauty and magic but how will he ever be able to get out and see it? Seizing his moment when the salon door is left open, Paolo embarks on a whirlwind and dangerous adventure full cats, dogs, statues and even opera. Claire Keane’s fabulous illustrations create a glorious evocation of Rome – mostly from a dog’s point of view!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2020 | Stylish and beautifully conceived, this entertaining new picture book by artist/ designer Marion Deuchars is a visual treat as well as a strong story about artistic competition - and collaboration. Bob loves making art and is very jealous when everyone starts talking about Roy, the amazing new artist in town. His work is apparently fantastic! Who is this new artist and what is so special about his work? Why is he the best in town? Bob does everything he can to compete with Roy until he realises that working together might be more fun!
Sheffield provides the setting for this family adventure, and the city’s steelworkers its inspiration. Spending time with their grandma, Sean and his little sister are immediately taken with the statue of three steelmen outside the Meadowhall Centre, especially when their cousin tells them about a mystery surrounding it and involving their mum and uncle. Sure enough, there is something magical about the statue and another too: one of two young female steelworkers. As the children find out more, they travel back in time for an exciting adventure. The story began with Meet Me by the Steelmen, shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, and this is another engaging story which cleverly and vividly brings the past to life. Older readers should look out for Berlie Doherty’s Carnegie winner Granny was a Buffer Girl, which also takes the steel industry for inspiration.
March 2020 Debut of the Month | Newton is excited: he’s just read a sign that tells him dogs have nine lives. That’s carte blanche for Newton to do all his favourite things and be much more daring. Without a second thought he’s off to explore the nature reserve and do some incredibly risky things. He’s pursued by his friend, a much more sensible cat, who realises - as we do - that Newton has been misled. The adventure that follows is full of wonderfully reckless behaviour and narrow escapes for Newton, all the more delightful because he is totally oblivious to the danger he’s in. Newton’s joy is infectious and it’s impossible to read this without smiling at his enthusiasm. Alice McKinley depicts Newton as a plump puppy, with constantly wagging tail and beautifully expressive ears, and he’s set to become a favourite with readers young and old.
The third in a sequence of stand-alone historical novels, set at key points in the history of the divided island that is currently front and centre in Brexit negotiations, this could not be more topical and very possibly prescient in describing the situation in 1921 and the partition of Northern Ireland and the hard border which quite literally fractures communities. The author talks in the end pages of the book about growing up in this border area with the army and customs check points and how much the community enjoys today’s freedom of movement and is terrified of losing that. But this beautifully written novel is not an ‘issue’ novel, it is full of brilliantly realised characters and a pitch perfect evocation of the period. The story of the bold 14-year-old heroine, Polly and her struggles to find her way forward in life cleverly mirrors the struggles of the newly emerging country. She ran away to Belfast to escape of life of drudgery looking after the men in her family after her mother’s death from influenza. She finds refuge in Helen’s Hope, a feminist hostel where young women live and work together, a haven of tolerance and diversity in an area wracked with division and hatred. The non-partisan mission of this hostel sums up the greatest strength of this fascinating and moving novel in that it absolutely does not demonise either side, while being completely up front about the terrible things that are happening. There are bad, mean and cruel characters but this is not because of the ideologies they follow, but because some people are like that, and we even get insights into why that might be. The second book in this sequence, Star by Star, went on to become the best selling book ever from this small imprint and won Children’s Books Ireland’s Honour Award for Fiction 2018. I can see similar accolades for this ‘sister’ novel and can highly recommend all three (the first being Name Upon Name) as invaluable purchases to support the history curriculum, but absolutely as engaging reads for pleasure too.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2020 | March 2020 Book of the Month | The wonder of nature and in particular the growth cycle of a tiny seed are beautifully captured in Britta Teckentrup’s luminous illustrations and simple text which, more widely, celebrates finding your own way in the world whoever you are. What happens when one tiny seed takes a long time to get growing? It soon discovers that the faster growing seeds have taken all the space and light. Undaunted, and guarded first by ant and ladybird and later by more and more creatures of the woodlands, the tiny seed begins its own journey seeking out spaces that enable it to flourish and fulfil its potential. It’s a joy to dwell on the illustrations and to let message sink in.
This classic children’s book (first published in the 1960s) follows the ‘fortunately, unfortunately’ format, and is an example of storytelling at its very best. Tiger finds Boy sitting on a rock and demands he run to avoid being eaten. Boy explains he’s too tired to run, he’s just escaped Rhino. He recounts his narrow escapes (‘That’s good,’ says Tiger) and Rhino’s determined pursuit (‘That’s bad’) until his story concludes with a wonderful twist that will delight children. There’s an air of spontaneity and excitement that’s hard to beat and Aliki’s bold, expressive, child-like illustrations look as fresh as ever in this handsome new edition.