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A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2020 | February 2020 Book of the Month | A spellbinding and warm-hearted sequel to A Pinch of Magic with the three Widdershins sisters Betty, Charlie and Fliss, now free from the curse that has held them prisoners on a remote island, back for a new thrilling adventure. This time the sisters have to deal with a mysterious stranger who comes with her own will-o’-the-wisp and a secret island which isn’t even on any map. And they have to find Charlie when she goes missing. As ever, the sisters are clever and brave and adept at managing the magic that surrounds them.
If you love Tom Gates, the Wimpy Kid, or Nikki Maxwell of Dork Diaries fame, then you need to get to know Max Crumbly. Like these hapless anti-heroes, Max has a habit of getting into trouble – this episode opens with Max and his crush Erin Madison trapped in a dumpster full of smelly rubbish – mainly in an effort to escape school bullies or teachers. He recounts his adventures in a breathless, as-it-happens mix of text and image, which is vivid, action-packed and guaranteed to keep the pages turning and readers laughing. It all works too because author Rachel Renée Russell understands her protagonist and her readers so well, ensuring that Max is always a credible and sympathetic character.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2020 | | Manners matter as Mr Gnome finds out the hard way! Mr Gnome is a grumpy old thing who will always say NO rather than yes. He says NO to helping a hedgehog get an apple off its spines and NO to anyone joining him on his fishing trip. But when he says NO to a witch it has very terrible consequences!
Fabio the flamingo and Gilbert the giraffe are the animal Holmes and Watson, solving mysteries from their office on the banks of the Laloozee river. A trip in Gilbert’s new plane leads them off the beaten track to a small town where there’s something fishy going on with the water supply. Red herrings are scattered all over the place before Fabio solves the case, identifying the culprits. It all makes for fun and flamboyant reading (love Emily Fox’s illustrations and the fluorescent colour scheme). Fabio and George are a great comic double act and there’s real satisfaction to be had as they work out the crimes too.
Renée Watson’s remarkable What Momma Left Me is a wise and nourishing story rooted in themes of resilience, healing and love. With high school on the horizon, African American Serenity is struggling to piece her life back together following the brutal death of her beloved momma and the loss of her dad. Amidst this sensitively evoked maelstrom, Serenity finds hope in the form of her wholesome grandparents, church (where Grandpa is a pastor), brother Danny and new friend and confidante Maria, a bright beam of light who harbours her own bleak secrets. Serenity handles her grief, set-backs and challenging dilemmas with dignity, her grandparents a constant, calming presence as they impart wisdom, such as this nod to Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I Rise’ poem: “That’s why we say ‘we rise’, children. There have been lots of things that have tried to keep us down. But we’ve got resilience running through these veins.”Empathetically charting Serenity’s grief, first romance and growing up (what Serenity does to save Maria from an unsafe situation shows strength and wisdom way beyond her years), this huge-hearted novel comes highly recommended for its honesty, depth and engaging readability, along with Watson’s Piecing Me Together and Watch Us Rise (the latter co-authored with Ellen Hagan).
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Winner of the Branford Boase Award 2020 | March 2020 Debut of the Month |Winner of the Older Readers' category of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2020 | Told in narrator Newt’s distinctive phonetic English, this dark debut dazzles with originality and delivers a potent case for combatting inequality. Bearmouth is home to a grim mining business, where men and children labour under inhumane conditions to make their Master wealthy. They work under the earth, under the omniscient Mayker who - so workers are told - “sen us down into the dark Earf/To atone for the sins o our forefarvers an muvvers”. Naïve Newt hasn’t seen daylight in years, but takes pride in being taught to read and write by fatherly Thomas, blithely accepting this lot until the arrival of new boy Devlin. Devlin’s talk of “revolushun” makes Newt feel that things are “unravellin slowly slowly lyke a bootlayce comin all undun.” Life in Bearmouth is beyond bleak, but the sparks of Devlin’s revolutionary spirit catch light and drive Thomas to ask the Master for “more coinage” for the workers, to question why they must pay for essential clothes, to demand to know when the promised safety lamps are coming. Then when tragedy strikes, Newt too realises that things “ent bloody well ryte” and takes on Devlin’s insurgent tendencies, with explosive effects. Emotionally engaging, this searingly original novel about standing up to abuses of power and fighting for freedom is radiant with story-telling excellence. The Branford Boase judges said : ‘Astounding!’; ‘I loved every single second’; ‘plot, story and voice are superb’; ‘I was totally invested in the characters’; ‘interesting, challenging and original’.
Imparting an infectious passion for politics, speaking-out and trying to make a difference, Yes No Maybe So, co-authored by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed, is a resonant, readable page-turner with an adorable cross-cultural romance at its heart. Jamie Goldberg is a self-professed klutz with confidence issues and a commitment to campaigning for his local Democrat candidate. While he hates being the centre of attention and has no interest in “power for its own sake”, Jamie is certain that “I want to be a history changer. I want to help draw the line.” It’s on the campaign trail that he meets Maya. With her parents recently separated, their vacation plans cancelled, and her best friend distracted with college plans, Maya figures she’d just as well do something during the summer. The Islamophobia Maya experiences while canvassing elicits a mix of shock, anger and defiance. “We don’t want the racist asshole guy to win, right?” she says of the bigot who slurs her during one doorstep encounter. “He already did win. In 2016,” Jamie quips of the US President. As the heat of the campaign intensifies, not least when they stand against a Republican bill seeking to ban head and face coverings in public spaces, and Jamie’s car is defaced with an anti-Semitic sticker, so too does their friendship, with their cross-cultural relationship portrayed with authentic empathy. Maya and Jamie’s dual narrative plays out with page-turning urgency and their awakenings – political, personal and romantic – are a genuine joy to experience. While Jamie has to learn from his Ramadan-related gaffes, and there are conflicts to navigate, their friendship – and more – transcends boundaries.
January 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s love, friendship and challenging prejudice aplenty in this debut novel by a LGBTQ+ parenting expert. Introverted Izzy has just started Year 8 and is wildly excited when her favourite teacher announces auditions for a Christmas production of Guys and Dolls. Though shy, she’s come to love acting because on stage she “could be whoever I wanted.” And Izzy’s not the only member of her family who wants - and needs - to be who they really are, as she discovers when her dad tells the family he’s transgender and is about to begin transitioning. Though he gently explains, “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s nothing dirty, I’m not ill”, Izzy’s older sister reacts angrily, her little brother accepts it in the same way he understands Spider Man and Peter Parker’s different identities, while Izzy feels quiet worry about how their lives will change. The family’s journey is honestly and sensitively portrayed as they endure hurtful prejudice alongside many heart-melting moments, such as the gorgeous scene in which the three siblings think-up their new name for Dad. This is at once an important support tool for children in similar situations, and a barrier-breaking, empathy-inducing story for all.
As cat-owners everywhere know, all cats are equipped with super-powers and Gwynneth Rees’s series stars a band of feline heroes who use their powers to fight villains (a kind of moggie MI6). In this episode, new recruits Tagg and Sugarfoot have to infiltrate the infamous Hit Cats to stop a prison break. Can they do it, and could they really end up fish-sliced if they get caught? Rees keeps things fun, but suitably tense too and it’s another satisfying adventure in a very enjoyable series. Illustrations by Becka Moor add to the fun. If you like the Super Cats series, look out for Dermot O’Leary’s Toto the Ninja Cat books too.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | January 2020 Debut of the Month | Nizrana Farook sets her story on the island of Serendib, now known as Sri Lanka, and transports readers to a vivid, larger-than-life world where young people can be bold, true and have some extraordinary adventures. Twelve-year old Chaya is a thief with a heart of gold, stealing from the king’s palace to help those in her village. She makes a mistake when she takes jewels from the queen’s bedroom though, triggering a series of events that leads to Chaya and two friends, villager Neel and merchant’s daughter Nour, fleeing into the rainforest on the king’s elephant. There are brushes with death, but great camaraderie too and it all ends with a much-needed righting of wrongs. Great stuff! Readers swept up in Chaya’s story – and who couldn’t be? – will also enjoy Costa Book Award winner Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan.
There are lots of reading jokes in this book within a book, within a book: pirates and robbers settle down with their favourite stories and the Three Bears discover Goldilocks reading their favourite book (after having eaten their porridge, of course). It’s all written in bubbly rhyming verse matched with vigorous illustrations which make extensive play of the central joke.
From No. 1 bestselling children's author, David Walliams comes his biggest and most epic adventure yet! Illustrated by the artistic genius Tony Ross. This is the story of a ten-year-old orphan and a 10,000-year-old mammoth... Read all about it! Read all about it! ICE MONSTER FOUND IN ARCTIC! When Elsie, an orphan on the streets of Victorian London, hears about the mysterious Ice Monster - a woolly mammoth found at the North Pole - she's determined to discover more... A chance encounter brings Elsie face to face with the creature, and sparks the adventure of a lifetime - from London to the heart of the Arctic! Heroes come in all different shapes and sizes in David Walliams' biggest and most epic adventure yet!