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Longlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | An extraordinary, powerful, and important book, based on the true story of how Liz Kessler’s father escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe thanks to a British couple his family had met once. But what elevates this book about three friends and their different fates in World War Two is the story of Max, the nice, ordinary boy who gradually becomes seduced into hatred and prejudice. The ringing question, ‘What would I do under these circumstances?’ echoes on every page. ~ Francesca Simon
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | The Silent Stars Go By is a riveting read-in-one-sitting experience driven by compelling characters who leap off the page, not least the young woman at its heart, an unmarried secretarial student who’s forced to give up her baby during WWI. The novel is also underpinned by a superb sense of social history, with evocative details of post-war village life nestling within the bigger story, and - as might be expected of the author of Things a Bright Girl Can Do - it’s threaded with feminist themes. It’s 1919, Christmas is on the horizon and two years have passed since nineteen-year-old Margot was forced to give up her baby for her parents to raise as their own. She was only fifteen when she and Harry fell madly in love ahead of him being called up. The magic of their time together is evoked in all its tingling passion, contrasting with Margot’s present-day torments. It hurts when little James calls her mother “Mummy”, and she doesn’t know how she can continue to keep James a secret from Harry, who’s returned to the village after recuperating on the Isle of Wight. The flashbacks to Margot’s time on the maternity ward are particularly poignant and, of course, the reason she has to endure this unbearable situation is due to the fact that she lives in a world in which “the girl is the one whose honour is defiled or whatever rot they spout” whereas “the boy is just being a boy”. Coupled with that wider context, Margot’s vicar father is a man who “forgave drunks and tramps and fallen women and the men who tried to steal the lead from the church roof. But he couldn’t forgive her.” Realising that “things couldn’t go on like this,” Margot decides to confront her fears amidst the rare glamour of a ball on New Year’s Eve.
October 2021 Debut of the Month | Shortlisted for the 2021 Branford Boase Award | A gobble-it-up fiery and intense yet thoughtful debut novel about family, betrayal, and witchcraft. Opening the pathway to a fabulous historical fantasy series this calls out as a must-read for young adults. Set during the civil war in 17th century England, 15 year old Evey has to flee with her little sister Dill when her mother is murdered. As with all good young adult novels, it is perfectly easy to slide into and really enjoy as an adult too, particularly with the wonderful cover drawing you in. Touching history, it flies into fantasy, as author Finbar Hawkins examines the meaning of witch. Evey is a complex character and as she tells her own story she has the ability of self-reflection, even if she doesn’t always like what she sees. Witch is a read that fair on crackles with energy, it also encourages thoughts to both consider and soar and deservedly sits as one of our LoveReading debuts of the month.
This page-turning story of two teenage boys living either side of the Berlin Wall in the 1960s evokes a period that’s yet to be widely explored in UK children’s literature. As such, it offers welcome (and outlandish) coverage of a key time in modern history, while also delivering a thriller that reels with tension and personal conflict. Harry is a comic-obsessed US citizen who’s recently moved from Washington to West Berlin - his dad has a high-powered job with the US government. In the opening pages, he witnesses the brutal, traumatic sight of a boy being shot while trying to flee the East for the West. As this haunts Harry, his parents become increasingly fraught by the strains of his father’s job, and he sends a message over the wall. It’s found by Jakob, a boy living in the East. Jakob has been adopted by a prominent Stasi officer and his wife, who hope to mould him into a model citizen of the GDR while he clings onto hope that his mother and sister might still be alive. The boys strike up a friendship through exchanging letters over the wall, using secret codes to communicate what they really think, what’s really happening in their lives. While an atmosphere of suspicion and fear radiates from the paranoid political context, their bond is based on trust and they share dangerous secrets, including an audacious plan - Jakob and his musician friends are working to escape to the West via a tunnel. The escalating urgency is palpable as the escape draws closer and Harry discovers shocking revelations. No one is who they seem; the danger is very real and powerfully evoked. One for fans of thrilling action adventures with real-life “imagine being there” intrigue.
More Misadventures with Merdyn the Wild! | Merdyn is the greatest wizard of the Dark Ages. Obviously. Rose is his 21st-century descendent. Lucky her. And Vanheldon the vandal warrior is FURIOUS! After all, last time they met, Merdyn turned his army to stone. Seeking revenge, Vanheldon comes up with a way to kidnap Rose and transport her back to Dark Ages Transylvania, set on luring Merdyn into a terrible trap. Except - whoops! - his magical minion kidnaps Rose's teenage brother Kris instead. Rose, Merdyn and Bubbles the guinea pig must team up to save the day. But can they rescue Kris without creating historical mayhem? Will Rose's wizard ancestor even remember her? (And want to help them?) And will Bubbles ever stop pooing? From the writer of Paddington 2 and writer and star of Horrible Histories and Ghosts, this hilariously silly, heartfelt comedy of errors with a historical twist is perfect for fans of David Walliams and David Baddiel. The follow-up to The Wizard in My Shed.
From Onjali Q. Rauf, the award-winning and best-selling author of The Boy at the Back of the Class, comes an incredible story about missing histories and the concept of a universal family, told with humour and heart. Leo and his best friend Sangeeta are the odd ones out in their school. But as Leo's dad is always telling him, it's because they're special. Only thing is, if they're so special, how come they never see anyone who looks like them in their school history books? Then, on a class trip to a nearby cathedral, Leo's attention is drawn to a large marble slab high above the doors of the hall. Right there, bang in the middle of a list of war heroes, Leo finds himself staring at something incredible: his own name. Desperate to know who this other Leo was, the two friends embark on a search. And together, they begin to uncover missing stories from the past, ones which they are determined to put back into their rightful place in the pages of history. Touching on themes of historical racism, The Lion Above the Door shines a light on the stories our history books have yet to contain and the power of friendships that can last through generations. Following Leo's story, the first edition of this book contains a special collection of historical photos and stories of real life 'forgotten' heroes from World War Two.
Absolutely dazzling. With exemplary research that beautifully integrates details of time and place, outstanding characterisation that rings with empathy and authenticity, and powerfully resonant themes, Celia Rees’ Pirates is a true triumph of historic fiction. I could say what a swashbuckling adventure this is. How brilliantly the book conjures the thrills and dangers of life on the piratical high seas; what an incredible page-turner it is. And, while Pirates! certainly is all these things, it’s also much, much more. Centred around two extraordinary young women readers will truly care about, it conveys the brutality of slavery in the West Indies, and how women were but pawns in a man’s world - forced into slavery on white-owned plantations, and enslaved by marriage, too. Nancy is the free-spirited daughter of a merchant. Minerva is a strong young woman enslaved in Jamaica. Following his death, Nancy travels to Jamaica, where she meets Minerva on her father’s plantation, and they immediately strike up a bond. As grotty circumstances escalate and close in, the young women flee the lives the world has set out for them by becoming pirates. There’s tremendous tension, epic action, and a gorgeous sense of sisterhood (and romance, too) as the women sail the world determined to live the lives they deserve. May this reissue make its way to legions of new readers - teenagers, young adults and adults alike. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Set in Britain against the backdrop of the French Revolution, Sovay once again confirms Celia Rees’ tremendous talent for unpacking and enlivening major historical events through new perspectives, most notably through the eyes and experiences of strong female leads who refuse to do as they’re told. Born into a wealthy English family, Sovay has lived a pretty privileged life, though through her forward-thinking father, she has an acute awareness of the principles of justice and liberty. We meet Sovay in splendidly dramatic style when, dressed as a highwayman, she entraps her lover and proves his intentions and commitment are not what she’d hoped - not what she deserves. Amidst this personal anger and turmoil, her father vanishes, and it seems her brother has vanished from his Oxford college. Cue Sovay’s intrepid investigation of what’s happened, cue many more highwaywoman incarnations, and cue the unravelling of a web of political corruption, secret societies and monstrous science as the impact of the French Revolution hits very close to home. Packed with passion, political intrigue and rip-roaring, death-defying action, this is the kind of page-turner that could well spark a desire to dig deeper into history.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2021 | Shortlisted for the Iris Award | Longlisted for the YA Jhalak Prize | Longlisted for the YA Diverse Book Award | Written with luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War. Based on a revolutionary real-life 1760 Jamaican slave rebellion, a visceral sense of the atrocities Moa and his fellow field slaves are subjected to is evoked from the start. Their bodies are lashed and “roasted by a brutal sun”, Moa hasn’t seen his house-slave mama for three years, his papa lost an arm in mill machinery, and his friend Hamaya fears the day predatory white men will “come for me.” Spurred by the death of Miss Pam who “drop inna da field and lose her life”, and led by Miss Pam’s brother Tacky, who “trod like a king” and whose brain “work quick like Anancy”, the uprising hinges on the freedom fighters killing the plantation master. While Moa is glad to be given a pivotal role in the rebellion, he fears that success and escape will mean he’ll never see his parents or Hamaya again - his conflict is palpable, but he’s set on being a cane warrior. Outside the plantation, Moa’s world is immediately transformed, with his life as a freedom fighter evoked in fine detail (I loved the depiction of him tasting creamy, fleshy sweetsop for the first time). There are bloody battles ahead, executed in the presence of Akan gods, and driven by brotherhood and hope for that dreamland. Lucidly lyrical and raw, I cannot praise Cane Warriors enough.
A life-enhancing book and even more amazing because this is the late author's own story, telling of her and her family's flight from Nazi Germany from their home and everything they knew to become refugees, first in Switzerland and then in Paris. - Michael Morpurgo This unforgettable story of a Jewish family fleeing Germany before the Second World War is now available in a special hardback celebratory 50th anniversary edition.
Set in ancient Rome, during the terrifying rule of Caligula in fact, Annelise Gray’s book is a mix of history, adventure and horses – a winning combination! Dido’s father trains riders and horses for the famous, and frequently deadly Circus Maximus chariot races. She dreams of being a charioteer too but that’s not allowed, and she’s stuck watching the boys compete. When her father is murdered, Dido has to flee Rome, leaving behind her beautiful horse Porcellus. But Fate will bring the two of them together again, and sees Dido compete in the Circus after all. The story of Dido, Porcellus and their fellow riders and horses makes for thrilling reading. Gray transports the reader to Rome in a hoofbeat, places, people and the dangerous times vividly brought to life. Caligula plays a part in the book, and he’s not the only real person to do so – watch out for Cassius Chaerea too – but Dido is the star, as she makes her way in Rome’s macho world, determined to set her own path and avenge her father. A superb historical adventure story. If Dido’s story sets readers looking for more classical adventures, as it undoubtedly will, point them to Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries, Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth Chronicles and Philip Womack’s The Arrow of Apollo.
Set in Britain in 1962, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis this makes for an edgy thriller as everyone wonders if they will survive the week, never mind solve the mystery of the girl found in the coal shed! Stevie and her best friend Ray, the former British, the latter American, realise they are living through uncertain times with their parents on edge in case there is to be a nuclear war – but Stevie and Ray have their own problems to solve. Stevie has discovered a mysterious girl – Anna – in her coal shed. She agrees to help shelter Anna from the people who are threatening Anna’s future – Anna says people are trying to poison her. There are family secrets unearthed, families stressed, and a thriller unfolding over a period of seven days. What a masterpiece of thrilling historical writing. Carroll has taken family themes, mixed in with the politics of the day and woven them into a compelling thriller based on strong historical research. The characters are endearing as they struggle to piece together many complex issues in an accessible way and make a hopeful story emerge from what could have been a very dark period in history. Another triumph, highly recommended.