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Not since Adrian Mole opened his diary have the thoughts and innermost feelings of an adolescent boy been examined so precisely or with such heart. Stan is twelve, shy and a worrier, so the thought of a holiday in Italy with his friend Felix and Felix’s family freaks him out. He’s going though: we meet him at the airport drawing up a ‘duck-it’ list of things he hopes he’ll never have to do. Little does he know that he’ll tick off six out of ten of them on his holiday, and enjoy it too. The first-person narrative lets us in on all Stan’s thoughts, but he’s a good observer of others so we learn loads about the others in the holiday party too, kids and grown-ups. There are laugh-out-loud scenes and moments of pure agony, and through it all Stan is learning loads about himself and life in general. Honest, revealing, compassionate and so entertaining, this is a must read for all the Stans out there – adults, give yourselves a treat and read it too.
Having super-powers is not necessarily all that – well, super – if you are 9 ¼ years old and coping with a new school and no friends, not to mention an annoying super-powered little sister. That’s Pizazz’s situation and, as she describes her life, we see just how frustrating it would be if you have to keep breaking off from things you’re enjoying to go and thwart an evil genius’s wicked plan. Her super-powers don’t help her make new friends, nor, when she’s made eco monitor at school and trying to save a local park from developers do they help there either – at least, not initially. Sophy Henn’s story is great fun, narrated at super-hero speed and in a wonderfully direct and distinctive voice by Pizazz, who is exactly the kind of super-hero we all want to be with right now: funny, honest, self-aware, and able to tell a really good story. I can’t wait for more from Pizazz and expect that she’ll soon have legions of fans. Sophy Henn’s artwork is snazzy and comic and absolutely on the ball, just like her new character. This is a series to recommend to fans of Clarice Bean or Sibéal Pounder’s Bad Mermaids.
Wayside School | The inimitable Louis Sachar has done it again in this new Wayside School caper. Sachar totally gets Primary age readers - sees the world through their eyes, speaks to them in a wry voice that rings with understanding and funny details. What’s more, the bitesize chunks of plot (essentially inter-connected vignettes that form a satisfying whole) keep readers hungry for more, while the off-the-wall (yet believable) comic characters are guaranteed to induce gaggles of giggles. As a new year begins, Mrs Jewls’s pupils have a big bunch of stuff on their plates. An Ultimate Test looms ahead of them, while a Cloud of Doom looms overhead, growing bigger and more powerful each day. Back in class, the pupils are tasked with collecting one million nail clippings to get a sense of just how massive one million is, while Mrs Jewls’s paperclip appreciation is taken to crazy heights (“she marvelled at the magnificent metal masterpiece”) when she’s revealed to keep a secret stash of them in a locked room. Then there’s Mrs Surlaw the librarian, who has a GIANT stuffed walrus and arranges books according to their length, and the author’s cameo appearance as Louis the yard teacher (fun fact - the author actually used to be Louis the yard teacher). Perfectly complemented by Aleksei Bitskoff’s wittily detailed illustrations, this is clever, comic joy. You might also love The Worst Class in the World from Joanna Nadin or the Middle School series from James Patterson.
Cookie is one of those characters who have the best intentions, but just can’t help getting into scrapes and mix ups, and readers will love her all the more for it. In this new adventure, her plans for a plastic-free birthday party are overtaken by circumstances and before we know it, she’s accidentally become best friends with Suzie Ashby, got a detention, upset her friend Jake, and handed over £25 to take part in Woodburn Primary’s very own F Factor, which turns out to be not what she expected at all. Cookie being Cookie, it all works out in the end and everyone, the reader included, has lots of fun along the way. Konnie Huq clearly remembers what it is to be a ten year old very well indeed and Cookie’s fast flowing, tangent-embracing, stream of consciousness narrative is a delight. Huq’s own black and white illustrations are the perfect complement to the text, giving us even clearer insight into what’s going on in Cookie’s head. A fast, fresh and very funny read.
August 2020 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | When best friends Betty and Maud have a sleepover in a teeny weeny pop up tent in the garden, Duck and Penguin have to go too. But while the girls are expecting to have loads of fun, Duck and Penguin are not! They don’t like each other, they don’t like sleepovers, they don’t like the onesies the girls dress them in and they especially don’t like sleeping in a teeny weeny tent. When the girls hurry back to the house, Duck and Penguin are left alone to face the scary dark and the creatures in it. How will they manage? Luckily, all ends happily and Duck and Penguin are even converted to camping – almost! Lovely illustrations of this atmospheric night time adventure which blends reality and make believe in a most engaging way.
‘Please remove the Mouse from the House’: the instructions could not be clearer, but mouse-catcher Mr Bosh and his assistant Mr Bumble make such a mess of it! Children will squeak with glee as My Bumble tries and fails to catch the mouse, each time more spectacularly than last. We know things won’t go well when he can’t avoid the mouse-traps he’s laid – the same traps the clever mouse has nimbly side-stepped – but everything really goes to pieces when Mr Bosh sends him out to bring back a cat … The scenes are increasingly outlandish and comical, perfectly represented in Russell Ayto’s bright, scratchy illustrations, and it all culminates in the biggest disaster you can contemplate. Stylish, irreverent, unruly fun for all!
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!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | Penny, the notorious dog-napper, has a host of dogs already but there is one very special dog she is determined to get her hands on. Quick, clever, a master of disguise and very good at problem solving, he is the dog she wants. And he is covered in spots so should be easy to find. Penny’s assistant Pat sets out to find the dog. Can the dog-nappers catch their prize or will they be outwitted by the super-smart dog? Emma Lazell’s energetic and vivid illustrations inject this simple story with great energy.
Who can resist a tale of freedom, adventure, the unexpected and new friends, especially when its hero is a pea! This new adventure for the star of bestseller The Runaway Pea starts in the washing up bowl but before long the runaway pea has been swept down the drain – does he mind the mess and slime? No! He’s having a wonderful time. Before long he’s helping out a spider struggling in the water and as the two career out of the drain and into a stream the spider repeatedly offers wise advice – the trusting, ever-optimistic pea sees everyone as a friend, and every situation as an opportunity. His joie de vivre is irresistible, and everyone will be cheering him on. There’s a final twist in the tale too, a glorious conclusion that sets up more adventures. This is one VIPea you really need to get to know!
August 2020 Book of the Month | Hot on the heels of Happy Girl Lucky comes this second book in Holly Smale’s The Valentines series – a wildly entertaining tale in which aspiring actress Faith seems to have it all, before realising she needs to shirk off the shackles of impossible standards and speak from her own script. Stunning and wealthy, with a mega-famous musician boyfriend – what more could a girl want? And coming from a line of talented actresses, Faith’s future as a major movie star is laid out before her like a red carpet. In her grandmother’s words, “You are a Valentine, darling…The entire world has been handed to you on a plate. All you have to do is not screw it up.” But, despite Faith’s privilege, not screwing up is an impossible task when - also in her grandmother’s words, “there is no intermission, Faith. For us, the curtains are always up.” Constantly in the public eye, everything Faith says or does is scrutinised, often wilfully misinterpreted and, when the truth isn’t juicy enough, the press invents their own. Desperate to keep everyone happy, Faith always says what’s she’s supposed to, but that backfires too: “The Daily Mail has once more referred to you as aloof and an Ice Queen. Darling, if you were a man, that would be a way of saying enigmatic. As a woman, it just means nightmare. You must try to come across as warmer. But not so warm that you look desperate, obviously.” Quite simply, Faith can’t win. What’s more, her auditions aren’t going well either, and it’s not long before everything starts to unravel. Faith’s journey really is an additive rollercoaster – she’s someone to root for, and all the characters are fabulously formed. Readers will truly love “I’ll-do-and-say-and-eat-what-I-want, when-I-want” Scarlett who offers Faith a life-changing sisterly hand. With the novel’s exposure of double standards - and impossible standards - seamlessly thread through the pacey plot, this is feminist fiction at its most thoughtful, thrilling and funny. Find out more as Holly Smale talks to us about her fabulous new trilogy!
You might know Bunny vs Monkey from the totally brilliant Phoenix Comic. This new book brings together a collection of their comic adventures in one chunky but portable, full colour (obviously) paperback – how great is that! If you are new to the duo, Bunny lives in a peaceful forest with his nice (but dim) friends, Weenie the Squirrel and Pig. Other than the occasional run in with a bear, all is calm until the arrival of Monkey, hell-bent on world domination. (In Monkey’s defence, he was launched into space by scientists with that aim, but the mission failed and he fell back to earth just over the hill from their laboratory). He’s helped in his scheming by a skunk with its own underground laboratory and the two cause no end of trouble for Bunny. With titles like Wrestlepocalypse, Fish Off and The Whuppabaloo, these mini adventures are hugely inventive, wonderfully daft and always very, very funny. Bunny vs Monkey would tempt the most reluctant reader - you can find more books we think are suitable for Relucant Readers here.
July 2020 Book of the Month | A day in the park with his friends turns into a calamity for robot Bernard. A series of alarming squeaks and clangs points to problems with one thing - his bottom! Something’s clearly wrong with it and Bear has to take it away. That makes Bernard No-Bot again but not for long: his friends are determined to find him the perfect new bottom. This much-loved author-illustrator team specialise in the silly, and this is deliciously daft from start to finish (top to bottom!) and will have small children laughing uncontrollably.