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Kids are always being told that if they ‘dream their dreams’ one day those dreams will come true. ‘Living the dream’ is a very different experience for 11-going-on-12-year-old Malky in Ross Welford’s absorbing, vastly entertaining novel. Blackmailed into a bungled burglary, Malky becomes owner of a set of Dreaminators, mysterious machines that make dream worlds real and give the dreamer powers to control them. At first, Malky and his co-dreamer, little brother Seb, enjoy their night-time adventures, especially those in a Stone Age world closely based on Seb’s favourite storybook where they make friends, go hunting, and Seb has high hopes of riding a mammoth. If it seems too good to be true, of course it is, and as Malky’s ability to control what’s happening in his dreams weakens, everything – awake or asleep – starts to go wrong. When Seb is taken prisoner in a dream and falls into a life-threatening coma in real life, Malky has to face up to his responsibilities, not to mention the fears and anger his dreams have disguised, in one last terrifying dream. At least he has new friends there to help. The story is cleverly told and plotted, moving back and forward in time, from dream to reality, with Doctor Who ease. It’s full of humour too, e.g. a wonderful scene in the school canteen in which Malky does all the things he’s always dreamed of doing, not realising he’s actually awake. Core too are the really big things in life – friendship, love, family, learning about yourself and understanding others. It’s a book that delights in the fact that the inside of our head is bigger far than the outside. Readers who enjoy Welford’s excellent books will also race through Christopher Edge’s out-of-this world adventures.
Alston is a debut author who looked in vain for a hero or heroine who looked like him in fantasy novels – and this delivers and so much more too. Amari is a child who attends a posh school on a scholarship – but really finds it hard to fit in and avoid the bullies. Her mother is a hard-working health worker, and her brother Quinton is missing – his disappearance seems be the root of Amari’s difficulties. As the holidays approach Amari receives an invitation via a mysterious messenger to be considered for something (at this stage unexplained) – by attending an interview. From here on the story becomes a hugely imaginative, funny and compelling adventure. Magic and mystery flow thick and fast from this point on – as Amari takes her chances to prove herself and to start finding out what happened to her brother. The story takes you through the development of some close and lasting friendships, against some awful magical bullies and monsters, to an exciting and nail-biting adventurous conclusion, though it leaves a possible opening for more books about Amari in future. A wonderful fun adventure addition to every child's bookshelf and any school library looking for more representation across all it’s genres.
The robot Adam-2 has been locked in the basement of a lost building for over two hundred years - until one day he is discovered by two children, and emerges into a world ruined by a civil war between humans and advanced intelligence. Hunted by both sides, Adam discovers that he holds the key to the war, and the power to end it - to destroy one side and save the other. But which side is right? Surrounded by enemies who want to use him, and allies who mistrust him, Adam must decide who - and what - he really is.
Once again Polly Ho-Yen shows her facility at injecting a thrilling element of sci-fi and mild horror into her stories of very real children and authentic depictions of relationships with family and friends. What could be a familiar tale of a young boy dealing with family break up and a parent with what we can see are mental health issues, becomes a nightmare battle for survival. Billy’s mum, Sylvia, is constantly teaching him the rules for how to survive alone, often taking him out of school for practical lessons. But one lesson gets life-threateningly out of hand and Billy is sent to live with his father while she is hospitalized. Billy has to learn to trust his father and his potential new family and also accept the true friendship offered by Anwar. They will all need each other when the doom that Sylvia seemed to be expecting arrives in the shape of a terrifying virus. Billy is a character that readers will really care about and admire his courage and resilience. He learns some valuable lessons about people being stronger together and finally understands what happened to his mother. While the resolution of the crisis might stretch credibility for adult readers, younger readers will gallop through to the nail-biting climax in this exciting adventure.
July 2021 Debut of the Month | Set in the world of gaming, Jamie Russell’s SkyWake Invasion is packed with peril, quips and gaming blips that turn out to have real-life repercussions. Fifteen-year-old gamer Casey is a whizz at the SkyWake computer game and leads an online team. When invited to play at a live tournament in London she’s forced to come clean being a girl. With her adorable younger brother Pete in tow (he’s also a keen gamer), she disproves prejudice against girl gamers in the most unlikely and terrifying of circumstances when it turns out that SkyWake is far more than a game. It is, in fact, a training scheme for evil aliens looking to recruit top gamers to fight in a war. Worse still, they’ve captured Pete, and Casey must muster all her leadership and gaming skills to save him. Interwoven to the action-packed alien adventure are themes of friendship, teamwork and proving prejudice wrong, and a narrative that skips back to scenes of Casey with her deceased dad, a bomb disposal expert who had a passion for arcade games. All of which means the funny, fast-paced tale has emotional resonance. Ending on a heart-pounding cliff-hanger, the stage is set for what promises to be an epic second instalment of the SkyWake trilogy.
Never one to shirk from tackling complex topics head on, Melvin Burgess’s Three Bullets imagines future England as a horrific entity in which the controlling body, The Bloods, will stop at nothing to attain their vision of Britain as a country of white Christians. Mixed-raced and trans, Martina (Marti) fits the The Bloods’ definition of “abnormals”. In her own words, “You won’t like me, not many people do”, and she’s certainly a complex, contradictory character throughout the novel. When her house is bombed, killing her mum, Marti and her little brother Rowan go on the run with Maude, who was taken into their fold after her own family were killed. Maude is the kind of person who “stuck to her word, for you or against you, which I liked. She had principles, which I kind of admired because I don’t have any myself,” Marti acknowledges. In addition, Maude can “shoot a gun, she knows first aid, she can drive. She’s pretty. She’s white. She has contacts and perfect tits”. The fear, violence and tension of living in a society at war, a country in which the ERAC (Evangelical Realignment Centre) exists to fix “idolaters and heretics and believers in equal rights” is evoked in all its horrific brutality. And amidst this, Marti is set on saving the father she assumed was dead, set on finding the software he created that might hold the key to transforming their world. Marti’s voice is unique and her will to survive like nothing The Bloods could have possibly imagined, as felt by readers as her story rips and races at breakneck speed.
May 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2021 | Alfie’s family have recently moved to the country to help his sister recover from some unpleasant experiences. And it doesn’t take Alfie long to realise that he just doesn’t fit into Folding Ford. But fitting in doesn’t matter so much when there is the mystery of the weather to be resolved. Alfie plunges headlong into trouble when he opens something he shouldn’t and lets out something very fast, very fizzy and very full of electricity. Can he and his new friend Sam whom he enlists as a reluctant partner get to the bottom of what is causing all the trouble? They will certainly do their best to try….Debut author Clare Weze writes with a freshness and energy that sweeps her readers along leaving them exhilarated if a bit confused!
Will Jakeman is extraordinary! As a tiny baby, he was sent across galaxies in his little i-cot, invented by his mother, to escape interplanetary space pirates attacking his home. Landing on planet Urf he was adopted by a kindly old couple, also coincidentally inventors. With such an amazing background, how could Will be anything else other than an inventor, and as for his inventions – wow! There’s the self-making bed, suction shoes so that you can walk up walls, but most amazing his mechanimals, fabulous mechanical creatures just the thing to take if you’re going on an adventure, or to have at your back if you’re being terrorised by a rampaging raptor. The story is interspersed with wonderful diagrams of these amazing creations, the chemical powered Crustacean Hover-sub for example or, best of all, Steel-Skull, a robotic hydrogen-powered metal gorilla. They all have special parts to play in Will’s adventures and the book is perfect for those who want their reading imagination-packed and out of this world! As an added bonus there’s lots to encourage you to sketch your own wonderful creations too.
Gripping from the first moment on, this is a scary, an unputdownable and a brilliantly plotted fantasy. One minute all the adults are there - next they're gone! Only the children remain and they are trapped, cut off from the outside world and, scarily, left to rule themselves. Can they survive? With no guidance, gangs start to form. Danger lurks at every corner and everyone has to make a choice – to be cruel or humane. It’s a chilling prospect and the new world order is scary for all. It's Lord of the Flies for the Heroes generation with just a dash of the X-Men thrown in for good measure.
May 2021 Book of the Month | Despite being set in the 1920’s in the imaginary country of Afalia, this stunning and inventive story, from twice Carnegie medal winning author McCaughrean, has powerful messages about the current state of politics, big business and environmental exploitation in our world and most loudly of all about the need for reliable and independent news sources. The story is partly revealed by facsimile newspaper cuttings and it is fascinating to see the progression from real information to manipulation of popular opinion by ruthless and deadly corrupt officials. Gloria, a naive 15-year-old maid to the Suprema, Alfalia’s ruler, is at the heart of the story. As flooding and disaster threaten to overwhelm the country, the Suprema runs away, and Gloria is inveigled by the Suprema’s husband into temporarily impersonating her. As they discover the full extent of the corruption and misinformation, they face an uphill battle to save lives and stand up for what is right. Meanwhile a second narrative follows the fate of people in the neglected North (in another real life parallel) and a dog’s epic quest to find his boy. The canine conversations are just one of the pleasures provided in this multi-layered narrative populated by such a vivid cast of characters and with so many twists and turns keeping the reader enthralled. Ultimately the novel demonstrates the resilience of man and nature and the ability of people to do the right thing given half a chance. This really is vintage McCaughrean and highly recommended. As our Guest Editor on LoveReading4Kids, Geraldine McCaughrean tells us more about The Supreme Lie and her other brilliant novels.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | What happens when Mum and Dad can no longer rely on technology to keep them informed? Following a nationwide collapse in everything technical, Stella’s family sets off to visit Grandma on the other side of the country because they can’t reach her on Skype. It’s a road trip with a difference – no phones, no sat nav, no paying for a meal with a credit card. Stella makes a great narrator as she watches her father, shorn of his usual helping tools, navigate this new situation. In doing so she lightly reveals the pitfalls that would beset us all if all the screens went blank while also gently leading readers to see that there could be some benefits.
Set in a dystopian future world where the Earth has been overwhelmed with its own trash- an all too feasible scenario- and where the rubbish stored in space now completely encircles the planet. Very different life-styles have evolved, from the privileged few inhabiting the mountain top City of Glass and the earth dwellers scraping a living amongst the rusting junk below in Boxville- the City Of Rust. Above them all, the feared Junker clans make their fortunes mining the rubbish in space. There is a definite Star Wars feel to this setting enhanced by the drone racing that our heroine Railey and Atti her robotic gecko pilot excel in. Atti and their drone have been built by Ralley’s half Junker, master engineer, Gran. But when they are pursued by an apparent bounty hunter, Gran is lost, and they are rescued by two Junker kids. They discover a destiny for Atti and their drone that Gran had never revealed to them. Their task is to save the planet from extinction by a junk bomb and its powercrazed creator. The pace never lets up in this action-packed adventure. The wisecracking but caring relationship between Atti and Railey really engages the reader. The colourful and exotic cast of other characters and the vividly imagined world building will give this real appeal to gaming fans. A memorable debut.