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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.
September 2021 Debut of the Month | 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.
September 2021 Book of the Month | It’s a space adventure, Jim, but not as we know it! Climb aboard the Star Cat, half-spaceship, half-cat, as it travels the infinite void of space. There you’ll meet its well-meaning if frequently malfunctioning crew: Captain Spaceington, Science Officer PLIXX, Pilot and Robot One. They patrol the galaxy fuelled by ice-cream and ever-ready (almost anyway) to save the universe, especially from arch enemy, the four-cornered fiend Dark Rectangle. This chunky collection brings together six of these brilliant stories, first published in the Phoenix Comic, and each one is guaranteed to have you on the edge of your seat one minute, rolling on the floor laughing the next. Space adventures don’t come more comic than this, and comic strip adventures don’t come better than Star Cat.
Perfectly-pitched for its intended age group, Joanna Nadin’s No Man’s Land is a mightily thought-provoking, utterly gripping, and empathy-inspiring story of a ten-year-old boy’s bravery in the face of the terrifying changes that come in the wake of an impending war in far-right Albion, a dystopian imagining of post-Brexit Britain. It started “when the Albioneers won the election. Maybe before, even - before I was born. When England decided it didn’t like Europe any more.” That’s how endearing Al surmises the situation as things worsen in Albion - his non-British, non-white friends are being compelled to leave this intolerant, racist land, and war is on the horizon. As a result, Al and his little brother Sam are sent to safety by their dad, to Kernow in the country, where a community of mainly women eke out survival. While Sam believes this is all part of a game, Al is angry at being sent away, and desperate to be reunited with his dad by his imminent birthday. But time sweeps by, and war is certain. There are valuable lessons to be learned from Al’s realisation that the women of Kernow are, in fact, the true heroines of the piece - “there were different ways to resist… I saw them then. The women in the kitchen, whispering, drinking, planning. Not bad things. But not nothing either. Providing a life for anyone who needed it.” In Al’s words, “not all heroes wear capes. And not all heroes carry guns.” Powerfully prescient stuff, with wonderfully-drawn characters.
Gripping and prescient, Leyla Suzan’s Giften cuts to the chase of the climate crisis through a haunting dystopian thriller that will have readers on the edge of their seats as it provokes thought, and very possibly action, too. Since the brutal time of The Darkening, life has been a ruthless struggle, not least for those of the Field. With the earth parched and largely fruitless, saying alive is a daily battle. As a Giften, Ruthie possesses the vital gift of being able to restore food to the barren earth. And, as such, she’s revered by her community, and wanted by a ruling regime that’s set on hunting the Giften for their uncanny skills. And so Ruthie is compelled to undertake a high-stakes quest in the company of friends, a quest that will see them face direct conflict with the regime and its dark army. A quest on which humanity’s future might hang. With characters readers will become deeply invested in, and in compelling style (a smooth blend of dynamic dialogue and action with tremendous atmosphere), Giften is a hauntingly pertinent novel of our times.
September 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2021 | This gripping thriller with a high octane plot and full-on characters takes its readers on an amazing journey across two time frames and in and out of real science and maths while also vividly capturing contemporary teenage life. Esso and Rhia, from different times and, in reality, from different generations, are brought together by chance and, from then on, must work out how best to understand the Upper World and all its secrets. Femi Fadugba’s debut novel will delight and challenge readers.
Alastair Chisholm’s Orion Lost was a cracking sci-fi adventure and his latest, Adam-2, is also excellent, an exciting, thought-provoking futuristic story with as much to say about how we live now as it does about where we might be heading. After centuries locked in a window-less basement, Adam-2 is finally brought out into the world. He finds it deep in a civil war that has been raging almost as long as his imprisonment, humans versus Funks, thinking robots. Both sides we learn have reason to hate one another and are pretty evenly matched. Peaceable, calm Adam has power to swing the fight one way or another, but which side deserves his support? The plot is full of surprises and twists and will have readers examining all they understand about human nature. This is page-turning reading that thoroughly respects its readers’ intelligence. The LoveReading LitFest invited Alastair to the festival to talk about Adam-2. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Alastair in conversation with MD Deborah Maclaren and one of our young ambassadors, Jay and find out why every child will love this science fiction story. Check out a preview of the event here.
August 2021 Graphic Novel of the Month | Alex and Freddy are brothers – constantly bickering, often fighting, but thick as thieves. Perfectly normal except for one thing: adopted by a normal family, Alex and Freddy are robots, the most powerful robots on earth in fact, at least when their mum and dad let them. You might have come across them in the Phoenix comic, this book presents one complete adventure – and what an adventure it is! Robot attacks are taking place and Alex is recruited to join the RAID task force (that’s Robotics Analysis, Intelligence and Defence). Freddy is furious that he’s not allowed to join too, but as the younger brother he’s deemed too immature. It all finishes with a terrific showdown against the brothers’ arch-enemy robot, when Freddy finally gets to play his part. Really exciting, really funny, really well drawn, this is mega-good reading.
A mysterious message scratched onto the skeleton of a long dead whale begins a process that makes Cyan question everything. Cyan lives at the Elsewhere Sanctuary, a strange complex in the middle of sand dunes, scattered with the decaying hulks of old ships. Like the hundreds of other young people there, his past contains an event so traumatising that he has blocked it out, and with it all memories of his old life, down to his name. The staff at the Sanctuary tell him it’s for his own good but new arrival Jonquil questions this and so it seems did the person who scratched that message on the bone. When Jonquil disappears, Cyan decides he must find out the truth. His efforts lead to the kind of subterfuge, not to mention the high speed chases, that are familiar to James Bond, but the atmosphere is as creepy as it is tense as Cyan realises those he has always trusted most are his enemies. A gripping, unsettling sci-fi thriller that feels very topical.
September 2021 Graphic Novel of the Month | A smart, satisfying re-formatting and expansion of Mega Robo Rumble, Mega Robo Bros Double Threat will have comic fans on the edge of their seats while nodding with knowing grins on their faces. Award-winning Neill Cameron has an undeniable abundance of talent for creating rambunctious, reader-centred super hero adventures that grip, engage and entertain reluctant readers as much as committed fans of standard form novels and committed comic book lovers. Take two brothers, Alex and Freddy - superhero robot brothers, no less, who work as secret agents for a government operation that seeks to protect the world from attacks at the hands of alien robots. As Alex experiences something of an identity crisis (“Everyone always just sort of assumed I was a boy, but am I? Can Robots have babies? And if so, how?”), London is besieged by a new threat in the form of a massive drill-bot. Alongside reeling with high-stakes adventure, Double Threat is also fabulously inclusive, with messages of empathy, fabulous female characters, and incisive, witty deconstructions of gender stereotypes. If that’s not enough, it also boasts a whole lot of hilarious one-liners (“I can see your butt”) and relatable homelife scenarios - even superhero Mega Robo Bros have trouble finding their shoes from time to time.
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.
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.