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Co-written by Brendan Kiely and the always-exceptional Jason Reynolds, All American Boys is an immensely powerful, timely novel about police brutality against young Black men. Shining a stark light on white privilege and the racism implicit in not speaking out, it’s a punch-packing wake-up call for us all to stand up and plant ourselves on the right side of history. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong colour. It all goes wrong for Black sixteen-year-old Rashad when a cop jumps to the unfounded conclusion that he’s shoplifted a bag of chips. Rashad’s arrest is brutal and the cop, Paul, leaves him with internal bleeding and broken bones. There were witnesses though, among them Quinn, a rising basketball star from Rashad’s school who also happens to know Paul. In fact, Paul has been like a father to Quinn since his dad died on service in Afghanistan, which puts him in a tricky situation - speaking out against Paul would sever his friendship and support ties. But Quinn’s decision to keep quiet unravels when footage of the incident is picked up by the media, with everyone in town taking a side. As a powerful “Rashad is absent” school campaign gains momentum along with plans for a big protest march, Quinn realises that not speaking up is a form of racism, that as an “All-American” white boy he can walk away from anything. “Well, I was sick of it,” he decides. “I was sick of being a dick”. Aware that his dad had inspired Paul to become a cop to “make a difference in the world”, Quinn resolves to be like his dad too, but not in the sense of being loyal to his country and family, which is how people always frame his father’s heroism. Quinn means in the sense of standing up for what he believes in; being “someone who believed a better world was possible - someone who stood up for it.” Packed with plenty of moments that will make you melt and tear up (such as Rashad’s relationship with the hospital shop volunteer, and the bonds between him and his buddies and big brother), this is a smart, incisive, rousing read for our times.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2021 | Join Luna as she throws herself into all the fun of the day. Dressing up as her favourite character (a unicorn), joining all her friends in a great storybook adventure and making her own mini character. Above all, Luna loves buying her World Book Day book, meeting the author and illustrator and getting her book signed. Having done all of that she knows she has had a perfect World Book Day! Fiona Lumbers’s wonderfully warm and busy illustrations capture the magic of World Book Day perfectly.
February 2021 Book of the Month | 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.
It’s time for the school play and two little people have their hearts set on starring roles. Little rabbit Olivia and young rhino Sam are both practising day and night and, sure enough, they get the best parts in ‘The Princess, the Knight and the Dragon’. Unfortunately, neither is happy. Olivia wanted to be the knight, not the princess, and playing the knight means that Sam won’t get to do any dancing. Fortunately, these two young performers are smart enough to work out ways to adapt their roles to suit their talents. Olivia and Sam are very endearing characters and their determination to be true to themselves will have all audiences applauding. A thoroughly entertaining picture book that delivers an important and empowering message.
From the author of Just Another Lie, Eve Ainsworth’s Magpie is an honest, poignant story of a family who flee a mother’s abusive partner, all told through the eyes of Alice, a heroine whose experiences and outlook touch the heart and soul. Her wish “to be able to fly… to be truly free” and “never feel trapped again” will have readers truly rooting for her from tense opening to hopeful conclusion. New home, new school, new start - all good. But old fears resurface when Alice spots a hooded figure skulking near her new house and she’s terrified her mum’s abusive partner, Ross, has tracked them down. This was supposed to be them embarking on a new life, away from his violent, manipulative behaviour, away from her mum looking “defeated, like a mouse that had just been caught by a cat.” Despite Alice’s efforts to shrug off her apprehension, the fear lingers and she’s worried Mum has done what she always ends up doing - giving in to Ross. At least she has a couple of great friends for support, though - football ace Alfie and arty Ben. They make an unlikely bunch (as the best friendship groups often do), but they’re close as anything, and will do anything for each other. Written with clarity and heart, I was moved and gripped as Alice discovers the truth of the skulking stranger, all the while navigating the nasty girls at school who mock her unfashionable clothes, worrying about Mum, and feeling the thrill of first love and new connections.
School trips are always fun, but especially when you are a little mermaid. Marnie Blue and her class are going on a trip to Queen Maretta’s palace so are very excited. Being mermaids, their school bus is a whale shark and the contents of their packed lunches are a bit different (kelp fritters, seaweed rolls and sea-cucumber slices), but other things are exactly the same – jostling for the best seats on the journey and making sure you’re partnered with your best friend. Marnie’s glamourous aunt Christabel is a helper on the trip, which worries Marnie – after all, Christabel was very badly behaved when she was at school – but it’s someone else gets up to mischief. The story is full of fun and adventure and young readers will love the underwater details. Sheena Dempsey’s illustrations are ever-so pretty too and this series is offishially a hit. 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!
From the author of the moving, ground-breaking Nothing Ever Happens Here, Sarah Hagger-Holt’s Proud of Me offers children from LBGT families a vital chance to see their lives represented, while also delivering an empathy-inspiring read with universal messages of respect and supporting your peers. Siblings Becky and Josh are part of a loving family of “two mums, two kids – and nothing can break us apart.” They were born eight days apart, but Becky finds it easier to say they’re twins because “it saves a whole lot of explaining” (they were fathered by the same anonymous donor, with Josh birthed by Mum and Becky birthed by Ima - Hebrew for ‘mum’). While photography-mad Becky spends a lot of time with her adorable best friend Archie, who came out in Year Eight, and Carli, the new American girl at school who’s come into her life like a rainbow of light and life, Josh is desperate to know who his dad is. In fact, he becomes so fixed on finding out that he joins an online DC (donor conceived) community and secretly takes an investigative road-trip on the day of Mum’s big fiftieth birthday party celebrations. At the same time, Becky is navigating big questions around accepting who she is, and they’re both deeply involved in organising a school Pride event, both determined to make their mums proud, both determined to overcome the likes of Carli’s mother who thinks the group is “immoral and corrupting and it shouldn’t be happening in school.” Becky and Josh’s dual narratives are an engaging, authentic delight, and this child-centred story is at once uplifting, entertaining and empowering.
Things aren't going great for Archie Albright. His dad's acting weird, his mum too, and all he wants is for everything to go back to normal, to three months before when his parents were happy and still lived together. When Archie sees a colourful, crumpled flyer fall out of Dad's pocket, he thinks he may have found the answer. Only problem? The answer might just lie at the end of the rainbow, an adventure away. Together with his best friends, Bell and Seb, Archie sets off on a heartwarming and unforgettable journey to try and fix his family, even if he has to break a few rules to do it...
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | It all starts when Maisie breaks her leg dancing (the dancing was Jodie’s idea) and ends up in hospital, but, as is the way with Pamela Butchart’s brilliant and brilliantly funny primary school set series Baby Aliens, things just snowball from there. Before you know it the action involves curses, missing cuddly toys, ghosts and a mummy, and trolley loads of tuna sandwiches. It’s all recounted at a breathless, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pace by Maisie’s best friend Izzy, with cartoon illustrations by Thomas Flintham speeding things up even more, and it makes for some of the funniest, most addictive reading around. No matter how zany things get, there’s a logic to everything that happens that children will completely understand and it’s not hard to see why this series is so popular with readers. This is the tenth Baby Aliens adventure, but it works perfectly as a stand-alone.
January 2021 Book of the Month | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 What a book! Alex Wheatle’s writing buzzes with energy and captures twelve-and-a-half-year-old Welton’s experience of being in love in all its heart-pounding, stomach-flipping, confusing giddiness alongside a run of seriously bad luck. With Wheatle’s outstanding Jamaica-set historic novel Cane Warriors one of my favourite books of recent years, this confirms the author’s status as a writer of huge talent, with the ability to infuse all genres with a special kind of magic. Things begin to go downhill for Welton the moment he finally plucks up courage to ask out Carmella, “one of the most delicious-looking females in school.” But, somehow, he manages to retain an infectiously upbeat stance throughout, punctuating his problems with Star Wars related exclamations (“Oh, for the life of Yoda!”) as he navigates everything life throws at him - from Hulk-like moustachioed bully Brian and the strife between his divorced parents, to his intense fear of being “lamed and shamed” by Carmella. Welton’s wit and entrepreneurial spirit is especially hilarious and sees him selling damning insults to classmates for 50p a cuss. Fresh, funny and authentic, readers will truly root for Welton - while he’s one of a kind, his voice and experiences will resonant far and wide. What’s more, being published by Barrington Stoke, this zesty page-turner is highly readable and produced with reluctant and dyslexic readers in mind, with manageable chapter lengths, a specially selected font and cream paper.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Perfectly-pitched for fans of funny fiction who are ready to move on from early chapter books, Bethany Walker has hit the spot with her debut, Chocolate Milk, X-Ray Specs and Me! This is the kind of book laughter-loving readers of seven upwards will become drawn into and pore over, exhilarated by the silliness of the fast-paced story and absorbed by the ultra-energetic medley of words, pictures and design. Jack Noel’s illustrations do a stupendous job of bringing the craziness to life, with a fine use of typefaces, doodles, postcards and newspaper clippings among the book’s visual features. And what of that craziness? Well, it’s all centred around ten-year-old Freddy who exchanges drama-laden letters with his mum and dad who he thinks are working at a Brussels sprouts farm. In fact, the truth is much crazier…Then there’s the super-strange happenings at school, plus Grandad’s X-ray specs and impending wedding. In Freddy’s words, “OH NO! I’ve just realized I’m going to have to watch Grandad and Mrs Allbright KISS at the registry office. That might be EVEN MORE yucky than sprouts!” What a brilliant blast of a book this is.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Leo is a curious child but he feels different from the other children in his class and he doesn't understand them. He doesn't like too much noise and the commotion of the classroom can sometimes upset him. When he meets Maya the Giant Pacific Octopus he builds a friendship that assures him he is not alone. The story will strike a chord with children who have Asperger's Syndrome, as well as educate other children about the condition in a way they can relate to.