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October 2021 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2021 | When Boastful Brandon brags that he can count to 10 Million no-one believes him. It sounds absolutely impossible. But once Brandon has started, nothing is going to stop him! He counts all through school – and gets into trouble for doing so. Even when he is sent to the furious head teacher who has never seen such disobedience, he doesn’t stop counting. He counts at home, through meals and all through the night. Soon, his extraordinary feat becomes a money making sensation…Award-winning author Melvin Burgess creates a vivid adventure out of an absurd situation and pokes gentle fun at all kinds of rules as he does so.
October 2021 Debut of the Month | Refreshing, funny and packed with essential feminist themes, not to mention an authentic, engaging protagonist in Eliza Quan (a no-nonsense teenager who doesn’t give two hoots about what people think of her), Michelle Quach’s Not Here To Be Liked is at once deliciously entertaining and empowering. With pithy observations like “Girls get judged for their past; guys get judged for their potential”, it’s also a thought-provoking reminder (if one were needed) that there’s some way to go before patriarchal structures are disassembled - thanks goodness, then, that Eliza is on hand to speed up the process. Oh, and the novel features a whole lot of cute kissing to boot. Eliza is set to be the new editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper. Firstly, she’s the most qualified candidate. Secondly, she’s the only candidate…until former baseball player Len joins the paper for want of something better to do and winds up winning the vote. Justifiably angry that he - male, handsome, popular and utterly inexperienced - was picked over her - Eliza’s venting inspires a feminist movement that exposes the gulf between those who want - and recognise the need for - gender equality, and those who think she’s just annoyed about being overlooked. Alongside exploring such pertinent themes in slick style, the novel also sees Eliza face the ultimate conflict when she finds herself falling for Len. Fast and furious, Not Here To Be Liked flies in the face of anyone dumb enough to think that books about feminism (and feminists themselves) can’t be smart and funny.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2021 | September 2021 Book of the Month | Mysteries pile up on top of one another in Cookie’s latest hilarious adventure. There are numerous secrets to uncover, several codes to crack, a number of unusual occurrences and a very important Nani who arrives from Bangladesh for a visit. Underlying all the gripping mystery and the comedy there is a simple message about the importance of both arts and science in school. Konnie Huq’s fast-paced story is brilliantly brought to life in her witty line illustrations which have a raft of jokes all of their own. With lots of additional information about codes as well as instructions on some of the things Cookie loves to make, this is a book to return to again and again. Konnie Huq is our Guest Editor, September 2021 - find out more about the Cookie series and her top children's book recommendations!
Marnie Blue is shocked when lots of plastic rubbish starts to appear in Mermaid Lagoon. It's causing all sorts of problems and even harming the underwater animals. Marnie and her friends decide enough is enough and they must have a big green clean-up. But just where is all the plastic coming from? With the help of the local Brinies group, a new dolphin pal and a human friend, the mermaids come up with a plan to rid the lagoon of plastic junk for good.
Paul’s life changes in totally unexpected ways when he discovers a little ghost living in the keyhole of his front door. The two quickly become friends and no wonder, Zippel the ghost is irresistible – funny, mischievous and thoroughly well-meaning, if totally baffled by modern life (he’s particularly fascinated by the flush on the toilet). Together they have some excellent adventures, Zippel getting up to all sorts of tricks in an old castle and taking ingenious revenge on a couple of bullies who’ve been tormenting Paul. Full colour illustrations by Axel Scheffler perfectly capture the droll humour of the stories and this is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. Buy a copy and don’t be surprised if you find readers checking out keyholes in the hope of finding their own Zippel.
This comic picture book cleverly demonstrates the dangers of being swayed by popular opinion. New boy Peter is quickly branded the baddest boy in school and it does indeed seem that he’s given to doing naughty things. So when the school’s pet rat goes missing from his cage, everyone assumes Peter is responsible. Only one person knows the truth, and that Peter’s bad behaviour is not what it seems either. The book explores the dynamics of any classroom while also showing us that strange or different doesn’t equal bad and that categorising people on assumptions is never a good idea. Peter is a very charming little character, with his cape, fangs and lacy collar, and the story is beautifully told by its mystery narrator. Original, memorable, and lots of fun.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | What a super introduction to Shakespeare and his play The Tempest. The story tells of a group of school children who are on a ferry to perform the play in a festival in Italy. If you know the Tempest, you can probably guess that their ferry capsizes, and the group are shipwrecked. The drama then unfolds! Half of the actors wash up on the beach, the other half and their teacher, Mr Fortune (or not so fortunate) are missing. The characters identities are set out in the first chapter, where the reader is introduced to the confident bossy leader, the shy, but intelligent boy, the thinker, and the clown. What is clever, is that if you know the play, the characters resemble those in Shakespeare’s play, but if you don’t, it in no way detracts from the enjoyment of the story. The story is lively and fast paced, but still manages to include some lovely description and colour, such as ‘the unspooling music like golden ribbon’ heard by the children. It is also quite humorous with some lively banter between the group. For those readers who like things explained, and everything rounded up, the final chapter brings all the plots and characters together in true Shakespearean fashion. All is revealed, the poor unfortunate Caliban, why there is a desert island just off the coast of Dover, and why the group were split up! The book is of a good length for all levels of reader and printed on dyslexic friendly paper. I look forward to Hurly-Burly (Macbeth in disguise!).
October 2021 Book of the Month | Interest Age 9+ Reading Age 8 | Chris Priestley, multi-award-winning master of the macabre, here presents six sensational, interlinked ghostly stories that will undoubtedly induce delighted gasps of surprise in readers who relish spine-tingling twists. With his intricate illustrations enhancing the chilling atmosphere, Priestley commands a magician’s prowess to conjure the eerily unexpected. The morning after a frenzy of unsettled nightmares, Maya and her classmates are set the task of writing spooky winter-themed stories, with new girl Winter having no trouble coming up with an idea. As Maya’s friends write and share their creepy stories, she’s gripped by the feeling that these are not stories at all. From the ancient frozen bodies that emerge from floodwaters, to the grimacing zombies that shuffle towards school, the tales seem real, like memories of events she’s actually experienced. Then, when it’s Winter’s turn to tell her tale, reality bites with icicle-sharp frights. The set-up of interlinked narratives works a terrifying treat and, being published by Barrington Stoke, these gripping ghost stories boast the additional benefit of being ultra-inclusive - the book was written, edited and printed with the needs of reluctant and dyslexic readers at the fore.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | This third novel in Paul Stewart’s cup-final-compelling Football Mad series sees the Dale Juniors face multiple pressures in the form of an excessively critical coach and an impending must-win game. Coach Carlton has taken an immediate dislike to goalkeeper Danny. “Sloppy and slow”, he snipes. “Maybe there isn’t room in the team for you anymore.” His confidence crushed, Danny’s game disintegrates, but when Mr Carlton’s aggression escalates, it falls to a new coach to turn around the tattered team as they face a thrilling penalty shoot-out. Alongside being an action-driven football story, Hat-Trick also tackles issues of bullying, confidence and the importance of team spirit. What’s more, published by Barrington Stoke, it’s also ultra-inclusive - the book was written, edited and printed with the needs of reluctant and dyslexic readers sitting centre stage.
August 2021 Book of the Month | Life in a small Tennessee town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his smart but troubled best friend, Delaney, is second nature to Cash. But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full scholarships to an elite school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his fears about abandoning his old life.
Misbehaving parents, frustrated artistic ambitions, a unicorn-obsessed boy who dotes on her – just some of the problems detailed in this memoir of 12-year-old Peri (thankfully only her best friend knows her real name). As she writes sitting in the wardrobe, she’s convinced that her best friend Cammy hates her, and that their band The Spoons, which also features Cammy’s cat Margaret, is finished. It also seems that the boy she ‘likes’ likes, is a rotter. Her description of the events leading up to this unusually low point also include the curse of a malevolent pigeon. The story is gloriously funny and no matter how outlandish the action, always believable, and the characters, from Peri’s classmates to her teachers and parents, very well observed. While there’s nothing really to fear from pigeon curses, readers will pick up a sense of the importance of tolerance, kindness and compassion.