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In a Nutshell: School life, suspense, and stepping from the shadows of grief and guilt An emotionally-charged, edge-of-your-seat thriller in which a young woman experiences a rollercoaster ride of guilt, grief and complex friendships. Twin sisters Harper and Jenna had always wanted to go to boarding school like the St Clare’s twins, and Harper gets to do just that when her dad wins big on a work lottery syndicate. But, far from fulfilling a lifelong dream, Harper wants to go to Duncraggan Academy to escape the guilt she feels for her sister’s anorexia-related death. While secretly grappling with this, she makes great friends, and then new girl Kirsty is invited into their peer group. She and Harper bond when Kirsty confides that she’s also lost a sister, but things get way out of control when Kirsty becomes Harper-obsessed and claustrophobically clingy. Tension builds to a jaw-dropping crescendo as truths are revealed, loyalties are tested, and a whole lot of understanding is needed. Gripping and gratifyingly multi-layered, fans of thrillers with emotional depth will find much to love here. ~ Joanne Owen
In a nutshell: story of a boy and a dog that will tug the heartstrings When Billy Wild finds a greyhound hiding in his garden shed it feels like a miracle, and as Billy is already writing to God (holiday homework), maybe it really is. Animals are important agents of change in children’s literature and the arrival of Dog, as the greyhound becomes known, has a huge impact. Billy is sure that Dog will melt his father’s heart, which she eventually does, but she brings Billy, his dad and his brothers all closer and helps them to be more able to cope with the loss of the boys’ mum too. Nadin sets out unashamedly to pull on the heartstrings and succeeds completely, but she also fills the story with humour, and a real sense of life as it is lived. This is one to recommend to readers who enjoyed Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce, another brilliantly funny and beautifully written book about love, loss and family. ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: funny contemporary dreams can come true story | Lizzie Brown is about to start 6th form, a chance as all teenagers understand to totally reinvent herself; no more boring Lizzie, she’s going to become someone seriously cool. Then on day one of her new life she meets Viv, the absolute epitome of hip and everything does indeed begin to change. This is a comedy of modern life, so things don’t go quite as Lizzie intends, and there’s pain and humiliation to be endured before she gets to her happy-with-who-she-is ending. Eleanor Wood writes particularly sharp teen dialogue and this lively genuinely funny story speaks directly to its intended audience. ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: fast-moving, funny, irresistible reading | James Patterson sets out to make his children’s books irresistible reading, and he succeeds every time. Rafe Khatchadorian is a typical Patterson hero – he’s funny, street-wise, smart, but not the world’s best pupil. In this adventure, as ever, he has lots to deal with as readers will discover: ‘I got in hot water with Mom, almost lost my best friend (the furry one), launched my very own business empire, survived the Great Dog War of January, and learned a little magic along the way.’ Events unfold at pace, with lots of humour, and the added treat of regular cartoon-style illustrations. Kids won’t notice how fast the pages are turning, and the first thing they’ll want to do when they reach the end is pick up another book. This is just one in a series of books for children by James Patterson, all of them recommended for Wimpy Kid fans. UK authors encouraging the same reading for pleasure include David Baddiel, Danny Wallace and Steve Cole. ~ Andrea Reece *** There's a helpful activity pack to accompany Dog's Best Friend with ideas for discussion questions and ways to further explore some of the themes raised in this and other books in the Middle School series. There are also some fun activities too - download it here.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | April 2017 Book of the Month | | Young readers everywhere are hooked on Robin Stevens’s Murder Most Unladylike series starring schoolgirl sleuths Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, and they will relish this special addition to the series which features all sorts of treats, from tips on how to set up a detective society, delivered by Daisy, to tempting lists of favourite classic crime compiled by Stevens herself. There are also some excellent short story mysteries including the creepy Case of the Deepdean Vampire and, starring Daisy and Hazel’s friends in the Junior Pinkertons, The Secret of Weston School. Quizzes on the novels and a collection of recipes for bunbreak favourites complete the book. As with the full-length books it’s all clever, well thought-out and thoroughly entertaining.
In a nutshell: fun and friendship in the 21st century | Emma Moss puts a group of girls and their special friendship at the heart of her story, as many favourite authors have from Elinor Brent-Dyer to Cathy Hopkins. Her series has a 21st century spin though as the girls run their own vlog, sharing news of their lives in short homemade films broadcast over the internet. It gives it a fresh, contemporary feel and also allows readers to feel that they are part of the girls’ gang, special friends. This episode sees them on a school skiing trip and stars Hermione, who is worrying about her parents’ divorce and suffering some nasty anonymous abuse. Her friends are there to help with both and while the book explains what trolling is, it celebrates the internet as a force to bring us together. ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: Daisy discovers there’s such a thing as too much chocolate | The combination of chocolate, more chocolate and being asked to look after the class hamsters over the Easter holidays proves too much for Daisy (from an adult perspective anyway) and boy, does she get herself into hot (chocolatey) water. Kes Gray and Nick Sharratt’s boisterous, quick-thinking young heroine is irrepressible however – one of the reasons readers love the stories about her so much – and she still ends up having her chocolate and eating it. Children will recognise Daisy’s world and understand completely the temptations she succumbs to, even if they’d never dare do the things she does. Terrific storytelling for newly independent readers. Fans of Daisy will also enjoy Wendy Meddour’s Wendy Quill stories, or Kate Pankhurst’s Mariella Mysteries which also star determined little girls with big imaginations. ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: boy’s own adventures with his pet dragon | Set in modern day Wales this exciting and highly enjoyable dragon series stars young Harri, and his pet dragon Tân. In this episode, the conclusion to the trilogy, Tân is being kept in a castle with Draca, the white dragon. Ryan’s super competitive dad proves a danger to them however, and it all culminates in a thrilling dragon showdown on the snowy slopes of Snowdonia. A page-turning mix of magic, mystery and family relations too, this is a thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable adventure for younger readers. The author’s own black and white illustrations add to the appeal. ~ Andrea Reece A Piece of Passion from Janet Thomas, Editor, Firefly Press : Dragon Red is a thrilling adventure for everyone who loves dragons. I don’t know how Shoo manages to make it so exciting. Harri has his own dragon, Tân, that he made thanks to the local witch, Imelda, to win a school competition. A real flying, fire-breathing, chocolate loving dragon! His friend Ryan has a father who is very competitive, so much so that he made Imelda make him a dragon too. Now Ryan’s dad and Draca are terrorising the countryside and the police and press are looking for them, but only Harri and Tân can stop them. Is this the old legend of Merlin and the red and the white dragon coming true? It builds to a great battle where Harri and Tân will have to make sacrifices to bring peace. I love this story and I hope all Shoo’s readers will too.
In a nutshell: friends, drama, adventure | The second story in Natasha Mac a'Bhaird’s lively new series is full of drama and will get rave reviews from readers. Starring a group of friends with a passion for performing, in this episode they decide to put on a version of Cinderella, one that they’ve devised themselves and given a modern setting and twist. Central character Meg has stories of her own to spin: she doesn’t want anyone at her new school to know that her parents are actors. When the news does get out Meg is forced to share another secret, one that she hasn’t even told her best friends in Star Club. Mac a'Bhaird captures all the fun, challenges and camaraderie involved in putting on a show while the background stories and everyday adventures of the four friends are equally convincing and enjoyable. Bravo! ~ Andrea Reece A Piece of Passion from Editor Helen Carr : When I read the first book in the ‘Star Club’ series, I was so excited to discover that it was EXACTLY the kind I’d have loved as a kid. It’s about four friends who are passionate about performing and set up their own theatre group to put their dancing, acting and authorial skills to good use; each book is narrated by a different Star Club member. So I was delighted to be editing the second book in the series, Starring Meg, learning more about the girls and their ambitions, rehearsals and dreams. Meg, the heroine of this book, has a lot on her plate, with a school performance to put together AND a big secret she’s not sure how to share with the rest of the gang … A fantastic read!
Blockbuster author James Patterson delivers a genuinely hilarious—and surprisingly poignant—story of a wildly imaginative kid that you won't forget. Now released on Netflix you can find out more about the movie Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life at middleschoolmovie.com.
Jean Ure understands exactly what makes ballet such an all-consuming passion for young dancers and conveys that excitement perfectly in Born to Dance, the first in a new series. Maddy is born into ballet royalty – her mother was a famous ballerina, her father’s a top choreographer, even her brother and sister are rising stars. Though she’s occasionally frustrated by her family’s single-minded dedication, she loves to dance too. At school she picks out new girl Caitlyn as a fellow ballerina, and is surprised when Caitlyn doesn’t want to be friends, then mystified when she sees her dancing – whoever is teaching her is getting some things very wrong. The two do become friends though, and when Maddy discovers how Caitlyn is learning to dance, she’s determined to help. Maddy is a warm, thoroughly engaging central character, with just a touch of the Emma Woodhouse about her, and the ballet scenes will leave readers itching to stand at the barre. One to recommend to fans of Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes. Jonathan’s Leap by Celia Purcell is another strong contemporary ballet story with a boy in the ballet shoes.