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One of our Books of the Year 2016 | Longlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award and October 2016 Debut of the Month Twelve year old Suzy’s confusion following the death of her best friend fuels this roller-coaster debut novel. When Franny drowns in a freak accident during the school holiday Suzy finds herself dealing not with the death of her best friend as her mother thinks but with the far more devastating loss of their friendship sometime earlier. Suzy copes by becoming electively mute and by constructing a story to explain what happened to Franny. Moving back and forth between Suzy’s obsessive behaviour after Franny’s death as she finds out everything she can about the lethal jellyfish who is, she is sure, responsible for it and, the last few months before Franny’s death when the friendship unravelled is clever as she loses Franny to the cool set.
In a nutshell: Black cats | Magic | Fun Grace-Ella’s life is magically transformed when a black cat strolls into her house and makes himself at home. Mr Whiskins is a witches’ cat, and Grace-Ella discovers that she is a witch. She’s always struggled at school with reading and spelling, but casting spells is a whole new kettle of frogs! At last she’s found something she’s really good at. Lots of adventures follow, including accidental bewitchings of both her mum and her teachers. It all culminates in an unusual Hallowe’en party when Grace-Ella manages a thoroughly deserved bit of magical comeuppance on the school bully. The first in a series, Grace-Ella Spells for Beginners is a lively helping of fun, magic, friendship and being true to yourself. Young readers are sure to identify with Grace-Ella. ~ Andrea Reece A Piece of Passion from Janet Thomas, Editor at Firefly Press: Everyone at Firefly Press loved Grace-Ella from the moment Mr Whiskins walks into her house on page one. In her first book, Sharon has managed to write a story for 7-9 year olds that feels both traditional and up-to-date, fresh and comforting, and Adribel’s got this balance in her beautiful illustrations as well. It’s about trusting yourself and being honest about who you are, and the scene where Grace-Ella bravely tells her best friends she’s a witch is one of my favourites. It’s also very funny with spells going wrong, school adventures and a madcap Halloween party where the magic goes wild. Everyone who has read it so far has wanted their own Mr Whiskins!
In a nutshell: friendship | fun | growing up in the 21st century | Bubbly Abby takes centre stage in the second book in this new series for young girls. Abby has a starring role in the school’s production of Grease, but it’s not easy learning lines and dance routines and keeping up with schoolwork, plus there’s the added distraction of a handsome co-star. When it all gets too much she pours out her feelings via a vlog on the Youtube channel she created with her friends. Moss cleverly updates the popular girls’ gang format to explore her characters’ feelings and insecurities. Readers will identify with Abby and her friends and, in a story that feels completely up to date, the book demonstrates how empowering it can be to be honest with yourself. There’s an extra section on how to create your own vlogs too. ~ Andrea Reece One for fans of Cathy Cassidy, Karen McCombie and Cathy Hopkins.
From the winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the Best Book for Younger Readers - Red House Children's Book Award, the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 5 - 12 year-olds and the Blue Peter Best Story Book Award 2013, comes the ninth amazing instalment of this brilliant series! TIPS FOR BEING TOP OF THE CLASS (Sadly...I did NONE of these things.) 1. Stay awake in lessons (it helps.) 2. Don't draw HILARIOUS pictures of your teachers. 3. AVOID the class bully to stay out of trouble. 4. Don't let Mum and Dad write ANYTHING in your school planner. 5. Don't let your grumpy sister Delia BOSS you around. (Technically not a school issue - but still important.) I'm TRYING to get voted onto the school council as well - but thanks to the ABOVE list it's not exactly going to plan.
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | September 2016 Book of the Month In a Nutshell: Deadly Ambition | Scheming with Spirits | Descent into Darkness Thrilling, chilling, supernaturally-charged retelling of Macbeth set in a prestigious southern state high school. While Lily can’t wait to try out her antique Ouija board, her girlfriend Maria is less keen. She has history when it comes to the spirit world. But it's been a while since she's tried to talk to them so “maybe they'd forgotten her,” she hopes. While Lily and Maria are engrossed in the proceedings, their friend Brandon translates the Ouija messages from Spanish and Latin, one of which mentions their prestigious college’s Cawdor Kingsley Prize, which everyone is certain will be awarded to gorgeous golden girl, Delilah, with Maria, as usual, coming second, always the princess to Delilah’s queen. The Ouija’s messages are disturbingly ominous. “That which is second shall be first,” it spells. It turns out that Lily had hoped the Ouija board would spur Maria into believing that it was her destiny to come first and win the prize. She's set on going to Stanford University and is desperate for Maria to go there too, but the only way she's guaranteed a place is if she wins the prize. While the message has got under Maria’s skin, when Lily concocts a plan to ensure she wins it, she doesn't want to go through with it. “It isn't right,” she says, but Lily urges her on, like Lady Macbeth coaxing her husband. It’s not fair that Maria’s talents and efforts aren’t being recognised, and besides, Lily reasons, “this is what the spirits said would happen anyway, right?” So Maria agrees. But soon there’s no going back and Maria descends down a deadly, dark path, dragging her friends and peers with her. This really is an inspired idea - Macbeth converts so well to this exclusive high school setting - and I especially loved the La Llorona strands, the Weeping Woman ghost of Mexican myth whose eerie influence has spread throughout Hispanic culture. This super-smart Shakespearean adaptation is a read-in-one-sitting page-turner. ~ Joanne Owen Robin Talley's new novel Our Own Private Universe will be published on 9th February 2017 - it has been selected by the Lovereading editorial team and a review and extract will be available to view from early February.
Shortlisted for YA Book Prize 2017 | In a nutshell: be careful if you’re what others wish for | The three Graces, twins Thalia and Fenrin and their younger sister Summer, seem to have everything: attractive, popular, rich, no wonder everyone wants to be their friend, or that rumours spread that they have magical powers. Our narrator is new to the area and determined to become part of their inner circle, for reasons that seem obvious, but which are only fully revealed at the story’s end in a climax that will have readers immediately turning back to the very beginning. This twisty tale of small-town witchcraft is distinguished by its brooding, claustrophobic atmosphere and a heroine – we know her as River, a name she chooses for herself – who deceives the readers as completely as she does her friends and family. Recommended. ~ Andrea Reece
August 2016 Book of the Month | In a nutshell: ways to change the world Joseph is not classic super-hero material: he’s asthmatic and rubbish at sports, bullied regularly and nicknamed Wilco because he always complies when someone demands he does their homework. Imagine his surprise and excitement therefore when he develops special powers including telekinesis. Could this be his chance to get his own back on the bullies, impress the gorgeous Indira and even join super-heroes unlimited the Vigils? Well, yes and no. The story that follows is a sharply-observed comedy of teen life, with a serious undertone. Amongst the comic-book action Burstein shows what heroism - the kind that calls for real courage – really is, and reminds readers that heroes and villains too are often those we least expect them to be. ~ Andrea Reece
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | August 2016 Debut of the Month | In a nutshell: cake baking | works | magic | A delicious concoction of friendships, family and food and a worthy winner of the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2015. Oh my goodness, I just loved this gentle, warm, funny tale. Laura’s writing is mouth wateringly wonderful and her characters lovable and real. Poor Scarlett is the inspiration behind her mother’s cringeworthy, embarrassing blog and with headings such as Tap-dancing…did I give birth to three left feet? Or Did something die in that PE bag? we can understand why. Although anonymous, everyone knows that the posts are about her and hating her new found celebrity status Scarlett tries to disappear into the background leaving her friendless and lonely. Life has become a daily grind of keeping her head down and trying not to provide her mum with any new material - until that is she discovers an empty kitchen and a mysterious old cookbook. As she secretly teaches herself to cook Scarlett begins to wonder if she’ll ever find the magic ingredients for friendship and family. This lovely tale is like a delicious cup of hot chocolate – sweet, scrumptious and will warm the cockles of your heart. ~ Shelley Fallows One of our reader reviewers, Isaac East, loved this book so much he made some of the delicious recipes to treat his Granny and Grandad to afternoon tea!
August 2016 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Feminism | Friendship | Fighting back |Inspirational and insanely funny, this third and final book in the Normal trilogy is a motivating must-read manifesto for young women, not to mention a powerful wake-up call for detractors of feminism. When two men subject Lottie to threatening sexual harassment, she feels embarrassed, afraid and, most of all, outrage at the male entitlement that led them to believe “my body was theirs to comment on”. With the backing of her college FemSoc and Spinster Club friends, she decides to (literally) call-out every single instance of sexism for an entire month by honking on a clown’s horn, and so the Vagilante Project is born. To help the Project gain ground, and to document her experiences, Lottie reluctantly recruits aspiring filmmaker Will. While he might be a “cocky jerk”, Will’s talent (and hipster good looks) can’t be denied and the campaign soon attracts major media attention. But the Project’s stresses take their toll on both her mental health and grades as her Cambridge University entrance interview looms. If that wasn’t enough, national coverage of the Vagilante Project brings out the trolls, and Lottie has to dig deep to stay sane and keep all her goals in her grasp. For me, one of this novel’s highpoints is its incisive exploration of cognitive dissonance. For example, Lottie knows the social norm of having hair-free legs is a patriarchal imposition, but it takes great guts to ditch the razor and go au naturel. That such issues are handled with both insight and humour makes this novel all the more authentic, and Lottie’s story is full of madly funny moments, such as when she mimics a man-spreader on the tube, or when she staggers from Will “like some pissed-up feminist gingerbread man” because she doesn’t need a male companion to walk her home. Packed with wit, warmth, honesty and passion, this novel will surely forge a path of empowerment for legions of young women (we could do with a real-life Lottie realising her ambition to become Prime Minister), while eliciting more than a few belly laughs along the way. ~ Joanne Owen
Bobby and his teacher don’t get on, in fact in his eyes she’s a monster. An accidental meeting in the park however, when Bobby saves Miss Kirby’s favourite hat (it was a present from her granny) changes his view of her completely: before our eyes Miss Kirby gradually transforms from an ugly green ogre into a smiling curly-haired young woman. It’s a witty way to show that teachers are human too, and that the way you treat people affects the way they behave. Brown’s stylish illustrations are wonderfully expressive and there are two superb wordless scenes, one that perfectly captures the awkwardness the two feel at their accidental meeting, the other demonstrating Miss Kirby’s new generosity to Robert. An original picture book that cleverly delivers its message. ~ Andrea Reece
July 2016 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Awesome Empowerment * Sisterly Support * Pursuing Passions This inspirational story about following dreams and the power of female friendship is as rich, warm and cheering as being curled up with a mug of hot chocolate on a bitterly cold day. Amber lives near London’s cosmopolitan Brick Lane with her gay dads. She loves words, Oscar Wilde and all things vintage. She hates the small-minded bullying “OMG girls” at school, and feels certain that “there must be other people like her out there somewhere. Other people who didn't fit it, or want to fit in.” And so, inspired by an Oscar Wilde quote, Amber seeks out sister Moonlight Dreamers, kindred sprits who also “dream of freedom and adventure”. The girls who respond to Amber’s call come from very different worlds, but they come together in a spirit of solidarity to create their own secret society in which difference is celebrated, and following your dreams is de rigeur. At the inaugural meeting of the Moonlight Dreamers, they each declare their dreams and pledge to pursue them. Amber is desperate to visit Oscar Wilde's grave in Paris. Shy photographer Maali yearns for the confidence to talk to boys. Poet Sky dreams of performing at a poetry slam, and New Yorker Rose wants to own a Harley Davidson and become a patissier, against her model mom’s desire for Rose to follow in her expensively-shoed footsteps. Utterly charming through even the girls’ most challenging moments, the author’s portrayal of female friendship and self-empowerment is sublimely enriching, and the novel ends with a glorious sense that the girls' journey is only just beginning: a lifetime of fortifying friendship and Moonlight Dreaming awaits. ~ Joanne Owen
July 2016 Debut of the Month Absolutely compelling. I have to admit to being rather surprised by ‘The Otherlife’, I think I was expecting a rollicking fantasy adventure, instead a startling, yet subtle and thought provoking read awaited. Either told from the viewpoint of Ben as he is about to take his GCSE’s in 2012, or through his classmate Hobie’s journal in 2008, The Otherlife focuses on the importance of friendship and a variety of issues such as the pressure of being a teenager and parent’s expectations. While Ben copes with pain, both physical and mental, Hobie bulldozes his way through the school year, with few morals, and little thought. Julia Gray sets the Otherlife flickering on the edge of the page, on the knife edge of reality... waiting. As I settled in and felt as though I was beginning to understand, the writing ripped my thoughts apart and set me off on a new path. An intruiging, slicing read, The Otherlife, is also warmly tender and compassionate, and I highly recommend it. ~ Liz Robinson