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Edited by best-selling author Marissa Meyer, these are ten stories which each take on a familiar trope of romantic fiction: The secret admirer, the fake relationship, the matchmaker etc and turns them on their head in such a way as to keep the reader guessing. What is also both refreshing and valuable is the diversity of the collection, which includes black, LGBT, white, Asian and Indian characters and a range of text formats including a graphic novel. Any reader should be able to find themselves within the pages of this collection and find a story that resonates with them and their experiences. The overall quality of the writing, from authors who are relatively unknown in the UK, is a strength. As well as being a thoroughly enjoyable read this collection could find uses in the classroom for analysis of genres, styles and tropes.
Here’s a book to put young readers in the mood for Christmas: a collection of twenty-five festive stories by Enid Blyton. Lots of them feature Father Christmas getting into and out of scrapes (in one, he even has to hide from the police) and bestowing presents on good little children, and some grown ups too, and all of them take place at Christmastime, celebrating everything that makes it special – family get-togethers, good will and lashings of delicious food. As you’d expect, the stories are super-readable, each one a no-nonsense dose of adventure, the perfect length for bedtime or independent reading. After all, you don’t get to sell 500 million children’s books, as Enid Blyton has, without understanding exactly what your young readers want.
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.
Reading Age 8 Interest Age Teen | The Barrington Stoke list is proof that a story’s power and impact have nothing to do with length or stylistic flourishes. Like his fellow Barrington Stoke author Carnegie Medal winner Anthony McGowan, Keith Gray writes contemporary teen dramas and does so with similar directness and perception. Sully’s understanding of himself rests to a large extent on his reputation as the best, most fearless tree-climber in his village. That is shaken by the arrival of Nottingham, a boy with equal skills and nerve, maybe even greater. A rivalry develops immediately and comes to a head with a race to the top of a huge Yew tree, the greatest of the ‘Big Five’ in the village. Both boys are afraid to carry on to the top, but unable to back down. It’s a wonderful piece of writing, in just one hundred pages giving readers extraordinary insight into these two young men and the experiences that have shaped them. Readers will recognise themselves or their classmates in Sully and Nottingham and the story is as natural, tangled and deep rooted as the trees they climb. Superb.
Shortlisted for the Little Rebels Award | 2021 December 2020 Book of the Month | Congratulations to Konnie Huq and co-author James Kay who with illustrator Rikin Parekh have taken the best-loved fairy tales, shaken them up, and brought them uproariously into the 21st century. All your favourites are here, recognisable, but turned into something fresh, new and very funny (often with a pointed message or moral). Thus Sleeping Beauty is now Sleeping Brainy, a maths-mad princess who grows up to be the most successful Chancellor of the Exchequer in history, while simultaneously inventing the computer, the internet and Wikipedia (‘all in a good nine thousand six hundred and eighteen days’ work’ she concludes, happily). Pity the three bears who here have to put up with Mouldysocks, a boy too busy playing computer games to tidy up or wash, but cheer for The Pickled Mermaid, who puts her blog out on Plaicebook, Finstagram and Snapperchat, thereby reaching millions of readers and effecting real change on pollution in the oceans. Then there’s Robin Hoodlum and his boss, the Baron of Bottybum; Spinocchio, a TV news anchor; and a surprisingly familiar looking, bad-tempered little orange man called Trumplestiltskin … The stories are told with real dash and energy and will have children and parents alike roaring with laughter.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Katherine Rundell’s brief introduction which explains why hope is so important and why we should look for it in stories and illustrations sets a context for the wonderful range of very short stories, poems, thoughts and illustrations which will certainly give hope as well as laughs and surprises to readers of all ages. Perfect for dipping into, the anthology is a treasure trove of story treats starting with Michael Morpurgo’s uplifting ‘A Song of Gladness’ and ending with Rundell’s own ‘The Young Bird-Catcher’. Lauren Child, Axel Scheffler, Chris Riddell and Jackie Morris are just some of the wonderful artists whose black and white illustrations light up the pages of this hand this handsome volume. Dedicated to all the workers in the NHS and with proceeds going to NHS Charities Together, The Book of Hopes will certainly bring hope to all.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Featuring animal adventures by top writers for younger readers - among them Guy Bass, Holly Webb, Penny Dolan, Malachy Doyle and Narinder Dhami - this anthology of winter warmers is a delight to snuggle up with as a treat before bedtime. Here we encounter little Pip the Penguin, prickling with excitement ahead of taking part in the Penguin Parade - can he step up when Santa needs help? Then there’s Bigfoot who gets lost in a sparkling, snowy wood, and Chookie the husky pup who must overcome her nerves to pull a sledge for the very first time. Fans of wilder animals will especially love Narinder Dhami’s Tiger in the Night, a peril-packed adventure featuring a trio of mischievous Siberian tiger cubs. With ten tales in all, this is perfect for reading aloud to little animal lovers, or for newly-independent readers to enjoy alone, with Alison Edgson’s evocative illustrations enhancing the wintry wonder.
Opening the pages of this eerie anthology is akin to creeping through creaky doors to explore a haunted house. To wander corridors and halls, rooms and chambers that have been darkly decorated by a host of hallowed writers. Here readers will encounter the skulking terrors of Joseph Delaney’s timeless, gripping The Castle Ghosts. The clever, contemporary creepiness of Robin Jarvis’s The Beach Hut. Then there’s Philip Reeves’s long-lingering, translucently lyrical The Ghost Wood. There are eleven tales in all, each written by a truly top-class writer, among them Matt Haig, Derek Landy, Susan Cooper, Mal Peet, and Jamila Gavin. Some tingle with menace. Others are outright scary. Some are modern, others infused with the terrors of traditional Gothic tales. And all of them are exquisitely executed. Perfect for reading aloud as the nights draw in, the stories here also make excellent introductions to a fine set of writers.
September 2020 Book of the Month | Cally and Jimmy are twins but more different people it would be hard to meet. Cally is generally quiet and well-behaved, while Jimmy is anything but (his ADHD doesn’t help). It’s Cally who narrates the four separate stories contained in this very enjoyable new book, and she gives us a really good idea of what it’s like to live with the most-annoying-brother-in-the-whole-wide-world, describing the many times he gets them both into trouble, but she absolutely captures the fun they have together too. There’s a starring role for their wonderful grandma, or Yiayia as they know her (Mum is Greek) and just a lovely sense of this family. Recommended reading and hopefully there’ll be more adventures to come for the twins.
Blimey, but can Anthony Horowitz pack huge amounts of tension, excitement and humour into his short stories! He shows off a breath-taking ability to conjure adventure out of the most unlikely beginnings, and in his hands even a trip to the dentist turns into a full-on, peril-laden caper. There’s everything in this collection that makes the Alex Rider novels so addictive: dangerous situations, daring escapes, gadgets galore. And of course, there’s Alex himself – super-smart, super-resourceful, super-cool. Irresistible, unbeatable reading. LoveReading4Kids Loves Alex Rider! Find out more about Alex Rider in our Series of the Month feature.
It’s more than 150 years since the publication of Alice in Wonderland and it is delighting today’s readers as much as it ever has. Both a tribute to and a celebration of Lewis Carroll’s story, this collection includes new adventures by eleven favourite contemporary children’s authors, each of whom has been inspired by Alice. With such an extraordinary set of characters and scenes to take as starting points, the stories are wonderfully varied. Pamela Butchart chooses to write about the Queen of Hearts in a follow up story, while Swapna Haddow picks the Mock Turtle. There’s an environmental message in Lauren St John’s lively story ‘Plum Cakes at Dawn’, while Robin Stevens puts the real Alice into her Oxford set story. Together they make for a sparkling collection, one well worth tumbling back down the rabbit hole to enjoy.
Book Band: Grey Ideal for ages 8+ | Maxx the alien is sent to earth to study humans and specifically to learn about their feelings. His education comes on in leaps and bounds when he makes a human friend, Jibreel. The two have fun together, but there are real worries and sadnesses in Jibreel’s life too – he’s a refugee and is separated from his mother, and to a group of boys in his class, he’s the ‘alien’. Fortunately, Maxx is there to apply his other-worldly logic to the problem. Zanib Mian has a real gift for comedy and dialogue too and this is extremely funny, while at the same time it makes some very serious points. In the new Bloomsbury Readers series, the story is perfect for children growing reading confidence and understanding, with short chapters and frequent illustrations. A separate ‘Reading Zone’ section at the end lists discussion points and also encourages readers to think about the book’s narrative structure.