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As the season of school sports day approaches this is a perfectly timed new outing for the irrepressible and hilarious cake loving heroine of the Waterstones Prize shortlisted I really want the cake! Cakes play an important part in this tale too, but first this little girl tries and tries to win. She really wants to win! It all starts with a race and she is in the lead but trips. A calamity repeated across every school in the land and so this is very good preparation for little would-be athletes. Time and again her ambition is thwarted. Her friend wins everything. The sense of injustice felt is so perfectly captured in the bold expressive illustrations that reveal the little girl’s impulsive character and her constantly changing emotions. But one day her friend does not win and very surprisingly for our heroine the friend does not mind at all and congratulates the winner. Our heroine is encouraged to forget about winning and just to do what she loves which is baking cakes of course! Then the loyal friend finds a Bake Off competition which our heroine approaches with proper humility having recognised how much she enjoyed the process. She surprises herself by winning and the celebrations are genuine. Resilience triumphs in this completely relatable story which will prompt useful discussion as well as laugh out loud moments.
A submarine ingeniously disguised as a floating island, and a state of the art training programme designed to turn five ordinary kids into sporting superstars – Atlantis United is a highly original and intriguing action adventure story. Joe, Kim, Craig, Ajit and Jess enjoy their different sports, but are conscious that they’re certainly not the best in their teams – so why the interest in them by the stranger in the black hat watching their games? Turns out he is a scout but for a really unusual operation – a maverick billionaire business man has created an amazing but top secret programme for junior athletes based on the latest scientific and sports thinking. The sporting detail is fascinating, while tension rises when the kids notice a strange drone spying on them – could they be in danger?
In a Nutshell: Fractured families | First love | Fresh starts | 16-year-old Holly feels like an outsider, except when she’s swimming at her local pool: “Under the surface, deep in the blue-lit water, nobody can see me. There’s nobody to judge the clothes I wear, or the way my hair frizzles”. It’s at the pool she meets Ed, who’s “not like the boys at school who are either geeky or cocky and smart-arsed and think they’re all that. He’s different”. While romantic feelings, evoked in all their dizzying wonder, swell poolside, at home the seas are stormier. Struggling with depression, Holly’s mum has “become so inward-looking that she hasn’t a clue what I do with my time”. But as Holly’s home-life begins to brighten, Ed reveals that he’s grappling with a serious domestic situation of his own. Warm-hearted, highly readable and romantic, with the bleaker elements of both teenagers’ lives handled with a sensitive lightness of touch, readers will undoubtedly root for Holly and Ed to find their happy ever after. ~ Joanne Owen
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2018 | Award-winning illustrator Michael Foreman’s own love of football suffuses this story which perfectly captures the thrill all footballers have of scoring the winning goal. As the new boy in a small local team a young boy dreams that one day he will be out on the pitch and will the strike the winning goal at the World Goal. Full of action and detail, Michael Foreman’s illustrations capture how his youthful dreams and reality merge to create a classic football story. Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for May 2018 Square by Mac Barnett A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge A Perfect Day by Lane Smith Gaspard the Fox by Zeb Soanes & James Mayhew Wonder Goal! by Michael Foreman The Sand Dog by Sarah Lean The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell Plantopedia by Adrienne Barman
In a nutshell: llama football stars called up for England at the World Cup | Llamas United took the footballing (and book) world by storm in their first adventure, and will win more readers still with their second. Real llamas, they are brilliant footballers, thanks to having eaten the ashes of one of the world’s best players, and their manager young Tim Gravy is determined to take them to the World Cup. And let’s face it, the England national team could do with a shake up! There are some hurdles to overcome, ensuring the llamas and human players bond for example, working out just what is upsetting Tim’s friend and team trainer Cairo, not to mention portions of poisoned lasagne, but it all comes to a climax – doesn’t it always? – with England versus Germany in the final. Wonderfully silly, completely engaging and with top class footballing action, this is one for football fans everywhere. ~ Andrea Reece
Miss Charlotte - the new coach of a children's football team - has some odd methods to prepare them for the big match. She decides to teach them to lose! And to have fun. Incredibly, it seems to work, as the kid who was always useless on the pitch suddenly scores a screamer in practice. But will their hopes of victory be dashed when the ambitious star player decides to join the other team?
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018 | A dynamic slam-dunk of a book in which a boy lost in grief begins to find his feet on the basketball court. Slickly blending stirring verse-form storytelling with ingenious jump-off-the-page comic strip illustrations, this is a poignant, powerful page-turner that will find fans among a broad range of reading levels in the 12+ age group. It's 1988 and Charlie Bell (Chuck to his Granddaddy) feels utterly isolated by grief after losing his dad. And, since he can’t seem to stay out of trouble either, his despairing mom leaves him with Grandma and Granddaddy for the whole hot summer. There Chuck discovers an affinity with basketball through his cousin Roxie, but when a friend from back home says he can help Chuck get hold of a pair of genuine Jordan sneakers at a discount, the ensuing chain of events could land him in serious trouble. Though this is a prequel to the author’s Newbury Medal winning The Crossover, it can be read and relished as a standalone novel (for those who have read The Crossover, Chuck is Josh and Jordan’s dad). This is a joyous parade of poetry that packs incredible emotional depth. The language soars and sings, and the vibrant interspersed comic strips by Dawud Anyabile enhance the immersive experience with panache.
In a nutshell: football-set story, accessible to all readers Jackson Law is a talented footballer, newly signed to the United youth squad. Real life carries on though, and a budding romance with the girl he’s always fancied brings him up against her thuggish ex. Jackson’s got a lot to lose now which lays him open to the lad’s threats and blackmail, but he discovers that his team mates are there to support him on and off the pitch. There’s just the right mix of footballing action and domestic drama and the story unfolds at a pace that will keep all readers turning the pages. An enjoyable and exciting contemporary story. ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: great football story, accessible to all readers The story told in Kick Off will be familiar to lots of kids from their daydreams. Jackson is a talented footballer and one day after a game in the park, he’s approached by a scout. This leads to a trial at United and the chance to play with their Under 16s. The Cinderella format is irresistible, but there are challenges for Jackson along the way: he has to learn to control his temper for one thing, and to be a team player. Designed to appeal to reluctant or dyslexic readers, the action is non-stop, short sentences ensuring it’s totally accessible, but the story is still thoroughly satisfying and will leave readers wanting to hear more about Jackson. ~ Andrea Reece
Jud is football mad but never seems to get a chance on the pitch. But when Seaburn football team meet their rivals, Jud finally has the chance to step in as goalie. It's a make-or-break moment - can Jud rise to the challenge? A terrific football story from a master storyteller, set in the post-war period. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+
UKLA Shortlist Book Awards - 2019 | S E Durrant writes convincingly and movingly about ordinary young people in extraordinary situations, and Running on Empty finds beauty and certainty in an apparently bleak situation. Eleven-year old AJ’s parents both have learning difficulties and he becomes their main carer when his grandfather suddenly dies. It’s a struggle, especially at first when no-one at his new secondary school realises just what AJ has to cope with. His love and tenderness towards his parents is beautifully described, as is the warmth of his extended family and things slowly sort themselves out. Somehow too his grandfather – who loved running as much as AJ does – is never really far away. Without a trace of sentimentality, this ends on a note of hope and happiness that is both believable and uplifting. This is one to recommend to fans of Susin Nielsen and even R J Palacio.
In a nutshell: thrilling, vivid rugby action, history, ghosts Readers who enjoy rugby or any kind of sport will love Gerard Siggins’ Rugby Spirit series with its exciting mix of brilliantly described rugby action and ghost story. Eoin Madden is a very talented player, but he has an extra gift too, he can see and talk to ghosts. Throughout this series, he has met, helped or been helped by ghosts of great rugby players, often solving mysteries in the process. In this latest episode, Eoin has been called up to play for Ireland’s Under 16s no less and amidst the excitement ghosts arrive again and help him avert a potential catastrophe. The rugby scenes are as thrilling to read as ever, the setting and descriptions of Eoin’s home life just as vivid and convincing while the ghostly visitors give it an extra edge. Another winner! ~ Andrea Reece There are more books in this series and readers will also enjoy Tom Palmer’s Rugby Academy series from Barrington Stoke. A Piece of Passion from Editor Helen Carr : Ger Siggins never fails to come up with interesting ghosts to haunt Castlerock, the boarding school Eoin Madden and his gang of rugby-mad friends attend. These spirits and their back-stories – Rugby Runner’s ghost, William Webb-Ellis is credited as the creator of the game of rugby! – always intrigue, but I also love the books because of Ger’s skill in describing the ups and downs of Eoin’s life, both on and off the rugby pitch. Friends and rivals, teachers and coaches are so well drawn, and I really enjoy the matter-of-fact way Eoin deals with everything life throws at him, from captaining the junior cup team to helping ghosts to foil crimes or right old wrongs.