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Each month our team of book lovers choose a selection of books they have loved and think deserve an extra shout out. Everyone fights to get theirs on the list. Here are this month’s faves.
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This accomplished second YA novel stems from a very personal place for acclaimed author and commentator Nikesh Shukla (The Good Immigrant). Victim himself of a racist attack and resorting to a boxing gym to improve his own self-defence lends unmistakable authenticity to Sunny’s story. He may have had to turn to a fellow author and boxer for advice on the actual match scenes but everything else comes from the heart and it shows. Every character and situation rings true. Sunny already had to cope with a toxic relationship with his terminally ill father and social isolation after a move to Bristol (and how refreshing to have a gritty urban story set other than in London) when he becomes a victim of an unprovoked attack which threatens to demolish any sense of self-worth. Against all his principles and family objections he finds his community in a boxing club, battling inner demons as well as opponents in the ring with an inspiring (female) mentor and coach. Has he found a soul mate there as well or will rising racial tensions and far right radicalisation scupper that too? Stylishly told in ten chapters mixing the narrative of the ten rounds of the match between Sunny and his erstwhile best friend Keir and flashbacks of what brought them to this point, this is a nuanced, character-led and ultimately life affirming and important story for our times.
Actor and screen writer Nathan Byron has teamed with illustrator and character designer Dap Adeola to create a stunning and endearing new character called Rocket for their first venture into picturebooks. This is a little girl to inspire us all with her passion for space and the natural world just like she is inspired by her heroine Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. But Rocket struggles to get people to pay attention particularly older brother Jamal who is hooked on his smart phone and notices nothing around him and she really does not want to miss the meteor shower and even makes an announcement in the local supermarket to make sure everyone gets a chance to see a natural wonder. Adeola’s skill in inclusive characterisation shines from the pages and captures both Rocket’s enthusiasm and passion and Jamal’s sulky teen grump! Dotted with fascinating facts about meteors and space and with a very well realised and warm family relationship, this is a real treat and it is good to hear that Rocket will feature in two more books to come. Perfect for improving representation in your picture book collections.
Everyone’s favourite little dog has graduated to Disney Junior TV which will introduce the extraordinary adventures of the canny canine and his sidekick Sir Bobblysock to a whole new audience and what a treat they have in store! The standing joke throughout the successful series, illustrated in great style by the award winning Alex T Smith, has been the complete ignorance of Mr and Mrs Shiny Shoes (never viewed beyond knee height) who think their pet sleeps all day and young readers delight in knowing better. The appeal of these tales, whether in picture book as here or in storybook format has always been the multi layered and witty narrative that gives an adult reader as much fun as the child. Sir Bobblysock is particularly hilarious in this episode when it seems that everything conspires to stop him getting his beloved strawberries for breakfast! All the strawberries have been taken for the Pawhaven tennis championships. Claude of course saves the day and accidentally discovers he could be a tennis ace. But actually being kind and allowing the unfortunate Kimberley to win is far more important even when it may cost Sir Bobblysock his strawberries! Pure reading for pleasure and a great introduction to series to entice new readers.
A funny story told in gentle rhyme from multi-award winner Jeanne Willis about a little girl who finds a baby Martian – and her hilarious struggles to get him to go to the loo in the right place! Almost every receptacle you can imagine is explored – kitchen bin, cowboy hat, bird bath to name but a few – with varying degrees of success and failure, but a great deal of fun! There’s even a Toilet Song to help get things in the right order. With some laughter causing disasters before final success this is a lovely way to underscore the message about Toilet Training for Reception children who may be struggling. Hrefna Bragadottir was longlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize – and you can really appreciate why with her softly coloured action-packed illustrations. This is a fun read for all very young children on an important life lesson!
From the author of There’s a Tiger in the Garden comes this funny adventure story. A delightful picture book about Matilda, who is neat and tidy and tends to want to be very straightforward and her annoying Dad, who always gets distracted by something, whatever he is doing. Matilda finds a treasure map and plans to go immediately to the spot marked by the X, but her father wants to accompany her – and in doing so they digress, but they see some amazing sea creatures, have an adventure with a whale and almost lose each other on the island, until they discover the treasure simultaneously. Beautiful illustrations in watercolour and pencil show us a fascinating array of wildlife in the sea and on the island. The story is told with simplicity and charm; emphasizing that even people we don’t always see eye-to-eye with can be great companions. A great way into a discussion about getting along with people who aren’t like you.
In this thought-provoking and moving collection of fourteen essays, gal-dem's writers use raw material from their teenage years - diaries, poems and chat histories - to explore growing up. gal-dem have been described by the Guardian as the agents of change we need , and these essays essays tackle important subjects including race, gender, mental health and activism, making this essential reading for any young person.