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Find out which books teachers think are the best! Below are all the books that have been longlisted for the 2020 Awards sponsored by LoveReading4Kids, LoveReading4Schools and MLS. 3-6 Longlisted titles 7-11 Longlisted Titles 12-16 Longlisted Titles
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Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | At once fierce and otherworldly, this impeccably produced full-colour reinvention of Moby Dick sees multi-award-winning Patrick Ness display a talent for writing that transcends age barriers. It reimagines Moby Dick from the viewpoint of a pod of whales led by Bathsheba who, “like all whales, [I] hated men, and with good reason: their bloody killings, their sloppy, wasteful harvesting proving that they killed as much for sport as for need”. And so fulfilling her grandmother’s prophecy, Bathsheba and her pod live for the hunt. Led by Captain Alexandra they find themselves in pursuit of the notorious Toby Wick, whom no one has seen, but who’s reputed to be “a devil.” As fierce battles are fought and blood is shed, questions are raised about the dangers of power and rumour to create a strange and elemental allegory that’s exquisitely enhanced by Rovina Cai’s arresting full-page illustrations.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Rabbit realises that he doesn’t have to go to bed until it is dark. If it never gets dark, he won’t ever have to go to bed. It is easy to lure the Dark into the biscuit tin but the consequences aren’t what Rabbit expected. The pictures and text together build a charming allegory about the importance of thinking beyond our immediate pleasures.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2020 | On the day before the valley is to be flooded to form a reservoir, a girl and her father play and dance in the deserted houses, remembering the people who have lived there. This is an exquisite book in which words and pictures interweave to evoke wild beauty and a deep mystery. You’ll want to want to keep this one for ever.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Grace is intrigued by the idea of spending the summer in the ancient house that is an important part of her family history. As she learns to heal herself following a life-changing accident and a family breakdown, Grace finds she is also able to help new friends. Like the original Flambards books, this offers at several levels from great story to psychological insights.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Shortlisted for the Children's Book Awards 2019, Books for Younger Readers Category | Patrick is delighted to go to stay at his grandparents’ house, especially when he is told he can choose a rescue puppy. Oz, the puppy has had a terrible start but Patrick is determined to help, until his own life falls apart and he daren’t love his dog. Colfer explores his subject with an empathy which makes the characters and dilemmas very real. A great read.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Anteater wakes up with a problem: he can’t remember what he is supposed to eat. The other animals aren’t much help but, when he finds an anthill, Anteater suddenly remembers his favourite food. Children will love being ahead of the story until the big surprise. Pictures and text dovetail together to create a very enjoyable book.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Winner of the An Post Irish Book Awards Teen & Young Adult Book of the Year 2018 | Longlisted for The CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | Heart wrenching, honest, funny and bold, this exceptional novel about the life, loves and agonies of a young carer, and the love between a mum and her sons, is a storytelling triumph. Seventeen-year-old Bobby Seed is a devoted son and big brother and an all-round firework of wit and charm, wise and strong beyond his years. He’s also a young carer to his mum who’s suffering from debilitating MS. Bobby has to “brush his mother’s locks every day, sort out her medicine, sponge her clean three times a week, ooze positivity” even when all he wants to do is “punch the shit out of a walk or wail in the shower”. In his situation “the worry of death never leaves you”, but that doesn’t stop the brilliant banter between Bobby and his mum. Theirs is a beautiful, tender relationship. Bobby does what he does for her “because she’s my Mum. That pure and simple”. Bobby’s spirits are kept up by best friend Bel and attending Poztive support group for young carers. It’s there he falls for Vespa-riding Lou, who helps him fulfill his mum’s unexpected birthday request as her deterioration quickens. But then comes the ultimate request. Can he do what Mum needs to alleviate her excruciating pain and loss of function? Always warm and witty, and never sentimental, this raw portrait of real-life ravages is suffused in the magic of the human heart. Bobby is an unforgettable, inspirational character – we could all do with taking a leaf from Bobby’s book of strength and wit - and author Brian Conaghan is a writer of the highest rank.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month June 2019 | Award-winning author/ illustrator Emily Gravett explores the fun of being friends but different in this light-hearted and playful picture book. Sad Cyril the squirrel is all alone in the park until he finds a meets Pat. Together Cyril and Pat have a great time playing all kinds of games and making sure each other is safe – especially from the fierce dog Slim. Does it matter that they are different? Everyone else thinks so but Cyril and Pat know that they can be the best of friends come what may. Readers will love knowing the joke, and the point, before Cyril and Pat get it!
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | The lighthouse keeper’s daughter, Lampie, becomes a maid at the very strange house of Admiral Black. It is rumoured that there is a monster in the attic but, as Lampie soon comes to realise, not everything strange and different is monstrous. This has the qualities of the great fairy tales but with a bite which resonates with the contemporary world.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2019 | A deliciously playful fantasy tells how an audacious and ebullient mouse identifies himself as being something very much more than he is. Especially he dreams of being a tiger! But can he convince anyone else? Sadly for mouse, his lack of stripes, size and GRRR! make it pretty clear that he is certainly not a tiger. And, when a real tiger turns up, Mouse knows for sure that he won’t ever be a tiger. Can he be something else? Karl Newson and Ross Collins capture imaginative play perfectly.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Winner of the Victorian Premier YA Prize for Literature, and Best Young Adult Novel at the Aurealis Awards - two of Australia's most prestigious writing awards | As he is still vulnerable following his daughter, Beth’s death, detective Michael Teller is sent to investigate the seemingly simple case of a fire at a Children’s Home. Beth narrated most of the book which takes us to very dark places. Brilliantly structured, informed and passionate, this is a thought-provoking consideration of issues relevant to all young adult readers.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | May 2019 Book of the Month | Like all classics of American middle grade fiction - as this may well be esteemed in future - this is radiant with humour, heart and a whole lot of indelibly authentic child-centred observations and emotions. With his dad away on army service, and faced with being plunged into the jungle of middle school, Carter already has plenty on his plate when his family inherits the services of an eccentric British butler. While Carter is quick to revolt against the butler’s rigorous regime of tea-drinking, homework and housekeeping (including folding underwear, can you believe it?!), the butler’s ways, wisdom and polite-but-firm guidance (AKA being “a pain in the glutes”) casts a healing spell over the family’s soul, exactly when they need it most. Then, as the butler shares his love of “the most lovely and sportsmanly game that mankind has yet conceived” (AKA cricket) with Carter’s schoolmates, Carter himself comes to share his troubles and release his anger and grief so he can keep the metaphoric “bails from coming down”. Suffused with the same warmth, compassion and originality of the author’s stunning debut, Orbiting Jupiter , this funny, moving middle grade novel is a true treasure with broad appeal and rich rewards.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | May 2019 Book of the Month | No matter how exciting, zany and surprising the action, you can always be sure that Frank Cottrell-Boyce will build his stories on real human emotions, and that’s as true of this brilliantly funny, original and touching novel as of any of its predecessors. Alfie ‘swerves’ both school and the Limb Lab, where he should be going to learn how to control his state-of-the-art new hand, by hanging out at the airport. But everything changes when, through various happy accidents, he finds an enormous robot called Eric in Lost Property. Eric holds the Allen key to the book’s mysteries, both a generations-old legend, and the secrets that Archie is keeping from the reader and himself. Beautifully told and full of characters readers will love, this book will have you laughing out loud one minute, in tears the next. Robot Eric, unfailingly polite, kind and helpful and trying to explain himself through misremembered jokes is an iron man for our time. Unmissable. Once readers have finished this, point them in the direction of Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s other books including The Astounding Broccoli Boy and books by Ross Welford. Peter Brown’s story The Wild Robot is another great automaton adventure. **Head over to our LoveReading4KidsLoves Channel to find out more about Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Author of the Month.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | May 2019 Book of the Month | Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2020 | Starring four little animals that children will be quick to identify with, The Suitcase is a touching story about friendship and an excellent way to start conversations about how we respond to people we don’t know and the importance of kindness. A stranger arrives pulling a suitcase and tells the other animals that inside is his home. Curious – and suspicious too – they force it open while he’s asleep and dreaming of his long journey. Inside the animals find a teacup – now broken – and a photo of a small house. The image of the broken teacup is upsetting and young readers will be happy to see the animals’ response and how they find ways to make the stranger their friend. The message here is powerful and profound and beautifully served by the simplicity of the telling.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | May 2019 Book of the Month | “I am normal. I like being normal”. Such is the mantra of fifteen-year-old Sam. But when he’s uprooted from his Stevenage comp and thrust into the North London Academy for the Gifted and Talented being normal just doesn’t cut it. Simple as. No ifs or buts. To fit in at this “poncey arty farty school” for “Exactly the Kind of People [Sam] Instinctively Hated”, a person needs to stand out. Gel one’s hair in eight directions. Be the offspring of, for example, an Argentinian tango dancer, or a French electro-pop pioneer. The comic characterisation of Sam and his family is as impeccably tuned as a Primrose Hill piano, from his mum’s foray into Hampstead yummy mummy blogger-dom, to his unicorn-obsessed little sister. Sam’s hilariously honest, self-deprecating tone is utterly engaging and put me in mind of an older incarnation of Luke from David Solomons’s fabulously funny Superhero books. Talking of funny, Sam’s turning point turns out to be his talent for comedy (“making people laugh was a thrilling buzz”), and so he finds himself in the unlikely position of performing in the school play. This entertaining romp around pressures to fit in and teenage boy-dom in all its involuntary undercarriage-twitching awkwardness truly shows the diverse talent of its author, whose previous YA novels are every bit as brilliant, but have heavier themes. This is a laugh-out-loud witty wonder of a book.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | May 2019 Book of the Month | Another insightful and compassionate free verse novel from the queen of this increasingly admired form, this time exploring the transformative relationship between an abused runaway teenager and an elderly lady with dementia. Allison has grown up “stepping on eggshells” to circumvent her father’s violence. While she often wonders whether his behaviour was “all my fault”, one of his outbursts compels her to run away. With nowhere to go, she finds sanctuary in the house of an elderly woman called Marla. Marla has dementia and thinks Allison is Toffee, her best friend from childhood. After spending some time in Marla’s company, Allison decides to “stop correcting her… I like the idea of being sweet and hard, a girl with a name for people to chew on.” Moreover, in meeting Marla, Allison has found an unlikely kindred spirit: “I am not who I say I am. Marla isn’t who she thinks she is… Here, in this house, I am so much happier than I have ever been”. Returning the favour, Allison enriches Marla’s life – she listens, she indulges Marla’s desire to dance - while Marla’s carer and son show no real regard for her happiness, as if she’s beyond life, which makes Allison’s attentiveness all the more heart warming. Both vulnerable, they find strength through each other. With incredibly moving insight, Marla says of Allison’s dad, “none of it was about you. It was about him. It’s always about him. Surely you know that.” The writing is compellingly fluid, flowing freely between Allison’s precarious present and the tragic, abusive circumstances that sent her careering down this path. While fleeting, the impact of their time together is monumental, and I felt privileged to have spent time in their company.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Prince Zal is born with white hair. Perceived as a demon he is abandoned in the mountains. The baby is rescued and nurtured by the great Simorgh, a wise and magical phoenix who teaches him everything a prince needs to know. Sixteen years later, the king realises he made a terrible error. A beautiful traditional tale enhanced by music.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Danny is sure that the new boy in his class won’t want to become his friend: nobody else does. When they discover they both love the same computer game, Danny becomes more and more confused by Eric’s strange family life and the gaps in his knowledge. The truth takes him to some strange, dark places. Unique, relevant and wonderful.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | April 2019 Debut of the Month | Marcia Williams is best known for her beautifully illustrated retellings of classic stories. For her first novel she has found inspiration in a true story. Cloud Boy takes the form of a diary written by a girl called Angie throughout a year in which her best friend Harry becomes seriously ill. Interspersed with her entries are readings of her grandmother’s letters - very like diary entries - which were written though never sent when she was a child prisoner in the notorious Changi WW2 camp in Singapore. As things get very difficult for Harry, Angie is by turns sad, scared, frightened and angry. Her grandmother’s letters provide distraction and comfort, especially the descriptions of a quilt the girls in the camp made in secret. The two stories are told with great sensitivity and despite the suffering being described the overwhelming sense is one of resilience and hope.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2019 | Award-wining Nicola Davies has created a beautiful story which makes its powerful point brilliantly by focusing on the plight of a single child refugee. A little girl’s way of life - one that will be familiar to children around the world - is totally destroyed when the war comes. Having lost everything, alone and facing terrible danger, she travels across the world in search of a new home. But who will help her to find one? Nicola Davies never preaches, instead she allows her story and Rebecca Cobb’s equally sensitive and warm-hearted illustrations to carry the message with their own integrity and eloquence. The book is endorsed by Amnesty International.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2020 | Sisters Nik and Norva would agree that they are slightly obsessed with murder mystery series on the television so, when a body is discovered in their block of flats, they are sure they are the right people to discover the truth. Balancing jokey dialogue and insights into the reality of city life, Sharna Jackson has written a very likeable, fast-paced book.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | If your dragon’s fire has gone out, you’ve got a real problem. There are several things you could try to ignite it again but the real solution to your problem may come as a surprise. Children will love the wild design of this book where text and pictures come together in chaotic glory. Vivid, inventive language will ignite young imaginations.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8+ | Maggie’s story is charged with emotional energy from the opening lines, when her involving narration reveals a deep, deep bond with her Pa, whom she lost at the tender age of eight. He was a man of few words whose “every last syllable was worth hearing”. “Their souls were cut from the same cloth”, whereas her city-born Ma and her siblings are truly out of place living in the wilderness. Pa’s death leaves Maggie “in a place of bewildering horror”, and the family in a desperate struggle for survival, and so Maggie does what Pa would have done. She takes his gun to hunt for food to keep her family alive. But in place of praising and thanking her super-shot daughter, Maggie’s cold-hearted, convention-heeding Ma sends her to the County Infirmary for displaying “unnatural”, “unladylike” behaviour. While the rest of her childhood is marred by terrible abuse, Pa’s pervasive presence and Maggie’s indomitable inner strength see her stick to her guns, a tenacity that brings unimaginably spectacular change. Propelled by heart-pounding, high-stakes action, this is a richly rewarding, sparky story for young adults with a reading age of 9+.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | In post war Britain, four children are sent to stay in an ancient house deep in the countryside. Beyond the library door they find a world of warring stories. Only they can save the worlds behind the door and by doing so, bring peace to their own world. Children will be intrigued by the skilful drawing together of well-loved stories to create something splendid.
Dad cries, particularly when he is drinking, which is most of the time. When mum knows it is best to leave, Louis must try to understand his new life and help his younger brother. Before he can do these things, Louis needs to start to like himself. This is a profound and beautiful book in which text and pictures come together perfectly.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Benji Davies’ new book is a story of escape that has a particular resonance for little children. Tad lives with her brothers and sisters in their pond. The smallest almost-a-frog she has to wiggle her tail twice as fast just to keep up, and they all know that Big Blub waits at the bottom of the pond for left-behind tadpoles. With Tad the very last tadpole in the pond there’s a touch and go moment, but in a glorious burst of light, her legs arrive just in time. It’s the perfect story to reassure any child worrying they’ll always be at the back, and Davies handles light and shadow brilliantly to create and control the drama. A beautiful and very special picture book.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | March 2019 YA Debut of the Month | Written by the founder of Everyday Sexism, and based on real-life experiences, double-standard “slut shaming” and sexual degradation are here exposed with vital urgency, and interwoven with the gripping story of a medieval woman whose abuse at the hands of a misogynistic society has present-day parallels. Fifteen-year-old Anna and her mum have moved hundreds of miles so she can escape the sexist bullying she was subjected to at her last school. But as Anna tries to make a fresh start, her past rears its head and continues to haunt her. While suffering torrents of abuse from her peers, Anna immerses herself in a history project that draws her into the tragic life of Maggie, an unmarried young woman from the 17th century. In juxtaposing Maggie and Anna’s experiences, the author lays bare an unbroken thread of misogyny from the Middle Ages to today’s culture of “revenge porn” and sexual shaming. Centuries on from scold’s bridles and burnings at the stake, women are still blamed and punished for the brutal behaviour of men. But Anna finds strength in her friendships with Alisha, Cat and Robin, and her connection with Maggie makes this a potent page-turner that will speak to a generation. As the author states in her afterword, “You are not alone, you are not to blame, and you deserve to feel better”. Or, in Anna’s words, “We are the granddaughters of the witches you burned. And we’re not putting up with it any more.”
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | February 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2019 | With a fabulous heroine at its heart and propelled by a fast-paced adventure in not just one world but others too, The Star-Spun Web is a spell-binding fantasy adventure. As a little baby, Tess de Sousa is left on a doorstep by her father in an effort to keep her safe. To be safe, he knows he has to get her out of one world and into another. Apparently orphaned, Tess, with her pet tarantula for company, grows up in Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings where she is encouraged to use her brain to do difficult scientific research and is very much loved by all. But her life changes suddenly when a stranger, claiming to be family, arrives at Ackerbee’s Home, and takes her away with him to Roedeer Lodge. Mr Cleat is not family and Tess needs all her intelligence and persistence to keep safe and, above all, to find out why he is interested in her and what his terrible plan for the future might be. The plot hurtles along and Tess remains a resourceful and delightful character throughout.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | An absolutely compelling, pyschological insight into the woman who created the much studied Gothic novel Frankenstein which will illuminate that study enormously and ensure a much deeper understanding. Mary Godwin’s own story is, of course, as dramatic and heartrending as her novel and Sharon Dogar brings her vividly to life. The reader is swept up by the romance of the young lovers, Mary and Shelley, but probably astonished at her youth; she was only 16 when they eloped, and genuinely shocked at their courage in defying society and conventional morality. Then outraged by the way she is treated by her father; a radical philosopher in writing only and certainly not in his actions and then very nearly overwhelmed by the tragedy that dogs her. But the strength of this beautifully written and cleverly constructed novel is the insight into the other players in this drama as well as into Mary’s emotional and mental turmoil. The clue is in the clever title – not Monster but Monsters and Mary’s frank understanding of her own monstrous behaviour, especially to stepsister Claire or Shelley’s wife Harriet, perfectly counterpoints the lack of self-awareness in Mr Godwin, Byron, Claire and Shelley himself. This left me desperate to re-read Frankenstein which surely shows this thoughtful novel can be a real gift to English teachers everywhere.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Walls are in the news at the moment, and one runs right down the middle of this book, a sturdy brick one dividing each double page, top to bottom. On one side is a little knight, very cheery in his conviction that his side of the wall is the safe place to be. We readers of course can see what’s happening on the other side of the wall and indeed, some of the creatures there don’t look very friendly. But appearances aren’t everything, and when the little knight discovers his side of the wall isn’t as safe as he thought, he might need a helping hand over the top. It’s a very funny story, and such a cleverly delivered fable of the silliness and dangers of preconceptions. Don’t miss.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | April 2019 Debut Picture Book of the Month | Winner of the 2019 Klaus Flugge Prize | Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2019 | Already shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal, Julian is a Mermaid is an outstanding picture book, surely destined to become a classic. Julian is out with Nana when he notices three women dressed as mermaids. In his heart of hearts – we see it described over three fabulous wordless spreads – Julian knows he is a mermaid too and while Nana takes a bath he sets out to transform himself into one. Nana’s response is life-affirming and the two head out to join the mermaid party. The illustrations dazzle and as a celebration of individuality, the imagination, freedom and love, it can’t be beaten.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | | Jeanne Willis is a latter-day Hilaire Belloc creating cautionary tales for modern youth that are both hilarious and full of sensible advice. Desperate to win more ‘likes’ for her posts, Goldilocks is driven to find ever more daring activities to share, which is why she takes a selfie breaking in to the bears’ cottage, and - #pipinghot! – one of her eating their porridge. It all ends in tears of course, and community service, but what’s worse for Goldilocks is that her posts are there forever, depicting her as a horrid porridge thief and leading to the moral: ‘So please, think twice before you send!’ Tony Ross’s illustrations, sharp and full of life and wit, are the perfect complement to the rhyme. Brilliance all round!
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | | Pitch perfect characterisation in a powerful story that shows how talent and support can turn a life around. This first book in the four part Run series is a world class middle grade story with all the witty tenderness of Louis Sachar and a whole lot of heart, humour and edge-of-your-seat action. Castle Cranshaw (better known as Ghost) discovered his talent for running the night he and his mom fled his violent dad. “Running isn’t anything I ever had to practice. It’s just something I knew how to do”, he explains. Hassled at school for his Mom-made haircuts, and constantly trying to avoid “altercations” that wind up making his school file bulge, Ghost’s life takes an upward turn when he spontaneously races a budding elite sprinter at a training session and wins. The coach, a former Olympic gold medalist, immediately invites him to join the team and they form a heart-melting bond fuelled by friendly sparring. Coach is exactly the mentor Ghost and his diverse bunch of talented teammates need. Ghost’s voice is endearingly authentic, honest and funny - pitch-perfect for his age and the novel’s readership. His “No! Don’t do it!” decisions and ensuing scrapes are evoked with intensity and humour (just wait for the “silver bullet” incident). Truly I cannot wait to spend more time in the company of Coach, Ghost and his teammates, each of whom will feature in future books in the series.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Elise lives alone in her grey house, afraid of everything and never going out. Then a paper plane flies in through the window and a little boy wants it back. As a friendship develops, colour and happiness come back to Elise. This compassionate, charming story will bring insights into the lives of older people isolated in their communities.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | When Lenny’s mother wins an instalment encyclopaedia, she and her younger brother Davey are drawn into the wonderful things they find there. They need an escape from home life in 1970s USA particularly as Davey is facing a huge problem. This complex endearing book twists readers through many emotions with warmth and honesty.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Shortlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2019 | Red’s mum tells her to follow the heart flowers on the safe path through the city when she sets off to deliver a cake to her grandmother. But the wolfish city soon draws her in and Red is lost. It is only when she remembers what is important to her that she can find her way again. This retelling has a strong contemporary feel.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | It is rather amazing to have a pet dragon. Everyone loves Zibbo, the tiny dragon, and all the children come together to join in many activities in his company. The pictures tell readers other ways in which the narrator is amazing, even though he sees them as too ordinary to mention. This is a warm, happy book which draws everyone together in their own amazing ways.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2020 | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | February 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2019 | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 9 | Cleverly set within a gripping adventure, Lark is a deeply touching story of the special bond between brothers. Older brother Nicky narrates the story of the day he and his younger brother Kenny set out on a simple day out on the moors. Proposed by their father as a way of filling time while they wait nervously for their mum to return from her new life in Canada, it is meant to a fun day out tinged with a bit of nostalgia as they are retracing a walk that he used to enjoy. But the simple walk which begins in a light hearted way soon becomes a deadly dangerous adventure as the weather conditions close in, the boys get completely lost and Kenny has to show exceptional courage and intelligence to make sure he can get Kenny home safely. Anthony McGowan maintains the intensity of the story throughout while also keeping the writing simple.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | January 2019 Debut of the Month | Everyone, children too, knows what it’s like when sadness unexpectedly comes to call, that sense of gloom that is hard to explain, and almost impossible to shake off. The situation is very skilfully depicted in this picture book, which also provides ideas and strategies for ways to cope. A young child is shown opening the door to a doleful, shapeless creature and the two become so close they are almost one. But the invisible narrator has suggestions for ways to help Sadness, so that one day, when the child wakes, it’s gone. The story is very affecting and will be useful to children who have a particular sadness in their lives as well as those who feel it for no reason they can articulate. An important and rather beautiful book.
October 2019 Debut of the Month | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Everyone needs a hug sometimes, even the least cuddly creatures. Everyone finds reasons not to hug tortoise or hedgehog but the wise owl explains that there is someone special for everyone and they just have to be found. Children will love the presentation of the story in this very satisfying book with a very happy ending.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | The twelve poems in this book, one for each month, will inspire a year of nature watching and who knows, quite likely some poetry writing too. There’s drama and excitement in the opening poem which describes a legendary fight between warring starlings – ‘the Rorschach of the winter months’ - over Cork in the 1600s; other poems are quieter and February’s gives a beautiful close up view of frog spawn, opening up memories from Coelho’s own childhood. Many of the poems in fact reflect his own personal experiences and responses to nature, April showers, trips to the beach, walks through winter leaves, giving the poems a particular intensity and emotional impact. Kelly Louise Judd’s folk-are inspired illustrations make this as beautiful to look at as it is to read aloud. A superb collection and a lovely book to give.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Joseph Coelho dedicates this lovely picture book to ‘everyone who misses someone’ and it’s particularly apposite for any child who has recently lost a grandparent. The story is narrated by a little girl who describes happy times with her grandad, ordinary everyday experiences interspersed with vivid metaphor, ‘if all the world were deep space, I’d orbit my grandad like the moon and our laughs would be shooting stars’. As the story continues, it’s clear Grandad has died, but writing down her memories ensures he will always be with her. Joseph Coelho is a fine poet and this is a joy to read aloud; Allison Colpoy’s illustrations make it beautiful to look at too and it deserves a place in every child’s collection.
?Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2018 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | This immersive coming-of-age epic is set in the late nineteenth century, when an age-old Filipino culture first encounters the brutal warmongering of white men. Samkad cannot wait to become a man through undergoing the ‘Cut’ rites of passage observed by his Bontok tribe (later ignorantly mispronounced by American occupiers as “Bone Talk”), though he fears losing his best friend Luki as a result, for Luki is a girl and their relationship will be forbidden, even though they share the same ambitions - to become a warrior, to fight the Mangili. Samkad’s absorbing journey to manhood is intensified when a white stranger arrives in his village claiming to be his brother, a stranger who tells tales of a people called Americans. Then, when the Americans arrive, bringing war and destruction to the Bontok’s remote mountains, nothing will be the same again. Not for Samkad, nor for his family and culture. By turns universal and unique, historically enlightening and emotionally powerful, this relatable, resonant coming-of-age adventure boasts an abundance of heart, atmosphere and action.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | October 2018 Book of the Month | | Susin Nielsen’s new novel features unforgettable central characters, and is beautifully written; her ear for dialogue – young teen to teen, young teen to parent, young teen to emergency services – pitch perfect. Despite being a story of homelessness and poverty, it will leave readers cheered and thoroughly reassured about the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Twelve-year old Felix lives with his mother Astrid, only rarely seeing his dad. Astrid has a flexible attitude to truth and Felix has developed a chart to measure the lies she tells as they navigate their lives. These range from ‘the invisible lie’, through the ‘no-one gets hurt’ to the biggest, the ‘someone might lose an eye’ lie. As they struggle to cope living in a (stolen) camper van, Astrid uses her panoply of lies to the full and Felix reluctantly goes along with it, ready to support his mother even when it’s really difficult. Nielsen gives him good friends, and a talent for memorising facts, both of which help to set up a better future for him. Both painful and funny, this is a book that will have readers alternatively shouting at its central characters, and cheering them on.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Shortlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2019 | Penguins are popular subjects for picture books, but even I Can Fly stands out for sheer charm and emotional impact. Little Penguin longs to fly and believes he can, even though everyone explains he can’t, including his dad. Only when he falls into the water does he discover what penguins can really do, and his dad is at his side. The theme of valuing what we have is always important and Kuo’s pencil drawings are quite simply superb, catching every emotion so that we understand exactly what Little Penguin is feeling, as well as what it would be like to fly through the water. Gorgeous.
Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award 2018 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2018 |One of our 2018 Books of the Year | Award winning Hilary McKay tells a captivating and deeply moving story of three young people growing up in the years before and during World War One. How their lives were totally changed by the War, how what really happened to the soldiers could never be talked about and how a girl like Clarry suddenly had opportunities because of the war are all touched on in a story that is also about universal adolescent relationships and the timeless concerns of being a teenager. Following their mother’s death at her birth, Clarry and her older brother Peter live a joyless life with their gloomy father. The pair live for their summer holidays in Cornwall with their grandparents which they share with their older cousin Rupert. Here, the trio are free to be themselves and to begin to break away from the constraints of family expectations. When war is declared Rupert enlists: his family is horrified and Clarry and Peter are left trying to work out where he might be, how they themselves should react to the war and, above all, whether Rupert is safe. Hilary McKay has a rare gift for novels about families and their interplay. Here, she weaves her story round one of the most powerful backdrops in history. And she does so with the lightest of touch which makes her history come alive. The Costa Judges said: ‘Chime, resonance and sparkle – a truly great read.’
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Sami gets by in Boston on the money his grandfather makes on the street playing his rehab. When the instrument is stolen, Sami needs to find $700 to get it back. All he has is a man United key ring. It’s only going to be possible if Sami is prepared to accept help. This is a great book for readers not quite ready for YA fiction. It is raw, relevant but full of hope.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2018 | | Catherine Johnson celebrates a hero of Arctic discovery whose story had been forgotten for many years largely because of the colour of his skin in this exciting telling of an important true story. Matthew Henson’s life at home was so hard that at eleven years old he ran away to make a new life for himself in New York. Always attracted by the sea he finds himself drawn into the world of the seafarers who are determined to find a route to the North Pole. Matt joins an expedition and, through a combination of his hard work, his commitment and some lucky breaks he travels across the frozen wastes. His sensitive building of relationships with the Inuit community plays a strong part in his success and in his ultimate and extraordinary achievement: to be the first man to reach the North Pole.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | September 2018 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2018 | | A deliciously dotty fantasy in which almost anything becomes believable. Max longs for a pet but even in his wildest dreams he had never thought that the pet might be a flying pony. But, one stormy night and with a loud Doof!, Kevin turns up on Max’s balcony. Kevin is a flying horse who can also talk. He has few demands except that he needs a constant supply of biscuits – especially custard creams. Soon Max and Kevin are an unstoppable duo putting right all the things that are going wrong in a town surrounded by storm water and besieged by naughty sea-monkeys. It’s all pell-mell action and madcap fun.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Shortlisted for the Children's Book Awards 2019, Books for Older Readers Category | Interest Age 8-10 Reading Age 8 | World War One remains a subject of fascination for readers of all ages, but Tom Palmer finds an original way in to the topic in this poignant new story. Lily is a keen fell runner, though she’s fed up of coming in as runner up in races. A visit to her grandparents reveals a surprise: her great-grandfather ran on the fells too. His experiences are recounted vividly in his diary, both his runs in his beloved Cumbria and his experiences as a soldier, recruited to run between positions on the front line, carrying crucial information to the allies. Their shared experiences form a powerful connection, and help Lily to understand herself better, and also to help her grandma when she needs it most. Today and yesterday are seamlessly woven together in a story that will move readers in lots of different ways.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Everything is new to Isla and her parents when they make a new start on the Orkney islands. The grief of the death of her brother follows Isla, but the coming together of her own story with Celtic tales helps to create a new beginning. This is a compassionate book much enhanced by sensitive illustration. Deceptively simple-seeming, it has something to say at many levels.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Rachel Rooney brings a class to life with poems for all the different characters. There is a rich vein of understanding of children here: never sentimental, always intriguing. Children will delight in the ways in which the styles and patterns of the poems enhance the exploration of each child. The wonderful illustrations draw readers into this magical anthology.
Interest Age 5-8 | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | What a lovely first reading book! Something exciting is happening at school – there’s a paddling pool in the playground, the children are in their swimming costumes – and so are the teachers… It’s Splash Day, a giant water fight the summer reward for everyone’s hard work. What a treat – and it’s a treat to read too. Nick Sharratt’s bright, bold illustrations provide clues so that working out what the words say becomes a kind of game, fun rhymes making it easier still to decode the letters. Splish, splash, splosh – get yourself a copy.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | August 2018 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2018 | | A thought-provoking and touching story of the bond between children and nature, from renowned storyteller and award-winning author Gill Lewis. Award-winning Gill Lewis is renowned for her skilful capturing of the healing power of human/ animal friendships and the importance of nature to all – and especially to children who grow up without much chance to explore it. Searching for a secret place where they can practise their skateboarding, Izzy and Asha discover the perfect spot – the site of an abandoned gas works. But they are not the first to find it. The gas works site is also home to a wounded wolf. Knowing that they must keep its existence a secret the girls take care of the wolf and, in doing so, become involved in keeping the patch of wasteland safe from developers. It is a heartwarming story with a deep theme written in a highly readable way. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Winner of the CLiPPA 2019 | One of our 2018 Books of the Year | These poignant, punch-packing poems explore the varied emotional lives of secondary school pupils facing the giddy transition from being “the biggest to the smallest...in the secondary school jungle” like “gazelles in a field full of lions”. Complex tangles of feelings are laid bare with heart-rending authenticity, from the headiness of he-said-she-said gossip, to the bewildering “who the hell do you sit with?” loneliness that strikes when your best friend’s off school (Thanks a lot, Belinda). Vending Machine is an incredible piece of writing, encapsulating the anguish and anger of betrayal, of having your heart trampled on, and then the bliss of recovery when your heart feels “a little lighter”. Another personal favourite is the sublime Dear Mum, BTEC about a student “drawing different plans” after realising they are ill-suited to exams - plans they hope will make Mum proud. There are jubilant themes too, such as the breathless, time-stopping “WHAM!” of instant attraction, the jangling joy of being at the bottom of a celebratory pile-on after you’ve scored, and the magic of those inspirational, unforgettable teachers who take time to share a book they think you “should try”. A chorus of entertaining, emotionally-charged insights and observations sing and dance through these tender, playful pages, with each short verse alive with empathetic, true-to-life experiences.
Chosen by Cressida Cowell, Guest Editor May 2020 | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Shortlisted for The Branford Boase Award 2019 | Winner the Blue Peter Book Awards 2019, Best Story category | The arrival of a new boy in class sparks a funny, moving and quietly powerful story for young readers. Our narrator – we only discover her name in the last chapter – is immediately intrigued by her new classmate, who doesn’t speak, or smile, and disappears at break times. She’s determined to become his friend and as she gets to know him learns that Ahmet is a refugee from Syria. Finding out that his family are lost somewhere in Europe she decides to help – something that exposes both the prejudice and generosity of those around her. The plotline is very lively – it includes some excellent comic scenes at Buckingham Palace – and Raúf manages to keep the story positive and uplifting while still illustrating the cruelty and bigotry that refugees face. Our Guest Editor, Cressida Cowell said, "This is a lovely, warm book that is all about kindness, and putting yourself into someone else’s shoes."
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Leonard is not your average lion. He isn’t interested in chomping and crunching other creatures. He likes to stroll, think deep thoughts and write poetry with his friend, Marianne the duck. The fierce lions can’t accept this but Leonard, Marianne and the powerful words encourage them to think differently. This is a book for everyone who wants to live life their own way.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Shortlisted for the Children's Book Awards 2019, Books for Younger Children Category | The primary colours have got everything sorted out in the city so they live in separate areas and never mix. But, when a Blue and a Yellow fall in love and marry, baby Green is soon born and everyone realises that mixing together makes everyone much happier. A love story in a paint box with an important message for all young readers.