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Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 | From acclaimed author Eve Ainsworth comes this new novella that packs a powerful punch in its openhearted, honest account of a teen girl trying her hardest to cope with her mum’s alcoholism. Violet has always seen her mum as being “strong, funny and in control”, as a “pretty, glamorous and confident” person who firmly believes, “You have to give a good impression at all times.” In contrast, Violet is “the quiet one …I’m the worrier who can never be confident.” But since her mum’s boyfriend left, Mum’s “it’s just one glass” of wine is starting to have an affect on their family life, with Violet increasingly having to pick-up caring for her little brother when Mum’s too hung-over to get out of bed. As Violet finds more empty bottles around the house, and finds herself having to lie to cover her mum, matters come to a scary head and she knows she has to be brave and seek help. Truly brilliant at capturing Violet’s conflicted feelings – an excruciating pull between love and anger – this compelling, moving story will engross fans of true-to-life fiction, while casting sensitive light on a tough subject. And, since this is published by the ever-brilliant Barrington Stoke, this book is especially suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers, with its expert attention to vocabulary, layout, font and paper.
August 2020 Debut of the Month | Will Levine has two passions in his life, the local wildlife reserve behind his school and the turtles he has found there. The rest of his life is a bit of a disaster in his eyes – he is given an unkind nickname at school, due to a facial difference, he has to cope with an upcoming Bar Mitzvah, and he has a community service he needs to fulfil for a boy who is confined to a hospital room. Then, to make matters worse, the county plans to sell off the nature reserve. Plus, there is a looming surgical procedure for Will – who hates having blood tests, never mind anything else. How can he make these things work for him – how can he survive it all, when all he really wants to do is look after his turtles and hide away. Slowly Will responds to the needs of RJ who is stuck in the hospital, and they build a strong and wildly adventurous friendship that takes Will away from his comfort zone and helps RJ experience things he would never have chance to do himself. As well as the obvious empathy the book elicits from its readers there is a wonderful amount of humour, and some passing knowledge gained about turtles too! A wonderful story for all of life’s outsiders – offering hope and new perspectives.
Patrick Neate’s Small Town Hero melds a sensitive handling of real-life loss with alternate world weirdness to create a surprising, unique novel. There’s grief and gaming, family secrets and football, and the interwoven themes of loss and science will appeal to readers who liked Christopher Edge’s The Many Worlds of Albie Bright and are now a little older. Everything changed for thirteen-year-old Gabe when his dad died in a car accident. First there’s his grief, which has created a “black hole inside me.” Then there’s his unsettling new ability: “the stories I imagine become real.” Reeling with grief and confusion, Gabe finds he’s not entirely alone when he spends more time with his estranged Uncle Jesse, writer of an online game called Small Town Hero, which - to make matters even weirder – appears to echo Gabe’s life. Jesse believes “there aren’t just a few realities, but a countless number” and explains that when Gabe shifts realities and sees alternate versions of his present and future life, he’s crossing something called an “event horizon”. As Gabe’s reality-shifting plays out, he also falls out with his best friend. Still, he has Soccer School to look forward to, and here Gabe takes on pertinent football wisdom from one his Watford icons: “Football’s a game of moments. You get the ball, you choose a pass and, whether you chose right or wrong and did it well or badly, the moment’s gone and you gotta move on…the game makes you live in the here and now – you can’t change what’s gone and you can’t see what’s coming.” For similar books you can find an exciting and varied selection in our new Gritty Reads section
August 2020 Book of the Month | Aspiring witches 9 years and older will find this an invaluable and empowering guide, filled with authentic detail and strikingly illustrated. With the supernatural wisdom of modern-day witches Elsa Whyte and Julie Legere and Laura Perez's rich artwork, step into your dark sisterhood and discover the Secrets of the Witch.
August 2020 Book of the Month | Less than one year ago, until November 2019 in fact, SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus hadn’t infected a single person and was completely unknown to nearly all of us. Now it has changed our whole world, yet most of us still have only a hazy idea of what viruses are, which is where this brilliant little book comes in. The Virus tells you everything there is to know about viruses including of course COVID-19. It explains what viruses are, what they look like and do, why they are so successful at making us ill, what we can do to combat them, and why some of them actually help us. If this sounds a bit technical or heavy going, think again: it’s fascinating stuff and presented in a way that makes it really easy to read and understand. The story of coronavirus as told here is an adventure, full of heroes and villains, facts and figures that will stop you in your tracks, and some good jokes too. I can’t think of a more interesting or relevant book for our times – everyone needs to read this! If you're interested in science you can find many similar titles in our Best Non-Fiction collection.
Twig (a boy) wakes in the afterlife with vague memories of his Da, here he meets a Raven, Kruuk, to help guide him into Heaven where he will be part of the great forgetting. But Twig wanders off the path and meets the Gatherer, who gives him the Lost Soul Atlas, a skeleton key and a bag of bones with which to open Crossings between the physical world and the hereafter. Can Twig open all the Crossings whilst being chased by the Officials? If he opens them will his memories drag him into the real world and keep him there, in which case he will fade before he finds out what happened to him before he died…. He will forget his close ‘blood family’ friend Flea – who is also a street child and a pick pocket. This is a thought-provoking look at life for street children, how they survive against the odds, the forces lined against them as they try to live, and the lack of choices they have when forced to thieve to keep themselves alive. It is an exploration of loyalty amongst friends and family. There are scares - and lots of caring - but ultimately it is a song to the strength of the human spirit. The author was once told “to shine a light in all the dark places” – and much as one might expect from knowledge of Fraillon’s previous prize-winning books – this book does exactly that, using a richness of language that both exhilarates and makes you cry. It is both timeless and ageless having a wide appeal. A powerful read I would highly recommend.
The case for ethical leadership in schools | Being neither a Head nor an aspiring leader, I was initially wary of reviewing this book. But being married to an ex-head I thought it would be interesting to view someone else’s viewpoint and perspective. Oddly enough, the more I read, the more I realised that what she had to say applied to all of us. Her approach to leadership and her belief in people and the importance of a calm and caring team are values applicable to any workplace. The book is set out in a clear and informative style, easily accessible due to the overview, the subheadings and the questions raised at the end of each chapter. She manages to get her points across in a non-patronising, honest and thoughtful way. What she says is both sensible and achievable. She recognises the various leadership styles and makes no secret of the loneliness and often overwhelmingly difficult task headship can be. The impact of poverty and lack of funding is delivered without laying blame. Her approach throughout is to make life easier for everyone, Heads, staff, parents and children. She is not waving a magic wand or trying to reinvent the wheel, simply to ask the questions. Her approach is neither radical or revolutionary and that is what makes it work, makes it achievable. I think everyone could take something from this book. She is certainly a Head I would be happy to work for.
An inspirational history of the LGBTQ+ movement | With activist and founder of LGBT History Month and Schools OUT UK, Susan Sanders, as consultant, you can be confident that the information in this essential resource is reliable as well as being engaging and highly readable. The foreword by celebrity actor Layton Williams and the Why I Have Pride vignettes interspersed throughout the book, featuring young people from across the whole spectrum of the LBGTQ+ community, will ensure a high level of interest from young people and provide empowering messages for them to read. Starting from the evidence of acceptance in ancient history through the growth of persecution as Christianity flourishes in Europe, the brutality of the Inquisition, the recurrence of the death penalty for homosexuality around the world and the disaster of the Aids epidemic, this book does not hide the darker side of the history of the LGBTQ+ movement, but the emphasis is very much on the brave people who took on the fight against discrimination, prejudice and injustice. So, although agonising setbacks occurred, the overall progress has been upwards and the overall impact of the book is to inspire and celebrate. Helped, no doubt, by the rainbow coloured cover and vibrant illustrations. The timeline of milestones, comprehensive index and glossary and guide to sources of further information add value as a reference tool, but this is very much a book that will be read with pleasure and I hope with pride!
July 2020 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | In this important new resource, author Cerrie Burnell has put together a fascinating collection of inspiring stories. As she says in her introduction when she was growing up as a child born with just one hand “there just weren’t enough books with a disabled protagonist” and “Everyone deserves to see someone like them in a story and achieving something great” Her own achievements are themselves inspirational and she has long been a disability rights campaigner as well as much loved CBeebies presenter and children’s author and so the whole book is infused with authenticity and passion. A double page spread for each of the 34 role models and two special sections on mental health and “invisible disabilities” are all evocatively illustrated by comic artist and graphic designer, Lauren Baldo capturing the time and spirit of the featured individual and giving real context to the highly readable and fascinating life stories. Starting in 1770 with Beethoven and finishing in 2001 with the birth of black, transgender disabled model superstar Aaron Philip, the life stories are commendably international and wide ranging, challenging our preconceived ideas of what is possible. From the familiar Helen Keller and Stevie Wonder to the less well known like break dancer Redouan Ait Chit, mountaineer Arunima Sinha, lawyer Catalina Devandas to celebrities like Lady Gaga,whose disability was a complete surprise to me, these stories will open eyes and minds. A comprehensive glossary and helpful discussion of language choices around disability and representation throughout add even more usefulness to this essential and attractive resource.
July 2020 Book of the Month | Set in the author’s native Wales during the dark days of the fifth century, Ellen Caldecott’s The Short Knife is an energetic, edge-of-your-seat page-turner with present-day resonance as 21st-century Britain - island of migrants - faces the challenge of forging an identity independent of continental Europe. With the Romans compelled to leave Britain after 400 years, the island is on the brink of collapse. Amidst this uncertainty and the chaos of Saxon invasion, thirteen-year-old Mai is cared for by her dad and sister (she lost her mam when she was three), and wrestling with her “anger at the people free to flee into the hills. Anger at all the world and everyone in it. I want to open my mouth and let the fire out, burn it all into blackness.” When Saxon warriors turn up at their farm, the family is forced to flee to the dangerous hills themselves. Mai must cross the threshold from childhood to adulthood if she’s to survive in a hostile world in which speaking in her mother tongue might turn out to be fatal. The cinematic scene-setting, first person narrative, and succinct, magnetically lyrical style make for a thrilling experience that will hook the most reluctant of readers. Recommended for fans of Caroline Lawrence and Damian Dibben’s The History Keepers series, this offers enlightening insights into British history with fresh flair, and through the eyes of a compelling main character.
Omar Mohammed spent his childhood at the enormous Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya after fleeing the war in Sudan with his younger brother, having seen their father killed and becoming separated from their mother. Eventually resettled to America, he was already working on his memoir for adults when he met the Newbery Honor winning author who persuaded him to turn his story into a graphic novel. This accessible format and the first-person narration create an intimate picture of a very real boy and what life in a refugee camp is really like. It importantly puts a face and a personality to the refugee crisis. We feel the hunger, the physical drudgery, the monotony and the frustrations, but also the sense of community, the love and support of friends and neighbours and the moments of joy and the passion for learning. Omar and his friends Jeri, Nima and Maryam all want to learn and aspire to escape to the West. The injustice of the lack of spaces for older children, of girls who are not allowed to study and of who gets selected for resettlement are unforgettably conveyed. The relationships between Omar and Hassan, his mute and damaged brother, and with Fatima who lost all her sons in Sudan but cares for them is beautifully and movingly portrayed. They never lose hope that they might find their mother and in the afterword we discover how that story turned out. Readers cannot help but develop empathy and compassion for people like Omar. This is an outstanding book that is truly engaging, educative and heart-breaking but ultimately a story of hope and doing the best you can. An essential purchase for schools.
June 2020 Book of the Month | Teeming with drama and compelling code-cracking action, this WWII thriller is driven by the lives of three young people determined to make their mark on the war effort, and by the life-affirming relationship between fifteen-year-old Louisa and the elderly woman she’s employed to look after. Aspiring pilot Louisa is alone in the world. Her white English mother was killed in a London bomb blast, and her black Jamaican dad died on a ship that was torpedoed only three days after her mother died. Through her grief brave Louisa “burns to fight back” and takes a job looking after Jane, an elderly German woman who’s been imprisoned in an alien detainment camp. While travelling to stay with Jane’s niece in her Scottish pub, they form a beautiful bond, finding common ground in their love of music and the fact that they’re both outsiders in Britain - Jane because she’s German, and Louisa because she’s mixed race and subjected to racism. In Scotland they meet fellow outsider, Ellen, a driver for the local RAF airfield who tries to hide her traveller heritage. Ellen’s active role makes Louisa more determined to do something herself, so she takes her chance when a German defector lands at the airfield and leaves a codebreaking Enigma machine. It’s not long before Louisa, Ellen and young flight lieutenant Jamie step-up their war efforts, as their story builds to an impeccably conducted, pulse-quickening crescendo. Alongside being a gripping thriller, this is a truly moving, inspirational novel. Louisa’s passion for music and learning, her wit and ambition, are exhilaratingly infectious. I’d love to know what she does next.