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This gripping must-read for sports fans fizzes with a powerful message about picking yourself up and self-belief, and a poignant portrayal of gang culture coercion. I cannot praise Dan Freeman’s compassion-rich writing enough. Life’s not easy for twin fourteen-year-olds Kaine and Roxy growing up on their London estate. Their dad’s lost his job and mum works all hours. But Roxy and Kaine aren’t your average teenagers. He’s a super-talented footballer with Premier League potential, and she’s an outstanding tennis player, tipped for the top. Oh, and they can’t stand each other. After being close as kids, they’ve grown apart, with Roxy loathing the fact that Kaine’s always in trouble, and Kaine hating the way Roxy gets all the attention and support, overlooked even when a scout for a Premier League club comes to watch him. Both a bundle of frustration, Kaine is tempted into dangerous territory. If only Mamma, their Barbados-born grandmother, was around to keep Kaine on the right track. Mamma’s warm, wise presence is felt throughout the novel. She was the person Kaine turned to in times of need. She’d feed him soul food, remind him that he’s special, urge him to “do the extraordinary.” Sage advice comes from Kaine’s supportive PE teacher too, who counsels “There are paths in life, there are choices. And you are at one of those crossroads now”. When tragedy strikes as Kaine loses his way it takes a whole lot of soul-searching for him to turns things round and become the extraordinary young man he is. And Roxy tackles her profoundly life-changing situation with heartrending courage too. With overriding messages of hope, compassion, doing the right thing and staying true to yourself, this is an absolute galáctico, Grand Slam winner of a novel.
Larabelle Fox is an orphan, a tosher who searches the sewers for any ‘treasure’ she can find, in the sewer system under Kings Haven. She is ranged against rival toshing gangs who want to rob her, as well as the powerful King’s Witch who wants to revive the Evernight in a bid to gain total power for herself. Unbeknownst to Lara she has found exactly what the King’s Witch and her awesomely scary djinn Shadow Jack are looking for – a box, long lost in the sewers. Can Lara discover what she can do with the box and its contents before the world succumbs to the evil of the Evernight? This is a wild magical delight of a story. The bad guys are wickedly bad and seemingly undefeatable, whilst Lara and her friend Joe Littlefoot seem small and powerless. But they have quick wits and goodness on their side, as well as the witches, though it will mainly be down to Lara that a defence is put up to the Evernight.This is the sort of book that will create a buzz of enjoyment, the fantasy world is well built, believable, cinematic and child friendly. The magic is fun, the friendship believable, the story is refreshing, and the feisty heroine is a delight to follow. I shall look forward to more books in this series.
Encompassing works from ancient sages, classic poets, well-known thinkers and emerging contemporary innovators from all walks of life, this involving, inclusive collection inspires, entertains, enthrals and emboldens. Alongside enjoying the work of widely-esteemed names (including Sappho, George Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay, Christina Rosetti, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson and Margaret Atwood), it was a pleasure to discover contemporary poets whose work I shall seek out, among them Ruth Awola and Remi Graves, and lesser-known names from the past, for example Edith Södergran and Astrid Hjertenaes Andersen. If the diversity of voices is rich, so too are the themes, with growing up, friendship, love, nature, body image and protest covered in staggering depth and diversity. This varied chorus of bold, incisive voices makes for a collection to be savoured and shared.
The summer holidays are dragging on and Harry Potter can't wait for the start of the school year. It is his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and there are spells to be learnt and (unluckily) Potions and Divination lessons to be attended. But Harry needs to be on his guard at all times - his worst enemy is preparing a terrible fate for him. With characteristic wit, fast-paced humour and marvellous emotional depth, J.K. Rowling has proved herself yet again to be a master storyteller.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2020 | January 2020 Book of the Month | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 9 | Award-winning author Tanya Landman captures the high drama and deep romance of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre is this fresh retelling. While in the setting of the story and the overarching plot and twists that propel it she is faithful to the time and place of the original and to the feel of both, she has given Jane a boldness and independence that is both entirely in keeping with the original and refreshingly modern.
January 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s love, friendship and challenging prejudice aplenty in this debut novel by a LGBTQ+ parenting expert. Introverted Izzy has just started Year 8 and is wildly excited when her favourite teacher announces auditions for a Christmas production of Guys and Dolls. Though shy, she’s come to love acting because on stage she “could be whoever I wanted.” And Izzy’s not the only member of her family who wants - and needs - to be who they really are, as she discovers when her dad tells the family he’s transgender and is about to begin transitioning. Though he gently explains, “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s nothing dirty, I’m not ill”, Izzy’s older sister reacts angrily, her little brother accepts it in the same way he understands Spider Man and Peter Parker’s different identities, while Izzy feels quiet worry about how their lives will change. The family’s journey is honestly and sensitively portrayed as they endure hurtful prejudice alongside many heart-melting moments, such as the gorgeous scene in which the three siblings think-up their new name for Dad. This is at once an important support tool for children in similar situations, and a barrier-breaking, empathy-inducing story for all.
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.
20 lessons on how to wake up, take action, and do the work | This has 20 colourful chapters which slowly build to give a full picture of identities, histories and anti-racism work in the USA, Australia and UK. It is aimed at students (mainly) with the intention to make them feel empowered to challenge racism and stand up for what they believe in. Having said that – it is a powerful and accessible read for everyone. Tiffany Jewell is an anti-racist, anti-bias educationalist who uses a very carefully chosen vocabulary so that no-one is excluded, supported by the wonderful bright colour illustrations and layout it makes an inviting read on a sometimes difficult topic. Each chapter is a chance for the reader to look at their own beliefs, their power, or their lack of it, and consider what might be possible to change. The chapters are arranged in groupings under the headings of Understanding and growing Identities; Making sense of the world; Taking action and responding to racism; Working in solidarity against racism. If taken as the basis of a series of study this could provide a fascinating term’s work (at least) as it covers so much in such a short book. This makes it sound rather didactic – it isn’t, this is a very readable, very informative, very thought-provoking book. Just what we need in this radicalized and strife-ridden world. Buy copies for your school – you won’t regret it!
Twice winner of the Carnegie Medal, Berlie Doherty is one of our finest writers for young people and Deep Secret is a beautifully told story of people, place, changing times and lasting memories. At its heart are two young girls, identical twins Grace and Madeleine, but it’s just as much the story of their community, the people of a small Derbyshire village. It’s 1945, a time of change for the whole country but particularly for the characters in the book: the valley in which they live is to be flooded for a reservoir and they must all leave their homes. Even before the waters arrive, stories float to the surface and we learn so much about the people of the valley and their history. It’s a wonderfully touching description of a lost way of life, and when a tragic event occurs drama and pain follows before finally acceptance and understanding. This is the kind of story that resonates with readers long after the final page, and highly recommended.
This little volume is just the right size to fit into a pocket or backpack and it’s well worth young readers keeping it to hand at all times as it’s packed with advice on ways to be more green. Chapters include ‘Do You Live in a Green House?’, ‘Shopping for the Planet’ and ‘Stop Polluting the Planet’ and after describing the impact of the ways of life we all take for granted, they list things we can easily do to make a difference. These ‘over to you’ sections are practical, do-able and empowering. There’s a list of websites to visit at the end to find out more, as well as Planet Pledges to sign – one for the reader, one for the reader’s family. Accessible, informative and positive, this is a great book for anyone who cares about the future of our planet and highly recommended.
The second in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. His ‘Dark Materials’, is the story of Lyra, a young girl with an exceptional destiny. Brought up in Jordan College, Oxford Lyra uncovers a secret about her mysterious guardian which leads to some dangerous questioning. It also marks the beginning of Lyra’s search for her friend Roger, a search that takes her to the ice kingdoms of the North where armoured bears rule. Lyra’s courage and stubborn determination lead her on this mission of incredible danger in this brilliant and imaginative story. It’s completely original and totally spellbinding; a true classic that will stand the test of time much in the way Tolkien’s famous work has done.