No catches, no fine print just unconditional book love and reading recommendations for your students and children.
You can create your own school's page, develop tailored reading lists to share with peers and parents...all helping encourage reading for pleasure in your children.Find out more
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | The Silent Stars Go By is a riveting read-in-one-sitting experience driven by compelling characters who leap off the page, not least the young woman at its heart, an unmarried secretarial student who’s forced to give up her baby during WWI. The novel is also underpinned by a superb sense of social history, with evocative details of post-war village life nestling within the bigger story, and - as might be expected of the author of Things a Bright Girl Can Do - it’s threaded with feminist themes. It’s 1919, Christmas is on the horizon and two years have passed since nineteen-year-old Margot was forced to give up her baby for her parents to raise as their own. She was only fifteen when she and Harry fell madly in love ahead of him being called up. The magic of their time together is evoked in all its tingling passion, contrasting with Margot’s present-day torments. It hurts when little James calls her mother “Mummy”, and she doesn’t know how she can continue to keep James a secret from Harry, who’s returned to the village after recuperating on the Isle of Wight. The flashbacks to Margot’s time on the maternity ward are particularly poignant and, of course, the reason she has to endure this unbearable situation is due to the fact that she lives in a world in which “the girl is the one whose honour is defiled or whatever rot they spout” whereas “the boy is just being a boy”. Coupled with that wider context, Margot’s vicar father is a man who “forgave drunks and tramps and fallen women and the men who tried to steal the lead from the church roof. But he couldn’t forgive her.” Realising that “things couldn’t go on like this,” Margot decides to confront her fears amidst the rare glamour of a ball on New Year’s Eve.
Jessie Burton’s fiery feminist re-telling of the Greek myth of Medusa blazes with intrigue and beauty courtesy of author’s elegant style and Olivia Lomenech Gill’s fabulously evocative colour illustrations. It’s an incredible feat of intellect and imagination that takes down toxic masculinity and victim-blaming culture through an ingenious reframing, reclaiming of Medusa. The gods have exiled Medusa to a remote island, with no one for company but the snakes she has for hair. That is, until impossibly beautiful Perseus arrives and transfixes her: “I know a lot about beauty. Too much in fact. But I’d never seen anything like him…I wanted to eat him up like honey cake.” Desires awoken, Medusa won’t reveal her name, or let him see her: “I was just going to sit on the other side of this entrance rock and pretend that boys like him washed up on desert islands all the time.” This excerpt encapsulates one of the many marvellous things about this book. The writing - cleverly, and compellingly - feels both timeless and modern. Medusa’s narrative, and the dialogue, is laced with wit, and infused with tremendous detail. But betrayal swoops in the wake of desire, and all-too familiar mechanisms of patriarchy come into play with ferocity. Ultimately, though, and with a magnificent sense of sisterhood, Medusa comes to a new state of being: “Self-awareness is a great banisher of loneliness. And my sisters, the immortals, are with me.” This is terrifically inspiring and empowering in the ways of timeless myths, but also in ways that are very, very real - “you will find me when you need me, when the wind hears a woman’s cry and fills my sails forward. And I will whisper on the water that one must never fear the raised shield, the reflection caught in an office window, or the mirror in a bathroom.”
Toby leads a quiet and unhappy life in London, with his climate-?activist mother and his distant and frustrated father, whom he idolises. Overlooked as his parent’s divorce, Toby’s only friends are the family lodger Mrs Papadopoulos and her cat Alfred. When a mysterious shadow appears in his garden, and then in his dreams, Toby is drawn into an alternative land and immediately thrown into danger as he finds himself trapped in a raging forest fire, searching for Alfred who he has followed through the tunnel-?portal. Balthasar is a land enslaved by a cruel Regent and an absent and mysterious queen where the Dreamers have the magical power to dream things into existence. But at what cost? It soon becomes apparent that Balthasar is falling apart with fires, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis commonplace, all resulting from the energy expended by the Dreamers as they are forced to dream more things into reality to combat the disasters and unhappiness befalling the land. Toby meets Tamurlaine, a strange and otherworldly girl who has lost her memory. To uncover the mystery of her identity and to get Toby back home, the pair must go on a thrilling journey to the heart of the kingdom of Balthasar, right into the castle of the Regent... With the help of Tamurlaine’s friendship Toby finds his own identity, realising his father is as imperfect as the world around him. Tamurlaine too is on a journey of self-? discovery, uncovering a disturbing past and learning that she does not need to be defined by this, and can travel her own path rather than the one laid out for her.
This page-turning story of two teenage boys living either side of the Berlin Wall in the 1960s evokes a period that’s yet to be widely explored in UK children’s literature. As such, it offers welcome (and outlandish) coverage of a key time in modern history, while also delivering a thriller that reels with tension and personal conflict. Harry is a comic-obsessed US citizen who’s recently moved from Washington to West Berlin - his dad has a high-powered job with the US government. In the opening pages, he witnesses the brutal, traumatic sight of a boy being shot while trying to flee the East for the West. As this haunts Harry, his parents become increasingly fraught by the strains of his father’s job, and he sends a message over the wall. It’s found by Jakob, a boy living in the East. Jakob has been adopted by a prominent Stasi officer and his wife, who hope to mould him into a model citizen of the GDR while he clings onto hope that his mother and sister might still be alive. The boys strike up a friendship through exchanging letters over the wall, using secret codes to communicate what they really think, what’s really happening in their lives. While an atmosphere of suspicion and fear radiates from the paranoid political context, their bond is based on trust and they share dangerous secrets, including an audacious plan - Jakob and his musician friends are working to escape to the West via a tunnel. The escalating urgency is palpable as the escape draws closer and Harry discovers shocking revelations. No one is who they seem; the danger is very real and powerfully evoked. One for fans of thrilling action adventures with real-life “imagine being there” intrigue.
Absolutely dazzling. With exemplary research that beautifully integrates details of time and place, outstanding characterisation that rings with empathy and authenticity, and powerfully resonant themes, Celia Rees’ Pirates is a true triumph of historic fiction. I could say what a swashbuckling adventure this is. How brilliantly the book conjures the thrills and dangers of life on the piratical high seas; what an incredible page-turner it is. And, while Pirates! certainly is all these things, it’s also much, much more. Centred around two extraordinary young women readers will truly care about, it conveys the brutality of slavery in the West Indies, and how women were but pawns in a man’s world - forced into slavery on white-owned plantations, and enslaved by marriage, too. Nancy is the free-spirited daughter of a merchant. Minerva is a strong young woman enslaved in Jamaica. Following his death, Nancy travels to Jamaica, where she meets Minerva on her father’s plantation, and they immediately strike up a bond. As grotty circumstances escalate and close in, the young women flee the lives the world has set out for them by becoming pirates. There’s tremendous tension, epic action, and a gorgeous sense of sisterhood (and romance, too) as the women sail the world determined to live the lives they deserve. May this reissue make its way to legions of new readers - teenagers, young adults and adults alike. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Set in Britain against the backdrop of the French Revolution, Sovay once again confirms Celia Rees’ tremendous talent for unpacking and enlivening major historical events through new perspectives, most notably through the eyes and experiences of strong female leads who refuse to do as they’re told. Born into a wealthy English family, Sovay has lived a pretty privileged life, though through her forward-thinking father, she has an acute awareness of the principles of justice and liberty. We meet Sovay in splendidly dramatic style when, dressed as a highwayman, she entraps her lover and proves his intentions and commitment are not what she’d hoped - not what she deserves. Amidst this personal anger and turmoil, her father vanishes, and it seems her brother has vanished from his Oxford college. Cue Sovay’s intrepid investigation of what’s happened, cue many more highwaywoman incarnations, and cue the unravelling of a web of political corruption, secret societies and monstrous science as the impact of the French Revolution hits very close to home. Packed with passion, political intrigue and rip-roaring, death-defying action, this is the kind of page-turner that could well spark a desire to dig deeper into history.
When animals talk, it's time humans listened.. Harlon has been raised to protect her younger siblings, twins Ash and Xeno, and their outlawed power of communicating with animals. But when the sinister Automators attack their mountain home they must flee for their lives. Xeno is kidnapped and Harlon and Ash are separated. In a thrilling and dangerous adventure they must all journey alone through the ice fields, forests and oceans of Rumyc to try to rescue each other and fulfil a mysterious promise about a lost island made to their mother. A stunning environmental epic with cover and chapter illustrations by award-winning illustrator, Jackie Morris.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2021 | Shortlisted for the Iris Award | Longlisted for the YA Jhalak Prize | Longlisted for the YA Diverse Book Award | Written with luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War. Based on a revolutionary real-life 1760 Jamaican slave rebellion, a visceral sense of the atrocities Moa and his fellow field slaves are subjected to is evoked from the start. Their bodies are lashed and “roasted by a brutal sun”, Moa hasn’t seen his house-slave mama for three years, his papa lost an arm in mill machinery, and his friend Hamaya fears the day predatory white men will “come for me.” Spurred by the death of Miss Pam who “drop inna da field and lose her life”, and led by Miss Pam’s brother Tacky, who “trod like a king” and whose brain “work quick like Anancy”, the uprising hinges on the freedom fighters killing the plantation master. While Moa is glad to be given a pivotal role in the rebellion, he fears that success and escape will mean he’ll never see his parents or Hamaya again - his conflict is palpable, but he’s set on being a cane warrior. Outside the plantation, Moa’s world is immediately transformed, with his life as a freedom fighter evoked in fine detail (I loved the depiction of him tasting creamy, fleshy sweetsop for the first time). There are bloody battles ahead, executed in the presence of Akan gods, and driven by brotherhood and hope for that dreamland. Lucidly lyrical and raw, I cannot praise Cane Warriors enough.
October 2021 Book of the Month | In this riveting story of murder, secrets, and tragedy, Jennifer Mathieu reimagines S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders from a female perspective. Bad Girls Never Say Die has all the drama and heartache of that teen classic, but with a feminist take just right for our times.
October 2021 YA Debut of the Month | From Queenie to Empress, Candice Carty-Williams’ first YA novel is a fresh, authentically engaging, read-in-one-sitting exploration of class, compassion, friendship and empathy that uses a fab Trading Places/Freaky Friday device to tell the tale of two teenage girls who form a life-changing friendship. Empress lives in poverty on a South London estate. Being a bright, young thing, she’s won a scholarship to a fancy school, where she’s thrown in with a bunch of privileged girls who (mostly) mock her poverty. It’s also where she meets Aniya, who’s assigned to help her settle in. They share a birthday, but (on the face of it), not much else, given that Aniya lives in a huge house and her parents have high-profile jobs. The rich-poor divide is thrown into stark contrast when Empress goes to Aniya’s house (Aniya wants to make sure Empress eats) and meets her family. Her kindly, successful barrister dad is “a tall, handsome man who looked a bit like a budget Obama”, though their home and lifestyle are anything but budget. When Aniya resolves to understand how it feels to live in Empress’s shoes, they cast a spell that sees them swap bodies, setting in motion a succession of life-changing circumstances. Honest, warm, and utterly gripping, this heart-felt page-turner also provides generous insights into managing emotions and fostering empathy.