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Reviews

The night bus hero

The night bus hero

Onjali Q Rauf
Orion Children's Books

Written from a bully's perspective, an engrossing read on the impacts of homelessness. Told through humour it also includes themes of kindness and empathy whilst celebrating that people can change for the good. Just brilliant!

Melanie Crawford Reviewed by Melanie Crawford on 23rd October 2020
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A world full of poems

A world full of poems


Dorling K

What an absolutely great collection. A diverse range to make you laugh and think. A lovely anthology and a must for any poetry collection

Dawn Franklin Reviewed by Dawn Franklin on 16th October 2020
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The orphans of St Halibut's

The orphans of St Halibut's

Sophie Wills
Macmillan

When their miserable matron is killed in a freak accident, the children of St. Halibut's orphanage are thrilled. They bury her in the vegetable patch and completely forget about bathing, spellings or cleaning. When DEATH (Department of Education, Assimilation, Training and Health) send an inspector to check out their home, they realise they will have to outwit the adults to keep their happy new existence going. But when the inspector arrives, things quickly take a turn for the worse...

A brilliantly written book with a touch of the gothic, this debut has it all! Plucky orphans, dastardly villains, plenty of revolting moments and a very grumpy goat... Cleverly plotted and with likeable, exaggerated characters who stagger from one disaster to the next, the lively text is perfectly accompanied by David Tazzyman's instantly recognisable illustrations. 

This has great shelf appeal and deserves to issue widely. Buy plenty! 

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 5th October 2020
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The miracle on Ebenezer Street

The miracle on Ebenezer Street

Catherine Doyle
Puffin

Three long years have passed since George's mother was killed on Christmas Eve - and since George's dad cancelled Christmas for them. Trapped in their grief, the lonely pair (and George's nan) are miserable and isolated as seemingly the entire world enjoys the festivities. But when George chances upon a very special snow globe in a rather magical shop, he starts off a series of visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future - and hopefully a change of heart for his dad...

Taking a much-loved Christmas classic (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens) and giving it a very modern update, complete with purple reindeer and cheeky elves, takes some nerve. Luckily Catherine Doyle has managed to craft a hugely enjoyable adventure sprinkled with sly humour, heartbreaking poignancy and a little bit of magic. Destined to be a future classic itself, The Miracle on Ebenezer Street is sure to make readers laugh out loud and shed a tear. An essential purchase for seasonal collections everywhere. 

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 5th October 2020
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Cane warriors

Cane warriors

Alex Wheatle
Andersen Pr

Brutal, unforgiving narrative,  and speech written in patois may be hard to swallow, but this is an important and powerful read. Fantastic stuff from a great author

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 5th October 2020
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October, October

October, October

Katya Balen
Bloomsbury

Wonderfully warm and lyrical, with vivid and imaginative characters and an unusual story with universal themes.  Great for promoting discussion on the value of nature to wellbeing. Lovely

Lucy McConnell Reviewed by Lucy McConnell on 21st September 2020
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My life as a cat

My life as a cat

Carlie Sorosiak
Nosy Crow

This is a wholly fresh take on some familiar tropes with hugely likeable characters and a cracking road trip mission for a finale. A really enjoyable read with some emotional punch as well! And the observations about life on Earth from our alien tourist hero are pretty spot on and shot through with a warm, wry humour. Think a modern version of 'ET' but with a bit less Spielberg schmaltz!

Laura Hayward Reviewed by Laura Hayward on 16th September 2020
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Voyage of the Sparrowhawk

Voyage of the Sparrowhawk

Natasha Farrant
Faber

Has the nostalgic adventure of Blyton with the emotion and character strength of Ibbotson. Cracking, original read that is both unconventional and gripping. Very good

Diane Gill Reviewed by Diane Gill on 7th September 2020
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Punching the air

Punching the air

Ibi Zoboi
HarperCollins

Amal has been sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit, caged for being a black teen in the wrong place at the wrong time. In utter despair, he turns to his art and poetry to channel his anger and attempt to redeem himself. 

This compelling and lyrical read is written in verse and demonstrates both the systemtic racism faced by African-American men and the redemptive power of art and poetry. Based on real events, this is a passionate rallying cry for social change and a well-written, affecting tale of an individual tragedy. 

An excellent addition to shelves for older teens looking to learn more about  some of the issues behind the Black Lives Matter movement, this is well worth stocking in schools and public libraries. 

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 3rd September 2020
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Butterfly brain

Butterfly brain

Laura Dockrill
Piccadilly Pr

An intriguing, powerful tale that takes many turns and is both cautionary and cathartic. The intricate verse and evocative illustrations express the powerful emotions around grief and healing in a moving way. Very good for PSHE or Literacy uses

Diane Gill Reviewed by Diane Gill on 3rd September 2020
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How to build an orchestra

How to build an orchestra

Mary Auld
Wayland

This beautifully illustrated title talks the reader through how an orchestra is set up, from auditions for each musician to putting together a performance. Featuring 2 CDs of music designed to be listened to along with the text, it is both a joyful celebration of the power of making music as a group and a really informative read. 

We follow the conductor as he assembles his orchestra, with added facts about each instrument and how it is played. Each track from a CD is carefully integrated with the text, so that the reader can get the full musical experience. With a distinct lack of high-quality titles on this topic, this title is a fresh of breath air and an essential purchase for schools and libraries.

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 28th August 2020
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Chelsea High

Chelsea High

Jenny Oliver
Electric Monkey

Norah has been thrust into a new world - an exclusive fee-paying school in central London, paid for by grandparents she didn't know existed. It's all because her dad has been arrested after his latest hare-brained scheme turned out to be illegal. As she juggles avoiding the wrath of Instagram influencer Coco Summers, as well as her immediate crush on classmate Ezra Montgomery, Norah must also cope with her father's impending trial, her mother's shock & grief and getting to know her wealthy, buttoned-up grandparents.

I was expecting a lighthearted, fish-out-of-water romance, but this book has more depth then you'd think. It makes a good point about how wealth and privilege don't make you immune to heartbreak and tragedy, as well as demonstrating the effects of crime on a family and tight-knit community. Norah grows throughout the novel and becomes more self-assured and less self-absorbed, but continues to be a likeable and sympathetic character. Of course the requisite elements of every soap opera are there - the bitchy villain and the gorgeous love interest - but it has enough to it that it's a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Great teen appeal, and well worth promoting in schools and libraries.

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 20th August 2020
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The lost soul atlas

The lost soul atlas

Zana Fraillon
Orion Children's Books

Both a compelling fantasy quest and a powerful evocation of life on the streets, this is a fantastic tale from a talented writer. Great for JF/Teen crossover

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 10th August 2020
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Every little piece of my heart

Every little piece of my heart

Non Pratt
Walker Bks

Freya left her old life in a hurry, without goodbyes and without an explanation. Her best friend Sophie has been waiting five months to hear from her - and then a parcel arrives from Freya. But inside is simply another layer, addressed to Win, a girl Freya barely knew. Or did she? Sophie and Win come together to try and work out what Freya is trying to tell them.

The mysterious set-up for this title engages straight away, and the strong characterisation ensures that each protagonist has an individual voice. The use of multiple narrators could be a distraction, but under this skilled author it contributes to the utterly compelling plot. As we uncover layers of Freya's former life, we see a selfish but vulnerable girl, who nevertheless has tried to point her former friends in the right direction.

Issues of chronic illness, anger management, family drama and sexuality are all touched upon in a realistic way that suits the characters involved. The author is never preachy and reists the temptation to create a neat ending in favour of a hopeful, yet realistic, conclusion. This should have great teen appeal and is well worth stocking in schools and libraries.

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 6th August 2020
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I have to start at school today

I have to start at school today

Simon Philip
Simon & S

Not a conventional "starting school" tale as it doesn't quite go the way you'd expect! Plenty of charm and humour make for a lovely read

Laura Hayward Reviewed by Laura Hayward on 4th August 2020
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