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Reviews

The extremely inconvenient adventures of Bronte Mettlestone

The extremely inconvenient adventures of Bronte Mettlestone

Jaclyn Moriarty
Guppy Publishing Ltd

This is a thoroughly enjoyable and unusual adventure story: the world building is vivid, the characters are charmingly eccentric and the reader feels fully invested in Bronte's fate. It's intelligently written with so much care and wit. I absolutely loved it,

Hannah Middleton Reviewed by Hannah Middleton on 11th October 2019
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The little island

The little island

Smriti Prasadam-Halls
Andersen Pr

This engaging and entertaining tale works both as an allegory for Brexit, and as an enjoyable story. 

On a farm where all of the animals are friends, the geese begin to gossip amongst themselves about how much better life would be if they lived separately from everyone else. They hatch a plan to cut themselves off from the farm, and convince themselves that life is perfect now. But is it really better to be on your own?

Ideal for explaining the current political situation to preschoolers, The Little Island is a positive, hopeful picture book with a happy ending. Perfect for these uncertain times! 

Hannah Middleton Reviewed by Hannah Middleton on 4th October 2019
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Furious thing

Furious thing

Jenny Downham
David Fickling Bks

In the wrong hands, this could have so easily have become just another 'issues book' (dealing as it does with themes of coercive control), but such is Downham's skill of characterisation that Lexi's situation is revealed gradually to the reader as Lexi herself becomes aware of it and this makes it read like a coming of age story more than anything else. Yes, it's an uncomfortable read, at times, but it's nevertheless always compelling. A powerful and challenging book.

Hannah Middleton Reviewed by Hannah Middleton on 4th October 2019
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The fountains of silence

The fountains of silence

Ruta Sepetys
Penguin

At nearly 500 pages, this epic historical novel could have felt like a slog... but I was so immersed in the vivid & atmospheric world of Franco's Spain  that when the time came to leave it I really didn't want to! I felt I knew the streets of Madrid and the Castellana Hilton as if I'd visited myself; I felt bruised by some of the novel's darker themes while at the same time relieved by the (mostly) hopeful ending. The characters seemed to live and breathe on the page and I felt their triumphs and fears and heartaches along with them.

This truly is an outstanding novel and a real contender for my book of 2019.

Hannah Middleton Reviewed by Hannah Middleton on 4th October 2019
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The deathless girls

The deathless girls

Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Orion

An atmospheric, dark and occasionally horrific story that has a fantastic sense of place and well-defines the experiences of marginalised people. It does contains swearing and an attempted rape scene, and incidents of cruelty to people and animals. It well complements the Bram Stoker story by humanising and showing the lack of choice available to the "brides of Dracula" who are so briefly mentioned in the original. Should inspire readers to try reading Dracula if they haven't already. On the whole it's a great, gothic read and a worthy addition to vampire lore.
   

Lucy McConnell Reviewed by Lucy McConnell on 1st October 2019
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Africa, amazing Africa

Africa, amazing Africa

Atinuke
Walker Bks

A beautifully illustrated and engagingly written book, this is an ideal introduction to a fascinating, vibrant continent. Atinuke takes the reader through a region at a time, with an overview of each country accompanied by colourful and atmospheric illustrations. Featuring sections on food, sport, music, technology and the stunning landscape, this title really does show Africa as amazing!

A great browser for younger readers and an ideal starting point for projects, this much-needed book fills a gap for accessible and appealing information on an oft-neglected continent. 

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 27th September 2019
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The red suitcase

The red suitcase

Giles Baum
Frances Lincoln

Wonderfully expressive yet simple illustrations powerfully convey the hardships & perils of the young dragon's journey with a heartfelt, hopeful ending. This would be of particular use in introducing the topic of refugees to very young children and would be ideal for discussion one to one or in small groups. 

Hannah Middleton Reviewed by Hannah Middleton on 24th September 2019
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Explorers

Explorers

Nellie Huang
Dorling K

Featuring incredible tales of survival, struggle and discovery, this is an excellent overview of famous and lesser-known explorers from across history and cultures. Covering journeys across sea, land, air and space; as well as potted biographies of the individuals profiled; any reader interested in exploration will adore this. 

As expected from Dorling Kindersley, the book is beautifully produced with excellent illustrations and photographs throughout. More than a coffee table browser though, this title provides comprehensive histories of notable journeys and the people who took them. It would be ideal to support project work or to enjoy as a leisure read. 

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 20th September 2019
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Summerland

Summerland

Lucy Adlington
Hot Key Books

A beautifully written, almost unbearably poignant novel addressing themes of family, love and belonging in the aftermath of WW2. Brigitta has crossed Europe with the Red Cross to find refuge in England, as a Jew and survivor of the Nazi regime. When her group gets to London, she runs off and makes her way to Summerland Hall in Yorkshire, intending to solve a family mystery. But neither Brigitta or Summerland are quite what they seem...

With real heart and surprising flashes of humour, Adlington has conjured up postwar Britain and a whole cast of engaging, well-rounded characters. The plot twists are extraordinary but the grounding in historical events means they are always believable. Our protagonist's struggles to assert their identity and sexuality, coupled with a bittersweet family reunion, should captivate older teen readers. 

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 13th September 2019
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Gloves off

Gloves off

Louisa Reid
Guppy Publishing Ltd

I picked this one up to review with something of a heavy heart - I really didn't think I'd enjoy a book about a girl who did boxing....but as soon as I started reading I just couldn't stop and I powered through it in one sitting. It's an incredibly moving read; the verse format is extremely effective and the characters ring true. Well worth reading.

Hannah Middleton Reviewed by Hannah Middleton on 13th September 2019
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The misadventures of Frederick

The misadventures of Frederick

Ben Manley
Two Hoots

A really appealing combination of gorgeous illustrations and a sweet developing friendship, told with humour. On a beautiful summer's day, Frederick is sat indoors. Emily invites him to play outside, but Frederick worries - about broken bones, insect bites, falling off his bike, and all the other things that could possibly go wrong. But Emily is very persistent...

Emma Chichester Clark's instantly recognisable illustrations make this a beautiful picture book to look at, and thankfully the story is just as good! The author has created two endearing and relatable characters in worrywart Frederick and adventurous Emily, and their at first tentative and later more intimate letters show their unfolding friendship. The twist ending is laugh-out-loud funny, and the message of being fearful but doing things anyway a timeless and important one. An excellent addition to any picture book collection. 

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 13th September 2019
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The time of green magic

The time of green magic

Hilary McKay
Macmillan

There is so much about this book that is worth getting excited about - the magical elements are expertly woven through what is essentially a family drama, the characters are charming and immensely likeable and there is a rich atmosphere enveloping it all. It's a cosy read, perfect for curling up with as the nights draw in. As someone who reads and reviews a huge amount of children's and young adult fiction (and can occasionally feel jaded by that), this was a book which made me remember why I love children's fiction so much. One to savour and promote widely.

Hannah Middleton Reviewed by Hannah Middleton on 6th September 2019
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Speak

Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson
Hodder

Outstandingly emotive and intelligently written, Speak provokes a strong emotional response and is immediately relatable to anyone who has struggled with their identity, or suffered through trauma. Haunting and uneasy, it's a read not to be taken lightly, but it comes to a satisfying and believable end, with a feeling of closure. The skillful illustrations mean it stands as its own product rather than just an adaptation.

Lucy Forrester Reviewed by Lucy Forrester on 30th August 2019
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Plant, sow, make and grow

Plant, sow, make and grow

Esther Coombs
Button Books

A really lovely introduction to gardening that would be great for forest school use but also nice for children to use at home (with some parental input). Written in an accessible way, there is a good range of activities that are simple and achievable and the illustrations really are delightful. 

Hannah Middleton Reviewed by Hannah Middleton on 27th August 2019
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Tibble and Grandpa

Tibble and Grandpa

Wendy Meddour
Oxford U P

This sweet story is moving without being saccharine and works beautifully as either a leisure read or situation book and the illustrations are the perfect complement. The grandson/grandfather relationship is perfectly realised and the dawning realisation that there is more to the story than first meets the eye holds the reader's attention.  A lovely sharing read, particularly for those who have lost someone or for grandfathers and their grandchildren.

Catherine MacKenzie Reviewed by Catherine MacKenzie on 23rd August 2019
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