Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Oh, those indie kids, always dying beautifully of cancer or being the chosen one. But we can't all be indie kids, it would be too exhausting. Luckily, this book is all about non-indie kids, ordinary kids, very much on the edge of the supernatural and with no interest in that dangerous world. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is very clever, slightly funny, but mostly just very familiar in it's realism in the face of the unbelievable.

Published by Harper Collins October 6, 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon

If you look up Doldrums in a dictionary, you will find that it's a state of inactivity, a sad sort of stuckness, the opposite of a daring adventure. And that is how this story begins. Three children who have been confined to their homes for various reasons meet on a rooftop to plan a daring adventure. They really don't expect to get very far, but they all agree they're "in it for the friendship".
The Doldrums is mostly very understated, a gentle and slyly comic exploration of the release that friendship can bring to the lonely. There is a final adventure, which is absolutely extraordinary, but the appeal of this book is found in the quiet small joys that can chase away the doldrums, without ever leaving home.

For ages 8+

Published by Greenwillow books September 29, 2015

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

Madeline is literally allergic to the world. She's confined to her hyper-sterile house with her loving mother and her nurse Carla. She works very hard not to want more, not to press her head against the window and dream of being outside, of meeting other people. This all falls apart when a new family move in next door and a boy her age, named Olly, refuses to let her ignore him. 

Everything Everything is a clever romance with an ending that's an eye-opener for the characters, but also for readers. A book about, love, danger and freedom that kids and adults should all read.

Published by Delacourt Press September 1, 2015

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall

Robin Hood meets Daredevil with werewolves in this medieval fantasy origin story. Shadow of the Wolf is exactly as violent, disturbing and dark as you would expect. What makes this book exceptional is the role of Marion as the real driving force in the story, she's not waiting to be rescued, instead she's masterminding the attack. Shocking and compelling and although this is the first in a series, I can honestly say I have no idea what will happen next.

For ages 14+

Published by David Fickling Books May 26, 2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Close to the Wind by Jon Walter

When we meet Malik and his grandfather, they are escaping a war zone. They've made their way to the port under cover of darkness and they can see the humanitarian aid ship in the dock. Malik believes his mother will need a ticket too, even though no-one has seen her since she was taken by the soldiers three days ago. Fortunately, Papa has a plan, although it's going to take some courage, money and connections to get his grandson to safety. 

Close to the Wind shows us war from the perspective of a modern 10 year old boy, not battlefields or bodies, just the frightening and confusing reality that many urban refugees continue to face during political upheaval. The book does not name the country that Malik is escaping from, nor the details of the source of the conflict, this allows us to concentrate on Malik's tender-hearted character and his responses with the detail he and others like him deserve.

Published by David Fickling books May 26, 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Corinne lives on a Caribbean island with her father, the other people in her village believe in evil spirits called Jumbies who live in the forest, but Corrine doesn't think they're real. At least she doesn't until she meets them. This book uses Haitian folklore to weave a really great fairytale coming of age story, laced with horror and peril, but ultimately about the power of one young woman. 

For ages 10-12.

Published by Algonquin Young Readers April 28, 2015

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Water and the Wild by K E Ormsbee

Charlotte G Fisk is a lonely girl whose imagination and eccentric behavior often get her into trouble. She has one friend; but he has only a few weeks left to live. When her favorite apple tree opens its roots and sends her plummeting into the fairyland of New Albion, Lottie's only thought is to get back to her friend, when she learns that one of the sprites has a magical medicine for "otherwise incurable" afflictions, she becomes ever more determined to get back to the real world and put that medicine to good use. Unfortunately the king of the fairies is also sick, he and his minions will stop at nothing to get that potion and destroy Lottie, who is much more important than she would ever guess. 

This book is an exciting magical adventure for kids aged 10 and up, but it also deals with some complex issues of political power and its abuse. These are not clean and pretty fairies, but more like the dangerous and vindictive sprites of folklore.

Published by Chronicle Books April 14, 2015

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Firstborn by Tor Seidler

Maggie the magpie is curious about the world, but she fears she might be limited to the area around the farm where she was born. When her friend the intellectual raven is shot, Maggie decides the farm isn't the safe haven she'd assumed it to be and she sets off in search of new experiences. This is an excellent nature story, told by a clever magpie who runs (or maybe flies?) with a wolf pack. There are lots of scenes depicting the brutality of the wild but Siedler tenderly balances this with moments of conciliation and loyalty. A deceptively simple and really interesting animal story.

For ages 8-10

Published by Simon & Schuster March 3, 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Ferals by Jacob Grey

Caw is a boy who only just remembers his parents. He was raised by crows on the rooftops and trees of a rundown city. It never seemed strange to him that they communicate with him, what he doesn't understand are the other humans living their normal lives. Caw's life is turned upside down when he witnesses a prison breakout by three sinister characters with the ability to control animals. These vicious criminals are linked to Caw, in a way he cannot imagine.

This is a really dark, urban drama about superpowers and the fear of trust. It has some bright moments, but it is definitely not for the fainthearted. A thrilling and dangerous read.

For ages 8-12 (with strong stomachs)

Published by HarperCollins, April 28 2015

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Keepers - The Box and the Dragonfly by Ted Sanders

The first book in a new series of magical adventures where children are chosen as Keepers of arcane magical objects, only to discover themselves in danger from the monstrous Makers of those objects who want their creations back at any price. 

This book takes a welcome step away from the "magical school" plot that has been holding sway over kids magical books for some time. The Keepers have the support of one another, the magical powers of their objects and some rather haphazard advice from a few magical adults. Meanwhile they are responsible not only for protecting themselves, but also their families, even though some of those families are less than perfect. I loved how the fantasy and the very real life situations stand side by side in this book. 

For ages 8-12

Published by HarperCollins, March 3 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015

Gorillas in Our Midst by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

Just from the title, we know this is going to be a silly picture book and we are not disappointed. Apparently, you should always carry a banana with you because there are so many gorillas hiding in plain sight amongst the human population. The comic book style artwork underlines this theme by giving the Gorilla characters more detail than the human characters. But the thing to really look out for are the jokes in the illustrations, for example a gorilla reading a book on a train entitled "How to Read on a Train" or another Gorilla wearing a t-shirt that says "I Am Not a Gorilla". 

The perfect gift for little monkeys or for the ape in all of us.

For ages 3-8

Published by Sky Pony Press April 14, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures by Pearce and Stiefvater

Pip Bartlett is a young girl who lives in a world very like ours, but with one huge difference, in Pip's world, magical creatures are real. People keep Griffins as pets and show unicorns competitively, there are special vets for magical creatures and a supposedly definitive guide book by Jeffrey Higgleston. Pip is really excited when she gets to spend the summer with her aunt who is a magical creatures vet. Pip loves all the magical creatures, plus she can talk to them (although no-one believes her). Unfortunately, Pip arrives in town at the same time as an infestation of Fuzzles. Tiny adorable creatures who burst into flames at the slightest hint of excitement. Can Pip get to the bottom of the mystery of where all the Fuzzles are coming from? And will there be enough time to save the Fuzzles before they are exterminated?

I love this book. It's packed with humor and crazy but simple illustrations. The characters are very easy to love and although the concept is simple, the language is complex enough to make this a stretch for some younger readers. A hit waiting to happen.

For readers aged 8+

Published by Scholastic April 28, 2015

Friday, May 8, 2015

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Challenger Deep approaches mental illness through the medium of a non-linear pirate adventure. Yes, you read that right. What's even more astonishing, is that it works. The small moments of pure reality or pure fantasy are engaging enough in themselves, but when taken together as an uncomfortable maelstrom of thoughts and emotions, the book feels like an accurate portrayal of a mind in disarray. And that's not all. Mental illness does not have a tidy end point, a solution or even an easy cause, Challenger Deep recognizes this and does not offer any easy solutions. In so doing it breaks all the tropes. All of them. 

This book is a sensitive work of genius for clever readers aged 14+.

Published by Harper Teen April 21, 2015

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

This is the story of Ariel who escapes from a warzone, to be adopted by a "normal" American family and sent off to camp for the Summer. However, the family is far from normal, neither is the camp and as Ariel shares the unsettling stories of his past, it becomes apparent that this is not a happy ending. A depressed bionic reincarnated crow, a failed arctic expedition in the 19th century and a schizophrenic bomber all converge in this story, which manages to also be real and surprisingly funny. 

Published by Dutton Books, March 10, 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

The Silvers rule the world. Their silver blood marks them apart and their super human abilities ensure that they keep their positions of power with force. Those with red blood are pressed into servitude or outright slavery. Red blooded Mare Barrow is destined to become a palace servant, but on her first day away from home she discovers that she also has a special ability. The Silver royalty adopt her as a lost Silver princess and the color of her blood becomes a secret she must keep to survive. 

Plenty of intrigue, rebellion and action keep you turning the pages as this well written fantasy plot unfolds.

Published by Harper Teen February 10, 2015

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

It's 1849 and a small group of young cowboys are on the Oregon trail heading to the gold fields. They encounter all the terrors and trials you would expect, but two of them are also keeping a huge secret and they're on the run from the law. It's not often you find a YA western, even less often when the protagonists are two female outlaws. This is a fast, fun read packed with historical detail and adventure with a touch of romance to keep you guessing.

Published by G P Putnams March 17, 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

On a basic level, Mosquitoland is about a teenager running away from her father and step-mom in Mississippi and toward her sick mother in Ohio. Along the way she writes letters to the mysterious Isabel and meets some strangely interesting new friends. But that's just the basics, this book has so much more to offer, mostly in the form of Mim the runaway. Mim has such a complex and developing character with such a perverse world view that it's easy to forget this is a road trip book.

Published by Viking Books, March 3 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Half Wild by Sally Green

Nathan is a teenage boy who is struggling to survive in a magical underworld that despises him because of his unusual genetic heritage.

In this second book in the series he has stronger allegiances and a greater control over his own magic, but the themes of alienation and self-sufficiency still loom large. The book has a breathless pace and some great first person writing, but what's most exciting are the character developments and shocking twists. Read Half Bad (if you haven't yet) and then read this sequel, which might even be better than the first book.

Published by Viking Books March 24, 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Masterminds by Gordon Korman

Eli and his friends live in the most perfect small town in America, there is no crime, all the adults have jobs and the kids don't even lie. But when Eli and his friend head out of town in an attempt to find something interesting, they get sick and even worse, the friend is shipped off to another town, without giving Eli a chance to say goodbye. Needless to say, this leaves the group of friends very suspicious. The town is not what they have been told, neither are their parents and neither are they.

A scarily possible middle grade conspiracy theory book, with great characters you're constantly cheering for. And the best part is that this book is just the beginning of a series.

For readers aged 8-10

Published by Harper Collins 20 February, 2015

The Imaginary by A F Harrold

The Imaginary is about an imaginary friend, his real friend is in a coma and he thinks if he can just get to her, he can wake her up and everything can go back to normal. Unfortunately, he needs someone to believe in him so he can get to the hospital and to make things worse he's being pursued by a man who eats imaginary friends. 

Although, this is a book for ages 8-10, but I honestly think everyone should read this. The Imaginary is a book for anyone with a big imagination, anyone who finds it hard to make friends and anyone who feels that real life is in the way of their creativity.

Published by Bloombury USA, March 3 2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Unbelievable Top Secret Diary of Pig by Emer Stamp

Pig has plenty to write about in his diary, his love of slops, his best friend duck and the evil chickens who live with him on the farm. Life is pretty sweet until pig works out that the farmer wants to eat him and the chickens are planning to send him to Pluto on a trocket (part tractor, part rocket). Now he has to decide which fate is worse and it's not an easy decision. 

This is a book that makes very little sense to adults, the grammar is deliberately bad (so that pig seems particularly stupid), there are tons of fart gags and a lot of slapstick. But I have it on the authority of two well read eight year olds that this book is really funny and who am I to argue with them? For ages 6-10.

Published by Scholastic, April 28, 2015

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall

It's been ten years since we first met the Penderwick sisters in the award winning story about family, a vacation adventure and the kinds of small mysteries that can seem very important. The Penderwicks continues to be popular, because of it's timeless and charming feel and because of the emotional depth of the four girls who range in age from four to eleven and who have such fascinatingly different characters.

The newest Penderwicks book was published last month, it's called The Penderwicks in Spring and it focuses on Batty, who is now eleven and her younger siblings Ben and Lydia. Of course, the older sisters still play a vital role in the story, but most of them are away at college or behaving in unintelligibly teenage ways. Batty is trying to find out where she fits in this enormous family. Her self-confidence is at a low ebb and she does get quite sad, but the book still proves to be fresh, funny and eventually redemptive.

I loved this book, it made me laugh and cry. So much beautiful writing and insightful character. A truly lovely book with a very wide appeal.

Published by Knopf Books, March 24, 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

A Seeker is a warrior, trained from childhood to protect the weak and uphold justice. Quin, her boyfriend John and her best friend Shinobu are proud of their honorable legacy and are ready to take their Oath. But when they learn the truth of what they have been trained for, neither Quin nor Shinobu are able to carry out their gruesome duties. Meanwhile, John reveals ulterior motives he's been harboring ever since he was a small boy.

This book builds slowly, really immersing the reader in the characters, their sense of duty and the nuances of the secrets they all carry. Then it explodes into a full on visceral adventure story, with time travel, futuristic cities and ancient traditions. There are some terrifying characters here, drawn with the kind of complexity that makes a bad guy really great to read. There's also a character that many readers will identify with, a fixed point in time, an observer, with more power than she realizes.

Seeker is the first of a trilogy and when you finish reading it, you definitely want more.

Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers, February 10, 2015

Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant

A teenage girl wakes up in a desolate and unfamiliar place where she's met by a boy her age, he explains that he is The Messenger of Fear and she is his apprentice. He won't answer her questions or help her remember who she is, he only shows her the deeds of the wicked and demands her help to punish them. Messenger of Fear is exactly the sort of twisted psycho-horror we expect from Michael Grant. It's disturbing and oddly satisfying with some really inventive plot twists. For ages 12+ with strong stomachs.

Published by Harper Collins, September 23, 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015

There will be lies by Nick Lake

Even though she's almost 18, Shelby Cooper lives a really sheltered life, she's homeschooled by her mother and only briefly allowed out on her own to visit the library. But she's extremely clever and questioningly sarcastic and it's these strengths that will see her through the extraordinary changes to come. The real world thriller in this story flows beautifully, the dialogue is so real, the writing is so good and the plot has perfect pacing. Then there are the dream sequences, that will blow your mind. For ages 12+.

Published by Bloomsbury USA January 6, 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh

This book broke my heart and then put it back together again. 

Twelve year old GiGi lives with her much older sister DiDi. DiDi pushes her to work hard in school and never lets her forget the memory of her beautiful, positive and resourceful mother. But when the sisters move to a nicer town, with money that DiDi won in a baking contest and GiGi starts a new private school, her life begins to unravel until she's no longer sure who she is and who to trust. 

This is a story about poverty, social mobility and identity told with a believable voice by a fiercely likable character. For ages 10-12.

Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
January 27, 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The village of Fairfold exists partly in the modern world and partly in the fairy realm. The villagers have found many ways to live with the terrifying "fair folk", placating them with gifts, making bargains and even taking in a changeling child. But when the sleeping fairy prince escapes from his casket in the darkest part of the forest, the boundary lines are redrawn, especially for those who walk in both worlds. Holly Black is a master storyteller and this modern fairytale does not disappoint. For ages 12+.

Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
January 13, 2015

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Giant Game of Sculpture by Herve Tullet

Herve Tullet is the French author/illustrator of Press Here and Mix It Up, who has been described as the "king of preschool art". His new book really is giant (18" x 11"), although it isn't really a book. Instead, it's a beautifully presented system of press out cardboard shapes which can be slotted together, around a large concertina like frame to create a free standing sculpture. Tullet makes some additional suggestions to the young artist to add pieces of card, wrapping paper or painted toilet rolls and make it truly unique. 

This is a hands-on art book that makes creative play really dynamic and exciting, encouraging kids to understand the medium of sculpture and then play with it. Great for young makers between ages 4 and 8.

Published by Phaidon September 22, 2015

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Honey by Sarah Weeks

10 year old Melody lives with her father in a small town in Indiana, one day she overhear's her Dad talking on the phone to someone he calls "Honey". Melody suddenly realizes that her Dad might have a girlfriend, so she enlists the help of her best friend Nick to find out Honey's true identity. Her search leads her to the local beauty salon and some wild speculation. Meanwhile, Mo is a dog who just moved into the beauty salon with his owner, but there's something very familiar about one little girl who keeps visiting. 

A charming and heartwarming book about family secrets and a dog's enduring love. For ages 8-10.

Published by Scholastic January 27, 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Jubilee Chase is a soldier on the war torn planet of Avon, her job is to keep the rebels from destabilizing the terraforming process. Flynn is one of those rebels, he just wants to stay alive while his people dream of self determination. Thrown together and deeply mistrustful of one another, these two uncover an unbelievable secret that could kill everyone on the planet. 

In this follow up to These Broken Stars, we find ourselves on a different planet, with different characters, until the Laroux corporation rears it's ugly head again. Sexy, military sci-fi (yes, those can go together). For ages 12+.

Published by Disney Hyperion December 23rd, 2014

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency #1 The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford

A historical mystery set in an alternative 1826 where Ada Lovelace (the first computer programmer) and Mary Shelley (the author of Frankenstein) meet as girls and form a detective agency. Their first case is the theft of a valuable moonstone, the maid has already confessed, but both girls think that smells a little fishy. This book is so much fun, action, adventure, thrills and intrigue, not to mention a cast of historical characters who pop in and out to aid the young ladies in their adventures. For ages 8-10.

Published by Alfred A Knopf Books January 6, 2015