The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed – review

The Black Girls is a brilliantly written and engaging book, with a deceptively chatty tone that lures you in to a sense of comfort, before a perfect, powerful sentence snaps you to attention.

Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, this unforgettable coming-of-age debut novel is an unflinching exploration of race, class, and violence as well as the importance of being true to yourself. 

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of high school and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

But everything changes one afternoon in April, when four police officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?

This is a timely and arresting book about growing up and drifting apart from your friendship group, learning who you are and who you want to become. It’s about facing history head on and understanding how the past impacts the present and the future.

It hits hard on social injustice, race and class, opening the eyes and hearts of the characters and the reader. Although Christina Hammonds Reed doesn’t gloss and filter or provide unrealistic happy endings, The Black Kids is an ultimately hopeful book, looking to a future that could be better. Should be better.

The comparisons with The Hate You Give are well deserved. We loved it.

You can order your copy here.

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

Perfect for fans of Jacqueline Wilson, this is a heartfelt and beautifully positive feel-good family drama about learning to be kind to yourself amid the ups and downs of life.

When Bea’s dad and his wonderful partner, Jesse, decide to marry, it looks as if Bea’s biggest wish is coming true: she’s finally (finally!) going to have a sister. They’re both ten. They’re both in fifth grade. Though they’ve never met, Bea knows that she and Sonia will be perfect sisters. Just like sisters anywhere, Bea thinks. But as the wedding day approaches, Bea makes discoveries that lead her to a possibly disastrous choice.

Bea is a wonderful creation. Written with an honesty that embraces a young teen’s big emotions, Bea is a fully believable and immensely loveable character. We were rooting for her from the start; following her journey and hiding behind our cushions as she made mistakes and walked head first into trouble.

Told retrospectively, and with a brilliant supporting cast of family and friends, we watch as Bea navigates her parents’ divorce and her dad’s new relationship with Jesse. Rebecca Stead writes with a brightness that lifts the characters from the page and colours their anxieties, jealousies, hopes and fears. Every emotion and injustice is haloed with intensity, as if felt for the first time by a young teenager learning to understand the new world she finds herself in.

A heartfelt and intimate celebration of love, families and friendship, this is a must read for those looking for honesty, positivity and happy endings. Perfect for 9+.

You can get your copy here.

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency is the stuff of dreams! The perfect book to escape into, it will take you on adventures to other worlds, with lush descriptions, imaginative characters and just the right amount of mild peril.

L.D. Lapinski has written a fantastic page-turner that is filled with adventure and magic, perfectly balanced by a grounding in family and friendship. There is beautifully casual inclusion of queer and non-binary characters, and the story is threaded through with an environmental theme, giving it the feel of a thoroughly modern future classic.

Their real strength is in creating incredible other-world adventures threaded through with universal truths. The Strangeworlds Travel Agency acknowledges that childhood isn’t always easy and care-free,  especially if your family is dealing with poverty and you are forced to take on adult responsibilities. But even in the hardest of times there is always room for wonder and adventure -and The Strangeworlds Travel Agency has plenty of both.

Perhaps, now more than ever, that is exactly what children need to see and read.


About the book:

Pack your suitcase for a magical adventure! Perfect for fans of Train to Impossible Places and The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club.

At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside . . .

When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she uncovers a fantastic secret: there are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours. All you have to do to visit them is jump into the right suitcase. Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds.

But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness – and takes our world with it.

A magical adventure for 9+ readers that will take you to whole new worlds.

You can get your copy here. Limited signed copies available here.

Gargantis by Thomas Taylor

At last! The much-anticipated sequel to Malamander is nearly here and we are SO happy to be sharing it with you all. We have SIGNED pre-orders available! Eek!

It’s a joy to be back in the world of Eerie-on-Sea amongst the characters and locations we know and love from our Malamander adventure. Dear Mrs Fossil, the delightful Erwin the cat, quirky Dr Thalassi, our beloved Jenny Hanniver, and of course, our heroes, Herbie Lemon and Violet Parma. It feels like coming home.

But there’s no time to get too comfortable amongst old friends because there are new mysterious characters appearing in Eerie-on-Sea, and a heavy dose of magic that seems to be spiralling out of control.

There’s a storm raging in Eerie-on-Sea. Has the mighty Gargantis come back from the deep…?

When an ancient bottle is found washed up on the beach after a ferocious electrical storm, all the residents of Eerie-on-Sea seem to want it … but should they in fact fear it? Legend has it that the bottle contains an extraordinary secret that spells doom for the whole of Eerie-on-Sea. Could it be true that the vast sea creature Gargantis has awoken from her slumbers, and is causing the large cracks that are appearing all across the town? Finding themselves entrusted with the bottle, Herbie and Violet discover they will need to ride the terrible storm and pacify the creature if they want to save Eerie-on-Sea from sliding into the ocean and being lost for ever.

Thomas Taylor is absolutely on form in this fantastic sequel. His clever word play is a delight to read and his world-building and character creation whisks you away in wonder.

Gargantis is an adventure mystery full of heart. It is packed with twists and turns, mysterious characters and magical beings. At its core is a story of friendship and courage, and of learning that you have the strength to face the world and to do more than you realise. It’s a celebration of children’s innate sense of justice and their belief in finding the good in the world. It is hopeful and happy and an absolute joy from start to finish.

With gorgeous cover art by the ever-talented George Ermos.

You can order your SPECIAL EDITION copy here.

Pretty Funny by Rebecca Elliott

This book is spit-your-drink-out and snort with laughter funny. And let’s face it, we all need a bit of that right now!

A riotous journey through school days and friendship dramas and surviving those horrendously embarrassing moments that feel like the end of the world, all whilst trying to break down gender barriers and break in to stand up comedy. Pretty Funny is here for you and all your self-care laughter medicine needs.

Does anyone ever really want to ‘fall’ in love? Knowing me I’ll just trip over it and graze my knee on the gravel of humiliation.
Haylah Swinton is fairly confident she’s brilliant at being a girl. 
She’s an ace best friend, a loving daughter, and an INCREDIBLY patient sister to her four-year-old total nutter of a brother, Noah. 
But she has a secret. She wants to be a stand-up comedian, but she’s pretty sure girls like her – big girls, girls who don’t get all the boys, girls who a lot of people don’t see – don’t belong on stage. 
That hasn’t stopped her dreaming though, and when the seemingly perfect opportunity to write routines for older, cooler, impossibly funny Leo arises . . . well, what’s a girl to do? But is Leo quite an interested in helping Haylah as he says he is? 
Will Haylah ever find the courage to step into the spotlight herself? And when oh when will people stop telling her she’s ‘funny for a girl’?!

We love this book!

It’s about families and first love and finding your true self… and then finding the strength to actually like and comfortably become your true self.

Rebecca Elliott has perfectly pitched the young teenage voice and created a painfully funny and realistic picture of the early teen years. It’s a joy to read and an absolute page turner.

Mostly, this is a tonic. A healthy dose of self-worth and confidence building. A hugely positive and powerful hug of a book. It shows young teens how resilient and awesome and brilliant they really are and how to hold on to that power and smash their way through life, smiling and laughing and loving themselves.

Perfect for fans of Girl Online, Tamsin Winters and Louise Rennison, and a book that should be in every secondary school library. Perfect for 12+ but there’s nothing here that wouldn’t be appropriate for discerning 10+ readers who need a good old belly laugh.

You can get your copy here.

Troofriend by Kirsty Applebaum

We loved Kirsty’s first book, The Middler, and were very excited to venture into her next visions of the future. Troofriend didn’t disappoint and confirms her place as the Queen of middle grade dystopia.

‘Imagine having the perfect friend, one who never steals, lies or bullies. Now you can, with the TrooFriend 560, the latest in artificial intelligence! What can go wrong with a robot buddy? Especially one that’s developing human characteristics and feelings, and who has just run away with her human?’

As well as looking at the rise and risks of technology, Troofriend explores the grey areas between right and wrong and good and bad. It’s a wonderful investigation into the nature of friendship; how far should you go to make friends or be popular? What does true friendship mean and what does it take to achieve?

This is a fantastic book for children with a strong sense of justice and those who love to imagine the world in the future. Best for 9+.

Due to be published 2nd April, you can order your signed copy here.

Anisha Accidental Detective by Serena Patel and Emma McCann

Anisha is all set to be a (reluctant) bridesmaid at Aunty Bindi’s wedding…until a secret ransom note arrives. Bindi’s groom has been kidnapped and will only be released IF THE WEDDING IS CALLED OFF!

With best friend Milo, mischievous Granny Jas, a runaway lobster, a kitten-loving giant, and some super skills of logic and observation, it’s up to Anisha Mistry to find her uncle, before the big family wedding of the year becomes a big disaster.

This brilliantly funny character-led series is perfect for fans of Pamela Butchart and Swapna Haddow and is a great gateway read into older detective fiction like Robin Stevens’ Murder Most Unladylike series.

Anisha Accidental Detectives is the first in a brilliantly inclusive detective series featuring a multi-generational British Indian family. It reflects reality with a strong cast of characters and footnotes explaining cultural references in a fun and unobtrusive way.

Anisha is a fantastic female lead; a reluctant heroine who would rather stay out of any drama. She has much more common sense than all the grown ups and is a strong role model for STEM loving children.  Together with her best friend Milo she must use all her logic and reasoning skills to get to the bottom of the great kidnapping mystery.

The book is an ode to the strength and solidarity of female family members, celebrating women in all their different forms with Anisha’s fantastically fierce granny who never gives up and oozes positivity, and her unflappable Mum who stays calm through every crisis. The book is filled with role models and wonderful women for readers to aspire to.

Anisha and Milo flip gender stereotypes on their head and this book is a real celebration of knowing who you are, being comfortable with yourself and seeing your differences as your strengths. Emma McCann’s illustrations bring the diverse characters to life and add an extra layer of humour to a wonderfully written, fun and engaging story. 

You can get your copy here.

Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Zombies

We love the Sam Wu series! Highly illustrated, fun and fast-paced reads with guaranteed laughs, they never disappoint.

In Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Zombies Sam and his team are back to face their fears together as they investigate the strange noises – and smells – coming from Ralph and Regina’s Do-Not-Enter basement. Hilarity and chaos ensue as the team try to save the world from a rabid pack of zombie werewolves.

We particularly love this series for its readability, strong sense of fun and imagination and its beautifully positive and casual inclusion of diverse characters. Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Zombies includes gentle nods to the fear of being different and not fitting in and shows the reader that you will always find your people if you are brave enough to be yourself.

Perfect for fans of Pamela Butchart and a brilliant follow on from her Wigglesbottom Primary School series.

About the book:

The fifth in the slapstick, action-packed middle-grade series. Sam is conflicted about saving the day when it’s his arch-enemy Ralph Zinkerman the Third who falls foul of the zombie werewolves. Deals with common childhood fears in a sensitive and accepting way.

Evernight by Ross MacKenzie

If you like your adventures dark and dangerous and your stories gory, this is  the book for you. Perfect for fans of the magic and story building of Harry Potter and the darkness of A.F. Harrold's The Imaginary. 

Evernight is dramatically written; crying out to be read aloud. It would be a great choice for teachers who want to share some magic with Key Stage 3 pupils. We were totally engrossed, although we did have to read some of the more macabre sections through our fingers!

With fantastic characters who come alive through strong, dramatic writing, this is a vivid and engaging story. This is a refreshing take on good versus evil, with the evil being deliciously dark and dangerous and the good being feisty yet powerless.

Evernight is hard to put down and harder to let go of. We can't wait to see what happens later in the series.

About the book:

Thousands of years ago, the Evernight came to the Silver Kingdom and turned everything to darkness and chaos. It was only defeated thanks to the skill and bravery of the Witches. But now the Evernight is about to return, released by the evil Mrs Hester, and the only spell that might stop it is lost, deep below the great city of King’s Haven.

Then orphan Larabelle Fox stumbles across a mysterious wooden box while treasure-hunting in the city’s sewers. Little does she realise she is about to be catapulted into an adventure, facing wild magic and mortal danger – and a man who casts no shadow . . .

Best for 11+ You can get your copy here.

Tiger Heart by Penny Chrimes

One magical friendship. One roaring adventure. The magical tale of a bold young chimney sweep and a remarkable tiger, a dangerously hypnotic ruby and a mystical land that’s found across an ocean and through a storm. Perfect for fans of The Girl of Ink and Stars and Pax.

Tiger Heart is a fierce historical fantasy where nothing is as it seems and magic can come from the most surprising of places. It is also deliciously dark; dealing with themes of capitalism, control and greed. A tale for our age, the nods to capitalist politics, child labour and animal welfare make this historical adventure all too relevant.

A fantastic story for children who enjoy their magic grounded in history with believable, authentic characters and a layer of worldly truth. We loved it!

About the book:

Fly never meant to end up in a cage with a man-eating tiger. And though she’s no princess, when the tiger bows to her, she can’t help vowing to free him and return him home. But the bird-filled jungles and cloud-topped mountains of the tiger’s homeland are an ocean away. And not everyone wants the tiger to return.

With dark and dangerous forces working against them, will Fly be able to fulfil her promises, keep them both alive and – just maybe – become the queen her tiger knows her to be?

You can get your copy here.