News & Reviews

The Highland Falcon Thief

Adventures on Trains is a shiny new mystery series for budding detectives by Beetle Boy author M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli. First stop, The Highland Falcon Thief, a breathless train journey full of deceptions, puzzles and clues to solve.

Brilliant for those who enjoyed Mr Penguin, it is gloriously tense and filled with dramatic moments, hold-your-breath action and mild peril. We loved the rich details of the train, it's operation and route, as well as the wonderful cast of characters on board. With twists and turns, dead ends and red herrings, this is detective fiction at its very best. It never talks down to its reader or swerves into melodrama, remaining authentic in detail and plot. An absolute stunner.

About the book:

Harrison Beck is reluctantly joining his travel-writer Uncle Nat for the last journey of the royal train, The Highland Falcon. But as the train makes its way to Scotland, a priceless brooch goes missing, and things are suddenly a lot more interesting. As suspicions and accusations run high among the passengers, Harrison begins to investigate and uncovers a few surprises along the way. Can he solve the mystery of the jewel thief and catch the culprit before they reach the end of the line?

Hear whispers in the dining car, find notes in the library, and unknown passengers among the luggage as you help Harrison to solve the mystery aboard one of the world's grandest trains. Fast-paced and packed with illustrations and clues, Adventures on Trains is a stop you won't want to miss!

Due in at the platform January 30th. You can order 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.

Nothing Ever Happens Here by Sarah Haggar-Holt

“This is Littlehaven. Nothing ever happens here. Until the spotlight hits my family.”

Izzy’s family is under the spotlight when her dad comes out as Danielle, a trans woman. Izzy is terrified her family will be torn apart. Will she lose her dad? Will her parents break up? And what will people at school say? Izzy’s always been shy, but now all eyes are on her. Can she face her fears, find her voice and stand up for what’s right?

A beautifully accessible book about growing up, dealing with friendship issues and securing your place in the world, we really enjoyed spending time with Izzy and her family.

Sarah Haggar-Holt writes sensitively and positively about Danielle and her family's response to her transition but the focus is very much on Izzy and her realisation that parents are fallible and not all-powerful, all-knowing beings. We follow her as she finds her way through secondary school, dealing with all the anxieties of facing friendship issues, learning who you are and securing your place in your world.

Engaging characters and an honest insight into how it feels for the family of someone transitioning, this deserves a place in every key stage 2 library.

You can get your copy here.

Explorers on Black Ice Bridge by Alex Bell

If you haven’t yet discovered Alex Bell’s extraordinary The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club series then you have a real adventure ahead of you and, quite frankly, we’re jealous that you get to experience the joys from the very beginning. Get on it now! The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club awaits:

The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club

Explorers on Witch Mountain

Those of you who have read the first two books are in for a treat with book three; Explorers on Black Ice Bridge. The team are back together and face a daring mission that combines all the storylines Alex Bell has been weaving through the first two books in the series. We meet snow queens, magical creatures, club rivalries, injustice, conservation, fierce friendship, and the flouting of many, many rules. There are wonderful new characters to meet and all the peril, excitement and universal truths we have come to expect from this outstanding series. Engaging and exciting, this is a truly magical series for explorers 9+

You can get your copy here.

Furious Thing by Jenny Downham

(TW - Domestic violence, coercive control)

This book is immensely powerful. The kind of book that will leave you staring at the wall and trying to make sense of the world. In a really good way. It is clear to see why it has been shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award.

Furious Thing tells the story of 15 year old Lexi who is swallowing her fury with the world around her. She lives with her mother, her mother’s boyfriend John and her young half-sister Iris. Her mother and John are planning to marry but Lexi has other ideas. She can see that John is not a good man and is manipulating her mum. She is also in love with John's son, Kass.  Can she open her mum's eyes and show the world what is really going on? Can she show Kass what is real and what is making her a furious thing?

Domestic violence and coercive control and manipulation are strong themes running through the entire book. Lexi is an unreliable narrator; her anger and pain is visceral and complex and as a reader it is often painful to watch. She makes decisions that will have you shouting at the pages of the book, but shouting from a place of empathy and understanding and your own raw fury. Because Jenny Downham has perfectly crafted Furious Thing to engage, enrage and empower its readers. She twists the tale so expertly that you are drawn into John's lies and then slapped by the reality of his manipulation, she brings you along a fiercely emotional journey and, in some ways, is just as unreliable as Lexi. Just as you think you have your full fighting fury at the ready she adds another twist and another layer of injustice to the pile. Buy this for all the young women in your lives and watch them stand tall.

Ultimately, this is a book that will empower its readers to speak out, unleash their fury and stand up to injustice and manipulation.

Feel the fury, find your voice and fight for your future. It's in your hands.

You can get your copy here.

 

The Costa Children’s Book Award shortlist is announced

This year's Costa Award category shortlists have been announced. Of course, the category closest to our hearts is the 2019 Costa Children’s Book Award. Here's the shortlist:

The category winners will be revealed on Monday 6th January 2020 and the overall Costa Book of the Year will be announced Tuesday 28th January 2020.

Have you read them all yet? Got some catching up to do? You can get all four shortlisted books in a special offer bundle for £30. Get reading, as we'll be sharing our thoughts on the shortlist and creating some polls to see who you think should win.

About the Costa Book Award

Launched in 1971, the Costa Book Awards is one of the UK's most prestigious and popular book prizes and celebrates the most enjoyable books of the year by writers resident in the UK and Ireland.

Uniquely, the prize has five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – with one of the five winning books selected as the overall Costa Book of the year and each category is judged separately by a panel of three judges per category. The Costa Book of the Year is then chosen by a nine-member panel which includes representatives from the original panels who are joined by other well-known people who love reading.

Books are entered by publishers and entry for the Awards closes at the end of June each year. The author of the Costa Book of the Year receives a cheque for £30,000, presented at an awards ceremony at the end of January.

Books of the Year have included ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ by Mark Haddon, ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’ by Kate Atkinson and ‘The Amber Spyglass’ by Philip Pullman.

The judges for the Children's Book Award for 2019 will be:

  • Charlotte Eyre (Children’s Editor, The Bookseller) 
  • Bali Rai (Writer) 
  • Danny van Emden (Children’s Buyer and Deputy Manager, West End Lane Books)

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

Expect the unexpected in this fast-paced adventure full of wit and warmth. A mesmerising story, filled with magic and dragons, family and friendship, puzzles and spells. Startlingly good and packed with the most wonderful characters and hold-your-breath twists and turns, plus my very favourite fictional librarian, we couldn’t put it down. Guppy Publishing are fast becoming a firm favourite of ours. They have an eye for a fantastic story and we are so excited to see what they create next. Beautifully illustrated by Karl James Mountford, this is a stunning book that would make a perfect gift for the young adventurers in your life.

About the book:
Bronte Mettlestone is ten years old when her parents are killed by pirates. This does not bother her much: her parents ran away to have adventures when she was a baby. She has been raised by her Aunt Isabelle, with assistance from the Butler, and has spent a pleasant childhood of afternoon teas and riding lessons.

Now, however, her parents have left detailed instructions for Bronte in their will. (Instructions that, annoyingly, have been reinforced with faery cross-stitch, which means that if she doesn’t complete them, terrible things could happen) She must travel the kingdoms alone, delivering gifts to ten other aunts: a farmer aunt who owns an orange orchard, a veterinarian aunt who specializes in dragon care, a pair of aunts who captain a cruise ship, and a former rock star aunt who is now the reigning monarch of a small kingdom. But as she travels from aunt to aunt, Bronte suspects there might be more to this journey than the simple delivery of treasure; though little does she suspect that she will have to play such a big part in the extraordinary events that follow.

You can get your copy here.

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

The gods of The Myriad were as real as the coastlines and currents, and as merciless as the winds and whirlpools. Now the gods are dead, but their remains are stirring beneath the waves…

On the streets of the Island of Lady’s Crave live 14-year-old street urchins Hark and his best friend Jelt. They are scavengers: diving for relics of the gods, desperate for anything they can sell.

But there is something dangerous in the deep waters of the undersea, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it. When the waves try to claim Jelt, Hark will do anything to save him. Even if it means compromising not just who Jelt is, but what he is…

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge is a deliciously dark exploration of identity and how far you will go to be true to yourself. It is an exploration of religion and the damaging effects of power, as well as a celebration of the life-giving power of stories.

The best fantasy has strong links with reality and Deeplight explores the teenage experience of identity and the confusions and contradictions of life beautifully. Dealing with themes of power, manipulation, bullying and the trials of friendship, it is about learning who you are and fighting for your independence.

With all the mystery and adventure we have come to expect from Hardinge, Deeplight doesn’t disappoint.

You can order your copy here.

The International Yeti Collective by Paul Mason and Katy Riddell

An epic adventure with big feet and an even bigger heart!

Ella is in the Himalayas with her uncle searching for yeti. But what seems like the adventure of a lifetime is cut short when she realizes that these secretive creatures might not want to be found.

Tick knows it’s against yeti law to approach humans. So when some arrive on the mountain, why does he find himself peering through the trees to get a closer look? What Tick doesn’t know is that his actions will set off a series of events that threaten the existence of yeti all over the world. What can he do to make things right? Just when all hope seems lost, help comes in the most unexpected form…

Brilliant for readers who are looking for something a bit different, this is fantastic storytelling, written with humour and passion. We can’t wait to see what Katy Riddell’s illustrations add to the story.

The International Yeti Collective has strong themes of conservation and the importance of respecting nature and the balance of the environment, making it a strong contender for a class read for environment topics. The yeti’s are portrayed as peaceful creatures who have a deep understanding of the ecosystems they live in. They have an active role in protecting the fine balance of nature, unlike the ignorant, greedy humans who the yeti see as destroyers. A beautiful lesson in sustainability and our responsibility to protect the environments we live in.

The first in a new series, we are very excited to see what happens next.

You can order your copy here.