Keedie by Elle McNicoll, reviewed by Aysha (12)

I was so excited when I got this book to review in the post from The Book Nook as I absolutely loved A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll.

This story is all about Keedie, Addie’s older sister, and it is set five years before A Kind of Spark takes place. Keedie is also autistic and this story is about how Keedie also makes a huge difference to her town Juniper. 

Keedie was everything I thought it would be but better.”

Aysha (12)

Keedie absolutely hates bullying so when she sees it affecting her best friend, Bonnie, she knows she needs to do something. Keedie has a very brave personality and she stands up to any bully who hurts someone physically or mentally.

The book also shows how being a teenager is hard and more so when you’re autistic. When Keedie sees her twin sister Nina hanging out with the bullies, Keedie gets angry and is determined to change the town, stand up to the bullies and get her sister back.

Keedie was everything I thought it would be but better and it is such a great book! I couldn’t put it down. I would definitely recommend this to anyone from primary school to high school and beyond.

The Final Year by Matt Goodfellow, reviewed by Oliver (11)

The Final year is a story based on the last year of primary school- Year 6. This book is great for children who are about to start Year 6 or who are about to start secondary school because you can relate to what you did in year 6.

For me, every page in this book made me reminisce because I’ve just left Year 6.

“I give this book 5 out of 5 as it is written in verse and truly reflects the dilemmas and issues linked with the final year at primary school.”

Oliver (11)

The main character is a boy called Nate who is about to start his final year at primary school.   However, for the first time since nursery, Nate and his best friend are in different classes.  His world is turned inside out when his friend then develops a friendship with the school bully. This is made worse when Nate’s brother is rushed to hospital.  This story is full of SATs and friendship worries. Will Nate find another friend within his new class? Will he tame the beast inside?

I give this book 5 out of 5 as it is written in verse and truly reflects the dilemmas and issues linked with the final year at primary school.

Lottie Brooks’s Totally Disastrous School Trip by Katie Kirby, reviewed by Emily (13)

This book is Katie Kirby’s fourth book in the Lottie Brooks series and doesn’t disappoint.  Filled with her usual humour and catastrophic storyline, it was a book which entertained me throughout.

“Lottie Brooks never fails to help me see that my life is far more stable than hers.”

Emily (13)

Lottie Brooks is a twelve-year old girl who stumbles through her teenage years with the help of her friends and hamsters.  This time the novel is based around Lottie going on a residential trip to Camp Firefly with her class.  Separated from her best friend, Lottie attempts to challenge herself by abseiling, raft building and walking along a sensory trail blindfolded.  This story is full of friendship dramas with hilarious consequences. Lottie has to also navigate around the mean girls from a private school who are also staying at Camp Firefly as well as suffer the outcome from having her diary read out loud.  

Lottie Brooks never fails to help me see that my life is far more stable than hers.  A great book for 11 years and up if you like laugh out loud storylines. A must read for anyone about to embark on a school residential trip with their classmates.

Fablehouse by E.L.Norry, reviewed by Niamh (10)

Fablehouse is a brand-new gripping middle-grade series by E.L. Norry. She’s already known for writing fantastic stories that tell the untold tales of black children in history and her first book, Son of the Circus, was previously shortlisted for the Diverse Book Awards. 

Set in a children’s home for ‘Brown Babies’, mixed-race children born to black US army soldiers and white British mothers after the Second World War, the story follows Heather and her friends as they fight evil fae and stop everyone living in Fablehouse from being replaced by changelings.  

Fablehouse draws on E.L. Norry’s own personal experiences as a mixed-race child growing up in the care system in Cardiff, although we don’t know if she was battling fae during her childhood!

Niamh (10)

After they help injured Palamedes (also known as Pal), a black knight who served King Arthur, they are tasked with the quest to prevent his old friend, ‘The Champion’, from leading the fae to take control over the whole world!

I loved this book! It deals with real-life serious issues, while also telling a magical, exciting adventure story. I couldn’t put the book down after the changelings began to appear, which were fae left in the place of children living in the care home that talked in a low, threatening hissed voices.

Fablehouse draws on E.L. Norry’s own personal experiences as a mixed-race child growing up in the care system in Cardiff, although we don’t know if she was battling fae during her childhood! I was furious at the horrible way the local children treated Heather and friends in the book because they were mixed-race. 

I recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure, folklore, magic and wants to learn more about the experiences of mixed-race children born post-WW2. I’m delighted there will be more books in this series and I can’t wait to find out what happens Heather and her friends next. 

I’ve got tickets to see E.L. Norry, Lizzie Huxley-Jones and Ross Montgomery at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this summer and I can’t wait to tell them all in-person how much I love their books! 

Perfect for fans of: Vivi Conway & The Sword of Legend by Lizzie Huxley-Jones; and The Chime Seekers by Ross Montgomery 

Vivi Conway and the Sword of Legend by Lizzie Huxley-Jones, reviewed Niamh (10)

Vivi Conway and the Sword of Legend is the first book in a new exciting, fantasy middle grade series by Lizzie Huxley-Jones. They most recently were a contributor to the Being an Ally World Book Day Title in 2023. The bright and beautiful cover is drawn by the award-winning author and illustrator Harry Woodgate.

The book follows Vivi Conway, an autistic girl with a passion for Welsh mythology. Not only does she have to deal with moving with her mums away from their rural home in Wales to loud, busy London, she’s got a magical destiny to fulfil, a cranky talking ghost dog that’s come into her life and a plague of mysterious creatures to battle! 

After having bullying problems in the past, she must learn to trust her newfound friends and work alongside them to defeat an evil threat to our world…

“It deals amazingly with how it feels to be autistic while still trying to save the world.”

Niamh (10)

Vivi Conway and the Sword of Legend has all the ingredients for the perfect story. It has non-stop excitement, fascinating legends from Welsh mythology, warm and loveable characters that you’d love to know in real-life, and it ends on a cliff-hanger. It also features LGBTQ+ and disabled characters, and deals amazingly with how it feels to be autistic while still trying to save the world. 

Lizzie Huxley-Jones is non-binary and autistic and they draw from their own experiences in the book, including having been bullied. I really liked that the character Dara is introduced by their pronoun ‘they/them’ immediately without any explanation.  

I loved the part in the science museum because it was really exciting! After getting to know all the characters, I grew to love them all, especially the ghost dog Gelert! 

I couldn’t put the book down and read it all in one weekend! Vivi Conway and the Sword of Legend is one of the best books I’ve ever read!!! I’m so glad it’s a series of books, as I can’t wait for the next one to come out! 

Perfect for fans of: Like a Charm by Elle McNicoll; Like a Curse by Elle McNicoll; and Jayben and the Golden Torch by Thomas Leeds. 

(Illustration above by Niamh)

Glitter Boy by Ian Eagleton, reviewed by Niamh (10)

Glitter Boy is Ian Eagleton’s amazing middle-grade book debut, after previously publishing the picture books Nen and the Lonely Fisherman, Violet’s Tempest, and The Woodcutter and the Snow Prince. It’s also got a fantastic cover design by illustrator Melissa Chaib. 

The story follows the main character James on his journey to overcoming multiple challenges that include homophobic school bullies, falling out with friends, coping with grief, and dealing with the separation of his parents.

Glitter Boy is one of the best books I’ve ever read… you want nothing to dim his light! 

Niamh (10)

A fabulous, sparkly and aspiring future song writer for his music idol Mariah Carey, James starts to lose his sparkle and shine when things start to become hard to cope with on his own. 

Glitter Boy is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Even though it deals with important and serious issues, it doesn’t feel like a depressing and sad book. James is such a fantastic, likeable and relatable character that you feel like you want nothing to dim his light! 

I loved James’s poetry throughout the book (worthy of any Mariah song!) and there were many funny moments like the nan/ham poem and the school jumper sniffing incident! 

It’s got loads of brilliant information about famous LGBTQ+ people throughout history, such as the activist Marsha P Johnson, and there’s even a quiz at the end! 

James’s experiences are based on the bullying the author, Ian Eagleton, went through himself at school and his book highlights how using the word gay in a negative way is absolutely unacceptable. The story overall celebrates that everyone should be allowed to be themselves and that kindness should always win over hate.

I recommend that all schools should be reading Glitter Boy in class, and I’m going to suggest it to my own teacher. Although I’m not really a Mariah fan, it feels right to end on that I’m ‘Obsessed’ with this book and Ian Eagleton you are my ‘Hero’. 

Perfect for fans of: Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean; The Secret Sunshine Project by Benjamin Dean; The Last Fire Fox by Lee Newbery; and Jamie by L. D. Lapinski.

Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One by Maggie Horne, reviewed by Leontine (12)

This was a really nice book to read since it is not something I’d normally read. It was interesting and captivating. 

Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One is about Hazel and her new friends standing up against harassment and bullying at their school when no one else could.

This was really engaging and nice to read. I would recommend it for people 9+.

The Night Bus Hero by Onjali Rauf – review

With her perfectly pitched voice and solid understanding of children’s minds and hearts, Onjali Q Rauf has written another classroom must-have. One of our favourite reads this year, we can’t celebrate this book enough.

The Night Bus Hero explores the importance of friendship and the perils of power and pretending to be someone you are not. It shows us that everyone has their own story and that friendship comes from listening, understanding and finding the common ground we all share. Fast-paced and full of adventure, with clues to solve and a mystery to unravel, this is sure to be a firm favourite for 8+.

About the book:

From Onjali Q. Rauf, the award-winning and best-selling author of The Boy at the Back of the Class, comes another incredible story, told with humour and heart.

‘The boy’s an absolute menace.”He’s a bully. A lost cause!”Why can’t he be more like his sister?’ I’ve been getting into trouble for as long I can remember. Usually I don’t mind ‘cos some of my best, most brilliant ideas have come from sitting in detention. But recently it feels like no one believes me about anything – even when I’m telling the truth! And it’s only gotten worse since I played a prank on the old man who lives in the park. Everyone thinks I’m just a bully. They don’t believe I could be a hero. But I’m going to prove them all wrong…

Told from the perspective of a bully, this book explores themes of bullying and homelessness, while celebrating kindness, friendship and the potential everyone has to change for the good.

Due to be published 15th October. You can get your copy here. And while stock lasts, a copy with a signed bookplate here.

When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten – review

A beautifully evocative story about the power of friendship and community, with a mystery that keeps you guessing and an unexpected twist. 

With a beautiful setting and a community of characters who will touch your heart, Kereen Getten deals with friendship, families and shifting relationships with compassion and skill. At the heart of this story is a message of acceptance and compassion with more than a nod to the power of imagination and friendship. We loved it. Perfect for 10+

About the book:

Nothing much happens in Sycamore, the small village where Clara lives – at least, that’s how it looks. She loves eating ripe mangoes fallen from trees, running outside in the rainy season and escaping to her secret hideout with her best friend Gaynah. There’s only one problem – she can’t remember anything that happened last summer.

When a quirky girl called Rudy arrives from England, everything starts to change. Gaynah stops acting like a best friend, while Rudy and Clara roam across the island and uncover an old family secret. As the summer reaches its peak and the island storms begin, Clara’s memory starts to return and she must finally face the truth of what happened last year.

You can get your copy here.

Gloves Off by Louisa Reid

#GlovesOff by @louisareid is stunning! Beautifully written in verse and packing an emotional punch, it’s a gem of a book celebrating diversity, body-confidence in the face of bullying, and the power of finding your tribe. 🏳️‍🌈💪🏾🥊

Lily turns sixteen with two very different sides to her life: school, where she is badly bullied, and home with her mum and dad, warm and comforting but with its own difficulties.

After a particularly terrible bullying incident, Lily’s dad determines to give his daughter the tools to fight back. Introducing her to boxing, he encourages Lily to find her own worth.

It is both difficult and challenging but in confronting her own fears she finds a way through that illuminates her life and friendships.

Meeting Rose, and seeing that there is another world out there, enables her to live her own life fully and gives her the knowledge that she is both beautiful and worth it.

Out now from @guppybooks you can get your copy here.