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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Bearmouth by Liz Hyder

Life in Bearmouth is one of hard labour, the sunlit world above the mine a distant memory.

Reward will come in the next life with the benevolence of the Mayker.

Newt accepts everything – that is, until the mysterious Devlin arrives.

Suddenly, Newt starts to look at Bearmouth with a fresh perspective, questioning the system, and setting in motion a chain of events that could destroy their entire world.

In this powerful and brilliantly original debut novel, friendship creates strength, courage is hard-won and hope is the path to freedom.

Bearmouth is a darkly beautiful and gritty story of courage and friendship in the face of religious tyranny and social injustice. Newt creates his own language as he is taught to read and write by the men he works and lives with in the mine. As he becomes more able to express himself he begins to question the world he is caught in and seek justice and equality for himself and his fellow labourers.

Reminiscent of Victorian child-labour, Bearmouth is a haunting setting. Atmospheric, rich and breathless, this is an immersive book that will leave you feeling empowered and emboldened. A fantastic debut.

You can get your copy here.

The Space We’re In by Katya Balen and Laura Carlin

“We are her world and her universe and her space and her stars and her sky and her galaxy and her cosmos too.

Frank is ten. He likes cottage pie and football and cracking codes.

Max is five. He eats only Quavers and some colours are too bright for him and if he has to wear a new T-shirt he melts down down down. Sometimes Frank wishes Mum could still do huge paintings of stars and asteroids like she used to, but since Max was born she just doesn’t have time. When tragedy hits Frank and Max’s lives like a comet, can Frank piece together a universe in which he and Max aren’t light years apart?

This jaw-dropping, heartbreaking and hopeful novel from debut author Katya Balen will remind you we are all made of stardust.”

This is going to be very special!

Brilliantly told in an authentic young voice that is raw and compelling, this is a truly immersive read. Heartbreaking yet hopeful, it celebrates the power of friendship, play and imagination in finding your voice and being comfortable with your place in the world. It brings together art and science, bullying and friendship, family and loss to create something beautiful and uplifting. We can’t wait to see how Laura Carlin’s illustrations combine with  such beautiful, powerful writing. 

Brilliant for schools to promote empathy and understanding of autism and its impact on families. Readers will love deciphering the codes to read the chapter headings. The perfect read for fans of Wonder and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

Published 5th September by Bloomsbury, you can pre-order your copy here.

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

They call me Yanka the Bear. Not because of where I was found – only a few people know about that. They call me Yanka the Bear because I am so big and strong.

Found abandoned in a bear cave as a baby, Yanka has always wondered about where she is from. She tries to ignore the strange whispers and looks from the villagers, wishing she was as strong on the inside as she is on the outside. But, when she has to flee her house, looking for answers about who she really is, a journey far beyond one that she ever imagined begins: from icy rivers to smouldering mountains meeting an ever-growing herd of extraordinary friends along the way.

Interwoven with traditional stories of bears, princesses and dragons, Yanka’s journey is a gorgeously lyrical adventure from the best-selling author of The House With Chicken Legs.

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson is a beauty of a book about the pain of feeling different and the power of stories to help you find your way. It celebrates the comfort that comes from having stories told to you and explores the power of accepting help from your friends, forming a herd, a web of strength, and finding your tribe. It's a beautiful exploration of what makes a family.

Yanka is stubborn and determined and as bright and spirited as we have come to enjoy from Sophie Anderson's characters. Full of animals, folktales, family and friendship, we love this atmospheric adventure - and whooped at the links back to The House with Chicken Legs. 

Coming September 2019!