books monthly september 2017 children's books

This month's pick of the new children's books with a new blockbuster from legend Frances Hardinge...

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Debi Gliori: Alfie In The Woods

Published by Bloomsbury 7th September 2017


Alfie Rabbit is walking through the woods. His world turns from real to imagined as a gatefold spread is opened. Now he's turning into different woodland animals. Alfie is a gliding owl, a sticky prickly hedgehog and a just-woken bear ... ROAR!! A delightful book for toddlers, celebrating their irrepressible imagination, with exquisite illustrations featuring all sorts of woodland creatures. Debi Gliori's Dragon Loves Penguin was been shortlisted for the 2015 Red House Children's Book Award.


Join Alfie Rabbit as he finds out what life would be like if he were a different animal in his beloved woods. Debu Gliori is fantastic!


Fiona Woodcock: Poppy And The Blooms

Published by Simon and Schuster 10th August 2017


When a group of zesty wildflower characters discover that the last green space in the city is about to be paved over, they decide they have to act! A positive, uplifting story about how the actions of even the smallest can have a big impact.


An utterly charming story with a strong message. Beautiful!







Children's Book of the Month: Frances Hardinge: A Skinful of Shadows

Published by Macmillan 22nd September 2017


Frances Hardinge weaves another darkly extraordinary tale in A Skinful of Shadows, her follow-up to the Costa Award-winning novel The Lie Tree. 'Hardinge is an unusual talent who deserves to be read by children and adults alike' - Guardian. This is the story of a bear-hearted girl . . . Sometimes, when a person dies, their spirit goes looking for somewhere to hide. Some people have space within them, perfect for hiding. Twelve-year-old Makepeace has learned to defend herself from the ghosts which try to possess her in the night, desperate for refuge, but one day a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard. And now there's a spirit inside her. The spirit is wild, brutish and strong, and it may be her only defence when she is sent to live with her father's rich and powerful ancestors. There is talk of civil war, and they need people like her to protect their dark and terrible family secret. But as she plans her escape and heads out into a country torn apart by war, Makepeace must decide which is worse: possession – or death.



Frances Hardinge's books have eluded me since Fly By Night, featuring Mosca Mye and Saracen, her ill-tempered goose. Now her latest children's novel, A Skinful of Shadows, has come my way courtesy of my friends at Macmillan, and I could not be more delighted! A Skinful of Shadows takes a concept, of ghosts, and turns it into a fascinating, charming, fantastic tale that is quite out of the ordinary and yet quite in keeping with Frances's extraordinary talents. An amazing piece of work, one that will appeal to young and old alike...


Chris Riddell: Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony

Published by Macmillan 7th September 2017


Lord Goth is throwing a music festival at Ghastly-Gorm Hall, with performances from the finest composers in the land. Ada can't wait, but it's quite distracting when her grandmother is trying to find her father a fashionable new wife, there's a faun living in her wardrobe and Maltravers is up to his old tricks. Ada must make sure everything goes to plan and luckily help is at hand from a very interesting house guest.


The latest in Chris Riddell's brilliant Goth Girl series is much as you would expect - superb,and beautifully crammed with Chris's fantastic illustrations!


Cat Winters: The Steep & Thorny Way

Published by Amulet 8th August 2017


A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeares Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten. 1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalees oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her fathers killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalees father wasnt killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after himwho happens to be Hanalees new stepfather. The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a haint wandering the roads at night.


Any author that can introduce children to the beauty and fascination of Shakespeare by the back door is OK by me. Cat's tale is crammed with every device that children (and adults) hold dear in their literature, and the fact it's based on Hamlet is incidental, though important, of course. Superb writing and a hugely enjoyable tale...


Oisin McGann: Mad Grandad and the Mutant River

Published by O'Brien 7th August 2017


Lenny goes fishing with his grandad, and he is amazed when they drag up a mermaid in her car! But then they find there is much, much worse waiting for them in the deep and dirty river ... They all end up fleeing from a crazy fisherman who wants to trap the mermaid. A fun tale about adventure, danger and the mutant river!


Utterly charming fantasy featuring Lenny and his grandfather as they try to save a mermaid from an unscrupulous fisherman. Super fun!


Louise Crowther: Marvin's Seaside Adventure

Published by Matador 28th July 2017


Marvin is a rusty old Mini who has sat neglected on a country garage forecourt for many years, never getting a second glance and certainly never loved or cared for. His one treat is his weekly trip to the car wash - but on one visit, something rather extraordinary happens. Instead of emerging as a slightly cleaner version of his battered old self, he is magically transformed into what he once was: a beautiful, shiny red car. The car wash takes him to a new adventure, and he finds himself on a sunny sea front. He meets a young lifeboat named Larry, and the two quickly become firm friends. But during his time at the seaside, Larry gets into trouble out at sea after showing off! Will Marvin be able to save the day?



Jenn Bennett: Alex, Approximately

Published by Simon and Schuster 27th July 2017


From the bestselling author of Night Owls comes a story of summer, first love and hidden identities . . .

Bailey “Mink” Rydell has met the boy of her dreams. They share a love of films and talk all day – Alex is perfect. Well, apart from the fact that they’ve never actually met . . . and neither of them knows the other’s real name.

When Bailey moves to sunny California to live with her dad, who happens to live in the same town as Alex, she decides to track him down. But finding someone based on online conversations alone proves harder than Bailey thought, and with her irritating but charismatic (and potentially attractive?) colleague Porter Roth distracting her at every turn, will she ever get to meet the mysterious Alex?


This is a cautionary tale about young love and the shadowy world of the internet... beautifully composed and written.


Debi Gliori: Goodnight World

Published by Bloomsbury 10th August 2017


Goodnight ice and goodnight snow,
Goodnight lights above, aglow.

Join in the list of important things to say goodnight to - ships, animals, plants, toys and of course, the sun - in this beautifully illustrated rhyming text, perfect for bedtime. Debi Gliori's Dragon Loves Penguin was shortlisted for the 2015 Red House Children's Book Award.


Debi is one of my favourite authors for young children - Goodnight World is restful, refreshing, and really, really good. I wish it had been around when I was reading my children to sleep... Beautiful.


William Sutcliffe: We See Everything

Published by Bloomsbury 21st September 2017


A gripping and powerfully relevant thriller set in a future London where constant surveillance is the norm, We See Everything simmers with tension and emotion. From internationally bestselling author William Sutcliffe, this is perfect for fans of Patrick Ness and Malorie Blackman. Lex lives on The Strip - the overcrowded, closed-off, bombed-out shell of London. He's used to the watchful enemy drones that buzz in the air above him. Alan's talent as a gamer has landed him the job of his dreams. At a military base in a secret location, he is about to start work as a drone pilot. These two young men will never meet, but their lives are destined to collide. Because Alan has just been assigned a high-profile target. Alan knows him only as #K622. But Lex calls him Dad.


Powerful post-apocalyptic tale of two young men engaged in totally different ways but whose paths will cross, unbeknownst to them at some point during the narrative.


Sarah Crossan: Moonrise

Published by Bloomsbury 7th September 2017


They think I hurt someone.
But I didn't. You hear?
Cos people are gonna be telling you
all kinds of lies.
I need you to know the truth.

Joe hasn't seen his brother for ten years, and it's for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row. But now Ed's execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think ... From one-time winner and two-time Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this poignant, stirring, huge-hearted novel asks big questions. What value do you place on life? What can you forgive? And just how do you say goodbye?


This is an amazing tale about Joe and his brother Ed as the latter waits to be executed. A difficult subject handled sensitively and thoughtfully by Sarah. Really thought-provoking and will leave you feeling uncomfortable at times, but well worth it. Terrific.


Colleen O'Flaherty-Hilder: The Legacy of Crystal Island

Published by Matador 28th August 2017


Set in the 22nd century, The Legacy of Crystal Island follows the seven-year initiation of Orla, a fourteen-year-old princess who lives on an enchanted island protected by a crystal fortress, in a world that is rapidly degenerating under the rule of power leaders focused on greed and the perpetuation of fear. Orla is a direct human-crystal descendent of the Crystalanders, the Guardians of Eternal Wisdom, responsible for keeping balance in the whole cosmos. In the early days of man's story, they bestowed Gifts of Creation on the Earth, transforming man's inherent primal fear with Crystaland Wisdom. After many thousands of years, the primal fear programming resurfaces and once again becomes dominant in man leading to Earth's spiral of degeneration. Orla's destiny is to re-awaken Crystaland Wisdom in man's cellular memory and transform the hatred and conflict in the hearts and minds of mankind. To equip her with the necessary tools and knowledge, she has to undergo an immersion into the unique qualities of Wisdom held in the seven worlds of Crystaland and fully experience the original Gifts of Creation given to Earth. The final part of her initiation is to witness a complete overview of man's legacy of destruction under the tyranny of fear-based leadership. At the end of her initiation, she returns to Crystal Island fully prepared to embark on the next stage of the planet's transformation...


Elizabeth Laird: Welcome To Nowhere

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 13th July 2017


Welcome to Nowhere is a powerful and beautifully written story about the life of one family caught up in civil war by the award-winning author Elizabeth Laird. Twelve-year-old Omar and his brothers and sisters were born and raised in the beautiful and bustling city of Bosra, Syria. Omar doesn't care about politics - all he wants is to grow up to become a successful businessman who will take the world by storm. But when his clever older brother, Musa, gets mixed up with some young political activists, everything changes . . . Before long, bombs are falling, people are dying, and Omar and his family have no choice but to flee their home with only what they can carry. Yet no matter how far they run, the shadow of war follows them - until they have no other choice than to attempt the dangerous journey to escape their homeland altogether. But where do you go when you can't go home?


This is another story that might make you feel uncomfortable - the civil war in Syria has been going on for several years, and with no end in sight you could be forgiven for wondering why anyone would want to base their story in it, but Elizabeth's story tugs at the heart strings in a way that won't let you put it down, which is all you can ask of a good book.


Sam Angus: School For Skylarks

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 27th July 2017


It is 1939. When Lyla is evacuated from her home in London to her great-aunt’s enormous house in the West Country, she expects to be lonely. She has never been to school nor had any friends, and her parents have been at the centre of a scandal. But with the house being used to accommodate an entire school of evacuated schoolgirls, there's no time to think about her old life. Soon there is a horse in a first-floor bedroom and a ferret in Lyla’s sock drawer, hordes of schoolgirls have overrun the house, and Lyla finds out that friends come in all shapes and sizes.


This is a brilliant tale of evacuated schoolgirls during WWII - a school for larks a-plenty - funny, heartwarming and exciting all at the same time. Absolutely stunning writing from Sam Angus.


Emma Donoghue: The Lotterys Plus One

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 28th March 2017


Sumac Lottery is nine years old and the self-proclaimed "good girl" of her (VERY) large, (EXTREMELY) unruly family. And what a family the Lotterys are: four parents, children both adopted and biological, and a menagerie of pets, all living and learning together in a sprawling house called Camelottery. Then one day, the news breaks that one of their grandfathers is suffering from dementia and will be coming to live with them. And not just any grandfather; the long dormant "Grumps," who fell out with his son so long ago that he hasn't been part of any of their lives.
Suddenly, everything changes. Sumac has to give up her room to make the newcomer feel at home. She tries to be nice, but prickly Grumps's clearly disapproves of how the Lotterys live: whole grains, strange vegetables, rescue pets, a multicultural household... He's worse than just tough to get along with -- Grumps has got to go! But can Sumac help him find a home where he belongs?


The fascinating tale of an extraordinary family - I was reinded, in a way, of the Durrells and that's not a bad thing at all. Full of overt humour, love, anxieties, hilarious goings-on and a tremendous sense of fun.


Lane Smith: There Is A Tribe Of Kids

Published by Two Hoots 23rd March 2017


Did you ever want to waddle with a colony of penguins? Wriggle with an army of caterpillars? Or march with a troop of monkeys? Legendary illustrator Lane Smith takes us on a colourful adventure through the natural world, following a child as he weaves through the jungle, dives under the ocean and soars into the sky. Along the way he makes friends and causes mischief with a dazzling array of creatures both large and small - but can he find his own kind? Full of warmth and humour, There Is a Tribe of Kids is a sumptuously detailed portrayal of wild childhood to be pored over for hours on end. A witty and playful exploration of curiosity, discovery and what it means to belong, ideal for sharing with children of all ages. Sprinkled with beautiful gold flecks and specially designed peek-through flaps at the front and back.


This could have been written by someone such as Sir David Attenborough - a superb adventure through some of life's greatest animal kingdoms...



The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its sixteenth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.