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
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,
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
Cos people are gonna be telling you
all kinds of
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
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
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.