Katherine Rundell: The Explorer
Published by Bloomsbury 2nd January 2018
From his seat in the tiny aeroplane, Fred watches as the mysteries of the Amazon jungle pass by below him. He has always dreamed of becoming an explorer, of making history and of reading his name amongst the lists of great discoveries. If only he could land and look about him. As the plane crashes into the canopy, Fred is suddenly left without a choice. He and the three other children may be alive, but the jungle is a vast, untamed place. With no hope of rescue, the chance of getting home feels impossibly small. Except, it seems, someone has been there before them. The Explorer has been shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2017.
A children's adventure story par excellence! This is the kind of story that will inspire children to read and to go on to the heady world of adventure that exists in classic and mainstream fiction for children and young adults, and then onto the world adult adventure fiction. Katherine has an easy style that assists with the overall reading process and her characters are people we all know and love from our own friendships and family ties. This is a book to be treasured, one that has and will continue to win prizes. Absolutely superb.
Greg James and Chris Smith: Kid Normal and the Rogue Heroes
Published by Bloomsbury 22nd March 2018
The second epically funny adventure starring Murph Cooper and the Super Zeroes from Greg James and Chris Smith. Running a team of crime-fighting superheroes is a complicated business - especially when your mum's not allowed to know that you're doing it. But Murph Cooper is making it work: he's a schoolkid by day and a member of the top-secret Heroes' Alliance by night. Not that anyone at The School seems to care. Most of Murph's teachers and classmates still believe that unless you have a proper superpower you can't be a real hero. But his achievements have caught the attention of at least one person . Far away in a maximum security prison, the world's most notorious supervillain, Magpie, has just broken a 30-year silence. Magpie's special power? Draining heroes of their Capabilities and taking them for his own. And his first words? 'Bring Kid Normal to me .'
...and on an altogether lighter note, Greg James and Chris Smith's Kid Normal is a fascinating, rather nerdy character with whom most of us can readily identify - all of us secretly want to be a secret super hero, don't we? Erica's illustrations brighten the pages in an electrifying kind of way, almost like the doodles we used to create to alleviate the tedium of school textbooks (only far, far better, of course!) as Murph cruises his way through school and his after school alter ego adventures. Great fun!
Kara LaReau: Uncanny Express
Published by Amulet 9th January 2018
Jaundice and Kale are back from their adventure on the high seas, and they are settling back into a quiet life in Dullsville, just the way they like it. The tea is tepid, the oatmeal is tasteless, and the socks are ripe for darning . . . until Aunt Shallot shows up and reveals herself to be anything but the dull relation they were expecting. Instead, she tells her nieces she is Magique, Queen of Magic, and she’s on her way to a big show and in need of two willing assistants. As Magique and the Bland sisters board the Uncanny Express, they meet a cast of mystifying characters. And when Magique goes missing, it’s up to Jaundice and Kale to rescue the magician―with the help of famous detective Hugo Fromage. An inventive story in the tradition of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Uncanny Express has all the whimsy and humour that readers who are looking for an anything-but-bland adventure will love.
The world Kara has created for the Bland sisters to inhabit is, for me, almost Gormenghastly in many ways, and it's the way they live that somehow overrides what is actually happening, although that, too, is absolutely fascinating. Quirky and very enjoyable.
Chloe Lukasiak: Girl on Pointe
Published by Bloomsbury 25th January 2018
Chloe Lukasiak believes that things happen for a reason. She knows that life would be easier without disappointments, bullying, and medical issues - but sometimes it takes challenges to inspire you to achieve big things. From her status as fan favourite on the US hit reality television show Dance Moms to her current life as a social media star with millions of fans, Chloe has found that self-acceptance and kindness are the key to getting over the rough spots in life and realising your passions. This full-colour, heavily designed book, featuring never-before-seen photos, inspirational quotes, and Chloe's own doodles and poetry offers exclusive insight into Chloe's world as well as a message that will inspire all readers to pursue their dreams and be true to their selves.
I'm not sure how this will resonate in the UK - although some US TV shows are available in the world of Rupert Murdoch, of course, I'm not at all sure many people including our children, will have heard of Chloe Lukasiak - or is it just me?
Mark Powers: Spy Toys Undercover
Published by Bloomsbury 8th February 2018
Toy Story meets James Bond in the third book in this incredible action-packed series! Can Dan the teddy bear who is too strong, Arabella the rag doll with the bad temper and Flax the tech genuis robot rabbit save the day once more? When the world's most famous chocolate factory disappears, it is up to the Spy Toys to find out the truth - and fast! If the chocolate runs out, there could be riots from children everywhere! The Spy Toys are sent undercover into a school where they need to disguise themselves as regular pupils. Could this be their toughest challenge yet? They'll need all their wits about them to defeat this baddie. And one thing is for sure: these kids don't play nice! Featuring hilarious illustrations from Tim Wesson throughout, this series is perfect for fans of Pamela Butchart and David Solomons' My Brother is a Superhero.
I don't recall Bloomsbury sending me the previous two escapades in this series, but wish they had! Sheer lunacy, but very, very enjoyable!
Jenny McLahlan: Truly, Wildly, Deeply
Published by Bloomsbury 8th March 2018
Annie is starting college. She can't wait. No more school, no more uniform, and no one telling her what to do. It's the start of a new adventure and Annie's not going to let anyone or anything get in the way of that. Freedom matters to Annie. She has cerebral palsy and she's had to fight hard to get the world to see her for who she truly is. Then she meets Fab. He's six foot two, Polish and a passionate believer in.well, just about everything, but most of all Annie and good old fashioned romance. The moment Fab sees Annie, he's wildly drawn to her and declares she must be his girl. Annie's horrified. She doesn't want to be anyone's anything, especially if it means losing her independence. But then Annie finds herself falling for Fab. As things go deeply wrong, Annie realises that love can make you do wild, crazy things, and so she sets out to win his heart with a romantic gesture of truly epic proportions! Fans fell in love with the warmth, wit, romance and fierce friendships in Flirty Dancing, Love Bomb, Sunkissed and Star Struck. Jenny McLachlan writes the best kind of real-life fiction - with big themes and characters you'll love, her books go straight to your heart.
Jenny has a way of identifying and quantifying the things that matter to young adults as they tackle the daunting worlds of love and further education. Truly Wildly Deeply is a cautionary tale that will resonate with a large body of young adult girls making their first steps into the twilight world of in between adolescence and adulthood. And with adolescence now continuing until the age of 25, this will draw in almost a whole new generation of potential readers, of whom it is certainly worthy.
Paul Minton: Miss Winter's Demise And Other Crimes Against Poetry
Published by Matador 28th January 2018
Miss Winter’s Demise and Other Crimes Against Poetry is the debut collection of poems from Paul Minton exploring a wide range of themes and subjects. The book contains poems about strange things like a dog with too many legs, a boy who turns into a bird and even superheroes armed with the powers of bad breath and dandruff. There are rhymes about flying farm animals, extremely polite pirates and a newspaper especially for ghosts. And then there is the curious tale of Miss Winter’s demise in which the mystery of her spontaneous combustion is finally explained... Or is it?
Written in a quirky and humorous style, Miss Winter’s Demise and Other Crimes Against Poetry also contains a number of illustrations that will help to fire the reader’s imagination. Each poem rhymes and concludes with a surprising twist or comic punchline.
Inspired by the work of Spike Milligan and comparable to that of Kenn Nesbitt and Shel Silverstein, Paul’s debut book will appeal to young readers aged 9 and over, as well as adult readers with a good sense of humour.
Larraine Susan Harrison: Red Snow
Published by Matador 28th January 2018
Twelve-year-old Megan thought she knew everything there was to know about her mother s death, but she was wrong. Confronted by a web of deceit and lies from her family and ignored by her schoolmates, she befriends her new neighbour, Ryan. But Ryan is hiding a dangerous secret in the nearby woods. He has found some blood on the snow next to an old watchtower and Megan is drawn into a situation that she would rather avoid.
When the two friends are saved from danger by an intriguing woman called Irene, Megan begins to realise Irene has information that could shed light on the mysterious events surrounding her mother s death. Meanwhile, Megan s father sinks deeper into depression and forbids her from reaching out to Irene again.
As the mystery deepens, a failed burglary and the discovery of an intruder in Ryan s garden reveal the truth about the past. A final unexpected twist brings some comfort and happiness to Megan s tragic life as the book reaches a hopeful conclusion.
Taking readers on an emotional and gripping journey, Red Snow deals with serious contemporary issues including depression and post-traumatic stress as Megan battles against her father s illness to unravel the truth about her mother s death. Comparable to Suzanne LaFleur s Love Aubrey and David Yelland s The Truth About Leo, Larraine s debut book will appeal to readers aged 9-11 years who enjoy mysteries, as well as to charities and organisations raising awareness about mental health.
Gabriella Thomas: The Cats of Butterwick Sands
Published by The Book Guild 28th November
The Cats of Butterwick Sands is a children's book following the various adventures of cats in a small run down seaside town called Butterwick Sands, a place that has seen better days; the hero being one special cat named Percy. He is a very clever and dignified cat and he is at the centre of all the adventures, stories and intrigues that the cats and other animals have. The other cats within the book are strays from across England and beyond - they come together to restore the funfair and caravan park, breathing life back into Butterwick and thus ensuring its survival.
Emily MacKenzie: Eric Makes A Splash
Published by Bloomsbury 8th February 2018
Eric is about to make a splash ... Or is he? The problem is that Eric is a worrier, and nothing worries him more than the thought of swimming. So when Eric receives an invitation to a pool party, he is sent into a worrying whirl. What if his fur gets wet? What if water goes in his eyes? What if he sinks to the bottom of the pool? Fortunately, Eric has a brave and fearless friend who wants to help. But can she convince Eric that swimming is fun? A positive and imaginative treatment of a very common childhood worry that is guaranteed to help allay the fears of little worriers everywhere. From the creator of Wanted: Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar; Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat and There's Broccoli in my Ice Cream!
Swimming was never something I ever wanted to do, and trips to the public swimming baths in the city were outings of dread for me before we were allowed to drop them from our more adult curriculum. I can readily identify with Eric!
Sara Barnard: Goodbye, Perfect
Published by Pan Macmillan 8th February 2018
Goodbye, Perfect is a beautiful and emotional contemporary YA novel, with a powerful friendship at its heart, by bestselling author Sara Barnard. When I was wild, you were steady . . . Now you are wild - what am I? Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with a guy Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. And it's the last person she would have expected. Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts. As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.
Another YA novel that deals with the kinds of things adults have to face up to all too soon. A super read.
Brianog Brady Dawson (illustrated by Michael Connor, colouring by Alan Nolan): Danny Brown and His Daft Dog
Published by O'Brien 29th January 2018
Danny Brown is always up to mischief! Danny goes to the park with his grandparents, baby Susie and his dog, Keeno. It's a very cold day! Danny is not impressed that Keeno has nothing to keep him warm. Granny has warm socks. Baby Susie has a warm hat. Poor Keeno has nothing! It's not fair! Not to worry.... Danny has a plan! What could go wrong?
I love this story! Danny and Keeno are a winning combination and get up to all kinds of things during the course of their days together. The illustrations are superb and the story is amazingly good! There's another Danny and Kenno adventure also out now, see below...
Brianog Brady Dawson (illustrated by Michael Connor, colouring by Alan Nolan): Danny Brown and The Big Surprise
Published by O'Brien 29th January 2018
Danny's back! And he's in trouble with Granny - again! This time he has to keep Granny's secret until Mum's birthday, but Danny isn't very good at being good. When he's told that he can't let Keeno into his room, he decides to find another hiding place for the Big Surprise! Will this work? Can he keep the secret without getting into trouble? What do you think?
The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its twentieth 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.