Everyone says Big Pete Kowalski is a good guy, widowed with four kids yet never once asking for help. His 11-year-old son, Max, wants to be just like him when he grows up. Max, however, is already carrying a man-size burden, caring for his three little sisters while his dad works long shifts. Max Kowalski Didn’t Mean It by Susie Day charts events when Big Pete suddenly disappears. In this distinctive and engaging novel, Max and his siblings are plunged into an adventure that will take them from Southend Pier to the mystical Welsh mountains.
In the light of recent news events in the UK, The Beast of Buckingham Palace by David Walliams, is stuck with a rather unfortunate title. Thankfully, the beast in question here is of the mythical variety, as Walliams dips his toe into the world of Fantasy. Set in a dystopian London in the year 2120, this is Prince Alfred’s story. Dark forces are at work in Buckingham Palace, and sickly, bookish Alfred must summon his inner hero and confront the threat, not only to the royal family, but ultimately the entire world.
The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett tells the strange tale of a lonely little girl named Eepersip, who yearns to escape the confines of her family and roam free forever in the wilderness. Running away from home, Eepersip experiences transcendental joy in her communion with nature. She does not want to be suffocated by conventional home and hearth, but her parents, in their desperation to keep her ‘safe’ have other ideas. Can this wild spirit be tamed?
Picture your future grandchildren ‘…standing on a spotless beach, staring out at a vast ocean free of plastic, pulsing with life, surf and wonder.’ Is this a realistic prospect? Kids Fight Plastic by Martin Dorey tells us that it can be, if young eco-activists everywhere rise up and lend voice and action to the campaign to save our beautiful oceans. Abuzz with ideas, this practical how-to guide shows us how seemingly small actions can make a difference.
Pay Attention Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt is the very definition of offbeat. Our eponymous hero is the junior man of the house, his father a U.S Army captain on duty in Germany, his home life a chaotic jumble of siblings and stressed mother. Unexpectedly bequeathed a real-life English butler, their suburban American life is about to be turned on its head. Prepare for humour, pathos and a spot of cricket before lunch.
The opening chapter of The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell gives us 1920’s New York, and Young Vita Marlowe, aboard an incoming ocean liner. Nodding ‘…at the city in greeting as a boxer greets an opponent before a fight,’ Vita signals that we’re in for a lively read, this combative vibe resurfacing after a traumatic reunion with her recently bereaved grandpa. He has been swindled out of house and home by a ruthless mafioso, and in search of vengeance, a determined Vita prepares to dive into the sordid world of gangsters, speakeasies and heists.
Inspired by the daily scud of clouds across the sky, best pals Angie Moon and Harry Christmas are experts on weather fronts and formations of cloud, be it candy floss wisp or rain-swollen knot. Born two days apart, Angie thinks of Harry as her almost-twin, but their easy, uncomplicated friendship is about to be tested beyond endurance when recurring headaches lead to a grave diagnosis for Harry. Cloud Boy by Marcia Williams is a touching and unusual story of love and resilience. Keep a tissue to hand.
Cinderella Liberator by Rebecca Solnit enticed me not only with its striking title and cover, but also the improbable pairing of author and illustrator. Rebecca Solnit, high-profile writer and spirited activist, and traditionalist Arthur Rackham, classic book illustrator from the Edwardian era. In this modern take on Cinderella, Solnit aspires to release the cast of characters from their seventeenth-century shackles. Does she succeed in bringing Cinders marching into the 21st-century, and is it possible to march in glass slippers anyway?
‘Remember: Be good, be adventurous…and look after your parents.’
These are among the last words of the Unknown Adventurer, a globe-trotting explorer whose notes and sketches have been discovered in a remote part of the Amazon. Apparently intended for two young relatives, her (or his) work has been faithfully reproduced here, in The Lost Book of Adventure: From the Notebooks of the Unknown Adventurer edited by Teddy Keen. Contemplation of our beautiful planet is combined with practical instruction and field-notes. All that is required is one sensible adult, to assist young readers with the practicalities of becoming a fully-fledged adventurer.
Does the name Baba Yaga provoke a frisson of unease in your mind? It did for me as I dredged up vague childhood reading memories of a forest-dwelling crone whose hut stands on the spindliest of chicken legs. An enduring character from Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga has been reimagined in The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson.