The year is 1835, and Charles Darwin is immersed in his groundbreaking discoveries in the Galapagos Islands. Assisting him is former cabin boy, Syms Covington, cherry-picked by Darwin to be his assistant collector, hunter, and right-hand man. So far, so historically accurate. Darwin’s Dragons by Lindsay Galvin begins its flight of fancy in a gap in Covington’s real-life journal, where she steps in to conjure up a wonderfully cinematic read, involving a mysterious isle, restless volcano, and fire-breathing golden winged beasts. This Galapagan adventure could rewrite history.
It is the first April since the Great War, and spring 1919 brings welcome blue skies and the anticipation of new beginnings. For Ben and Lotti, it also heralds the most fantastical adventure, as the fellow orphans embark on a self-manned boat journey to France, in search of missing loved ones. An old-fashioned tale of valour and determination, Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant has just scooped the Costa 2020 Children’s Book Award. It is a novel rich with the kindness of strangers and the affecting consequences of war.
It is the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar and in Singapore, The Hungry Ghost Festival is under way, a time when the gates to the underworld are flung open and the dead roam freely among us. In this new novel from the wonderfully globetrotting Pushkin Press, we’re transported there, along with troubled Danish schoolgirl, Freja. A reluctant new arrival into her dad’s second family, Freja is struggling to belong. She is far from being the only uneasy soul in The Hungry Ghost by H.S. Norup, an evocative exploration of family, memory and the nature of grief.
I cannot remember a time when Michael Rosen wasn’t part of my reading life. As a London school kid, I vividly recall his organised poetry events and his books of joyously informal verse gracing our school library. In this latest collection, the theme of migration is explored through the lens of his own family history. Complemented by the evocative illustrations of Quentin Blake, On the Move: Poems About Migration by Michael Rosen takes us from Nazi-occupied Europe to the present day, and reminds us that ‘Home is where you find it.’
Early December is delicious for its ‘glimmerings and promise of special things,’ a feeling that gathers a gladly expectant momentum as we approach the home stretch towards December the 25th. In A Children’s Literary Christmas edited by Anna James, all the sparkle of Yuletide is captured in a charming and thoughtful selection of festive writing. Whether its significance to you is religious or cultural, James has a story or poem in mind. From beloved classics to contemporary tales, this British Library gift book contains more delights than a box of Harrods’ crackers.
Having languished in the British Intelligence vaults for eighty years, this TOP SECRET file is about to be revealed to wide-eyed young readers. Set during the darkest days of the London Blitz, it tells of one brave orphan’s battle against the might of the Nazi regime, with only an escaped gorilla and his tin-legged great-uncle Sid for company. Be prepared for espionage, a plot to bring Britain to its knees, and an awful lot of tickling, in Code Name Bananas by David Walliams.
If the virulent events of 2020 have propelled you into a spiralling gloom, The Book of Hopes edited by Katherine Rundell, could be exactly what you need. This wonderfully uplifting collection of stories, poems and illustration is part of a Hope project, initiated by Rundell and intended to ‘kickstart the engine of delight inside the human heart.’ Her rallying cry to fellow creatives has led to an astonishing role call of talent, Anthony Horowitz, Jacqueline Wilson and Axel Scheffler, to name but a few of the hundred plus contributors.
Touted as ‘Lemony Snicket meets Dorian Gray,’ and already snapped up by Warner Bros, there’s a real bookish buzz around The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips. It is the macabre tale of Ebenezer Tweezer, a vain and frankly immoral 511-year-old gentleman, who has the glowing appearance and spring in his step of a young man. In true Wildean style, Ebenezer has entered a pact which guarantees him eternal youth. In exchange, he has to tend to something rather beastly in the attic, something evil, greedy, and potentially child-munching.
Consider if you will, the life of the average superhero. It’s all well and good saving the planet from evil masterminds every other day and getting to wear a groovy outfit, but what really goes on behind closed doors? Pizazz by Sophy Henn takes us inside the mind of Pizazz herself, a young schoolgirl born into an extended family of famous superheroes and possessed of her own startling powers. In this lively and amusing comic-style story, we learn that her life is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Scotland Yard are appealing for witnesses. Egyptian artefacts valued at over ten million pounds have been stolen from a locked display case and the world of antiquities is in uproar. Sounds like a case for The Adventurers, renowned band of 21st century mystery-solvers (Think the Famous Five armed with Google and GPS). The Adventurers and the City of Secrets by Jemma Hatt is a spirited crime caper through the streets of London. In this, the third book in the series, their mission is to track down two thieving master criminals via the city’s hidden trails and tunnels.