8-11 years


The Little Match Girl Strikes Back by Emma Carroll

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The Little Match Girl Strikes Back

A fairytale favourite joins the picket line

Bridie Sweeney is a slum-dwelling Victorian match girl. In her smoggy world of bone-weary souls, it’s hard to believe in the existence of magic. But as this is a fairytale, exist it does, in the form of three very special matches, the striking of which will illuminate Bridie’s path to an empowered future. The Little Match Girl Strikes Back by Emma Carroll is an audacious retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale, one in which, instead of dying quietly in the street, our heroine leads the match factory workers out on strike.

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The Doll's House by Rumer Godden

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The Dolls’ House

Celebrating 75 years of Godden’s wonderfully nuanced classic

First published in 1947, The Dolls’ House by Rumer Godden beautifully captures the post-war Make Do and Mend era. It tells the tale of the Plantagenets, a family of dolls who reside in the London nursery of sisters, Emily and Charlotte. In this time of acute shortages, there are no dolls’ houses to be had, and consequently, the Plantagenets live crammed into two woeful shoeboxes. When their dreams of acquiring their very own dolls’ house come true, delight turns to dismay when malevolent Marchpane moves in with them, a china doll on a ruthless mission.

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Frankinstiltskin by Joseph Coelho

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Frankenstiltskin

A gleefully twisted tale from our new Children’s Laureate

Frankenstiltskin by Joseph Coelho is the second in his series of fiendishly clever literary mash-ups. Coelho, our newly appointed Children’s Laureate is an award-winning poet and passionate advocate of the power of verse, used to marvellous effect in this retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, with its literally galvanising Frankensteinian goings on. This is Bryony’s story. Kidnapped by an autocratic king, she is given three impossible tasks to complete on pain of, if not death, then something unspeakably hideous. The situation seems hopeless, until a sinister impish creature materialises with an offer of help. The price is beyond anything the Brothers Grimm ever imagined.

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Ajay and the Mumbai Sun by Varsha Shah

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Ajay and the Mumbai Sun

Corruption, comradeship and cricket

Set in the boisterous heart of modern Mumbai, Ajay and the Mumbai Sun by Varsha Shah, tells the story of budding journalist, Ajay, and the ambitious 12-year-old’s attempt to create a newspaper with his pals. Warnings that news seekers have defected from old-school print to mobile phone turn out to be the least of their worries, as this bunch of lionhearted crusaders find themselves reporting on the corrupt underbelly of their beloved city and battling to save their slum-dwelling community. In 2022, is the pen (or printing press) still mightier than the sword?

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Over to You! by Roger McGough

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Over to You!

‘Just take the words and run with them.’

Early in the proceedings of Over to You! by Roger McGough, the poet gives us a gentle warning. Learning to write poetry at school can be a chaotic affair. Once words are invited to the party, they’ll never want to leave. From the first tentative attempts at verse in the classroom to the moment it sets young imaginations free, McGough’s latest collection takes us on the most delightful of literary journeys. Read full Review

Escape Room by Christopher Edge

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Escape Room

A brain-stretching adventure of thrills and spills

For the uninitiated, escape rooms are a singularly 21st century leisure activity, comprised of a team, one or more locked rooms, and a game master, whose fiendish challenges and puzzles must be solved within a set time. In Escape Room by Christopher Edge, we meet Ami, whose dad has booked her a ticket for the ultimate experience. An ingeniously plotted adventure is in store, as Ami and her unknown teammates grapple with an incendiary game of chess, a herd of woolly mammoths, and the realisation that the future of the world itself may be at stake.

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The Last Bear by Hannah Gold

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The Last Bear

For the planet and polar bears everywhere

Worthy winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2022 and our stand-out favourite of the year to date, The Last Bear by Hannah Gold is an exquisitely lovely read. It is the story of 11-year-old April and her time spent living on a meteorological station on an island in the Arctic circle. In this beautiful land of the midnight sun, the ice caps are melting and the polar bears are gone. Except, April has seen one, silhouetted on the horizon. A bear that will change her life, in a moving clarion call for our changing planet.

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When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle

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When the Sky Falls

The London Blitz, a silverback gorilla, and the meaning of love

A major London railway station, 1941. The platform is a sea of parents and young evacuees bearing regulation gas masks, I.D tags, and heavy hearts. Walking against the tide is 12-year-old Joseph, an arrival as opposed to a departee, and stricken with rage rather than sorrow. In When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle, we join Joseph as he is placed under the care of the equally fiery Mrs F, the owner of a rundown local zoo. If the Luftwaffe don’t get him, her silverback gorilla might, in this phenomenal story of war and compassion.

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Telephone Tales by Gianni Rodari

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Telephone Tales

A playfully surreal Italian treasure trove of tales

In the delightful Telephone Tales by Gianni Rodari, we’re transported to 20th century Italy, where we meet a travelling businessman named Signor Bianchi. Being away from his family throughout the week is tough for this doting father, and so to compensate, every evening at 9pm on the dot, he rings his daughter and tells her a bedtime story. As this is the era of pay phones and Signor Bianchi is a frugal gentleman, each story must be related in the time that a single coin will buy. Here we discover seventy of his deliciously peculiar (and short!) tales.

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Locked Out Lily by Nick Lake

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Locked Out Lily

A spine-tingling metamorphosis

Locked Out Lily by Nick Lake is both a deliciously spooky adventure and a journey into one girl’s fragile psyche. Lily is struggling with both a potentially fatal illness and the impending arrival of a new sibling. Sent to stay with her gran while her parents await the new baby in hospital, she broods that the baby is intended to replace her sickly self. That turns out to be the least of her troubles, when she returns home to find her parents have themselves been replaced by sinister dead-eyed doppelgangers. Ousting the imposters will require Lily to confront her innermost fears.

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