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
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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.
Teenage girls today have a freedom and power that their foremothers could only imagine, and yet with it has come an unprecedented level of pressure and expectation. In You Don’t Understand Me by Dr Tara Porter, we look at a 21st century society that sometimes seems ‘awash with emotion.’ Navigating the perennially thorny issues of teenhood, Porter provides a refreshingly free-thinking perspective on maintaining emotional stability in a world in which all the game rules have changed. Using case studies and observations gleaned from many years of clinical practice, she lights the way for young women (and their often flummoxed parents).
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.
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.
A delightful premise and a visual treat, I Am the Subway by Kim Hyo-eun tells us a story from the unusual perspective of a subway train. Across the course of an average weekday, we join the train as it runs in one big ring around the city of Seoul (think the Circle Line but reliable!) As the train rattles on, it shares stories of the passengers it welcomes aboard every day, giving us a glimpse into the everyday lives of the inhabitants of this great Korean metropolis.
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.
A contender for the Yoto Carnegie Medal 2022, Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, springs from the longlist with its eye-catching title. Set in the American West, it’s a series of interlocking teen stories that roam from Alaska to Colorado. Characters and events intersect throughout, often oblivious of their roles in each other’s tales. Only the reader sees the big picture, and the motifs of wildfire, tainted priesthood, and a missing child. Likely the first time you’ve ever encountered amnesiac shellfish poisoning as a plot device, it’s an inventive portrayal of young small town life.
The English Channel has long been a scene of triumph for long-distance swimmers keen to front crawl the 21 miles between England and France. But this often tumultuous seaway is also notorious for being a watery graveyard of migrants and refugees. In The Crossing by Manjeet Mann, the lives of Nat, a young English Channel swimmer, and Sammy, an Eritrean refugee collide. Winner of the Costa Children’s Book Award 2021, this quietly devastating verse novel explores the perspective of two teenagers from very different worlds.
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.