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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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Needle by Patrice Laurence

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Needle

The hardest word

Her foster mother, Annie, favours yoga as a de-stressing activity, but for Charlene it’s knitting, the rhythmic clickety click of the needles calming her troubled mind. An angry soul, she’s been knitting an awful lot lately, in a bid to deal with the death of her mother and life in the care system. When Annie’s antagonistic son destroys a very special blanket she’s making, Charlene’s rage leads to her stabbing his hand with her knitting needle. In Needle by Patrice Lawrence, we accompany an unrepentant Charlene on her journey to a police cell, and learn why sorry really is the hardest word.

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The Zebra's Great Escape by Katherine Rundell

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The Zebra’s Great Escape

A joyful zoological caper

Early on in the proceedings of The Zebra’s Great Escape by Katherine Rundell, we’re told by an agitated zebra that ‘adults always want to follow the rules!’ This is why times of crisis traditionally call for a free-spirited child, in this case a young girl called Mink. Flagrantly flouting bedtime orders, Mink is accosted in a city playground one evening by the distressed creature, who tells her that his parents have been captured by a moustachioed scoundrel. He needs her help, and as it turns out, so does an entire living alphabet of wild creatures in this deliciously colourful story from one of our favourite writers.

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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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The Aspargus Bunch by Jessica Scott-Whyte

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The Asparagus Bunch

Doing it differently

Cheerfully irreverent, The Asparagus Bunch by Jessica Scott-Whyte is one of the most entertaining books we’ve read this year. It tells the story of Leon, who is precisely 4,779 days old. The confectionery-obsessed owner of fourteen identical yellow hoodies, Leon has been told he has an attitude problem. This could be why he’s been moved on from six different schools. Or maybe he’s just been terribly misunderstood. We join him at school number seven, as he navigates life as a square peg in a round hole.

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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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The Station Cat by Stephen Hogtun

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The Station Cat

A luminous tale of compassion

In essence a celebration of kindness, The Station Cat by Stephen Hogtun is a thing of beauty, exquisite illustrations accompanying the tale of a lonely cat who makes her home at a suburban railway station. Set in a time of steam trains and bowler-hatted city gents, this drab, sooty place exudes a forlorn air. The waiting passengers appear absorbed, sometimes in their ink-stained broadsheets but more often by their own personal troubles. Like the station, they are sad and grey, turning their indifferent faces away from the feline newcomer, unaware of the impact she will have on their lives.

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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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The Book No One Wants to Read by Beth Bacon

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The Book No One Wants to Read

‘You’re not one of those kids who thinks books are boring, are you?’

Painful as it is to acknowledge, there seems to be a small but vocal anti-reading brigade out there, and boy, are they lacking in compassion! Have they ever considered how it feels to be a neglected book? It’s a lonely life, perched on the bookshelf, desperate to be picked up but knowing you’re destined to sit facing the wall all day, ‘doing a whole lot of nothing’. In The Book No One Wants to Read by Beth Bacon, we join a hopeful little book as it attempts to engage with youthful indifference.

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Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

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Long Way Down

Electrifying tale of urban gang life

Congratulations to Danica Novgorodoff, worthy winner of the Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal 2022, for her stunning illustrative interpretation of Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Reynolds’ blistering American verse novel tells the story of Will, witness to his brother Shawn’s death in a turf war shooting. Schooled in the ways of gang life, Will believes his only option is bloody revenge. In an elevator ride encompassing a mere sixty seconds and seven floors, he will be forced to confront some long overdue truths.

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