We love unearthing books for reluctant readers, and I Hate Reading by Beth Bacon is unlike anything we’ve come across before. It’s aimed at an outrageous subsection of young readers, those wishing to hoodwink gullible adults into believing they’ve become devoted bookworms overnight. If the bookish bore in your child’s life (surely not you?) is nagging them to open a book, try this one. Filled with hints and tips on how to fool people into thinking you’re reading, it’s a must for anti-book bamboozlers everywhere.
‘London stank.’ The punchy opening line to The Dark Lady by Akala sets the tone for this smart and inspired YA adventure, set in the fetid and brutal streets of Elizabethan London. A novel laced with the supernatural, it gives us Henry, an orphan and pickpocket possessed of extraordinary powers, in thrall himself to the poetic magic of William Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays. An intriguing combination in a tale that will take Henry from London’s foulest gutter to its most exclusive gentlemen’s society.
In what feels like a new golden age for kids’ literature, the scope and ambition on display is often dazzling, none more so than in The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethell, a truly exceptional read. Set in Papua New Guinea, it tells the story of a young orphan named Blue Wing. Privy to the magical secrets of the ocean, Blue Wing is intent on learning to call the sharks to her side, and in particular, Xok, the notorious shark that haunts her days. Vengeance is her goal and we accompany Blue Wing on her dramatic journey to wish fulfilment.
Weirdo by Zadie Smith & Nick Laird is a celebration of the unconventional by two authors who we’re told ‘usually write for grown-ups’ and are ‘both a bit weird.’ The stratospherically successful spouses, having mastered novels, essays and poetry, now join creative forces in this endearing new picture book, their first foray into children’s literature. It tells the story of Maud, a self-effacing young guinea pig, and her struggle to fit into a new home where her dress-sense and demeanour utterly baffle the family pets. Prepare for a lesson in assertiveness from the gentlest of domestic rodents.
Imagine a computer chip in all its complex miniature glory, and then your soul, mind, and lifetime of memories installed upon it in the creation of a ‘you’ hologram, the perfect comforter for your loved ones after your death. Digital immortality and peace for the bereaved, what’s not to like? We find out in Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll, as we follow intrepid schoolgirl, Cora, into the AI world of the intriguing Pomegranate Institute. Sci-Fi thriller and fizzing celebration of neurodiversity, it’s one of my favourite reads of the year to date.
Rewilding is the practice of taking the landscape back to a more natural ecosystem, recalibrating the environment and allowing its man-made bruises to heal. In Bone Music by David Almond, we contemplate whether the philosophy of rewilding should be applied to our very own selves. It tells the story of young urbanite, Sylvia, reluctant newcomer to a Northumbrian village of too much sky and capricious mobile connection. Initially hostile to rural life, Sylvia is about to undergo a profound transformation in this absorbing contemplation of the connections between ourselves and nature.
The 15th of March 2019 was an extraordinary day in history, marking as it did, the very first global school strike for climate. Raising their collective voice, more than a million and a half school children across the world took to the streets, demanding immediate action on climate change. How to Change Everything by Naomi Klein is inspired by this new wave of bold, young campaigners. Aimed at teenagers who wish to understand the history, science and politics of climate change, while also acquiring the tools for activism, the renowned social activist and writer shares her decades of accumulated wisdom.
2021 marks the 60th anniversary of The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, but also sadly, the ingenious author’s death. Juster had a long life and bequeathed us this uniquely marvellous and clever book, the revisiting of which has confirmed my long held belief that it’s nothing short of a masterpiece. It tells the story of perennially bored Milo, who is gifted a coin-operated tollbooth by a mysterious benefactor. It is purple, the colour of mystery, and on the other side of its turnpike lies adventure, magic, and the road to some much-needed enlightenment.
Stella loves the ritual of Family Film Night. Every Sunday, the lights are dimmed, popcorn popped, and then…Stella gets her phone out, brother Teddy is glued to his tablet, and Mum and Dad watch an arty film on TV. On this particular Sunday, as they’re enjoying their ‘separate things like a family,’ the unimaginable happens. Every single screen in the entire world just stops. The Day the Screens Went Blank by Danny Wallace invites us to join Stella and her family in the ensuing mayhem, as with civilisation collapsing around them, they embark on a road trip to rescue Gran (without satnav!)
When Flannery O’Connor was a little girl, she came to the considered conclusion that there is something about strangeness that makes people ‘sit up and look.’ Just as well really, as this eccentric child grew up to write singularly unsettling stories that made the entire literary world sit up and propelled her to an enduring fame.The Strange Birds of Flannery O’Connor by Amy Alznauer explores the life and childhood fascinations of the late American writer. A radiant and wonderful portrait, it will captivate free-spirited young readers.