Situated next to the village church in Little Wyverns, is the remarkable Strangeworlds Travel Agency. To all appearances a dusty Victorian relic of a shop, when 12-year-old Flick Hudson stumbles across its threshold she discovers a travel business unlike any other. Rows of suitcases line the walls, each one a portal to a mysterious parallel world. No discounted fortnights on the Algarve here, instead the heady possibility of kaleidoscopic world-hopping adventure. The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L. D. Lapinski joins Flick on the most magical, mind-bending, and frankly dangerous package holiday ever.
‘I googled if it’s normal to hallucinate manifestations of your grief. Unsurprisingly it’s not. ‘Owen’s dad died four months ago, since when he’s been haunted by visions of ominous skeletal birds. Struggling at a new school, Owen feels overwhelmed by grief. Until fellow student, Duncan Cyman, comes into his life. In the striking and unusual Grief Angels by David Owen, we visit the domain of the male teen psyche, interwoven with an intriguing strand of magical realism.
11-year-old Margaret Simon is fairly sure that deodorant is unnecessary until at least the age of twelve, when the advent of body odour will also shoo in periods, bras and with any luck, first kisses. As if looming adolescence wasn’t taking up enough of her waking thoughts, Margaret is also caught in a whirl of moving house, changing school and wondering if she’ll fit into this new suburban world. 50 years since publication, the candid and perceptive Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret byJudy Blume remains the quintessential pre-teen read.
‘Our apartment door was unlocked when I got home from school that Friday, which was strange.’ Nothing appears to have been stolen from 12-year-old Miranda’s home but she subsequently discovers a cryptic note, informing her that someone she loves is in mortal danger. In order to avoid catastrophe, Miranda must turn detective cum scientist and challenge her own received notions of the nature of time. A 2010 Newbery medal winner, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is an inventive time travel mystery set in 1970’s New York, ideal for canny young sleuths in search of an invigorating read.
Is it true that there are unwritten rules for girls? Star student, Marin, concludes that it is. Having seemingly coasted her way to academic excellence, Marin has never considered that her life may have been influenced by tacit societal codes. Realisation is swift and brutal, when targeted by a sexually predatory teacher, Marin’s attempts to hold him to account see her collide with both academia and her peers. Rules For Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno is a great conversation starter for any young feminists in your life.
At what age should young readers be introduced to the delights of Charles Dickens? Never one for skimping on his sentences, Dickens’ renowned wordiness and convoluted plots present a challenge for even the most determined bookworm. Welcome then to Great Expectations by Jack Noel, a humorous reinvention of the classic novel.
The lives of millions of children have been turned upside down by the Coronavirus which has left many parents wondering what is the best way to explain it all. To help, children’s publisher Nosy Crow has just published online and free of charge, Coronavirus – A book for children. The book was written by staff at the publisher with advice from Professor Graham Medley of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, two head teachers and a child psychologist and is illustrated by the Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler. Please spread the word about this brilliant idea.
‘Fair is foul and foul is fair,’ a famous line from the opening scene of Macbeth, itself the inspiration for this steamroller of a revenge novel. This is Jade’s story. Beautiful, fierce Jade, who gatecrashes a glittering LA party with her ‘coven’ of best friends. When her drink is spiked and she is seriously sexually assaulted, Jade swears bloody vengeance on the ‘golden boy’ perpetrator Duncan, and his band of sidekicks. Steel yourself for Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin.
Uncle Andy’s by James Warhola is just the kind of quirky gem we delight in unearthing. It’s written and illustrated by Andy Warhol’s nephew James, who recounts a family pilgrimage to New York City to visit his eccentric relative. The year was 1962, Warhol’s Soup Can paintings were causing a commotion and he was well on the way to becoming one of the most controversial artists of all time. In this warm, anecdotal recollection, Warhol’s home is just as ‘faabbbulous’ as he is. Come inside and meet his 25 cats (yes really).
As a thinker and a dreamer, 11-year-old Stevie has a gloriously rich interior life and is on a mission to answer life’s big questions. How do phones work? What are sea angels? Why does she get a warm fuzzy feeling that only happens when she looks at her friend Chloe? Deservedly shortlisted for this year’s Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan is a wonderfully eloquent and perceptive introduction to LGBTQ identity for pre-teens.