Lyra reveres reason above all else, numbly observing that the very stars seem dead ‘…a vast silent empty indifference, all quite meaningless.’ Can this be the feisty heroine we remember from His Dark Materials, the girl with witch oil in her soul?The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman builds on the legendary multiverse of the previous novels, and joins Lyra as an Oxford undergraduate. An ineptly executed murder triggers a tale that will encompass a great journey, monumental secrets, and jeopardy too, as the shadowy powers-that-be resume their historic pursuit of young Lyra Silvertongue.
Lil and Kizzy are twins and Travellers, their lives ostensibly nomadic and free. But this is Romania in the late Middle Ages, a time of great persecution and danger for roaming communities, and tales persist of a northern prince with a penchant for stealing young Traveller girls, drinking their blood and inducing a malignant immortality. Your inner goth will be rewarded in The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, as we are introduced to the world of the dark prince himself. In this deliciously gothic feminist novel, Lil and Kizzy confront the legends and alter our Hammer Horror preconceptions.
Picture your future grandchildren ‘…standing on a spotless beach, staring out at a vast ocean free of plastic, pulsing with life, surf and wonder.’ Is this a realistic prospect? Kids Fight Plastic by Martin Dorey tells us that it can be, if young eco-activists everywhere rise up and lend voice and action to the campaign to save our beautiful oceans. Abuzz with ideas, this practical how-to guide shows us how seemingly small actions can make a difference.
You may think that our current political crises are staggeringly unprecedented but picture this: a power-hungry and newly elected Prime Minister, charged with the violent murder of one of the underworld’s shadiest characters. This is merely the first in a chain of explosive events in Crossfire by Malorie Blackman, the fifth instalment in her applauded Noughts & Crosses series. A clever thriller with the emphasis firmly on the political, it’s a challenging read for young adults beginning to consider their place in the world.
Emily Daly is 17-years-old and a bright, stylish and very cool young woman. She is also officially a ‘romance-free zone’ and has reached the inescapably grim conclusion that this is because she is fat (an adjective the author embraces). No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter charts Emily’s last year at school before uni beckons. A spirited and sometimes fierce call for self-acceptance, I’m intending to hand out copies to every teenager I know.
Is the child in your life of the decidedly average variety? Or are you bristling at the suggestion? Your child is infinitely special. You haven’t quite discovered what their gift is but you’re sure to unearth it any day now, an attitude employed by teenage Sam’s parents in The Gifted, the Talented and Me by William Sutcliffe. This hugely entertaining novel chronicles Sam’s life after he is ill-advisedly enrolled at the North London Academy for the Gifted and Talented. A comedic treat is in store.
September ushers the kids back to school, or for some of our littlest ones, signals the very beginning of their school careers. Here then is the timely tale of newcomer, Aada, and The Truth Pixie, her best friend and personal navigator through the bewildering complexities of school life. The Truth Pixie Goes to School by Matt Haig is a story in rhyme, aimed at soothing school nerves and instilling confidence at an often anxious time. Energetically illustrated by the always-excellent Chris Mould, we join Aada as she anticipates starting a brand new school. A daunting prospect but thankfully the Truth Pixie is right by her side, effervescent, forthright, and most importantly, a wonderful listener.
‘This wasn’t how I imagined being dead…’ The victim of a fatal car crash, Beth is dead but not departed. Instead her ghost is lingering by her widowed father, unwilling to leave him in his lonely devastation. Beth’s dad, a police detective, is the only person who can see and hear her. Embroiled in a murder investigation, he will come to rely on Beth’s budding talent for supernatural sleuthing. Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina is a uniquely Australian novel, weaving indigenous history into a clever metaphysical thriller.
Pay Attention Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt is the very definition of offbeat. Our eponymous hero is the junior man of the house, his father a U.S Army captain on duty in Germany, his home life a chaotic jumble of siblings and stressed mother. Unexpectedly bequeathed a real-life English butler, their suburban American life is about to be turned on its head. Prepare for humour, pathos and a spot of cricket before lunch.
Summertime brings one of our favourite book prizes, the Little Rebel’s Children’s Book Award. Honouring storytelling that challenges stereotypes and discrimination, the shortlist is often more radical and interesting than other contemporary prizes. Freedom by Catherine Johnson takes the 2019 award, and what an important book it proves to be, relating the story of Nat, a young Jamaican slave, and his journey to an England that he believes will set him free. Interwoven with real events and characters, it’s a compelling and enlightening read.