Everyone says Big Pete Kowalski is a good guy, widowed with four kids yet never once asking for help. His 11-year-old son, Max, wants to be just like him when he grows up. Max, however, is already carrying a man-size burden, caring for his three little sisters while his dad works long shifts. Max Kowalski Didn’t Mean It by Susie Day charts events when Big Pete suddenly disappears. In this distinctive and engaging novel, Max and his siblings are plunged into an adventure that will take them from Southend Pier to the mystical Welsh mountains.
In the light of recent news events in the UK, The Beast of Buckingham Palace by David Walliams, is stuck with a rather unfortunate title. Thankfully, the beast in question here is of the mythical variety, as Walliams dips his toe into the world of Fantasy. Set in a dystopian London in the year 2120, this is Prince Alfred’s story. Dark forces are at work in Buckingham Palace, and sickly, bookish Alfred must summon his inner hero and confront the threat, not only to the royal family, but ultimately the entire world.
Christmas is cancelled at Griselda Bone’s orphanage. No tinsel, no mince pies, and certainly no presents. Instead, algebra is the order of the day, plus extra fractions and a spelling test. This bleak scenario is 7-year-old Phoebe’s reality in The Snow Dragon by Abi Elphinstone & Fiona Woodcock. Seasoned readers of traditional Christmas tales will want to reassure Phoebe that there’s just bound to be a liberal sprinkling of festive magic on the way.
The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett tells the strange tale of a lonely little girl named Eepersip, who yearns to escape the confines of her family and roam free forever in the wilderness. Running away from home, Eepersip experiences transcendental joy in her communion with nature. She does not want to be suffocated by conventional home and hearth, but her parents, in their desperation to keep her ‘safe’ have other ideas. Can this wild spirit be tamed?
‘He whose face gives no light,
Shall never become a star.’
This lovely quote from William Blake adorns the final page of A Visit to William Blake’s Inn by Nancy Willard. Imagine if you will, an 18th century London inn, whose proprietor is none other than the great man himself. Overnight guests are in for an unconventional stay, in this B&B where dragons bake the daily bread and celestial angels plump the pillows. And all in Blake-inspired verse. Intrigued? Come on in.
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.