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.
The opening chapter of The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell gives us 1920’s New York, and Young Vita Marlowe, aboard an incoming ocean liner. Nodding ‘…at the city in greeting as a boxer greets an opponent before a fight,’ Vita signals that we’re in for a lively read, this combative vibe resurfacing after a traumatic reunion with her recently bereaved grandpa. He has been swindled out of house and home by a ruthless mafioso, and in search of vengeance, a determined Vita prepares to dive into the sordid world of gangsters, speakeasies and heists.
Xiomara is voluptuous, but sadly not unashamedly so. At the age of fifteen, she has never been kissed, and now that her baby fat has ‘…settled in D cups,’ there are plenty of male admirers hoping to change that, a fact that horrifies her pious mother. Trapped in the chrysalis of adolescence, Xiomara feels that her body takes up more room than her voice, and in this searing Carnegie Prize winning novel, attempts to discover her own words and story. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is an extraordinary read.
Inspired by the daily scud of clouds across the sky, best pals Angie Moon and Harry Christmas are experts on weather fronts and formations of cloud, be it candy floss wisp or rain-swollen knot. Born two days apart, Angie thinks of Harry as her almost-twin, but their easy, uncomplicated friendship is about to be tested beyond endurance when recurring headaches lead to a grave diagnosis for Harry. Cloud Boy by Marcia Williams is a touching and unusual story of love and resilience. Keep a tissue to hand.
Bonnie Wiston-Stanley is 15 ¾ years old, a fact of some significance in this unputdownable novel. She is also, according to her best pal, Eden ‘…the most steady, most reliable friend in the world.’ Except, wouldn’t you expect your closest friend to tell you if she was planning to run away with a secret boyfriend? And what horrors would be unleashed if that boyfriend turned out to be your school music teacher? Recently crowned winner of the YA Book Prize 2019, Goodbye Perfect by Sara Barnard is simply the most riveting book I’ve reviewed so far this year.
‘Welcome to being LGBTQ+. Your life is inherently political.’ Stirring words from Proud by Juno Dawson (editor), an uplifting anthology of stories, poetry and art on the broad theme of Pride. 2019 marks 50 years since the Stonewall Riots and a sea change in the course of LGBTQ+ history. With the annual Pride Parades in both London and New York commemorating this half century, now is the time to press this book into your teenager’s hands and introduce them to a glorious rainbow of party and protest.