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Reviews

My life as a cat

My life as a cat

Carlie Sorosiak
Nosy Crow

This is a wholly fresh take on some familiar tropes with hugely likeable characters and a cracking road trip mission for a finale. A really enjoyable read with some emotional punch as well! And the observations about life on Earth from our alien tourist hero are pretty spot on and shot through with a warm, wry humour. Think a modern version of 'ET' but with a bit less Spielberg schmaltz!

Laura Hayward Reviewed by Laura Hayward on 16th September 2020
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Voyage of the Sparrowhawk

Voyage of the Sparrowhawk

Natasha Farrant
Faber

Has the nostalgic adventure of Blyton with the emotion and character strength of Ibbotson. Cracking, original read that is both unconventional and gripping. Very good

Diane Gill Reviewed by Diane Gill on 7th September 2020
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Punching the air

Punching the air

Ibi Zoboi
HarperCollins

Amal has been sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit, caged for being a black teen in the wrong place at the wrong time. In utter despair, he turns to his art and poetry to channel his anger and attempt to redeem himself. 

This compelling and lyrical read is written in verse and demonstrates both the systemtic racism faced by African-American men and the redemptive power of art and poetry. Based on real events, this is a passionate rallying cry for social change and a well-written, affecting tale of an individual tragedy. 

An excellent addition to shelves for older teens looking to learn more about  some of the issues behind the Black Lives Matter movement, this is well worth stocking in schools and public libraries. 

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 3rd September 2020
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Butterfly brain

Butterfly brain

Laura Dockrill
Piccadilly Pr

An intriguing, powerful tale that takes many turns and is both cautionary and cathartic. The intricate verse and evocative illustrations express the powerful emotions around grief and healing in a moving way. Very good for PSHE or Literacy uses

Diane Gill Reviewed by Diane Gill on 3rd September 2020
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How to build an orchestra

How to build an orchestra

Mary Auld
Wayland

This beautifully illustrated title talks the reader through how an orchestra is set up, from auditions for each musician to putting together a performance. Featuring 2 CDs of music designed to be listened to along with the text, it is both a joyful celebration of the power of making music as a group and a really informative read. 

We follow the conductor as he assembles his orchestra, with added facts about each instrument and how it is played. Each track from a CD is carefully integrated with the text, so that the reader can get the full musical experience. With a distinct lack of high-quality titles on this topic, this title is a fresh of breath air and an essential purchase for schools and libraries.

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 28th August 2020
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Chelsea High

Chelsea High

Jenny Oliver
Electric Monkey

Norah has been thrust into a new world - an exclusive fee-paying school in central London, paid for by grandparents she didn't know existed. It's all because her dad has been arrested after his latest hare-brained scheme turned out to be illegal. As she juggles avoiding the wrath of Instagram influencer Coco Summers, as well as her immediate crush on classmate Ezra Montgomery, Norah must also cope with her father's impending trial, her mother's shock & grief and getting to know her wealthy, buttoned-up grandparents.

I was expecting a lighthearted, fish-out-of-water romance, but this book has more depth then you'd think. It makes a good point about how wealth and privilege don't make you immune to heartbreak and tragedy, as well as demonstrating the effects of crime on a family and tight-knit community. Norah grows throughout the novel and becomes more self-assured and less self-absorbed, but continues to be a likeable and sympathetic character. Of course the requisite elements of every soap opera are there - the bitchy villain and the gorgeous love interest - but it has enough to it that it's a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Great teen appeal, and well worth promoting in schools and libraries.

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 20th August 2020
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The lost soul atlas

The lost soul atlas

Zana Fraillon
Orion Children's Books

Both a compelling fantasy quest and a powerful evocation of life on the streets, this is a fantastic tale from a talented writer. Great for JF/Teen crossover

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 10th August 2020
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Every little piece of my heart

Every little piece of my heart

Non Pratt
Walker Bks

Freya left her old life in a hurry, without goodbyes and without an explanation. Her best friend Sophie has been waiting five months to hear from her - and then a parcel arrives from Freya. But inside is simply another layer, addressed to Win, a girl Freya barely knew. Or did she? Sophie and Win come together to try and work out what Freya is trying to tell them.

The mysterious set-up for this title engages straight away, and the strong characterisation ensures that each protagonist has an individual voice. The use of multiple narrators could be a distraction, but under this skilled author it contributes to the utterly compelling plot. As we uncover layers of Freya's former life, we see a selfish but vulnerable girl, who nevertheless has tried to point her former friends in the right direction.

Issues of chronic illness, anger management, family drama and sexuality are all touched upon in a realistic way that suits the characters involved. The author is never preachy and reists the temptation to create a neat ending in favour of a hopeful, yet realistic, conclusion. This should have great teen appeal and is well worth stocking in schools and libraries.

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 6th August 2020
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I have to start at school today

I have to start at school today

Simon Philip
Simon & S

Not a conventional "starting school" tale as it doesn't quite go the way you'd expect! Plenty of charm and humour make for a lovely read

Laura Hayward Reviewed by Laura Hayward on 4th August 2020
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The unadoptables

The unadoptables

Hana Tooke
Puffin

Five orphans dubbed 'the unadoptables' escape from their harsh orphanage in search of a family and a place to call home.

This is a thrilling, utterly engrossing adventure with strong characterisation and a great sense of place.The canals of Amsterdam are as much a character as the protagonists, offering a dramatic backdrop to the adventures the children face. A series of dramatic and hear-stopping adventures, with both kindly helpers and dastardly villains alike, ensure that readers will be hooked the whole way through.

Old-fashioned in the best possible way, this is a fantastic debut with plenty of appeal. A book to curl up with and devour.

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 4th August 2020
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Coronavirus

Coronavirus

Elizabeth Jenner
Nosy Crow

An engaging book explaining Coronavirus simply and without alarm for young children. Axel Scheffler illustrations add appeal; definitely worth having in school libraries and could also be useful for parents to share.

Dawn Franklin Reviewed by Dawn Franklin on 4th August 2020
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Dark blue rising

Dark blue rising

Teri Terry
Hodder

Strong female character, good tension and a series of plot progressions that keep you guessing. An excellent mix of a thriller with a supernatural edge. A great start to the trilogy. 

Diane Gill Reviewed by Diane Gill on 13th July 2020
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You should see me in a crown

You should see me in a crown

Leah Johnson
Scholastic

Liz has always believed that she is too black, too poor and too anxious to be in the spotlight. But when she learns that the position of prom queen offers a scholarship that would allow her to attend her dream college, she decides to face her fears and enter the race. It's awful, but new girl Mack makes things slightly more bearable. The only problem is, Mack is in the running too...

Addressing issues of racism, homophobia and mental health in a lighthearted and frequently humorous style, this is an excellent debut. Liz is a really relatable character and although very American, the trials and tribulations of prom season have great teen appeal. 

 

 

Katie Merrick Reviewed by Katie Merrick on 6th July 2020
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The great Godden

The great Godden

Meg Rosoff
Bloomsbury YA

Unsettling, well-crafted coming of age tale with a great sense of place and a clever narration that allows for subtle plot and character developments going on around our self-absorbed heroine. An absorbing read for thoughtful teens. 

Laura Hayward Reviewed by Laura Hayward on 29th June 2020
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Octopus shocktopus!

Octopus shocktopus!

Peter Bently
Nosy Crow

Amusing rhyme gives this tale real momentum, and the (very) bright illustrations add to the pace and humour. A mad tale that will leave you with a wry smile. 

Diane Gill Reviewed by Diane Gill on 29th June 2020
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