There are some fantastic books being released this Spring. Here’s six of the best books for kids of all ages. And we’re giving all of them away to celebrate our 5th birthday issue!
THE WALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK
by John Agee (Scallywag Press) £12.99
This is the story of a little knight who is very happy that his wall protects him from the dangers that are sure to lurk on the other side. However, he is too busy mending a hole in his wall to notice the mounting dangers on his own side.
This is funny and has plenty to keep readers occupied when they read the book over and again. And I wonder how many books for children are endorsed by Amnesty International?
ALL THE WAYS TO BE SMART
by Davina Bell illustrated by Allison Colpoys (Scribe) £11.99
A picture book for children who worry about tests or school performance. “Smart is not just ticks and crosses, smart is building boats from boxes, Printing patterns, wheeling wagons, being mermaids, riding dragons”. This is the third book from Bell and Colpoys, celebrating what makes children who they are.
THE LEGEND OF KEVIN: A ROLY-POLY FLYING PONY ADVENTURE
by Philip Reeve illustrated by Sarah McIntyre (OUP) £6.99
Plenty of humorous illustrations and a story that had our not-so-keen reader engrossed until he’d finished. Characters Kevin, a rotund pony, and Max, share a love of biscuits and embark on an adventure to save Max’s home town, soon to be submerged by water. Funny and high-spirited.
THE MEGA MAGIC HAIR SWAP
by Rochelle Humes illustrated by Rachel Suzanne (Studio Press) £6.99
The first book from The Saturdays star Rochelle Humes celebrates differences and how to love yourself just the way you are. Inspired by her daughter who asked why all princesses had straight hair, Rochelle has written a story about two friends (one with curly hair, and the other with straight) who think the other has perfect hair.
FERDINAND MAGELLAN: LITTLE GUIDES TO GREAT LIVES
by Isabel Thomas illustrated by Dàlia Adillon (Laurence King) £8.99 (April 2019)
Ferdinand Magellan led the first expedition to sail all the way around the world, encountering lands and creatures that he could never have imagined. This, and Anne Frank, are the latest in the Little Guides to Great Lives series, accessible guides introducing children to inspirational figures from history.
THE CLOSEST THING TO FLYING
by Gill Lewis (OUP) £6.99
Award-winning author, Gill Lewis, tells the story of two young women, one in the present day and one from the nineteenth century. Semira is an Eritrean refugee, and Hen is a repressed Victorian girl, but they both find courage to fight for what they believe in. The Closest Thing to Flying covers discrimination, friendship and empowerment set against a backdrop of women’s rights.
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We chat to the Saturday’s star about becoming an author, motherhood and her amazing career.
When anyone mentions Rochelle Humes most of us immediately think of the gorgeous pop star who rose to fame with girl group The Saturdays and who married fellow singer JLS star Marvin. Or maybe you think of Rochelle the TV presenter, who regularly hosts hit shows such as This Morning.
But ask Rochelle herself what her biggest role is and she will tell you that without question it is being a mum to her two little girls Alaia-Mai, five, and Valentia, nearly two.
And her latest project perfectly illustrates how important her children are to her. The Mega Magic Hair Swap, Rochelle’s new children’s’ book, is published this week and the inspiration behind it comes from her own daughters.
“One day Alaia-Mai told me that she didn’t like her curly hair because princesses always have straight hair. All the images she was seeing on TV or in books were of little girls with long, straight hair. She wanted to know why she didn’t look like Elsa or Rapunzel” explains Rochelle.
“I hated the thought that she wasn’t happy with the way she looked because to me she is beautiful, and I want her to love her amazing curly hair. I explained to her that people can have different hair or skin colour, or be a different shape or height, but that what makes us all beautiful is being ourselves,” says the 29 year-old.
The conversation got Rochelle thinking about how she could help her own children and others to feel confident and proud of their appearance. It was then that she came up with the idea for The Mega Magic Hair Swap.
Story of friendship
The main characters are Mai, who has curly hair, and her best friend Rose, who has very straight hair. Neither are happy and wish they could have hair like the other one. With a bit of magic, they switch and end up with the hair of their dreams. But before long they realise it isn’t all it is cracked up to be and that how their own hair is actually perfect for them.
While the book is aimed at little-ones, writing it also helped Rochelle to embrace her own curls. “Growing up I rarely saw anyone who looked like me on TV. I have really curly hair, but I always felt I had to straighten it to make it look nice. But recently I’ve learned to love my hair. I always want to be a good role model for my girls so it’s important for them to see me being happy with my looks and hopefully they will feel the same way about themselves,” she points out.
So determined was she to show other young women that they should love their natural waves that she has been promoting it to her 1.3 million Instagram followers with the hashtag #curlslikeus.
“The response has been amazing,” says Rochelle. “I think a lot of women feel exactly how I do. Whether it’s their hair or something else about their appreance, they just want to be themselves and not feel pressure to change.”
Once she had the idea for the book Rochelle says it all came together very quickly. “This is my first book and I have loved writing it and working with my publisher. At the moment I don’t have plans for any more, but never say never.”
It’s hard to imagine how Rochelle managed to add ‘author’ to her list of many achievements. After finding fame with The Saturdays and having 13 top-ten hits, she is now a familiar face on prime-time TV presenting shows such as ITV’s Sweat the Small Stuff, Ninja Warrior and the The Xtra Factor.
But while the world sees her glamourous career, Rochelle, just like every other mum, is constantly trying to get the right balance between work and family life.
“Marvin and I sit down every week and plan who is doing what for the next seven days. When one of us is really busy with work the other will try not to be. So, we are lucky that we can be somewhat flexible and one of us is always around to do school pick up, but it takes a lot of organisation,” she explains.
“My mum lives close by and helps us a lot which is amazing. But there are definitely some weeks when we are totally winging it because no two days are ever the same for us. But we get by and the kids are looked after and happy and that’s all that matters – even if we are totally exhausted by the end of the week!”
No matter what her schedule is, Rochelle fits it in around family life and her down to earth approach to motherhood is partly what has gained her so many loyal fans over the years. “I’m always there for my kids when they need me and that’s really important to me. Parenting is hard sometimes, especially as they get older and you realise you are really shaping a little human being. You just want to wrap them in cotton wool, but you can’t do that. All you can do is your best which what all mums are trying to do. We should try not to put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. No one ever is.”
Away from the spotlight
Despite living in the public eye, privacy is very important to Rochelle who loves her supportive social media following but prefers to keep her children away from the spotlight and never posts images of her their faces.
“Privacy is key to Marvin and I. Every parent is different and it’s totally up to them what they want to post, but I prefer not to. One day when they are much older the girls can decide if they want to post photos of themselves but right now they don’t even know what social media is.”
The launch of her new book today kicks off what looks to another great year for Rochelle. She is currently working with her high street favourite, New Look on The Rochelle Edit and continues to be an ambassador for John Frieda and HiGlow, her best-selling face and body line available in Superdrug. Plus, M&S recently announced Rochelle as one of their Food Ambassadors alongside Amanda Holden and Emma Willis.
One of the things she is most excited about is working with Marvin on their new music quiz show, Playlisters, due to air in 2019 on BBC1. “We love working together. It’s so nice because we don’t get to do it that often. The show is really fun and I can’t wait to get started on it.”
With such a positive, honest outlook and endless enthusiasm for both her work and her family, it’s clear to see that Rochelle is great role model for young women – regardless of whether her hair is curly or straight.
The Mega Magic Hair Swap, £6.99, is published on 7th February.
Favourite date night spot: Roca – such great food and atmosphere
Desert Island must have: Coconut oil – so useful
Must read book: The Secret – I’ve read it so many times
Night owl or earlier bird: Definitely an earlier bird
Best day out with kids: Regent’s Park Zoo – my girls love it there
For any special occasion, a beautifully designed book or a classic story is a great gift and keepsake. Victoria Evans has a selection for kids big and small.
THE STORY ORCHESTRA: SLEEPING BEAUTY
illustrated by Jessica Courtney Tickle (Lincoln Children’s Books)
The follow-up to the bestselling The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker. With beautiful, full-page illustrations from Jessica Courtney Tickle. It tells the classic story of Sleeping Beauty, brought to life with music from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet. Hear 10 famous pieces of music from the ballet and be transported into this wonderful fairy tale.
STORY BOX: CREATE YOUR OWN ANIMAL ADVENTURES (Laurence King)
Let imaginations soar with these animal themed storytelling puzzle pieces which can be matched in all sorts of ways, for multiple storytelling combinations. Great for the classroom, or as an alternative to traditional bedtime stories.
NOW MAKE THIS (Phaidon)
For the young makers in the family is Now Make This, a beautifully designed handbook offering unique and exciting DIY projects for kids. This unusual and engaging book of activities grants children access to world-class design in their very own homes, and may even inspire a few to become designers themselves!
A TREASURE TROVE OF MYTHICAL WONDERS
chosen by Michael Morpurgo (Oxford Children’s Books)
From brave heroes and battling beasts to mighty gods and magic spells, these are timeless tales to treasure forever. An enchanting selection of classic myths and legends, chosen by the UK’s best-loved storyteller. This is a great choice for shared reading, and for more confident readers to read-alone.
THE INK HOUSE
by Rory Dobner (Laurence King)
An acclaimed artist, Rory Dobner has created a cast of lovable and magical animal characters, inspired by the objects he collects around his home and on his travels. His ink illustrations have been commissioned by MTV, Disney and Nike, and his distinctive homewares range is available in stores including Liberty and Fortnum & Mason.
POETRY FOR A CHANGE
by Kimberlie Birks (Otter-Barry Books)
This anthology features new poems by National Poetry Day Ambassadors such as Deborah Alma, Joseph Coelho, Sally Crabtree, Jan Dean, and also a poem chosen by an ambassador to share. Look out for classics by Chistina Rossetti, WB Yeats, Shakespeare and Keats, among others.
With our Autumn issue focussed on getting back into the swing of studies, we’ve chosen books to compliment and inspire learning, whatever the age of the children.
by VICTORIA EVANS
A PILE OF LEAVES
by Jason Fulford & Tamara Shopsin (Phaidon)
The third in a series of ground-breaking books from the author-artists Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford created in partnership with the Whitney Museum of American Art.
This clever book of collage features see-through acetate pages with beautiful autumnal elements, playfully designed to invite young readers to dig through a pile of leaves and uncover the surprises throughout. The clever design also presents the opportunity for children to add their own images between the book’s clear pages.
A YEAR IN NATURE – A CAROUSEL BOOK OF THE SEASONS
by Hazel Maskell, illustrated by Eleanor Taylor (Laurence King)
This is a fascinating introduction to the seasons, following a family of foxes through the year. The book opens out into a stunning four-part carousel, revealing intricately detailed pop-up scenes of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Follow the boxes as the tiny cubs grow up through the year, and explore the woodland scenes to discover animals, trees, plants and owners.
THIS IS NOT A MATHS BOOK
by Anna Weltman (Ivy Kids Books)
Discover how maths can be artistic and art can be mathematical with this awesome activity book, full of fun drawing challenges with a mathematical basis. Amazing patterns with a mathematical essence will be revealed as you follow the simple activity instructions. Learn incredible maths facts as you draw the beautiful designs.
ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING: A HISTORY OF EARTH, DINOSAURS, RULERS, ROBOTS AND OTHER THINGS TOO NUMEROUS TO MENTION (October 2018, What on Earth? Books)
An up-to-date history of the world covering topics from dinosaurs to robots and everything in-between. Jam-packed with illustrations, photos, timelines and a glossary, index and reference material, Jacqueline Wilson calls it ‘absolutely amazing’ and it gets the thumbs up from Horrible Histories author Martin Brown: ‘from the Big Bang to yesterday’s breakfast, this BOOK OF FUN AND DISCOVERY makes sense of it all’.
LEARNING TO LEARN – A GUIDE FOR KIDS AND TEENS
by Barbara Oakley PhD & Terrence Sejnowski PhD with Alistair McConville (TarcherPerigee Trade Paperback)
If you can remember your least favourite subject at school, it’s probably the one that you also found most difficult. This book aims to teach kids to train their brains to learn the hard stuff, instead of just assuming they can’t do it. One of the book’s authors and a professor of engineering, Dr Barbara Oakley, struggled with maths at school, until she learned how to learn.
DESIGN FOR CHILDREN – PLAY, RIDE, LEARN, EAT, CREATE, SIT, SLEEP
by by Kimberlie Birks (October 2018, Phaidon)
This is a book for older, design-savvy and style-conscious kids or those interested in product, lighting and furniture design. It showcases work by contemporary superstars such as Marcel Breuer, Jean Prouvé, Nanna Ditzel, Philippe Starck, Nendo, Marc Newson, Donna Wilson, Kengo Kuma, and Marcel Wanders. It also pays tribute to those who have shaped children’s design and pioneered products for kids.
ABC MINDFUL ME
by Christiane Engel (Quarto)
With life moving at an ever-increasing pace, it’s never too young to learn about being calm and present. Plus if you can learn your A-Z too, what a bonus. Every letter of the alphabet is coupled with a word that aids young children’s understanding of the fundamental principles of mindfulness, including love, kindness, gratitude and empathy. A sweet book which gives a nice twist on a tried and tested format.
THE STORY OF TANTRUM O’FURRILY
by Cressida Cowell and Mark Nicholas (Hodder)
On a wild and windy night, stray cat Tantrum O’ Furrily tells her three hungry kittens a story to distract them from their hunger pangs. We’re introduced to Smallpaw who uses all her courage to find her own next meal. Beautifully illustrated, using a dark palate of colours, it also has a lovely twist in the tale, which is sure to delight young children.
THE RETURN OF THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
by Lou Kuenzler (Scholastic)
This follow up to The Railway Children will definitely warm the cockles and Kuenzler has not strayed too far from the spirit of the much-loved classic. Set in WWII, 12-year-old Edie is worried about being sent away to live with an aunt she doesn’t know as her mum is a pilot for the Air Transport Auxilliary. Luckily, she gets on well with her aunt and her cousins Gus and Greta but it isn’t long before she’s wondering if the pair are harbouring a dark secret of their own. A clever re-imagining that encapsulates all the joy of the original to a modern audience.
by Charli Howard (Nosy Crow)
This book packs a punch, tackling the world of competitive sport, body confidence, friendships and family dynamics. Set in Year 6, Molly dreams of being a champion swimmer, but when her best friend pressures her to conform to a particular body type, the real challenges begin. Molly also lives with her grandparents and coupled with a dad she doesn’t know and a mum who dips in and out of her life it’s a lot for young Molly to work out who she wants to be. Author Charli Howard is a body positive campaigner who wants to make the voices of diverse figures seen and heard.
DR CHRISTIAN’S GUIDE TO GROWING UP ONLINE
by Dr Christian Jessen (Scholastic)
Know your finsta from your rinsta? No? Keep up at the back. It’s fake Instagram vs real Instagram account of course. This book is essential for children (and parents) growing up in a digital world. Famous for his Embarrassing Bodies TV series and the bestselling book Dr Christian’s Guide To Growing Up, this is just what is needed to get to grips with how to keep safe online, online bullying, group chats, your digital footprint and so much more. An absolute essential read for teens navigating an ever-changing digital landscape.
LOOKING AFTER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
by Alice James & Louie Stowell, illustrated by Nancy Leschnikoff & Freya Harrison (Usborne)
Whilst we know the benefits of physical health, it’s easy to forget that young people also need to be mindful over their emotional and mental wellbeing. This book empowers youngsters with honest advice about ways of looking after their mental health in a fast-moving world. Using expert advice from the Royal College of Psychiatrists topics tackled include the science of anger, toxic friendships, sex and relationships and so much more.
Here’s a selection of great books for all your budding scientists to get their brains whirring over the holidays.
BIG BOOK OF STARS AND PLANETS
by Emily Bone
A large interactive picture book with fold-out pages featuring art based on images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
£9.99 Non-fiction Hardback
ADA TWIST, SCIENTIST
by Andrea Beaty
The latest rhyming offering from the New York Times bestselling author of Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect. Meet Ada, another classmate asking curiosity-led questions, who loves to experiment. In the book she has to solve a household smell problem using science. A beautifully illustrated tale of perseverance.
£10.99 Fiction Hardback
THE USBORNE OFFICIAL ASTRONAUT’S HANDBOOK
by Louie Stowell
Shortlisted for The Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize 2016 and published in association with the UK Space Agency, this book is a step-by-step, how-to guide for budding astronauts and space scientists. With a foreword by Tim Peake, this is a fun read with fab illustrations.
£6.99 Non-fiction Paperback
KLUTZ: LEGO CHAIN REACTIONS
by Pat Murphy
What is Christmas without Lego? Grab some Lego bricks and use in conjunction with this great book of instruction and inspiration. It comes with its own Lego pieces to help young engineers create moving machines which can be used together to create chain reactions.
£12.99 Non-fiction Paperback/Box
FUN SCIENCE: A GUIDE TO LIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND WHY SCIENCE IS SO AWESOME
by Charlie McDonnell
By You-Tuber “charlieissocoollike” comes new Fun Science, a journey through science, written and illustrated with humour by a geeky science fan. It is designed to inspire even the least scientifically inclined teen!
With Christmas just around the corner, here’s the perfect excuse to splash out on those sumptuous hard backs you’ve been eyeing up all year.
Dogs In Cars by Felix Massie and Emmanuelle Walker (Flying Eye Books)
This is a super fun counting book which incorporates a huge variety of four legged friends all going for a ride in their cars. The illustrations are stylish and cheery as well as being very detailed – perfect for little fingers to try and count all of the dogs. Plus, it’s not just dogs you have to find but bones, mosquitos, and umbrellas amongst other things. Not only will this help your child with their counting, you’ll also learn the difference between a xoloitzcuintlis and a utonagans – perfect knowledge for the pub quiz.
Pandora by Victoria Turnbull (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books)
This is an absolutely beautiful gem of a book with a touching message about hope and new beginnings. Pandora lives on her own in a ‘land of broken things’ where other people’s trash is her treasure and she makes a home out of lost things, giving them a new lease of life. Her world is transformed when she discovers a bird with a broken wing. With plenty of TLC the bird is soon back to full health. Only to fly away. Forever. Leaving poor Pandora alone again, but in time she learns that life is worth living again. This is such an excellent book on so many levels, Victoria Turnbull’s illustrations have a retro quality to them and her use of a dark palate convey the sense disillusion of Pandora’s world.
Illuminature by Carnovsky and written by Rachel Williams (Wide Eyed Editions)
Make space on your shelves for this big beauty of a book. Using the three magic viewing lenses which are included in every edition, this is a real shared experience as you discover which animals inhabit which environment. This is a really technicoloured experience as the colours literally jump out of the page. Designed by Milan-based partnership Carnovsky and written by Rachel Williams (also author of the brilliant Atlas of Adventures) it’s jam packed with facts from animal from all over the world. This is a really visually arresting book for those curious about nature.
The White Fox by by Jackie Morris (Barrington Stoke)
Inspired by a true story of an Artic fox who climbed into a rubbish truck and ended up in Seattle, this is a real heart-warming wintery story which covers grief, bullying, and a road trip which finally bonds a father and son. And all because of a fox. Since the death of his mother, Sol lives alone with his dad, but the weight of grief is so all pervading that the dad has become distant from Sol as he comes to terms with the loss of his wife. School isn’t a happy place either and he spends his days trying to dodge the bullies who tease him, because of his ‘black hair and dark eyes,’ calling him Shamon boy. So Sol spends his time down at the docks and it’s there he spies a white fox – a fox the dockers manage to catch. A fox, he, along with his dad decide to return back to the wild in Alaska, which is where is grandparents live. A place which holds painful memories for the dad but happy memories for Sol. Dreamy illustrations accompany this cleverly woven tale that will really get young minds thinking.
A Year Full of Stories 52 Folk Tales and Legends from All Around the World by Angela McAllister and illustrated by Christopher Corr (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books) (Wide Eyed Editions)
Travel the world without leaving the sitting room with this fantastic treasury celebrating 52 stories from across the globe. There’s a tale for every week of the year and each one ties in with popular celebrations, events and seasons including Valentine’s Day, Easter, Harvest, Christmas plus many more. There are stories from every continent, gathering folk tales, myths and traditions which have been bought to life by the award-winning Angela Mcallister. Short enough to keep attention spans going, but long enough to ponder the message and meaning which lies within each story, coupled with Christopher Corr’s beautiful and colourful illustrations, this book is a real must-have that will entertain children and adults alike.
The Song from Somewhere Else by by A.F Harrold and illustrated by Levi Pinfold (Bloomsbury)
From the same author as The Imaginary, A.F Harrold returns with another story mixing dark with light, this time looking at the theme of bullying. When Frank’s bike is thrown into stinging nettle by the local bullies, an strange boy called Nick saves the day. From here the pair strike up an unlikely friendship and when Frank finds something magical in Nick’s basement, it all makes sense about his mysterious background. The illustrations are stunning, dark and brooding and compliment this story of differences and what it means to fit in. Quirky and beautiful.
Aimed at the pre-school age Animals Are Delicious, illustrated by Dave Ladd and Stephanie Anderson (Phaidon), is a collection of beautiful fold-out board books that focus on three animal food chains – land, sea and air. With the premise that ‘Everyone is hungry’, we learn that all creatures are somebody’s lunch somewhere down the line.
Curious children everywhere will love these books as they’re illustrated in both colour and black and white, and give easy to remember facts about the plants and animals that inhabit the Earth.
Harold’s Hungry Eyes by Kevin Waldron (Phaidon) is just a big win on so many levels. It tells the humorous tale of Harold, a Boston terrier (move over pugs) who spends his days dreaming about food and sleeping on his favourite chair.
Except one day his world is rocked with the rude awakening that his chair has gone missing, and when he sees it being taken by the refuse collectors, it leads to a mission to find it. He ends up getting lost in the city, which not only makes him miss home, but makes him hungry! Bicycle tyres become pretzels, doorsteps become wafers, lorries look like cheese and before long Harold is absolutely insatiable. All is not lost as he eventually finds his way home, and there’s a lovely surprise waiting for him…
This is the fourth picture book from Dublin-born artist Kevin Waldron who shares his studio with Oliver Jeffers and Jon Bergerman. Visually arresting with a zingy colour palate, this will firmly become a favourite. My only warning is I guarantee your audience will be hungry once hearing this story.
Goodnight Tiger by Timothy Knapman and Laura Hughes (Little Tiger) is an endearing story of a young girl called Emily who cannot get to sleep. Why? Because the jungle animals on her wallpaper keep waking her up. Now, that’s an excuse I’ve never heard before. Still, they’re making a racket because they, too, can’t get to sleep, so it’s Emily job to get them all back to the land of nod.
So as she encourages them to have a bath, hot chocolate and sings them lullabies she finds her efforts are fruitless until she reads them a bedtime story. A fun tale that reinforces the bedtime routine. A must for the little sleep thieves in your house.
For those who enjoyed the hugely successful Wonder by R J Palacio, The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster (Simon & Schuster) is a natural choice. Joe is eleven years old and can’t remember a time when he wasn’t in hospital. He has a rare disorder called SCID and his life is spent living in a bubble. Even those who visit him carry the risk of contaminating him with life-threatening germs.
As depressing as this book sounds, it’s an absolutely cracking read. You’ll experience just about every emotion possible as we’re introduced to Joe’s world., which goes from being lived in his dreams, to dealing with extreme loneliness. With only his sister for family, he finds friendship in the form of Henry, who has the same condition but they’ve only Skyped because Henry lives in America, and his new nurse Amir who is a striking character.
Fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid will love Big Nate Blasts Off! by Lincoln Pierce, and as it’s had the seal of approval by Jeff Kinney himself that surely must mean it’s a hit. Big Nate has been around since the early nineties as it started off as a comic strip. Clearly Pierce has stuck true to his roots as there are illustrations on every page, meaning the jokes come thick and fast.
When Nate gets a job on the school newspaper it’s a chance to showcase his artistic skills, that is until he makes fun of Randy, the toughest kid in school and then of course it’s no laughing matter. With most of the action taking place in a school setting most older children will find the various scrapes that Nate gets into funny even if shamelessly American but don’t let that put you off, it’s an easy read with plenty of chuckles along the way.
Red Witch by Anna McKerrow (Quercus)
It’s 2047, and Devon and Cornwall have voluntarily split themselves off from the rest of the UK to form the ecopagan Greenworld, a peaceful and self-contained counterpoint to the dystopian Redworld, governed by private security and at war for the last scraps of fuel left in the world. However, all is not as harmonious as it might be in the Greenworld, and after cursing a boy and girl for murdering the boy she loved, 17 year old witch Demelza Hawthorne runs away across the border to the Redworld in search of a new life.
In once-magical Glastonbury, she meets the enigmatic and criminal Bran Crowley, who introduces her to the beauty and riches that the Redworld can offer to the right person; he’s looking for power, and Melz certainly has it. But will Melz be comfortable making a deal with the King of the Underworld?
Demelza is a fabulously feisty yet sensitive protagonist as we see especially from her journal entries. The story is packed full of rounded characters that leap off the page, as well as the vivid portrayal of dramatic Cornish scenery, and the powerful vision of a dystopian Glastonbury. This book has it all – adventure, romance and real world magic. Anna McKerrow is a rising star in the UK YA scene – an absolute must-read.
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (Faber) 12+
Amani lives in Dustwalk, a violent and corrupt wild west-esque desert town she’s desperate to leave. Yet the desert plains are full of danger, and the Sultan’s enemies are on the rise. Yet when Amani meets the mysterious Jin, she finds a way out of the oppressive and threatening Dustwalk, only to find that running away from trouble brings her into contact with some terrifying opponents – and magical new friends – in her search for the Rebel Prince.
Rebel of the Sands is an original and thrilling fantasy novel full of adventure, myth and magic. Amani is a fantastic heroine: brave, bold and witty. It’s a joy to immerse yourself in the fully developed world that Hamilton creates – a blend of the Wild West and Arabian Nights, with some killer comebacks and sharp dialogue between the sharpshooting, street-smart Amani and the hero and love interest Jin. The original mythology and legends woven into the world building are fascinating. It gives the story depth and authenticity, and the politics of Amani’s world are both familiar and foreign. Highly recommended.
Sharon Fried-Jones is a west London mum, who by day is the Head of Marketing and Digital for the charity BookTrust which inspires a love of reading in children, and by night is an aspiring children’s author with a love of clashing clothes, picture books who longs for a good night’s sleep.