A Monster Calls by Parrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd: Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don’t quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there’s a visitor at his window. It’s ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking tale of mischief, healing and above all, the courage it takes to survive. A MUST READ. This deals with such a sensitive topic in an incredibly beautiful way. Challenging to read and must be handled with care in the classroom. THEMES: family, loss, cancer, friendship, self
After the War by Tom Palmer: Summer 1945. The Second World War is finally over and Yossi, Leo and Mordecai are among three hundred children who arrive in the English Lake District. Having survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, they’ve finally reached a place of safety and peace, where they can hopefully begin to recover. But Yossi is haunted by thoughts of his missing father and disturbed by terrible nightmares. As he waits desperately for news from home, he fears that Mordecai and Leo – the closest thing to family he has left – will move on without him. Will life by the beautiful Lake Windermere be enough to bring hope back into all their lives? Really sensitively written novel for younger readers. Made me quite emotional at various parts. A good read. THEMES: war, loss, grief, recovery
Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay. The Philippines, 100 years ago. A boy called Samkad wants to become a man. He is desperate to be given his own shield, spear and axe. His best friend, Luki, wants to be a warrior too – but she is a girl and that is forbidden. Then a new boy arrives in the village and everything changes. He brings news that a people called ‘Americans’ are bringing war right to his home . . . I loved this book and thought it was really worthy of being on the short list. THEMES: other cultures, urbanisation, indigenous people, clash of cultures
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. They killed my mother. They took our magic. They tried to bury us. Now we rise.A fantastic read. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this series and have become completely absorbed in it. THEMES: other cultures, adventure, fantasy, tribal wars. A MUST READ
The Colour of the Sun by David Almond. “The day is long, the world is wide, you’re young and free.” A murder takes place and our protagonist believes he knows he did it. But as he ventures out, nothing is quite as it seems. I found this quite dull and unenjoyable. Not for me. THEMES: journeys
Firegirl by Tony Abbott. From the moment Jessica arrives, life is never quite the same for Tom and his seventh grade classmates. They learn that Jessica has been in a fire and will be attending St. Catherine’s while getting medical treatment. Despite her startling appearance and the fear she evokes in him and most of the class, Tom slowly develops a tentative friendship with Jessica that changes his life. FIREGIRL is a powerful book that will show readers that even the smallest of gestures can have a profound impact on someone’s life. I loved this book. A great book about disability and how we respond to it. THEMES: disability, identity, friendship, compassion
George by Alex Gino. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl. This is a cracking book about identity. A really powerful book. THEMES: identity, acceptance, transformation
The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson. Found abandoned in a bear cave as a baby, Yanka has always wondered about where she is from. She tries to ignore the strange whispers and looks from the villagers, wishing she was as strong on the inside as she is on the outside. But, when she has to flee her house, looking for answers about who she really is, a journey far beyond one that she ever imagined begins: from icy rivers to smouldering mountains meeting an ever-growing herd of extraordinary friends along the way. A wonderful adventure story that links beautifully with The House on Chicken Legs. THEMES identity, adventure, myths, belonging, friendship, teamwork
The Girl who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook. Chaya, a no-nonsense, outspoken hero, leads her friends and a gorgeous elephant on a noisy, fraught, joyous adventure through the jungle where revolution is stirring and leeches lurk. Will stealing the queen’s jewels be the beginning or the end of everything for the intrepid gang? For me this was quite a superficial read and I was a bit disappointed after hearing so many great reviews.
The Giver by Lois Lowry. It is the future. There is no war, no hunger, no pain. No one in the community wants for anything. Everything needed is provided. And at twelve years old, each member of the community has their profession carefully chosen for them by the Committee of Elders. Twelve-year old Jonas has never thought there was anything wrong with his world. But from the moment he is selected as the Receiver of Memory, Jonas discovers that their community is not as perfect as it seems. It is only with the help of the Giver, that Jonas can find what has been lost. And it is only through his personal courage that Jonas finds the strength to do what is right… THEMES: dystopian, war
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas. Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. A good read dealing with an important subject matter. THEMES: race, identity, oppression, justice
The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson. Marinka dreams of a normal life, where her house stays in one place long enough for her to make friends. But her house has chicken legs and moves on without warning. For Marinka’s grandmother is Baba Yaga, who guides spirits between this world and the next. Marinka longs to change her destiny and sets out to break free from her grandmother’s footsteps, but her house has other ideas… I love Sophie Anderson – another great storyteller who writes these beautiful adventure stories immersed in mythology. A great read. THEMES: identity, family, legacy
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. A superb read of the impact and effect of gun violence. A must read! THEMES: gun violence, social responsibility, decision-making. A MUST READ. This is a phenomenal book about social responsibility. It has taught my pupils so much about poetry as well.
Mirad, A Boy from Bosnia by Ad de Bont is a play about a family torn apart by war. Powerful and evocative. A strong read. THEMES: war, refugees
Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve. MORTAL ENGINES launched Philip Reeve’s brilliantly-imagined creation, the world of the Traction Era, where mobile cities fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic future.The first instalment introduces young apprentice Tom Natsworthy and the murderous Hester Shaw, flung from the fast-moving city of London into heart-stopping adventures in the wastelands of the Great Hunting Ground. Fantastic adventure book, kept me gripped all the way through. THEMES: dystopian adventure, dictatorships
Mud by Emily Thomas is a book about loss and the effects of loss on an entire family. It explores financial and mental hardship as a result of loss and how this impacts on the young within a family.
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher. This book is about a family thrown into grief when one of the children is killed by a terrorist bomb. Deciding to move to a new area, Jamie, forms a friendship with Sunya, someone he is not sure he can introduce to his dad. All I can remember about this book is sobbing in Costa and looking a right mess. A beautiful book that deals with the subject matter of loss beautifully. THEMES: loss, identity, friendship
A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison. Three sisters trapped by an ancient curse. Three magical objects with the power to change their fate. Will they be enough to break the curse? Or will they lead the sisters even deeper into danger? …The first in an enchanting new series from Michelle Harrison, author of the bestselling THIRTEEN TREASURES trilogy. A really enjoyable adventure read.
Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm The transport ship Orion is four months out of Earth when catastrophe strikes – leaving the ship and everyone on board stranded in deep space. Suddenly it’s up to thirteen-year-old Beth and her friends to navigate through treacherous and uncharted territory to reach safety. But a heavily-damaged ship, space pirates, a mysterious alien species, and an artificial intelligence that Beth doesn’t know if she can trust means that getting home has never been so difficult… This a brilliant space adventure with lots of twists and turns and a protagonist you can really engage with. Hugely enjoyable. Themes: space, adventure, teamwork
Rebound by Kwame Alexander. It’s 1988. Charlie Bell is still mourning his father, and struggling to figure out how he feels for his best (girl) friend, CJ. When he gets into trouble one too many times, he’s packed off to stay with his grandparents for the summer. There his cousin Roxie introduces him to a whole new world: basketball. A legend on the courts is born. But can Charlie resist when trouble comes knocking once again? A verse novel in a year where all the verse novels were making the Carnegie long list. A great read. THEMES: coming of age, loss, friendship, sport
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. Everyone thinks that Sophie is an orphan. True, there were no other recorded female survivors from the shipwreck which left baby Sophie floating in the English Channel in a cello case, but Sophie remembers seeing her mother wave for help. Her guardian tells her it is almost impossible that her mother is still alive, but that means still possible. You should never ignore a possible…
The Skylark’s War by Hilary McKay. Beautiful told story of war. Reads and feels like Goodnight Mister Tom. We see the formation of a friendship group in the years before war and how that friendship group shifts as war comes into play. I shed a tear at the end. A beautiful book with a Goodnight Mister Tom vibe. THEMES: war, friendship
Simon and the Homosapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Simon Spier is sixteen and trying to work out who he is – and what he’s looking for. But when one of his emails to the very distracting Blue falls into the wrong hands, things get all kinds of complicated. Because, for Simon, falling for Blue is a big deal … THEMES: sexuality, acceptance, friendship, bullying, loss. Be aware of language and some references to sexual activity.
Shadowsea by Peter Bunzl Swept into the bright hustle and bustle of New York, Lily, Robert and Malkin discover shadowy secrets lie beneath its surface. For there are chilling goings-on in their hotel…A strange boy held captive, haunted by an undersea mystery; and a revengeful villain with a treacherous plan. Searching for clues, Robert and Lily are plunged into deep water… But can they reveal the deadly truth before the secrets submerge them? Peter Bunzl is a master storyteller and knows how to craft a good story. This kept me engaged and was a really enjoyable read. THEMES: adventure
The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne. Barnaby Brocket doesn’t quite fit in with his family and, through no fault of his own, ends up on an adventure meeting plenty of people who don’t quite fit in. A fantastic book about accepting who you are and being proud about it. THEMES: identity, friendship, acceptance
Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nichols. Through rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for the vote. Really interesting read about feminism and the empowerment of women. THEMES: identity, feminism, friendship, suffragettes, equal rights
Toffee by Sarah Crossan. I am a girl trying to forget. Marla is a woman trying to remember. A story that brings the most unlikely pair of people together. Big fan of Sarah Crossan – not my favourite but still a touching piece. THEMES: relationships, loneliness, amnesia
The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne Amelie fell hard for Reese. And she thought he loved her too. But she’s starting to realise that real love isn’t supposed to hurt like this. So now she’s retracing their story, revisiting all the places he made her cry. Because if she works out what went wrong, perhaps she can finally learn how to get over him. This is a hard read but an incredibly piece of fiction from a well-established author. THEMES: abuse, relationships, identity
Troofriend by Kirsty Applebaum Imagine having the perfect friend, one who never steals, lies or bullies. Now you can, with the TrooFriend 560, the latest in artificial intelligence! What can go wrong with a robot buddy? Especially one that’s developing human characteristics and feelings, and who has just run away with her human? Kirsty Applebaum has become one of my favourite writers after reading The Middler last year. Really pertinent read about the nature of real relationships etc in a busy technological world. Some real laugh out louds moment because of amazing voice. THEMES: friendship, technology, real world.
The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottell Boyce. Two refugee brothers from Mongolia are determined to fit in with their Liverpool schoolmates, but bring so much of Mongolia to Bootle that their new friend and guide, Julie, is hard-pressed to know truth from fantasy. Told with the humour, warmth and brilliance of detail which characterizes Frank Cottrell Boyce’s writing, readers will be transported from the streets of Liverpool to the steppe of Mongolia. THEMES: identity, other cultures
The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan. Angry, stirring and tender, this is a bold, questioning exploration of the lengths to which we’ll go for the people we love.
Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones. Murder mystery meets fantasy with strong allusions to Frankenstein which I thought was quite clever. Enjoyable enough but ploddy and didn’t blow me away. THEMES: adventure, allusions to Frankenstein
Wonder by RJ Palacio. ‘My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.’ August has a facial disfigurement. This book charts his journey as he returns to school. Will it be as awful as he thinks it might be? A wonderful book with an accompanying film that deals with disability so beautifully. THEMES: disability, identity, family, friendship