Thursday, 27 April 2017

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - April 2017

Time for more chapter book gorgeousness, and we're kicking off this month with a fantastic tale from Lorraine Gregory, clad in a particularly superb cover by Tom Mead.

"Mold and the Poison Plot" features a character whose nose is almost as big as their heart.

Mold is considered a bit of a freak (which seems rather cruel if you ask us!) His nose is as big as his body is puny and his mother abandoned him in a bin when he was a mere baby.

Who else but the old healer, Aggy, would have taken him in and raised him as her own? But when Aggy is accused of poisoning the King, Mold sets out to clear her name. 
In a thrilling race against time to save Aggy from the hangman's noose, Mold faces hideous, deadly monsters like the Yurg and the Purple Narlo Frog. 

He finds true friendship in the most unusual - and smelly - of places and must pit his wits and his clever nose against the evil witch Hexaba.

This is an exciting fantasy story with an array of wonderful characters, including the inimitable Mold, told in a fresh and distinctive voice by a promising new writer.

Absolutely chock full of stinky atmosphere and striking a lovely balance between belly-laugh-inducing humour and superb tension, Lorraine is definitely a talent to watch out for in the future. 

"Mold and the Poison Plot" is out on 6th May, Published by Oxford Children's Books / OUP. 

It's just our luck to arrive late for the party with this next book but it's a great followup to a brilliantly amusing coming of age tale...

The "Zack Delacruz" series continues with "Just my Luck" by Jeff Anderson, and once again Zack feels like his world is plotting against him!

There's a new girl at school called Abhi - and Zack has a massive crush on her. 

But things get off to a rough start when he accidentally knocks her to the ground during a game of dodgeball. And whenever he tries to make amends, she just ignores him. Nothing works, not his friends advice or his 'lucky' cologne.

In fact, he just seems more and more cursed! Then, at the Fall Fiesta-val, Zack finally learns the real reason behind Abhis cold shoulder but not before total chaos erupts. 

With a runaway train, exploding confetti-filled eggs and Abhis terrifying older brother, will Zack ever get a chance to talk to his crush? 

In the end, Zack learns what it means to believe, to listen and to be a good friend. This dynamite sequel is the second in the 'Zack Delacruz' series so watch out for "Me and my Big Mouth" too!

"Zack Delacruz: Just my Luck" by Jeff Anderson is out now, published by Sterling Books. 

Some gorgeous new covers up next, as Michael Morpurgo's back catalogue gets a stunning new look...

"Kensuke's Kingdom" tells the story of a boy lost at sea in a terrible boating accident.

After making landfall on a mysterious island, Michael is sure that he's doomed to starve to death. But when he wakes up and finds a dish of fish, fresh fruit and fresh water next to him, Michael realises that he's not alone...

Sweepingly majestic, this tale is just the sort of book I would have loved as a child (and still do), wrapped up in notions of how fantastic it would have been to have been part of The Swiss Family Robinson, or even Robinson Crusoe.

As we follow the story of Michael's plight, it's a glorious celebration of what it feels like to survive on a desert island - and what the true meaning of friendship is when you have no common tongue.

"Kensuke's Kingdom" by Michael Morpurgo, with fabulous new cover art by David Dean, is out now in Paperback, published by Egmont. 

Along with several others of Michael's fantastic stories for children, we also looked at "Why the Whales Came"...

Gracie and her friend Daniel have always been warned to stay away from the mysterious "Birdman" and his side of the island. 

But then they find a message in the sand and discover the Birdman is not who they thought. 

They build up a lovely friendship with him, but when the children get stranded on Samson Island they don’t know whether to believe the birdman’s story that the island is cursed.

Set against the historical backdrop of the First World War, in the tradition of "Friend or Foe" and "Private Peaceful", Michael Morpurgo brings the emotional reality of conflict to life in a way that is accessible to younger readers in a story that's chock full of atmosphere and tension. 

"Why the Whales Came" by Michael Morpurgo, again with a fantastic new cover from David Dean is also out now published by Egmont. 

Now for the latest addition in a book series that continually blows us away with its devious inventiveness and superb tension.

"Cream Buns and Crime" by Robin Stevens is the perfect accompaniment to her fabulous "Murder Most Unladylike" series. Pit your wits against the Detective Society as Robin wraps up a delicious compendium of stories, secrets and puzzles in the most glorious purple cover.

Fans of the series will already know the stories of Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, now famous for the murder cases they have solved and their uncanny ability to cut through a criminal caper.

But there are many other mysteries in the pages of Hazel's casebook, from the macabre Case of the Deepdean Vampire, to the baffling Case of the Blue Violet, and their very first case of all: the Case of Lavinia's Missing Tie.

Packed with brilliant mini-mysteries, including two brand-new and never seen before stories, and peppered with Daisy and Hazel's own tips, tricks and facts, Charlotte took to this one as soon as it arrived, and is steadily working her way through the fabulous back catalogue of "Murder Most Unladylike" books (aided by lashings of ginger beer and the odd chocolate dipped cream horn or two, of course!)

"Cream Buns and Crime - A Murder Most Unladylike Collection" is out now, published by Puffin Books. 

From one exquisite storymeister to another. Who on earth can possibly resist this lady's fine work?

In "Rent a Bridesmaid" by Jaqueline Wilson (with a fab cover and illustrations by Nick Sharratt) we meet Tilly, who is - to be fair - a bit of a daydreamer.

When Tilly's best friend Matty is asked to be a bridesmaid, Tilly goes into a daydreamy whirl of imagining herself in the most incredible bridesmaid dress, tip-toeing down the aisle behind the beautiful bride. 

The one wedding she’d really love to attend is her own mum and dad’s - but it seems like that's never going to happen. So Tilly decides to make her own dream come true, and puts a notice in the local shop, advertising her services as a bridesmaid. And to her amazement, she gets a reply!

Jaqueline's books are always brilliant, she has a knack for writing down-to-earth stories with real heart and emotion and "Rent a Bridesmaid" is no exception, deftly observational and fabulously written tackling the subjects of family and friendship in a real hug of a book. 

"Rent a Bridesmaid" by Jaqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt is out now, published by Puffin. 

Time for something a little more magical, mysterious and dark...

"The Young Magicians and the Thieves Almanac" is the first in a fantastic new mystery series by Nick Mohammed. 

The story opens on a London street, as Alex, Zack, Jonny and Sophie are drawn together to solve a mystery.

Alex doesn't say much, and once jumped when handed a satsuma, but, wow, is he amazing with a deck of cards.

Zack is undoubtedly one of the best pickpockets in the country (but always puts things back - or so he says).

Sophie once convinced her Brown Owl that all the other Brownies were jellyfish thanks to her nifty hypnosis skills. Brown Owl is still convinced she's still the pack leader to a bunch of squishy ocean going life forms. 

Then there's Jonny - who is quite possibly the tallest boy in the universe. Jonny mixes science and magic with spectacular consequences (by which, we mean he usually ends up blowing things up).

Join these young magicians as they step inside the world-famous conjuring club - the Magic Circle - in an adventure that may or may not involve the search for a secret book, a set of impossible crimes and a flock of very confused pigeons.

Charlotte has lapped this one up with glee, and can't wait to see more. 

"The Young Magicians and the Thieves Almanac (Young Magicians Book 1)" by Nick Mohammed is out now, published by Puffin. 

Just in time for easter, we had to feature at least one book that had a distinctly choccy whiff about it...

The "Daisy" series from Kes Gray and Nick Sharratt has made a successful transition from children's picture books to early chapter readers, and we're catching up with the series as Daisy indulges in one of her favourite pastimes. 

In "Daisy and the Trouble with Chocolate" our young hero is absolutely beside herself with excitement. 

She's been picked to look after the class hamsters, Pickle and Pops, over the Easter holidays - AND her mum's taking her to Chocolate Land! BONUS!

Trouble is, the two things probably shouldn't mix...particularly when Daisy comes up with a great idea to make her day trip even more special. Oops!

Full of chocolatey goodness, and more laughs than you can cope with on a full stomach, "Daisy and the Trouble with Chocolate" by Kes Gray and Nick Sharratt is out now, published by Red Fox. 

Ooh, after all that choc, we need a lie down. Pass us the next book, please...?

It's the triumphant return of Wilf.

In "Wilf the Mighty Worrier Rescues the Dinosaurs you'll once again meet Wilf. He worries about everything. He is a Mighty Worrier indeed.

And now Wilf's evil next-door-neighbour Alan is determined to rule the world ... from the very beginning of time!

But on the way to prehistoric Earth in Alan's time machine, Wilf is desperate for a wee, so they stop off in the 16th Century. There they meet Henry VIII - a very shouty man, who hitches a ride.

Now Alan AND Henry want to be King of the World. Can Wilf stop them with the help of his new dinosaur friends?

Join Wilf as he travels back in time to walk with dinosaurs and save the world from Alan ... again!

It's a great romp through time, and Charlotte loved the fact that Henry VIII is still a bit of a nasty piece of work, even in this!

Look out for more Wilf adventures: Wilf Saves the World, Wilf Battles a Pirate, Wilf is King of the Jungle, Wilf and the Alien Invasion.

"Wilf the Mighty Worrier Rescues the Dinosaurs" by Georgia Pritchett and Jamie Littler is out now, published by Quercus Children's Books. 

Cor, what's next chief?

More sublime stuff from Holly Webb in "The Girl of Glass".

Mariana lives with her family on the Venetian island of Murano - famed for its artists who create masterpieces from glass. But when Mariana's little sister, Eliza, dies their father decides to use his glassmaking skill - and a dash of magic - to create a girl of glass in Eliza's image.

The remarkable glass doll, who sings, dances and talks, draws attention wherever she goes, and soon Mariana is famous for having a magical glass sister. But as the glass girl takes on more and more of Eliza's personality, Mariana begins to suspect that there is more than just magic at play. Could the girl of glass be her sister's ghost made real?

The Magical Venice books all share the same beautiful setting, but can be read as standalone stories. 

The series includes: The Water Horse, The Mermaid's Sister, The Maskmasker's Daughter (which is Charlotte's particular favourite) and The Girl of Glass.

"The Girl of Glass" by Holly Webb, with a fabulous cover by Sarah Gibb, is out now, published by Orchard Books. 

Next, "Oh no, more Pirates!" NOOOOO!"

That's what Charlotte INITIALLY said about "Pirate Blunderbeard - Worst Pirate Ever" by Amy Sparkes and Ben Cort. Before disappearing for a couple of hours to devour the whole thing.

The story of a slightly inept young pirate and his quest to somehow please his mum by becoming "Pirate of the Year". Blunderbeard really isn't up to the task at hand - or is he?

All he has to do is fight an enormous Kraken, (ARGH), beat his oh-so-brilliant brother at something (please please please) and find the legendary treasure that no one has ever found EVER in the history of EVER (easy peasy, then).

Something tells us Pirate Blunderbeard is going to need a lot of luck (and probably quite a lot of help from his hapless bird chum Boris).

Full of great salty gags and puns, and suitable for young readers just starting out on their chapter book journeys, "Pirate Blunderbeard" by Amy Sparkes with brill illustrations from Ben (Underpants) Cort is out in June, published by HarperCollins Children's Books. 

Slightly vaguely piratical - well smuggler-ish, our next book sees the welcome return of a character Charlotte has loved to bits...

"Poppy Pym and the Smuggler's Secret" by Laura Wood once again sees Poppy unlocking a mystery to be solved.

This time she's spending summer with her friends at Smuggler's Cove, and things look idyllic for a short while. Holiday plans might even take her mind off the mystery of her past.

But Poppy is about to make some amazing discoveries – and solve more than one mystery in the process.

With brilliantly realised characters, this book is bang on trend for youngsters who are really getting their teeth into mysteries and detective stories that feel like they feature ordinary everyday kids.

Reminiscent of the best of Enid Blyton with plenty of thrills and jaw dropping moments of excitement woven in, Poppy Pym is set to become a seriously popular hero. She's certainly won Charlotte over, she greeted the arrival of this book with a whoop of glee.

"Poppy Pym and the Smuggler's Secret" by Laura Wood is out on 5th May, published by Scholastic. 

Now for some epic YA fantasy, and we really do mean epic...

Glen L Hall's "The Fall - Book One of the Last Druid Trilogy" prepares you for some epic world building, once again kicking off in a place that loans itself so well to fantasy books (and just happens to be our home burgh).

Undergraduate Sam Wood finds his dream life in Oxford interrupted when he encounters a menacing Shadow.

Soon he is on the run, pursued by unknown forces and searching for answers.

He escapes to the borderlands of Northumberland, where beings from other worlds are creeping into this one, and learns he is embroiled in a quest to prevent the murder of the last Druid, heir of a mysterious order which has protected this world and others for millennia.

Along the way, the boundaries between good and evil, light and dark, and even the loyalties of those sent to protect him are called into question.

What awaits him at the Dead Water only he can face. A place where the Druids laid down their lives to protect the darkest of all their secrets.

This is a behemoth of a first novel, feeling at once like the works of Robin Hobb, epic in scale and excitement. 

"The Fall" by Glen L. Hall is out now, published by Gosforth Publishing. 

...and skipping lightly from dark fantasy to crunchily violent uber-stylish YA dystopic stuff, this is truly something else too...!

"Rig" by Jon Wallace follows on from his groundbreaking and hugely controversial two previous books in the series, "Barricade" and "Steeple".

The story of a weaponized AI named Kentisbec continues as he must fight against almost overwhelming odds to find his creator - the very person who brought humanity to the brink of extinction.

Determined to complete his quest before the world is swallowed up by violence and chaos as a new world order emerges, Kentisbec is no longer invulnerable but can still stack up a killcount far higher than your average human.

This is one heck of a thrill ride, with flavours of uber-violent dystopic sci fi a la William Gibson, suffused with amazing characters and an epic conclusion that felt like a huge whump in the gut, but hugely hugely satisfying.

"Rig" by Jon Wallace is published by Gollancz and is out now. 

We've just about got time for one more from Gollancz before we call it - this time from a real sci fi and fantasy pioneer...

"The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula K. Le Guin is a real return to form for a legendary fantasy author, whose "Earthsea" chronicles were such a huge huge part of my teen years (and quite a bit into adulthood too!)

Ursula tackles diverse subjects such as artificial intelligence and emotional responses as the story of planetary exploration unfolds.

Genly Ai is an ethnologist observing the people of the planet Gethen, a world perpetually in winter. 

The people there are androgynous, normally neuter, but they can become male ot female at the peak of their sexual cycle. The people seem unsophisticated and confusing to Genly but he is drawn into the complex politics of the planet and, during a long, tortuous journey across the ice with a politician who has fallen from favour and has been outcast, he loses his professional detachment and reaches a painful understanding of the true nature of Gethenians and, in a moving and memorable sequence, even finds love. 

Ursula's storytelling is tight, soaring and emotionally involving as ever and this is one for fans of deep sci fi and complex worldbuilding. Dig in to "The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula K. Le Guin, out now from Gollancz. 

That's about all we have time for in April but you bet we'll be back in May with more fantastic middle grade and YA chapter books to tempt you with.