Wednesday 28 February 2018

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - February 2018

Wow, January was a busy month wasn't it? But we're not slowing down. I might have just hit the half century (yes, saying it like that makes it sound EVEN MORE SCARY THAN IT IS!) but that doesn't mean C or I will be easing off on the throttle of bringing you the most amazing book reviews every single month.

So we're kicking off with a new book that definitely caught both our eyes. "Horace and Harriet Take on the Town (Horace and Harriet Book 1)" by Clare Elsom. It's such a fresh and original idea that we really wanted to make a huge fuss about it - so we are!

Lord Commander Horatio Frederick Wallington Nincompoop Maximus Pimpleberry the Third (or Horace, for short) has been a statue on a plinth in Princes Park for hundreds of years.

But after suffering pranks, graffiti, endless mobile phone chat, and pigeon poo, Horace has had enough. 

He decides it's time to get off his pedestal. Surely he can find a better home? One suitable for such a fine commander? 

Assisted by his new friend Harriet (she's seven and a quarter years old and definitely NOT a statue) Horace tackles modern life (though he can't shake off his embarrassing hobby of invading everything) in his quest to find the perfect place to live. The trouble is, nowhere seems to be quite as good as Mayor Silverbottom's house. And Mayor Silverbottom just happens to be a descendant of Horace's arch enemy! EEKS! Will old scores be settled? 

We instantly took to this 'fish out of water' story, hilarious and charming in equal measure, and that rare example of an early chapter book that's good for 5 - 10 year olds equally. 

"Horace and Harriet Take on the Town (Horace and Harriet Book 1)" by Clare Elsom is out on 1st March 2018 (with book 2 swiftly following on its heels too!). Both published by Oxford Children's Books. 

More fantastic stuff from Oxford Children's Books now, and a new novel from a fave author whose stories are just SO dizzyingly atmospheric...

"Night Speakers" by Ali Sparkes sets out a mysteriously dark and delicious tale right from the off.

Night after night Elena, Matt, and Tima wake at exactly the same time, with no idea why.

 It's messing them up and fracturing their lives . . . until they venture out into the dark and find each other.

The sleepless trio realize their astounding power - they can speak any language; they can even communicate with animals.

But something is happening over on the industrial estate nearby, something which is emitting sounds that only they can hear, and killing any winged thing that crosses its path.

There's nobody to fight it but the brave trio for only they can possibly understand it and what it means to do.

This is powerful stuff that'll have you casting worried glances at your bedside clock every night as the numbers slowly tick over to 1:34...

"Night Speakers" by Ali Sparkes is out on 1st March 2018, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

This next book really raises and deals with a ton of issues that children, and young girls in particular, will start to encounter as they move through school and enter their teens...

"Ella on the Outside" by Cath Howe is a superbly written tale tackling those issues head on.

We meet Ella who is the new girl at her school. She doesn't know anyone and she doesn't have any friends - and of course finds it very difficult to fit in at first.

Worse still, Ella has a terrible and dark secret. Ella can't believe her luck when Lydia, the most popular girl in school, decides to be her new best friend - but what does Lydia really want? And what does it all have to do with Molly, the quiet, shy girl who won't talk to anyone?

Described as "A gripping story of lies, friendship, and blackmail" this is actually a real page-turner, which reminded me a bit of "Heathers" (that classic dark comedy from way back when) but offers up a valuable moral lesson on friends not being quite as 'friendly' as they first seem. A real riveting read.

"Ella on the Outside" by Cath Howe is out on the 3rd May 2018, published by Nosy Crow. 

Next, a rather neat dream-like tale full of suspense and tension...hold on, it's going to be a heck of a ride!

"Twister" by Juliette Forrest tells the story of a mighty girl - a girl like no other. Her father has gone missing and as she's searching for him she stumbles across a witch living in the woods.

She is given a magical necklace that holds the souls of living things and can turn the wearer into a wolf, or a rushing river, or a rainstorm.

But there's a dark foe on the hunt for this necklace, a nefarious villain who wears a coat crawling with creatures and who might have something to do with her father's sudden disappearance. Will twister master this magical artefact, rescue her father and defeat the dark forces massing against her?

It really is a twister this, with a dazzlingly original plot, a ton of amazing atmosphere and a real roller-coaster quest laced through this un-putdownable book. A fabulous debut for Juliette.

"Twister" by Juliette Forrest is out now, published by Scholastic. 

Next up, another corker of a mystery that's bound to set all the hairs on the back of your neck on end...

Book 3 of "The League of Unexceptional Children: The Kids Who Knew Too Little" by Gitty Daneshvari follows on from "Get Smartish" with a zippy and cleverly written continuation of this awesome series.

Shelley and Jonathan are members of the League of Unexceptional Children - the world's least impressive spy network.

Jonathan's parents have been arrested by the CIA, and the dangerous mission to liberate them is definitely beyond his and Shelley's utterly average skill set.

Can they accidentally save the day one last time?

This final book beautifully rounds off Gitty Daneshvari's hapless spy series. Even though each adventure works as a standalone it's well worth tracking down the rest of the series (you KNOW you want to!)

"The League of Unexceptional Children: The Kids Who Knew Too Little" by Gitty Daneshvari is out now, published by L & B Kids. 

Next we're looking ahead to May, and an awesome new middle grade book from Sally Christie...

"Spirit" is chock full of atmospheric and awesome storytelling from the word go. 

We meet new kid Matt who is quiet and shy. 

The total opposite in fact to Jazzy who is outspoken, popular, confident. 

How did these two ever get to be friends? In the village of Burnham Stone everything is possible but most things certainly aren't normal.

Matt believes he has seen something extraordinary up in Burnham Wood. And Jazzy is the only one who believes him. 

With the help of Matt's little dog and Jazzy's little sister, the two make surprising discoveries - and unleash such a powerful force that nothing can ever be the same again. 

A wonderful story about friends, growing up, and the very real magic in the world around us. We loved this one for all the feel of those classic Famous Five adventures, fused with ghostly goings on and spookiness in a remote village community. 

Awesome stuff from Sally. "Spirit" by Sally Christie" is out on 3rd May 2018, published by David Fickling Books. 

Next, a palaeontologist's dream in a fantastic and exciting book revolving around a truly landmark dig. 

Kenneth Oppel's "Every Hidden Thing" is a rip-roaring dinosaur adventure with a difference. 

Somewhere in the Badlands, embedded deep in rock and sand, lies the skeleton of a massive dinosaur, larger than anything the world has ever seen.

To seventeen-year-old Samuel Bolt - just kicked out of school - it's the "Rex", the king dinosaur that could put him and his archaeologist father in the history books, if they can just dig it out. 

But Samuel and his father aren't the only ones after the Rex. 

For Rachel Cartland this find could be her ticket to a different life, one where she can explore her loves of science and adventure. 

But if she can't prove herself to her father on this expedition, the only adventures she'll have to look forward to are marriage or spinsterhood. 

As their paths cross and the rivalry between their fathers becomes more intense, Samuel and Rachel are pushed closer together. And with both after the same prize, their budding romance seems destined to fail. 

But as danger looms on the other side of the hills, Samuel and Rachel are forced to make a decision. Can they find the skeleton-and with it a new life together-or will the rivalry tear them apart?

This is a crackingly original story idea digging back into history in a fabulous way. Utterly brilliant stuff. 

"Every Hidden Thing" by Kenneth Oppel is out now, published by David Fickling Books. 

Next, it's time for a compilation gathering some of the most supreme writing talent on the planet for a very special book...

"Make More Noise" is an incredible collection of brand new short stories from ten of the UK's very best storytellers, celebrating inspirational girls and women. 

The book is being published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in the UK. 

£1 from the sale of every book will be donated to Camfed, an international charity which tackles poverty and inequality by supporting women's education in the developing world. 

Featuring short stories by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize-wining The Girl of Ink and Stars, M.G. Leonard, author of Beetle Boy, Patrice Lawrence, author of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize-winning Orangeboy, Katherine Woodfine, author of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, Sally Nicholls, author of Things a Bright Girl Can Do, Emma Carroll, author of Letters from the Lighthouse, and more, this is sure to wow your socks off and it's in a fantastic cause too. 

"Make More Noise" is out now, published by Nosy Crow. 

Next, something of a timely revival for a classic set of stories, given a whole new lease of life thanks to one of our favourite illustrators...

"Mostly Mary" revives the first of Gwynedd Rae's corking stories, with fabulous new illustrations from Clara (Mango and Bambang) Vulliamy. 

In this first book we meet the Bear family, who, sadly, are locked up in a bear pit in Berne. 

Amazingly the family still seem to have a fairly happy life, but when young orphan Mary comes into Friska's care, no one has any idea just how energetic and naughty the newborn can be. 

Friska, anxious mother of twin bear cubs of her own, takes charge of the orphan Mary and does her best to teach her proper bear manners such as the correct way to wash your ears. 

Into their closeted world comes the Owl Man who somehow strikes up a friendship with the lonely cub and before long Mary is off discovering the world - thus her real adventures begin. 

These are wonderfully simple and yet completely compelling tales, like a bruin-y version of the "Little Tim" books with timeless adventures that today's kids will love. 

"Mostly Mary" by Gwynedd Rae and Clara Vulliamy is out now, published by Egmont. 

The late Sir Terry Pratchett might be gone, but his books will live on forever. 

"Only You Can Save Mankind" is a fantastic tale in the Johnny Maxwell stories, with the hapless hero being thrown right in at the deep end this time, in a story of intergalactic invasion. 

As the mighty alien fleet from the latest computer game thunders across the screen, Johnny prepares to blow them into the usual million pieces. 

But then they send him a message: "We surrender!"

They're not supposed to do that! They're supposed to die. And computer joysticks don't have 'Don't Fire' buttons do they?

But it's only a game, isn't it. Isn't it?

This is a rip-roaring tale that demonstrate's Pratchett's endless versatility, putting together a story that'll still resonate with your resident game-head. Utterly fantastic catching back up with this one again. 

"Only You Can Save Mankind" by Terry Pratchett is out now, published by Corgi. 

Last but by no means least, a pair of new books that will be perfect for the cute animal lover in your life...

"Muddle the Magic Puppy: The Magic Carpet" by Hayley Daze kicks off a whole new series of gorgeous little animal tales. 

Muddle the puppy is magic, but he's also a little bit naughty! 

Emerging readers will laugh along to the humorous stories featuring best friends, Ruby and Harry, and build their reading confidence at the same time. 

In "The Magic Carpet" Muddle jumps into a magical puddle and takes Ruby and Harry on an amazing adventure to Arabia! 

They need teamwork and a lot of puppy magic to help a young boy win a magic carpet race. 

Luckily, Muddle, Harry and Ruby make a great team!

These stories are absolutely perfectly pitched for kids just branching out into self-reading, with nice simple and short stories designed to entertain but also offer a collectable series to inspire them onto further reading. 

"Cuddle the Magic Kitten" is an accompanying series, also written by Hayley Daze, so even if your kids really don't like dogs they're sure to love Cuddle's adventures too. 

"Muddle the Magic Puppy" and "Cuddle the Magic Kitten" by Hayley Daze are both available now (with followup books arriving in the summer). Published by Willow Tree Books. 

And that's a wrap! We'll be back once again in March with even more awesome chapter books. See you then!