Thursday, 25 April 2019

ReaditDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - April 2019

Welcome to our post-Easter Chapter Book Roundup, we'll try not to go too overboard with chocolate-themed or egg-punned books, in fact our first choice for April has nothing to do with either.

The exquisite "Cloud Boy" by Marcia Williams is the sort of book that beautifully charts the highs and lows of friendships, and our ability to cope with joy and sadness in equal measure, in a truly heart-wrenching but gorgeous book.

Harry Christmas and Angie Moon are best friends and almost-twins.

Ever since they were born two days apart they’ve been partners in cloud-spotting, sweet-eating and treehouse-building. 

But when Harry is taken to hospital for headaches that won’t go away, he needs Angie more than ever. Because when things fall apart, only a best friend can stitch them back together. 

Marcia tells the story through Angie's voice and observations with pin-sharp clarity in a really stunning tale. 

"Cloud Boy" by Marcia Williams with cover art by Markus Motum is out now, published by Walker Books

Our next book is fantastical, whimsical and light-hearted - the sort of book that makes you think "What if..."

"We Won an Island" is Charlotte Lo's truly impressive debut for Nosy Crow. 

When Luna's family win an island, Luna thinks it will solve everything AND she can finally get a donkey, hooray!

But things don't go entirely to plan - no one expects Luna's younger brother to win a Sheep Pageant, for example.

Then plans for their secret island festival go completely awry.

But the island is beautiful, and the family are happy, and maybe Luna will get her donkey after all!

A book that just begs to be read ahead of the summer, to get you right in the mood for days of sunshine and sand, this is a thoroughly original and amusing book. 

"We Won an Island" by Charlotte Lo is out on 2nd May 2019, published by Nosy Crow. 

More thoroughly original stuff now, based partially on factual events at the turn of the 20th Century, and adapted from Jill Jonnes' fascinating book for grown-ups. 

"Eiffel's Tower (for young people)" by Jill Jonnes and Rebecca Stefoff has kept C and her mum enthralled over the past few weeks. 

Weaving together the behind-the-scenes history of the Eiffel Tower with an account of the 1889 World's Fair in Paris for which the tower was built, Jonnes creates a vivid, lively pageant of people and cultures meetingand competing.

On two sides of the Atlantic Ocean, the French and Americans are preparing for the World's Fair.

As Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley become the toasts of Paris and Gustave Eiffel, builder of the tower, rises to the pinnacle of fame, only to suffer a tragic fall from grace, this amazing story plays out against the backdrop of a world of innovation, amazing scientific discoveries and above all huge progress and change. 

Revolving around two nations, whose potent symbols were the twin poles of the fair. France, with its long history of sophistication and cultivation, and with a new republican government eager for the country to take its place at the forefront of the modern world, presented the Eiffel Tower - the world's tallest structure - as a symbol of national pride and engineering superiority. The United States, with its brash, can-do spirit, full of pride in its frontier and its ingenuity, presented the rollicking Wild West show of Buffalo Bill Cody and the marvelous new phonograph of Thomas Edison. Eiffel, Cody, Oakley, and Edison are just a few of the characters who populate Jonnes's dramatic history. 

A sprawling novel that encompasses amazing human stories depicting the achievements of the day, this is a must-read for kids who have thrilled to the era of "The Greatest Showman" and want something that's even more spectacular. 

"Eiffel's Tower (for young people)" by Jill Jonnes and Rebecca Steffof is out now, published by Seven Stories Press. 

Time for something completely engrossing and gripping. "The Middler" by Kirsty Applebaum begins with  Eleven-year-old Maggie, who lives in Fennis Wick, enclosed and protected from the outside world by a boundary, beyond which the Quiet War rages and the dirty, dangerous wanderers roam. 

Maggie has known no other life. 

Her brother Jed is an eldest, revered and special. A hero. Her younger brother is Trig - everyone loves Trig, and like every youngest sibling he has a habit of getting away with everything.

But Maggie's just a middler; invisible and left behind. 

Then, one hot September day, she meets Una, a hungry wanderer girl in need of help, and everything Maggie has ever known gets turned on its head. 

Told in Maggie's often irreverent, funny and charismatic voice, we experience the trials and frustrations of being the forgotten middle child, the child with no voice, even in her own family. A truly brilliantly observed story of sibling relationships, human failings and amazing circumstances, set against a thoroughly original fantasy backdrop, this is another book that has really wowed us this month. 

"The Middler" by Kirsty Applebaum is out now, published by Nosy Crow.

We always like to include a few books for younger readers beginning their solo reading journeys with illustrated chapter books, and the antics of one "Spot Guevara, Hero Dog" by Zaro Weil, with illustrations and cover from Katy Riddell is absolutely perfect for animal-loving kids everywhere. 

Born rough on the streets of Brooklyn this is Spot's story, told in his own voice and from his unique point of view.

Life on the streets is hard, and one terrible day Spot's entire family are carted off by the Dog police and he vows never to give up searching for them. 

This is the beginning of Spot's many adventures as he roams the city meeting new friends, fending off danger and learning about humans and other dogs. Can Spot be a hero? Will he need a friend or two along the way? 

This is fast-paced but really fab stuff, perfect for kids who are moving on from picture books and want an exciting waggy dog tale. 

"Spot Guevara Hero Dog" by Zaro Weil and Katy Riddell is out now, published by Troika Books. 

We're really excited about this next one...We absolutely loved Stewart Foster's "The Bubble Boy" and now he's back with a new story, and a character that's sure to win his way into your heart. 

"Check Mates" by Stewart Foster is the story of Felix. 

Some people think that Felix is a problem child, lazy and inattentive in lessons.  But Felix is actually a child with a problem. 

His ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate and his grades are slipping. 

Everyone keeps telling him to try harder, but no one seems to understand just how hard he finds it. 

When Mum suggests Felix spends time with his grandfather, Felix can’t think of anything worse. 

Granddad hasn’t been the same since Grandma died. 

Plus he’s always trying to teach Felix boring chess. But sometimes the best lessons come in the most unexpected of places, and Granddad soon shows Felix that there’s everything to play for.

Just like "The Bubble Boy" before it, this is a story that has you completely gripped as Felix's story unfolds, and the relationship with his granddad grows. 

Be warned though, there are moments in this where you will definitely need a lot of hankies to mop up your tears!

"Check Mates" by Stewart Foster is out on the 27th June 2019, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books. 

More great stuff for younger readers now, with the latest greatest adventure for that scruffy but loveable little urchin. 

"Dirty Bertie: Spider" by Alan MacDonald and David Roberts is the 31st (!) book in the series, and once again the titular scruffbag is up to various tricks involving soap dodging and bath-denying. 

Bertie has a new pet and he can't wait to show it around.  He shocks and amazes his classmates with his huge pet spider, is tricked into wearing one of Gran's knitted horrors to school, and finds nothing but trouble when he digs for treasure in the park.

Just an ordinary day in the life of Bertie then!

A fun romp with tons of gigglesome humour and David's trademark awesome character art, even if you've never heard of Bertie before but love funny books, get your Bertie collection started today!

"Dirty Bertie: Spider!" by Alan Macdonald and David Roberts is out now, published by Stripes. 

Another awesome well-loved but misbehaving character is back for four new adventures in his latest book. "Horrid Henry: Up, up and away" by Francesca Simon and Tony Ross sees the titular scamp finally being allowed to go on a plane, on a real holiday! Wow, imagine the other poor passengers' reactions when they find out!

This latest volume contains four brand-new stories, featuring Horrid Henry wreaking havoc on an airplane, being forced to write an essay about the Tudors, sabotaging the school play and sneaking on to a forbidden rollercoaster.

Kids absolutely love living vicariously through this thoroughly naughty scamp's adventures, with the usual brilliant art from Tony Ross - and a ton of misbehaving fun to be had.

Again, the perfect read if you're jetting off on holiday with the kids and they want four awesome stories instead of one!

"Horrid Henry: Up, up and away" by Francesca Simon and Tony Ross is out now, published by Orion Children's Books. 

A truly powerful book next, that pulls no punches about what life is like for children in war-torn Syria. 

"No Ballet Shoes in Syria" by Catherine Bruton tells the story of young Aya, who at 11 years old has just arrived in Britain with her mum and little brother, seeking asylum from a terrible war that is tearing her home country apart. 

When Aya stumbles across a local ballet class, the formidable dance teacher spots her exceptional talent and believes that Aya has the potential to earn a prestigious ballet scholarship.

But at the same time, Aya and her family must fight to be allowed to remain in the country, to make a home for themselves and to find Aya's father - separated from the rest of the family during the journey from Syria. 

With beautiful, captivating writing, wonderfully authentic ballet detail, and an important message championing the rights of refugees, this is classic storytelling - filled with warmth, hope and humanity, and so timely for children to learn and understand about the conflict that affects innocent children and families who just want a safe place to live and thrive. 

"No Ballet Shoes in Syria" by Catherine Bruton is out on 2nd May 2019, published by Nosy Crow. 

Truly atmospheric and original stuff next from a publisher who has the knack of picking the most amazing books to publish.

"Lampie and the Children of the Sea" by Annet Schaap tells the story of Lampie the Lighthouse-Keeper's daughter.

Every evening Lampie must climb sixty-one steps to light the lantern, to warn ships away from the rocks and keep them safe.

One night, in the midst of a terrible storm, she discovers that her matches have run out... Disaster strikes, and an adventure begins as Lampie must dig deep into her own reserves of courage and resourcefulness.

Lampie is sent to work as a maid at the Admiral's Black House, where rumour has it that a monster lurks. What she discovers there throws her into a world of pirates and mermaids and puts her in terrible danger.

Can she find a way to save the ones she loves?

Who can possibly resist the lure of a book so entangled and entwined with a love of the ocean. This is beautifully told and realised, with tons of atmosphere.

"Lampie and the Children of the Sea" by Annet Schaap is out now, published by Pushkin Children's Books.

We've saved a real treat till last, and one of our favourite books from this month's roundup. Vashti Hardy's "Brightstorm" was one of the most amazing books of last year, and the hotly anticipated follow-up from this immensely talented author is "Wildspark".

This amazing tale begins a year after the death of Prue Haywood's beloved older brother.

Prue's family is still shattered by grief. But everything changes when a stranger arrives at the farm.

A new, incredible technology has been discovered in the city of Medlock, where a secretive guild of inventors have developed a way to capture spirits of the dead in animal-like machines, bringing them back to life.

Prue knows that the "Ghost Guild" might hold the key to bringing her brother back, so she seizes the stranger's offer to join as an apprentice. 

But to find her brother, she needs to find a way to get the ghost machines to remember the people they used to be.

Yet if Prue succeeds, all of society could come apart, and this new innovation could be exposed for what it actually is. 

Just as inventive, compelling and original as "Brightstorm", Vashti once again expertly weaves a book world par excellence and populates it with characters you'll root for, placing them in situations that will test them to their limits. It's all so rich, visual and gorgeous so definitely do not miss out on this one. 

"WildSpark" by Vashti Hardy is out on 2nd May 2019, published by Scholastic. 

The summer holidays might be a way off yet, but you can definitely notch this next book up as the sort of summer treat that you could stretch out for the whole holiday long.

Enid Blyton's "Animal Stories" is a new compilation of 30 of Enid's short stories, all with animal themes.

Animals of all shapes and sizes will charm children aged 6 and up. 

From pet puppies to woodland wildlife, garden birds to pond-dwelling frogs, Enid Blyton was a devoted and knowledgeable animal-lover and it really shows in the variety and cleverness of these little tales. 

Readers who feel the same way are bound to love her wonderful stories about our furry friends - and scaly, feathery or fluttery ones too! 

These delightful stories are ideal for newly confident readers and are the perfect length to be read aloud in the classroom or at bedtime.

"Animal Stories" by Enid Blyton, out now from Hodder Children's Books. 

Very happy to see this next one as we adored "Ella on the Outside". 

"Not My Fault" by Cath Howe is the story of two sisters. 

Maya and Rose won't talk to each other.

Ever since a tragic accident Maya has never been the same, running wild and causing trouble.

Rose doesn't know what to do with her or about her. 

Now Maya and Rose have to go away together on a week-long school journey. 

But will the trip - and a life-threatening adventure - fix their relationship... or break it for good? 

A sharply observed and beautifully emotional story of families and relationships, particularly between siblings who don't always see eye to eye. 

"Not My Fault" by Cath Howe is out on 2nd May 2019, published by Nosy Crow.

Love a trick or two? Then this next book is for you!

"The Fire Maker" by Guy Jones is a truly prestidigitatious book indeed.

Meet Alex, who really loves magic tricks - and he's good at them, too.

But when he stumbles into eccentric Mr Olmos's back garden, he sees a kind of magic he can't explain: three tiny flames floating in the air.

Before long Alex meets the mysterious magician himself and soon, Alex and Mr Olmos are swept up in a great adventure of secrets, genies and an ancient, bitter rivalry.

Fun, original and thoroughly absorbing, with more than a few tricks and twists up its capacious sleeves.

"The Fire Maker" by Guy Jones is out now, published by Chicken House. 

"Tin" was definitely one of the highlights of our middle-grade year last year and we're delighted to see Padraig Kenny back with the glorious "Pog", new from Chicken House Books.

Imagine how amazing it would be to live in a house surrounded by dense forest just like David and Penny.

It's the childhood home of their mother, but she has recently passed away leaving David and Penny to fend for themselves against the unexpected. You see it's not just their home, but home to many other magical creatures.

Like tiny, hairy Pog. 

He's one of the First Folk, protecting the boundary between the worlds.

 As the children explore, they discover monsters slipping through from the place on the other side of the cellar door. 

Meanwhile, David is drawn into the woods by something darker, a nefarious force that insists there's a way he can bring his mother back. 

This one wraps its dark tendrils around you and drags you into a truly atmospheric and astonishing story, instantly feeling like a classic fairy tale but with huge contemporary appeal. Absolutely stunning stuff. 

"Pog" by Padraig Kenny is out now, published by Chicken House. 

Here's one that'll grab you the minute you spot that glorious cover. 

"Bloom" by Nicola Skinner is the tale of a girl. Not an ordinary everyday girl, but a truly extraordinary one - a character that will have you nodding in recognition if you've ever felt like you don't quite fit in with the usual crowd. 

Sorrel Fallowfield is growing up – in a REALLY surprising way.

She is so good at being good that teachers come to her when they need help remembering the school rules – and there are LOTS of school rules (we all identify with that, right?)

Luckily, Sorrel doesn’t have any trouble following them, until the day she discovers a faded packet of Surprising Seeds buried under a tree in her backyard.

Now she’s hearing voices, seeing things, experiencing an almost unstoppable urge to plant the Seeds in some very unusual places… and completely failing to win her school’s competition to find The Most Obedient Child of the School.

And all that’s before flowers start growing out of her head.

Funny, heartwarming and absolutely blisteringly original stuff. 

"Bloom" by Nicola Skinner is out now, published by HarperCollins Children's Books. 

Finally, something really different, fresh and original from a publisher whose books are really grabbing our attention at the moment.

"White Horse" by Yan Ge is a gorgeous book that underpins a sharply psychologically-driven story with the most wonderful chinese brush art.

Yun Yun lives in a small West China town with her widowed father, and an uncle, aunt and older cousin who live nearby. 

Yun Yun's life is content, simple and easy but then her entire world is ripped apart, her life no longer as simple as it once was.

Through Yun Yum's keen observational eye, we see her cousin Zhang Qing keen to dive into the intoxicting excitements of adolescence, rebelling against opressive parents. 

Ensuing tensions reveal that the relationships between the two families are founded on a terrible lie that Yun Yun will discover the truth of as the story unfolds. 

Once again this is mesmerising stuff, filled with a sharply dark wit at times, and at others filled with angst and frustration that many contemporary teens will fully identify with. 

Masterfully written, this - and just look at the illustrations!

"White Horse" by Yan Ge is out now, published by Hope Road. 
(All books kindly supplied for review).