Thursday, 27 June 2019

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - June 2019

Welcome, welcome! Settle down and sit a spell, it's time for another dip into our Chapter Book bag of win for another selection of gorgeous titles to become your new summer best book friends.

Starting off with the sizzlingly tense "The House of Light" by Julia Green.

Bonnie is a girl who loves the beach, and loves picking for treasures amongst the sandbars.

One day while she's scavenging,  she finds a battered old upturned rowing boat, and underneath it the most bedraggled looking half-starved wretch of a boy she's ever seen. 

Bonnie decides to nurse the boy back to health as he's very weak, and seems to have undertaken a perilous journey. But the boy is being hunted, and both Bonnie and her Granda may be in more trouble than they bargained for by harbouring the poor lad.
Doing their best to keep the boy hidden from the border guards, Bonnie wonders if it's time to escape the life she's always known and help the boy escape. 

Under cover of darkness they set sail to the 'house of light' in search of a new beginning, and a sense of hope.

Filled with the positive message of human kindness and helping others wherever they're from, this is a strong and brilliant book that's very much needed in our current socio-political climate. 

"The House of Light" by Julia Green is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

There's nothing short of a huge revolution going on in middle grade fantasy at the moment, with books of the most amazing quality really giving kids a kick-start in the right direction when it comes to engrossing characterful fantasy stories to really get your teeth into. 

"The Last Spell Breaker" by Julie Pike is a stunning debut for OUP, and a book we just couldn't put down. 

The book opens with Rayne, a girl who is destined to become a Spell Breather whether she wants to or not. 

Like most youngsters, she has very clear ideas about what she'd rather be doing than studying stacks of scrolls, or trying to master her spell breathing skills. But despite her reluctance she knows her skills are much needed, as her village falls under threat by an ancient and monstrous curse that could devour their entire home in one foul swoop. 

The magic is horribly fragile, and can't last forever - and on one fateful day when the unique spells that protect her village are unravelled, Rayne's real adventure begins and her destiny is mapped out - but will she find the strength within herself to prevail or will she need the help of others to realise her true potential. 

It coils you round its little finger this one, as Rayne is such a brilliantly realised and beautifully observed character with huge appeal for kids who love the likes of Hermione Granger or Percy Jackson.

"The Last Spell Breather" by Julie Pike is out on 4th July 2019, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

We always love fantasy books that start out with a curious "What if...?" question, and in "Dino Knights" by Jeff Norton the story starts off with a belter. 

"What if the dinosaurs never died out, and were the noble steeds of medieval knights?"

Well you've got to admit that a setup like that draws you straight in, with Jeff's trademark pacey and exciting writing driving along a fantasy adventure with a difference. 

When dinosaur stable boy Henry Fairchild stops a vicious T-Rex from attacking his master, he is invited to join the most elite group in Brecklan, the brave Knights of Panterra, the Dino Knights.

But before he can prove himself, the enemies of Brecklan attack with a flock of pterodactyls and kidnap Lord Harding. 

Whether he's ready or not, Henry and the Dino Knights mount a daring rescue mission...but nothing is what it seems. 

Blisteringly paced plotting and an amazing array of characters mark this one out as something truly special, get in on the ground floor with a book that feels like it's going to become a hugely successful series. Mark our words!

"Dino Knights" by Jeff Norton is out now, published by Awesome Reads. 

Massively talented and hugely prolific Holly Webb is back with another glorious selection of early readers for Stripes Publishing. 

"The Hideaway Deer" is the latest book in Holly's brilliant animal series featuring animals from around the world. 

The story opens as young Lola moves house. Lola feels she can’t help feeling sad to leave her old friends and life behind. She’s always been shy and worries it’ll be hard to make friends at her new school.

It’s not all scary, though. Lola loves her new home with its rambling garden and the deer that sometimes wander in through the broken fence.

Then one day she comes across a fawn who seems to be in trouble. Lola is determined to do everything she can to help the terrified little deer, but will she be able to do it on her own?

Lola may find a hidden strength within herself, and seizes the chance to help her new deer friend. 

Perfect for animal-loving middle graders who are taking their first steps into solo reading. 

"The Hideaway Deer" by Holly Webb is out now, published by Stripes (Little Tiger). 

Also from Holly is the next book in a series that C absolutely loves to bits.

"Shine: Lily's Secret Audition" with fab artwork from Monique Dong is Holly's next book in her brilliant middle grade drama and musical series. 

This story is all about Lily - a girl who has enrolled at the Shine School for the Performing Arts, but a girl who has a secret fear that she really doesn't belong there.

Lily truly believes she's only been allowed in because of her hugely successful actress mum, but soon she has the chance to prove herself - auditioning for a part in the dramatisation of one of her all-time favourite books, Little Women. 

Can Lily put aside her thoughts of impostor syndrome to really shine in the new role?

This series is brilliant for C who loves drama and singing, dancing and acting. How on earth does Holly do it!

"Shine: Lily's Secret Audition" by Holly Webb with illustrations by Monique Dong is out now, published by Stripes (Little Tiger).

Rachel Delahaye's "Little Rescue" books add a new animal to the roster with the next book in the series, "Little Dolphin Rescue" 

A very timely one for us this, as we've just come back from visiting the amazing Dolphin Rescue Centre in Clearwater, Florida. 

Fliss is a very special little girl who has a magical secret - she can be whisked away on secret missions to save the animals she loves.

A swimming lesson takes an exciting turn when Fliss is magically whisked away to the Indian Ocean! 

There she finds a young dolphin in trouble and she knows she has to help. 

But she’s scared of deep water, and who knows what other animals there might be out there!

Can Fliss face her fears and save her new friend?

Exciting stuff again for early readers who love animals and have the reading confidence to move on from picture books into chapter-based fare. 

"Little Dolphin Rescue" by Rachel Delahaye is out now, published by Stripes (Little Tiger). 

Rounding off our selection of awesome titles from Stripes Publishing is the newest addition to the "Star Friends" series. 

"Star Friends: Moonlight Mischief" by Linda Chapman and Lucy Fleming is another fab book for animal fans who love fantasy and magic. 

Sita and her friends love going on adventures, and as the "Star Friends" they're never too far from a mystery to solve.

When the residents of Westcombe enter the Best Kept Village competition, they appear to have a helping hand – someone has tidied the village overnight!

No one knows who has mowed the lawns and painted the fences but the town is looking neater than ever. 

Then things take a darker turn. Toys and pets begin to go missing!

The villagers are upset and worried, and the Star Friends suspect that dark magic is involved. They're going to have to use all of their skills to solve this latest mystery, with a little help from some animal friends. 

Brilliantly paced middle grade adventuring for girls and boys who love stories by E Nesbit and Enid Blyton. 

"Star Friends: Moonlight Mischief" by Linda Chapman and Lucy Fleming is out now, published by Stripes (Little Tiger). 

More from Stripes with something we're rather excited about. We love the thought of early reader chapter books with full colour illustrations in them, rather than just the usual black and white ones - to ease kids in the transition from picture books to chapter books.

"The Missing Bookshop" by Katie Clapham, with illustrations from Kirsti Beautyman is a fab little story kicking off an entire new range of similarly formatted books.

Milly loves going to story time at her local bookshop.

Mrs Minty is an encyclopedia of books and knows the perfect story for every occasion. Tales of mischievous children and faraway lands, magical beasts and daring adventures. But the bookshop is old and creaky, just like Mrs Minty herself. When Milly arrives one day to find the shop gone, she's determined to find out what happened to her favourite place.

A warm and uplifting tale about the importance of stories, "The Missing Bookshop" by Katie Clapham and Kirsti Beautyman is out now, published by Stripes. 

Phew, what's next? More, we need more books. MORE I SAY!

How about a heartfelt WWII story like the sublime "Anna At War" by Helen Peters (with cover artwork from Daniela Terrazini).

At the beginning of the second world war, life became increasingly dangerous for German Jews. This story begins as young Anna is sent by her parents to live in England, hopefully away from Nazi persecution.

But the war follows her to Kent, and soon Anna finds herself caught up in web of betrayal and secrecy. How can she prove whose side she's on when she can't tell anyone the truth?

But actions speak louder than words, and Anna has a dangerous plan that could either see her triumph, or cruelly seal her fate. This is one of those amazing middle grade books where you barely dare breathe as you read it, with Anna's tale unfolding amidst the tense and spellbinding backdrop of life as a refugee during WWII.

"Anna at War" by Helen Peters and Daniela Terrazini is out on 4th July 2019, published by Nosy Crow. 

A salt-encrusted and truly atmospheric tale of undersea kingdoms and mermaids next in the superb "Lampie and the Children of the Sea" by Annet Schaap, translated by Laura Watkinson.

Lampie is the lighthouse keeper's daughter, given the most important duty of all - to light a lantern every night to ensure the safety of passing ships as they approach the treacherous rocks around her home. 

One disastrous night, Lampie fails in her duties, resulting in a terrible shipwreck - an event that changes the young girl's life forever. 

Sent away to work as a maid at the Admiral's Black House, Lampie's miserable life is lifted slightly by the discovery of an unexpected ally and friend, who draws the young girl into a fantasy world of mermaids, pirates and fantastic undersea vistas. 

Every bit as atmospheric as our tiny snippet makes it sound, and beautifully translated by Laura, this is an absolute essential for kids who love mermaids and the thought of living beneath the waves with a young girl who discovers her own inner strength and bravery.

"Lampie and the Children of the Sea" by Annet Schaap and Laura Watkinson is out now, published by Pushkin Press

Our mailbag has been awash with books about butterflies - and circuses - at the moment, so here's a fantastic middle grade / early YA book full of the roar of the crowd and the smell of greasepaint. 

"The Butterfly Circus" by Francesca Armour-Chelu is the tale of two sisters, Tansy and Belle, who live an enviable life as child stars in a stunning circus. 

High on the trapeze, the two sisters always star at the grand finale of the circus show, taking to the air like butterflies.

But Tansy is a risk taker, always looking for new ways to wring gasps of admiration from the crowds and as she attempts a spectacular jump as part of the act, she falls - and her life changes at the snap of a finger. 

Belle becomes the solo trapeze star, but when she disappears one night - and Tansy's shadow inexplicably comes to life, it's up to the younger sister to embark on a dangerous journey to find out what happened to her older sibling. 

A spellbinding, timeless and beautifully told adventure about two sisters and their journey to find each other again. "The Butterfly Circus" by Francesca Armour-Chelu with cover by Helen Crawford White is out now, published by Walker Books. 

A classic fairy tale is given a contemporary twist or two in our next book, "Cinders and Sparks: Magic at Midnight" by Lindsey Kelk and Pippa Curnick. 

You may think you know this tale - but be prepared for a surprise or two along the way as we meet Cinders, a young girl who lives a boring life with her selfish stepsisters and mean stepmother.

She's at their beck and call every single day, but constantly daydreams and wishes for something amazing to happen to rescue her from her miserable life. 

So when her wishes start magically coming true it’s a surprise to say the least!

Then Cinders meets her fairy godmother: she’s magic, she can fly, and she’s called . . . Brian.

Soon, Cinders finds herself heading to the glamorous ball at the King’s palace. 

But Brian is NOT very reliable and Cinders is NOT very good at magic. Now her life isn’t boring at all – it’s total chaos! Can Cinders somehow become the belle of the ball despite all the setbacks? 

Perfect for younger solo readers, taking a familiar tale and giving it a good shot of laughter right in the funny bone, "Cinders and Sparks: Magic at Midnight" by Lindsey Kelk and Pippa Curnick is out now, published by HarperCollins Children's Books. 

Next, a story that reminded us of the classic Francis Hodgson Burnett book "The Secret Garden" but with a darker and more mysterious atmosphere all told. "The Garden of Lost Secrets" by A.M Howell is set against the backdrop of the first world war, as young Clara is sent away to the country to live with her aunt and uncle on a sprawling estate (sounds great to us!)

Clara realises that there's more to the house than meets the eye, and her natural inquisitive nature soon leads to trouble. But what does a locked room hide? What is opened by the mysterious key Clara has found? 

...and who is the mysterious ghostly young boy who appears only at night, wandering the gardens as if he's searching for something. 

Clara seeks answers to these questions, and many more about her own past, and what the war could truly mean for her future. 

Scintillating, brilliant and breathlessly paced, "The Garden of Lost Secrets" by A.M Howell is out now, published by Usborne

We're pretty much guaranteed to enjoy any book with "Dragon" in the title, and definitely loved our final book for our June roundup, the superb "The Secret Dragon" by Ed Clarke. 

Meet Mari Jones, a girl whose curiosity always has her asking questions, and digging deep for the answers. You see Mari wants to be a real honest to goodness scientist. Even though she's only eleven!

So when she makes an unexpected discovery while fossil hunting, her inquisitive nature goes into overdrive. She finds a tiny dragon and is determined to get to the bottom of this very peculiar mystery - after all, dragons don't exist right? It's a scientific fact!

Unfortunately for Mari, this is one secret that doesn't want to be kept. And as she starts to form a deeper bond with the mischievous dragon, she might have to admit that, when it comes to friendship, science might not have all the answers.

Perfect for curious kids like C who absolutely loved this one, coupling a mighty girl character her age, with a curious and unutterably cute dragon friend, it's absolutely brill stuff from Ed. 

"The Secret Dragon" by Ed Clarke is out now, published by Puffin. 

Let's squeeze one more in, an absolute belter for animal lovers - particularly if you like your animals small, cute and furry.

"The Adventures of Harry Stevenson" by Ali Pye squeezes in not one but two adventures for the cute rotund little fellow.

Meet Harry Stevenson. He doesn’t live in a castle, or a witch’s cottage, or anywhere exciting like that. His home is in a flat with seven-year-old Billy and his mum and dad. And at first glance, Harry doesn’t seem any different from your average guinea pig. He has ginger fur and sparkly black eyes and likes nothing more than snacking on a piece of broccoli.

But don’t be fooled! Harry may just want to sleep and eat (and then eat some more) but somehow he always manages to get swept up in adventures: whether it’s surfing the Pacific on a picnic plate or accidentally attaching himself to a helium balloon.
Full of fab illustrations, and a really great little feelgood story, this is perfect for younger readers.

"The Adventures of Harry Stevenson" by Ali Pye is out now, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books.

Squeezing one more in, as it's just too good and demands inclusion in our June list...

"Darkwood" by Gabby Hutchinson-Crouch brilliantly balances magic and fantasy with a good dose of snort-gurglingly awesome humour. 

Meet Gretel Mudd. Not the most alluring and attractive name in the world, and that's just the start of Gretel's problems. She lives in the dark realm of Myrsina, where magic is forbidden, and girls doing weird stuff like maths is definitely frowned upon (a bit of a problem for Gretel, who knows an awful lot about numbers and all things mathematical). 

When the sinister masked huntsmen accuse Gretel of witchcraft, she narrowly escapes persecution, finding herself in the murky depths of Darkwood - a place that's filled with monsters, witches and deep magic! No place for a girl who has absolutely no idea how magic works, let alone the will to use it. 

Gretel is lucky enough to meet an ally - the hapless Buttercup who is a witch with a unique problem - everything she touches turns to gingerbread (sounds like someone we'd love to meet, to be honest!) 

Gretel also meets Jack Trott, a strange individual who can make plants grow at will, and The White Knight - a fabulous warrior with a band of dwarves who cater for her every whim, and Trevor, a talking spider who is just utterly confusing!

With the Huntsmen on the warpath, Gretel must act fast to save both the Darkwood and her home village, while unravelling the rhetoric and lies that have demonised magical beings for far too long.

This is brilliantly written, with shades of Pratchett-like genius fused with a superb mighty girl character, and a ton of awesome supporting characters just begging to be discovered amongst the darkly delicious tale of good vs evil. Love it!

"Darkwood" by Gabby Hutchinson Crouch is out now, published by Macmillan. 

And that's a wrap! Tune in next month for more stunning chapter-book goodness in our July roundup! See you then!

(All books kindly supplied for review)