Thursday, 26 September 2019

ReaditDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - September 2019

Ah, Autumn, our most favourite month and as the dark nights start to draw in (hooray!) we're kicking off our September Chapter Book Roundup with a story that's perfectly suited for this time of year.

In "The Night's Realm" by Nick Ward, Billy has a secret.

It's a secret he doesn't want anyone to know about, and that he's slightly ashamed of.

You see Billy is absolutely terrified of the dark. Most of the time he can manage fine, but when Billy's life takes a turn for the odd, he ends up trapped in his worst nightmare - a land where it is always dark.

What's worse is that Billy has a strong memory of where he should be - of home. The children he's also trapped with have no idea why this stranger insists none of them belong there, so it's up to Billy to be strong, face his fears and help them all escape.

Nick instantly draws you right into this book with its fascinating twilight world, expertly built and expertly populated with a cast of fascinating characters. A completely gripping read and a fabulous story about self-belief and confronting the things that scare us the most.

"The Night's Realm" by Nick Ward is out now, published by David Fickling Books. 

Our next book comes from a truly creative illustrator who is now taking his first tentative steps towards becoming a serious triple threat. An illustrator of other people's stories, and of his own, and now an amazing middle-grade author?

"Frostheart" by Jamie Littler shows just how amazingly (enviably) talented Jamie is, with a story wrought from snow and ice that wraps you up in a truly scintilatting world.

It's a voyage to a distant fantasy land where a tiny stronghold exists all on its own, cut off from the rest of human-kin by monsters that lurk beneath the Snow Sea.

Their isolated life is the norm for the people of this long-forgotten outpost, but for one little boy, Ash, all thoughts turn to his missing parents. 

Placed in the care of a mighty Yeti guardian named Tobu, Ash often sings a forbidden lullaby to remind him of his mother and father. But soon his restless nature leads to a mission he knows he must undertake - to answer the questions surrounding the disappearance of his parents, and to prove his own worth. 

As Ash begins to discover he has amazing magical powers, he's whisked aboard the Frostheart, a sleigh packed full of daring explorers who could use his help. 

But can they help him find his family and perhaps in the process find himself? 

This is rivetting stuff and Jamie is a born storyteller who conjures up the imagery of "Frostheart" seemingly with ease, not just through his amazing illustrations for this book, but also his truly brilliant writing. Watch out for this fellah, he's going to take over the durned bookworld!

"Frostheart" by Jamie Littler is out on October 5th 2019, published by Puffin Books. 

Moving from a fantasy ice-bound world to the real-life one, and the achievements of a truly amazing explorer in our next book.

"Amundsen's Way: The Race to the South Pole" by Joanna Grochowicz is a brilliantly written tale of Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer who pipped Scott to be first to the South Pole. 

Amundsen's life story, and in particular the story of that incredible mission is an extraordinary tale that combines risk, intrigue and personal conflict. 

A man of striking intelligence and a single-minded thirst for world records, Amundsen's astute planning and shrewd strategy propelled him into first place. Such a man, with everything to lose, will stop at nothing to secure his goal. His story is a testament to utter brilliance and ruthlessness. 

From the author of the highly acclaimed Into the White, and full of life-threatening challenges, deception, disappointments and triumph, Amundsen's Way is an adventure story in the purest sense, and one that kids will rarely be able to believe is absolutely true from start to finish. 

"Amundsen's Way: The Race to the South Pole" by Joanna Grochowicz is out now, published by Allen and Unwin

Time for a return to a brilliant book series that really wowed us first time out, so what's happening in the second volume of  "The Train to Impossible Places" ?

In "The Great Brain Robbery" by P.G Bell, with awesome cover and internal illustrations by Flavia Sorrentino, Suzy is back and she just cannot wait to return to the Union of Impossible Places, aboard the Impossible Postal Express. 

When Suzy arrives however, she accidentally overhears a nefarious plan to completely destroy Trollville. But who is the mysterious villain cooking up such a dastardly plan, and how can one little girl possibly stop them? 

Suzy is a mighty girl indeed, but she's going to need her friends, in a breathtaking race across cloud world, through secret dark caverns and into certain danger as the clock is ticking, and Trollville stands on the brink of destruction. 

Superbly paced, utterly engrossing, and every single bit as great as the first book, "The Great Brain Robbery" by P.G. Bell and Flavia Sorrentino is out on October 5th 2019, published by Usborne Children's Books. 

Goodness gracious me, it's a fantastic month for book releases next month and thankfully you won't have long to wait for this next one, as it's utterly and completely brilliant!

"The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone" by Jaclyn Moriarty should pretty much hook you in the moment you read the title and see the cover. 

Be prepared for high fantasy in this story of a young orphan girl whose parents are killed by pirates. 

Normally this would be a pretty traumatic event in any young girl's life, but as we know from middle grade books, most kids seem pretty happy to 'get rid' of their parents in order for the story to progress, so it's not long before we see that Bronte isn't satisfied with an easy life of pony riding and cucumber sandwiches, and despite the best efforts of her Aunt Isabelle (and a rather fussy butler), Bronte wants more from life. Bronte has inherited the same spirit as her parents and her wanderlust soon gets the better of her. 

In her parents' will, Bronte is left a stark message - and a quest. She must complete a list of tasks, to visit her other ten aunts and deliver items to them - that may just prevent a colossal catastrophe.

We loved the fresh and original premise of this one, and despite Bronte's initial reluctance, she soon begins to revel in the quest - as challenging as it is - and we, the readers, absolutely love the crazy, diverse and eccentric aunties she will soon meet on her journey. 

Top-to-toe brilliant this one, and one of the fave reads of the last couple of months. "The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone" by Jaclyn Moriarty is out on 9th October 2019, published by Arthur Levine Books.

Dark and spooky goings-on next, sparked by a bit of sibling rivalry.

In "The Dead World of Lanthorne Ghules" by Gerald Killingworth (great name for a dark book author!) Edwin really thinks his little sister is a real pain in the neck. What's more, Edwin's whole life has changed with her arrival. They've moved house, moved schools and now Edwin has no friends around to moan and gripe to. Until, that is, Lanthorne - an unusual pen pal - arrives and introduces Edwin to a surreal and dark world filled with secrets and adventures.

Soon though, Edwin's alternative life begins to seep into his ordinary everyday one, eventually plunging his sister into mortal peril. Will Edwin and Lanthorne be able to rescue Edwin's sis from the evil Aunt Necra before it's too late?

With shades of the awesome movie "Labyrinth", this is a dark and delicious book filled with awesome moments of suspense as Gerald weaves a brilliant world with some truly nefarious baddies.

"The Dead World of Lanthorne Ghules" by Gerald Killingworth is out on 24th October 2019, published by Pushkin Children's Books.

Next up, a book that celebrates books - our very favourite sort!

In "The Wild Book" by Juan Villoro and Lawrence Schimel, you'll meet a young boy who is uprooted from home - and sent to live with his distinctly eccentric Uncle for the summer holidays.

Mother is exasperated, at her wits end. Juanito's home life is disrupted, but his sister Carmen believes that he's destined for more amazing adventures, and when they meet Uncle Tito those adventures kick off in a startling fashion.

Uncle Tito owns a vast library, and it's delicious to get lost amongst the books at first - but it soon becomes apparent that this is no ordinary library, Tito is no ordinary uncle, and the books come to life!

This is a stunning and original novel that will entwine book lovers, drawing them in and trapping them until they've finished every last delicious page.

"The Wild Book" by Juan Villoro with cover illustration from Lawrence Schimel is out now, published by Hope Road Publishing

Next up, what if Boadicea could be somehow spliced with Minnie the Minx? Who on earth would you end up with? Well we like to think the answer would be "Beatrix the Bold" and in her new adventure she's about to meet a very special dragon - the Riddle Town Dragon no less.

"Beatrix the Bold and the Riddle Town Dragon" by Simon Mockler and Cherie Zamazing (what a great name!) is the second adventure for our plucky young heroine. The books are a gloriously funny and anarchic series full of wizards, queens and of course plenty of mud and dung. Lovely!

Beatrix the Bold is a queen. A very bold queen. And she's also only ten years old.

But that's never stopped her from doing anything before, and it's not going to stop her now. She's already averted her own kidnapping and fought off an Evil Army.

 Now she needs to find her long-lost parents, and fend off her villainous aunt Esmerelda. She just has to cross a vast kingdom to get there and save a bunch of children from deadly peril while confronting a terrifying dragon ... Easy, right? But when you're Beatrix the Bold and you've got Oi the Boy, Dog the Dog and Wilfred the Wise by your side, you can truly do anything!

Fab, funny and full of clever little humorous touches and great characters, "Beatrix the Bold and the Riddle Town Dragon" by Simon Mockler and Cherie Zamazing is out now, published by Piccadilly Press. 

Families eh? You can't live with 'em and you can't live without them - but what happens when your family unexpectedly doubles in size overnight?

In "The Time of Green Magic" by Hilary McKay, there's a wedding afoot but when Tom and Polly marry, their kids realise their old lives are gone for good.

Max is depressed, as it means his birth dad will never be reunited with his mum. Abi hates it because she's suddenly gone from being the oldest kid to the middle sibling.

As for Louis, he's wondering what to make of it all. But when the family move into a strange ivy-covered house, it's the beginning of the real weirdness! Every time the kids are left on their own, bizarre things start to happen. Abi retreats into her beloved books, Max loses a friend and develops his first crush, and Louis' secret visitor is becoming all too real. Eventually all three are deeply immersed in a mystery that could wreck their family life before it's even got started.

Really cool and contemporary stuff this, brilliantly written as you'd expect from Hilary.

"The Time of Green Magic" by Hilary McKay is out now, published by Macmillan Children's Books.

Next up, a superb new mystery novel that piles on the atmospheric detail, with brilliant believable characters pitched against strange magic.

"Under Earth" by Ellen Renner begins with the story of Storm. She has inherited the role of Weather Witch, and must sail with the fleet into dangerous waters each time they set sail.

There are many hazards at sea. The Drowned Ones want to reclaim the living for their own. The sea itself is wild and dangerous, and Bellum Town is a hive of villainy. Storm must learn to control her magic powers and this will really put her to the test.

Can she follow in her family's footsteps and establish herself as a powerful weather witch after all?

Tightly written against a fantasy backdrop, this is stunning stuff.

"Under Earth" by Ellen Renner is out now, published by Nosy Crow. 

Switching gears entirely now, and a brilliant book series that girls C's age will truly identify with.

"The Weird Friends Fan Club" by Catherine Wilkins is the sort of brilliant dork-diaries-esque book that C absolutely raves about.

The story centres around Erin and Grace, two very different people. 

Erin has a monobrow and a slight problem with negativity - to put it mildly.

Grace is very blessed and obsessed with her girlsquad, and lives to impress everyone else. 

Bizarrely, the one thing they do have in common is a love of Charlotte Bronte and writing stories. 

When they find themselves brought together in a school literary critique group, they learn to see each other's perspectives and become unlikely friends. 

But the path of true friendship doth not run smooth for the brontebabes, I mean what do you do when other people call your favourite stories uncool?

This is bang-on brilliant contemporary stuff from Catherine, one that C read and re-read again and again over the course of the month. 

"The Weird Friends Fan Club" by Catherine Wilkins is out now, published by Nosy Crow. 

Blog fave and super-talented prolific author Paula Harrison is back, teaming up with illustrator Jenny Lovlie for a fab new heroine for middle grade readers who love crime fighting mighty girls. 

The "Kitty" series kicks off with The Moonlight Rescue and The Tiger Treasure, two brilliant new novels to introduce Kitty and her Cat Crew who love nothing better than to solve mysteries by moonlight. 

Kitty clambers across the rooftops on her deft little feet, and in "The Moonlight Rescue" she discovers that being a superhero is about more than using her special abilities

Kitty must learn to be courageous too, scaling the city clock tower to rescue a very frightened kitten.

In "The Tiger Treasure" Kitty returns once again to recover the priceless Golden Tiger treasure after it's been stolen.

These are fabulous little mysteries for younger readers, perfect to get kids interested in solo reading with excitement and danger on every page turn. 

"Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue" and "Kitty and the Tiger Treasure" by Paula Harrison and Jenny Lovlie are both out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

A hugely inspirational book next featuring a hugely inspirational young girl who is selflessly placing herself as the figurehead for a planet-wide movement for young people to do something about climate change (mostly because adults are too durned stupid to).

"We Are All Greta" by Valentina Gianella and Manuela Marazzi is a superb book that doesn't just detail Greta's activism to date, but encourages children to take their own steps as climate change activists with some simple activities and methods that really can make a difference.

Imagine if all kids that reads books could just pick up one book to inspire them to recycle more, to reconsider their use of single-use plastics, and to help clean up our beaches and our oceans.

Filled with a ton of facts about the very real statistics around global warming, and climate change, this is a book that's not designed to scare kids - but to spur them into action.

Get mum and dad involved too, and help to make the world a better and healthier place.

"We are all Greta" by Valentina Gianella and Manuela Marazzi is out now, published by Laurence King Publishing. 

Up for a bit of mystery and suspense? Of course you are, so let's dive into our final book for our September round-up, the fabulous "Hey Sherlock: A Garvie Smith Mystery" by Simon Mason.

Garvie Smith isn't your usual detective, in fact you'd probably describe him as a complete slacker. 

But when Amy Roecastle, the beautiful but unpleasantly headstrong character goes missing along with her ferocious guard dog, there's something peculiar afoot!

Amy's best friend is lying to the police, who have no clues and no leads.  Undeniable crime-solving genius Garvie may be one step ahead of the investigation. 

But nothing's ever simple where Amy is involved. And this time Garvie's about to find himself in way over his head.

Full of the sort of delicious plot twists and intrigue you'd expect from a classic detective mystery, but brought bang up to date for a teen audience, "Hey Sherlock" by Simon Mason is out now, published by David Fickling Books. 

Squeezing in one final book as it's out today, and is truly fantastic...

Being lucky enough to live in the Vale of the White Horse, a mere stone's throw away from the iconic prehistoric chalk carving, I couldn't wait to dig into "The Land of the White Horse - Visions of England" by David Miles.

A thoroughly researched examination of life in the vale from prehistoric times to the present day, and the influence of these strange and majestic hill carvings on the people who have made the Wessex Downs their home.

As well as examining the history of the strange figure and the surrounding landscape, David shows the cultural impact that hill figures have had throughout England and the rest of Europe, and the importance even today of these landmarks, and the preserved landscape they act as an amazing backdrop to.

As someone who has keenly visited and studied these figures throughout my life, this book is a very welcome modern addition to my collection of other books on the subject (most of which, sadly, are now out of print). Brilliantly written with colour and mono plates depicting The White Horse and many other hill figures, this is a fantastic chronicle of humankind's obsession with leaving a mark on the world that will exist long after they have passed.

"The Land of the White Horse - Visions of England" by David Miles is out today, published by Thames and Hudson

(all books kindly supplied for review). 

PHEW! That was a busy September. Tune in next month for even more gorgeous chapter books from our reviews bag!