Thursday, 30 January 2020

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - January 2020

Wow, I can't quite believe we're here in the year 2020! Still missing our robot servants, flying cars and food in pill form but thankfully books are still around - amazing chapter books, and so it's our solemn duty to once again bring you the brightest and best chapter books month after month, starting with January's amazing selection.

"Little Bird Lands" by Karen McCombie is the first book we're delving into today, a truly amazing slice of adventure for folk who love the spirit of the wild, wild west and the pioneering families who settled in a new land and made their lives there.

After "Little Bird Flies" we pick up the story as Little Bird arrives from her native Scotland in America for the first time.

Assuming that her family are now free from danger (which we can't talk about too much, but definitely read the first book to get the whole story, it's well worth it!) Little Bird soon discovers that even the new world holds new perils, and soon she's on the run again.

Karen's gorgeous, atmospheric and descriptive writing takes her characters from the teeming streets of New York out into the prairies and wilderness of the true wild west, and to faces new and old, welcoming and most unwelcome. Absolutely essential for fans of "Little Women" and "Little House on the Prairie"

"Little Bird Lands" by Karen McCombie is out on 6th February 2020, published by Nosy Crow. 

Next up we're shifting continents away from the U S of A and back to Europe - Venice to be precise for the superb and atmospheric "The Mask of Aribella" by Anna Hoghton.

Aribella is the daughter of an impoverished lace-maker, working tirelessly to try and eke out a living amongst the rich and well-to-do. But Aribella is no ordinary child, she has a power she doesn't understand - unleashed by her temper, a strange magic erupts from her fingertips.

As dissenting voices cry "Witch" Aribella decides to flee the city, but could unwittingly be the only thing that stands between its destruction and the dark forces of evil that are rising from the lagoon.

Thankfully she is taken under the wing of a mysterious stranger, and introduced to the world of the Cannovacci, a mysterious warrior caste who have devoted their lives over generations to protecting Venice and its people.

Is Aribella up to the challenge of joining them?

Taut, thrilling writing and a brilliant original setting mark this out as a standout early title for Chicken House's 2020 range.

"The Mask of Aribella" by Anna Hoghton is out now, published by Chicken House. 

Something fun for younger readers next, with the 2nd book in Nick East's superb secret agent adventure series.

"Agent Weasel and the Abominable Dr Snow" by Nick East sees the illustrator flexing his author muscles for a second outing accompanying the weasel with a nose for adventure on a snow-bound mystery as the Winter Whopper Games opens.

Agent Weasel is called in as animal athletes begin to disappear. Soon, rumours of a mysterious snow beast swirl like a blizzard around the athlete camp, and Agent Weasel and his trusty sidekick Doorkins must work out what's going on.

This story cracks along at a blistering pace, as Weasel and Doorkins begin to unravel the mystery, hopefully popping back home in time for a well deserved cup of hot chocolate (marshmallows and sprinkles too, of course!)

Fab stuff for readers finding their own confidence in solo reading, who love animal antics as much as we do.

"Agent Weasel and the Abominable Dr Snow" by Nick East is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books. 

More fun stuff for younger readers with fab screams, squeaks and scares in "Ghoul Scouts: Welcome to Camp Croak!" by Taylor Dolan.

Lexie Wilde was pretty sure she was supposed to be joining the Happy Hollow Camp for Joyful Boys and Girls for the summer. So why did her Grams just drop her off under a big ol' sign saying WELCOME TO CAMP CROAK? 

And is she really sharing a cabin with a werewolf, a skeleton, a fancy-schmancy zombie and a baseball-hat-wearing ghost? Yep, looks like she is!

But after earning some rather unusual Ghoul Scout badges, Lexie becomes the best of friends with her new pals, and before long is one of the team. However, danger lurks as the wicked Euphemia Vile has plans of her own. And when their beloved camp counsellors succumb to an odd sleeping sickness, Lexie and her new friends become suspicious ... can they overcome the saccharine sweetness of their new Scoutmaster and save Camp Croak?

The laughs come thick and fast in this illustrated chapter book, perfect for newly confident solo readers who still like their text laced with awesome images. 

"Ghoul Scouts: Welcome to Camp Croak!" by Taylor Dolan is out on 6th February 2020, published by Guppy Books. 

We've sneaked a peek at Chicken House's amazing lineup for 2020, kicking off with "Demelza and the Spectre Detectors" by Holly Rivers. 

Demelza is your ordinary everyday girl who truly loves science. She stays up late into the night to conduct experiments and research, totally obsessed with figuring out what makes the world tick. However Demelza seems to have also inherited her grandmother's distinctly unscientific gift for detecting spooks, ghouls and ghosts!

Can she somehow make these two unique skill sets work together? She may need to, as her beloved Granny has been kidnapped by a nefarious ne'er do well, and Granny's own nosey nature when it comes to spectre-detecting may have something to do with this tricky case. 

Only Demelza and her pasty best friend, Percy, can solve the deadly mystery before Granny ends up on the other side herself!

A brilliant mix of originality, spookiness and fun, "Demelza and the Spectre Detectors is out on 6th February 2020, published by Chicken House. 

Next up, one of the most hotly anticipated Middle Grade titles of 2020 surely? Well we like to think
so, in fact we've been wondering what beetle-obsessed M.G Leonard might get up to next. 

Along with Sam Sedgeman and Elisa Paganelli on cover illustration and interior illustration duties, they've cooked up the first in the "Adventures on Trains" series, "The Highland Falcon Thief. 

Harrison Beck is reluctantly joining his travel-writer Uncle Nat for the last journey of the royal train, The Highland Falcon. 

But as the train makes its way to Scotland, a priceless brooch goes missing, and things are suddenly a lot more interesting. As suspicions and accusations run high among the passengers, Harrison begins to investigate and uncovers a few surprises along the way. 

Can he solve the mystery of the jewel thief and catch the culprit before they reach the end of the line?

Hear whispers in the dining car, find notes in the library, and unknown passengers among the luggage as you help Harrison to solve the mystery aboard one of the world's grandest trains.

We've become a bit jaded with the constant stream of 'detective' middle grade books, so trust M.G and Sam to come up with something wholly original, full of mystery and suspense, a fabulous setting - and we've long been saying there aren't nearly enough train-based books around in early years or middle grade. This is a doozy where you can actually help solve the mystery alongside Harrison, page by page making this something truly special indeed. 

Brilliant stuff, don't miss "The Highland Falcon Thief" by M.G Leonard, Sam Sedgman and Elisa Paganelli - out TODAY! YAY! and published by Macmillan Children's Books. 

You can't kick off a new year without at least one Tom McLaughlin book in your reading pile, and as topical as ever, Tom has brilliantly nailed the subject of those pesky Echos / Alexas / Siris in "Attack of the Smart Speakers". 

Smart speakers are undoubtedly the new craze in town. Everyone wants one, everyone buys them, and soon they're commonplace everywhere in Tyler's home town.

Underneath their seemingly innocent exterior of helpfulness and usefulness, these nefarious devices are plotting the downfall of humanity, eventually morphing into mobile menaces with spidery limbs, ready to enslave humanity.  

It's up to Tyler to bravely make a stand. Can these nasty little menaces be stopped before everyone ends up zombified by their favourite playlists, or recipes for chocolate brownies? 

Filled with Tom's trademark awesome humour, this is bang on topic - particularly if you got one of these annoying things for Christmas (we won't allow them in the house at ReadItDaddy Towers, particularly if the durned things start sprouting legs and walking around!)

"Attack of the Smart Speakers" by Tom McLaughlin is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

The 6th of February is something of a booky avalanche so we're going to devote the next section to a ton of releases out on that date. Including one that really caught our eye, a turn for the distinctly weird and wonderful in a book that felt heavily inspired by the glorious "Gravity Falls" TV show.

In "The Bigwoof Conspiracy" by Dashe Roberts, you'll get a ghoulish welcome to the world of Sticky Pines - where things get weird!

Lucy Sladan, pretty similar to a 12 year old me, is totally obsessed with UFOs and her home town is just the right place to live for those drawn to the strange, the unusual and downright sinister.

Sneaking out in the middle of a thunderstorm to try and investigate the odd disappearances in her home town, Lucy is drawn into a grand conspiracy surrounding a giant menacing and hairy creature.

Meeting Milo Fisher, a mysterious 13 year old stranger, Lucy begins to form an alliance with this peculiar chap - to try and discover what's really going on in Sticky Pines. With all the elements we love in a mystery book, and a fantastic dose of chills and spookiness, it's an absolutely cracking debut from Dashe. "The Bigwoof Conspiracy" by Dashe Roberts is out on 6th February 2020, published by Nosy Crow. 

More suspense and mystery and a completely engaging set of characters find their way into "Otto Tattercoat and the Forest of Lost Things" by Matilda Woods, illustrated by Kathrin Honesta.

It begins on familiar ground, as we first meet Otto - living in the City of Hodorf, a city locked in a seemingly eternal winter.

Otto's mother has disappeared and soon Otto's desperation drives him into the company of a band of orphans known as the Tattercoats - who vow to help Otto track down his missing mum.

So begins a quest across the land, through dark forests inhabited by witches and sinister magic, and through the caverns where sleeping dragons wait to snap up anyone who dares enter their domain.

Woven in the finest storytelling traditions where the magical and mythical setting still managed to ensnare kids who can identify with Otto's struggle to be brave and courageous in the face of such adversity, Matilda's glorious descriptive prose draws up a first adventure for the Tattercoats and Otto that will immediately hook you in. Plus there are dragons in this book, and you just cannot go wrong with dragons, right?

"Otto Tattercoat and the Forest of Lost Things" by Matilda Woods and Kathrin Honesta is out on 6th February 2020, published by Scholastic.

Something fun for younger readers now, with a highly illustrated and brilliantly colourful new adventure for a very special porcine fella indeed.

"Unipiggle - the Unicorn Pig" by Hannah Shaw begins with a very difficult decision for a young princess. Today is the day she will select her own special Unicorn friend from the grand parade. But instead Princess Pea meets more than she bargained for. Not quite a unicorn, but a unipiggle!

Princess Pea is no ordinary princess either. She can't eat sweets because her mum wants the whole kingdom to have perfect teeth (bit weird, but thanks Mum!) - Of course Princess Pea hates salad, but perhaps her newfound friend might be able to help?

Unsure at first, Princess Pea begins to realise that there's far more to making friends than judging a book by its cover - but this book will definitely give you a fun and riotous romp for readers who love a giggle giggle or two.

"Unipiggle - The Unicorn Pig" by Hannah Shaw is out on 6th February 2020, published by Usborne. 

If you're still feeling mildly traumatised from watching the recent "Cats" movie, perhaps you need something a bit more - well - super! Step forward Gwyneth Rees with a fantastic new action packed middle grade series with superb illustrations from Becka Moor.

"Super Cats v Maximus Fang" builds on the story of Tagg and Sugarfoot - two very special moggies who have developed super-powers.

Recruited by the mysterious Topaz Top Cat, the two heroes are pitted against a mean super villain, Maximus Fang, who is set on breaking his criminal buddy out of cat jail, ready for one last stupendous and nefarious job.

In order to get more information, Tagg and Sugarfoot will need to infiltrate Hamish's infamous band of Hit Cats. They are going to need all their wits - and superpowers - about them this time!

Fast-paced and great for kids beginning to find their own reading confidence, but still packed with awesome illustrations from one of our fave artists, "Supercats v Maximus Fang" by Gwyneth Rees is out on 6th February 2020, published by Bloomsbury. 

We've got room for one more very special book, from an author who completely blows us away with sheer talent for designing the sort of book worlds we love to spend as much time in as possible...

"A Sprinkle of Sorcery" by Michelle Harrison is the next brilliant book following on from the sublime "A Pinch of Magic" reuniting us with The Widdershins Sisters.

Now free to leave the cursed prison isle of Crowstone, Betty Fliss and Charlie feel like they deserve a well-earned rest.

But they meet a stranger, a mysterious girl who arrives at "The Poachers Pocket" with a weird tale, a will-o-the-wisp, a pocketful of hagstones and a cry for help.

So the girls are once again drawn into an adventure, but when Charlie goes missing, Betty and Fliss must find their way through the murk and mists of sinister marshes to an island that seems to appear out of nowhere, and mysteriously doesn't appear on any maps. What is the stranger's link with this weird place and what on earth has happened to poor Charlie?

You know what you're in for with Michelle's fabulous books. You're in for page-turning cliffhanger adventuring of the finest order, with characters who make you cheer and root for them at every twist and turn, and a setting that always has a magical sheen to it, and a dark side that will completely envelop you and draw you in.

"A Sprinkle of Sorcery" by Michelle Harrison is out on 6th February 2020, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books. 

Be prepared for all manner of strange goings on in a new novel from A.M. Howell.

"The House of One Hundred Clocks" takes us back in time to 1905, and a time where the world felt like it was still coasting the wave of amazing advances in technology and science - and yet people were still intrigued by mystery and magic.

Meet young Helena, and her pet parrot Orbit - uprooted from their comfortable home to the streets of Cambridge where Helena's father is appointed chief clock-winder to one of the wealthiest men in the country. His job is simple but succinct - never let any of the clocks wind down and stop!

The House of 100 Clocks holds more than just ticking timepieces, it's a house where mysterious occurences happen almost on a daily basis. Ghostly figures flit just out of eyeshot, and the clock winding keys frequently go missing. Strange notes appear, and soon Helena gets the distinct impression that they're definitely not alone in the house - strange supernatural forces are at work. Can she be brave and solve the mystery before the last clock ticks out its time?

Utterly enchanting stuff, with just the right chilling atmosphere to drive a story that is tightly written and brilliantly addictive.

"The House of One Hundred Clocks" by A.M. Howell is out on 6th February 2020, published by Usborne. 

(All books kindly supplied for review).

So that's a cracking start to our Chapter Book Roundups for 2020! We hope you'll drop by again soon for our next monthly roundup of all the amazing stuff coming your way in Middle Grade and YA fiction.