For this month's crop, we have focussed on chapter stories for older children - from ages 8–14. As always, click on the cover image or book title for the link to buy the book either from the publisher or from bookshop.org. Happy reading.
Knight Sir Louis and the Dragon of Dooooom! by the Brothers McLeod £6.99 Guppy Books
We missed the first Knight Sir Louis book but you don't need to have read it to find this follow up hilarious. The Brothers McLeod are a double act - Myles writes the words: a knight, a spoilt queen, multi-headed dinosaurs, a jester, a quest to save the kingdom... and brother Greg does the cartoon illustrations. The combination is properly, laugh-out-loud funny. Nuts but clever. Haikus and long words sit happily among the zaniness and if you are wanting to explain similes, how about, "The crescent moon was shining in the sky like a very large, silver toenail clipping." For free readers and younger children too. Find an excuse to read it with someone, it is too good to miss!
Wolfstongue by Sam Thompson, illustrated by Anna Tromop £8.99 Little Island
From the brilliant opening chapter, in which Silas, a shy loner, has a strange encounter with a wolf and a pack of urban foxes, this book works on a number of levels. As a fast-moving fantasy adventure, it is a gripping page turner - scary, at moments gruesome - effortlessly moving between worlds - from suburban school playground to forest to an underground kingdom. It also has important things to say about tyranny, freedom and being unafraid to be yourself. Michelle Paver meets George Orwell. Fantastic.
The Life and Time of Lonny Quick by Kirsty Applebaum
£7.99 Nosy Crow
Lonny and his brother live in middle of the forest with his father, a watchmaker, and his bedridden grandfather. Lonny has an extraordinary power - he can give life to a dying creature. But in so doing, he ages exponentially himself. Lonny's father raises the boys hidden in the forest in order to protect him. But Lonny dreams of life in the world beyond the woods. Applebaum is brilliant at creating totally believable characters as she skilfully weaves ancient folklore and a more contemporary setting. We absolutely LOVED it.
The Lightning Catcher by Clare Weze £6.99 Bloomsbury
Alfie has moved to a new village and is struggling to fit in. There is something strange going on in the creepy house on Halfway Lane and Alfie is determined to investigate. But he soon finds he has unleashed a force he cannot control. The story starts as a middle grade fantasy adventure but develops into something grittier, and more convincing. Alfie's relationship with his older sister, who suffers from an eating disorder, is particularly well-drawn and the scenes set in a secure training centre (for youth offenders) ring scarily true. This is Clare Weze's first book for children. It is not perfect but is well worth reading. Looking forward to more from her.
Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes £7.99 Orion
Like The Lightning Catcher, this tackles issues faced by kids from mixed race families, but in Black Brother, Black Brother race is centre stage. Donte takes after his mum who is black. His brother Trey has inherited his Dad's blond Scandinavian features. They both attend an exclusive prep school in Boston. Life at school is easy for Trey, not for Donte. When he is unfairly excluded, Donte unexpectedly finds himself learning to fence. Narrated entirely in the first person, Donte's 'journey' has a Hollywood momentum to it, but is none the worse for that. The courtroom scene is just asking to be turned into a movie and we are rooting for Donte in the inevitable duel at the end. And who knew the Three Musketeers' author Alexandre Dumas had African heritage? Ace.
NON-FICTION AND POETRY
This fab collection of connected facts is like the best game of word association you have ever played. From random (but nevertheless excellent to know) things such as 'in a standard pack of cards, the King of Hearts is the only king without a moustache' to fun facts on everything from animals to space, geography to history, this will have kids and adults alike opening their eyes in surprise. Cleverly, most of the facts are hooks - fun openers to send you off to find out more. This would make a great present for a family with children of a range of ages.
This German duo combined on Tell Me! a book about sexuality, pregancy and childbirth. This follow up (of sorts) was a result of all the questions they were asked by children about the sex lives of animals. Straight-talking, engaging text and superb illustrations from this award-winning illustrator.
We couldn't do a May round up without including this gorgeous anthology. Two poems a day for June, July and August. There is an excellent range of voices - some familiar, some less well known - and Esiri's short introductions to each poem are aimed at children. Make it your summer resolution to read one a day!
Emily Turner, 31 May 2021