NEW TITLES

Friendship, bullying, survival and romance are some of the themes covered in this month's selection of YA books but those who love fantasy, folklore and history will also find plenty to keep them entertained in this month's highlighted books.

Sky Dancer
Gill Lewis

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192749253

Sky Dancer is a bold and beautiful tale of friendship, nature and community. It is a story about three young people from very different backgrounds who find themselves swept up into a complex world of communities at war with one another over issues of tradition, conservation and what it means to live in harmony with the environment. At the heart of the story is the plight of the hen harrier. This is a majestic bird of prey that has been hunted to the very brink because it threatens the population of grouse upon which a shoot depends. Sky Dancer is not a sugar-coated look at rural life and Lewis does not shy away from some of the tricky issues affecting and dividing communities. As such, it is very much a story for our times and has much to offer young readers from an environmental point of view. The reader is challenged to imagine a future that is different from the status quo. In today's troubled world, this is a hugely valuable message for adults and children alike. However, the real joy of this story for me is the sense of empathy that it provokes. The characters are so deftly drawn that you cannot help but care about them and you swiftly find yourself drawn into the adventure alongside them. Themes of loyalty, friendship, hope and courage give this story real emotional power and there is genuine magic in the descriptions of the moorland itself. You feel truly transported to the wild open spaces of the moor, with heather underfoot and birds wheeling overhead. Five stars from me and I look forward to recommending this wonderful book to my pupils! 272 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian.

Sky Dancer
Spectre Collectors: Too Ghoul For School
Barry Hutchison

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9780857639608

13 year old Denzel can't concentrate on his maths homework - not while there is a terrifying transparent tangle of black tentacles making a mess of his house. Not as much of a mess, however, as the two teenagers who burst through his wall in pursuit of the ghost, recklessly wielding their guns and their magic. When it emerges that Denzel has a unique ability to see ghosts, the two teens take him back to the headquarters of Spectre Collectors, a secret organisation dedicated to protecting humanity from vengeful spirits. Packed with humour, adventure, ghosts, magic and technology, Too Ghoul For School is Men In Black meets Ghostbusters with teens! This book was a lot of fun. The main characters are a likeable and diverse bunch - Denzel is a 13-year-old boy of colour and son to a same-sex couple, Sumera is South Asian. There are some genuine laugh out loud moments (mainly courtesy of Denzel's best friend, Smithy) as well as a few very emotional scenes with Denzel and his parents - expect your tears to be well and truly jerked. The variety of ghosts, poltergeists, ghouls and other spectral beasties in this book is great - and it would be a fun creative writing exercise to get students to come up with their own phantoms for the Spectre Collectors to battle. This book has a very broad appeal - I would not hesitate to recommend it to any student who enjoys a good chuckle with their adventures. 236 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Daniel Katz, school librarian.

Spectre Collectors: Too Ghoul For School
Birthday Boy
David Baddiel

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780008200480

This fourth children's novel by the comedian David Baddiel is an amusing fantasy adventure following in the traditions of the wish fulfilment / be careful what you wish for genre such as E. Nesbit's Five Children and It. Sam is going to be 11 on 8th September and he is so excited. He loves his birthday, everything to do with it from the special breakfast in bed to his party, cake and, of course, his presents. At the stroke of midnight, just as his birthday is ending, he wishes on a shooting star that it could be his birthday every day. The following morning he wakes to his parents and little sister Ruby presenting him with a special birthday breakfast, again. They know that it is not his actual birthday, they remember the day before, but they all woke with this strong feeling that they should celebrate Sam's birthday every day and not just on the anniversary of his birth. This happens day after day and it is not limited to Sam's family, but his friends, his school, everybody he comes into contact with, just can't help themselves from celebrating his birthday. However, after a while, Sam becomes fat, spoilt, and mean, with a room full of presents that have hardly been touched, though he still produces wishlists and is unconcerned with how much pressure, especially financially, his family face in dealing with his birthday every day. That is until Grandpa Sam (his four grandparents all live together near to his home and are main characters in the story) goes missing. Grandpa Sam has been acting increasingly odd and forgetful for a while, particularly in needing to be reminded about the status of Sam's birthday. For this one person the spell does not seem to have worked so strongly. After his grandpa goes missing, Sam becomes frustrated with how everybody places more importance on his birthdays over searching for his grandpa, even the police, and so he and Ruby go on an adventure to find the star that he originally wished on and make a new wish. Although Sam admits that wishing that his birthday was not every day feels like wishing for everything you have ever wanted not to come true, he is determined to see his quest through. This was an enjoyable and amusing wish fulfilment novel which manages to become a new and successful addition to what is an old and formidable tradition in children's literature. 400 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Natalie Plimmer, librarian.

Birthday Boy
Being Miss Nobody
Tamsin Winter

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474927277

Some experiences - like walking into an exam hall or moving to a new school - never leave you and for Rosalind, transitioning to secondary school is made even more complicated by a terminally ill brother and her selective mutism. Unable to speak to anyone outside her immediate family except for the kindly, baby-sitting next-door neighbour, Roz quickly becomes an easy target for the bullies and, with the help of her little brother, Seb, sets up a blog in order to fight back; exposing the bullies through her outspoken alter-ego Miss Nobody and giving a voice to her fellow victims. Vigilante justice is rarely the answer though and when a teacher falls victim too, Roz soon realises she has made a huge mistake and must act fast to put things right. Whilst you can't teach empathy, this book cannot fail to encourage and inspire it in a way that is neither patronising nor preachy. All the characters are rounded and very human giving the reader a real insight into how Rosalind is feeling and why she thinks and behaves the way she does. Page doodles perfectly complement the text and make visual the Massive Mind Muddles Rosalind experiences while trying to get her words out. The clever use of hashtags throughout, even for chapter headings, emphasise just what it is like to grow up in an online world. With its seamlessly interwoven themes of terminal illness, grief, loss, anxiety, bullying and cyberbullying this could easily be a gloomy, doom-laden read but in fact it is darkly funny and full of witty one-liners, especially from Seb, which lighten the mood. The importance of family and the power of friendship are underlined at every page turn. Counselling and therapy is not presented as a quick fix but the importance of letting people know how you feel is very clear. Adult readers will no doubt be frustrated by the seriousness and scale of the bullying and the way the teachers seemingly turn a blind eye to it but this highlights the enormity of the issue in Rosalind's eyes and turns the spotlight on the online world which lurks just beneath the surface in all schools today. Librarians will be unsurprised by the fact that Roz finds safety and friends in the school library! This is a pacy, positive and powerful story which will leave young readers empowered to ask for help when they need it and not be afraid of being themselves. Read this book once to revel in the story and again to appreciate the importance of the themes and the skill with which they have been woven together. With mental health more than ever on the agenda in schools we need more books like this for our young people. Recommend it to anyone wondering what to read after Wonder. Recommend it as a class read at upper KS2/KS3. Recommend it to your English teachers, to TAs who work with vulnerable students, to counsellors and to those in charge of the PHSE curriculum. This book could make a real difference. Winter really is a writer to watch. Usborne have also produced a useful accompanying pack for schools and book groups including discussion points and writing activities around the main themes including selective mutism, staying safe online, illness, bullying, empathy and facing your fears. www.tes.com/teaching-resource/being-miss-nobody-by-tamsin-winter-reading-notes-and-activities-ks2-11678880 384 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Eileen Armstrong, school librarian.

Being Miss Nobody
Rock War: Crash Landing: Book 4
Robert Muchamore

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444914627

Crash Landing is the fourth and concluding book in the Rock War series, which follows teenaged friends after they enter the Rock War challenge with the prize of a record contract for the winning band. In this book, we can compare the success - and failures - of the teenagers not just in terms of their relative fame but how well they have managed their transition into the world of music. Dylan, for example, is facing a court case for his violent actions in the preceding book; Summer has her own problems in a failed recording deal and an ill Nan; Theo is famous, but his younger brother Jay wonders how happy he is. It is time to find out, for each of the characters, how they are going to forge a future path, and will they choose to remain in the music world? They have each got older, a little wiser and a little more canny about survival and self-preservation and, as romance blossoms and they choose their future paths, there is a sense that they have grown up and now recognise that the grass isn't always greener.... I would definitely point students who love the idea of 'being famous' in the direction of this series because it shows what hard work lies behind the labels, and also that you need to be careful what you wish for; fame certainly brings more questions than answers for this group of characters. As in his CHERUB books, Muchamore has a sure hand at handling teenage friendships and relationships and the series feels honest and true to life, which I enjoyed. There is, however, swearing, drug taking and references to sex during the series although nothing detailed so I'd recommend it for mature readers aged 12/13+. In all, this is a realistic, optimistic and enjoyable ending to the Rock War series. 368 pages / Ages 12/13+ / Reviewed by Helen Long.

Rock War: Crash Landing: Book 4
A Skinful of Shadows
Frances Hardinge

Macmillan

ISBN 9781509837540

I'll lay my stall out here and now, I find Frances Hardinge an excellent writer, her prose is eloquent and descriptive and takes you precisely to that moment, that place. Her tales are woven with gorgeous gothic darkness and her imagination a pure delight - but I do find myself having to work initially to stay with the book while it gets going, while I fully engage, which in a busy world is fraught with temptation (I feel almost blasphemous typing that!). If I didn't have to write a review, would my gaze be drawn elsewhere? That's an unfair question because yes, yes I would because I know Hardinge to be a skilful weaver of tales and the build-up always worthwhile, for what is a house without foundations? However, A Skinful of Shadows whisked me up from the start. Maybe I was in a different frame of mind, maybe I've matured. Set around 1642 (*briefly checks history books for a feel of the age) with a Civil War on the horizon and witch hunting a profession, it doesn't bode well for 12 year old Makepeace who is tormented by the whispering, crackling tendrils of spirits who try to possess her in the night. She equips herself well and manages to defend herself until a day when, taken quite by surprise, she unwittingly allows one in. Sent to live with her father's influential and wealthy family, Makepeace comes to understand the seat of their power and their hideous secret and together with her spirit (who is as much a part of her as life itself), must find a way to survive. Pure Hardinge! Malign characters and Machiavellian scheming rub shoulders with the innocence and earnestness of Makepeace. Quite delightful!(I've put the genre as 'fairytale' but it could just as easily be any number of others!) 432 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell, school librarian.

A Skinful of Shadows
We See Everything
William Sutcliffe

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781408890196

William Sutcliffe's new novel is a compelling and disturbing tale set in a stark, futuristic London. Lex lives on The London Strip, a battle-scarred area of land that is home to those left after a series of bombardments. Living in constant fear of a new attack, life is grim and unrelenting. As part of the resistance group, The Corps, Lex and his family enjoy a degree of protection on The Strip but the constant surveillance of drones means that they are never safe from the sinister reach of the military. Former gamer and now drone pilot, Alan has been assigned Lex's father as a target. Drilled in military procedure, Alan leads a lonely life away from the safety and structure of the base. Watching Lex and his family every day, Alan begins to feel an unlikely bond with his quarry and starts to question the unstoppable and deadly collision of their worlds. We See Everything is a terrifying, fast-paced and moving account of a world that feels not-too-distant from our own. Whilst touching on political themes and the inhumanity of war, it focuses on Lex and his relationship with his family and girlfriend, Zoe. My only complaint is the lack of a background story, I would love to know why London has been reduced to this state. There are some clues to the timeline but I think the context is (maybe deliberately) is a little hazy. However, it's a brilliantly-written and important read for the 12 plus age group and is the sort of book that can easily be devoured in one sitting. Pages 257 / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

We See Everything
The Red Ribbon
Lucy Adlington

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471406287

Ella loves sewing and is delighted to land her dream job of designing and making stylish clothes. But this is not an ordinary sewing shop but the Upper Tailoring Studio of Birchwood, a concentration camp, where jobs are all important. Consumed by her love of fashion and helped along by her friend Rose's stories, it becomes hard for Ella to see what is really happening all around her. Brought back to reality with a hard bump, Ella struggles to keep Rose and herself alive when all around them people suffer hardship and brutality. I was unsure at the beginning of this book whether I would like the writing style as there are a lot of references to food and Ella's old life. This is perhaps required to show us what she has lost and how far removed her new life is from that which was taken away. The book, however, swept me along and is cleverly written as the harsh truths of life in such a brutal camp are hidden amongst the tale with parts revealed slowly and subtly. I had to know whether Ella and Rose would survive but also enjoyed Ella's obsession with fashion and her habit of naming people after animals. Girl readers will love this and be drawn into the life in the camp. Well worth a read. 287 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian.

The Red Ribbon
No Filter
Orlagh Collins

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408884515

The perfect summer romance, there was no need to think it through, it took you by the hand and led you through to the happy conclusion. Don't get me wrong there were some surprises but if you've to spend your days analysing Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies or A Christmas Carol then this is perfect escapism, it's gentle summer romance, it's easy reading. An initial chance meeting on the beach introduces our two main characters: Liam, awaiting exam results and working in the Metro Service Station in order to save for college; and Emerald, heading home for the holidays after her GCSEs. Both had plans for the summer that included spending time with friends and making memories. But that's not quite what happened. After finding her mother following what we assume is a suicide attempt, Emerald is packed off to spend summer with her Grandmother in Ireland, away from her friends and away from the summer she had planned with her friends. Even now Emerald masks her mother's drinking and her father's increasing detachment. She lies to protect this perfect image of her perfect family. The lies are like her favourite Instagram filters, presenting everything in a favourable light, hiding and disguising how she really feels, what things really look like. But when she meets Liam she begins to see her life without a filter, she can stop pretending and she's OK with that. Liam on the other hand is feeling pushed toward a college course and a future in construction that will please his father, unfortunately this is a different path fromo the one he'd really like to follow in music production. He doesn't want to disappoint his father but he also doesn't want to drop his dreams. Both are likeable characters sharing the narrative in alternating chapters making this an easy romantic read with obligatory family angst to keep you on your toes! 368 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell.

No Filter
Song of the Current
Sarah Tolcser

Bloomsbury

ISBN 9781408889008

There is a god at the bottom of the river - and Caro is destined for the river. Her family are famed for being river captains and she can't wait until the river calls her to set her fate. When pirates attack and her father is arrested, Caro volunteers to transport a mysterious cargo to ensure his release. Things take a surprising turn and she finds herself caught up in political intrigue and deception. Perhaps her future is not the one she imagined. An excellent adventure, Song of the Current is also rich in detail and imagination. Caro's voice is strong and introduces the reader to her world seamlessly. The importance of her heritage - the gods and the river which guides her world - the life of the boatmen and their connection to the water, are beautifully brought to life and she is an engaging character - flawed and real - with a wonderfully feisty side. My favourite character is Fee, a frogperson of few words and great loyalty. Prejudice against her people is exposed through the story and racism, sexism and ideas about class are all explored as an integral part of the narrative. I really enjoyed Song of the Current and look forward to more adventures for this spirited heroine. 352 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Song of the Current
Zero Repeat Forever
G. S. Prendergast

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471158056

Eighth is a Naxh, a mute with no name. His primary duty to protect his Offside. When she is killed, he begins to remember snippets of a former existence. Raven, Tucker and Topher are sent to a remote summer camp after a prank ends badly. Whilst at camp, the Naxh invasion begins and they must survive on their own. They join a community holed up underground in an abandoned military station. Raven is spared by Eighth early on in the story and when the group leaves the base to seek their families in Calgary, they encounter more Naxh, whose goal is to 'Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall'. Eighth feels a connection to Raven and when she is injured, he helps her recuperate. They forge a way to communicate and Raven names Eighth August when he refers to the eighth moon as the time he was created. Most post-apocalyptic stories deal with before and after a cataclysmic event or invasion as does this story. Where it excels is in the way August and Raven's friendship develops and how they learn to communicate through August's signs and Raven's words. The Naxh have a Borg-like mentality and as August becomes more disconnected from them, he becomes more human. The story is written from a dual POV, August's and Raven's. There is a lot of diversity in the characters and the settings of the story. Prendergast's writing style is engaging and the further you read, the more captivated you become with the characters, especially with August. The author builds a vision of a post-apocalyptic world that you can visualize through her characters. This is a great story and I look forward to the sequel. 496 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Janet McCarthy, school librarian.

Zero Repeat Forever
It Only Happens in the Movies
Holly Bourne

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474921329

Yet again another awesome book from this author. Holly Bourne just knows how to delve in teenage issues, that are normally ignored and keeps the YA reader engrossed with her wonderful, emotional, funny and thought provoking writing. This is a romance novel, but I can assure you not sloppy or lovey dovey at all... The main character in this story is Audrey, who has had it with 'love' as she has had a recent break up, and her father has moved out and is raising a new family. Having Audrey's family as one of the main aspects of the book also made this wonderful story a slightly different read from other YA books. Family is an integral part in our everyday life so to see the effect that this had on Audrey and her life, was a powerful thing to read about. All of Holly's books draw on important issues that are often ignored and neglected in the media etc, so it was fantastic to read such a thought-provoking book which addresses the problems and unrealistic expectations that films have. This was carried out throughout the whole novel as Audrey decides to do a media project on it, and this even made me think about how subtly messages of unhealthy and controlling relationships are broadcast and romanticised in the media. This book of course had all the fun and silly aspects of a relationship too, but it was great to highlight the problems that it can also cause, how difficult, messy and just downright awful they can be. Exactly the bits we don't see in the movies!! This book is a great reflection on all things relationship, first love, betrayal and the strength of friendship. A MUST read for all teenagers, confident readers and reluctant; though only suitable for 14+ readers due to the offensive language and sexual references. I guarantee you will enjoy all 410 pages. 410 Pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

It Only Happens in the Movies
The Beast is an Animal
Peternelle van Arsdale

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471160455

This is a mixture of myth, fairy tale and folk lore based around a scary rhyme about the Beast who comes when it is dark. The small isolated village communities of this world fear the soul eaters who haunt the night time and drain people of their life essence. Alys and the other children escaped the soul eaters which took their parents, but are now viewed suspiciously by the community to which they travelled for help and safe-keeping. Their new community is bound by strict rules founded through their fear of the unusual, of strangers, of witchcraft, and of what is deemed evil. The intertwined fates of Alys and the Beast lead Alys to attempt to save the world from the soul eaters. An atmospheric and haunting tale of suspense told where the differences between good and evil are not always obvious. Evocative language and rich characterisation make for an enjoyable read. 352 pages/ Age 12+/ Reviewed by Sam Pett.

The Beast is an Animal
A Change Is Gonna Come
Various

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847158390

This is a wonderful collection of short stories and I loved it. A wide range of stories written in different styles, covering issues as diverse as identity, OCD, lesbian love, racism, terrorism, Brexit, political change and the passing of time. Some poetry, some first person narrative, some letters; some established writers (including Catherine Johnson, Patrice Lawrence, Ayisha Malik, Irfan Master), others new (Mary Bello, Aisha Bushby, Yasmin Rahman and Phoebe Roy). The thread running through them all is the theme of 'change'. Though not all have a happy or successful ending, they do all inspire. They all challenge the reader to look at things differently, or in a new way - and to embrace the inevitable changes. 320 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Jane Welby, school librarian.

A Change Is Gonna Come
Things a Bright Girl Can Do
Sally Nicholls

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783445257

Some novels are written to be read and not reviewed and this is most definitely one of them! Essentially a book about suffragettes aimed at young adults, it is so very much more than charting as it follows the stories of three very different girls from very different backgrounds, all dissatisfied with their lot in life and united in their determination to challenge and change the status quo. Evelyn is privileged and intelligent but unable to take up a University place like her brother, expected instead to conform; choosing marriage to a suitable husband over education. Joining the suffragette movement as a means to self-fulfilment, she finds herself imprisoned and on a hunger strike which threatens her life. May is a Quaker and a pacifist, already committed to the cause through her activist mother. At a violent rally May falls (literally!) for Nell, brought up in hardship and poverty, but outspoken and committed to doing whatever it takes to escape the unfairness around her. As the girls unite in their determination to fight for the right to vote for what they believe in, the outbreak of the First World War changes everything and forces each to think again about the sacrifices they must make and contemplate compromising their firmly held principles. Epic in scale and scope, Sally Nicholls expertly catapults the reader through polite society drawing rooms where women are seen and not heard, to the towers of Oxford, from the factory floor to prison cells, from marches and military hospital wards to London slums. While the great figures of the past Like Pankhurst and Davidson feature, the spotlight is firmly on 'everyone - the folk like us' who actually make history and make a difference. It makes for a refreshingly different read. This is a book packed so full of themes and issues as relevant then as now that it cannot fail to make the reader think; sacrifice, social class and sexual identity; freedom, first love and coming of age. The ending is realistic, if not the one the reader is rooting for, and cleverly challenges the reader too to reflect on what the equality movement has achieved and how much further there might be to go. Short chapters and frequent shifts in perspective make this a completely compelling rather than confusing story while Nicholls's meticulous research, vivid descriptions, pitch perfect language and sympathetic characters combine to make this one of the best historical novels you will ever read; a vital addition to every school library and LGBTQ collection, a book which will repay repeated re-reading for upper KS3 and beyond. It is a gift for Humanities teachers looking to use fiction as a means of bringing history to life in the classroom rather than just rote learning the facts. As a discussion-starter with young adults just beginning to develop their own views on equality, it will spark much heated, much needed debate in a reading group. An empowering novel too, Nicholls is careful to highlight the importance of people power and the ability of young people to make a difference. They will enjoy sharing their views in Andersen's cleverly-conceived promotional 'What's your protest slogan?' campaign #thingsabrightgirlcando An excellent and detailed discussion guide is available for download from the World Book Day website posing excellent make-you-stop-and-think questions on all the major themes of the novel and relating them to contemporary life. http://www.worldbookday.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Things-a-Bright-Girl-Can-Do-discussion-guide.pdf 432 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Eileen Armstrong, school librarian

Things a Bright Girl Can Do
One Dark Throne
Kendare Blake

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509807734

This is the second book in this series about the Queens of Fennbrin and in my opinion the best. Action packed and fast paced from the start, prepare yourself for a rollercoaster ride this is everything I wanted the first book to be. The three main characters Katherine, Mirabella and Arsinoe have developed after the events at the end of the first book (if you haven't read it, get a copy - it will be worth it). The Plot: After the quickening, all bets are off. The queens must decide who their allies are and come to terms with the fact that only one can survive. Katherine is no longer the weak, feeble queen. Arsinoe has a dangerous secret she must learn how to utilize, and Mirabella must face the obstacles thrown at her, knowing she is no longer the strongest queen of the bunch. Who will survive? The only downside is, that the story does contain lots and lots of sub characters and story lines so that the plot can often get confusing if you are not a confident reader. One Dark Throne is relentless and doesn't let up for a moment. It is ten times more violent, bloody, and nerve-racking than Three Dark Crowns, hence the 14+ recommendation. 450 pages of fantasy adventure. I also believe that there are two more books in this series and I can't wait to see what else Blake has in store for us and her Queens!! 464 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

One Dark Throne