( A selection of the top new chapter books for children and teenagers.
In his autobiography, Many Different Kinds of Love, Michael Rosen expressed his desire to heal from Covid in order to pen a story “about a canine named Gaston le Dog from France.” The previous children’s poet laureate successfully recovered and has now completed the book.
Targeted towards younger readers, The Incredible Adventures of Gaston le Dog (published by Walker Books) tells the story of a farm dog with a longing to go back to a peaceful beach paradise. Along his journey, he encounters unexpected challenges, including an evil Puss in Boots and uniquely-named animals like Libellule the dragonfly. However, when Gaston finally reaches his desired beach, he realizes it isn’t quite as he remembered. Through this experience, he learns that reality can sometimes be disappointing but can also be an improvement from fairytales.
Some illustrated books with content intended for older children are hindered by the division between picture and chapter books. Three notable examples of this can be seen this fall.
Is it always appropriate to celebrate Black History Month in November? In “Football’s Champions of Change (Welbeck),” sports presenter Damian Johnson shares the stories of heroic people of color in football as well as a strong critique of anti-racism efforts and ongoing struggles, including the lack of representation in management.
Frances Hardinge, on the other hand, is an excellent author of young adult literature who is exploring a younger audience in her book Island of Whispers (published by Macmillan and illustrated by Emily Gravett). The protagonist, Milo, is the younger son of a ferryman who is responsible for transporting deceased souls on their final journey. Despite knowing that he is too sensitive for the job, Milo is forced to take on the task when disaster strikes. Along the way, he must navigate through challenges such as being pursued by a grieving lord who cannot accept his daughter’s death and encountering some eerie, headless birds. It is Milo’s compassion towards the deceased that proves to be his greatest strength.
I am not a fan of optimistic books that encourage children to take action against the climate crisis. However, Ultrawild: An Audacious Plan to Rewild Every City on Earth (published by Allen & Unwin and written by Steve Mushin, a nonconformist inventor from Scotland who works in Australia and New Zealand) is a large-format narrative filled with complex scientific terms, creative machines reminiscent of Heath-Robinson’s inventions, and bold optimism. The book covers topics such as waste management, but also explores the use of sewer submarines to filter water for use in vertical city farms and wildlife habitats.
Presently, there is a high number of books being released during this time of year that include words like “snow”, “elf”, and “reindeer” in their titles, accurately depicting the content within. However, in The Ice Children (published by Macmillan) written by MG Leonard (author of Beetle Boy and Twitch), the changing climate plays a significant role in the story, creatively incorporating elements of fairytales similar to Gaston.
Bianca’s younger sibling is discovered frozen in the park. Despite her realization that a mysterious book and peculiar children are connected to the incident, nobody believes her. As more kids fall victim, Bianca takes matters into her own hands to unveil Jack Frost’s plan to save his sister, the Snow Queen, from perishing due to the Earth’s rising temperatures. The children come to the conclusion that they must take control as the governing body.
Adam Baron is an author who has a talent for writing heartwarming and relatable stories for children in their middle years. His most recent book, Oscar’s Lion, published by HarperCollins and beautifully illustrated by Benji Davies, is geared towards a younger audience compared to his previous series, Boy Underwater. The story takes place in south London, where a lion unexpectedly arrives for tea. Despite having devoured Oscar’s parents, the lion takes on the role of caretaker for Oscar and they form an unusual bond. This enchanting tale explores themes of hope, love, and the pain of losing loved ones. Just when it seems like the lion may strike again, the story concludes with a heartwarming ending.
Richard “TheWolf Road” Lambert has won many plaudits. His excellent latest, The Republic of Dreams (Everything With Words), returns to the double world of Shadow Town (2021). Over in Balthasar, young queen-to-be Tamurlaine discovers a plot against her life. In our world, her friend Toby must stop the villainous Malladain from recruiting more young Dreamers to that nefarious end. But there’s a lot more powering this satisfying sequel, not least loyalty, the legacy of flawed fathers and the benefits of a republic over a kingdom.
The American novelist Donna Barba Higuera isn’t well known here, despite her Newbery medal. Her transporting new book, Alebrijes (Templar Publishing), after the fantastical creatures of Mexican art, weaves the past into a dystopian tale of survival for the upper end of key stage 2.
After a disaster that occurred four centuries ago, the Cascabels work tirelessly while the oppressive Pocatelan upper class holds power over southern California. The inhabitants of this region are constantly afraid of the dangers lurking beyond the protective walls of their city. Leandro and Gabi, two orphaned individuals, struggle to survive in this harsh environment.
After a while, Higuera shifts gears and delves into science fiction. The children realize that certain outdated technology is still functional, creating opportunities for new lifestyles. However, Leandro and his newfound comrades must strategize carefully and navigate complex moral decisions in their mission to rescue their loved ones from Pocatelan. It is a captivating read.
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