Theme:

Loss and grief

Monster Island Cover Image

Monster Island

Following a family tragedy, Sam Shipwright is sent to live with her grandad on Draymur Isle, an island as cold as the people who inhabit it. While Sam tries her best to adjust to her new life - ignoring her classmates’ jabs about her mad grandad, trying to keep Myrtle, her chaotic pet goat, from eating her shoes, and avoiding the relentlessly cruel Major Chase - she also has to learn to accept a terrifying truth.

Everything Changes Cover Image

Everything Changes

Navigating the tricky issue of parental separation/ divorce, this picture book is an invaluable resource for a child experiencing familial disruption. The text is simple yet poetic - ‘I am a snowflake in a snowstorm, spinning and twisting’ - anchoring the changes in the child’s life to the natural changes of the seasons, and with the very positive central message that although change is worrying, sometimes it is unavoidable, and happy times can still be found.

Win Lose Kill Die Cover Image

Win Lose Kill Die

The prestigious Morton Academy is a place of privilege, mysteries and murder. Only the brightest and the best are invited to attend the private school, with priority given to those who may not achieve success otherwise. There’s a hierarchy within the school, with the members of the secret society Jewel and Bone, at the top, everything they could ever want for their future laid out before them. And for the head girl and head boy, that really does mean everything, choice of college, fully paid, anything. Except this year there’s a problem, the head girls keep dying.

Baby Love Cover Image

Baby Love

It's 1960. During an afternoon at the Lido, fourteen-year-old Laura meets French exchange student, Léon. After a confusing, fumbling experience in a darkened changing room, Laura’s life will never be the same. First her moods change, then her body. Soon, she realises that there’s a baby in her tummy – and she doesn’t understand why.

The Map of Leave Cover Image

The Map of Leaves

Orla Carson has closed herself off from the world when her Ma died. All she wants is to be left alone in her garden with her horse and the plants whose whispers she understands. But when a mysterious illness comes to the village of Thorn Creek and the blame is cast on nature and the wild, she must leave and embark on a journey in search of a cure. With only her Ma’s book of plants and remedies as a guide, she must begrudgingly team up with Idris and Ariana, who are hunting for the cure for their own reasons.

Unraveller Cover Image

Unraveller

It feels wrong to play favourites, but of all the many skills Frances Hardinge displays in each of her novels, world-building ranks very high indeed in this reviewer’s list. From underground cities to gods-infested islands, Hardinge’s settings always come with wonderful depth and detail, making them much more than just a background to a character’s progression.

Spark Cover Image

Spark

Ash, from the Last Village, is forced to leave his home when the water supply dries up and the other villagers vanish without trace. In a world that seems to be slowing burning in the ever-increasing heat, water is humanity’s most precious resource – and it’s running out.

The Upside Down River Cover Image

The Upside Down River: Tomek's Journey

Thirteen-year-old orphan Tomek runs a grocery store where, one day, a stranger girl comes into his shop asking for various items. She tells him she is looking for a magic river whose waters are eternal. Tomek develops a yearning to travel, and to bring some of the eternal water back for a beloved elderly man in his village.

The Sky Over Rebecca Cover Image

The Sky Over Rebecca

Kara Lukas is lonely. In the atmospheric Swedish winter, she watches the frozen lake, watches the stars, and tries to uncover the mystery of a snow angel. Strange noises in the woods and inexplicable footprints lead her to Rebecca and her brother Samuel in their small isle hideout. The Jewish siblings are not only from another place, but another time. A bond of friendship forms across space and time as two lonely girls find each other.

Furthermoor Cover Image

Furthermoor

Darren Simpson’s novel is an unusual blend of fantasy narrative and the emotional theme of confronting life’s hardships. Bren is a teenage boy consumed by grief over the recent tragic death of his sister, Evie. He carries a heavy burden on his shoulders, between familial issues, school bullying and depression. His only solace is in travelling to a mystical land called Furthermoor using the magical mechanics of his watch, to meet Evie and confide in her his struggles since her death.