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Ones to Watch – New Children’s Fiction for Spring 2022

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Ones to Watch: New Children's Fiction for Spring 2022

We’ve been on a mission to dig out the best books to look forward to!

Our team has been taking a look at some of the new middle-grade titles (ages 8-12) coming up this term. We’ve picked out ten top recommendations to watch out for from January to April 2022. Why not pre-order now as a gift to your future self?

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Elle McNicoll
Chapter book

We’re big fans of Elle McNicoll’s books here at BooksForTopics HQ. We were excited to hear that Elle’s newest book takes a firm step into the magical realism genre. Elle says,”This book is a love letter to readers of A Kind of Spark who wanted to see neurodivergent girls with real magical powers. I loved magical books as a child, and still do now, so to have a neurodivergent heroine in a fantastical world, it meant a lot to me to write. I’m thrilled readers are going to meet Ramya.”

At its heart, this is an exciting magical fantasy with a quest to save an endangered town. Ramya is a feisty heroine whose dyspraxia can make her feel misunderstood and disconnected from the world around her. Ramya can also perceive things that most people can’t – seeing through the Glamour that disguises magical creatures. As the story unfolds, Ramya learns to trust her own instincts more, despite feeling weary from a world that fails to give value to the way she is. Her unique way of seeing things is her superpower and her quest confirms to her that her whole unique self is powerful, wonderful and of greater value to the world than she dared to imagine.

Fantasy lovers will enjoy the imaginative cast of magical characters (beware – the fairies in this book are not at all as you might expect) and the idea that a co-existing magical world is thinly veiled all around us is one that has a timeless appeal in children’s literature. Many young readers will relate to Ramya’s struggle to navigate the emotional connections with different family members. We were pleased to see that this is only the beginning of Ramya’s adventures and that there is more to come from the magical world she inhabits, with a sequel due in Spring 2023.

Jenny Pearson
 & David O’Connell
Chapter book

A heartwarming and funny story ideal for Upper KS2. Grandpa Frank’s Great Big Bucket List takes the reader on a journey of excitement, adventure, humour and discovery and leaves them understanding life just a little bit more.

Frank sets off to meet his grandpa with high expectations. What he finds is a very sad and lonely old man living in a nursing home who has no interest in establishing any kind of relationship. Not wanting to give up on his chance for happiness (and because Davenport men don’t quit), Frank comes up with the idea of a bucket list of activities to inject some joy back into Grandpa Frank’s life, secretly harbouring hopes of a grand family reunion somewhere along the line. Soon, Grandpa Frank finds himself participating in a whole array of activities most OAPs wouldn’t be expected to do. As they venture together through hot air ballooning, parkour, synchronised swimming and monster truck driving, Grandpa Frank learns that maybe there are more opportunities for joy (and bruises) in life.

Despite the blossoming relationship with his grandfather, it seems that Frank’s dream of a family reunion will never happen. However, after the middle Frank steps a little further over the line than usual, it will take all of Frank Senior Senior and Frank Junior Junior’s newly learned skills to save the day.

Alongside the humour in this story, there are many opportunities for the reader to see through societal stereotypes of older people and also begin to understand the impact of dementia.

Lee Newbery
 & Laura Catalán
Chapter book

This is the book equivalent of sitting wrapped in a duvet eating chocolate. It is simply delightful and while being an exciting adventure it also looks at finding your feet and the inner courage you need to get through. Author Lee Newbery wrote this story for his son, so that his son could see himself in a story. Newbery wanted a story where the child is adopted (and has two dads) but without the family set-up being the main focus of the story. His aim has been entirely achieved.

Yes, there is peril, a hideous monster and bullies, but it always feels as if it will work out in the end. All the pieces of an exciting adventure are here; two loyal friends, a sprinkling of magic, a very cute animal, a tense denouement. All of this is wrapped up with wonderful illustrations from Laura Catalan, which bring the story to life, topped off with a beautiful cover.

I can see this book becoming a ‘must read’ for lower Key Stage 2, and I for one would love to read it aloud to a group of children.

A. F. Steadman
Chapter book

Take everything you think you know about unicorns and discard it. They are not the shiny, mythical creatures that you believe you know. They are ferocious, magical and deadly creatures who are very much real. Each year, mainlander children hope to pass the Hatchery exam in order to become unicorn riders. Thirteen-year-old Skandar Smith is no different. He wants to be a hero.

When it is finally Skandar’s time to realise his dreams, everything seems to turn against him. The Island’s most powerful unicorn is missing after being stolen by a haunting enemy that has returned with a vengeance and Skandar discovers a secret that could change everything and crush his dreams forever.

It is no surprise that film rights have already been acquired for this book. It is sure to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. Skandar is an unlikely hero and author A.F. Steadman has written in a way that allows readers to delve deep into the characters’ emotions and motivations.

Similar to the Percy Jackson series, Skandar and the Unicorn Thief has enough magic and fantasy to engage children without it becoming too immature for older children. It would make the perfect read-aloud and could inspire lots of writing, although is most suitable for children in Upper KS2 and beyond with well-developed reading stamina. It would be a great addition to any school or class library, especially for those more confident readers to get their teeth into.

Mitch Johnson
Chapter book

I have enjoyed both of Mitch Johnson’s previous books, each of them being entirely different from each other and this one. This one is set in a dystopian future with a dose of climate change warning thrown in.

The adventure is both exciting and terrifying – in fact, the climate that they live in and the few remnants of humanity they encounter are equally frightening. It was such an exciting read that I read it in one sitting, unable to put it down because I had to know what was going to happen next.

Ash and Bronwyn are interesting characters because in some ways the reader never knows very much about them; you only know about how they behave and how they act, little else. Up until the crisis point, their worlds have been very narrow, consisting of only their respective villages – so it is a very big deal for them to leave and travel elsewhere. The stories of the past are like myths, and they never really know how the actions of their ancestors have impacted their lives – but the reader does.

Mitch Johnson intended the book to be a reminder to his readers to not mess things up for future generations and in that I think he succeeds. Another excellent book from Mitch Johnson.

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Review of Like a Charm bookThank you to the publishers for sending me advanced copies of these books and to the review panel members who contributed to the reviews.

This review has been shared by Twinkl. For even more great recommendations, make sure to visit their TBR blog.

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