Booklove in the time of Covid

My debut novel FRIEND ME doesn’t come out until November, but I have some sense of the particular heartbreak now hitting my fellow Roaring 20s Debuts who have recent and upcoming launch dates. For these writers, in-person publicity is now impossible, and the effect on school and library sales is still unknown.

Do you or young people you know have reading time on their hands, perhaps an abundance of reading time stretching from sunup to bedtime? Please consider giving some love to these debut authors whose lifelong dreams are coming up hard against the reality of a global pandemic.

I’ve personally read and loved How to Make Friends with the Sea, My Life As A Potato, To Fly Among the Stars and From the Desk of Zoe Washington. I’m in the middle of the wonderful What Stars Are Made Of, and I can’t wait for Efrén Divided and Stand Up, Yumi Chung!

But that’s just a sliver of what’s available! And WordPress won’t let me upload too many more thumbnails into this blog without going all skewy.

See a list of debuts here

All of these books and their fellow 2020 middle-grade debuts can be browsed here. I think they all sound amazing, and I’m thrilled to see there’s a wonderful selection of diverse and #ownvoices stories. These folks are finally changing the face of kidlit publishing. Go have a browse and, above all, enjoy!

These books are going to be worth your time. It’s unimaginably difficult for a manuscript to rise to the top in the competitive children’s literature market. These authors have beaten the odds by attracting a publisher’s attention and getting that elusive book deal.

You can help make that final bit of their dream come true by showing some booklove and sharing one of these stories with a young person.

If you use Instagram, why not follow the hashtag #roaring20sdebut on Instagram for the latest news, online events and read-alouds?

Sheila M. Averbuch is author of the middle-grade thriller FRIEND ME, publishing November 2020 with Scholastic Press US. Follow on Instagram at @sheilamaverbuch

Review: Nick Lake’s realistic YA science fiction SATELLITE

I was not going to bypass a story pitched as THE MARTIAN for teens, and SATELLITE fills its brief fabulously: you won’t be disappointed if you come looking for realistic space-exploration science. But this book delivered lots, lots more…so much that I’m planning to read it again.

SATELLITE follows 15-year-old Leo Freeman, one of the first babies to be born and raised on a space station, after his astronaut mom was discovered to be pregnant once in orbit. Leo’s got two older friend-“siblings” from a different mom, who got together with another fellow astronaut when they were on a long-term research program in orbit, part of preparation for human colonisation-journeys to other worlds. Continue reading “Review: Nick Lake’s realistic YA science fiction SATELLITE”

Police brutality in children’s fiction

I found a knife in my pocket yesterday morning. My first thought was relief: I use it for gardening, but I’d lost track of it, and I had a Sunday of planting-out and tying-up planned. My second thought was, what if I weren’t a privileged white lady? If somehow I were stopped by a nervous police officer who was predisposed to see me as trouble, I wouldn’t be carrying my gardening knife, I’d be armed. Continue reading “Police brutality in children’s fiction”

Review: Dave Rudden’s MG fantasy Knights of the Borrowed Dark

Knights of the Borrowed Dark

I first heard of Dave Rudden following his intriguing think piece in the Guardian about how society raises boys, and about his own quiet suffering the face of bullying (Why teenage boys are told not to feel, and why that’s so wrong). So when I spotted KNIGHTS OF THE BORROWED DARK on NetGalley, I was extra-interested to read this middle-grade debut, which promised chosen-one adventure and power to the powerless.

It delivers. Denizen Hardwick recently celebrated his uneventful 13th birthday in the glum west-of-Ireland orphanage that’s been his home since he can remember. But when the orphanage director suddenly announces the existence of Denizen’s previously unknown aunt and seems unusually keen to get rid of the boy, Denizen suspects something is awry; his curiosity to learn about his parents outshines his caution, however, and he quietly accompanies the driver his aunt has sent on a late-night cross-country trek to Dublin.

It’s only when their car is nearly crushed by a breach in reality that brings down a tunnel — and lets lose a horrific demon — that Denizen gets a hint of the secrets that have been hidden from him.

The fun really begins when he learns that his 13th birthday wasn’t months ago: it’s now, tonight, and it marks the beginning of Denizen’s own demon-fighting powers.

I loved Rudden’s writing, the contemporary Irish setting and the way he plays with expectations (“…every time someone came to visit [the orphanage], hopeful children began packing their bags, ready for their new life as wizard, warrior or prophesied king”). I was left wishing that the clockwork demons bent on eradicating Denizen and his family had a more convincing motivation for doing so, but maybe that’s clockwork demons for you.

Best of all was Rudden’s world-building: the battle-worn league of knights sworn to fight the demons, their library of spells to do so, and most intriguingly the Cost (with a capital C) that the knights suffer from using their magic. I’m glad this is the first in a series, because I could almost feel the world of the knights rising up huge and cathedral-like behind this story, with so much more to discover than could be expressed in this first book.

Denizen’s hunger to know the truth about his parents, at any cost, is painfully real, and I loved the aunt character, a hardened hero whose company is cold comfort to Denizen after spending so many years alone. What makes the story so satisfying, and raises it above a standard chosen-one tale, is that the ultimate battle isn’t against what you might think: it’s not against the murderous creatures, but against secrets, and whether we can and want to forgive the people who hurt us.

Rick Riordan fans will find a lot to enjoy in Knights of the Borrowed Dark; I lent it to one of my son’s friends for a sleepover at our house this week, and the boy had gobbled up nearly half the book after a few hours.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars
Knights of the Borrowed Dark; Cover illus by Owen Freeman; Cover and logo based on a design by Nick Stearn
Published in UK: April 2016
More info at Puffin