As we’re now safely in March, we’re springing into our new monthly feature, sharing bite-size reviews of some of the books that have been keeping us entertained in the Cheshire ELS headquarters. This week we’re being baaaad with Jory John and Pete Oswald’s The Bad Seed, climbing trees with Natasha Farrant’s The Rescue of Ravenwood, summoning dragons with Elle McNicoll’s Like A Curse, and quoting Taylor Swift with Sophie Gonzales’ Never Ever Getting Back Together.
The Bad Seed written by Jory John and illustrated by Pete Oswald
Are you looking for a new story to read to your class? Boy, do we have the book for you. It’s about a seed, a real bad seed, who stares and glares and never washes his hands or his feet. He wasn’t always so bad though. Once he was a humble sunflower seed, perfectly content in his field, until the petals dropped and the flower drooped… Now? Well, now he’s a baaaaaaaaaaad seed.
It’s not essential to read The Bad Seed in the growly, world-weary voice of a hardboiled detective, but it definitely helps. Jory John’s sentences, especially the refrain, ‘A baaaaaaaaaaad seed’, need to be read aloud for the rhythm to be fully appreciated, while Pete Oswald’s hilarious illustrations will have children charting the ups and downs of the bad seed’s expressive eyebrows. The seed does change his ways in the end, realising that he can be both good and not quite so bad. A realistic message for children that does away with notion of “the bad seed”, instead favouring a seed that tries his best.
The Rescue of Ravenwood by Natasha Farrant
A storm-felled tree carved into a Viking longboat and moored on a cliff top. An ancient house, bombed and rebuilt, guarded by a tree named after a legend. Clear waters that are home to inquisitive seals, and, if you’re especially lucky, a great crested newt. Within a few pages of Natasha Farrant’s The Rescue of Ravenwood, my plan was to move to Ravenwood and never leave. Like the woods in Katya Balen’s October, October, Ravenwood is a magical place, a refuge from the noise and chaos of the city. Growing up in such a world, it’s no surprise that 11-year-old Bea and Raffy, along with their new friend Noa, will do anything to save it, especially when Bea’s uncle Jack and his sly developer friend Ant plan to cut down Yggdrasil, the family’s beloved tree, and turn Ravenwood into a fancy hotel. What follows is an adventure that takes readers across Europe and back again, where the kindness of eccentric strangers and the gumption of formidable grandmothers, helps the children, and their close-knit community, to fight for Ravenwood – and everything it stands for. Belonging, and the need for a safe home, is a key theme throughout the novel, as the children see families displaced by war and poverty.
Reminiscent of Eva Ibbotson’s classic adventure stories and Hilary McKay’s family sagas, The Rescue of Ravenwood is a warm, witty, and powerful celebration of found families, the beauty of the natural world, and the importance of fighting for what you believe in. This will be a book that people will come back to.
Like A Curse by Elle McNicoll
Fans of Ramya Knox, the defiant protagonist of Elle McNicoll’s Like a Charm, will soar through her next adventure in sequel Like a Curse. Shipped off to her grandmother’s house in Loch Ness to master her new powers, Ramya grows increasingly frustrated by the rules – and secrets – of her Aunt Opal. As a neurodivergent witch herself, Aunt Opal should be the person who understands Ramya the most. So why is Opal holding her back? With Portia’s control over Edinburgh increasing, Ramya is sure that she is the only one who can break the siren’s spell and save the Hidden Folk trapped within the city. But can she do it alone?
Introducing more magical creatures, including what might be the fabled Loch Ness Monster, Like A Curse expands McNicoll’s magical universe, while telling a story grounded by both the self-doubt and self-belief of its characters. As one of the few children’s books led by a dyspraxic character, Like a Charm challenges notions of traditional heroism, giving agency and power to a young person who refuses to be defined by the expectations of others. Reviewed by Samantha
Young Adult fiction
Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales
Avid watcher of Love Island or Married at First Sight? Fan of enemies to lovers? Have an awful ex the petty part of your brain wants revenge on? You’ll love Sophie Gonzales’ new YA romance Never Ever Getting Back Together. With all the drama, petty squabbles, and urge to throw things at supposedly ‘eligible’ bachelors you could want from trash TV, and the covert glances and stolen moments of any good romance, it’s a fun and touching story about two bi girls finding love where they least expect it. Never Ever Getting Back Together perfectly captures the highs and lows of young love – its heartbreaks and betrayals, its fears and struggles, and the joys of its new beginnings – and is an enjoyable read for any young adult. Reviewed by Rosie
Browse more great fiction on our online catalogue. If you need any further book recommendations, or would like to find out more about the service we offer to subscribing schools, please get in touch.