Debut books have an important role to play in the world of books. They offer readers a chance to explore new worlds, meet new characters and read from new perspectives. You could argue that any new book will do the same and while that is true, debut’s bring a new voice to the mix. Each year, there have been more and more extraordinary debut novels in children’s literature and I am always in awe of the brilliant plot lines, wonderful characters, both good and evil, and some of the twists or re-tellings of classics.
2020, while a strange year for society, has been a wonderful year for debut authors. Over the year I tried to keep a list of debuts as I read them but admit I lost track at some points. Looking back at my list and through a bit of research, I discovered so many new favourite books and authors.
Something that struck me was the amount of debut novels written by women and non binary authors and so I chose to focus on those authors in this post. In order to keep this readable and not pages and pages long, I am only summarising my reviews. This is my own version of an end of year wrap up. I read hundreds of books this year and have enjoyed them all so there was no way I would be able to narrow down favourites- there were too many!
Season’s Readings to you and yours!
The Girl who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook, Published by Nosy Crow
We meet Chaya as she escapes the palace after stealing the Queens jewels….making it a very unique and quickly paced first chapter. Thieving features throughout the story with Chaya at the heart of it. Fast paced, intense and full of courage, friendship and a sense of doing what is right even if it seems wrong. An absolutely stunning debut. Elsetime by Eve McDonnell, Published by Everything With Words
Needle is a mud lark from 1864 and Glory is a 12 year old jewellery apprentice in 1928. From the world in different times comes a heart warming story of friendship, hope and courage. A superb book, one with messages of overcoming fears, being courageous and trusting friends. Needle and Glory are wonderful characters, proving the power of children over adults yet again. The Ten Riddles
of Eartha Quicksmith by Loris Owen, Published by Firefly Press
This book has it all- an amazing plotline, puzzles and riddles as well as magic, mystery and mayhem! I was lucky enough to send across some questions for Loris- full interview can be found here- https://myshelvesarefull.com/2020/09/14/the-ten-riddles-of-eartha-quicksmith-blog-tour/ Boy, Everywhere by A.M. Dassu, Published by Old Barn Books
This is an honest and harrowing journey of a refugee family from war torn Syria, attempting to be asylum seekers in England. From privilege in Damascus to poverty and detention in England, be prepared for plenty of heart wrenching and scary moments. Emotional, heart wrenching and terrifying- this journey is told from the perspective of the 13 year old Sami as he faces changes beyond all recognition to his life, family and world. A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll, Published by Knights Of
Perhaps one of the most important books to publish in 2020 it has won plenty of recognition and awards. It is a brilliant insight into a Neurodiverse girl’s life. Her determination, wit and strength shine through some very tough moments. Hailed as the perfect read for anyone in education but I think it is perfect for anyone! Demelza and the Spectre Detectors by Holly Rivers, Published by Chicken House
Demelza is a scientific genius, creating inventions, plotting new ideas and trying new things. She is about to try something completely un-scientific though. Twists and turns, shocks and surprises, spooks and science fill this incredible book and it was hard to put it down….so I didn’t. I read it entirely in one sitting! The Big Woof
Conspiracy by Dashe Roberts, Published by Nosy Crow
This is an incredible book, the first in a promising series with a retro, sci-fi feel, reminiscent of the X-Files and with a clever yet strange girl at the centre of all the action. Lucy is a wonderfully weird character and I adore her. I loved the story and I admit to guessing all the way through. I thought I had things figured out and then a twist. I was sure I knew what was coming and then a twist. I had so much fun reading this and can see this becoming a very popular series. Orphans of St Halibut’s
by Sophie Wills, Published by Macmillan
When I first heard about this book, it was described as Home Alone meets Annie, perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl. How could I possibly resist? Sophie Wills and David Tazzyman have joined forces to become the new MG dynamic duo! The rest of the book follows the increasingly comedic and complex situations the orphans must face. Whimsical, dastardly and full of brilliant characters! From the foul tempered goat named Pamela, to the Mending factory and mistaken identities, there is plenty of delight and enthrall readers! The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar, Published by Puffin Books
This incredible adventure has everything! A crew of fierce female pirates, treasure to be found, magic and a journey to a lost city. Myths, legends, hopes, dreams, family and friendship and finally feeling as though you belong. I want to belong to the family on The Ship of Shadows. This swash buckling adventure will leave you breathless, craving an adventure of your own. From the glorious cover by Karl James Mountford, through the adventure and to the ulitmate choice, you will not be able to part from this book. I predict big things for this book and can only hope we meet Aleja again. Theodora Hendrix and Monstrous League of Monsters by Jordan Kopy, Published by Walker Books
I was so lucky to be able to send across some questions for Jordan Kopy to answer about her wonderful debut! Theodora Hendrix has been raised on monsters and has had a happy upbringing- however secrets are emerging about her family and it comes down t Theodora to help save them all! Full interview can be found here: https://myshelvesarefull.com/2020/10/05/theodora-hendrix-blog-tour/ The Mask of Aribella by Anna Hoghton, Published by Chicken House
Meeting new friends and discovering and using their powers to protect Venice, this story is fast paced, full of fascinations and all against the beautiful back drop of Venice. The action within this book is perfect for the city of Venice and having been there, I could picture it all happening. I feel so honoured to have been sent a copy to read and review pre-publication and thoroughly enjoyed this story. The cover illustrations are intriguing and inviting for the reader, ensuring a sense of mystery and darkness add to the allure. I can see this being a huge hit with fans of adventure stories with powerful girl heroines. A Clock of Stars by Francesca Gibbons, Published by HarperCollins
A kingdom under threat, a pair of sisters and moth loving monsters searching for lost treasure are all you need to know as you join the adventure held between the pages of this book. I was enthralled with this story, from the legend of the skret and their heart of the mountain, to the moths they use to communicate and send messages. I wouldn’t want to let any spoilers slip but I am completely enchanted and look forward to more from this author. Adventure, mystery and complex characters will have you turning the pages late into the night! The Unadoptables
by Hana Tooke, Published by Puffin Books
It is utterly fantastic, full of feisty orphans who stick together through good and bad, and a set of baddies to make your heart pause. I admit to my heart being in my throat most of the book. There are so many fast paced scenes where twists and turns take you all over Amsterdam in the hunt for freedom from The Little Tulip Orphanage, Ms Gassbeek and Mr Rotman. The five friends form a family and help each other out day after day, cementing the bonds made while at the orphanage. This is truly a heart warming tale about finding your family in friends, allowing yourself to hope and daring to be who you are. It has the feel of a classic book, thoughtfully written, diverse characters and a plot line to keep you guessing! School for Nobodies by Susie Bower, Published by Pushkin Children’s
I cannot do justice to the incredible plot line of this book, the fascinating characters or the journey they must all travel while living at The School for Nobodies. I was completely engrossed and found myself talking to Claudia and urging her to take a closer look at those around her, not to be blinded by promises and to make the connections before danger found her. This is one not to be missed! The Wild Way Home by Sophie
Kirtley, Published by Bloomsbury
A brilliant and magical adventure featuring a brave girl looking for her way home. Full of hope, family and the quest for home- it is sure to delight and enchant readers. Initially set in the present but with time travel back to the Stone Age, Charlie must help Harby find his way home, all the while searching for hers. Wild, wise and wonderful! The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D.Lapinski, Published by Orion Children’s
Flick and Jonathan join forces and are on a quest to find out what happened to Jonathan’s father. They must visit each place contained within a suitcase. Once you open a suitcase, there is another world waiting for you, with people, currency and towns. However, you must be careful and follow the strict Society rules. Flick needs to learn these quickly or else they could become stuck in a suitcase. As with any brilliant book, there are plot twists and turns, courageous moments and baddies! This book has it all and I so wish I could step into another world via a suitcase! Flick and Jonathan are fantastic, well written and thoughtful characters. We learn just enough to keep us guessing through this book and know we will learn more in the second and third in the series. Malice in Underland by Jenni Jennings, Published by Scholastic
The cover of this book guarantees to hook the reader in with its peek through view of the Malign family. Malice is completely different from the rest of her family- she enjoys mischief but for laughs, not terror. The ghost of her Grandad is the only one who understands that she is different, but when he goes missing Malice learns how important it is to be true to yourself. Uncle Vex, a very suave and sophisticated detective, helps her to find out where all the Grandad ghosts are disappearing to. With wild goose chases through Underland, some famous body less heads and plenty of humour and heart, this book stands out as a top pick for 2020. Malice Malign is a brilliant new character!
Murder on the Safari Star by MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman
How to be a Hero by Cat Weldon