Dan Metcalf


All 80 titles for the six categories of our long list have now been reviewed! Each and every one a fantastic book, highly recommended by JAB and the NSTAB team.

The short list will be announced on the 8th September. Votes from the panel are already coming in so here's a little reminder of the twelve fabulous books on the Read Aloud Category Long List.


Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow- Jessica Townsend (Orion)


Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure – Alex T Smith (Hodder)


Fabio The World's Greatest Flamingo Detective: The Case of the Missing Hippo- Laura James, illustrated by Emily Fox (Bloomsbury)


The Chocolate Factory Ghost- David O'Connell and Clare Powell (Bloomsbury)


You Can't Make Me Go to Witch School- Em Lynas, illustrated by Jamie Littler (Nosy Crow)


Yours Sincerely Giraffe-Megumi Iwasa & Jun Takabatake (Gecko Press)


Codebusters- Dan Metcalf, illustrated by Gary Cherrington (Bloomsbury)

DSC_0006 (5).JPG

Witch for a Week- Kaye Umansky, illustrated by Ashley King (Simon and Schuster)


Kat Wolfe Investigates- Lauren St John (Macmillan)

IMG_6663 (2).JPG

The Book Case - Dave Shelton (David Fickling)

DSC_0007 (5).JPG

The Return of the Railway Children- Lou Kuenzler (Scholastic)

Of these twelve terrific titles, which four will become the 2018 NSTBA Read Aloud short list?



When his mum gets a new job and he has to start a new school halfway through a term, 'nerdy. Jackson Hilbert decides it's time for the new cool him to emerge- Jax, who is good at sport, particularly football.  However, things don't go quite according to plan when, during the first lesson, he reveals his true maths ability and goes head-to-head with another pupil, Michelle, in a maths contest- 'it was like a sudden-death, penalty shoot-out for geeks.' As a result, he impresses neither the 'cool' crowd nor Michelle, who he defeats.

However, he finds a secret coded message in his pocket which, when he deciphers it, leads to Jax being invited to join a secret club whose mission is to crack codes and solve crimes- the Codebusters! When the Regional Mathematics Trophy goes missing from the school trophy cabinet, the Codebusters are faced with their first real case. 

Looking for something a bit different? Then look no further! 'Codebusters' is a short, achievable novel which is pacy and entertaining.

At its heart, 'Codebusters' is a story about friendship and being true to yourself. 'Jax' is desperate to be seen as 'cool' and sadly, like so many people, sees being good at football as the key to achieving this. As the story develops, the reader sees what he initially can't - that he has many valuable talents and that his new-found friends- quirky as they might seem to others- are the right friends for him- true friends.

Throughout the book are codes and puzzles for the reader to solve alongside the Codebusters. Dan Metcalf has included a 'Codebusters Bootcamp' at the end of the book to encourage budding cryptographers. The fact that the children attend Bletchley Grange School can't be a coincidence either! 

Brilliantly illustrated throughout by Gary Cherrington, 'Codebusters' would make an excellent read aloud to engage and enthuse children, offering plenty to discuss and enjoy along the way.

Codebuster     Dan Metcalf, illustrated by Gary Cherrington

Bloomsbury       ISBN: 978-1472943415