Natasha Farrant


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 Moving On Category Long List.


The Polar Bear Explorers' Club- Alex Bell (Faber and Faber)


Twister- Juliette Forrest (Scholastic)


The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole- Michelle Cuevas     (Simon and Schuster) 


Ella on the Outside- Cath Howe (Nosy Crow)

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Tin - Padraig Kenny (Chicken House)

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Running on Empty- S E Durrant (Nosy Crow)


The Children of Castle Rock- Natasha Farrant (Faber and Faber)


 Kick- Mitch Johnson (Usborne)


The Eye of the North- Sinead O'Hart (Stripes)


Charlie and Me – Mark Lowery (Piccadilly)


How to Bee- Bren MacDibble (Old Barn Books)

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Herstory  Katherine Halligan  (Nosy Crow)

Which four of these fabulous books will make it to the short list?

LONG LIST REVIEW: The Children of Castle Rock


After her mother died, Alice Mistlethwaite has become increasingly withdrawn, constantly reading and writing stories only Barney, her father, is allowed to read. As he is an actor and often away from home, Aunt Patience decides it would be best to sell their home, Cherry Grange, and send Alice to a boarding school in Scotland. Although Alice protests, she finds herself arriving at Stormy Loch, a school with very different ideas about education. 

When she receives a mysterious package from her father with strict instructions not to open it, but to take it to a remote island, Alice seizes the opportunity the Great Orienteering Challenge offers to deliver it...

An adventure story in the tradition of boarding school favourites, 'The Children of Castle Rock' is a great read with lots of action and interesting characters. Stormy Loch offers the perfect setting for the children to escape the adult presence and allows the adventure to develop in the wilds of remote Scotland- beautifully described, leaving the reader longing to visit!

Although an adventure, the story is really focused on relationships- those between children and those with parents. Alice adores her father, choosing to ignore his shadier side and the choices he makes until events force her to realise that he should act like the grown up in their relationship and put her well being above his. Fergus, an extremely clever boy who Alice has become friendly with, is struggling with his parent's acrimonious divorce and Jesse, another friend, feels over shadowed by his older brothers whose confidence and talents make him feel inadequate. There are also some interesting moments in the relationships between these very different friends as the story progresses. 

'The Children of Castle Rock' has much to recommend it for children moving on to more challenging reads. Natasha Farrant has allowed her children to swear in the story as they most likely would do, but has chosen to use asterisks to make this more palatable for adults! (It is very obvious what they would be saying!) A great story with great characters and an unusual ending- what more could you ask for!

The Children of Castle Rock    Natasha Farrant 

Faber and Faber      ISBN: 978-0571323562

Teen Treats!

Today, my 'baby' is going to University. I am so excited for him and proud of his achievements- but I am also painfully aware of how much I am going to miss him. He's hardly ever here as it is- always out with on group of friends or another- but now his clothes etc are all in bags, waiting to go in the car, the fact that he is going has really hit me!

So- in an effort to take my mind off the inevitable, here are some teen treats that I have read recently!

Lydia      by Natasha Farrant

Chicken House   ISBN: 978-1910002971

Like so many others, I love 'Pride and Prejudice' and the adventures of the Bennet girls so this was a must-have for me as soon as I saw it!

'Lydia' tells the un-told story of the youngest of the Bennet sisters- the story Jane Austen did not tell! The Lydia of this tale longs for adventure and can't wait to leave the countryside. Like the original, she is impetuous and impulsive, but Natasha Farrant explores her thoughts, making us empathise with Jane Austen's 'thoughless Lydia'.

The story is particularly strong when Lydia gets her wish and goes to Brighton. Here, Lydia's 'missing story' is developed with details of life in a seaside resort of the early 1800s and the reader can see her grow and mature, viewing her escapades more sympathetically than they might otherwise have done. The outcome is still the same- she ends up married to Wickham- but it has a different feel.

Whether you're a 'Pride and Prejudice' fan or just looking for a great read, 'Lydia' is the perfect choice!

Unboxed   by Non Pratt

Barrington Stoke    ISBN: 978-1781125854

I cried and cried when I read this book. Five friends created a memory box whilst at school. Five years later, four return to keep a promise to the fifth who has now died.

What unfolds is a beautifully written story of friendship and how people change. Barrington Stoke are well known for championing stories for dyslexic readers and the quality of their range and choices shines through in this book.

'Unboxed' is accessible, but challenging, offering much to think about- an excellent read for anyone and everyone!


The Baby by Lisa Drakeford

Chicken House    ISBN: 978-1910002230

And now for something completely different!

Olivia has been looking forward to her seventeenth birthday party so much. Things start well, but rapidly go downhill, ending abruptly when she finds her best friend, Nicola,  giving birth on the bathroom floor.

What unfolds is the story of five teenagers and the baby in the fallout that follows. Each character is very well developed and convincing and the story explores some very 'real' issues whilst maintaining excellent pace and great writing.

Full of unexpected twists (oh, the ending- what WILL happen next?), this is an engaging, enjoyable read, offering much food for thought!