THE ROLLERCOASTER BOY by Lisa Thompson (Scholastic £6.99, 340pp)


by Lisa Thompson (Scholastic £6.99, 340pp)

Todd, 12, and sister Laurie, six, have been left with their dad while mum is working abroad. Dad, who is bipolar and off his medication, excitedly books them into a seaside luxury hotel — which turns out to be anything but.

When their dad then can’t get out of bed, the children team up with the owner’s daughter Scout and wealthy but neglected Patrick to solve the mystery of a famous author who went missing from a locked room in the hotel years ago — but who may have left clues as to her disappearance. Oh, and there’s possibly a Werewolf staying . . .

This rollicking romp of an adventure is given extra heft by the tender and sensitive portrait of mental illness and how it affects not just the sufferer, but all those dependent on them.

Lisa Thompson is a remarkable writer, as this latest book shows.


by Sarah Ann Juckes (Simon & Schuster £7.99, 244 pp)

Nine-year-old Jasper suffers from anxiety, which he soothes by birdwatching with his older sister, Rosie — they are especially close as their workaholic parents barely notice them.

Every May they climb a tree and listen for a nightingale, but this year it hasn’t returned, so Jasper is alone — Rosie hasn’t come back from university as she promised she would, and his parents say she is in a Better Place .

Confused, Jasper packs a bag and goes in search of her, encountering along the way all sorts of people who have lost something or someone important.

This poignant exploration of grief and denial seen through the eyes of a child is underpinned by lessons about kindness, acceptance and nature.

WHEN THE WAR CAME HOME by Lesley Parr (Bloomsbury £6.99 292pp)


by Lesley Parr (Bloomsbury £6.99 292pp)

Set in the South Wales valleys in the aftermath of World War I, this affecting historical drama follows only-child Natty and her feminist, socialist Mam, who are forced to live with relatives on a nearby farm when Mam is sacked. Natty’s older cousin, Huw, has shell-shock, having fought at Passchendaele, and Natty also meets a soldier at the local hospital who has trauma-induced amnesia.

When she discovers a secret, Natty and her other cousin, ebullient, smart-alec Nerys, learn how to fight for justice against seemingly insuperable odds.

Cleverly weaving wartime damage, the rise of women’s suffrage and workers’ rights into a touching coming-of-age story with endearing characters, this is pitch perfect.

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