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Secret Book Quest Recommendations

Did you know that the staff at your local library love reading too? Browse their recommendations below to discover your next favourite read.

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Rachel Bailey-Lewis

Ivybridge Library

My recommendations

Letters from the Lighthouse
by Emma Carroll

Set during WWII Olive is evacuated to Devon where life is very different to her London home and her older sister, Suki, has been missing since the last air raid. To make matters worse she ends up working for the peculiar lighthouse keeper as his post-girl but he ends up being key to helping her solve the mystery of Suki’s whereabouts.

This book reignited a love for reading in a boy who hadn’t read all summer then read three books in one half term!

Borrow Devon: Letters from the Lighthouse

Borrow Torbay: Letters from the Lighthouse

The Land of Roar
by Jenny McLachlan

Siblings Arthur and Rose often played in the imaginary land of Roar with their Grandad when they were little, now Rose feels too old to be playing silly games. However, Crowky, the villainous scarecrow from Roar, kidnaps Grandad and the siblings have to reconcile their differences and return to Roar to try and save him.

This was our class novel and everyone was gripped by the adventure to rescue Grandad!

Borrow Devon: The Land of Roar

Borrow Torbay: The Land of Roar

The Nowhere Emporium
by Ross MacKenzie

Daniel stumbles across a mysterious shop that he swears was never there before. He has found the Nowhere Emporium owned by Mr Silver, a shop that travels the globe and is filled with ‘wonders’ rather than things. Daniel becomes the apprentice but when Mr Silver vanishes Daniel needs to enter this new world of enchantment to save the shop from disappearing too.

This is always a good one to inspire the imagination!

Borrow Devon: The Nowhere Emporium

Borrow Torbay: The Nowhere Emporium

I Capture the Castle
by Dodie Smith

Follows the life of Cassandra Mortmain and her eccentric family as she, and her sister Rose, navigate growing up, first love and the growing problem of their family’s money problems.

One of my personal favourites!

Borrow Devon: I Capture the Castle

Borrow Torbay: I Capture the Castle

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Chloe Reynolds

Sidmouth Library

I’ve two recommendations for you

by Jessica Townsend

Perfect for Harry Potter fans. A magical story with an extraordinary hotel, as supernatural school and world that needs saving. Plus, there’s a giant talking cat. Everyone I have recommended this book to has loved it!

Borrow Devon: Nevermoor

Borrow Torbay: Nevermoor

by Thomas Taylor

A great mystery with sea monsters, strange disappearances and spooky stories set in the creepy seaside town of Eerie-on-Sea. I loved the atmoshpere of the misty and murky winter by the sea and all the quirky characters in the town.

Borrow Devon: Malamander

Borrow Torbay: Malamander

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Annie Brierley

Barnstaple / South Molton Libraries

Here’s one to “Tick” off your list.

The International Yeti Collective
by Paul Mason

An engrossing, humorous and at times gripping page turner of a book.  The Yeti Collective is an exciting adventure story introducing the reader to the secret global community of the Yeti. This is a warm, humorous and exciting story with a strong environmental message.

Borrow Devon: The International Yeti Collective

Borrow Torbay: The International Yeti Collective

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Gemma Pegg

Bovey Tracey Library

My recommendations

The Naughtiest Unicorn
by Pip Bird

Dave isn’t your typical unicorn, but he has us all in fits of laughter when we read his adventures.

Their rucksacks are packed, the sleeping bags are rolled-up and Class Red are heading into the Wild Woods. Will Dave the naughtiest unicorn eat all the marshmallows? Will anyone be able to put up their tent? And who (or what) is making the weird noises at night-time?

Borrow Devon: The Naughtiest Unicorn

Borrow Torbay: The Naughtiest Unicorn

Too Much Stuff
by Emily Gravett

It’s a great story about what really matters in life with a nice environmentally friendly message.

A hugely entertaining rhyming woodland story about a pair of hoarding magpies and the perils of having too much stuff!

Borrow Devon: Too Much Stuff

Borrow Torbay: Too Much Stuff

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Katrina Oldcorn

South Molton Library

My recommendations

by Anthony Horowitz

I read this on recommendation of a friend while I was at school, and my brother and I both devoured the entire original series (1-8). A good book regardless of your gender as long as you like fast-paced, intelligent action. Horowitz is known for his dark humour (also recommend the Diamond Brothers books, such as The Falcon’s Malteser) and in-depth research for his Alex Rider series.

Borrow Devon: Stormbreaker

Borrow Torbay: Stormbreaker

by Roald Dahl

For any child who feels that their classmates or family doesn’t understand them, a story about acceptance, intelligence and growing up, all laced through with Roald Dahl’s extraordinary humour and way of seeing the world.

Borrow Devon: Matilda

Borrow Torbay: Matilda

Geronimo Stilton series
by Elisabetta Dami (pseudonym Geronimo Stilton)

Pinched the first book off my brother when he borrowed it, and we subsequently squabbled over who got to read the next one first. Light-hearted, vibrant and intricate, well worth following Geronimo on his Adventures. I especially recommend his visit to Egypt.

Borrow Devon: Geronimo Stilton series

Borrow Torbay: Geronimo Stilton series

Animal Ark series
by Lucy Daniels

For anyone who loves animals. Mandy the adopted vet’s daughter finds herself in all sorts of situations, and the words create fantastic images in your head. A very warming series with plenty of stories to see what Mandy and her friend James get up to next. Two of my favourites are Sheepdog in the Snow and Foal in the Fog (Haunted special)

Borrow Devon: Animal Ark series

Borrow Torbay: Animal Ark series

Mr Gum
by Andy Stanton

Recommended to me just now by a customer, for the amazing sense of humour running through it. Son is 9, the whole family loved the series.

Borrow Devon: Mr Gum

Borrow Torbay: Mr Gum

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Elizabeth Beckett

South Molton Library

Here’s a little magic!

A Pinch of Magic
by Michelle Harrison

(Widdershins sisters books #1)

Engaging reading and great characters who are brave, feisty females. It has adventure, mystery and magic. I really enjoyed it and thoroughly recommend it for all ages 8+, and loved reading the other two in the series.

Borrow Devon: A Pinch of Magic

Borrow Torbay: A Pinch of Magic

Way past winter
by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Captivating and magical, used folklore to weave a tale that I couldn’t wait to keep reading. A simple story with a lot of emotional warmth and some slightly challenging parts make it better for older readers 10+.

Borrow Devon: Way past winter

Borrow Torbay: Way past winter

by Garth Nix

A fun, magical, fairy-tale based adventure with a strong heroine who takes business into her own hands and sets of on a Quest. Reading age 10+

Borrow Devon: Frogkisser!

Borrow Torbay: Frogkisser!

The Girl who drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill

Perfect for young fans of Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin and Diana Wynne Jones. A magical story about belonging, family, love and facing fear, with beautiful writing and engaging characters, the story moves along at a good pace and with an intriguing title and gorgeous front cover how could you not be curious to give it a try.

Borrow Devon: The Girl who drank the Moon

Borrow Torbay: The Girl who drank the Moon

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Martin McConaghy

Exeter Library

My recommendations

Wonder Struck
by Brian Selznick

In Wonder Struck two independent stories weave back and forth with “mesmerizing symmetry”. As the two stories unfold, they eventually intertwine in the most magical way. The text and the drawings are wonderful. Although it is a children’s book it can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. Like me, many of my colleagues at Exeter Library have read and loved this book.

Borrow Devon: Wonder Struck

Borrow Torbay: Wonder Struck

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Maggie Enderson

Exeter Library

My recommendations

by David Almond

It’s on a theme of transformation: a boy finds an old tramp living in a derelict garage and brings him food. While the tramp gets stronger, the boy’s baby sister is becoming increasingly ill. I read it in a couple of hours and loved it.

Borrow Devon: Skellig

Borrow Torbay: Skellig

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Emily Macauley

Service Delivery Manager for Exeter, East Devon and Teignbridge

Ssshhhh it’s a secret

The Secret Island
by Enid Blyton

I first read The Secret Island when I was about 10 years old (a fair while ago) and it remains one of my top three books of all time.  I re-read it pretty much every year and each time it absorbs me in an adventure of escapism…and made me believe I could run away and survive on an island!  It’s a classic adventure tale and a story of childhood independence.

There’s only one copy in Devon but with free reservations for under 18’s it is well worth the wait…!

Borrow Devon: The Secret Island

Borrow Torbay: The Secret Island

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Lucy Banks

Reading Development Manager

My recommendations

Natboff! One Million Years of Stupidity
by Andy Stanton

This is one of those rare, glorious books that made me cry with laughter – and it still does, even after having read it several times! Full of short stories ‘documenting’ history, it’s a great read for anyone who loves hilariously silly books.

Borrow Devon: Natboff! One Million Years of Stupidity

Borrow Torbay: Natboff! One Million Years of Stupidity

A Bit Lost
by Chris Haughton

A gorgeously sweet picture book, all about a little owl falling out of their nest, then starting a quest to find their mummy. It’s the perfect book to cuddle up with just before bedtime!

Borrow Devon: A Bit Lost

Borrow Torbay: A Bit Lost

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Jez Winship

Exeter Library

My recommendations

The Owl Service
by Alan Garner

An emotionally intense story which draws on the old tales of the Welsh Mabinogion, one of which seem to manifest once more in the lives of three young teenagers living or on holiday in the rugged Welsh landscape. A wonderful evocation of place and of cyclical mythic time. Challenging but hugely rewarding.

Borrow Devon: The Owl Service

Borrow Torbay: The Owl Service

Moominland Midwinter
by Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson’s familiar Mooominland terrain is made eerie and strange in its ice and snowbound state, as Moomintroll wakes prematurely from his winter hibernation and seeks company in its silent expanse. As ever, Jansson’s invented folklore is wild full of dark mystery, with the loveable and homely Moomins as its comforting centre.

Borrow Devon: Moominland Midwinter

Borrow Torbay: Moominland Midwinter

A Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness

Giving flesh to the outline of an idea by the late Siobhan Dowd, this is a novel which deals powerfully with loss and grief from a child’s perspective through means of fable and fantasy (and thus  shows how stories can help approach such overwhelming emotions). The illustrations by Jim Kay are simply stunning, and add immeasurably to the dark folkloric feel of the book.

Borrow Devon: A Monster Calls

Borrow Torbay: A Monster Calls

The Earthsea Quartet
by Ursula le Guin

A timeless classic which deals with issues of responsibility, identity, gender, power and cultural difference within its carefully constructed fantasy environment. Written with beautiful clarity but encompassing matters of great moral complexity, it fully deserves its elevated status.

Borrow Devon: The Earthsea Quartet

Borrow Torbay: The Earthsea Quartet

Crongton Knights
by Alex Wheatle

As the title suggests, this novel portrays its characters in an almost Arthurian light, making a mythic quest of their journeys into the dangerous territory of a rival estate and their attempts to get back to their own high-rise terrain. A hugely engaging tale with a great cast of characters which touches on issues of gang violence whilst maintaining a light, adventurous tone.

Borrow Devon: Crongton Knights

Borrow Torbay: Crongton Knights

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Jaz Weyer Brown

Teignmouth Library

My recommendation

Howl's Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones

I loved the freedom to adventure Sophie found when she’s magically transformed into a grumpy old woman. Her chaotic discovery of magic, and the characters and creatures she meets, befriends and battles along the way is perfect escapism.

Borrow Devon: Howl's Moving Castle

Borrow Torbay: Howl's Moving Castle

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Adelle Williamson

Ilfracombe Library

My recommendation

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam
by Tracey Corderoy

This is a fab story about a pair of robber dogs turned bakers! A fun first mystery series for young readers. Start with the picture books and then move on to the beginner chapter books. Guaranteed to entertain the children and tantalize the tastebuds, our family really enjoyed sharing these stories over lockdown.

Borrow Devon: Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam

Borrow Torbay: Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam

Dragon Rider
by Cornelia Funke

Dragon rider is a heartwarming tale of friendship and flight! Full of loveable characters this book is fun for all ages. Everyone will enjoy this story of a young boy and a dragon on a quest for a mystical land.

Borrow Devon: Dragon Rider

Borrow Torbay: Dragon Rider

The Wishing Chair
by Enid Blyton

This magical trilogy by the legendary author is perfect for reading alone or aloud. We worked our way through all three books during lockdown. My boys were entranced by the tales of two children and their pixie friend visiting wondrous lands on their flying chair.

Borrow Devon: The Wishing Chair

Borrow Torbay: The Wishing Chair

How to Ride a Polar Bear
by Caryl Hart

The Albie picture books are a charming series for younger readers. Albie’s big imagination takes him on some wild adventures! In this story he visits the museum with his mum and ends up riding a Polar Bear! Children will be captivated by his tall tales and have great fun spotting clues in the pictures from the other books in the series.

Borrow Devon: How to Ride a Polar Bear

Borrow Torbay: How to Ride a Polar Bear

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Booktrackers Book Group

Ilfracombe Library

Our recommendations

The Fastest Boy in the World
by Elizabeth Laird

This inspiring tale of a small runner with a big heart scored a whopping 85/100 from the Ilfracombe Library Booktrackers Book Group! Granting it the honour of being our top scoring book club book of the year.

Borrow Devon: The Fastest Boy in the World

Borrow Torbay: The Fastest Boy in the World

Journey to the River Sea
by Eva Ibbotson

Really good description and an engaging plot.

Maia, orphaned at 13, is unhappy to be staying with relatives hundreds of miles up the Amazon. She becomes friends with an English boy who lives with the locals. They are forced to flee upriver, pursued by an assortment of eccentric characters.

Borrow Devon: Journey to the River Sea

Borrow Torbay: Journey to the River Sea

by Louis Sachar

Good plot, lots of twists, complicated but interesting ending.

Stanley Yelnats’s family has a history of bad luck, so when a miscarriage of justice sends him to Camp Green Lake Juvenile Detention Centre (which isn’t green and doesn’t have a lake), he is not surprised.

Borrow Devon: Holes

Borrow Torbay: Holes

Dead Man's Cove
by Lauren St John

I loved the mystery and adventure. This book was my favourite!

When orphaned Laura Marlin moves from a children’s home to live with her uncle in Cornwall, she longs for an exciting life just like the characters in her favourite detective novels. A real life adventure is on hand as she is deposited at her uncle’s spooky house. Why does her uncle, Calvin Redfern, forbid her to go to Dead Man’s Cove?

Borrow Devon: Dead Man's Cove

Borrow Torbay: Dead Man's Cove

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Lisa Headon-Cooke

Paignton Library

This one’s a steal!

The Highland Falcon Thief
by M.G. Leonard

The book and both sequels are exciting, full of deception, and humour. With brilliant characters and wonderfully clever mysteries.

Adventures on Trains is a major mystery series from the prize-winning M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman. First stop, The Highland Falcon Thief, a breathless train journey full of deceptions, puzzles and clues to solve. Harrison Beck is reluctantly joining his travel-writer Uncle Nat for the last journey of the royal train, The Highland Falcon. But as the train makes its way to Scotland, a priceless brooch goes missing, and things are suddenly a lot more interesting. As suspicions and accusations run high among the passengers, Harrison begins to investigate and uncovers a few surprises along the way.

Borrow Devon: The Highland Falcon Thief

Borrow Torbay: The Highland Falcon Thief

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Serena Fitzgerald

Exeter Library

My recommendations

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
by Judith Kerr

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit tells the story of a young Jewish girl Anna and her escape with her family from Berlin in 1933 during Hitler’s rise to power. This is a wonderful semi-autobiographical book by the inimitable Judith Kerr describes life as a refugee and is a fascinating introduction to this period of history.

Borrow Devon: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

Borrow Torbay: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

The Lost Twin
by Sophie Cleverly

(Scarlet and Ivy Book 1) Who doesn’t love a book set in a boarding school? This is the first of the Scarlet and Ivy series set in the atmospheric Rockwood school. Ivy must uncover the secrets behind her twin sister Scarlet’s disappearance before it’s too late. If you love mysteries, you’ll love this great series of six page-turning books with our two brave heroines and good triumphing over evil.

Borrow Devon: The Lost Twin

Borrow Torbay: The Lost Twin

The Clockwork Sparrow
by Katherine Woodfine

(Sinclair’s Mysteries Book 1) It’s the early Twentieth Century and Sinclair’s a new flagship luxurious department store has just opened in London. This is the setting for a series of fast-paced historical mystery adventure books featuring fiendish plots and intrepid young detectives.

Borrow Devon: The Clockwork Sparrow

Borrow Torbay: The Clockwork Sparrow

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Sue Brookbank

Exmouth Library

My recommendation

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
by John Boyne

So touching and thought provoking. Everybody should read this, it is amazing.

A story of innocence existing within the most terrible evil, this is the fictional tale of two young boys caught up in events beyond their control.

Borrow Devon: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Borrow Torbay: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

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Mary Weblin

Holsworthy Library

My recommendations

Black and British
by David Olusoga

A really interesting, informative and clearly written book with the very apt subheading “a short, essential history”.

*(children’s edition)

Borrow Devon: Black and British

Borrow Torbay: Black and British

The Lost Words
by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

A beautifully written and illustrated celebration of our magical countryside.

Borrow Devon: The Lost Words

Borrow Torbay: The Lost Words

Mr Gum
by Andy Stanton

Anarchic fun and fabulous wordplay.

Borrow Devon: Mr Gum

Borrow Torbay: Mr Gum

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Amy U'ren

Dartmouth Library

My recommendations

Willow Wildthing & the Shooting Star
by Gill Lewis

This was a recommendation from one of our six-year old readers! It’s about a girl who goes camping and saves a swan who is caught in plastic, and there’s also a recipe section (for campfire bread, not swans!).

Borrow Devon: Willow Wildthing & the Shooting Star

Borrow Torbay: Willow Wildthing & the Shooting Star

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Tabitha Witherick

Head of Library Service and Customer Experience

My recommendation

No-Bot - The Robot with No Bottom
by Sue Hendra & Paul Linnet

No-Bot has lost his bottom; will he ever find it again? This charming picture book is full of Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet’s trademark humour – it’s a fantastic book for younger readers.

Borrow Devon: No-Bot - The Robot with No Bottom

Borrow Torbay: No-Bot - The Robot with No Bottom

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Sarah Rigler

Holsworthy Library

My recommendation

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse
by Chris Riddell

It has some sublime illustrations as well as multiple cross references to other literature and plays on words.  I think therefore that it is rich in both a visual and a textual context, as well as operating on several age levels.

Borrow Devon: Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse

Borrow Torbay: Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse

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