Review: The Badness of Ballydog by Garrett Carr
(Simon & Schuster, £6.99)
This is one of the most imaginative debut children's novels I've read in a long time and a sure thing for the Bisto First Book Award.
Set in a bleak fictional town in the North called Ballydog, which the author describes as "a little bit like Killybegs, Co Donegal", it pulls the myth-and-legend genre kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Ballydog is under threat from an ancient sea monster and it's up to three intrepid local teens to save it.
May can understand animals,; Andrew is leader of the toughest gang in the town and a dab hand with boat engines; and Ewan is an outsider with brains to burn.
They must pitch their talents against an enormous sea monster, the biggest creature on the planet.
The secondary characters are equally colourful: the mysterious lighthouse keeper, Mr Weir; the grey and cranky teacher, 'Heiferon' ,who is determined to stamp out any spark of originality among his pupils; and the local recluse, the Woman on the Hill.
Carr's writing is a joy -- confident, muscular and fearless. Balancing authentic details with sea-monster mythology, this novel is beautifully paced. And the best news of all -- there's a sequel on the way.
Sarah Webb's Amy Green, Teen Agony Queen: Summer Secrets has just been published.