I like gifting books in pairs. Sometimes I choose books that are wildly different to one another; at other times, I select books for their overlapping themes. I book swap and buy secondhand books, too, so not all are new releases. Every quarter I share a book buddy pair here.

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The Race by Roy Peachey
Danny Chung does not do maths by Maisie Chan

Summer 2021

Here are two debuts aimed at untangling Chinese people and culture from their stereotypes. I'm not sure Danny Chung's family escapes the stereotyping, but Danny does - and his escapades are bright with wit, charm and (often delicious sounding) cultural detail. The Race is dual narrative, but the voice that dominates is Lili, a young girl already wearied by other people's inability to grasp her identity as British Chinese and adopted. While Chan and Peachey's writing, tone and narratives set them apart, both books are about competition, loyalty, classroom antics and grandmothers. They'll make young readers think outside boxes and will leave them smiling.

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Jack's Well by Alan McClure

Beside the Ocean of Time by George Mackay Brown

Spring 2021

In some ways, these books are nothing like each other. (They are certainly like nothing else.) Jack's Well is honest, clever and original and is worthy company for this most unusual and moving novel by Scottish literary hero Mackay Brown. Both are about a boy. Both are about daydreams, fate and building existential narratives. And, as if mirroring the themes in form, both take you outside the main body; there are stories within the story. I'd gift these book buddies to curious teen readers who like a bit of swashbuckling alongside their soul searching.

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The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow by Emily Ilett

The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethell

Winter 2020

The first two books I am buddying both speak the lyrical, rolling language of the sea. One is set in Scotland and the other in Papua New Guinea. These stories will take young readers on very different but equally ethereal and engaging adventures, while preparing them for (or helping them to) confront painful issues - namely, loss and coping with change. Both celebrate sisterhood. These book buddies are the literary equivelant of sea salt and buttery caramel - a winning combination.