Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Another 12 great reviews! See issue 65 for over 100 more :)

Picture Books for young children

Solomon and Mortimer
Written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner
Macmillan   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1509830459
Solomon and Mortimer are two bored crocodiles. They decide it would be fun to play a trick on Hippo, while he is wallowing in the water. They will surprise him, make him jump and create a big splash in the water to make them laugh. But they find that Hippo is smart and neatly turns the tables on them making everyone laugh. Another joyful picture book form this well-loved Kate Greenaway medal-winning author/illustrator. As always, the story is great and the illustrations work so perfectly with the text, offering additional dimensions and humour seen only through the pictures.
Annie Everall

Captain McGrew Wants You for His Crew!
Written by Mark Sperring
Illustrated by Ed Eaves
Bloomsbury   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1408871034
Do you think a pirate’s life is for you? Yes, then set sail with Captain McGrew. But, maybe you’ll find pirating isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Told in humorous verse with engaging illustrations to match, Captain McGrew’s greedy, demanding ways make for a lively and entertaining read. As the story develops, it soon becomes apparent that working for him will not be all sun, sea and piracy. In fact, piracy may in fact be a lot of hard work. Mark Sperring and Ed Eaves have teamed up to create a fun story with a surprising conclusion. Best polish up those pirate accents!
Rebecca Watts

My Donkey Benjamin
Written by Hans Limmer
Illustrated by Lennart Osbeck
Translated by Elke Wakefield
ISBN: 978-1925228489
My Pig Paulina
Written by Hans Limmer
Illustrated by David Crossley
Translated by Elke Wakefield
ISBN: 978-1925228496
Scribe UK   £10.99 each
These two charming books show how a family, living in a Mediterranean island village, find and then adopt two lost farm creatures, a baby donkey and a baby pig.  The story of how each is discovered is described in simple text on each page, and is illustrated by delightful black and white photographs. The donkey is discovered on the beach by toddler, Susi, and her father. Photographs document how they bring the donkey home and how Susi befriends and feeds him until they become firm friends and playmates. The second book tells a similar story about a pig, found a few years later, this time by Susi’s younger sister, Angelika, by this time herself a toddler.  The piglet is wandering near the village tied up in a sack, and Angelika brings him home and cares for him until his owner finds him and wants him back to take to the butcher. She runs away with the pig to a nearby cave, and, fortunately, by the time they are found, the pig has been reprieved. Two delightful stories about young children’s relationships with animals.  The village setting will be very unfamiliar to most children and illustrate a way of life now even rarer than when these were first published. Nevertheless, both stories would make good read-alouds for young children and parents.
Liz Dubber

First Steps in reading for young children

Babar’s Guide to Paris
Written and illustrated by Laurent de Brunhoff
Abrams   £11.99
ISBN: 978-1419722899
Babar, the elephant, has a daughter called Isabelle and she is going to Paris. As it is his favourite city, one he has visited many times, he tells her about some of the places to visit and how to make the most of the experience. From drinking coffee at a pavement cafĂ©, to what to wear and taking the Metro to see the sights, the essence of Parisian life is captured in this genial guidebook for young travellers. Families planning a visit could use this as a starting point of what to expect, though I suspect the streets and public spaces are today a little more crowded than depicted here. A good companion to other books such as Salvatore Robbino’s A Walk in Paris. Laurent de Brunhoff continues to build on his father’s work by creating new adventures for the much-loved Babar, using the same distinctive style and palette.
Jayne Gould

Titles for the young child just beginning to Read Alone

All About Ella
Written by Sally Nicholls
Illustrated by Hannah Coulson
Barrington Stoke   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1781125335
Ella’s teacher has been reading the poem Monday’s Child is Fair of Face to the class. Ella wants to know what day of the week she was born on, so that she will know what kind of child she is. But Ella’s older brother is very sick and her family’s attention is focused on him. No-one seems to know what day she was born on and Ella is feeling that no-one cares about her. However, through the course of a week, she comes to learn more about herself and to understand that there is more to a person than just the day of the week they were born on. Another title in the Barrington Stoke Little Gems series. These titles are all of a very high standard and written by some of the best authors writing for children today. This one explores family relationships in a way that gets its message across to a young reader very well. The books in this series, and indeed all those on Barrington Stokes’ list as a whole, are designed to be dyslexia-friendly and to encourage children to discover the joys of reading.
Annie Everall

Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School

Written by Mary Hoffman
Barrington Stoke   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1781125656
The story is set in Pisa, 1299. Netta’s father is a successful architect, commissioned to identify why Pisa’s famous tower is leaning and how it can be corrected. Netta is his only surviving child. She has inherited his passion for architecture, and his talents, but in thirteenth century male-dominated Italy being a girl is enough to seal her expected destiny. The mystery of ‘The Leaning Tower’ and Netta’s determination to persuade her father to take her talents seriously combine to weave a pacey, informative tale. Mary Hoffman’s love of Italy and her trademark commitment to female characters, especially who neither submit nor surrender, shine through.
Yvonne Coppard

Titles for Young Teenage Readers

The Last Thing You Said
Written by Sara Biren
Abrams   £10.99
ISBN: 978-1419723049
Set in a small town in the USA, this is a story of the impact of a death on the lives of people within that community. Lucy and Trixie have been best friends from a very young age. Lucy has also been in love with Trixie’s brother, Ben, for as long as she can remember and his feelings for her are mutual although neither has talked to each other about this. But then, last summer, their lives changed in an instant. Trixie and Lucy’s brother go swimming while Ben and Lucy are flirting with each other, and about to shyly admit their feelings for one another, when tragedy strikes. Trixie has a heart attack and she dies in the water. Following her death, his pain and grief causes Ben to verbally lash out at Lucy and fracture their friendship and burgeoning relationship. As the one year anniversary of her death approaches, both are still in love with each other but have drifted apart to protect themselves from the pain and grief they are still feeling. A well-written story which explores the pain of grief and loss and the power of first love. Gently told, characters develop realistically and are well rounded. The description is excellent, capturing the feel and sense of a tightly knit family within a small-town community.
Annie Everall

Take the Key and Lock Her Up
Written by Ally Carter
Orchard   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1408334409
“When the screams come, I can’t be sure that I’m not dreaming.” Ally Carter certainly knows how to start a story, and her fiercely independent, indomitable, if troubled, hero Grace will appeal to lots of teens seeking a role model as well as providing a thoroughly good read. In this third of the Embassy Row series, Grace uncovers much about her birth and the family secrets which will put her in opposition to a powerful secret society and threaten her life. She must move rapidly to protect her brother and her family from a state whose existence is threatened by them, which believes that their deaths will preserve the status quo and even peace in Europe. Grace makes rapid decisions, even when they are wrong, takes no nonsense from anyone and strikes out for what she believes in, supported by a group of friends and a love interest, Alexei. (He says and does little, but is, obviously, gorgeous.) There are many twists and turns to the story, together with engaging characters and a political surprise to explain past mysteries. A satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, warmly recommended for young adults.
Tina Massey

Titles for More Mature Young Adults

The Edge of Everything
Written by Jeff Giles
Bloomsbury   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1408869079
This intriguing novel is a mixture of fantasy, adventure, mystery and romance, with attractive characters and a haunting, evocative landscape. During a blizzard at their remote home in the mountains of Montana, Zoe is left with her demanding, but endearing, younger brother. Against her mother’s instructions, she allows Jonah to play outside with the dogs despite the freezing temperatures. When Zoe realises that Jonah has disappeared, and goes to search for him, she discovers there are even worse dangers in the snow and ice awaiting them. The descriptions of the storm and its repercussions are raw, as is the cruelty of the man hiding in the storm. When help comes, their rescuer is beyond Zoe’s imagining and has a tough story of his own to tell. The search for the truth about the underlying mystery of the death of Zoe’s father whilst caving becomes the catalyst for the seemingly improbable romance between Zoe and the mysterious X. This is the first in a series so there is more to come in this fantasy story as the reader becomes involved in the various characters and the mystery of X’s background. Whilst harsh at times and certainly a story for older readers, both Zoe and X find compassion, love and support in the most unlikely places.
Louise Stothard

Information Titles

Our Special World: My Friends
Written by Liz Lennon
Franklin Watts   £10.99
ISBN 978-1445148991
This is a wonderfully inclusive depiction of children and their friends. It looks at making friends, feelings, having fun together and sharing. It also asks questions throughout, giving the child an opportunity to think about their own behaviour and attitudes. The photos are clear and up-to-date being multicultural and inclusive throughout. The text gives lots of simple advice for children, to both reassure them and also help them enhance their own experiences of friendship. This title is perfect for sharing with younger children who are having to deal with making friends for the first time. (3 to 5 yrs)
Nicole Jordan

Mad About Art
Written by Judith Heneghan
Wayland   £8.99
ISBN: 978-0750294539
This title is the perfect addition to the bookshelves of any art lover. With comprehensive advice and top tips on technique from real experts, this is sure to help budding artists improve their art skills. The text covers still life, light and shade, perspective, drawing people and using colour, along with information on different art movements such as Surrealism. There is a quiz at the end to check learning and a good glossary to help the reader clarify some of the more difficult terms. The presentation is clear, colourful and bright, with excellent illustrations and photographs. (8 to 11 yrs)
Nicole Jordan

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Picture Books for young children

Prince of Pants
Written by Alan MacDonald
Illustrated by Sarah McIntyre
Scholastic £6.99
ISBN: 978-1407158440

Prince Pip has a drawerful of underpants. He loves them all and each day must decide which pair to wear. On his birthday, the decision seems even harder, because when he goes to the drawer, it is completely empty. Crisis! Pip races around the castle asking everyone he meets if they have seen his pants, but no-one has seen them. Pip is not having a good birthday at all. As he wanders back to his room, he opens a door and the mystery is solved. He has found all his pants, plus a lovely surprise. This is a lovely, very brightly illustrated story. The text is lively and spaced out around the pages. There is a plot that will appeal to young readers and a very satisfactory ending.
Pat Thompson

Super Stan
Written by Matt Robertson
Orchard £6.99
ISBN: 978-1408337295

Having a younger sibling can be a little difficult sometimes, but for Jack it is even more so. His little brother is a superhero and everyone thinks Super Stan is amazing! He can run faster, throw further, jump higher and fly. Whenever Jack does something, Stan does it better and Jack is getting a little fed up. Even his birthday trip to the zoo is overshadowed by Stan, until something happens and only a big brother can help. Sharp-eyed young readers will spot the problem and perhaps offer their own thoughts on how Stan’s beloved teddy can be rescued. Lively, expressive pictures convey the humour and action of the story, whilst also capturing Jack’s feelings about his brother’s actions. With their roles reversed, the issues are resolved and the pair become super brothers. It can also provide an opportunity to talk about relationships and feelings about brothers and sisters, as well as being great fun.
Jayne Gould

First Steps in reading for young children

Footpath Flowers
Written by JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Walker £6.99
ISBN: 978-1406365672

It is a delight to come across a picture book without words, which is so successful. The illustrations are initially limited to shades of black and grey with a splash of red of the little girl’s coat but steadily grow in colour as she collects the wild flowers she discovers on her walk through the city with her distracted father. There are full-page spreads alongside blocks of movement as the story walks through the pages. The cityscape is cleverly portrayed from the youngster’s viewpoint as she collects bright flowers along the way, together with other splashes of colour in an otherwise drab landscape. The skilful lines portray emotion from sadness to delight as they near home. As they walk, the little girl shares the flowers she collects and spreads the joy of the treasures she has found. This is such a clever and effective picture book with so much to explore and enjoy.
Louise Stothard

Titles for the young child just beginning to Read Alone

Yours Sincerely, Giraffe Written by Megumi Iwasa
Illustrated by Jun Takabatake
Gecko £6.99
ISBN: 978-1927271872

Giraffe is really, really bored. To alleviate this boredom, he decides to write a letter and to have it delivered to the first person over the horizon. So, begins a lovely exchange between Giraffe and Penguin, two very different animals who have never met, much less know what the other looks like. The characters are instantly loveable, and the simple illustrations are a gorgeous accompaniment to this tale of friendship, understanding and being different. Already a hit in its native Japan, Yours Sincerely, Giraffe is a quirky, warmly funny read that will delight readers growing in confidence, though it is likely they will want to share Giraffe’s adventures with others, rather than reading alone.
Rebecca Watts

Titles for the Confident Reader in Primary School

The Wild Swans
Written by Hans Christian Anderson
Translated by Misha Hoekstra
Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White
Pushkin £6.99
ISBN: 978-1782691228

One of Hans Christian Andersen’s less well-known tales has been stylishly presented in a slim volume, also containing the short story The Nightingale. The Wild Swans is a sombre tale of a princess whose eleven brothers have been turned into swans by a wicked stepmother. Elisa will not rest until she can undo the curse that has been placed upon them. The story proceeds at a fast pace, and is happily resolved after pain, trial, risk and mystery have played their part. As she strives to release her brothers from their tragic circumstances, we are given a window into Elisa’s mind - her sadness and her struggles. Beautiful whole page black-and-white illustrations appear throughout the book and there is also a separate story colouring book available. The translated text reads smoothly, and is suitable for a young confident reader.
Lucy Russell

The Great Fire Dogs
Written by Megan Rix
Puffin £5.99
ISBN: 978-0141365268

The story starts when George, an apprentice in the kitchen of Charles II’s palace, comes across a puppy who has escaped from the market on the frozen river Thames. George reckons he could grow into a perfect turnspit dog, and takes him back to the palace. It is 1666 and London is slowly recovering from the terrible plague of the year before. The little dog soon settles in and becomes firm friends with the king’s own lapdog, a King Charles Spaniel called Tiger Lily. As we follow George’s life in the kitchen, and his visits through London to his grandmother and thirteen-year-old sister, Annie, we gain a convincing insight into the hurly-burly of the busy city, and a strong sense of what it must have been like to live at that time. Later, the two dogs go missing in the city, and the Great Fire breaks out. They have a terrifying time trying to escape the inferno before being reunited with George. This is both a charming animal adventure and an exciting well-paced story with plenty of historical content. A delightful read which could be enjoyed again and again.
Liz Dubber

Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School

The Power of Dark
Written by Robin Jarvis
Egmont £6.99
ISBN: 978-1405280235

Set in Whitby, this is a tale of revenge for an act that took place centuries previously. The two warring spirits from the past begin to take over the lives of the two children who are the hero and heroine of the story. One of the spirits is determined to destroy the town in revenge for what happened all that time ago. The story encompasses not only the two children and their malign spirits, but strange elf-like creatures who live in caves under the sea, as well as the resident Whitby witch. From the very first page, the story moves along at an incredible speed - the pace never slackening until the outcome of the feud and the desire for revenge is finally settled. This excellent book has a good story that is well told as well as a host of odd, and some frightening, characters. An exciting story with a very unexpected ending.
Pat Thompson

The Girl with No Nose
Written by Georgina Byng
Illustrated by Gary Blythe
Barrington Stoke £7.99
ISBN: 978-1781125694

This must be the only story inspired by a Victorian false nose in a London museum. The illustrations by award-winning Gary Blythe avoid peep show freakishness and present instead a beautiful young girl whose lack of a nose is the least of her. At the circus, a kindly clown suggests that she needs something like his red nose, and soon her parents gift her a china nose attached to a pair of spectacles. Despite her difficulties, she accepts others with problems as friends, helping them to see that the qualities they do have are more important than the ones they lack. She finds fun and love in her life just as she shares it with others. A lovely story showing the transformative powers of kindness and empathy. As ever, Barrington Stoke present it in grey scale, double-spaced print on cream paper to help dyslexics and others who need help with reading. Only eighty pages long but designed to be read and reread.
Tina Massey

Titles for Young Teenage Readers

Blade and Bone
Written by Catherine Johnson
Walker £6.99
ISBN: 978-1406341874

In this thrilling new chapter in the life of young surgeon, Ezra McAdam, our hero has left London to meet up with his friend, the feisty Loveday Finch, in Paris. This is not as simple as it sounds as Paris is in the grip of revolution and is a very dangerous place. Ezra and Loveday’s aim is to help the young prince Mahmoud reach safety in Constantinople, but danger is everywhere and it is hard to know who can be trusted. Ezra, who is fascinated by any advances in medicine and surgery, is almost sidetracked by the macabre research being undertaken by Renaud, a French surgeon who is trying to reanimate the bodies that have been to the guillotine, but the safety of Loveday and Mahmoud remain his priority. There is plenty of wonderful historical detail with some quite gruesome information about early surgical practices and research. Although this book is a sequel to Sawbones it can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone story. It is an exciting adventure, with great characters, taking place in a turbulent time.
Jan Lennon

Information Titles

Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary
Original text by Roald Dahl
Illustrations by Quentin Blake
Compiled by Susan Rennie
OUP £14.99
ISBN: 978-0192736451

This attractive, well set out dictionary is a superb celebration of words, whether familiar or of Roald Dahl’s wonderfully inventive creation. The explanations and definitions are clear and are accompanied by examples of how they are used in Dahl’s texts - adding depth and meaning as well as encouraging the reading of the original stories themselves. This dictionary can be used in several ways - learning the straight forward definitions of meaning, discovering exciting examples of how words can be invented, inspiring the reader to create new words of their own, or just dipping into and enjoying Roald Dahl’s inventive sense of humour. Quentin Blake’s accompanying illustrations provide a dash of humour, colouring and livening up the text.
Louise Stothard

23 Ways to be an Eco Hero
Written by Isabel Thomas
Illustrated by Chris Andrews
QED £8.99
ISBN: 978-1784933418

This hands-on activity book for budding eco-heroes is packed full of exciting ways to help save the world from environmental damage. Each project is classified as to whether it is suitable for indoors or outdoors. Wildlife warriors are invited to plant trees, build ponds and make bird tables. Those without gardens can still take a full part as waste zappers or green machines, by making bins from cardboard and plastic, growing salads and herbs from waste food, or fashioning bags from an old pair of jeans. This is a great book designed to encourage children to reuse and recycle by getting them involved in twenty-three exciting activities. With adult supervision clearly marked and a list of websites to further interest in environmental issues, it is sure to provide hours of fun with a very worthwhile result. (8+)
Richard Monte

What on Earth? Water
ISBN: 978-1784935542
What on Earth? Wind
ISBN: 978-1784935535
Written by Isabel Thomas
Illustrated by Paulina Morgan
QED £8.99 each

Lively, flowing text and colourful illustrations introduce older primary school children to the everyday wonders of wind and water. Water, the book tells us, is the only substance in the world that can be solid, liquid and gas at normal temperatures. Easy-to-follow experiments show you how to make an iceberg, and even a cloud in the glass jar. Essential science subjects are covered too, such as the water cycle and why water is so important to your body. The book about wind tells us from where this natural phenomenon comes, then goes on to look at how mankind has harnessed the wind for sailing ships and in wind turbines, and how we use the wind for sport. It even discusses wind on other planets. Informative and interesting. (9+)
Paul Dowswell

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Picture Books for young children

It was so quiet I could hear a pin drop
Written and illustrated by Andy Goodman
Princeton Architectural Press £9.99
ISBN: 978-1616894801

On the first page we see the silhouette of a child on a swing in a tree and as she swings she listens to the sounds of the world around her. Each double-page spread thereafter shows us, with clear, simple illustrations and muted colours, the things that she can hear. We start off with small sounds like bees humming and kites fluttering, but the sounds get louder, and the few words of text get bigger, as we move through the book. Who can tell where her imagination takes over from what she can actually hear? The illustrations are deceptive in their simplicity and there is gentle humour throughout. In everyday life we are constantly surrounded by sounds and this attractive book encourages the reader to take a moment to stop and really listen.
Jan Lennon

Draw It! Colour It! Creatures
Macmillan £10.00
ISBN: 978-1447290704

A fantastic collaboration of over forty top children's book illustrators including our current Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell. Each illustrator has designed at least one double-page spread, using their own style, to be coloured in, or added to by the child, giving them the opportunity to let their own imagination and creativity fly free. Some of the illustrators, such as Sarah McIntyre, choose to give instructions on how to draw something. But others leave it completely to the child to choose what to draw - on Poly Bernatene's empty plate, for example, or in Birgitta Sif’s skilfully drawn and rather fetching pair of shoes. This is a marvellous drawing activity book for children of all ages and abilities, which gives children the chance to create their own characters or to use their own level of visual literacy to interpret the clues given by the illustrators. A wonderful book.
Nicole Jordan

First Steps in reading for young children

Bilal’s Brilliant Bee
Written by Michael Rosen
Illustrated by Tony Ross
Andersen £5.99
ISBN: 978-1783443956

Bilal is very good at anything that involves the use of his wonderful imagination, but when it comes to answering factual questions his memory lets him down. He dreads the weekly test in school as he always does badly and the other pupils laugh at him. Help arrives in the form of a bee called Bumble, who appears in his bedroom one night, and it seems that suddenly all his worries are over. Bumble has no imagination, but is very good at answering questions and so, with the bee’s help, Bilal sails through the school tests. Bilal’s granny is so impressed with his newly-discovered knowledge that she encourages him to appear on a TV quiz show where she hopes he will win all the prizes. As you would expect from the brilliant Michael Rosen this story is great fun. There are lots of laughs as Bilal and Bumble quiz their way towards the final question and it almost goes without saying that Tony Ross’s brilliantly comic illustrations make us laugh even more. This is a real treat for new readers - particularly those who find tests difficult.
Jan Lennon

Titles for the young child just beginning to Read Alone

Tortoise vs Hare: The Rematch
Written by Preston Rutt
Illustrated by Ben Redlich
Bravo £6.99
ISBN: 978-1857338140

This is such a fabulous book. It is written almost like a TV sports programme - the contestants are introduced, their training programmes are revealed, they are interviewed before the race and the live race is broadcast. It is brilliant! The participants are Hare, a lean, mean running machine, and Tortoise - well, he’s a tortoise. No competition, you may think? The text moves at a very fast pace, just as a race commentary would. Different sized fonts show the rising excitement, or even hysteria, of the commentator, Jonny Fox. The very bright and very busy illustrations are wonderful. Children will love this book. The whole presentation is funny and fast from beginning to end. Hopefully, children will want to read the original Aesop fable, either before or after, to see what happened in the original race - this is a rematch after all.
Patricia Thompson

Titles for the Confident Reader in Primary School

Fridays with the Wizards
Written by Jessica Day George
Bloomsbury £5.99
ISBN: 978-1408858417

Fourth in the Castle Glower series. Princess Celie and her family are back safely from the Glorious Arkower and the problems which had beset them are, at last, over. They are now protected by two dozen beautiful, magical griffins, for which they have to care. All should be well, but the evil magician, Arkwright, architect of all their previous wars, has escaped the dungeons and is hiding somewhere within the castle. Celie is on high alert, determined to search all the secret passageways, behind every tapestry and beneath every trapdoor. As if that is not enough to deal with, her engaged sister, Lilah, and Prince Lulath are mooning sloppily over each other and Celie is feeling more than a bit cross and left out, as wedding preparations loom large in the castle. A lively, fast moving tale full of interesting characters and delightful magical creatures. You may be sure that it will end happily, but you will also be swept along finding out how. A pacy, positive read for confident young readers.
Tina Massey

Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School

Written by Shamini Flint
Allen & Unwin £5.99
ISBN: 978-1743366455

This story is narrated by Maya, a ten-year-old Indian girl. She lives in Malaysia with her Indian mother and white father. The marriage is unhappy and Maya paints a convincing picture of personal and racial tensions both at home and at school – we have a sense of the difficulties of being both mixed race and part of a minority community. The story is set in 1986 against the background of the World Cup tournament, but the main focus is a very convincing family story with a young girl trying to follow her passion for football. Maya gradually recruits her school friends to create a football team, and eventually they are able to play in a local tournament. But while football is going well, Maya’s family is falling apart. Dad decides to leave them and return to England. The story takes Maya to England too, and a final unsuccessful attempt to persuade her father back home. There are no particularly happy endings here, but strong characters, excellent pace and balance, and Maya’s sense of optimism and determination pervades the book and makes it a very positive read.
Liz Dubber

Never Evers
Written by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison
Chicken House £6.99
ISBN: 978-1910002360

The co-authors hilariously capture the emotional intensity of a school skiing trip, as an all boys’ school and an all girls’ school collide on and off the slopes in a series of misunderstanding and thwarted attempts at love. Shamed by her return to her old school after having been kicked out of ballet school, Mouse finds herself lying to new friends and hated by her old ones. Jack and his mates have made a promise to get their first kiss before the end of their trip, but nothing can prepare Jack for being the doppelgänger of a French teen popstar filming a video near their ski resort. With the unhelpful advice of their friends, Mouse and Jack find their path full of unexpected twists. Like a professional snowboarder, the writing balances a cracking pace and humour, whilst keeping innocent romance burning and, at the same time, deals effectively with a large cast of true-to-life characters. Bound to be a hit.
Benjamin Scott

Titles for Young Teenage Readers

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl
Written by Melissa Keil
Stripes £6.99
ISBN: 978-1847156839

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl is a tale of comic books, apple strudel, love and the end of the world. Seventeen-year-old Alba loves her life in her quiet home town of Eden Valley. She has her whole life in front of her, hopefully pursuing a career in writing comic books, and she has her friends and family around her. But then an internet physic predicts the end of the world, announcing that the only place to survive the apocalypse is Eden Valley. As the town is besieged by those wanting to escape Armageddon, Alba realises she needs to start making decisions about her future - assuming she still has one. This is an original and quirky coming-of-age story. Alba is a likable and fun heroine, refreshingly happy and confident, at a time when many YA books are filled with doubt-filled girls, making her a good role model for teens. The possible end-of-the-world plot is interspersed with pop culture references and embarrassing parents, making it a fun read. It also has common teen worries such as leaving college and making your way in the world, along with burgeoning relationships. An enjoyable, romantic, doomsday comedy.
Jane Hall

Eden Summer
Written by Liz Flanagan
David Fickling £10.99
ISBN: 978-1910989074

Jess has had a traumatic year, but one September morning, just as the pain is receding and a kind of happiness is returning, she gets another shock. Eden, her best friend, goes missing. Has she run away or has she been kidnapped? Is she even still alive? The police are talking to people and searching the area, but Jess knows she cannot leave it to others to find out what has happened to her friend and she spends the day revisiting their favourite places in the West Yorkshire countryside. As she searches she relives the events of the summer and, as the hours pass, we start to understand that Eden had pain of her own. There is real tension as the hours pass and Jess’s frustration, at not being able to help her friend, grows. Teenage years are the time when we feel things, even trivial things, most deeply, but the events in Eden’s and Jess’ lives are far from trivial and they each need to find a way of accepting the painful past and moving forward. Their friendship has never been more important. A stunning debut novel.
Jan Lennon

Titles for More Mature readers

The Girl in the Blue Coat
Written by Monica Hesse
Macmillan £7.99
ISBN: 978-1447295013

Set in war-torn, Nazis-occupied Amsterdam in 1943, this is an incredibly powerful story about a young Jewish girl who goes missing from a secret room in a house where she has been hiding. Hanneke spends her days secretly finding and delivering black market goods to customers who are more than willing to pay for them. By doing this she is making a small act of rebellion against a regime that has overtaken her country and which was responsible for the death of the boy she loved. When she is initially asked to find the missing girl, she is reluctant to do so. However, she finds herself drawn into Mirjam’s story, becoming active, not only in the search for her, but in the bigger picture of the rescue of Jewish children from the journey to the concentration camps. She begins working with the resistance and finding courage that she never knew she had within her. The plot twists and turns, building the tension in the narrative and allowing the characters, particularly Hanneke, to develop and grow through their experiences. The historical detail is extremely accurate, and the section on Historical Accuracy included at the back of the book that highlights the real context of the story is extremely useful. Beautifully written, it is an unforgettable, coming-of-age story of bravery, grief and love in the most difficult, heart-wrenching times and demonstrates the lengths that some people will go to in order to help others.
Annie Everall

Information Titles

Tutankhamun’s Tomb
Written by Jen Green
QED £14.99
ISBN: 978-1784933821

This is an absolutely wonderful book. Not only does it describe the discovery of the tomb, but it has pages devoted to Egyptian life in general, particularly their burial customs. Each double-page spread explains the significance of the beautiful items found in the tomb, why they are there and how they relate to the Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife. Each page includes an extract of Howard Carter's diary from when he first arrived in Egypt in 1891 until 1931 when the tomb had been cleared and all the items moved to Cairo Museum. It is a beautifully presented book and, using pop-ups and pull-tabs, represents an interactive journey through the tomb. On a practical level, on each page, there are several small blocks of text, interspersed with drawings. There is also a contents and an index page. This is a lovely book, not only for a child who already has an interest in the subject, but also for one who knows very little about Tutankhamun. (7+)
Patricia Thompson

Children’s Animals Atlas
Written by Barbara Taylor
Illustrated by Katrin Wiehle
QED £9.99
ISBN: 978-1784932916

Subtitled An interactive and fun way to explore the animal world - and that is exactly what it is. The world is divided into thirteen regions, rather than the usual continents, and each region is marked with country borders and the main geographical features. Pictures of the animals that live in that region are added and the pages are colourful and appealing. The fun and interactive parts of book are contained in a pocket attached to the inside of the front cover and there we find a poster, a huge number of animal stickers, postcards and a spotters’ guide that includes a quiz and even more amazing animal facts. This is a great introduction to maps and atlases and it offers an entertaining way to start learning about wildlife habitats, but it also has great potential for use in a learning environment as the suggested activities could be expanded to be used with more than one child. (5+)
Jan Lennon

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

New Reviews - May 2016

Picture Books for young children

Don’t Pick Your Nose, Pinocchio!
Written by Steve Smallman
Illustrated by Neil Price
QED   £9.99
ISBN: 978-1784931223
This book is one of a series which takes well-known stories and gives them a health and hygiene twist. Pinocchio is a naughty wooden puppet who just can’t stop picking his nose. This has disastrous consequences one day when his finger is stuffed up a nostril and he lies to his father, Geppeto, who has asked him if he is picking his ‘snout’. Pinocchio’s arm shoots off across the room leaving his poor old father to patch it up. When Mr Cricket unwittingly jumps on to the puppet’s finger and finds himself thrust up the wooden ‘hooter’, it all becomes a bit too much. Mr Cricket convinces him to ‘kick’ the nasty habit and the good fairy turns Pinocchio into a real boy, and they, as everyone knows, never pick their noses! The story is completely nonsensical, but great fun, and bound to get a few laughs from any naughty nose-pickers. Other titles in the series include Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Wash your Hair and Stinky Jack and the Beanstalk.
Richard Monte

School Bus Saves the Day
Written by Peter Bently
Illustrated by Louise Conway
QED   £9.99
ISBN: 978-1784930264
The school bus arrives to take a class of hedgehog children, and their teacher Mr Hodges, to the city to see the sights and the carnival.  Bright and bold illustrations show us the big yellow bus and the class of hedgehogs enjoying the trip, and having a great view of the carnival parade from the bus windows.  But the carnival king and queen are stranded as their float has broken down. The school bus comes to the rescue much to everyone’s delight. At the end we get a clear illustration of the bus, labelled with all its accessories, followed by a few pictures of other kinds of buses. This is a great story for reading aloud and sharing. The pictures are bold enough to be used in a group situation, and the story is a good length – short enough for a quick bedtime story, but also with plenty of scope for embellishment and discussion when time allows.  Full colour pages alternate with smaller coloured illustrations within a generous wide border, and the text is well placed for readability, even on the full colour pages.  Part of the Busy Wheels series, this is an ideal read aloud for young children, and for bus fans!
Liz Dubber

The Prince and the Porker
Written by Peter Bently
Illustrated by David Roberts
Andersen   £11.99
ISBN: 978-1783441082
Pignatius is passing the palace when he spots ten fresh buns cooling on a tray, and decides to eat one. However, before he realises, he has eaten all ten and then decides to sneak into the palace to see if there are any more. When the cook chases him he hides in a bedroom and dresses up in the clothes he finds there. When he gets spotted, to his amazement, they think he is the prince, as he looks just like him. He decides to make the most of this. When the real prince turns up, Pignatius thinks the games is up, but the Prince can see there are great advantages to having someone who can stand in for him at times – like when Aunt Alice comes to visit each week. Peter Bently’s witty and lively rhyme combine with David Roberts’ hilarious illustrations to create a veritable feast of a story. The endpapers, featuring soldiers standing proudly at the beginning and then all of a tumble at the end of the book, also add to the humour of the book, and the richness of the language makes this ideal for reading aloud.
Annie Everall

First Steps in reading for young children

Chu’s First Day at School
Written by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Adam Rex
Bloomsbury   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1408847046
Children have all kinds of anxieties on their first day at school. Chu is worried that the other pupils won’t like him. Of course, it all turns out fine for him and he goes home very happily. This is a lovely, funny book that highlights, and deals with, children’s anxieties about their first day school. Chu, the panda, feels all the things that children often feel. The text is clear well laid out and the illustrations are colourful, clear and wonderfully expressive. This is an excellent book for sharing and discussing, especially with children who are about to start school.
Patricia Thompson

Titles for the young child just beginning to Read Alone

Lucy’s Magic Snow Globe
Written by Anne Booth
Illustrated by Sophy Williams
OUP   £4.99
ISBN: 978-0 192743312
Lucy is really looking forward to having her grandmother stay with the family over Christmas, but now extra guests are coming, and Lucy isn’t sure she likes the idea. However, all thoughts of tiresome extra visitors fly out of the window when Lucy finds an injured baby rabbit on the edge of a nearby football field.  Gran, who runs an animal sanctuary, confirms that the rabbit needs time to recover from his injuries and regain his strength, and Lucy is sure she can care for him. The arrival of the visitors, plus a little Christmas magic from Lucy’s snow globe, brings Lucy’s adventure to a satisfying conclusion.  Thoughtful readers will understand, as Lucy finally does, that unexpected developments can often be for the best.
Marianne Adey

Titles for the Confident Reader in Primary School

Prince Frog Face
Written by Kaye Umansky
Illustrated by Ben Whitehouse
Barrington Stoke   £5.99
ISBN: 978-1781124437
In this hilarious retelling of the well-known frog prince story, arrogant and totally selfish Prince Valentine is auditioning for a girlfriend but he is not having very much luck. None of the candidates meet his ultra-high standards. Mrs Sagacity, an old woman who has wandered into the palace gardens, tries to offer some advice on how to behave around young ladies, but, he will not listen. He is quite rude to her and consequently gets changed into an arrogant and selfish frog at the bottom of a well. The laughs continue as he tries to get out of the well and back home. And, in this story, it is not a kiss that returns our hero to his normal princely state. Kaye Umansky’s wicked sense of humour, Ben Whitehouse’s illustrations and the tried and tested Barrington Stoke format make a winning combination. There are also other similar retellings of well-known stories in the series.
Jan Lennon

The Truffle Mouse
Written by Holly Webb
Illustrated by Hannah Whitty
Scholastic   £5.99
ISBN: 978-1407144863
Alice’s Mum and Dad are separated and live in different houses. She is feeling anxious about Dad’s girlfriend, Tara, and Tara’s daughter, Tilly, who are moving in. Will Tilly take her place? Meanwhile at Mum’s house, she is finally allowed to choose a hamster, but once at the pet shop, her eye is caught by a chocolate coloured mouse, that soon comes home with Alice and Mum. Mum is not keen on mice, which makes Alice worried about how Truffle will be when she is away at school and at Dad’s - especially as her mother has a cat. So, Alice hatches a plan to take Truffle with her.  The reading level of this short novel means that children can get a sense of independence and achievement as they work their way through the chapters. It is good to have a story for a younger age group which considers how children feel about living between two homes and the challenges that can bring. Framing these themes in an adventure with a new pet means that this book never becomes bogged down in ‘issues’, but rather moves along at a good pace. We follow Alice to a happy ending, showing how families can rearrange themselves in a way that can include everyone, even little brown mice.
Annalise Taylor

Alice-Miranda Shines Bright
Written by Jacqueline Harvey
Red Fox   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1849418614
Anyone who hasn’t already met the diminutive delights of Alice-Miranda is in for a treat. The tiny boarding-school girl is faced with the mysterious and sudden disappearance of Reginald Parker, a man in his third year of a coma and to whom Alice-Miranda had been reading. While searching for him on her horse, she and Millie discover gold. They promise to keep it secret in order to prevent a gold-rush destroying the countryside, but nothing stops the Mayor from finding out and making his own plans. In this reprint, multiple threads twist and turn to keep the reader guessing until the very end, knowing, somehow, Alice-Miranda will make sure everything turns out for the best. Almost too-good to be true, Alice-Miranda’s warmth and thoughtful approach to life is pure escapist fun, perfect after a long, tiring day at school, or to share before bed.
Benjamin Scott

Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School

Look into my Eyes
Written by Lauren Child
HarperCollins   £6.99
ISBN: 978-0007334070
This is a reprint of the first title in the popular series featuring Ruby Redfort, an American teenager who is brilliant at cracking codes.  Spectrum, a top secret intelligence agency, recruit Ruby to be a desk agent but she is not to tell anyone.  Ruby finds it hard to keep the secret from her best friend, Clancy, who is becoming suspicious of the family's new butler, who is really Ruby's new bodyguard.  Meanwhile, there is a plot to steal a valuable Buddha from a local bank and Ruby and Clancy strive to crack the thieves' code. There are many different layers in this book and young people will enjoy cracking the codes along with Ruby, whilst feeling the tension as danger threatens Ruby's life.
Ingrid Fox

Titles for Young Teenage Readers

The Mad Apprentice
Written by Django Wexler
Corgi   £6.99
ISBN: 978-0552568685
In this stunning sequel to The Forbidden Library, Alice, is still learning her craft. Set magical and dangerous tasks by her ancient and powerful Reader, she must use all her wits, and test her courage to the limits, to defeat the increasingly aggressive and unpredictable monsters she encounters, so absorbing to herself the powers of the creatures she masters. Alice is commanded, along with other Readers’ apprentices, to bring back, dead or alive, the rogue apprentice, Jacob, who has, unthinkably, murdered his Reader master. This unenviable task involves Alice, the natural leader of the group, in a horrendous, rolling sequence of battles against nightmarish monsters within a black, boundless labyrinth which constantly changes its configuration. As the terrifying battles rage on, Alice must protect and manage her apprentice group, using every ounce of her will and intellect to summon up creatures and situations to defeat her enemies and so get closer to discovering what caused her father’s death. Heart-stopping, vivid, complex, intelligent and questioning, this novel would make a brilliant film. Young teenage readers will welcome the occasional quiet, reflective stretches in order to unclench their stomach muscles and exhale!
Tina Massey

Titles for More Mature readers

Demon Road
Written by Derek Landy
HarperCollins   £14.99
ISBN: 978-0008140816
This 512 page novel, the first in a new trilogy, has a cover which will immediately draw the reader in. It is packed with terrifying action, witty dialogue, undead serial killers, vampires, killer cars and demons. Amber is sixteen years old, a normal American teenager, albeit with weird parents, until the day she is attacked by two youths outside the diner. Her parents and their friends reveal themselves to be what they really are and Amber is forced to go on the run - away from the very people she thought loved and cared for her. The opening sentence of the book sets the scene, " Twelve hours before Amber Lamont's parents tried to kill her..." The book is fast and scary but will be enjoyed by all teenagers and fans of Derek Landy.  This is real horror story, a head under the duvet storyline, with the sequel out next year.
Ingrid Fox

Information Titles

How Many Greeks Can You Fit Inside a Horse?
Written by Chris Mitchell
John Blake   £5.99
ISBN: 978-1784186548
A talking T-Rex, Dr Dino, might not be the obvious choice to explore “bizarre stories of ridiculous gods”, but this disbelieving dinosaur narrator does cleverly present a funny and engaging collection of international myths and legends. The legends are told within the context of their national identity, from the legend of St. George for the English to how the Maori explained the birth of New Zealand. Some tales are quite gruesome, like the skinless horse-man of Orkney, while others are fascinating, like why the Aztecs believed they were helping the gods with their human sacrifices. This superb and short overview of a wide range of cultural beliefs and stories will kick start the imagination of young readers. Part of the Dr Dino’s Learnatorium series that includes more scientific topics, such as Do Astronauts Wee in Space?
Benjamin Scott

Will’s Words
Written by Jane Sutcliffe
Illustrated by John Shelley
ISBN: 978-1580896382
This lavishly illustrated information picture book provides a distinctive and entertaining approach to introducing Shakespeare to a young audience.  Each double page spread is deployed to both conjure up the atmosphere of London theatre -going in Shakespeare’s time as well as examining well known words and phrases whose origin can be discovered in his plays. The left hand side of each page cleverly incorporates the expressions into the description of an aspect of life at the Globe theatre, while the right hand side contains scrolls which explain the terms and locates them in the plays. Amongst the varied colourful phrases included are, “Eaten out of house and home”, “Wild-goose chase” and “cold-blooded”. However it is the intricate and wonderfully observed illustrations that set this book apart. Readers of all ages will delight in the various depictions of theatre goers at the Globe and the birds-eye view of London. A lovely title to have on your shelves.
Elaine Chant

Thursday, 29 October 2015

New reviews. Autumn/Winter 2015. 100s more in issue 61!

Picture Books for young children


Kipper’s Beach Ball

Written and illustrated by Mick Inkpen

Hodder (R)   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1444924022

First published in 2003, this new edition forms part of Kipper’s 25 year celebrations. The story sees Kipper finding something colourful and wrinkly in his cornflakes, but he has no idea what it is. He goes round to Tiger’s house to share his excitement. Tiger has already collected the other toys in the series so decides it must be the ball, but it doesn’t look or behave like a ball - then the adventure starts. Mick Inkpen manages to portray all the emotions from excitement to disappointment to optimism on the faces of Kipper and Tiger – another triumph.

Bev Archer


Fish is Fish

Written and illustrated by Leo Lionni

Andersen (R)   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1783441570

Originally published in 1970, this simple story of friendship and being true to oneself will still appeal to young readers and listeners. The illustrations are reminiscent of a subdued Eric Carle, with what appear to be pencil and crayon drawings evoking the world of Fish and Tadpole, with rubbings creating textured backdrops. Of course, tadpoles don’t stay tadpoles for long and soon Fish’s friend has transformed and left the pond to see the world. Fish is confused at first, and then alone. But, Frog returns to share his adventures with his friend. Children will enjoy seeing how Fish pictures the creatures that Frog tells him about - birds, cows and humans - all variations of fish in Fish’s mind. Fish’s attempt to leave the pond, his rescue by Frog and his return to his own habitat, help him appreciate the beauty of the world he lives in. The story also shows readers the difference between fish and amphibians, and something of the process of metamorphosis.

Annalise Taylor

First Steps in reading for young children

The Princess and the Pony

Written and illustrated by Kate Beaton

Walker   6.99

ISBN: 978-1406365382

In the kingdom of warriors Princess Pinecone, by far the smallest, craves a warrior horse for her birthday. For previous birthdays she has received cosy sweaters so, in an attempt to indulge her warrior ambitions, her somewhat unimaginative parents, buy her a horse. It is, however, not the horse of her dreams but a squat, sausage of a pony with divergent eyes. When put through its warrior paces in preparation for the great battle, it fails on all necessary equine skills. Then, in the midst of battle, the mighty Otto the Awful, bearing down on pony and princess, is stopped in his tracks by the pony’s cuddly, heart-melting adorability and cuteness. Instantly hostilities are subdued as the warriors queue to pet and stroke the little steed. Cuddly sides now exposed, all are eager to embrace the changed corporate identity and each warrior wears one of the surplus sweaters from the princess’s birthday store. Kate Beaton’s comic-style talents are well exemplified in this unusual book that glories in the art of eloquent gesture and facial expression. In addition to the intrinsic humour, readers also learn that victory can come in unexpected and benign ways.

Catriona Nicholson


 Titles for the young child just beginning to Read Alone

Lottie and Dottie Sow Sunflowers

Written by Claire Burgess

Illustrated by Marijke Van Veldhoven

Orion (eB)   £4.99

ISBN: 978-1444014693

A welcome addition to this popular series of Early Readers, Lottie and Dottie decide to enter the Sunflower Competition and we follow their journey from seed to flower, with a few hiccups along the way. With handy advice at the end on growing your own sunflower (and keeping off the snails!), this is an appealing title. Full colour illustrations on every page guide the reader through the story, providing support for reading and enhancing the story by adding emotion and detail. Text is appropriate for the audience and accessible with plenty of dialogue. With lots to talk about when sharing with an adult, this is a useful title for classroom book boxes and libraries.

Lucy Russell


Written and illustrated by Chris Judge

Andersen (eB)   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1783441631

Tin’s Mum asks him to look after his little sister, Nickel, for the afternoon. Just as he is enjoying his comic book for a few minutes, he notices that Nickel is at the top of a tree, chasing a balloon. An exciting adventure unfolds as Nickel tries to rescue his sister. Detailed, colourful illustrations make this Irish import a real pleasure to share with a young audience.

Marianne Adey


The Enchanted Wood

Written by Enid Blyton

Illustrated by Mark Beech

Egmont   £14.99

ISBN: 978-1405276658

The children are excited to be moving from the town to the countryside. As they explore their new home they are amazed to discover an enchanted wood and a magic tree near their house. This leads them into many adventures as they meet the weird and wonderful folk who live there and visit new lands at the top of the tree. The 1940 edition I read as a child had a single colour plate at the front and line drawings throughout, very different from this brightly coloured, much illustrated new deluxe gift edition. Some changes have been made to the text to update the story. Jo, Bessie and Fanny are now Joe, Beth and Frannie, Dame Slap is now Dame Snap and Joe now makes sandwiches instead of just bringing in radishes from the garden. There are also three additional chapters about the children’s adventures in the Land of Toys. None of these changes, however, can alter the imaginative characters, the exciting lands and adventures contained in this book. I enjoyed it every bit as much this time, as the many times I read it as a child.

Sue Wilsher

Titles for the Confident Reader in Primary School


The Rats of Meadowsweet Farm

Written by Dick King-Smith

Illustrated by Victor Ambrus

Barrington Stoke   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1781124178

Farmer Green is a bit of a slapdash farmer. His farm is pretty mucky, especially the huge muck heap in the middle of the yard. As muck heaps go, it was truly magnificent. The happiest animals on the farm are the rats, for they love the muck heap and they also love the fact that Farmer Green never, ever, puts his grain or his seeds or his animal feed into metal bins. The rats chew their way into the sacks and eat and eat as much as they want. The chief rat, known as Ripper the King Rat, runs his rat empire with no interference at all from Farmer Green, until one day Farmer Green kills some of his best workers. Ripper is not pleased and plots his revenge! The battle for Meadowsweet Farm is hard, but, who wins? Read the book and see! It is a humorous book, but the humour is quite dark at times. Very enjoyable.

Patricia Thompson


Wilf the Mighty Worrier Saves the World

Written by Georgia Pritchett

Illustrated by Jamie Littler

Quercus (eB)   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1848668614

Wilf spends his life worrying about so many things; his list of things to worry about is pretty long. However, when a new neighbour called Alan arrives he has even more to worry him. Alan tells him that he is the most evil man on earth and his intention is to destroy the world, with the help of his side-kick, Kevin Phillips and his robot, Mark III. Can Wilf stop him or should he just hide under the bed and worry? This is a wonderful book, very funny and very fast moving.

Patricia Thompson

Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School


Where I Belong

Written by Tara White

Tradewind   £7.95

ISBN: 978-1896580777

Carrie is constantly questioning her identity and her feeling that something isn’t right. Adopted as a young child, she has never felt that she belongs and, tormented by recurring dreams, she is sure someone close to her is in danger. Then she meets Tommy, the boy from her dreams, and everything changes. Although quite short, this is a powerful story about a girl who feels she does not fit in, but has the courage to find her roots and, ultimately, come to accept both worlds. Set in Canada, details of Mohawk life, traditions and beliefs are successfully conveyed, particularly through the character of Gramma, depicting a strong culture and sense of community. Although set against the backdrop of real events, racism and cultural tension are secondary to the sense of belonging and self-discovery. Gramma’s dignity and her words, “Keep your head up, Carrie. Be proud of who you are.” speak volumes. The reader is left full of hope for Carrie’s future; one in which she manages to be part of both cultures and both families.

Sue Wilsher

Titles for Young Teenage Readers


Dumb Chocolate Eyes

Written by Kevin Brooks

Illustrated by Emma Shoard

Barrington Stoke   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1781124512

This novella describes an imperfect friendship between two boys, basically bored with each other, but unwilling to make the effort to find anyone more compatible. One of them, Pete Cassidy, decides to trap some invading rats in his huge, unkempt garden. The other, who tells this story, goes along with the plan only to recoil in disgust when it all goes wrong. Illustrated in splashy water-colours, this very short story still manages to create a strong atmosphere, with Pete Cassidy’s large, untidy house having something in common with the rats’ nests he was out to destroy. With never a word wasted, and a typically Kevin Brooks bleak ending, this story stays in the mind long after it is finished.

Nicholas Tucker


Titles for More Mature readers


The Year It All Ended

Written by Kirsty Murray

Allen & Unwin   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1743319413

It is Adelaide, Australia, and four sisters and their family celebrate the end of WW1. It is also Tiney’s seventeenth birthday. The town bells are ringing and everyone is rejoicing that they have peace at last. They can look forward to the return of their friends, sons, brothers and husbands, as Armistice is celebrated. But, as the months pass, and the girls face new challenges, embarking on different journeys, they also have to face the truth that many of their menfolk will not be returning from France. Tiney is determined to go to Europe and see for herself where her brother and friends lost their lives. Her sister, Nette, is learning about being a wife and mother and struggling to make a new life with her soldier husband. Meanwhile, Minna leaves to find independence, and artistic Thea has tragedy of her own with which to contend. The sisters are strong, different characters and roundly portrayed, whilst the atmosphere of Australia in 1918 is colourful and interesting. This is an entertaining novel and each girl’s story is engaging.

Louise Stothard

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

New reviews - June 2015

Picture Books for young children

This is My Rock

Written and illustrated by David Lucas

Flying Eye   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1909263505

Little Goat feels proud. He is on top of the rock and he certainly doesn’t plan to share being there with the smaller goats, or the other animals that come climbing his way, or the birds that fly to it. But as the sun goes down he begins to have second thoughts. Bold and stylish illustrations, with very little text, make this book perfect to share with a young audience. A story about sharing, friendship and loneliness, with plenty to talk about. 

Marianne Adey


I Wish I’d Been Born a Unicorn

Written by Rachel Lyon

Illustrated by Andrea Ringli

Maverick Arts   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1848861176

A delightful story about the true nature of friendship. Mucky is a muddy, grubby horse, and he feels very sad and left out when the other horses don’t want to play with him because he is so smelly. But, clever owl steps in and hatches a plan. With the assistance of some cows and a frog, and using milk to paint Mucky white and a shell for a horn, he is transformed overnight into a beautiful unicorn. But, it starts to rain! Only then does Mucky discover that his true friends really don’t mind what he looks like, but care more about how he feels, which the wise owl had already tried to tell him. Using fresh colours and boldly drawn figures, with wonderfully expressive eyes, the story is illustrated sympathetically A lovely book to share with toddlers and preschoolers alike.

Lucy Russell

The Scarecrows’ Wedding

Written by Julia Donaldson

Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Alison Green   £12.99

ISBN: 9781-407144412

An endearing tale of perseverance, collaboration and loyalty, The Scarecrows’ Wedding is the latest offering from the dream team that brought us such contemporary classics as The Gruffalo, Stick Man and Room on the Broom. Bursting with all the warmth and character we have come to expect from Axel Scheffler’s illustrations, the story follows two scarecrows, deeply in love as they prepare for their wedding, with the help of various animals around the farm, including, rather eccentrically, a crab. Tension builds as the bridegroom to be, Harry O’Hay, sets off to find some flowers for the bouquet, leaving his bride, Betty O’Barley, waiting back at the farm. Harry’s journey takes longer than expected and a new, somewhat swaggering scarecrow, Reginald Rake, tries to take his place. Will Betty be wooed by Reginald’s charms? Will Harry make it back to claim his beloved bride? My three year old took great delight in the clever and witty rhymes that keep the compelling story bouncing along, and both of us enjoyed the satisfaction of a happy and romantic ending.

Rowan Stanfield

First Steps in reading for young children


Rita’s Rhino

Written and illustrated by Tony Ross

Andersen   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1783440252

Rita wants a pet, but her Mum refuses to get her one. So, Rita decides to go and get one for herself, from the Zoo. She decides on a rhinoceros. But keeping a pet rhino secret isn’t an easy thing to do and taking care of him proves to be a lot harder than she anticipated. Tony Ross excels at blending the absurd with the normality of the everyday and, as usual, it works really well. The idea of Rita sneaking a rhino unnoticed out of the zoo, covered up with a small hat and coat to hide him from observant eyes, is deliciously funny. The joys and difficulties of owning a pet are explored in a fresh and original way. Full of wit, the illustrations work well with the text, adding additional humour to the tale and providing a story which children will love to read and adults will love to share with them.

Annie Everall

Titles for the young child just beginning to Read Alone

The Witch Dog

Written by Margaret Mahy

Illustrated by Sam Usher

Orion (eB)   £4.99

ISBN: 978-1444011340

Question: How does a witch cope if she is allergic to cats? Answer: Get a dog! Mrs. Rose has trained to be a witch, having just finished her course at night school. Now that she is fully qualified she can attend the Witches’ Dance and take her newly found dog, Nightshade, with her. Unfortunately, when she arrives at the dance, the cats and owls owned by the other witches were not at all pleased to see a dog arrive. However Nightshade has an unexpected talent. This is a very unusual book. The idea that anybody’s Mum can go to night school and become a witch is quite a strange starting point for a story. It is a lovely book, with a strong storyline and is fun to read. The text is clear and the illustrations are very amusing and perfectly match the text.

Patricia Thompson

Asterix and the Picts

Written by Jean-Yves Ferri

Illustrated by Didier Conrad

Orion (eB)   £7.99

ISBN: 978-1444011692

As a child reader I devoured the Asterix graphic novels/comic books and they helped me gain reading confidence and stamina. Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad take on the mantle from Goscinny and Uderzo in this the thirty-fifth adventure for Asterix and Obelix. This time, our favourite Gauls are off to Caledonia, the land of the Picts; what we now recognise as Scotland. After being washed up frozen on the shores of Gaul, MacAroon needs help to return home and rescue his beloved. With magic potion, plenty of eating and drinking, and a little help from the Loch Ness monster, Asterix and Obelix help defeat the Roman threat in Scotland and put a stop to the evil machinations of the  MacCabees tribe. Aside from the expressive and often funny illustrations, the accompanying text is filled with the trademark combination of puns, humour and satire. This is another excellent adventure that will stand repeated readings and, I hope, make more lifelong readers.

Benjamin Scott


The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie

Written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg

Andersen   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1783441884

A feisty hamster determines to behave well when picked up in a pet shop so that he can go off to wherever all the other hamsters in his cage have disappeared to over the weeks. Hoping for adventure and excitement, he is in many ways disappointed as he is passed from one small child to another and variously mistreated or ignored. Humans do not come off well in this story, as no-one manages to care effectively for the hamster who is always, of course, in a cage of one sort of another. The illustrations are dynamic and often from an interesting point of view. Children having this book read to them will be able to get a real sense of the indignities and dangers that Sweetie Pie is put through by his various owners and will be relieved with the very satisfying ending.

Annalise Taylor

Titles for the Confident Reader in Primary School

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Written and illustrated by Jeff Kinney

Puffin (eB)   £12.99

ISBN: 978-0141354217

Ninth in the Wimpy Kid series, this latest ‘diary’ offers the winning blend of conversational, reader-engaging narrative and amusingly eloquent graphics that has ensured Jeff Kinney’s place at the top of the popularity list for children’s writers. In this story of guaranteed mayhem, Mom Heffley, inspired by her magazine Family Frolic, decides the family needs a ‘bonding’ adventure. Greg, the Wimpy Kid, whose sole wish is to relax at home after a hard summer term, once again finds himself with zero control of his life as the regular cast, Mum, Dad, Roderick, Greg and Manny prepare for the ultimate road trip that will give them ‘authentic’ family experiences. The writer’s ability to tell many incidental stories within the much longer overarching story is a skill that keeps readers wanting more. The book is packed with episodes of silly comedy, pandemonium and nightmarish situations, like lost credit cards, lost keys and a rammed car. Playing a key role in the drama is a temporarily adopted pig and an unscrupulous family of fellow travellers. Plot driven, fast-paced and hugely entertaining for children, this will be another winner for its author.

Catriona Nicholson


The Snow Leopard

Written and illustrated by Jackie Morris

Frances Lincoln   £4.99

ISBN: 978-1847805478

Rarely does such a beautifully illustrated picture book offer such a lyrical text, making the reader feel part of a creation myth of immense style and authenticity. Since time’s beginning the snow leopard has sung life into the stars, sun and moon. Weaving songs to protect them, safe in her hidden Himalayan valley, she knows that time’s passing requires her to find her successor as Mergichan singer. Below in the valley, a girl child dreams her song even as soldiers enter it, seeking gold and slaves: “High in the sacred mountains the sacred cat walked alone, cloaked in her shadow- dappled fur. Crisp snow sparkled in icy stars beneath her huge paws, and all the while she sang. Down in the valley the Child slept, and in her dream she heard the ghost cat’s secret music, and saw the shadows of her dappled coat.” The child learns from the snow leopard the protective songs of the earth, its creatures, its weather, its space, until the day when the leopard leaps off into the stars and the child, become now a full grown snow leopard, begins her own, new song. This mini-edition is a tiny wonder, fifteen centimetres by eleven, which should become beloved by all who own it.

Tina Massey

Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans

Written and illustrated by Gary Northfield

Walker (eB)   £8.99

ISBN: 978-1406354928

A slice of Roman history, as told by a zebra. Friendship, loyalty and courage among trainee gladiators, including a lion, a giraffe and a warthog. Sounds bonkers? It is, completely and utterly, bonkers, but in a very entertaining way. It’s easy enough to spot the difference between actual historical facts and the author’s manic imagination. The handy Latin glossary at the back, with an explanation of how Roman numerals work, will help young readers to impress, or perhaps mystify, their friends.

Yvonne Coppard

Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School

Blue Moon Day

Written by Anne Fine

Corgi (eB)   £6.99

ISBN: 978-0552571883

Short stories set in a particular framework. Once in a blue moon, Sam needs a day off school but today, when she fakes a stomach ache, Mum has to go to work. Sam finds herself waiting in Mum’s car while she makes her welfare visits with just a book of short stories called Away from Home - and here they are. Sam thinks she might enjoy boarding school but the characters in the stories have mixed experiences. What about being in an institution for young offenders? Or what about going to a main stream school if you are blind? And there is a very ‘Anne Fine story’ about a girl who goes to a Convent School who explains to the staff, politely, that God doesn’t exist. Between each story Sam talks to her mother so we get two stories: Sam’s and the book of school stories. We also discover why Sam needs that ‘once in a blue moon’ day and how she realises something about her mother which reassures her. Both threads give us a good read with some meat on it.

Pat Thomson


The Children who Stayed Behind

Written by Bruce Carter

Illustrated by C. Walter Hodges

Vintage Classics (R) (eB)   £5.99

ISBN: 978-1784870225

This adventure story was originally published in 1958 and the writing, the illustrations and the plot all reflect that fact. Bruce Carter, who incidentally is the father of writers Deborah Moggach and Sarah Garland, imagines what might have happened if, during the Second World War, Brighton had been evacuated due to an actual German land invasion and two families of children had somehow been left behind in the deserted town. The two families in question are the Hartfords and the Foulshams and they are sworn enemies, so some major battles have to be fought before they all unite to help two injured airmen. In fiction anything is possible, so these children are able to have amazing adventures without a parent in sight. They get to do all the things other children can only dream of doing, like driving an armoured car, having free rein on Brighton pier, getting an old steam train moving again and eating baked beans for every meal - and through all of this there is a white rabbit called Kensington to be rescued. It’s all great fun.

Jan Lennon

The Marsh Road Mysteries: Diamonds and Daggers

Written by Elen Caldecott

Bloomsbury (eB)   £5.99

ISBN: 9781-4088-47527

First in a new series of detective mysteries, it introduces us to five friends, each from a different cultural background, who join forces to solve crime. When Piotr’s Dad is accused of the theft of a diamond necklace at the theatre where he works as a security guard, Dad’s first reaction is to return to Poland taking his family with him. Piotr doesn’t want to leave his new home and friends, and so. determined to prove his Dad’s innocence and stay in Marsh Road, he leads the search for the thief. This is a fast-moving whodunit with engaging characters, an urban Famous Five with whom my young reviewers identified as they eliminated one suspect after another till they finally tracked down the villain in a satisfying climax.

Julia Jarman

Titles for Young Teenage Readers


Young Bond: Shoot to Kill

Written by Steve Cole

Doubleday (eB)   £12.99

ISBN: 978-0857533739

Following Charlie Higson’s successful series of five Young Bond novels, Steve Cole takes up the challenge of further developing the amazing youth that will become James Bond. So strongly established is the Ian Fleming character that there is little need to stray from that which is known and loved in the original novels. What was required of Steve Cole were believable characters, particularly the villains, and a plot to match. He has succeeded in spades. Despite looking for a quiet time in a new school away from ‘nasties’ at Eton, James finds himself right up to his neck in torture, corruption, murder and megalomania. Flying the Atlantic on an airship he arrives in L.A. and Hollywood and is instantly targeted by Chicago gangster and a crazed film producer. The level of violence is perhaps more like later Bond Films than anything Ian Fleming might have written. However, the reader today is of this time and things have changed considerably over the past decades. The formula of high living, memorable villains, action and suspense is all here. This is a read to be enjoyed by everyone that loves a Bond adventure, which means millions of fans worldwide will love to pick up Shoot To Kill.

Trevor Thompson

Department 19: Zero Hour

Written by Will Hill

HarperCollins (eB)   £8.99

ISBN: 978-0007505845

This absolutely amazing read, the fourth in the series, will have your heart thudding, your skin creeping and your brain on high alert. Vampirism is growing all over the world and vampires are expected to outnumber ordinary humans within ten years. The vile and overwhelmingly powerful Dracula is converting more and more humans to powerful super vampires by his bite, creating awful creatures which are immensely strong, fly at impossible speeds and are utterly pitiless. Members of Department 19 are desperately struggling to combat the rising tide of menace, which, inflated by social media sites, is also causing witch-hunts for suspected vampires and worldwide terror. Matt Browning goes to America, seeking a cure for vampirism, whilst Jamie Carpenter and his girl, Larissa, enter the deep forests of eastern Europe in search of an ancient, dangerous but potentially powerful, ally. In a plot as complex as Le Carre’s, with locations as wide-ranging as Bond’s Skyfall, the young people and their allies take to the skies, tunnels and darkest forests to engage in battles which are bloody, horror-filled, intense and incredibly fast-paced, leaving the reader serially exhausted. Well written, convincing, with unpredictable characters and a climax like the 1812 Overture on speed, with flights and completely unexpected twists, this is a tremendous achievement.

Tina Massey


Boys Don’t Knit

ISBN: 978-1471401473

An English Boy in New York

ISBN: 978-1471401497

Written by T. S. Easton

Hot Key (eB)   £6.99  

Somehow Ben Fletcher attracts trouble like a magnet, even if he never means to. His heart is in the right place but things always manage to go wrong for him, usually as a result of his friends. After an unfortunate incident with a lollipop lady, a stolen bottle of Martini from a Waitrose supermarket and a harsh judge, he very nearly gets sent to a Young Offenders Unit. To avoid this he has to agree to give something back to the community and develop his sense of social alignment, take up a hobby and stay on the straight and narrow. Because the hot teacher from his school runs the Knitting Group, one of the hobby options open to him, he opts for this, but, as usual, things don’t quite go to plan. He discovers that he has a real talent for knitting and that he loves it. Balancing his successful journey towards the Knit Fair competition finals with the need to avoid his dad and his mates uncovering his secret and bringing eternal humiliation down on his head creates a hilarious and very readable story. In the sequel, his knitting journey continues as he is invited to New York for media interviews and to take part in another knitting competition, but, yet again, his plans go awry. His idea is to use the trip for a romantic few days away with his girlfriend, Megan, but when she mysteriously pulls out, he ends up forced to take his mate, Gex, a ‘wannabe gangsta’ and all-round liability. He quickly finds that his magnetism for trouble follows him across the ocean. Written in diary form, both novels are well written, witty and with laugh-out-loud humour. Characters are well developed and there is something achingly vulnerable about Ben. Being a knitter, really added to my enjoyment of the story and my appreciation of the humour. The knitting references and analogies are spot on. Boys Don’t Knit was on the Carnegie nomination list. Both novels are excellent and reminded me of Adrian Mole. They will have great appeal to teenage boys and girls alike.

Annie Everall

Titles for More Mature readers

Black Dove, White Raven

Written by Elizabeth Wein

Electric Monkey (eB)   £7.99

ISBN: 978-1405271363

Elizabeth Wein has an admirable talent of taking fascinating characters and events which seem improbable and, through skilful writing, weaves them into an exciting, thrilling adventure. The fact that it is all based on real places, people and events makes the story all the more incredible as well as captivating and haunting. Emilia and Teo’s remarkable mothers are pilots, lovers, single parents and one is black, the other white. When Teo’s Mother Delia is tragically killed in an accident Rhoda takes the children to Ethiopia, the birthplace of Teo’s father. The descriptions of their new life on a coffee farm are as rich and colourful as the people who become their friends. An impending Italian invasion becomes a real threat to their small community and, although they try to keep out of trouble, they are soon embroiled in the conflict. Emilia uses all her ingenuity and flair, facing incredible odds to survive and unite her family. The realities of an unfair, unjust and unequal war are not spared in this engrossing and sometimes harrowing story but throughout the bonds of love and loyalty triumph across race, culture, colour and gender.

Louise Stothard


The Door That Led To Where

Written by Sally Gardner

Hot Key (eB)   £10.99

ISBN: 978-1471401084

This is a perfect fusion of time travel, murder mystery and historical novel. A. J. Flynn has failed all but one of his GCSE’s yet, despite this, he manages to get a job in a law firm. His mother is worse than useless and his mates, Leon and Slim, have similarly tough lives. But his life really starts to get complicated when he finds a key, with his name and date of birth on it, in the archives at work. When he manages to find the door that the key belongs to, he is compelled to go through it and discovers a very different London of 1830. From then on he ends up in a world of suspected murder and extreme danger, on both sides of the door. Which side of the door will he choose to stay in? An intriguing mystery with twists and turns and a clever mix of contemporary and historical.

Nicole Jordan


Rainey Royal

Written by Dylan Landis

Soho (eB)   £17.99

ISBN: 978-1616954529

Rainey Royal is the debut novel from U.S. author, Dylan Landis. It follows ten years of Rainey’s life; opening with her at age fourteen, living with her irresponsible father, Howard, a jazz musician, along with several of his musical acolytes. Rainey’s life is dysfunctional, with her frequently taking on the adult role in the father/daughter relationship. She relies on her friends, Tina and Leah, for support, but the thing that keeps her going is her desire to be an artist. She spends hours creating beautiful elaborate quilts from deceased people’s belongings. This very mature novel is very dark at times, for example, the friendship between Rainey and Gordy, her father’s best friend, and few of the characters are likable. Rainey herself has several negative traits, nevertheless you admire her strength and determination to achieve her ambition and escape from her father’s negative influence. Dylan Landis’ style of writing is distinctly staccato, as though the book is one of Rainey’s quilts, with episodes of her life stitched together to make a whole.

Jane Hall