Friday, 16 March 2018

Reviews Extra Spring 2018

Picture Books for young children

Mouse House
Written and illustrated by John Burningham
Jonathan Cape £11.99
ISBN: 978-0857551771

John Burningham is a masterly picture book creator. His apparently artless lines, containing only softly shaded images, draw your attention while his words point your thinking. A family live in this house - a father, a mother, a boy and a girl. They believe it to be theirs, but, while they sleep, mice come out to play. Cheerful images show umbrella-holding parachuting mice, footballing mice and a family as caring and happy as the human one. When mother sees a mouse, she protectively lifts one leg and holds close her skirt in a very human response. Father, though, calls a mouse-catcher as the children leave a warning note for their mouse friends. The moving, wordless illustration of the mouse exodus reminds you of wartime photographs of evacuees or families being transported to concentration camps. It makes you unexpectedly ashamed of the adults’ lack of empathy. Later, the children welcome the chance to make playthings for their mouse friends until autumn sees them leave once more, though an unexpected ending gives hope for the future. A warm, wise and beautiful book from an expert in his field. Highly recommended.
Tina Massey

Written by Mick Inkpen
Illustrated by Chloe Inkpen
Hodder £6.99
ISBN: 978-1444929539

Fred was introduced to young readers in a previous title, I Will Love You Anyway, so you may already be a fan of this adorable little puppy. Having mastered a few of the basics, such as Fetch, Sit and Stay, Fred’s education continues as he struggles to master what the word Fred actually means. It’s a simple idea, beautifully executed. If you love dogs and appreciate comical, rhyming text beautifully complementing expertly crafted, endearing illustrations, you’ll love this. Another masterpiece from this very talented father and daughter partnership.
Yvonne Coppard

His Royal Tinyness
Written by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Illustrated by David Roberts
Walker £12.99
ISBN: 978-1406324662

This “terrible true story” is told by Princess Marianna, a little girl who lives happily in a wonderful land where there is always time for stories and there is always room on a mother’s lap. She feels like a princess, but, everything changes when another very small person arrives in the kingdom/family and demands everyone’s full-time attention. The whole kingdom/family has obviously fallen under some enchantment. Our beautiful and talented princess feels usurped and cruelly mistreated, but all attempts to win back her former position in the kingdom/family fail and the new very small person remains, just as noisy and smelly and regally attention-seeking as ever. A change of approach is needed. This absolutely delightful story, with its hilarious colour illustrations, demonstrates the problems that can occur when parents decide that one child is not enough. Any family that has more than one child will recognise this situation, but thankfully, princesses usually manage to live happily ever after.
Jan Lennon

Hibernation Hotel
Written by John Kelly
Illustrated by Laura Brenlla
Little Tiger £11.99
ISBN: 978-1848696754

Winter is on its way, so Bear settles down for a cosy hibernation. However, he soon gets very annoyed by the stinks, sounds and general squashedness, all caused by his fellow animal friends. With that in mind, he books himself into a hotel for the winter, but soon finds that what he thought he wanted isn’t as brilliant as he had anticipated. Gorgeous illustrations really set off this laugh-out-loud story of friendship. Sneaky animals, hidden along the way, add a lovely layer to this funny and interactive story. Perfect for children who regularly find excuses not to go to sleep.
Rebecca Watts

The Great Gran Plan
Written by Elli Woollard
Illustrated by Steven Lenton
Macmillan £6.99
ISBN: 978-1447254799

When he realises that he can't get to the little pig, who is safe in his brick house, the hungry bad wolf turns his attention to Plan B, “Gobble Red Riding Hood's Gran - nice and hot.” On discovering this, Pig sets off to save the day. Fabulously funny, this lovely story links Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs in a brilliant new tale. Told using carefully chosen vocabulary, the rhyming text is ideal for reading aloud with plenty of opportunities for children to join in as they become familiar with the story. The illustrations are an absolute joy. Full of little details and plenty of references to other traditional tales, they will be enjoyed again and again. With little jokes, like a family picture of the little pigs playing piggy-in-the-middle, PIG E as the little pig's number plate, the naked Emperor leaving The Emporium of New Clothes and fairy-powered street lamps, each spread has so much to explore and discover. Brilliant fun.
Sue Wilsher

Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School

Fox Friend
Written by Michael Morpurgo
Barrington Stokes £5.99
ISBN: 978-1781127506

In this unflinching short story, Michael Morpurgo tackles the difficult relationship between people and foxes in the countryside. Clare sees the beauty in the creatures, while her livestock-farming father sees the foxes as pests and believes that the only good fox is a dead fox. When Clare finds an orphaned cub after the fox-hunt has passed, she decides to secretly raise him on her own and names him Larry. He grows stronger and bigger until Clare knows the day has come to set him free. When the story ends tragically for Larry, was Clare’s kindness towards the fox cub appropriate or worth it? Fox Friend makes a useful starting point for a range of topics for parents and teachers. At the back, Michael Morpurgo shares how his own farm inspired the story and how thousands of children have benefited from the Farms for City Children scheme.
Benjamin Scott

Titles for Young Teenage Readers

The Beast is an Animal
Written by Peternelle van Arsdale
Simon & Schuster £7.99
ISBN: 978-1471160455

The land of Byd is haunted by an evil presence. The Beast is the subject of an old rhyme, which is used to warn children of the dangers of wandering out at night. But when death comes to the village where Alys lives, it is two mysterious twin sisters, the soul eaters, who are the cause, and not the Beast. Seven-year-old Alys is left an orphan and, through the kindness of a stranger, makes her way to the next village to begin a new life. But it turns out to be more prison than sanctuary. This is a complicated story. Alys is an unusual child who appears to have special powers and some kind of unexplained connection to the twin sisters - something which she fears, yet cannot resist. We watch her grow almost to adulthood, when the story quickens to a final crisis. Alys’ character is well developed and she earns our sympathy. The plot develops at a steady pace until the climax, when it seems to career out of control. However, a resolution is eventually reached, and so ends a good read which should be enjoyed by fantasy fans.
Liz Dubber

Titles for More Mature Young Adults

Everybody Hurts
Written by Joanna Nadin and Anthony McGowan
Atom £6.99
ISBN: 978-0349002910

This is a dual narrative story which works really well. It all starts in a hospital canteen where Matt and Sophia first meet and a spark of attraction between them is ignited. Sophia is an outpatient in remission from cancer, Matt is an opportunist looking for a girl to seduce. They are from completely different backgrounds, face opposition from friends and family and struggle with their feelings for each other. This is a story of teenage love with all of its angst, torments and intense feelings. The characters are interesting, including the supporting ones like Jango with his bullying tactics and his well-hidden heart of gold. The writing is excellent, and the storyline is funny and moving, if a bit cheesy at times, but in a nice way.
Ingrid Fox

Information Titles

The Great Big Body Book
Written by Mary Hoffman
Illustrated by Ros Asquith
Frances Lincoln £8.99
ISBN: 978-1847806871

Our bodies are all basically the same, but, at the same time, each body is unique. This fun and informative book reassures children, in very simple language, that there is no such thing as normal and that we are all amazing. We see that our bodies are constantly changing either through illness, injury or just through the inevitable ageing process. Puberty, gender-identity and death are all included in an age appropriate manner. The entertaining watercolour illustrations reflect the diversity of the world in which we live. Some people are larger than others, everyone has differently coloured skin and some have special needs, but we all need to take care of our bodies in the same way. This is a superb introduction to a young child’s knowledge of themselves, and the people around them, and parents and teachers will find it a useful tool for opening discussions with older children too. (4+)
Jan Lennon

In Focus: Cities
Written by Libby Walden
360 Degrees £15.99
ISBN: 978-1848575912

Children are invited to explore ten famous cities around the world in this strikingly large book. Ten different illustrators have each taken a city, including London, Tokyo, Sydney and Moscow, to depict in their own way, using colours which reflect the climate and building materials. Each opening introduces the city, with an introduction, an overview of iconic buildings and two fold-out pages. Under these large flaps can be found snippets of information about famous sights, historical happenings, culture and customs. Containing quite a variety of details, including the quirky and unusual, this a very appealing book, ideal for dipping into, as well as providing a source for research. (5+)
Jayne Gould

10 Reasons to Love a Turtle
Written by Catherine Barr
Illustrated by Hanako Clulow
Frances Lincoln £9.99
ISBN: 978-1847809407

This delightful book, with its cut out front cover, systematically and successfully sets out to persuade young readers that turtles are indeed special creatures worthy of respect and protection. Ten main facts are explored about their journeys between feeding and nesting places, how they save sand dunes, cry real tears, have different shaped jaws and beautiful shells, make homes for other sea creatures, can hold their breath for hours, grow very slowly living long and are as ancient as the dinosaurs. All information is beautifully illustrated and labelled appropriately to maximise clarification and interest. Published in association with the Natural History Museum in London, this book embodies creativity and fact. It could be aptly placed in both non-fiction and picture book sections of a library. Look out for the other titles in the same series which also give us ten reasons to love such creatures as the whale, the bear and the elephant. (6+)
Gill Roberts

The Story of You
Written by Anna Claybourne
Wayland £9.99
ISBN: 978-1526300263

The Story of You is an excellent overview of DNA and human consciousness. We are all the same, but different and unique. The opening spread begins “Wherever you go, whatever you do, one thing always stays the same - you’re you! As long as you live, you’ll be inside your body, looking out at the world, with your own thoughts and ideas, likes and dislikes, feelings, hopes and dreams.” Different sections of the book, entitled Your Body, Your Mind, Your Personality and Your Family Tree are bound to intrigue any bright inquisitive child. The science behind all these concepts is very complex but Anna Claybourne’s text manages to make them accessible and interesting for young readers. (9+)
Paul Dowswell

Monday, 30 October 2017

Reviews Extra Autumn/Winter 2017

Picture Books for young children

Rockabye Pirate
Written by Timothy Knapman
Illustrated by Ada Grey
Bloomsbury   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1408849392

When night falls it is time for all sleepy little pirates to go to bed, for loot-filled lullabies and dreams of buried treasure. Mummy Pirate rounds up all those fearsome seafarers as they tie up their ships for the night, have their supper and a bath, cuddle up for a story and then snuggle under their Jolly Roger duvets. With its gentle rhymes and entertaining pictures in subdued colours this is a lovely bedtime story for all young buccaneers.
Jayne Gould

 The Nut Stayed Shut
Written and illustrated by Mike Henson
Templar   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1783706938
Have you ever had a nut you couldn’t crack? Rodney, the champion ‘kung fu’ style nut-cracker, clearly has never met such a stubborn nut before. He tries everything - from hammers to rhinoceros poo, an elephant, and even TNT - but nothing works. His fury is reflected in the text and the illustrations, and he eventually is forced to give up his efforts. However, it seems that if you wait long enough, the nut will crack by itself. The bold illustrations in this picture book reflect Rodney’s frustration at the nut’s refusal to crack. Young children will enjoy the story but be warned - with repeated efforts to bash the nut with the increasingly crazy tools Rodney tries to use, this is more likely to provoke rowdy play than encourage conversation, questions or quietness. Adults are advised not to save this one for bedtime!
Liz Dubber

 Sir Ned and the Nasties
Written by Brett McKee
Illustrated by David McKee
Andersen   £11.99
ISBN: 978-1783445349

This rhyming tale has an unusual twist as the brave knight, Sir Ned, heads to the woods to vanquish the Nasties who are making the King ill with their terrible noise, and frightening the villagers too. Ned is offered some unexpected help on the way from a witch, a wolf and a troll, but soon learns who to trust when they reach the Nasties’ hidden cave. Warm, rich illustrations accompany the amusing, often laugh-out-loud, story which celebrates how noise can be turned into lovely, powerful sound and the ending is delightfully unexpected.
Louise Stothard

Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School

The Adventures of Hermes, God of Thieves
Written by Murielle Szac
Translated by Mika Provata-Carlone
Pushkin   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1782691303

Hermes, son of Zeus and Maia, is born walking, talking and questioning the world. As he explores Olympus, home of the ancient Greek gods, his adventures reveal their nature and lives. He learns of the powers of Zeus, the nature of his brother Apollo and how to survive in Olympus. We learn how each god came into being, the loves, jealousies and powers they possess and how Hermes needs to tread carefully to avoid their anger and be useful to them. Writing of exceptional clarity and quality explores the stories of Pandora, Prometheus, Persephone, Jason, Medea and all those vaguely remembered characters, both memorably and startlingly. Written in short, clearly headed chapters, these strange and wonderful tales will resonate with Harry Potter and other fantasy fans who wonder, “What was a centaur?” Extraordinary stories from a publisher offering the best of children’s writing from a range of cultures.
Tina Massey

How to Stage a Catastrophe
Written by Rebecca Donnelly
Curious Fox   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1782025986

This entertaining story is about a group of friends who desperately want to save their ramshackle theatre from closing down. Sidney Camazzola has ambitions to be the director of the Juicebox Children’s Theatre when he grows up, but the on-going financial crisis it is in, means it could be gone long before then. Working together with his best friend Folly, an aspiring businessman, as well as members of his family and other friends involved with the theatre, they come up with a plan to save the Juicebox. But, as any director can tell you, not everything happens according to the script. Despite on-stage disasters, misunderstandings and a possible crime being committed, Sidney’s enthusiasm remains undiminished as he takes the reader through three acts and an intermission.
Jayne Gould

Titles for Young Teenage Readers

Written by Anthony McGowan
Barrington Stoke   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1781127230

The first chapter is told from the perspective of the young rook. He is flying free with his friends until caught and hurt by a sparrow hawk. Kenny, who has special needs, rescues ‘Rookee’ and despite the scepticism of his brother, Nicky, is determined to keep the young bird alive. Nicky has greater things to worry about - bullying at school, low self-esteem and a burgeoning crush on a girl. Rook is the last in the trilogy from Anthony McGowan, following Brock and Pike. Each story deals with the difficulties and problems that Nicky and Kenny have to face as teenagers growing up in a confusing world. As with all Barrington Stoke books these three short novels are written on cream paper, with clear typeface and short chapters. The stories are unusual, full of feeling and the characters will resonate with the reader.
Ingrid Fox

And Then We Ran
Written by Katy Cannon
Stripes   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1847157997

Megan and Elliott have been best friends most of their lives but the death of Megan’s sister, in a reckless accident that rocked their small seaside community, has created a gulf between them. Now, they are both trying to escape the weight of this history and the shadows cast by their families. When Meg realises that an inheritance, held in trust for her, can be claimed early if she marries, a crazy plan is born – elopement to Gretna Green. Her proposal to Elliott is business-like - a marriage of convenience. But life has very few clean, simple decisions, as Megan and Elliott are about to discover, on a journey that is not purely geographical. A really engaging, romantic story that also explores the teenage struggle for freedom, identity and belonging.
Yvonne Coppard

The Guggenheim Mystery
Written by Robin Stevens
Puffin   £9.99
ISBN: 978-0141377025

Based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd, this sequel to her The London Eye Mystery has been carefully and skilfully created by Robin Stevens. It continues the adventures of Ted Spark and his sister, Kat, when they visit their cousin, Salim, who has moved to New York with his mum. Robin Stevens is a successful, award-winning mystery writer and she uses her expertise to take on the legacy and challenge of the late Siobhan Dowd and the three words of the title she left behind. Aunt Gloria has a new job as curator of the Guggenheim Museum and, on the day the youngsters visit, a famous painting is stolen. There are no obvious clues, and the police are puzzled. Ted has what he calls, “a funny brain which works on a different operating system to other people’s”, and he is good at noticing things and seeing patterns and connections. Robin Stevens has sensitively recreated the various individual aspects of Siobhan Dowd’s attractive characters and captured the atmosphere and excitement of New York very successfully.
Louise Stothard

Titles for More Mature Young Adults

The Red Abbey Chronicles: Maresi
Written by Maria Turtschaninoff
Translated by A.A. Prime
Pushkin   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1782690924

This haunting story is a compelling read and resonates long after the last page has been read. Maresi’s family send her to live with the sisterhood at The Red Abbey, on a remote island populated by women. Each has their role to play, but the delights and rewards of learning are far more important to Maresi. The descriptions of life on the island, harvesting mussels, dyeing fabric, and the daily rituals are detailed, and the characters of the sisters and novices varied and attractive. Several are seeking refuge and when the mysterious, silent and scarred Jai joins them, Maresi knows she has a harsh story she is not telling. Jai gradually settles into the rhythm of life at the abbey, but the threat to them all is not far away. When tragedy strikes, the women use all their resourcefulness and strength to save their family. But it is Maresi’s determination to take all she has learnt at the abbey back to her homeland that is remarkable, and will be the source of a new story.
Louise Stothard

Information Titles

Where Will I Live?
Written by Rosemary McCarney
New Internationalist   £9.99
ISBN: 978-1772600285
A timely antidote to our hate-filled tabloids, reminding young readers that the ‘swarms’ and ‘cockroaches’ they may have seen in their family newspapers and on TV are actually real people, just like them. This book will help to realise that they are fleeing from terrifying events and circumstances that we in the West can barely imagine. One large picture per page and simple text make this book an accessible, easy read. One hopes it will inspire empathy, and possibly a desire to help, in its young readers. (6+)
Paul Dowswell

Crazy about Cats
Written and illustrated by Owen Davey
Flying Eye   £12.99
ISBN: 978-1911171164

The third title in a series by this talented author/illustrator, following Mad about Monkeys, and Smart about Sharks, is just packed full of valuable information about big cats. Unusually for a non-fiction title, there are no photographs in this book, instead pages are filled with dynamic illustrations which are slick, with clean lines and a feel of mid-century style about them. The genius here is that despite the intense stylization, the illustrations remain true to the natural form and features of the animals and landscapes depicted in the book. The book is beautifully produced on thick matt paper, making the whole piece a work of art. The text features general topics expected by a reader such as camouflage, adaptations and feeding, as well as introducing the reader to less well-known species and exploring the relationship between big cats and humans. There is some technical and scientific language used which, along with the level of detail, makes this a book for young confident readers. (8+)
 Lucy Russell

The School of Music
Written by Meurig and Rachel Bowen
Illustrated by Daniel Frost
Wide Eyed   £14.99
ISBN: 978-1847808608

In just 40 lessons, this ambitious and comprehensive book goes from discussing types of music - from A Capella to zydeco - to composing and sharing music with others. With a faculty of expert musicians to guide and teach the reader, Term 1 explores types of music and how they’re made, including lots of non-Western instruments and styles, while Term 2 teaches the building blocks of music from rhythm, notes and harmony to musical notation and direction. Finally, Term 3 helps readers think about creating music in different ways, from creating a kitchen orchestra to learning and performing with different instruments. Sounds daunting, but each lesson is bite-sized, colourfully illustrated and includes an easy to perform activity to further understanding. Some lessons come with online musical resources. The School of Music is a valuable resource for children learning to sing or play an instrument. For children who don’t think they are musical, the authors leave the reader in no doubt that anyone can create music - it just takes patience and practice. 9+
Benjamin Scott

The Teenage Guide to Friends
Written by Nicola Morgan
Walker   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1406369779

Fans of The Teenage Guide to Stress and Blame My Brain will welcome this latest title from Nicola Morgan. As with her previous books, this one addresses the teenage reader in a warm, wise and direct tone. The purpose of the book is to reassure young people that any difficulties they are experiencing in the area of friendship are not abnormal and will not last for ever, whilst also giving them practical suggestions for how to improve their situation. Nicola Morgan also explores specific topics such as online friendships, negative or toxic friendships and how to manage peer pressure. The emphasis is always on good information, balanced advice and reassurance. By explaining some different personality types and considering the kinds of things that might be preoccupying others, she is both encouraging the reader to reflect upon their own personality traits as well as think about how others might be feeling. There is an excellent Further Reading section at the end of the book that encourages readers to extend their reading and learning, and notes the importance of being discerning about sources and having a balanced approach to online research. Highly recommended. (13+)
Annalise Taylor

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