Monday, 13 April 2009

A clutch of book reviews...

That’s Not My Puppy... Written by Fiona Watt
Illustrated by Rachel Wells Usborne Touchy-Feely £5.99

Touching and feeling are an essential part of the way babies explore the world. This very special edition celebrates ten years of a series designed to develop sensory awareness and an early ear for language. A hairy coat is rejected on the cover, as are fluffy tails, bumpy paws, shiny collars, shaggy ears and squashy noses. All the pictures are bright and lively offering different textures to explore, and the book is made in strong materials that will last.

Jenny Blanch

My Little Prayer Board Book Written and compiled by Christina Goodings
Illustrated by Melanie Mitchell
Lion Children’s Books £4.99

As part of the winding down procedure, prior to sleeping, this book may well become an essential item. With bright colours, and familar objects drawn in clear lines, the text offers the traditional appeal of strong rhyme and rhythm which makes them easy to remember after a few readings joining-in becomes a familiar pattern. Gentle verses reflect activities shared during the day - getting-up, going out and about, playing with other children - before quietly
reflecting on night-time and going to sleep.

Jenny Blanch

Curious Clownfish Written by Eric Maddern
Illustrated by Adrienne Kennaway
Frances Lincoln £6.99

This story is as fresh and appealing as when it was first published almost twenty years ago. Baby Clownfish wants a life that is different and more adventurous than that of the rest of her family, who live timidly within Anemone’s tentacles. So, with a swish and a swirl, she swims off through the coral, to face the big brave reef world. She meets up with various sea-creatures, and each encounter brings with it a new experience - and danger. The text is alliterative and rhythmic, and set against vivid backgrounds of sea and coral through which all sorts of creatures swim into view. Each species that Clownfish encounters looms large on the page, reaching centre stage in a blast of bold patterns and striking colour. A non-fiction page on coral reefs and the creatures that live in them concludes this attractive book.

Anne Faundez

The Church Mouse Written and illustrated by Graham Oakley
Templar Publishing £10.99

The first edition of this tale appeared thirty seven years ago. New parents and grandparents may well recall their delight when they first heard the adventures of Arthur, the church mouse, who determined to enlarge and liven up his life in the closed ecclesiastical community where his diet was restricted and his opportunities for fun so limited.
Oakley’s pictures are a joy, ranging from sweeping panoramic views to intimate close-ups with lots of dramatic incidents to engage and delight the young observer. The text is equally generous. Here is an author who knows that growing minds can be stretched and challenged by references which lie outside their limited experience, and with language which is new to them but makes increasing sense because of the context in which the absorbing encounters are placed.
Sumptuous and bursting with life, colour and humour, this book is a ready reminder that the very best stories for young children carry within them the promise of happiness.

Jack Ousbey

Sheep in Wolves Clothing Written and illustrated by Satomi Kitamura
Andersen Press £5.99

This is a welcome reprint of the hilarious 1995 publication - it’s just as funny today!
One morning in late summer Georgina jumps over the fence and voices her intention of taking ‘the last swim of the year’ then extends an invitation to Hubert. Of course he can’t refuse and soon Gogol is part of the expedition too, speeding them along in his expensive convertible so that Georgina happily exclaims ‘I love to feel the wind fluffing my wool’.
Little do they realise then that carefree times are to be short-lived. First there’s the hiccup of the car breakdown, then the antics of the conniving wolves, the intervention of Captain Bleat, followed by Detective Elliott Baa, but there’s lots of fun and a comforting optimism even in these exhausting and perilous times. Ultimately they are resigned to what must be, and contentedly make-do with temporary rig-outs, to which the other sheep do not even baat an eye!

Gill Roberts

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Pop-Up Book Written and illustrated by Eric Carle Puffin £14.99

To celebrate forty years this classic title has been released with even more dimensional appeal. The reader joins in by moving the central character along the leaves and through the fruits until finally transforming into a stunning luminescent creature. Sit back and wonder at the visual spectacle you have helped to create.

Mike Simkin

Soldier Boy Written by Anne Rooney
Evans : Sharp Shades £4.99

When Martin’s younger brother digs up a bone in the garden, it sets off a creepy chain of events. The tension and mystery build right up to the satisfactory conclusion. Black and white photographic illustrations adds dramatically to the atmosphere. The writing is simple yet compelling - a great read.

Jackie Marchant

Watch Over Her Written by Dennis Hamley
Evans Sharp Shades £4.99

When two dodgy lads arrive at the Alderman Wix estate looking for their old auntie before the last crumbling flats are demolished, a chatty old chap is happy to help, correcting the name they gave him and telling them of Mrs Cattermole’s ‘Treasure’. Using the Water Board as cover to gain entry, the two lads discover where the old lady keeps her money and then leave. Mrs Cattermole, meanwhile, dreams about kind children who run and skip and play and visit each day to hear her stories. These children are not happy to learn about the Water Board checking the tap in the ‘Treasure’ cupboard, and when they return, undercover of darkness with an iron bar to persuade the old lady to release her savings tin, the dream children come to her aid in a startling and unexpected way to calm and soothe her. The investigating police find three bodies and Mrs Cattermole’s ‘Treasure’ plus an explanation, making this a completely satisfying short and illustrated story for older, less than enthusiastic readers.

Tina Massey

Four of Rod Sterling’s The Twilight Zone have been adapted by Mark Kneece and issued in graphic novel format by Bloomsbury at £7.99 each. Originally broadcast in 1959 as part of the cult-classic TV series, they are now available for fans, and a new audience, to enjoy the supernatural, thrilling and chilling tales in this accessible format.
Each contains a story that defies the realms of possibility!

The After Hours Illustrated by Rebekah Issacs ISBN 9780747587897
A department store is not as it seems

The Monsters are due on Maple Street Illustrated by Rich Ellis ISBN 9780747587910
People are plunged into darkness as a meteor passes overhead.

The Odyssey of Flight 33 Illustrated by Robert Grabe ISBN 9780747587880
An aeroplane gets caught on a tailwind that sends it hurtling through time.

Walking Distance Illustrated by Dove McHargue ISBN 9780747587873
A man drives back to the town of his birth and finds it exactly as it was when he was a child.

Existing fans will enjoy these books as the illustrations retain the spirit of the originals, but remember, these are not comics - they may be disturbing and are for mature readers.

Davy Hall aged 14 years

Monday, 6 April 2009

Fair's Fair by Leon Garfield

It is good to see this short, well-written novel first published in 1981 being reprinted. Just a shame that Wayland have chosen to use the illustrated version first published in 1990 as the illustrations strike me as particularly unappealing. Issued as part of the Gripping Tales series and good for those just starting to Read Alone.
Wayland £4.99 978-0-7502-5651-3