Wednesday, 16 November 2011

More November reviews

Sea Monster’s First Day by Kate Messner, Illustrated by Andy Rash
Chronicle Books, £12.99 HB, 978011875646

With a vibrant cartoon style that will appeal to pre-schoolers, Sea Monster’s first day is a rather jolly take on the familiar first day at school story. Ernest is a sea monster who finds it hard at first to settle into the new regime of school life, especially since he is bigger than everyone else. He tries to join in games and be friendly, but everyone is scared of him or shouts horrible things like “you’re extinct”. Eventually Ernest starts to have fun - counting and singing, looking at shipwrecks, eating seaweed, playing “tug-of-war” with some fishermen and making friends with a gang of sturgeon over lunch - until he admits “with a little imagination and my new friends, this new school was working out just fine”.
Clearly designed to reassure children who are starting school, it delivers a heartening message in a friendly, comical way.
Rowan Stanfield

Don’t Want to Go! Written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
Red Fox £5.99
978-1862 306707

Shirley Hughes has produced another great story in this delightful picture book which will surely become a classic. When mum is ill with ‘flu, and dad has to go to work, Lily has to go to Melanie’s house for the day. But Lily doesn’t want to go! At first she just sits under Melanie’s table hugging her toy dog, but gradually the activities of Baby Sam, Melanie, their dog Ringo, and Jack who they fetch back from school, all prove too interesting to ignore. Inevitably, by the time dad returns from work, Lily doesn’t want to go back home again.

This bright picture book is a great read-aloud. Children as young as 2 will identify with Lily’s feelings and enjoy the way the story is resolved as her confidence grows. The big bold pictures have the effect of immersing the reader into the story and the pace and length is just right to hold the attention of young toddlers, yet should also be enjoyed by older siblings. A beautifully produced simple story which will surely become a great favourite.
Liz Dubber

Bubble Trouble Written by Margaret Mahy

Illustrated by Polly Dunbar
Frances Lincoln (R) £6.99

Each and every one of Margaret Mahy’s picture books from Jam to A Busy Day for a Good Grandmother and Down the Back of the Chair, also illustrated by Polly Dunbar, are classics and a delight to read. It is a special pleasure to discover this new and exciting publication. Bubble Trouble is a rhyming mouthful of bubbles - wonderful rhyme and rhythm, alliterations and a tongue twister challenge make this book great fun to read aloud.

“Little Mabel blew a bubble and it caused a lot of trouble,
Such a lot of bubble trouble in a bibble-bobble way,
For it broke away from Mabel as it bobbed across the table,
Where it bobbled over Baby, and it wafted him away.”

Baby likes the sensation of being wafted away by a wobbling bubble but Mabel and her Mother are not so calm and a chase around the neighbourhood begins. The children next door join in, the elderly couple walking down the lane become aware of the danger, a jogger, the chapel choir and a mischievous boy called Abel all tag along as the bubble - with Baby happily inside - bounces higher and higher over the town. Abel saves the day, more by luck than judgement, and baby is reunited with his Mother and Sister.
Polly Dunbar’s gentle illustrations, in muted hues with splashes of vivid red and purple, are as magical as the text. The variety of characters are conveyed with clever and accurate pen lines which bring out all their warmth and humour.
As ever Margaret Mahy mixes family life with glorious fantasy and her books are a treasure to share.
Louise Stothard

Don’t Panic Annika Written by Juliet Clare Bell
Illustrated by Jennifer E Morris
Piccadilly £6.99
Any child, or parent, who is prone to needless panicking, will benefit from reading Don’t Panic Annika. Annika can’t help getting in a flap. She panics at the slightest thing e.g. getting her zip stuck on the way to a party or losing her favourite toy (which she does regularly). Her family try various methods to help calm her down “count to ten, really slowly” etc, but Annika still panics. Until one day when something terrible happens and everyone else starts to panic, while Annika remains calm. This is a funny, but realistic story about the things that small children find to worry about. Young children will easily be able to follow the story. Especially with the bright and amusing illustrations which perfectly complement the text. However, parents may wish to initially share the book with their child to help emphasise the message of what to do when things don’t run smoothly. With key words and phrases repeated throughout, Don’t Panic Annika is ideal for boys and girls who are learning to read alone.
Jane Hall

Theodore Boone Written by John Grisham
Hodder & Stoughton £6.99
Theodore Boone is the first book for 8-12-year-olds from best-seller John Grisham. Thirteen-year-old Theo is obsessed with the law. His parents are lawyers, his dog is named Judge and his favourite pastime is visiting the local courthouse. The big case there at the moment is a murder trial in which the accused looks certain to be acquitted of murdering his wife. Then Theo is told in confidence that someone he knows saw the murderer leaving the house, but is unwilling to come forward. Theo is faced with a dilemma; break a confidence, or let a guilty man go free. Theo is an odd hero. A teenager with adult interests, he has little in common with his classmates, frequently offering them legal advice. Yet one can’t help but warm to him, as his enthusiasm for the law is infectious. The murder trial initially appears cut and dried, but the pace increases when Theo discovers the new witness and there is the race against time to persuade him to come forward. Whilst a legal story runs the risk of being too dry for this age group, with Grisham cutting through the legal jargon to keep it compelling, Theodore Boone is not guilty!

Jane Hall

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