The Forever Whale
Written by Sarah Lean
Illustrated by Gary Blythe
HarperCollins (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-000751222 5
This story of ten-year-old Hannah’s devotion to a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s may be too intense for some, as the ‘grandad’ in question is referred to on almost every page. But for those with the patience this thoughtful, well-written story raises major themes like the nature of memory and how best to deal with loss. These are then handed back to readers as part of an ancient mystery that young Hannah takes it upon herself to solve. Lovingly supported by her fifteen-year-old sister, Jodie, plus two caring parents, both Hannah and reader end on a positive note of understanding. Author of the previously best-selling A Dog Called Homeless, Sarah Lean is an author to watch.
Written and illustrated by Hannah Shaw
Stan Stinky is a very bored sewer. Instead of being able to spend the summer surfing the storm drains of the Bahamas, he has to stay in the boring sewer he’s lived in all his life. Even worse is the fact that his mum is making him work aboard his crazy uncle’s boat. But when his Uncle Ratts and his sidekick, Roachy, disappear, Stan finds himself on a big adventure to rescue them. This is the first in a new series by a favourite author/illustrator. It’s sharp, witty and full of the kind of toilet humour that young readers just love. Hannah Shaw’s illustrations work very well with her text, giving visual clues to what is about to happen and supporting the narrative really well. This is going to be a very popular series.
Written by Diana Wynne Jones
Illustrated by Marion Lindsay
HarperCollins (eB) £5.99
Two previously published stories brought together in a new edition from the consistently brilliant Diana Wynne Jones. In Who Got Rid of Angus Flint? three children are outraged by the antics of their father’s friend when he comes to stay with the family after his wife has left him. Totally demanding and utterly self-absorbed, Angus Flint’s tyranny over family life threatens to overwhelm them all. But then, the children step up to the plate and, with the help of some magical furniture, restore peace and harmony to their home by turning the tables, and the chairs, the piano and the carpet, on their unwelcome intruder. In Chair Person it is furniture that becomes the enemy for another family, when an old discarded armchair comes to life and refuses to be ignored. He, like Angus Flint, selfishly demands total attention and causes mayhem wherever he goes. Once again, it is the children of the family who have to step up to the rescue, with a little magical help. The illustrations are expressive and the stories are funny and well-paced, with just the right mix of magic and reality to appeal to a wide audience.
Retold by Fran Parnell
Illustrated by Sophie Fatus
Sensitive readers - beware! This reworking of a somewhat grisly folk tale from Tahiti certainly earns its place in this Monster Series for early readers. Kind and helpful, Hina, is unaware that her loving mother, Rona, turns evil when darkness falls and has a nightly habit of eating the neighbours. However, Hina’s secret love, Monoi, falls victim to Rona’s hungry rage. Hina must turn to the village chief to help defeat her mother and save Monoi. This simple, but involving, tale evokes a fairy tale’s triumph of good magic over unambiguous evil with bright, accessible illustrations. Rona’s loving mother/secret cannibal persona may disturb some young booklovers but this exciting story will suit children with an appetite for the macabre.
Jazz and Bo’s Story
Written by Sarah Hawkins
Illustrated by Artful Doodlers
Puzzle illustrations by Jason Chapman
Red Fox (eB) £4.99
The inspiration for Jazz and Bo’s Story is the real life dog and cat that lived at Battersea Dog and Cats Home. There are many books in this series which have instant appeal to animal-loving youngsters. Abi is looking forward to Christmas and asks Santa for a kitten. Her brother, Harry, thinks dogs are more interesting, but his Mum and Stepdad think two pets will be disruptive. Abi is taken to Battersea Dog and Cats Home to choose her kitten but the result is unexpected and heartwarming. The outcome is satisfying and will please the young readers. The story is illustrated with pleasant line drawings which aptly complement the text. There are tips at the end of the book on how to care for a pet along with animal-related jokes, puzzles and recipes. It is easy to read and will be enjoyed by emerging readers.
The Great Gold Robbery
Written by Jo Nesbø
Simon & Schuster £6.99
The fourth title in this Doctor Procter’s Fart Powder series of madcap adventure stories sees our hero, Nilly, and heroine, Lisa, unite again with Doctor Proctor to solve the mystery of the theft of the entire gold reserves of Norway. When the reader finds out that this consists of only one gold bar, we have an indication of the seriousness of this escapade. With their wits about them and a host of crazy gadgets invented by the illustrious Doctor Proctor, they encounter the deadly Crunch brothers and their terrifying chief, Mama Crunch. Can Nilly and Lisa save the day? Well of course they can, but readers will enjoy the crazy and amusing ways in which they manage it. Fast-paced and full of action, with black and white line drawings scattered throughout adding humour.
Maisie Hitchens: The Case of the Stolen Sixpence
Written by Holly Webb
Illustrated by Marion Lindsay
Maisie Hitchins longs to be a world-famous detective like Gilbert Carrington. She is positive that out on the streets of Victorian London, there are lots of mysteries for her to solve, if only she could find the time to investigate, but she’s always too busy running errands for her grandmother. However, one day she rescues an abandoned puppy and he leads her to her first case, when the butcher’s boy, George, is wrongly accused of stealing a sixpence. Great to see a strong and feisty little girl as the central character! The story is fun and fast-paced. The text is supported by lovely black and white illustrations by Marion Lindsay and text and illustrations together give a real feel of Victorian London. First in the series, there are now three other titles and the fifth title will be published in May.
Atticus Claw Lends a Paw
Written by Jennifer Gray
Faber & Faber (eB) £5.99
The cat is back! Once again Atticus Claw is called to battle with his old enemies, Zenia Klob, Ginger Biscuit and the Magpies. This time, however, the story is mainly set in a more exotic location. An ancient Egyptian book is stolen from the British Museum and Atticus and his friends from Atticus Claw Settles a Score, set off to find it. On the way, Atticus discovers something strange about himself and his ancestry. The story moves along at a furious pace as the team move from one crisis to another. There is plenty of mystery, action, humour and magic, which are all guaranteed to appeal to the reader.
The Warrior Sheep Go Jurassic
Written by Christine & Christopher Russell
Jelly Pie (eB) £5.99
The five sheep known as the Warriors, visit the Isle of Wight in this crazy adventure about a stolen dinosaur egg. Sandy Bay Dinosaur Museum website advertises the egg before the director realises his mistake in publicising its whereabouts. At least two criminals spot an opportunity to steal it, and a young museum employee is tempted to do the same. The sheep escape from their field to try and track down the egg and prevent both the fulfilment of an ancient sheep prophecy, and the recreation of dinosaurs that would terrorise the country. The adventure involves a hilarious chase as the sheep trample most of the entries in the Sandy Bay Grand Sandcastle Competition and continue day after day to try to intercept the handover between the young egg stealer and her accomplice. Finally, things come to a head at the Ventnor Carnival. This is a fast-paced, humorous adventure story told with skill and enthusiasm. The plot is scarcely credible but a strong storyline and effective dialogue and characterisation suspend the reader’s disbelief, creating an entertaining read.
My Brilliant Life and Other Disasters
Written by Catherine Wilkins
Illustrated by Sarah Horne
Nosy Crow (eB) £6.99
Jess is glad when she is doing the wild life project with her best friend, Natalie, but other parts of her life unravel when she has an argument over her prize cartoon. When her good friend, Lewis tells her she is being arrogant about her own drawings, should she listen? Unexpected developments in this richly comic novel lead to a satisfying end. Expressive illustrations add to the fun.
The Story of Gulliver
Written by Jonathan Coe
Illustrated by Sara Oddi
The aim of Pushkin Books is to keep classic stories alive by getting popular modern writers to abbreviate and reinvent them. Good quality paper, bold typography and atmospheric illustrations make the stories accessible in these handsome editions. Well written, they retain the strengths of the originals, without trivialising plot, character or themes. First published in 1771 Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels soon became a book for children. Child appeal in the form of giants and little people was there from the start and in many children’s editions the satire on society was down-played, but not in this version. Why are people so poor that they starve, and rich people have more than they need? Why do people make weapons not just to defend themselves but destroy others? These important questions, so relevant today, are posed in a graphic re-telling that includes Gulliver peeing on a fire to save the diminutive Lilliputians and being banished for his efforts. The Lilliputians are petty and small-minded as well as small-bodied. There’s much to appeal to children here, especially those who like to ponder big questions.