Thursday, 29 October 2015

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

Picture Books for young children


Kipper’s Beach Ball

Written and illustrated by Mick Inkpen

Hodder (R)   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1444924022

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

Bev Archer


Fish is Fish

Written and illustrated by Leo Lionni

Andersen (R)   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1783441570

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

Annalise Taylor

First Steps in reading for young children

The Princess and the Pony

Written and illustrated by Kate Beaton

Walker   6.99

ISBN: 978-1406365382

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

Catriona Nicholson


 Titles for the young child just beginning to Read Alone

Lottie and Dottie Sow Sunflowers

Written by Claire Burgess

Illustrated by Marijke Van Veldhoven

Orion (eB)   £4.99

ISBN: 978-1444014693

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

Lucy Russell


Written and illustrated by Chris Judge

Andersen (eB)   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1783441631

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

Marianne Adey


The Enchanted Wood

Written by Enid Blyton

Illustrated by Mark Beech

Egmont   £14.99

ISBN: 978-1405276658

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

Sue Wilsher

Titles for the Confident Reader in Primary School


The Rats of Meadowsweet Farm

Written by Dick King-Smith

Illustrated by Victor Ambrus

Barrington Stoke   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1781124178

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

Patricia Thompson


Wilf the Mighty Worrier Saves the World

Written by Georgia Pritchett

Illustrated by Jamie Littler

Quercus (eB)   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1848668614

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

Patricia Thompson

Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School


Where I Belong

Written by Tara White

Tradewind   £7.95

ISBN: 978-1896580777

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

Sue Wilsher

Titles for Young Teenage Readers


Dumb Chocolate Eyes

Written by Kevin Brooks

Illustrated by Emma Shoard

Barrington Stoke   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1781124512

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

Nicholas Tucker


Titles for More Mature readers


The Year It All Ended

Written by Kirsty Murray

Allen & Unwin   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1743319413

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

Louise Stothard