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