Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Another 12 great reviews! See issue 65 for over 100 more :)

Picture Books for young children

Solomon and Mortimer
Written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner
Macmillan   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1509830459
Solomon and Mortimer are two bored crocodiles. They decide it would be fun to play a trick on Hippo, while he is wallowing in the water. They will surprise him, make him jump and create a big splash in the water to make them laugh. But they find that Hippo is smart and neatly turns the tables on them making everyone laugh. Another joyful picture book form this well-loved Kate Greenaway medal-winning author/illustrator. As always, the story is great and the illustrations work so perfectly with the text, offering additional dimensions and humour seen only through the pictures.
Annie Everall

Captain McGrew Wants You for His Crew!
Written by Mark Sperring
Illustrated by Ed Eaves
Bloomsbury   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1408871034
Do you think a pirate’s life is for you? Yes, then set sail with Captain McGrew. But, maybe you’ll find pirating isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Told in humorous verse with engaging illustrations to match, Captain McGrew’s greedy, demanding ways make for a lively and entertaining read. As the story develops, it soon becomes apparent that working for him will not be all sun, sea and piracy. In fact, piracy may in fact be a lot of hard work. Mark Sperring and Ed Eaves have teamed up to create a fun story with a surprising conclusion. Best polish up those pirate accents!
Rebecca Watts

My Donkey Benjamin
Written by Hans Limmer
Illustrated by Lennart Osbeck
Translated by Elke Wakefield
ISBN: 978-1925228489
My Pig Paulina
Written by Hans Limmer
Illustrated by David Crossley
Translated by Elke Wakefield
ISBN: 978-1925228496
Scribe UK   £10.99 each
These two charming books show how a family, living in a Mediterranean island village, find and then adopt two lost farm creatures, a baby donkey and a baby pig.  The story of how each is discovered is described in simple text on each page, and is illustrated by delightful black and white photographs. The donkey is discovered on the beach by toddler, Susi, and her father. Photographs document how they bring the donkey home and how Susi befriends and feeds him until they become firm friends and playmates. The second book tells a similar story about a pig, found a few years later, this time by Susi’s younger sister, Angelika, by this time herself a toddler.  The piglet is wandering near the village tied up in a sack, and Angelika brings him home and cares for him until his owner finds him and wants him back to take to the butcher. She runs away with the pig to a nearby cave, and, fortunately, by the time they are found, the pig has been reprieved. Two delightful stories about young children’s relationships with animals.  The village setting will be very unfamiliar to most children and illustrate a way of life now even rarer than when these were first published. Nevertheless, both stories would make good read-alouds for young children and parents.
Liz Dubber

First Steps in reading for young children

Babar’s Guide to Paris
Written and illustrated by Laurent de Brunhoff
Abrams   £11.99
ISBN: 978-1419722899
Babar, the elephant, has a daughter called Isabelle and she is going to Paris. As it is his favourite city, one he has visited many times, he tells her about some of the places to visit and how to make the most of the experience. From drinking coffee at a pavement cafĂ©, to what to wear and taking the Metro to see the sights, the essence of Parisian life is captured in this genial guidebook for young travellers. Families planning a visit could use this as a starting point of what to expect, though I suspect the streets and public spaces are today a little more crowded than depicted here. A good companion to other books such as Salvatore Robbino’s A Walk in Paris. Laurent de Brunhoff continues to build on his father’s work by creating new adventures for the much-loved Babar, using the same distinctive style and palette.
Jayne Gould

Titles for the young child just beginning to Read Alone

All About Ella
Written by Sally Nicholls
Illustrated by Hannah Coulson
Barrington Stoke   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1781125335
Ella’s teacher has been reading the poem Monday’s Child is Fair of Face to the class. Ella wants to know what day of the week she was born on, so that she will know what kind of child she is. But Ella’s older brother is very sick and her family’s attention is focused on him. No-one seems to know what day she was born on and Ella is feeling that no-one cares about her. However, through the course of a week, she comes to learn more about herself and to understand that there is more to a person than just the day of the week they were born on. Another title in the Barrington Stoke Little Gems series. These titles are all of a very high standard and written by some of the best authors writing for children today. This one explores family relationships in a way that gets its message across to a young reader very well. The books in this series, and indeed all those on Barrington Stokes’ list as a whole, are designed to be dyslexia-friendly and to encourage children to discover the joys of reading.
Annie Everall

Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School

Written by Mary Hoffman
Barrington Stoke   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1781125656
The story is set in Pisa, 1299. Netta’s father is a successful architect, commissioned to identify why Pisa’s famous tower is leaning and how it can be corrected. Netta is his only surviving child. She has inherited his passion for architecture, and his talents, but in thirteenth century male-dominated Italy being a girl is enough to seal her expected destiny. The mystery of ‘The Leaning Tower’ and Netta’s determination to persuade her father to take her talents seriously combine to weave a pacey, informative tale. Mary Hoffman’s love of Italy and her trademark commitment to female characters, especially who neither submit nor surrender, shine through.
Yvonne Coppard

Titles for Young Teenage Readers

The Last Thing You Said
Written by Sara Biren
Abrams   £10.99
ISBN: 978-1419723049
Set in a small town in the USA, this is a story of the impact of a death on the lives of people within that community. Lucy and Trixie have been best friends from a very young age. Lucy has also been in love with Trixie’s brother, Ben, for as long as she can remember and his feelings for her are mutual although neither has talked to each other about this. But then, last summer, their lives changed in an instant. Trixie and Lucy’s brother go swimming while Ben and Lucy are flirting with each other, and about to shyly admit their feelings for one another, when tragedy strikes. Trixie has a heart attack and she dies in the water. Following her death, his pain and grief causes Ben to verbally lash out at Lucy and fracture their friendship and burgeoning relationship. As the one year anniversary of her death approaches, both are still in love with each other but have drifted apart to protect themselves from the pain and grief they are still feeling. A well-written story which explores the pain of grief and loss and the power of first love. Gently told, characters develop realistically and are well rounded. The description is excellent, capturing the feel and sense of a tightly knit family within a small-town community.
Annie Everall

Take the Key and Lock Her Up
Written by Ally Carter
Orchard   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1408334409
“When the screams come, I can’t be sure that I’m not dreaming.” Ally Carter certainly knows how to start a story, and her fiercely independent, indomitable, if troubled, hero Grace will appeal to lots of teens seeking a role model as well as providing a thoroughly good read. In this third of the Embassy Row series, Grace uncovers much about her birth and the family secrets which will put her in opposition to a powerful secret society and threaten her life. She must move rapidly to protect her brother and her family from a state whose existence is threatened by them, which believes that their deaths will preserve the status quo and even peace in Europe. Grace makes rapid decisions, even when they are wrong, takes no nonsense from anyone and strikes out for what she believes in, supported by a group of friends and a love interest, Alexei. (He says and does little, but is, obviously, gorgeous.) There are many twists and turns to the story, together with engaging characters and a political surprise to explain past mysteries. A satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, warmly recommended for young adults.
Tina Massey

Titles for More Mature Young Adults

The Edge of Everything
Written by Jeff Giles
Bloomsbury   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1408869079
This intriguing novel is a mixture of fantasy, adventure, mystery and romance, with attractive characters and a haunting, evocative landscape. During a blizzard at their remote home in the mountains of Montana, Zoe is left with her demanding, but endearing, younger brother. Against her mother’s instructions, she allows Jonah to play outside with the dogs despite the freezing temperatures. When Zoe realises that Jonah has disappeared, and goes to search for him, she discovers there are even worse dangers in the snow and ice awaiting them. The descriptions of the storm and its repercussions are raw, as is the cruelty of the man hiding in the storm. When help comes, their rescuer is beyond Zoe’s imagining and has a tough story of his own to tell. The search for the truth about the underlying mystery of the death of Zoe’s father whilst caving becomes the catalyst for the seemingly improbable romance between Zoe and the mysterious X. This is the first in a series so there is more to come in this fantasy story as the reader becomes involved in the various characters and the mystery of X’s background. Whilst harsh at times and certainly a story for older readers, both Zoe and X find compassion, love and support in the most unlikely places.
Louise Stothard

Information Titles

Our Special World: My Friends
Written by Liz Lennon
Franklin Watts   £10.99
ISBN 978-1445148991
This is a wonderfully inclusive depiction of children and their friends. It looks at making friends, feelings, having fun together and sharing. It also asks questions throughout, giving the child an opportunity to think about their own behaviour and attitudes. The photos are clear and up-to-date being multicultural and inclusive throughout. The text gives lots of simple advice for children, to both reassure them and also help them enhance their own experiences of friendship. This title is perfect for sharing with younger children who are having to deal with making friends for the first time. (3 to 5 yrs)
Nicole Jordan

Mad About Art
Written by Judith Heneghan
Wayland   £8.99
ISBN: 978-0750294539
This title is the perfect addition to the bookshelves of any art lover. With comprehensive advice and top tips on technique from real experts, this is sure to help budding artists improve their art skills. The text covers still life, light and shade, perspective, drawing people and using colour, along with information on different art movements such as Surrealism. There is a quiz at the end to check learning and a good glossary to help the reader clarify some of the more difficult terms. The presentation is clear, colourful and bright, with excellent illustrations and photographs. (8 to 11 yrs)
Nicole Jordan

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Picture Books for young children

Prince of Pants
Written by Alan MacDonald
Illustrated by Sarah McIntyre
Scholastic £6.99
ISBN: 978-1407158440

Prince Pip has a drawerful of underpants. He loves them all and each day must decide which pair to wear. On his birthday, the decision seems even harder, because when he goes to the drawer, it is completely empty. Crisis! Pip races around the castle asking everyone he meets if they have seen his pants, but no-one has seen them. Pip is not having a good birthday at all. As he wanders back to his room, he opens a door and the mystery is solved. He has found all his pants, plus a lovely surprise. This is a lovely, very brightly illustrated story. The text is lively and spaced out around the pages. There is a plot that will appeal to young readers and a very satisfactory ending.
Pat Thompson

Super Stan
Written by Matt Robertson
Orchard £6.99
ISBN: 978-1408337295

Having a younger sibling can be a little difficult sometimes, but for Jack it is even more so. His little brother is a superhero and everyone thinks Super Stan is amazing! He can run faster, throw further, jump higher and fly. Whenever Jack does something, Stan does it better and Jack is getting a little fed up. Even his birthday trip to the zoo is overshadowed by Stan, until something happens and only a big brother can help. Sharp-eyed young readers will spot the problem and perhaps offer their own thoughts on how Stan’s beloved teddy can be rescued. Lively, expressive pictures convey the humour and action of the story, whilst also capturing Jack’s feelings about his brother’s actions. With their roles reversed, the issues are resolved and the pair become super brothers. It can also provide an opportunity to talk about relationships and feelings about brothers and sisters, as well as being great fun.
Jayne Gould

First Steps in reading for young children

Footpath Flowers
Written by JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Walker £6.99
ISBN: 978-1406365672

It is a delight to come across a picture book without words, which is so successful. The illustrations are initially limited to shades of black and grey with a splash of red of the little girl’s coat but steadily grow in colour as she collects the wild flowers she discovers on her walk through the city with her distracted father. There are full-page spreads alongside blocks of movement as the story walks through the pages. The cityscape is cleverly portrayed from the youngster’s viewpoint as she collects bright flowers along the way, together with other splashes of colour in an otherwise drab landscape. The skilful lines portray emotion from sadness to delight as they near home. As they walk, the little girl shares the flowers she collects and spreads the joy of the treasures she has found. This is such a clever and effective picture book with so much to explore and enjoy.
Louise Stothard

Titles for the young child just beginning to Read Alone

Yours Sincerely, Giraffe Written by Megumi Iwasa
Illustrated by Jun Takabatake
Gecko £6.99
ISBN: 978-1927271872

Giraffe is really, really bored. To alleviate this boredom, he decides to write a letter and to have it delivered to the first person over the horizon. So, begins a lovely exchange between Giraffe and Penguin, two very different animals who have never met, much less know what the other looks like. The characters are instantly loveable, and the simple illustrations are a gorgeous accompaniment to this tale of friendship, understanding and being different. Already a hit in its native Japan, Yours Sincerely, Giraffe is a quirky, warmly funny read that will delight readers growing in confidence, though it is likely they will want to share Giraffe’s adventures with others, rather than reading alone.
Rebecca Watts

Titles for the Confident Reader in Primary School

The Wild Swans
Written by Hans Christian Anderson
Translated by Misha Hoekstra
Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White
Pushkin £6.99
ISBN: 978-1782691228

One of Hans Christian Andersen’s less well-known tales has been stylishly presented in a slim volume, also containing the short story The Nightingale. The Wild Swans is a sombre tale of a princess whose eleven brothers have been turned into swans by a wicked stepmother. Elisa will not rest until she can undo the curse that has been placed upon them. The story proceeds at a fast pace, and is happily resolved after pain, trial, risk and mystery have played their part. As she strives to release her brothers from their tragic circumstances, we are given a window into Elisa’s mind - her sadness and her struggles. Beautiful whole page black-and-white illustrations appear throughout the book and there is also a separate story colouring book available. The translated text reads smoothly, and is suitable for a young confident reader.
Lucy Russell

The Great Fire Dogs
Written by Megan Rix
Puffin £5.99
ISBN: 978-0141365268

The story starts when George, an apprentice in the kitchen of Charles II’s palace, comes across a puppy who has escaped from the market on the frozen river Thames. George reckons he could grow into a perfect turnspit dog, and takes him back to the palace. It is 1666 and London is slowly recovering from the terrible plague of the year before. The little dog soon settles in and becomes firm friends with the king’s own lapdog, a King Charles Spaniel called Tiger Lily. As we follow George’s life in the kitchen, and his visits through London to his grandmother and thirteen-year-old sister, Annie, we gain a convincing insight into the hurly-burly of the busy city, and a strong sense of what it must have been like to live at that time. Later, the two dogs go missing in the city, and the Great Fire breaks out. They have a terrifying time trying to escape the inferno before being reunited with George. This is both a charming animal adventure and an exciting well-paced story with plenty of historical content. A delightful read which could be enjoyed again and again.
Liz Dubber

Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School

The Power of Dark
Written by Robin Jarvis
Egmont £6.99
ISBN: 978-1405280235

Set in Whitby, this is a tale of revenge for an act that took place centuries previously. The two warring spirits from the past begin to take over the lives of the two children who are the hero and heroine of the story. One of the spirits is determined to destroy the town in revenge for what happened all that time ago. The story encompasses not only the two children and their malign spirits, but strange elf-like creatures who live in caves under the sea, as well as the resident Whitby witch. From the very first page, the story moves along at an incredible speed - the pace never slackening until the outcome of the feud and the desire for revenge is finally settled. This excellent book has a good story that is well told as well as a host of odd, and some frightening, characters. An exciting story with a very unexpected ending.
Pat Thompson

The Girl with No Nose
Written by Georgina Byng
Illustrated by Gary Blythe
Barrington Stoke £7.99
ISBN: 978-1781125694

This must be the only story inspired by a Victorian false nose in a London museum. The illustrations by award-winning Gary Blythe avoid peep show freakishness and present instead a beautiful young girl whose lack of a nose is the least of her. At the circus, a kindly clown suggests that she needs something like his red nose, and soon her parents gift her a china nose attached to a pair of spectacles. Despite her difficulties, she accepts others with problems as friends, helping them to see that the qualities they do have are more important than the ones they lack. She finds fun and love in her life just as she shares it with others. A lovely story showing the transformative powers of kindness and empathy. As ever, Barrington Stoke present it in grey scale, double-spaced print on cream paper to help dyslexics and others who need help with reading. Only eighty pages long but designed to be read and reread.
Tina Massey

Titles for Young Teenage Readers

Blade and Bone
Written by Catherine Johnson
Walker £6.99
ISBN: 978-1406341874

In this thrilling new chapter in the life of young surgeon, Ezra McAdam, our hero has left London to meet up with his friend, the feisty Loveday Finch, in Paris. This is not as simple as it sounds as Paris is in the grip of revolution and is a very dangerous place. Ezra and Loveday’s aim is to help the young prince Mahmoud reach safety in Constantinople, but danger is everywhere and it is hard to know who can be trusted. Ezra, who is fascinated by any advances in medicine and surgery, is almost sidetracked by the macabre research being undertaken by Renaud, a French surgeon who is trying to reanimate the bodies that have been to the guillotine, but the safety of Loveday and Mahmoud remain his priority. There is plenty of wonderful historical detail with some quite gruesome information about early surgical practices and research. Although this book is a sequel to Sawbones it can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone story. It is an exciting adventure, with great characters, taking place in a turbulent time.
Jan Lennon

Information Titles

Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary
Original text by Roald Dahl
Illustrations by Quentin Blake
Compiled by Susan Rennie
OUP £14.99
ISBN: 978-0192736451

This attractive, well set out dictionary is a superb celebration of words, whether familiar or of Roald Dahl’s wonderfully inventive creation. The explanations and definitions are clear and are accompanied by examples of how they are used in Dahl’s texts - adding depth and meaning as well as encouraging the reading of the original stories themselves. This dictionary can be used in several ways - learning the straight forward definitions of meaning, discovering exciting examples of how words can be invented, inspiring the reader to create new words of their own, or just dipping into and enjoying Roald Dahl’s inventive sense of humour. Quentin Blake’s accompanying illustrations provide a dash of humour, colouring and livening up the text.
Louise Stothard

23 Ways to be an Eco Hero
Written by Isabel Thomas
Illustrated by Chris Andrews
QED £8.99
ISBN: 978-1784933418

This hands-on activity book for budding eco-heroes is packed full of exciting ways to help save the world from environmental damage. Each project is classified as to whether it is suitable for indoors or outdoors. Wildlife warriors are invited to plant trees, build ponds and make bird tables. Those without gardens can still take a full part as waste zappers or green machines, by making bins from cardboard and plastic, growing salads and herbs from waste food, or fashioning bags from an old pair of jeans. This is a great book designed to encourage children to reuse and recycle by getting them involved in twenty-three exciting activities. With adult supervision clearly marked and a list of websites to further interest in environmental issues, it is sure to provide hours of fun with a very worthwhile result. (8+)
Richard Monte

What on Earth? Water
ISBN: 978-1784935542
What on Earth? Wind
ISBN: 978-1784935535
Written by Isabel Thomas
Illustrated by Paulina Morgan
QED £8.99 each

Lively, flowing text and colourful illustrations introduce older primary school children to the everyday wonders of wind and water. Water, the book tells us, is the only substance in the world that can be solid, liquid and gas at normal temperatures. Easy-to-follow experiments show you how to make an iceberg, and even a cloud in the glass jar. Essential science subjects are covered too, such as the water cycle and why water is so important to your body. The book about wind tells us from where this natural phenomenon comes, then goes on to look at how mankind has harnessed the wind for sailing ships and in wind turbines, and how we use the wind for sport. It even discusses wind on other planets. Informative and interesting. (9+)
Paul Dowswell