Picture Books for young children
Solomon and Mortimer
Written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner
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.
Captain McGrew Wants You for His Crew!
Written by Mark Sperring
Illustrated by Ed Eaves
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!
My Donkey Benjamin
Written by Hans Limmer
Illustrated by Lennart Osbeck
Translated by Elke Wakefield
My Pig Paulina
Written by Hans Limmer
Illustrated by David Crossley
Translated by Elke Wakefield
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.
First Steps in reading for young children
Babar’s Guide to Paris
Written and illustrated by Laurent de Brunhoff
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 café, 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.
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
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.
Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School
Written by Mary Hoffman
Barrington Stoke £6.99
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.
Titles for Young Teenage Readers
The Last Thing You Said
Written by Sara Biren
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.
Take the Key and Lock Her Up
Written by Ally Carter
“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.
Titles for More Mature Young Adults
The Edge of Everything
Written by Jeff Giles
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.
Our Special World: My Friends
Written by Liz Lennon
Franklin Watts £10.99
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)
Mad About Art
Written by Judith Heneghan
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)