Monday, 30 October 2017

Reviews Extra Autumn/Winter 2017

Picture Books for young children

Rockabye Pirate
Written by Timothy Knapman
Illustrated by Ada Grey
Bloomsbury   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1408849392

When night falls it is time for all sleepy little pirates to go to bed, for loot-filled lullabies and dreams of buried treasure. Mummy Pirate rounds up all those fearsome seafarers as they tie up their ships for the night, have their supper and a bath, cuddle up for a story and then snuggle under their Jolly Roger duvets. With its gentle rhymes and entertaining pictures in subdued colours this is a lovely bedtime story for all young buccaneers.
Jayne Gould

 The Nut Stayed Shut
Written and illustrated by Mike Henson
Templar   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1783706938
Have you ever had a nut you couldn’t crack? Rodney, the champion ‘kung fu’ style nut-cracker, clearly has never met such a stubborn nut before. He tries everything - from hammers to rhinoceros poo, an elephant, and even TNT - but nothing works. His fury is reflected in the text and the illustrations, and he eventually is forced to give up his efforts. However, it seems that if you wait long enough, the nut will crack by itself. The bold illustrations in this picture book reflect Rodney’s frustration at the nut’s refusal to crack. Young children will enjoy the story but be warned - with repeated efforts to bash the nut with the increasingly crazy tools Rodney tries to use, this is more likely to provoke rowdy play than encourage conversation, questions or quietness. Adults are advised not to save this one for bedtime!
Liz Dubber

 Sir Ned and the Nasties
Written by Brett McKee
Illustrated by David McKee
Andersen   £11.99
ISBN: 978-1783445349

This rhyming tale has an unusual twist as the brave knight, Sir Ned, heads to the woods to vanquish the Nasties who are making the King ill with their terrible noise, and frightening the villagers too. Ned is offered some unexpected help on the way from a witch, a wolf and a troll, but soon learns who to trust when they reach the Nasties’ hidden cave. Warm, rich illustrations accompany the amusing, often laugh-out-loud, story which celebrates how noise can be turned into lovely, powerful sound and the ending is delightfully unexpected.
Louise Stothard

Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School

The Adventures of Hermes, God of Thieves
Written by Murielle Szac
Translated by Mika Provata-Carlone
Pushkin   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1782691303

Hermes, son of Zeus and Maia, is born walking, talking and questioning the world. As he explores Olympus, home of the ancient Greek gods, his adventures reveal their nature and lives. He learns of the powers of Zeus, the nature of his brother Apollo and how to survive in Olympus. We learn how each god came into being, the loves, jealousies and powers they possess and how Hermes needs to tread carefully to avoid their anger and be useful to them. Writing of exceptional clarity and quality explores the stories of Pandora, Prometheus, Persephone, Jason, Medea and all those vaguely remembered characters, both memorably and startlingly. Written in short, clearly headed chapters, these strange and wonderful tales will resonate with Harry Potter and other fantasy fans who wonder, “What was a centaur?” Extraordinary stories from a publisher offering the best of children’s writing from a range of cultures.
Tina Massey

How to Stage a Catastrophe
Written by Rebecca Donnelly
Curious Fox   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1782025986

This entertaining story is about a group of friends who desperately want to save their ramshackle theatre from closing down. Sidney Camazzola has ambitions to be the director of the Juicebox Children’s Theatre when he grows up, but the on-going financial crisis it is in, means it could be gone long before then. Working together with his best friend Folly, an aspiring businessman, as well as members of his family and other friends involved with the theatre, they come up with a plan to save the Juicebox. But, as any director can tell you, not everything happens according to the script. Despite on-stage disasters, misunderstandings and a possible crime being committed, Sidney’s enthusiasm remains undiminished as he takes the reader through three acts and an intermission.
Jayne Gould

Titles for Young Teenage Readers

Written by Anthony McGowan
Barrington Stoke   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1781127230

The first chapter is told from the perspective of the young rook. He is flying free with his friends until caught and hurt by a sparrow hawk. Kenny, who has special needs, rescues ‘Rookee’ and despite the scepticism of his brother, Nicky, is determined to keep the young bird alive. Nicky has greater things to worry about - bullying at school, low self-esteem and a burgeoning crush on a girl. Rook is the last in the trilogy from Anthony McGowan, following Brock and Pike. Each story deals with the difficulties and problems that Nicky and Kenny have to face as teenagers growing up in a confusing world. As with all Barrington Stoke books these three short novels are written on cream paper, with clear typeface and short chapters. The stories are unusual, full of feeling and the characters will resonate with the reader.
Ingrid Fox

And Then We Ran
Written by Katy Cannon
Stripes   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1847157997

Megan and Elliott have been best friends most of their lives but the death of Megan’s sister, in a reckless accident that rocked their small seaside community, has created a gulf between them. Now, they are both trying to escape the weight of this history and the shadows cast by their families. When Meg realises that an inheritance, held in trust for her, can be claimed early if she marries, a crazy plan is born – elopement to Gretna Green. Her proposal to Elliott is business-like - a marriage of convenience. But life has very few clean, simple decisions, as Megan and Elliott are about to discover, on a journey that is not purely geographical. A really engaging, romantic story that also explores the teenage struggle for freedom, identity and belonging.
Yvonne Coppard

The Guggenheim Mystery
Written by Robin Stevens
Puffin   £9.99
ISBN: 978-0141377025

Based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd, this sequel to her The London Eye Mystery has been carefully and skilfully created by Robin Stevens. It continues the adventures of Ted Spark and his sister, Kat, when they visit their cousin, Salim, who has moved to New York with his mum. Robin Stevens is a successful, award-winning mystery writer and she uses her expertise to take on the legacy and challenge of the late Siobhan Dowd and the three words of the title she left behind. Aunt Gloria has a new job as curator of the Guggenheim Museum and, on the day the youngsters visit, a famous painting is stolen. There are no obvious clues, and the police are puzzled. Ted has what he calls, “a funny brain which works on a different operating system to other people’s”, and he is good at noticing things and seeing patterns and connections. Robin Stevens has sensitively recreated the various individual aspects of Siobhan Dowd’s attractive characters and captured the atmosphere and excitement of New York very successfully.
Louise Stothard

Titles for More Mature Young Adults

The Red Abbey Chronicles: Maresi
Written by Maria Turtschaninoff
Translated by A.A. Prime
Pushkin   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1782690924

This haunting story is a compelling read and resonates long after the last page has been read. Maresi’s family send her to live with the sisterhood at The Red Abbey, on a remote island populated by women. Each has their role to play, but the delights and rewards of learning are far more important to Maresi. The descriptions of life on the island, harvesting mussels, dyeing fabric, and the daily rituals are detailed, and the characters of the sisters and novices varied and attractive. Several are seeking refuge and when the mysterious, silent and scarred Jai joins them, Maresi knows she has a harsh story she is not telling. Jai gradually settles into the rhythm of life at the abbey, but the threat to them all is not far away. When tragedy strikes, the women use all their resourcefulness and strength to save their family. But it is Maresi’s determination to take all she has learnt at the abbey back to her homeland that is remarkable, and will be the source of a new story.
Louise Stothard

Information Titles

Where Will I Live?
Written by Rosemary McCarney
New Internationalist   £9.99
ISBN: 978-1772600285
A timely antidote to our hate-filled tabloids, reminding young readers that the ‘swarms’ and ‘cockroaches’ they may have seen in their family newspapers and on TV are actually real people, just like them. This book will help to realise that they are fleeing from terrifying events and circumstances that we in the West can barely imagine. One large picture per page and simple text make this book an accessible, easy read. One hopes it will inspire empathy, and possibly a desire to help, in its young readers. (6+)
Paul Dowswell

Crazy about Cats
Written and illustrated by Owen Davey
Flying Eye   £12.99
ISBN: 978-1911171164

The third title in a series by this talented author/illustrator, following Mad about Monkeys, and Smart about Sharks, is just packed full of valuable information about big cats. Unusually for a non-fiction title, there are no photographs in this book, instead pages are filled with dynamic illustrations which are slick, with clean lines and a feel of mid-century style about them. The genius here is that despite the intense stylization, the illustrations remain true to the natural form and features of the animals and landscapes depicted in the book. The book is beautifully produced on thick matt paper, making the whole piece a work of art. The text features general topics expected by a reader such as camouflage, adaptations and feeding, as well as introducing the reader to less well-known species and exploring the relationship between big cats and humans. There is some technical and scientific language used which, along with the level of detail, makes this a book for young confident readers. (8+)
 Lucy Russell

The School of Music
Written by Meurig and Rachel Bowen
Illustrated by Daniel Frost
Wide Eyed   £14.99
ISBN: 978-1847808608

In just 40 lessons, this ambitious and comprehensive book goes from discussing types of music - from A Capella to zydeco - to composing and sharing music with others. With a faculty of expert musicians to guide and teach the reader, Term 1 explores types of music and how they’re made, including lots of non-Western instruments and styles, while Term 2 teaches the building blocks of music from rhythm, notes and harmony to musical notation and direction. Finally, Term 3 helps readers think about creating music in different ways, from creating a kitchen orchestra to learning and performing with different instruments. Sounds daunting, but each lesson is bite-sized, colourfully illustrated and includes an easy to perform activity to further understanding. Some lessons come with online musical resources. The School of Music is a valuable resource for children learning to sing or play an instrument. For children who don’t think they are musical, the authors leave the reader in no doubt that anyone can create music - it just takes patience and practice. 9+
Benjamin Scott

The Teenage Guide to Friends
Written by Nicola Morgan
Walker   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1406369779

Fans of The Teenage Guide to Stress and Blame My Brain will welcome this latest title from Nicola Morgan. As with her previous books, this one addresses the teenage reader in a warm, wise and direct tone. The purpose of the book is to reassure young people that any difficulties they are experiencing in the area of friendship are not abnormal and will not last for ever, whilst also giving them practical suggestions for how to improve their situation. Nicola Morgan also explores specific topics such as online friendships, negative or toxic friendships and how to manage peer pressure. The emphasis is always on good information, balanced advice and reassurance. By explaining some different personality types and considering the kinds of things that might be preoccupying others, she is both encouraging the reader to reflect upon their own personality traits as well as think about how others might be feeling. There is an excellent Further Reading section at the end of the book that encourages readers to extend their reading and learning, and notes the importance of being discerning about sources and having a balanced approach to online research. Highly recommended. (13+)
Annalise Taylor

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