Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Extra reviews! Summer 2018

Picture Books for young children

The Lost Penguin

Written by Claire Freedman
Illustrated by Kate Hindley
Simon & Schuster   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1471117343
This is a densely illustrated, charming story featuring Oliver and Ruby and their dog Patch. The three friends do everything together, including going to the zoo. However, they discover that a little penguin has gone missing and rush to tell their friend, a keeper called Sandy, who asks them to help find him. Throughout their search, the little penguin is hidden on each page and fun to find but, when they finally find him, Oliver and Ruby fall out over who will look after him. The way in which they repair their friendship and make sure the baby penguin is safe again provides a superb discussion point for children to consider what it means to share and to put others first. The central message of the book, which is that home is where your friends are, is echoed as the little penguin finds himself the centre of much loving attention at the zoo and in Ruby, Oliver and Patch’s unbreakable bond. This is a book full of warmth, wisdom and beautiful drawings.
Julia Wills


The New Baby and Me!
Written by Christine Kidney
Illustrated by Hoda Haddadi
Tiny Owl   £12.99
ISBN: 978-1910328187
As five siblings wait for the new arrival of their baby brother, they imagine who he will take after. Will he be adventurous, academic or artistic? Will he be a scientist, a pirate or an artist? Only one thing is for certain - the boys are in for quite a surprise! Beautifully illustrated with charming collage effects, The New Baby and Me! slots in comfortably with the rise of feminist texts across all ages. Whilst simple in both narrative and design, this is a delightfully undemanding story. With ideas for art and collage activities included to help prepare for the happy event, this is a perfect gift for any family expecting a new arrival.
Rebecca Watts



The First Egg Hunt
Written by Adam and Charlotte Guillain
Illustrated by Pippa Curnick
Egmont   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1405286282
This zany picture book tells how Easter Bunny and Easter Chick are both responsible for delivering Easter eggs to all the other animals. But chick is tired of rabbit getting all the credit. He decides to show everyone that he has a crucial role too and tries to give out all the eggs by himself. Unfortunately, he can’t cope alone and in a disastrous accident he loses all the eggs in the forest, thus inadvertently inventing the very first Easter Egg Hunt! The animals are delighted and want a hunt every year in future. Bold and colourful illustrations match the slapstick humour of the plot, making for a very satisfying and fun-filled story. Children will love the rhythm of the rhyming text as well as the cartoon style and brightly detailed drawings. The simple animal faces are expressive and give plenty of scope for talking through chick’s feelings as he struggles with his emotions.  A great story for sharing with children.
Liz Dubber





The Carnivorous Crocodile
Written by Jonnie Wild
Illustrated by Brita Granström
Otter-Barry   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1910959916
How do you trick a silly old croc when you are thirsty and he’s guarding a waterhole in the hot sun? Perhaps, by telling him you are a beautiful pink flamingo that will give him hiccups if he eats you. That’s what the animals in this quirky picture book try after seeing how successful the flamingos are. The only problem is that even the short-sighted crocodile can see that the elephants are grey and not pink. The bright, colourful illustrations will have children laughing at the expense of the greedy crocodile. Will he eventually realise that the waterhole is for sharing? The author has been involved with forest conservation for twenty years and royalties from the book will go to support The Udzungwa Forest Project in Tanzania protecting endangered African elephants and Colobus monkeys.
Richard Monte





Rainforest
Written and illustrated by Julia Groves
Child’s Play   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1846439353
It is refreshing to come across a picture book that makes a virtue of restraint. With her debut title, Julia Graves combines a spare, poetic text with compositions that draw you in skilfully and satisfyingly. High quality matt paper acts as the perfect medium for a succession of stunning compositions, each testifying to an exceptional talent for printmaking. I particularly liked the way none of the rainforest animals are named until the end of the book, where they are introduced with detailed supporting notes. Looking forward to seeing what this artist does next.
Tessa Strickland





The Very Long Sleep
Written and illustrated by Polly Noakes
Child’s Play   £5.99
ISBN: 978-1786281289
Fox is pleased to move into a new home in the forest with his three friends, but little does he realise that when the first frosts appear Bear, Chipmunk and Marmot will all fall into a long, deep sleep. Fox is lonely and bored without them. He tries to wake his friends, but they sleep on. Packages arrive for the sleeping animals, but nothing arrives for Fox. Poor Fox is even more bewildered. This charming tale of a friendship that survives not only the winter but also the different life-styles of the various animals, gently introduces very young readers to the importance of tolerance when we encounter differences. The theme of hibernation is also interesting as this is an intriguing part of the lives of many animals. The colours in the illustrations beautifully show the changing of the seasons in the forest and the cosiness of the home where the animals are sleeping.
Jan Lennon





Charlie’s Magic Carnival
Written and illustrated by Marit Törnqvist
Floris   £10.99
ISBN: 978-1782504603
This is an exuberant picture book. Prize-winning Dutch author/illustrator Marit Törnqvist has given her imagination free rein with this succession of spectacular scenes. Charlie can’t wait to go to the carnival, but first, his rather fraught Mum needs to find his balloon and his party hat. Charlie can hardly contain himself. What if the town is full of elephants instead of cars? What if there’s a cake as big as the town square? What if …? What if …? Every page brims over with glorious colours and an ever-increasing cast of characters. With six gatefolds in this hardback book, the effect is dazzling.
Tessa Strickland






First Steps in reading for young children

Cake
Written by Sue Hendra
Illustrated by Paul Linnet
Macmillan   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1509827435
The cover of this book is most attractive with silver sparkles and glittering letters on a red background. Cake is excited about being invited to a party because he has never been to one before. The reader shares his anticipation as he tries out different outfits and takes pains to find exactly the right hat. The party starts well, but events take a surprising turn and Cake “gets a bad feeling”. There is much humour in the book and it is a tribute to the glorious artwork that we feel the range of Cake’s emotions. The story provides opportunities for discussion about a range of topics such as anticipation, preparation, disappointment, misunderstandings and learning experiences, but, first and foremost, the book is great fun.
Brenda Marshall




The Wardrobe Monster
Written and illustrated by Bryony Thomson
Old Barn   £10.99
ISBN: 978-1910646366
Dora and her toys are very sleepy, but they really, really don’t want to go to bed. The previous night they were kept awake by loud banging sounds coming from inside the wardrobe. The noises start again as soon as they get into bed, so Dora bravely decides to open the wardrobe door. Happily, the huge monster that falls out isn’t scary at all, in fact he had been very frightened by the noises he could hear outside the wardrobe, so they all become friends and decide to be brave together. This debut story is absolutely delightful. The illustrations perfectly complement the simple text as Dora and her friends, the toys, have wonderfully expressive faces and body language. Many children are scared of the dark and imagine there are monsters under the bed or in the wardrobe, so this reassuring story with its assortment of appealing characters may be just the book to banish bedtime fears.
Jan Lennon





Come All You Little Persons
Written by John Agard
Illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle
Faber & Faber   £6.99
ISBN: 978-0571324163
Dedicated by John Agard to “the Mi’kmaq people, for whom there is a gateway between this world and the spirit world”, this is a truly magical book of poetry with exquisite illustrations. All little persons are kindly coaxed to “Just follow your heart-song when next it calls.”  They are reassured that “Planet Earth has room for the footsteps of all.”, and also that all little persons “From above earth, from above sky, from below earth, from under water,” are accepted, recognised and welcomed to join the wondrous dance of life and love. A gently beautiful, magical experience!
Gill Roberts



Titles for the young child just beginning to Read Alone

Hari and His Electric Feet   104 pages
Written by Alexander McCall Smith
Illustrated by Sam Usher
Barrington Stoke   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1781127551
Hari and His Electric Feet whisks its readers into the life of twelve-year-old Hari, an Indian boy who earns his keep as a delivery boy at a nearby restaurant. Hari also makes irresistible sweets, which win him the affection of many locals. One day, when he stumbles across a film crew, he also finds out that he can dance. Not only that, he has a talent for inspiring others to dance with him, and this unique gift takes Hari on a series of hugely entertaining adventures. With his trademark wit, deft characterisation and consummate flair for storytelling, Alexander McCall Smith has conjured up a story that will have young readers tapping their feet and laughing aloud at Hari’s antics. Thoughtful page layouts and cheerful illustrations help to make this an accessible offer for emergent readers.
Tessa Strickland




The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear   72 pages
Written by Margrete Lamond
Illustrated by Heather Vallance
Old Barn   £12.99
ISBN: 978-1910646434
This is a delightful story of trickery and friendship from Australia. Bear recounts five tales of how his supposed best friend, Fox, manages to trick him time and time again by stealing the fish he has just caught and pretending a wasps’ nest is a bees’ nest full of honey. When Bear is encouraged by Hare and Rooster to successfully get his own back on Fox he has mixed feelings and is relieved when a remorseful Fox returns. The skilful, bold and atmospheric charcoal illustrations add to this unusual, quirky, and occasionally dark, tale.
Louise Stothard







Titles for young children Reading Confidently

The Star Tree
Written and illustrated by Catherine Hyde
Frances Lincoln   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1847806734
Catherine Hyde trained as a fine artist and has illustrated highly acclaimed books by poet Carol Ann Duffy, Saviour Pirotta and Jackie Morris. The Star Tree is itself a work of art - its mysterious, dream-like, double-page spreads carrying the story onward. It is Midsummer’s midnight as Mia makes her magical journey on the Great White Owl’s back, Little Red Hare’s boat, Big White Bear’s balloon and the Giant Stag’s shoulders to reach The Tree of Constellations. Here, she picks one small star before flying homeward on the Great Goose’s shoulder. At first, you may feel the illustrations outshine the text, but read it aloud and the poetry reveals itself, like a long-told tale for bedtime. An unusual, beautiful and memorable picture book for reading aloud and sharing, or for confident young ones to read themselves. Warmly recommended.
Tina Massey




Detective Nosegoode and the Museum Robbery
Written by Marian Ortoń
Illustrated by Jerzy Flisak
Translated by Eliza Marciniak
Pushkin   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1782691594
This book contains three simple stories in one volume, telling how Detective Nosegoode and his faithful dog Cody, analyse the evidence and solve three mysterious crimes. Written in a gently humorous style, the stories all take place in the town of Ashworth, and involve financial fraud, the theft of a painting, and pick-pocketing. Detective Nosegoode has a relaxed, yet analytical, approach and uses his observation of the available evidence to draw conclusions and identify the guilty party in each case. The language is simple but never dull. The names of the characters are funny and will amuse young readers, and they will probably enjoy, even more, the chance to unravel the evidence with the detective, or even to go back after the crime is solved and re-read the story to identify the evidence that he was able to spot. The stories are short and illustrated with funny line drawings that add to the humour.  Recommended for budding detective story fans!
Liz Dubber



Ask Oscar
Written by Alan MacDonald
Illustrated by Sarah Horne
Egmont   £5.99
ISBN: 978-1405287227
Sam has wanted a dog for ages, but his parents have always said it isn’t “practical”, especially as money is tight. Dad’s crazy inventions don’t always work and certainly don’t sell. So, when a dog arrives on the doorstep, Sam thinks his dreams have come true. And this dog, called Oscar, shows no sign of leaving. He also has a rather amazing secret, which certainly proves to be useful when the town’s dogs are under threat from the mayor who is determined to clean up the town before a visit from the Queen. With the help of Dad’s latest machine, can Oscar and Sam save the day? The first in a new series, this is a humorous and engaging tale, ideal for newly confident readers. The quirky black and white illustrations add to the fun.
Jayne Gould



The Travels of Ermine: Trouble in New York
Written by Jennifer Gray
Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli
Usborne   £5.99
ISBN: 978-1474927253
Ermine is a charming, well-mannered and very determined young stoat who is travelling the world with a scrapbook to fill - first stop, New York. Her benefactor, a well-connected grand duchess, has arranged for her to stay with the fabulously wealthy Michael S. Megabucks and his young son. Little does Ermine know that a suitcase switch at the airport has made her a target for robbers. The scene is set for an entertaining mayhem of botched attempts at dastardly deeds by the bumbling robbers and near-catastrophes accidentally averted by Ermine. The black and white comic-book illustrations suit the text well and there is more information about Ermine’s travels and a scrapbook activity at the back of the book. Where will she travel to next?
Yvonne Coppard


Thimble Holiday Havoc
Written by Jon Blake
Illustrated by Martin Chatterton
Firefly   £5.99
ISBN: 978-1910080665
Another story about Jams, his mum, his dad, and his best friend, who just happens to be a monkey called Thimble. Thimble seems to attract all sorts of trouble, creating hilarious situations for the family, particularly for Jams’ dad who is somewhat less than enamoured and tolerant of Thimble’s behaviour. In this story, the family do a holiday house swap with a family in France. They find themselves staying in a very swanky house and Jams’ mum is looking forward to a week of sun, sand and relaxation. However, the discovery by Jam of a speedboat, a drill, some dynamite and a burglar outfit leads to a whole heap of trouble. Written in short episodic chapters full of the off-the-wall, wacky humour that children just love. Witty one liners, plays on words, cringeworthy incidents, ludicrous situations and comical misunderstanding will have readers laughing out loud at the silliness of it all. Family relationships and dynamics are well-drawn, with characters having the very human foibles that can be found in many families. The earlier title in the series, Thimble Monkey Superstar, which was shortlisted for the 2017 Laugh Out Loud Award, explains that Jams is disabled with cerebral palsy. This, the second title in the series, is sure to be as popular as the first.
Annie Everall

Bee Boy: Clash of the Killer Queens
Written and illustrated by Tony De Saulles
OUP   £6.99
ISBN: 978-0192763877
Melvin Meadly keeps a beehive on the roof of the tower block where he lives with his mum. He is having a hard time at school, with the school bully and some of his classmates thinking it is fun to taunt him with chants of “Bee Boy” once they find out he keeps bees. However, one day, he discovers he has the power to become a bee and finds himself defending his hive. Will his hive survive; will he be able to stand up to the bully and will he be able to go on living both as a boy and a bee? Whoever would have thought that a book that gives so much factual information about bees and their lifestyle could be wrapped up so successfully in a story that children will enjoy and want to read. The story is clever and witty, the language is accessible and the characters feel very real, reflecting people within the communities that we know. Children will love the humour and the comic style of illustrations which are all drawn in the colour of the bee - black and yellow. This is the first in the series. The second title Bee Boy: Attack of the Zombees is due to be published in August.
Annie Everall



Iguana Boy Saves the World with a Triple Cheese Pizza
Written by James Bishop
Illustrated by Rikin Parekh
Hodder   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1444939347
Nine-year-old Dylan Spencer desperately wants to be a superhero with a cool superpower. His brother can control the weather and his sister has laser eyes and can roast a chicken in thirty seconds. Dylan is the butt of his siblings jokes and is endlessly teased for having no superpower. Then, one day, he discovers he has got a superpower – he can speak to, and hear, his brother’s iguana and then learns to speak to all iguanas. When the evil super villain, Platypus Kid, has a deadly fiendish plan to rule the world by neutralising all the superheroes, it is up to Iguana Boy, his team of iguanas and a triple cheese pizza to find a way to save the world. A hilarious first title in a new series that children are just going to love. Fast paces, witty one liners, recurring jokes about cats stuck in trees and whether superheroes will save them or not and a glorious collection of human and superhero characters make this a delight to read. Full of the off the wall humour that always appeals to children. Rikin Parekh’s small cartoon-style illustrations and double-page comic strips work brilliantly and add a richness and humour to Jason Bishop’s text. The second book in the series will be published in September.
Annie Everall



Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School

The Rainmaker Danced
Written by John Agard
Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
Hodder   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1444932607
A new collection of poetry from multi-award-winning and well-loved poet, John Agard, is always something to savour and this one doesn’t disappoint. Forty-one poems explore a range of themes from science and nature to identity and conflict. As with all of John Agard’s poetry, some challenge the reader to think and others make the reader laugh out loud. These poems are full of lyrical language, word play and word trickery that children will really enjoy. Satoshi Kitamura’s illustrations perfectly and cleverly support the poetic text.
Annie Everall


Secret of the Stones
Written by Tony Bradman
Barrington Stoke   £5.99
ISBN: 978-1781127544
With the dyslexia friendly format and content that we would expect from this publisher, Secret of the Stones offers a story of bloodshed and revenge tempered with the kindness of strangers. Set during the transition from Stone Age to Bronze Age, Maglos lives with his father, a High Chief, at Stonehenge. Unexpectedly, when the annual midsummer blood sacrifice is about to take place, Maglos’ uncle steps forward, kills Maglos’ father and takes power for himself. Maglos is rescued by strangers, who he discovers are metal workers. Travelling with them for some years he learns their trade and is cared for by two brothers, but never loses his desire to depose his uncle. In time, he returns home and, perhaps because of the kindness shown to him, shows mercy, exiling his uncle rather than killing him as planned. The historical period is brought alive by details of hunting, ceremonies and the magic of metal work, completely new to this Stone Age boy. However, the historical information never gets in the way of the action moving forward. Suitable both for reluctant readers and those wanting a fully rounded story delivered in a short format.
Annalise Taylor



Defenders: Pitch Invasion
Written by Tom Palmer
Illustrated by David Shephard
Barrington Stoke   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1781127315
Tom Palmer has an excellent reputation for producing writing that stimulates reluctant readers and this book, the final volume in the Defenders trilogy, does not disappoint. The two previous titles are Dark Arena and Killing Ground. The defenders are Seth and his friend, Nadiya. Seth is in Cornwall, where he is haunted by severed heads at the entrance to an Iron Age hill-fort, whilst Nadiya says ancient people put the heads there to scare away strangers. He worries about his mother who is hoping for the ‘all clear’ after cancer treatment. He meets two football mad brothers from Aleppo who are refugees and hears their story. The Iron Age and present day collide and Seth acts courageously to defend oppressed people. The layout, language, short paragraphs, typeface and fast-paced plot make the story appealing. There is an interesting mix of history, the present day, horror, ghosts, football, refugees, bravery, empathy and compassion. Highly recommended. Check out the accompanying writing tips, posters and colouring sheets available on Tom’s website - http://tompalmer.co.uk/defenders/pitch-invasion
Brenda Marshall


The Ice Sea Pirates
Written by Frida Nilsson
Translated by Peter Graves
Gecko   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1776571451
When her sister is kidnapped by pirates and taken to work in Captain Whitehead's mines, Siri braves everything to go and rescue her. Leaving her father behind, she sets off, facing many perils and making many friends along the way. This is a story about the worst and best of human nature. At times the cruelties of others and their attempts to justify their actions make for uncomfortable reading, but Siri's optimism and determination to succeed in her quest shine through. Her desire to put right the wrong she feels she has done compels her to valiantly pursue her quest to its conclusion, offering much to discuss. The substantial story is full of interesting and diverse characters and there are many beautiful, descriptive passages making this a rich, compelling read for those looking for a satisfying challenge.
Sue Wilsher




Ruby McCracken: Tragic Without Magic
Written by Elizabeth Ezra
Kelpies   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1782504467
Hopefully, this is the first of many books featuring the pre-teen witch. Ruby loves her witchy life in Hexadonia, playing in the school cockroach team and eating such delicious snacks as dried wasps and candied gnats, but then her life falls apart. Her parents move the family to the Ordinary World, where Ruby has no friends and even worse, no magic. Ruby is picked on by the popular girls, struggles at her new school, and has trouble getting used to the boring ord food, but then it seems she is given the opportunity to get back her magic. Ruby’s debut adventure is a fun book with laugh-out-loud moments. At the same time though, the tale is written with real understanding of everyday issues facing children, who can empathise with Ruby feeling lost in her new school, missing her friends and longing to be back in her old life. Ruby tells her own story and her dry humour will instantly endear her to readers. This 2016 Kelpie’s prize-winner is a real magical book.
Jane Hall



The Cloak of Feathers
Written by Nigel Quinlan
Orion   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1444014181
Brian Nolan lives in Knockmealldown, on a cheap housing estate built beside a polluted lake whose stench would indeed threaten to knock you down. Every hundred years, this small town celebrates the Great Festival to which the fairies, called Good Folk, are invited. But, this year, they are furious at the desecration of their lake. Brian’s parents are held by a cruel spell and the whole town is threatened by a cursed, choking, fast-growing weed which resist all attempts to destroy it. Brian, together with his friends Helen and Derek, must use all their courage, cunning and sense of humour to rescue the Folk Princess and defeat her evil captor. The game in question is the legendary Irish hurling, a kind of earthbound Quidditch, and what a fast moving, murderous contest it proves. Will the skill, nerve and quick wits, tested on both sides, restore the centuries old harmony? A most unusual combination of matter-of-fact-style woven in with Irish myth and legend, a very modern concern for our environment and three heroes who are very ordinary, bored local children without much money or entertainment. Fast moving, funny and very entertaining.
Tina Massey



Make Me Awesome!
Written by Ben Davis
Illustrated by Mike Lowery
OUP   £6.99
ISBN: 978-0192747969
This story is all about Freddie’s pathetically painstaking pursuit of awesomeness as he strives relentlessly to support his family who are about to be made homeless. Also, hilarious and hugely entertaining in respect of Chuck’s awesome ego, baloney and bravado, “My name is Chuck Willard and I can make you AWESOME, just like me!” Freddie desperately wants to go from zero to hero and so he joins Chuck’s Make Me Awesome online programme. He then embarks on various schemes to make himself awesome, thinking he is safe in the knowledge that Chuck is always there, giving him plenty of personal help. However, it is Nilesh who is the voice of reason and, together with Freddie’s father, they both come up trumps and are Freddie’s ultimately best role models of steadfast awesomeness after all.  Heavy Metal Steve, super dogs Mittens and Keith, The Losers’ Club and even the Headteacher, all help in making this a fun, reassuring and heart-warming tale.  Classic Ben Davis!
Gill Roberts



The Children of Castle Rock
Written by Natasha Farrant
Faber & Faber   £6.99
ISBN: 978-0571323562
Alice’s home is sold, and she is sent to a boarding school in the Scottish Highlands run by very eccentric teachers. There, she meets a variety of youngsters blessed with different talents, receives a mysterious parcel, her Dad goes missing and, suddenly, she is in the middle of an exciting, rollicking adventure story. The varied and attractive characters are handled with sensitivity as they use the best of their skills to face the challenges and dangers that meet them. Alice learns to be brave and to trust her new friends and, most importantly, comes to realise that stories don’t have to be just in your head but can be lived too. This is a good old-fashioned adventure story for our modern times.
Louise Stothard





Hounds and Hauntings   248 pages 8-12 years
Written by Janine Beacham
Little, Brown   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1510201323
This is the third title in which Rose Raventhorpe and her fellow secret guardians of the city of Yorke find themselves with a mystery to solve.  Moll the Pocket has been found dead in one of the city’s dark alleyways and it is widely believed that the Barghest, a fierce, mythical hound, said to haunt the alleyways, is responsible. Rose is not convinced, so along with her friend, Orpheus, her butler, Heddsworth, and the other secret guardians she sets out to find the truth. This is an exciting story combining lots of madcap action and a hint of the supernatural interwoven with interesting historical detail and the beginnings of the railways. There are clues and red herrings, some entertaining sword fighting and a large cast of eccentric characters. There are also comic moments courtesy of the group of butlers who are guardians of the city but like to tidy up as they go. Although the book works well as a stand-alone story, readers may well find themselves compelled to seek out the earlier books in the Rose Raventhorpe Investigates series while waiting for the next title to appear.
Jan Lennon



Titles for Young Teenage Readers

My Side of the Diamond
Written by Sally Gardner
Hot Key   £9.99
ISBN: 978-1471406430
Narrated from multiple perspectives, My Side of the Diamond is told in flashback as our characters recall different facets of a story that slowly reveals itself throughout the course of the book. At its core are aliens who have been sent to earth to learn about love and how, in many ways, that mission goes awry However, the science fiction element is not overbearing, and, in many ways, this is more a story about relationships of all kinds – from friendships across the class divide to more intimate connections. Jazmin Little, our main narrator, struggles to trust others or believe in her own worth, but as she faces a series of terrifying events with her privileged friend Becky and Becky’s half-brother, Alex, she opens up and begins to value both others and herself. Jazmin’s voice is authentic and reflective as she examines her motives for events that happened many years earlier. With pencil illustrations scattered throughout, engaging narrators and constant action, this novel is a good recommendation for the less keen reader. The plot is difficult to recount but keeps the reader intrigued throughout.
Annalise Taylor


Outwalkers
Written by Fiona Shaw
David Fickling   £10.99
ISBN: 978-1788450003
Outwalkers is the first YA novel from Fiona Shaw, and what a debut it is. Set in a dystopian future, newly orphaned Jake is on the run from his Home Academy, along with his dog, Jet. He is tracked because of the chip that everyone now has in their neck but is saved from re-capture by a gang of Outwalkers, children living outside of the new society. After proving himself, Jake joins the gang and they set out on the dangerous journey to Scotland, the other side of the heavily guarded New Wall, in search of a better and freer life. Outwalkers is a thrilling, timely and often disturbing novel. Fiona Shaw’s vision of this future England under an all-controlling government is powerful and evocative. She does not shy away from the horrors that such a world would bring. The characterisation is strong, with the protagonists on both sides dedicated to their chosen path. Jake especially is believable and sympathetic and his relationship with Jet is intensely moving. The plot is tense and gripping, having readers on the edge of their seats to the very end.
Jane Hall


Titles for More Mature Young Adults

No Shame
Written by Anne Cassidy
Hot Key   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1471406782
Seventeen-year-old Stacey Woods was raped, and so she decided to prosecute her rapist. She is now Girl X, having to deal with the ordeal of a trial and trying to avoid being outed so that the rest of her school don’t find out what happened to her. This becomes more difficult when the media picks up on the fact that the flat in which she was raped belongs to a relative of a Cabinet Minister. This is the sequel to No Virgin which tells the story from the rapist perspective. In No Shame, the story continues from Stacey’s perspective, telling the story of her decision to prosecute, the legal processes, the trial and its impact on the victim and her family. An extremely hard-hitting novel but without being gratuitous or sensational, which, because of its subject matter, is definitely aimed at older teenagers. The characters are well drawn, the tension of the trial, the possible outcomes and the impact of it on Stacey’s life and future is so powerfully written. It takes the reader through a gamut of emotions and feelings – despair, anxiety and anger at a system that can treat rape victims in this way. Sensitively handled, it is a book that doesn’t pull any punches, raises many questions, is raw, painfully honest and offer opportunities for discussion. Both No Shame and No Virgin deal with a subject matter that is often shied away from, but, given all the sexual abuse issues that have been arising in recent times, these are both extremely important books.
Annie Everall

Information Titles

Meet the Ancient Egyptians
Written and illustrated by James Davies
Big Picture   £9.99
ISBN: 978-1787410367
With a bright and cheery cover, this book is just the right size for younger hands. The pages are attractively laid out, with text presented in the form of labels, speech bubbles, and short paragraphs complemented by cartoon-style, colour illustrations, making it very accessible for the younger reader. There is thorough coverage of all aspects of daily life and death in ancient Egypt, with chapters including food and drink, medicine, the afterlife and mummification. The latter chapters cover the work of archaeologists including Howard Carter, and there is brief coverage of the demise of Ancient Egypt and information about modern-day Egypt. An attractive and accessible book for younger readers on this popular and fascinating topic. Meet the Ancient Romans is also available, and equally fascinating. (6+)
 Lucy Russell


Destination: Planet Earth
Written by Jo Nelson
Illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole
Wide Eyed   £12.99
ISBN: 978-1786030610
Take a trip around Planet Earth in this full colour guide to one of the solar system's most amazing destinations. Fly to the poles, and the equator, explore the atmosphere and find out how weather influences climate, find out how ecosystems and biomes work, sail over rivers and seas, discover how mountains and volcanoes are formed. This fact-filled travelogue even shows you how Earth’s most notorious inhabitants are polluting the planet and what they now intend to do about it. An informative read which will introduce young readers to a host of geographical and geological issues. Complete with a double-sided poster which will look good on any child’s bedroom wall. (7+)
Richard Monte




 

How to Grow and Eat Monster Vegetables

Written and illustrated by M. P. Robertson
from you to me   £12.99
ISBN: 978-1907860027
What an inventive and comical book. The pen and ink and watercolour drawings are gorgeous, and there are jokes and wit aplenty. I loved the creativity of this book, from the Grumpkin Patch to the Turn ‘N’ Nips - not to mention the Sluggapotamus. There are visual jokes and lots of word play together with recipes that luckily swap ingredients, such as dragon’s eggs, for more available ones like chicken’s eggs. This book is a great deal of fun and absolutely brims with fun and the fantastical. A delight! At the same time, carrying the important message that vegetables and fun to grow and delicious to eat. (8+)
Julia Wills





The Story of Life: A First Book of Evolution
Written by Catherine Barr and Steve Williams
Illustrated by Amy Husband
Frances Lincoln   £6.99
ISBN: 978-1786033420
Catherine Barr and Steve Williams’ lively book takes us from oceans of lava and meteoroid showers to the present day. It considers the impact of humans on our planet, Earth, warning that, “with or without us, our planet will spin through space for billions of years to come”. Amy Husband’s entertaining illustrations illuminate the well-trodden path from first cells and dinosaurs, through mass extinction and the rise of the mammals, to the emergence of the hairy, child-bearing bipeds that currently dominate the world. Having been carefully researched, this account of the development of life on Earth is very accessible and easy to follow. I was delighted to find out that magnolias were blossoming in meadows alongside the dinosaurs. (8+)
Paul Dowswell





Tallest Tower, Smallest Star

Written by Kate Baker
Illustrated by Page Tsou
Big Picture   £14.99
ISBN: 978-1783708451
Subtitled A Pictorial Compendium of Comparisons, this is a beautiful book! The Victorian-style illustrations and muted colour palette used are the first things that seize your attention, closely followed by the sort of comparisons - biggest, smallest, fastest, strongest - between creatures and places that is guaranteed to delight children, and adults too! Can you imagine a shark that was thirteen metres long or a snake that could swallow a crocodile whole? Or the fastest non-space aircraft of all time that whizzes along at 7,270 kph? Every page of this book is filled with magic, with startling facts and amazing discoveries. A book to spend hours poring over, whatever your age. Thoroughly recommended. (9+)
Julia Wills






50 Things You Should Know About Vikings
Written by Philip Parker
Quarto   £9.99
ISBN: 978-1682971956
Only 50? There are hundreds of things to know about the Vikings in this excellent introduction. Absolutely jammed with information, illustrations and photographs this late-primary/early secondary primer takes us through three centuries, from the first Viking raids on Lindisfarne to the age of Erik Evergood and Magnus Barelegs. A final section looks at the Viking contribution to European culture, from everyday English words like bread and eggs, to the Nazis’ sinister glorification of the Nordic warrior. Look out for other titles in this very extensive series including Football, Wild Weather, The Human Body, Inventions, The Environment, Prehistoric Britain, Music, The Tudors, The Second World War. (9+)
Paul Dowswell



Habitats
Written by Jon Richards and Ed Simkins
Wayland   £12.99
ISBN: 978-1526303554
Part of the Science in infographics series, this book is very visual and informative, full of facts presented in an interesting way. Using icons, graphics and pictograms, infographics visualises information in a whole new way. Marvel at the creatures that live in the depth of the deepest oceans, read about our huge grasslands, and discover how living things survive. Colourful illustrations and bold text make this a worthwhile information book. There are several books in this series, including Light and Sound, Forces, and Living Things, all presented in the same format, and they would make a valuable addition for any school library or interested reader. (10+)
Ingrid Fox




A Muslim Life
Written by Cath Senker
Franklin Watts   £12.99
ISBN: 978-1445157993
An introduction and overview of the basic beliefs and practices of Islam, with full colour pictures of different cultural and social contexts around the world. It may attract some criticism for showing an idealised Muslim life – no mention of extremism, no attempt to comment on what children may be picking up from the News. But all religions are a set of aspirations rather than certainties, and, like all ideals, they are open to misinterpretation and corruption. I hope this book will be celebrated in homes and schools for showing the faith that is lived so positively by the majority of its followers. It may help parents and teachers to discuss the use and abuse of faith and to combat the fear and prejudice that many children are imbibing from the media and their community. Part of the Following a Faith series, which includes titles relating to other faith lives such as being a Christian, a Hindu, or a Jew. (10+)
Yvonne Coppard


Friday, 16 March 2018

Reviews Extra Spring 2018

Picture Books for young children


Mouse House
Written and illustrated by John Burningham
Jonathan Cape £11.99
ISBN: 978-0857551771

John Burningham is a masterly picture book creator. His apparently artless lines, containing only softly shaded images, draw your attention while his words point your thinking. A family live in this house - a father, a mother, a boy and a girl. They believe it to be theirs, but, while they sleep, mice come out to play. Cheerful images show umbrella-holding parachuting mice, footballing mice and a family as caring and happy as the human one. When mother sees a mouse, she protectively lifts one leg and holds close her skirt in a very human response. Father, though, calls a mouse-catcher as the children leave a warning note for their mouse friends. The moving, wordless illustration of the mouse exodus reminds you of wartime photographs of evacuees or families being transported to concentration camps. It makes you unexpectedly ashamed of the adults’ lack of empathy. Later, the children welcome the chance to make playthings for their mouse friends until autumn sees them leave once more, though an unexpected ending gives hope for the future. A warm, wise and beautiful book from an expert in his field. Highly recommended.
Tina Massey




Fred
Written by Mick Inkpen
Illustrated by Chloe Inkpen
Hodder £6.99
ISBN: 978-1444929539

Fred was introduced to young readers in a previous title, I Will Love You Anyway, so you may already be a fan of this adorable little puppy. Having mastered a few of the basics, such as Fetch, Sit and Stay, Fred’s education continues as he struggles to master what the word Fred actually means. It’s a simple idea, beautifully executed. If you love dogs and appreciate comical, rhyming text beautifully complementing expertly crafted, endearing illustrations, you’ll love this. Another masterpiece from this very talented father and daughter partnership.
Yvonne Coppard




His Royal Tinyness
Written by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Illustrated by David Roberts
Walker £12.99
ISBN: 978-1406324662

This “terrible true story” is told by Princess Marianna, a little girl who lives happily in a wonderful land where there is always time for stories and there is always room on a mother’s lap. She feels like a princess, but, everything changes when another very small person arrives in the kingdom/family and demands everyone’s full-time attention. The whole kingdom/family has obviously fallen under some enchantment. Our beautiful and talented princess feels usurped and cruelly mistreated, but all attempts to win back her former position in the kingdom/family fail and the new very small person remains, just as noisy and smelly and regally attention-seeking as ever. A change of approach is needed. This absolutely delightful story, with its hilarious colour illustrations, demonstrates the problems that can occur when parents decide that one child is not enough. Any family that has more than one child will recognise this situation, but thankfully, princesses usually manage to live happily ever after.
Jan Lennon




Hibernation Hotel
Written by John Kelly
Illustrated by Laura Brenlla
Little Tiger £11.99
ISBN: 978-1848696754

Winter is on its way, so Bear settles down for a cosy hibernation. However, he soon gets very annoyed by the stinks, sounds and general squashedness, all caused by his fellow animal friends. With that in mind, he books himself into a hotel for the winter, but soon finds that what he thought he wanted isn’t as brilliant as he had anticipated. Gorgeous illustrations really set off this laugh-out-loud story of friendship. Sneaky animals, hidden along the way, add a lovely layer to this funny and interactive story. Perfect for children who regularly find excuses not to go to sleep.
Rebecca Watts



The Great Gran Plan
Written by Elli Woollard
Illustrated by Steven Lenton
Macmillan £6.99
ISBN: 978-1447254799

When he realises that he can't get to the little pig, who is safe in his brick house, the hungry bad wolf turns his attention to Plan B, “Gobble Red Riding Hood's Gran - nice and hot.” On discovering this, Pig sets off to save the day. Fabulously funny, this lovely story links Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs in a brilliant new tale. Told using carefully chosen vocabulary, the rhyming text is ideal for reading aloud with plenty of opportunities for children to join in as they become familiar with the story. The illustrations are an absolute joy. Full of little details and plenty of references to other traditional tales, they will be enjoyed again and again. With little jokes, like a family picture of the little pigs playing piggy-in-the-middle, PIG E as the little pig's number plate, the naked Emperor leaving The Emporium of New Clothes and fairy-powered street lamps, each spread has so much to explore and discover. Brilliant fun.
Sue Wilsher





Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School


Fox Friend
Written by Michael Morpurgo
Barrington Stokes £5.99
ISBN: 978-1781127506

In this unflinching short story, Michael Morpurgo tackles the difficult relationship between people and foxes in the countryside. Clare sees the beauty in the creatures, while her livestock-farming father sees the foxes as pests and believes that the only good fox is a dead fox. When Clare finds an orphaned cub after the fox-hunt has passed, she decides to secretly raise him on her own and names him Larry. He grows stronger and bigger until Clare knows the day has come to set him free. When the story ends tragically for Larry, was Clare’s kindness towards the fox cub appropriate or worth it? Fox Friend makes a useful starting point for a range of topics for parents and teachers. At the back, Michael Morpurgo shares how his own farm inspired the story and how thousands of children have benefited from the Farms for City Children scheme.
Benjamin Scott









Titles for Young Teenage Readers


The Beast is an Animal
Written by Peternelle van Arsdale
Simon & Schuster £7.99
ISBN: 978-1471160455

The land of Byd is haunted by an evil presence. The Beast is the subject of an old rhyme, which is used to warn children of the dangers of wandering out at night. But when death comes to the village where Alys lives, it is two mysterious twin sisters, the soul eaters, who are the cause, and not the Beast. Seven-year-old Alys is left an orphan and, through the kindness of a stranger, makes her way to the next village to begin a new life. But it turns out to be more prison than sanctuary. This is a complicated story. Alys is an unusual child who appears to have special powers and some kind of unexplained connection to the twin sisters - something which she fears, yet cannot resist. We watch her grow almost to adulthood, when the story quickens to a final crisis. Alys’ character is well developed and she earns our sympathy. The plot develops at a steady pace until the climax, when it seems to career out of control. However, a resolution is eventually reached, and so ends a good read which should be enjoyed by fantasy fans.
Liz Dubber





Titles for More Mature Young Adults


Everybody Hurts
Written by Joanna Nadin and Anthony McGowan
Atom £6.99
ISBN: 978-0349002910

This is a dual narrative story which works really well. It all starts in a hospital canteen where Matt and Sophia first meet and a spark of attraction between them is ignited. Sophia is an outpatient in remission from cancer, Matt is an opportunist looking for a girl to seduce. They are from completely different backgrounds, face opposition from friends and family and struggle with their feelings for each other. This is a story of teenage love with all of its angst, torments and intense feelings. The characters are interesting, including the supporting ones like Jango with his bullying tactics and his well-hidden heart of gold. The writing is excellent, and the storyline is funny and moving, if a bit cheesy at times, but in a nice way.
Ingrid Fox




Information Titles


The Great Big Body Book
Written by Mary Hoffman
Illustrated by Ros Asquith
Frances Lincoln £8.99
ISBN: 978-1847806871

Our bodies are all basically the same, but, at the same time, each body is unique. This fun and informative book reassures children, in very simple language, that there is no such thing as normal and that we are all amazing. We see that our bodies are constantly changing either through illness, injury or just through the inevitable ageing process. Puberty, gender-identity and death are all included in an age appropriate manner. The entertaining watercolour illustrations reflect the diversity of the world in which we live. Some people are larger than others, everyone has differently coloured skin and some have special needs, but we all need to take care of our bodies in the same way. This is a superb introduction to a young child’s knowledge of themselves, and the people around them, and parents and teachers will find it a useful tool for opening discussions with older children too. (4+)
Jan Lennon






In Focus: Cities
Written by Libby Walden
360 Degrees £15.99
ISBN: 978-1848575912

Children are invited to explore ten famous cities around the world in this strikingly large book. Ten different illustrators have each taken a city, including London, Tokyo, Sydney and Moscow, to depict in their own way, using colours which reflect the climate and building materials. Each opening introduces the city, with an introduction, an overview of iconic buildings and two fold-out pages. Under these large flaps can be found snippets of information about famous sights, historical happenings, culture and customs. Containing quite a variety of details, including the quirky and unusual, this a very appealing book, ideal for dipping into, as well as providing a source for research. (5+)
Jayne Gould





10 Reasons to Love a Turtle
Written by Catherine Barr
Illustrated by Hanako Clulow
Frances Lincoln £9.99
ISBN: 978-1847809407

This delightful book, with its cut out front cover, systematically and successfully sets out to persuade young readers that turtles are indeed special creatures worthy of respect and protection. Ten main facts are explored about their journeys between feeding and nesting places, how they save sand dunes, cry real tears, have different shaped jaws and beautiful shells, make homes for other sea creatures, can hold their breath for hours, grow very slowly living long and are as ancient as the dinosaurs. All information is beautifully illustrated and labelled appropriately to maximise clarification and interest. Published in association with the Natural History Museum in London, this book embodies creativity and fact. It could be aptly placed in both non-fiction and picture book sections of a library. Look out for the other titles in the same series which also give us ten reasons to love such creatures as the whale, the bear and the elephant. (6+)
Gill Roberts






The Story of You
Written by Anna Claybourne
Wayland £9.99
ISBN: 978-1526300263

The Story of You is an excellent overview of DNA and human consciousness. We are all the same, but different and unique. The opening spread begins “Wherever you go, whatever you do, one thing always stays the same - you’re you! As long as you live, you’ll be inside your body, looking out at the world, with your own thoughts and ideas, likes and dislikes, feelings, hopes and dreams.” Different sections of the book, entitled Your Body, Your Mind, Your Personality and Your Family Tree are bound to intrigue any bright inquisitive child. The science behind all these concepts is very complex but Anna Claybourne’s text manages to make them accessible and interesting for young readers. (9+)
Paul Dowswell