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

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

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