In the Deep Midwinter

Once again we are on that countdown to the Christmas season and with the major publishing Thursday at the beginning of October we  began to see all of the winter offerings arriving.

 

Andersen Press, 9781783448548

“Wolf in the Snow” by Matthew Cordell is a delightful story of a young child and a young wolf cub who both become lost in a dangerous snow storm.  They find and support each other in finding their respective homes and show that helping each other is definitely the way to go.  The book is almost wordless, with just the odd wolf howl, or a groan from the child, however the emotive and really strong illustrations give us all the information we need to interpret the story.  A great book for reading on a one to one basis with the younger child.

Simon & Schuster, 9781471172465

“The Snow Dragon” by Abi Elphinstone and Fiona Woodcock.  What a truly magical story with totally dreamlike illustrations to bring the story to life.  Phoebe is the final child living at Griselda Bone’s orphanage and longs to find her forever family but she did not reckon on her snowman turning into an ice dragon and taking her off on an adventure to see the northern lights and other wonders she had only seen in books.  There are glorious illustrations and an ending that will give everyone a very seasonal glow.

Hachette, 9781444940374

“A home in the Snow” by Peter Bently and Charles Fuge  is not specifically a Christmas story, but it is about winter, friendship and giving.  Bramble the Badger wants to share his birthday with his friends, but they all seem to have forgotten his special day.  When they ask for help to go to another friend’s house, he willingly helps and there is a truly delightful surprise for him when they arrive at their destination.

Hachette US, 978-1525302039

“One Wild Christmas” by Nicholas Oldland features the  wonderful characters of Moose, Bear and Beaver as they try and find a tree to decorate for Christmas.  When the do find one they hit a problem; Bear loves their beautiful tree and will not allow the others to cut it down, so how are they going to celebrate the holiday?  Bear comes up with a solution and with a lot of hard work and some sharing they manage to have a celebration that reflects the true meaning of the festivities.

Nosy Crow, 9781788005449

“Mouse’s Night before Christmas” by Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini is a heart warming tale that take as its starting point the famous  story by Clement C Moore.  Only in this version the mouse becomes the central character, helping Santa deliver presents after the reindeer became lost.  How Santa grants him his greatest wish makes for a perfect ending and will help the book become a favourite for every Christmas.

Pikku Publishing, 9781999639822

“Father Christmas and the Donkey” by Elizabeth Clark and Ari Tokinen.  This is a wonderful story about the true message of Christmas.  A donkey has been left out in the snowy weather and is making his way to find shelter when all of a sudden he hears bells and then sees a  figure trudging through the snow; it is Father Christmas and he is about to deliver the last presents before going home, having already sent his reindeer back.  The donkey volunteers to help  deliver the presents and begins to understand the joy of giving and sharing.  The ending find the donkey having a gift that will happy and loved for the rest of his days.

HarperCollins, 9780008180362

“The Crayons’ Christmas” by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers sees  the crayons preparing for the great day.  Some of them have gone on holiday and send messages to their owner Duncan and the other crayons, whilst others have been busily shopping for presents.  Yet again we have brilliant illustrations, and also an amazing set of envelopes full of festive surprises.  this is bound to become an annual favourite for the young and not so young.

Macmillan, 978-1509854295

“The Most-loved Bear” by Sam McBratney and Sam Usher is the story of a much loved bear who was lost on a train and went through many years of adventures, moving between owners and gradually getting more worn.  However he never gives up  and eventually there is a miraculous reunion with his original beloved owner.  This is the sort of story that gives you a warm Christmas feeling and will be perfect for those of us who have a favourite teddy or toy from our childhood.

Two Hoots, 9781509857296

“Meerkat Christmas” by Emily Gravett sees the meerkats preparing for Christmas, but Sunny has been reading about the ‘perfect’ holiday and decides that the Kalahari Desert is not the place for a real Christmas.  He sets off to find the perfect ingredients: snow, singing, tree, presents and dinner, but nowhere has all of them.  When Sunny falls asleep on Christmas Eve it is Father Christmas who grants him the wish he really wants – to be home with his family.  One again Emily Gravett has produced a glorious book that I absolutely loved and which should be in everyone’s’  Christmas collection

Egmont, 9781405288453

“Countdown to Christmas” by Adam and Charlotte Guillain, and Pippa Curnick is a delightful countdown to the festivities.  One day Bear announces that he has made a Christmas game and everyday leading up to the great day he will choose an animal and give them each a gift.  Young mouse is desperate to get something but becomes increasingly despondent as others are chosen, however on Christmas eve he is given a box and nestling within it is a lovely star.  Bear leads him to the clearing in the wood where all their friends have collected, having decorated  and used their gifts to dress up for a nativity play.  A wonderful story told in rhyme that children will love.

Egmont, 9781405294195

“Mimi and the Mountain Dragon” by Michael Morpurgo and Helen Stephens tells the story of  a young Swiss girl Mimi who finds a baby dragon hiding in the woodshed at Christmas. She bravely climbs the mountain to reach the castle where the mother dragon live and reunites the two animals.  However they are then startled by an avalanche that basically covers Mimi’s village burying everyone, including her parents.  It is only with the help of the dragon that they are able to clear the snow and release the trapped villagers.  The event is meant to have happened hundreds of years ago but it still forms the basis of a winter celebration in the village.  It is a magical story about friendship and understanding and has been adapted for the stage.

Hodder, 9781444939231

“The Night Before the Night Before Christmas” by Kes Gray and Claire Powell is a look behind the scenes at the north pole on the day before Christmas Eve.  The Elves are working their socks off, Santa is ticking his list and the reindeer are waking up and feeding themselves in preparation for the great night, but Santa is sure that he has forgotten something important.  It is only after he has taken off on his round that Mrs Claus shouts to let him know that he has forgotten to shave! Which is why we always see him with a bushy beard. This is a truly delightful and funny story that is told in rhyme and is a real pleasure to read out loud.

Simon & Schuster, 978-1471183799

“A Cat’s Christmas carol” by Sam Hay and Helen Shoesmith.  Clawdia has an important job as the night watchman’s cat in a large department store.  On Christmas Eve everyone goes home, but she is left guarding the building and soon finds herself in a battle of wits with some very small and very cold mice.  She chases them through departments full of Christmas decorations until finally they see an artificial cat patrolling the store.  Feeling let down, Clawdia joins the mice in trying to enjoy the festivities but then in a truly lovely moment her owner tells her that the robot is her present and that Clawdia will be going home for Christmas with the family.

 

As you can see there are some really amazing books out there this year and I am sure that they will become family and library favourites in the coming years.  I hope that everyone has a great time and that the true spirit of Christmas can be found wherever you find yourselves.

 

 

 

Picture books for Summer – Part 1

“The Golden Cage” by Anna Castagnoli and Carll Cneut can only be described as a stunning piece  of art, but it is also a salutatory lesson in how not to behave towards humans and birds.  The story itself is a cautionary tale of a very nasty princess who loves collecting birds, but kills off servants who don’t bring her exactly what she wants.  This is very much about what happens when there are no rules, because Princess Valentina is totally spoiled and no one tells her that there are limits on what is possible.  The illustrations are amazing; they are vibrant, sophisticated, full of emotion and bring the story to life.  There is a very limited colour palette and the strong use of the colour yellow highlights the title of the book and the importance of the ‘golden cage’ as the place where her most treasured acquisition will be held captive.  The ending of this fairy tale has been left open, so that we can imagine a variety of plots, to suit our mood.  Somehow this reminds me of the Brothers Grimm and I think it will be a great read with older children despite the small amount of text.

“Tomorrow” by Nadine Kaadan is a story about living in a war zone and there are moments when it is quite heartbreaking.  The young hero Yazan loves going to the park to play but life suddenly changes and he doesn’t know why.  He gets bored not going to school, not meeting his friends and not going out to play, so one day he decides to take his bike to the park; but nothing is as it should be and thankfully his father finds him before anything happens. The illustrations often have a darkness about them that reflects the reality of life that the family are living and Yazan is shown as being a very young child caught up in a dangerous world. This thought provoking book really adds to the collection that is developing and which helps young children understand what it has been like to live in some of the war zones around the world.  It will also hopefully help them develop their empathy with those who have lost their homes and had to move to another country.

“Julian is a Mermaid” by Jessica Love is a delightful story about being true to yourself and about others accepting that we are all different.  When Julian is walking home with his grandma they see a group of ladies dress as mermaids and Julian decides that he want to be one too.  At home he finds an assortment of clothes to help in his transformation and even put on some make-up.  His Nana reacts in a very supportive way and gives him a bead necklace to finish his look and then they go off on a walk.  During this stroll they see a range of very individual and vibrantly dressed people and finally they start to see lots of mermaids; much to Julian’s delight.  This is actually a carnival and people are allowing themselves the pleasure of dressing up.It is a delightful way to show the way that a wide range of people can live in harmony and enjoy life.

“Somebody swallowed Stanley” by Sarah Roberts and Hannah Peck is a very unusual but very relevant look at plastic waste and the effect on the sea.  Stanley is a striped plastic bag and he finds himself blown into the sea where he is in turn swallowed by a Whale, Seagulls and a Turtle; luckily they were able to free themselves, but the Turtle need the help of a young boy.  The boy then tells Stanley that he should not be in the sea, because creatures think he looks like a jellyfish.  The boy then turns Stanley into a kite which is much more appropriate.  This is a very simple story but it acts as a perfect introduction to looking at our environment as well as being a great story.

“Clem and Crab” by Fiona Lumbers is another story that helps us look at our environment and in particular the issues that we find along our beaches.  Clem loves visiting the beach with her sister and fishing around in the rock pools, searching for wildlife.  One day she finds a small crab and although she puts it back into the water, it somehow manages to get caught in her clothing and end off back in the city.  Clem would love to keep her new friend but knows it must be returned to the beach; but how can she help make that a safe place for the crab?  This is a lovely book at friendship and helping others and would be fantastic if you were planning on visiting the seaside.

“I am a Tiger” by Karl Newson and Ross Collins  is a delightful story of a mouse who wants everyone to believe that he is a tiger.  The absurdity of such a claim becomes apparent as he wanders along and meets a wide range of animals, none of which are correctly identified; this leads them to be sad and frustrated as they try and make this small creature understand who they are.  In some ways this has the feel of the Gruffalo as the mouse is walking though the landscape and is telling ‘stories’ to the animals he sees.  It is also a story about identity and perhaps about not being limited by our physical appearance.  Most of us know who we are but often like to imagine that we have a different persona.   I am delighted to find that a follow up called “I am not an Elephant” is scheduled to be published early in 2020, I can’t wait to read this as well.

“Walk on the Wild Side” by Nicholas Oldland is the third in a series of adventures featuring Moose, Bear and Beaver.  In this story they decide to climb a mountain, but find that it is much harder than they had imagined.  After lots of danger and obstacles they discover that the only way to succeed is by helping each other, and then they finally achieve their objective.  I love these very simple, humorous stories that each give a very strong message and look forward to many more adventures for the intrepid trio.

“The New Neighbours” by Sarah McIntyre tells the story of the what happens when the residents of a block of apartments discover that a family of rats have moved in to their building.The bunny children are the first to find out and they are looking forward to going and meeting their new neighbours.  But as they tell more people, mainly adults,  we see attitudes change as people believe the stereotypes they have heard in the past.  Thankfully when they finally meet the neighbours they realize that they are just the same as everyone else.  This is a charming story with a strong and very important message about not listening to gossip and not judging people because of their backgrounds.  As always Sarah McIntyre’s illustrations are colourful, energetic  and funny and it is a great story for reading aloud.

“Cyril and Pat” by Emily Gravett  tells the story of  Cyril, a grey squirrel who finds himself living alone in the park. Then one day he meets another ‘squirrel’ called Pat and suddenly he has a friend to share adventures with; however we can see that Pat is actually a rat, not a squirrel.  Eventually the other creatures tell Cyril the truth and Pat is forced to leave the park, leaving his friend alone again.  The story does have a happy ending and the two are able to resume their friendship despite being different.  Emily Gravett  has given us a wonderful story of friendship, acceptance and empathy.  It is full of humour but also has its fair share of pathos; it is a wonderful tale.

“Flat Stanley” by Jeff Brown and Rob Biddulph was first published in the UK in 1968 and since then it has become a perennial favourite with young children.  They love the quirky and imaginative  story of a young boy who is squashed flat, but then goes on to have amazing adventures.  In this version Stanley saves the museum from robbers and is flown as a kite, however he has to cope with people being mean because he is different.  Luckily his brother comes up with a solution and Stanley is pumped back into shape with a bicycle pump.  This version of the story is illustrated by Rob Biddulph with his characteristic

“Sweep” by Louise Greig and Julia Sarda tells the story of Ed and what happens when he allows his dark and angry feelings to get out of control.  There is the wonderful analogy of sweeping up dead leaves, but what do we do when they become too many for us to cope with and begin to effect those around us?  Luckily a wind comes along and blows away his bad mood and he learns to think twice before allowing it to take over again.  This is a very dynamic book with energetic illustrations which really help us visualize the issues that Ed is facing. The  story is very simple but absolutely gets its message across; it will be great for helping young children come to terms with their own emotions as well as those of others around them.

“There’s Room for Everyone” by Anita Teymorian is a very thought provoking story about our world and about sharing the space that we have.  This is something of a philosophical look at our world and how we seem to always want more space, yet this book reminds us that there is always room for all of us; this includes humans and animals.  At a time when there are refugees across the globe, forests are  being cut down and housing seems to be at a premium, perhaps we need to remember some of the ideas in this story.  The illustrations are sophisticated and get also naive but manage to convey the meaning of the text in a way that we can readily relate to.  I am sure this will find its place in the discussions about our world and the way we all live.

 

There are so many amazing new picture books out there that this is just the beginning of my selection.  I am busily working on another collection and then there will be some brilliant books for Middle Grade that I hope to highlight in the near future.  I have not forgotten about information books and my collection to share with you is growing, so look out for the next selection.

 

 

 

 

Book-lover’s heaven

I have been taking teachers and librarians up to Birmingham for the last 12 years or so.  As far as choosing children’s books is concerned Peters, the library supplier, is possible the centre of the Universe and the magical thing is that you actually get to pick the books off the shelves.  Over the long time that I have been visiting, things have changed a great deal.  There are new sections, a stronger emphasis on schools and an ever growing collection of furniture and soft furnishings.

 Whilst most of my time on a visit is spent helping the schools, I do get time to look at what has been arriving in the last few months and these are some of the picture books that caught my eye when I visited three weeks ago.

 

Nosy Crow

“I’m in Charge” by Jeanne Willis and Jarvis is the story of a young Rhino and how he learns some lessons about sharing and friendship.  As always the brilliant Jeanne Willis brings some very relevant  words of wisdom to the book.

Walker Books

“Frog and Beaver” by Simon James is a funny story with a serious underlying message.  Beaver is so busy creating his own environment that he does not see how he is spoiling it for others; when his dam fails he learns that he needs to work with his friends and neighbours.

Hodder

“Thank you, Mr Panda by Steve Antony is yet another wonderful story of the very original Mr Panda.  He very kindly gives his friends presents, but without considering of they are suitable; something that we, as humans, should keep in mind.

Walker Books

“This is the Kiss” by Claire Harcup and Gabriel Alborozo.  It really is a gorgeous read for the very young and will make bed-time an occasion to be treasured.  Definitely one to read to my grandson.

Egmont

“There’s a Pig up my Nose” by John Dougherty and Laura Hughes gives a very modern twist to the concept of stories such as “There was an old woman who swallowed a fly”.  So when Natalie get a pig stuck in her nostril she still has to go to school, where everyone tries to free the pig. A totally whacky story.

Faber and Faber

“This is a Serious Book” by Jodie Parachini and Daniel Rieley.  This is a wonderful piece of nonsense as the author tries to create a ‘serious book’.  However the characters have other ideas and they create complete mayhem as they thwart the author.  A super story for reading in class.

Templar

“The Lumberjack’s Beard” by Duncan Beedie reminds me of “The Twits”, only this time the beard is full of creatures that the lumberjack comes across in the course of his work.  It is an exuberant and funny story that will be great as a class read, as well as a one to one story.

Oxford University Press

“Mr Bunny’s Chocolate factory” by Elys Dolan.  I loved this tale of big business and the exploitation of chickens laying chocolate eggs, it makes me think of “Chicken Run” with chocolate.  The illustrations are brilliant and you can spend hours noticing some of the really funny details.  What a fantastic story to read for Easter.

Exisle

“The Great Sock Secret” by   Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones.  As adults we always wonder where odd socks disappear to, but in this story Sarah has has her own ideas and has to keep them secret from her mother.  Sarah knows that the socks are being used by fairies and she doesn’t want them discovered, but what can she do to help?  This is a great take on a well known problem and has a hint of magic

Andersen

“Odd Socks” by Michelle Robinson is a charming story of what happens when sock goes in search of his lost wife (who had a hole and was starting to unravel).  It is funny and and at times rather poignant as sock continues his search; luckily there is a happy, if somewhat unexpected ending to the story.  Definitely one to read with a group (and perhaps include a small craft session!)

Red Fox

“Dog loves Books” by Louise Yates is about a bookseller dog who is better at loving books that at selling them.  However the story is about sharing that love and letting people know that there are books to suit everyone, you just need help in finding them.  A lovely way to help young children enjoy the book.

Orchard Books

“Be Brave little Penguin” by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees is the tale of a baby Penguin who is frightened of the water.  it is a story about coming to terms with your fears and overcoming them.  The joy that Penguin experiences as he meets the challenge will have you cheering out loud.

As you can see, I had a great time looking out these fantastic picture books.  They cover a wide range of topics, but they will all enthrall the young audiences that they are intended for; as well as those adults that are telling the stories.  ‘Happy Reading’ to you all.

 

Welcome to 2016

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Chicken House, 9781910002704

M G Leonard is causing quite a stir with her first book “Beetle Boy” and the attention is very well deserved.  this is the story of Darkus, who has been living with his uncle since his father disappeared. He discovers mysterious goings on next door, including the presence of thousands of exotic beetles.  There are villains and heroes, some of them very unlikely but it really is a cracking story and is set to be a real favourite.  I am lucky enough to be taking her to a couple of schools towards the end of March, so photos will follow hopefully

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Katharine Woodfine

The case of the Jewelled Moth” by Katherine Woodfine is the second in her series featuring the young staff of “Sinclair’s” store in Oxford Street.  This time they are caught up with debutantes and members of London’s China Town as they fight against the villainous character called “The Baron” and try to recover a brooch containing a sacred jewel from China.  As before, there is a real sense of time and place about the book and the characters are growing stronger as the series progresses.  Now I just have to wait for another year until the third title comes out. (NG)

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OUP, 978-0192739384

Nancy Parker’s Diary of Detection” by Julia Lee is a wonderful look at life in the 1930s, but from the perspective of a young girl called Nancy in her first job as a housemaid, but dreaming of becoming a great detective.  Once again we have a nod towards themes from Poirot novels, but this is more rooted in the reality of life for many working class people of the day.  Nancy has lots of dreams but discovers that she will need to work hard to overcome the barriers that she faces.  I am looking forward to reading more about this strong charactered young lady.

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Chicken House, 978-1910002513

“The Great Chocoplot” by Chris Callaghan (illustrated by Lalalimola) is enough to give palpitations to all chocolate loving people.  What would you do if it looked like the world is about to run out of chocolate and Cacao beans were no longer available?  There is a dastardly villain and a heroine called Jelly (Jennifer) who has to undertake a lot of investigations in order to save the world and chocolate.  This is a adventurous and funny story, best read with a chocolate treat at the ready.

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OUP, 9780192743558

“Electrigirl” by Jo Cotterill (Illustrated by Cathy Brett) is an original and exciting story.  It is partially a novel, but interspersed with sections of graphic comic, beautifully illustrated by Cathy Brett.  Holly was just an ordinary girl until the day she was hit by lightening and suddenly found herself with superpowers, with the ability to use the electricity in her body to perform amazing feats.  However there is an evil professor who wants to transfer all of that power to herself, meaning that Holly has a fight on her hands, not only to save herself but also to save the world.  A new super heroine is born.

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Walker books, 978-1406358964

“The Dark Days Club” by Alison Goodman is a new historical novel for teens, but with a large slice of the Gothic and a lot of vampires and other worldly creatures who ‘feed’ on the human world.  Lady Helen discovers that she is part of the small select band of people who are fighting to preserve civilization and she has to decide whether to follow her destiny, or to live a normal society life.  This is a really great story for those who in a previous generation would have been reading Georgette Heyer and who do read Jane Austen.  There is a mix of romance, excitement, and a story-line that keeps you hooked.  The historical background feels real and accurate and I look forward to reading the next set of adventures featuring this character.

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Faber and Faber, 978-0571325252

“Rebel of the Sands” by Alwyn Hamilton is a fantastic new story where the Arabian Nights meets the  Wild West.  When Amani tries to escape the idea of a forced marriage, after the death of her mother, she faces dangers that she had never dreamed of.  It is a teen novel that is full of magic and mystery, where science and myths conflict and the heroine must come to terms with who she is and the legacy she has been born with.  if this is anything to go by then this will be a really cracking and original series.  (NG)

I hope these will give you a taste of the fantastic offerings that are hitting the shelves in the months up to Easter.  Needless to say I am working my way through some more really amazing titles at the moment.

As always many thanks to the publishers and to Netgalley  (NG) for being so generous with titles.