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.

 

It must be Christmas!

Well, for the last couple of months we have been showered by lists of books that we should be reading this Christmas and I thought that as in previous years I will pick a few of the ones that I have really enjoyed.  Yet again it has been quite a bumper year for Christmas stories and this year they cover a large range of genres as well as age ranges.  So let us start with those for what is now termed the ‘independent’ reader.

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Puffin, 978-0141369723

“Mistletoe and Murder” by Robin Stevens is the latest in her series about the two young sleuths Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong.  I have been an avid reader of all her works and this definitely lives up to the superb standard of the others.  Daisy and Hazel find themselves spending Christmas in a Cambridge college and then they become embroiled in a murder enquiry which really tests their skills.  Robin Stevens has used her love of ‘Golden Age’ crime to link this story to the works of Dorothy L Sayers and in particular to ‘Gaudy Night’ which is set in an Oxford College.  As the girls might say, this is a “really spiffing read”.

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Macmillan, 978-1509832583

“The Road to Ever After” by Moira Young is a total change from her earlier work and is for a slightly younger audience.  It is the story of young  Davy David who scrapes out a living in the  small  town of Brownvale and re-creates pictures of angels on the ground.  Life changes when the mysterious Miss Flint hires him to driver her to an unknown house on the coast, despite the fact that he is only 13 years and cannot drive.  What follows is a magical journey, with unexpected consequences. There is a sense of being on a quest as well as there being a nod in the direction of “A Wonderful Life”.  This is a story to re-read and treasure and I know it will be with me for a long time.

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Canongate, 978-1782118572

“The Girl who saved Christmas” by Matt Haig is the follow on to last year’s best seller “A Boy called Christmas”.  Whilst the central character  is still Father Christmas, this book is set at a later period.  People are beginning to not believe in Father Christmas and the magic is starting to disappear.  It needs someone who really believes, to save the day; but even she is beginning to have doubts.

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Nosy Crow, 978-0857636386

“Murder in Midwinter” by Fleur Hitchcock.  When Maya thinks she might have seen a murderer, the police send her to stay with her aunt in Wales.  But the danger follows her in this exciting story.

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Puffin, 9780141373324

“The Christmasaurus” by Tom Fletcher is about a dinosaur searching for his identity and a young boy who loves dinosaurs and Christmas; add a nasty villain to the mix and get set for a fantastically magical adventure

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Simon & Schuster, 9781471159800

“Winter Magic” edited by Abi Elphinstone is a collection of seasonal stories curated by Abi.  the authors are a range of the top children’s writers that are in the UK today.  They include Piers Torday, Michelle Magorian, Jamila Gavin and Lauren St John.  There is bound to be something for everyone in this collection

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Hodder, 9781444926491

“Santa Claude” by Alex T. Smith.  When Claude accidentally locks Santa in handcuffs and can’t find the key (don’t ask)  he faces the problem of trying to deliver all of the presents himself.  This is a great story for those who are just beginning to read by themselves or who want to share with others.

 

With picture books we are always inundated by a host of new titles every year, however there are also some favourites that make a welcome re-appearance.  I have included some that have come back this year and which I have not written about on previous years.

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Simon & Schuster, 9781442496736

“Click Clack Ho! Ho! Ho!” by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin.  This is the Christmas offering about the animals on farmer Brown’s farm and how they ‘cope’ with Christmas Eve and the arrival of Santa. As usual it is extremely funny and will be a great read.

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Scholastic, 9781407109053

“The Lion, the Unicorn and Me” by Jeanette Winterson and Rosalind MacCurrach.  This is a truly beautiful rendering of the Christmas story which really touches the heart.  A absolute classic of the future.

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Floris books, 9781782502944

“Mary’s Little Donkey” by Gunhild Sehlin and Helene Muller.  This is a story of the Nativity for younger Children.  It is translated from the Swedish and then it has been abridged.  The illustrations are sympathetic to the tale and evoke the feel of the occasion.  A lovely version to read to young children.

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Puffin, 9781780080116

“Otto the Book Bear in the Snow” by Katie Cleminson is the magical story of two book bears whose book is borrowed from the library and then left whilst the readers go on holiday.  But the bears need to get back to the library for the Christmas party, unfortunately things do not go as planned, so will they get back in time?

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Puffin, 9780141373706

“Dream Snow” by Eric Carle.  A delicious little lift the flap book about preparing for Christmas on a farm.  It is great for recognizing the animals and getting into the festive spirit.

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OUP, 9780192747372

“Winnie and Wilbur meet Santa” by  Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul. When Santa gets stuck in Winnie’s chimney he asks her and Wilbur to help him deliver the rest of the presents.  They have a great adventure but also lots of problems, so in the end Winnie uses a bit of magic to make sure that all the presents are delivered.  As always the illustrations are sumptuous and this time there is a pop-up at the back, which is sure to be a great hit with everyone.  I particularly like the use of Greek for names etc in the pictures, I wonder how many children will recognize the language?

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Bloomsbury, 9781408859155

“Robin’s Winter Song” by Suzanne Barton is a beautiful story of the Robin discovering Winter for the first time and seeing what a great time he can have with his friends.  The illustrations are positively jewel-like and add to the sense of joy and excitement about the time of year.

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Walker books, 9781406365955

“The Christmas Eve Tree” by Delia Huddy and Emily Sutton is the story of a small and unloved Christmas tree that was saved from destruction by a young  homeless boy and of the joy at Christmas as people gather around the tree to sing carols and to forget the problems of their everyday life.  The ending shows that there is always hope and we need to believe in the goodness of people around us.  There are beautiful illustrations with a feel of the 1960s to them, which really adds to the atmosphere of the story.

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Simon & Schuster, 9781471119989

“The Storm Whale in Winter” by Benji Davies is the second story about a young boy called Noi and the young Whale that he had rescued in the summer.  This is a winter’s tale and a wonderful coming together of man and nature to save one another.  It is a simple but very heart warming story.

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Red Fox, 9781782955504

“Lucy and Tom at Christmas” by Shirley Hughes have, together with “Alfie’s Christmas”, become symbols of what we might call a traditional Christmas.  It was first published in 1981 and the world has changed a great deal since then.  However the story gives a lovely sense of family, friendship and the meaning of the occasion.  Sometimes it is nice to wallow in nostalgia and think of the simple enjoyments of life.

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David Fickling, 9781910200803

“Coming Home” by Michael Morpurgo and Kerry Hyndman (illust.)  is the story of a Robin as he migrates to his winter home, all the time thinking about his partner who should be waiting for him.  It is full of trials and tribulations but also kindness and hope.  Definitely a story full of the meaning of  Christmas.

 

I can’t believe it is only a week until the big day but I am sure that there is still time to do a bit of reading or to get some stocking fillers for the family.  I know I will be reading some of these stories to my grandson when he comes to visit and i might even treat myself to a re-read of one or two favourite stories.  The Christmas season has definitely started as I was telling Christmas stories in my local primary school last week and I have also been to a performance of Messiah.  There is just “The Muppet Christmas Carol” to go and then all will be ready.  Have a wonderful Christmas everyone and enjoy your reading.

 

Summer Sunshine reads

Well, we are now over half way through the summer break and it is about this time that I start thinking about what to read next.  If you are anything like me then you will already have got through the pile of books that you had kept for the holidays.  So here are some suggestions that you might have missed, or which are just being published.  They are wide ranging in their subject matter and a few are ones that I might have missed if I had not been asked to review them, but all of them turned out to be very pleasant surprises.

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HarperCollins, 9780008124526

“Ned’s Circus of Marvels” by Justin Fisher.  This book has had a very high profile over the last few months and is a great adventure with an ‘ordinary’ hero, an amazing and magical circus and demons who live on the other side of the’veil’.  Definitely a series that I will follow with interest.

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Firefly Press, 978-1910080382

“Alien Rain” by Ruth Morgan was a lovely surprise. In essence it is a science fiction story but with Earth being the planet being excavated years after it had fallen to a mysterious invader and the explorers are settlers from the planet Mars and they are excavating the city after which their home settlement is named- Cardiff! . The descriptions of the city and in particular the Museum of Wales really adds to your appreciation of a very good story.When Bree was chosen to be part of the team of explorers it was a complete surprise, as she is not one of the top students in her class, so why was she chosen?  The answer brings a fitting climax to the story.  I will definitely be looking out for this author in the future and have high hopes for more from Firefly Press (who are based in Wales).

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Chicken House, 978-1910655153

“The Apprentice Witch” by James Nicol is a truly super read.  The heroine Arianwyn fails her witch’s assessment and gets sent off to a small remote village as an apprentice.  Then strange things start happening and Arianwyn has to pull out all the magic that she can find.  This is a lovely story about being different and being able to succeed despite this.

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Andersen Press, 9781783444014

“Racing Manhattan” by Terence Blacker (NG)  is the first of two titles set in the world of horse racing.  Whilst I have read “horse” stories as a child I have not read those set in this particular world.  The book is aimed at teens and deals with difficult issues but in a very sympathetic way.  I really cared what happened to the heroine Jay as well as to the real star, Manhattan.

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Puffin, 9780141362908

“The Racehorse who wouldn’t gallop” by Claire Balding and with illustrations by Tony Ross is another story set in the world of horse racing but aimed at a slightly younger audience.  The author is a well known commentator and ex- amateur jockey and has already written several books for adults.  The knowledge that she brings to the book is very evident and she is also a good writer, so that we are totally engrossed in the story of the ten-year old heroine Charlie Bass and her lovable if rather eccentric family.

“A Whisper of Horses” by Zillah Bethell (Piccadilly Press, 978-1848125346) (NG)  is the last of my books to feature horses, although in this case it is the heroine, Serendipity who is trying to find the last surviving horses in Britain.  the plot is set in a post-disaster country where the population in London is divided into the workers and the ruling classes.  There is a barrier around the city, following the lines of the M25 and no one is allowed out.  However Serendipity is determined and manages to escape; with the help of her ‘storyteller’ employer and a young smuggler called Tab.  It really is a magical story about chasing your dream and making the world change for the better.

“Girl out of Water” by Ned Luurtsema (Walker books, 978-1406366525)  deals with the world of competition swimming and a heroine who is totally sidelined when she fails to make the summer training squad with her best friends.  How she copes with this and crashes and splashes her way to success with others make up this story.  It veers from sad to hysterical in turn and makes an excellent summer read.

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Scholastic, 978-1407170589

“Robyn Silver: the Midnight Chimes” by Paula Harrison is the story of an ordinary girl, Robyn Silver, who suddenly starts seeing strange creatures that none of her siblings can.  Then when her school is re-located to a local ‘big house’ after a disaster, she discovers that she is a “Chime”; someone born at Midnight who can see creatures from a parallel world and whose role is to keep our world safe.  This is full of action, thrills and adventure but with some very human characters that you really want to succeed.

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Nosy Crow, 978-0857634863

“Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret”by Lyn Gardner is a wonderful Victorian melodrama with orphaned heroines making their way in the theatre, missing heirs and a truly villainous uncle.  This a fantastic read for those who have a love of Sherlock Holmes or the books of Robin Stevens and I am really looking forward to seeing some more stories featuring Rose and her friends.

“Stormwalker” by Mike Revell (Quercus, 978-1784290696) (NG) is yet another amazing story from the author of  “Stonebird” .  The hero Owen lives with his father and it is just over a year since his mother has died.  Owen suggests that his father re-starts writing a novel to help him get over his grief, but what happens next is totally unexpected – Owen finds himself transported into the story as one of the main characters.  Unfortunately the story is a dystopian one and Owen’s alter ego finds that he and those around him are in great danger.  So how can Owen save the characters whilst still helping his dad get better.  this really had me on the edge of my seat and longing to know the outcome.

“The girl from everywhere” by Heidi Heilig (Hot Key books, 978-1471405105)  (NG) Is a fantastic time travel fantasy where the heroine Nix travels through place and time using old maps.  She is part of the crew of an old pirate ship and her father is the captain; his mission in life is to go back and save his wife’s life.  However they can only go to a specific time once and their attempts are also hindered by the wrong maps and some true villains who want their help for ‘nefarious’ purposes.  This was a really original story and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Corgi, 978-0552572507

“The Crooked Sixpence” (The Uncommoners series) by Jennifer Bell.  I really loved this story of an alternate 2016-08-25 14.24.32London called Lundinor, that exists below our own city.  Ivy and her older brother Seb are left alone when their grandmother is admitted to hospital after a fall (both of their parents are away working) and then strange things start happening and they find themselves transported to Lundinor via a  suitcase !  All this is linked to their grandma losing her memory many years before and they face danger and excitement as they try and solve the mysteries.

“Rose in the Blitz” by Rebecca Stevens (Chicken House, 978-1910655542)   is the second in the series about Rose, the first one being “Valentine Joe” when she goes back to the first world war and meets an ancestor.  In this book the link to the past is her grandmother and we are taken back to her life during the London blitz.  It is a really emotional story and the end just about had me in tears.  This really mixes a beautiful story with the reality of life during the war  and I  know I will be recommending it to schools for their libraries.

Every time I write another post I am reminded of how wonderful the world of children’s books is at the moment.  I can only skim the surface of what is being published but I hope that you enjoy the books that I have chosen.  We are about to enter the frenetic period that leads to the big pre-Christmas launches, so there should be some fantastic titles to come; many of them from favourite authors but also some brilliant new talent.I look forward to letting you know about these little gems

 

 

NG With thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for access to the e-proofs.

Spring has sprung

One of the joys of spring is finding out what tempting examples of picture books are heading our way.  this year has been no exception and there are loads of fantastic picture books for all ages.  These are just a few of the ones that have taken my eye in the last few months and I hope to be able to bring another selection to you in the near future.

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Andersen Press, 9781783442027

“Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool” by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross is very much a cautionary tale in the style of Hilaire Belloc or Stanley Holloway’s ‘Albert and the Lion’ and from one of my favourite writing and illustration teams.  Lucinda Belinda is a truly irritating character, who sees it as her duty to beautify those around her and to comment on what people look like.  However when she meets a monster she discovers someone who will not be changed and she learns a very hard lesson.  This is not a story for really young readers, but KS2 will love it.

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Walker, 9781406362473

“Albert’s Tree” by Jenni Desmond is a gentle and humorous story of a bear and his adventures after he wakes from his long winter’s sleep.  It is also about not being scared of the unknown and making friends when you can.  It is beautifully illustrated and a great read for the early years.

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Otter-Barry, 9781910959473

“The Seal Children” by Jackie Morris.  this is a truly beautiful piece of art, something that you always find with Jackie Morris’s books.  It is a story about a small fishing village in Wales and about a Selkie (seal woman) who marries a local fisherman.  There is a melody to the words that link it to the movement of the waves on the shore and you have a real sense of the environment and the characters.

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Andersen Press, 9781783443840

“The adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend” by  Dan Santat is a magical tale of an imaginary friend called Beekle who goes on an adventure to try and find his one true friend.  The illustrations are beautifully drawn and keep you really engaged with the story.  this is all about friendship and the importance that it has in our lives.

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Frances Lincoln, 9781847807601

“The world famous Cheese Shop break-in” by Sean Taylor and Hannah Shaw.  This is the second book that I have seen recently that featured lots and lots of cheese.  On this occasion the rats are trying to break in to a cheese shop but find that there are lots of problems getting in their way.  The twist at the end will have everyone smiling.

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Otter-Barry, 9781910959527

“I will not wear Pink” by Joyce and Polly Dunbar  is an extravaganza of thoughts about the colour pink, but given that the main characters are pigs it is also about being happy with the skin you are in. The language and illustrations are exuberant and full of rhyme.   This is one of the first titles from the new Otter-Barry imprint and with Janetta Otter-Barry in the driving seat we are in for some wonderful titles.   Really great for story times I am sure.

 

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Andersen Press, 9781783443383

“Life is Magic” by Meg McLaren is a truly wonderful story of a magician, his assistant Houdini and the rest of the group (all of whom are rabbits).  When disaster happens and Monsieur Lapin (the magician) is turned into a rabbit it is up to Houdini (also a rabbit) to save the day. You really need to suspend you disbelief with this book but the illustrations and story are fantastic and will really appeal to young children.

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Andersen Press, 9781783443390

“All aboard for the Bobo Road” by Stephen Davies and Christopher Corr.  this is a truly exuberant story of life in West Africa.  It is full of colour and movement as well as being a window into the life that people are leading.   The journey itself is set in Burkino Faso and you could use the book to introduce children to work about this part of Africa. On top of all this the book is also a counting story as we see the luggage added and then removed from the bus as it travels along.

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Andersen Press, 9781783443635

“Where my feet go” by Birgitta Sif is a look at a day in the life of a small creature, but seen from the perspective of where his feet take him.  It is a gentle and joyful story that is great for reading to the youngest children.

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Little Tiger Press, 9781848690394

“The first Slodge”by Jeanne Willis and Jenni Desmond takes us back to the beginning of the world and how we all had to learn together and understand that the world is for caring and sharing.  This is a very simple story with a very profound message.  A really great read.

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Bloomsbury, 9781408854976

“The Cloudspotter” by Tom McLaughlin is the story of Franklin, a young lonely boy with a love of cloudspotting.  then a scruffy dog starts following him around and even wants to join in with Franklin’s adventures.  The charming ending when the two characters realise the importance of the friendship they have begun to share will appeal to everyone.

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Little Tiger Press, 9781848691933

“Nibbles, the book  Monster” by Emma Yarlett.  When Nibbles the book monster escapes from his cage he creates havoc everywhere. He keeps eating into other books like Goldilocks and Little red Riding Hood and proceeds to change the stories.  The physical book is wonderful with flaps, cut-outs and books within books.  A fantastic read for children and adults alike.

Happy reading to everyone!

 

 

 

 

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.

download

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.

Wonderful Walker event

A new book by Patrick Ness is always something to be shouted about and this one is no exception.  “The rest of us just live here” is about those who are not the superheroes, they are just kids trying to get along in life and cope with the problems of their teen years, although this does include OCD and dysfunctional families.  It  is a book that you would recommend to everyone and it is bound to be nominated for a variety of awards in the coming year.  There are two parallel narratives and although the second is told as the short headings to each chapter, gradually they begin to seep into each other.  You really must read this book.

Walker, 9781406367478

Walker, 9781406367478

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Patrick Ness and Tanya Landman

Thank you Walker books and Daunts in Marylebone for a  truly lovely evening. I was lucky enough to get a photo of two Carnegie winners as the wonderful Tanya Landman was there.  It was also great to see Celia Rees again and to meet Catherine Johnson and Non Pratt.  As you can see it was a star studded evening but the  undoubted megastar was Patrick himself.

Oh, and of course there was cake!  Lovely little cup cakes with a miniature book on the top.2015-09-02 19.05.04

Walker books at the Barbican

What an amazing  evening this turned out to be.  the conservatory at the Barbican was jam-packed with librarians and publishers as well as the megastars that are the authors and illustrators.  It was a night that I will remember as I saw people such as Shirley Hughes, Anthony Horowitz, Chris Riddell, Jez Alborough and the main speaker Patrick Ness.

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the purpose of the evening was to introduce us to the books that will be hitting the shop and library shelves in the autumn and I think it is going to be quite a fantastic offering.  There are several titles that are celebrating anniversaries in the next year and the publisher will be setting up activities and events to mark the occasions.  However there are also many new and exciting books, from picture books to top teens,  that will have the reviews and blogs buzzing about them.

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This looks as if it is going to be another bumper year for Walkers and I am looking forward to reading some of their offerings.

Federation of Children’s book groups conference

My first big gathering of this year and so many friends to catch up with.  I have now been back from the conference for two weeks and I am just coming down from the clouds.  It really was an amazing event.  As always the exhibition was full of children’s publishers showing us their latest wares and sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm.  It is always such a pleasure to meet up with these wonderful people and to come away with such goodies to read.

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One of the things we love about children’s book conferences is the opportunity to meet and listen to so many stimulating and exciting speakers, both writers  and illustrators, as well as the amazing Kate Wilson of Nosy Crow books.  As always we were treated to a generous amount of cake over the weekend, washed down by cups of tea and coffee.

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The weekend started with a truly inspirational talk about poetry by Sarah Crossan, the author of  “Weight of Water” and “Apple and rain”.  As small children we are totally surrounded by rhyme, from nursery rhymes to the work  of people such as Julia Donaldson and Lynley Dodd,but as we get older poetry is moved within a fence that many find difficult to overcome.  There are some authors who use rhyme in their novels but it is a concept that we need to get back to.  If we look at the history of storytelling we find that many of the major cultural tales are told in a poetic form; just like song lyrics,  which we find easier to remember.

Saturday morning started with a session on writing non-fiction, with a panel of Nicola Davies, Nicola Morgan and Marcia Williams in conversation with Zoe Toft.  All three authors have carved out a niche for themselves in this area and although they have very differing styles, they all appeal to their intended audiences.  Nicola Davies writes narrative non-fiction and approaches the task in the same way as writing fiction.  Nicola Morgan on the other hand feels that the two disciplines are very different and that over the years she has “lost the fiction muscles in her brain”.  Marcia Williams was enthused by a teacher who would read out loud to the class.  All three described how they had gradually developed their writing style and what influences had affected them.

The next session was with Tom Moorhouse who has written “The River Singers” and “The Rising”, about a family of water voles. Tom is a naturalist by profession and spoke about the reality of life for these animals as opposed to the images from books such as “Wind in the Willows”.  It was a fascinating talk and I know it will have made many new converts to his books.

The afternoon was taken up by the larger than life characters of Kjartan Poskitt, Philip Ardagh and Simon Mayle.  All three authors write humourous novels for primary age children, although Kjartan is renowned for the way that he brings maths alive to his audiences.  Our speaker at dinner was the amazing Frank Cottrell Boyce who was celebrating the launch of his latest book “The Astounding Broccoli  Boy”

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Sunday morning was another action packed session with a talk by Kate Wilson about Nosy Crow and how they have developed both their apps and the hard copy versions of the books.  It was great to hear that books are still a top priority, not least because they are such a variable size and format, whereas with technology you are limited by the size of the screen.  The other two sessions were an Illustrators’ panel with Rob Biddulph (Blown Away), Sophy Henn (Pom Pom gets the grumps) and David Shelton (A boy and a bear in a boat) and then a young adult panel with Non Pratt (Trouble),  Alice Oseman (Soliaire) and Lisa Williamson (The Art of being Normal).  We then finished off with discussions with Steven Butler and the really great Jonathan Stroud (Lockwood and Co.).

By this point were were all totally exhausted but very happy at having attended such a stimulating and very friendly conference.  I have  still only looked at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the books I brought home, but I look forward to many hours of great reading.

A bunch of books for the Spring

The end of January brings the bi-annual listing of new children’s books  from Bookseller magazine.  It is always great to sit and check which of my favourite authors have got a new titles in the next few months.  This latest offering has got me all excited about those books appearing over the next months, but also those that have been appearing in the post for me to look at.  I still think we are  lucky to live at a  time where so much writing and illustration talent is on offer.

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HarperCollins, 978-0007545766

The other week I was lucky enough to be invited to meet new Irish author Shane Hegarty, whose book “Darkmouth” has just been published.  It is a dark and atmospheric book about a small seaside village in Ireland where there exists one of the last doorways between the world of ‘Legends’ and our world.  The hero is a young boy called Finn, who is being trained as a Legend Hunter by his father, but he is not very successful.  It is an action packed story for both boys and girls and there will be more to come in the series.

 

 

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Corgi, 978-0552568531

For those who like their mysteries to be more linked to the modern world then the new book by Amanda Mitchison, called “Crog” might fit the bill. the ‘hero’ Wilf is something of a kleptomaniac, although he steals because he is bored.  A less than inspiring person who has an extremely wealthy father and a very normal sister, he finds himself in real trouble when he steals a bowl from a local museum and the next morning finds a 3000 year old man in his room, who says he has to guard the bowl.  There are great adventures and many
twists in the plot before the truth is discovered. A real page turner for the middle years.

 

 

 

 

 

“Big game” by Dan Smith is a really strong story, which has just been made into a film, starring Samuel L Jackson.  Imagine being out in the snow in Finland, undergoing a trial to prove your manhood, and then finding a crashed escape pod containing the president of the United States. The problem comes when you find there are men out there who want to kill the president – and you.  A great adventure thriller.

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Chicken House, 978-1910002797

 

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Walker books, 978-1406354928

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favourite books of the last couple of months is “Julius Zebra: rumble with the Romans”  by Gary Northfield.  This is a hysterical story of the less than brave Julius who is captured by the Romans and ends up fighting in the Colosseum in Rome.  It requires a huge amount of disbelief around the idea of anthropomorphic animals.  There is wonderful humour, mixed with a fair amount of information about gladiators, which will be great for young readers, both boys and girls.

 

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Chicken House

For a young teen audience there is a really heart wrenching book being published by the great Chicken House.  It is called “The Honest Truth” by Dan Gemeinhart and is the story of Mark, a twelve year old who is terminally ill with cancer and decides he is going on one last big adventure while he can.  It is a fantastic story of grit and determination, fighting against the odds and also about the families and friends who care.  I strongly recommend this one.

 

 

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HarperCollins, 978-0007589180

“Scarlet and Ivy” by Sophie Cleverly is a first novel, by one of the graduates from the truly amazing Writing for young people course at Bath Spa.  they have produced some of the best authors of the last few years.  This story is about mysteries and missing people; with all kinds of twists and turns as Ivy tries to find out what has happened to her missing sister.

 

 

 

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OUP, 978-0192737748

For younger readers we have the funny and truly imaginative story of “The Accidental Prime Minister” by Tom McLaughlin.  The premise is totally impossible but it makes for a good read and I think some of the contenders for the real office might learn a thing or to about working for the people, if they read this book to their children.

 

 

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Bloomsbury, 978-1408854136

“The Last of the Spirits” by Chris Priestley is a wonderful re-telling of the story of  “A Christmas carol” but told from the perspective of a destitute boy and his sister.  It is one of those books that just grabs you, and I finished it in one sitting.  It is also going on my list of those books which have to be read every year; probably just after I have watched the ‘Muppet Christmas carol’.

 

 

 

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Hot Key Books, 978-1471404597

“The door that led to Where” by Sally Gardner is yet another real winner  from a truly superb writer.  It is a time travel novel, set in modern and Victorian London, but with the twists and turns that keep you hooked into the story.  The ending seems to give hope that there will be a follow up, I do hope so.

 

 

 

Arsenic for Tea. jpeg

Randomhouse, 978-0552570732

“Arsenic for Tea” by Robin Stevens is the second in the series featuring the girl sleuths  Daisy Wells and  Hazel Wong and set in a Poirotesque time frame.  I have to say that this one kept me guessing and I was really disappointed
when the murderer was announced, because all of the suspects were such nice people, in fact the only nasty person turned out to be the victim.  I have just heard that a contract has been signed for more books by this author and I can’t wait.

 

 

 

 

 

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Curious Fox, 978-1782022527

My last offering is the first in a new series by Vicki Lockwood, called ” The Magnificent Lizzie Brown and the Mysterious Phantom”.  It is set in Victorian London and surrounds the adventures of Lizzie Brown, who runs away from her drunken father and finds herself joining a circus.  Whilst assisting the fortuneteller, Lizzie discovers that she has a true ability to see into the future, not something she really wants.  the story deals with her attempts to unmask a mysterious thief, with the help of her new circus friends.  I am looking forward to the next in this exciting series for the ‘tweens’.

 

Christmas is almost upon us.

Every year we seem to find Christmas preparations getting earlier, with the shops starting the marketing as early as the end of August.  However I try and keep things in perspective until the beginning of December, although you do have to think of cakes and puddings a bit earlier.  The build up to the festivities has always started with the arrival of the latest Christmas/winter themed picturebooks and ends with a surfeit of “Muppet Christmas Carol”.  This year I am going to highlight a couple of new books and several ‘old’ favourites and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I have done.

The Christmas Eve Ghost by Shirley Hughes

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Walker books, 9781406320633

This wonderful evocation of Christmas in the 1930s is really something special from the amazing Shirley Hughes.  It is set in working class Liverpool and gives us an insight into how people  were influenced by their religious upbringing.  When their widowed mother has to leave them for a short while, Bronwen and Dylan are frightened by the odd thumping sound coming from their outhouse.  Lucky their neighbour, Mrs O’Riley took them in to her home and found the reason for the sounds.  The story is full of pathos and has a real lesson for us all about the meaning of goodwill to all men.

 

Alfie’s Christmas by Shirley Hughes

This book came out last year and stars one of the favourite characters in children’s picturebooks.  Perhaps Alfie and Annie Rose live a somewhat idealized life compared to many, put they still have to go through all the worries and hopes about the coming festivities. This story perfectly shows the excitement that the  children experience in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  From Christmas carols and plays, to making decorations and mince pies, we join Alfie and Annie Rose in their preparations and their enjoyment of the big day.

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Red Fox, 9781849416498

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Little Angel by  Ruth Brown

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Andersen Press, 9780862648467

Although this book was first published in 1998 it is still one of my favourites.  The gentle humour  surrounding the young angel  is a reminder that not everyone wants a halo and wings.  The twist at the end is something of a lightbulb moment that makes sense of the whole story and Ruth Brown did a magnificent job in leading us away from the real plot.  It should be read in every primary school at this time of year.

 

 

 

Cat in the Manger by Michael Foreman

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Andersen Press, 9780862649277

An enchanting retelling of the nativity story, but from the perspective of a cat who takes shelter in the stable on that cold winter’s night  in Bethlehem.  It is a very grumpy cat, so we get his opinions about cattle, donkeys, sheep and all the other animals and people who arrive to see the new baby that has been born. However, the lives of all there were changed by that event and even the cat is mellowed by his experience.

 

The Snow day by Richard Curtis and Rebecca Cobb (illust)

Whilst this new book is not specifically about Christmas it is about the simple joys of snow and the  magic of imagination which can flourish when we change to our normal routines and attitudes.  This really had me chuckling at the events and the two characters.  It is a gentle book , full of hope and a belief in the simpler ways of enjoying life. I am preparing a longer review of this book for the School Librarian, but it had to make an appearance in my own listing for this year and will definitely be on my annual “to read” list.

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Puffin, 9780723288923

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Snow by Walter de la Mare and Carolina Rabei (illust)

I first spoke about this book in my previous review of picture books.  It is a lovely re-drawing of the poem by de la Mare, with a slightly 1950s feel to the illustrations with their simplicity and limited colour palette.  there is that really simple joy which comes from making the most of what surrounds us and which we often forget in the hustle bustle of the modern world.

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The final two books have elements that bring them together.  They  have gatherings of people, although in some stories it is a greater number than in others.  There is a strong sense of family and friendship and also of making the best of things when there are a few problems.

The first of the books is a very old favourite that I have told on endless occasions in libraries and schools

One Snowy Night by Nick Butterworth

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Harpercollins, 9780007146932

A wonderful story of friendship featuring the loveable Percy the Park keeper and the wide assortment of animals that live in his park.  When the snow falls heavily the animals arrive at Percy’s hut for a bit of shelter, and how things work out makes for a magical tale which never fails.

 

 

Christmas in Exeter Street by Diana Hendry and John lawrence (illust)

Amazingly this book was first written in 1989 and I can only suppose I missed it because we moved to Cyprus at the end of that year. It is a very funny tale of what happens when a house if filled lierally to the rafters with people seeking shelter for the Christmas break.  We end up with 18 children that father Christmas has to remember, never mind all the adults.  It is rather like a festive game of ‘sardines’.  Thankfully the book was republished last year by Walker books, so it is available to a whole new audience.

 

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Walker books, 978406343038

I do hope that you get the chance to read some of these books and in particular have the chance to read them to a young audience because they really do add to that magical feel that we have for Christmas.