Tiger Tales

I have been contemplating a blog post about “Tiger tales” for quite some time, as I kept discovering more and more books which feature these majestic creatures.  The realization that this is the Chinese “Year of the Tiger” spurred me on to actually put together this group of books.  One of the main problems is that I keep finding even more, really exciting sounding books that I have now got on my ‘to be read’ list.  I have added these to the end of the blog post, so that you can all have a go at reading some of them.

 

Pavilion, 9781843654018

“Big Cat” by Emma Lazell is a very funny look at what happens when Grandma loses her spectacles.  She finds a very large cat and decides to look after it, but what everyone else can see is that this is no ordinary Cat.  Eventually some visitors, who are out searching for their son, find the glasses and everything becomes very clear!!  There is a real sense of playfulness with this story and I detect a certain ‘homage’ to  The Tiger who came to Tea.  Definitely one to keep and keep re-reading.

Little Tiger, 9781788810418

“Squish, Squash, Squeeze” by Tracey Corderoy and Jane Chapman tells the story of Mouse, who thinks he has found the perfect new home, but Bear, Crocodile, and Tiger say there is no room for them all.  When the floor collapses under them they are scared, but perhaps a burrowing Mole has provided the solution to all of their problems?  Another superbly funny picture book from Tracey Corderoy.

Scholastic, 9781407185712

“Collecting Cats” by Lorna Scobie.  When the narrator of the story decides they want to collect cats they go about it in a very unusual way.  Firstly they get a load of cheese, this attracts mice and eventually the cats arrive to catch the mice.  However, you can have too much of a good thing and eventually they decide that collecting cheese is a better idea.  This is a fantastically silly and funny story, full of very kind of cat, so everyone is probably going to see their own version.

HarperCollins, 9780007215997

“The Tiger who came to Tea” by Judith Kerr is a modern classic, which is now celebrating  54 years since its original publication in 1968.  I probably came across it when I started working in a library in the early 1970s, so it has been part of my professional life for a very long time.  We never seem to tire of this somewhat unwelcome visitor, but are always thankful when he decides to leave.  Despite the setting, this seems to avoid many of the criticisms that could be made about gender roles in particular.  I still love it as a story.

Nosy Crow, 9781788002523

“This Zoo is not for You” by Ross Collins. When platypus turns up at the zoo, the animals assume that he is there for an interview to join the zoo.  Each of them finds a reason why he would not fit in, based on their own preferences.  However, after he has left, they discover a letter, inviting them to a party on his Platybus!! After apologies all round, everyone enjoys the fun.  A brilliant book about not making assumptions, or judging by appearances.

Bloomsbury, 9781408892183

“Ravi’s Roar” by Tom Percival is another delightful book by this author and it focuses on the feelings that the youngest member of a family can feel.  Ravi feels left out of things by his siblings and he always seems to be last, because of his size.  One day it all becomes too much and Ravi is so angry, he turns in to a tiger, but what will happen when he calms down?  This is a brilliant look at coping with anger and is a welcome addition to the other books by Tom Percival, which deal with emotional well-being.

Nosy Crow, 9781788005678

“Tiger, Tiger burning bright” by Fiona Waters and Britta Teckentrup is an amazing poetry collection for the younger reader, although it requires a table or very strong arms when reading it.  It really is one of those collections that every primary school should have and will act as a wonderful focus for children and their imaginations.

HarperCollins, 9780007119691

Tiger in the Snow by Nick Butterworth is an absolute classic, featuring a tabby kitten, called Tiger and the adventure he has when he discovers snow for the first time.  With all of his friends either too cold or too busy to come and play, can Tiger find a companion to share his fun?

Macmillan,9781509855155

“I am a Tiger” by Karl Newsom and Ross Collins is an absolutely hysterical story of a mouse who insists that he is actually a tiger.  He manages to persuade several other animals that they are not who they think they are.  However, when a real tiger appears on the scene, can the mouse persuade him that he is actually a MOUSE!!  This is an real delight and a must have in every early years setting

Bloomsbury, 9781408839041

“Never tickle a tiger” by Pamela Butchart, illustrated by Marc Boutevant.  Izzy is a girl who can’t keep still. She is always wriggling and jiggling and generally causing havoc.  Can Izzy behave herself on a school visit to the Zoo and what will happen if she can’t?  A colourful and very energetic story about a young girl who cannot seem to keep out of trouble.  Izzy is one of those children who has to try everything and only learns from her mistakes.  On this occasion she creates total mayhem as she disregards the order “never tickle a tiger” and we have an amazing 4 page spread explaining just how big a disaster she has caused.  You would think that she has finally learnt her lesson, but I wouldn’t be sure about that.  This is a definite morality tale, much in the style of Hilaire Belloc, but with a thoroughly modern heroine.  A really fun book for younger readers.

Welbeck, 9781783125661

“Interview with a Tiger and other Clawed Beasts too” by Andy Seed and Nick East.  What a fascinating and very funny book this is, particularly if you want information but without the boring bits. The author gives us a series of ‘interviews’ with a range of animals and we get a wonderfully relaxed set of answers about them and their lifestyles.

Orion, 9781510107045

“Tiger Heart” by Penny Chrimes.   Fly is a young girl, abandoned at birth and then taken to work for a chimney sweep, climbing up and down the chimneys all day.  One day she makes a bid for freedom and quite literally finds herself trapped in a cage with a rather large tiger.  The strangest thing is that this creature begins to talk to her and she can understand him, but most oddly of all the tiger insists on calling her ‘princess’ and says that she comes from the same land as himself.  They escape from the house they are in but find themselves hunted by the man responsible for bringing the tiger and other animals to this country.  This is a story about friendship, knowing yourself and trying to understand the world around you.  It is a lesson in not letting physical possessions become the most important thing in life, but in knowing that people are what make the world a better place to live in

Lion, 9781782643173

“The Tigers in the Tower” by Julia Golding is a fascinating story of animals at the Tower of London in the 19th Century.  there is a full review of this book on this blog, written in September 2020.

Usborne, 9781474903042

“The troublesome |Tiger” by Tamsyn Murray is part of her series for young readers, featuring Zoe, who lives at Tanglewood Animal Park.   This book is about Tindu, a new addition to the park, but one that is not settling in to their new home.  Can Zoe help and make their new tiger feel at home.  This is a great series for those who love animals and is an excellent precursor to reading Gill Lewis and similar writers.

 

 

These are some other books that I have come across and hope to read, or re-read in the near future.  Do give some of them a try.

“Mr Tiger goes Wild” by Peter Brown

Two Hoots, 978-1509848232

 

“Cinnamon” by Neil Gaiman and Divya Srinivasan

Bloomsbury, 978-1408879221

 

 

“Mr Tiger, Betsy and the Blue Moon” by Sally Gardner

Zephyr, 978-1786697189

 

 

“The Time traveller and the Tiger” by Tania Unsworth

Zephyr, 978-1788541718

 

The Dancing Tiger” by Malachy Doyle

Simon and Schuster Children’s, 978-0689873102

 

“The magic Bed”  by John Burningham

Red Fox, 978-0099439691

 

“Love is…” by Sarah Maycock

Big Picture Press, 978-1787418745

 

 

 

“Tiger in trouble” by Jess Butterworth

Orion, 978-1510107984

 

“There’s a Tiger in the garden” by Lizzy Stewart

Lincoln Children’s Books,  978-1847808073

 

So, from me and my tiger friends, enjoy these books and have a wonderful “Year of the Tiger”

 

Christmas Glitters

This is turning out to be a bumper year for titles about Christmas and the winter season. Not only have we got a collection of additions to already popular titles, but we also have a huge range of new characters to bring us Christmas Cheer.

Picture Books

“Little Santa” by Jon Agee  is a delightful take on how Santa became the focus of Christmas that he has become.  It is about doing what is right for you, rather than just following everyone else; a great addition to the Christmas collection.

Little Bear and the Silver Star by Jane Hissey is a look at her famous collection of toys as they start to decorate the tree for Christmas.  When the star for the top cannot be found, Little Bear gets worried.  A midnight visit to the attic eventually finds the hidden glittery star, but then he loses it in the snow outside.  However, with a bit of Christmas magic, the tree eventually has its crowning glory!

The Christmas Pine by Julia Donaldson and Victoria Sandoy  is a magical look at what happens to a small Norwegian pine tree as it grows into a tall and strong tree.  It is brought to another country and city (London), where it is the centre of celebrations and helps people remember the true meaning of the festivities.  This is the story of the Trafalgar Square tree that is gifted by the Norwegian people, in thanks for the help they received in WW2.

“The Mice before Christmas” by Anne L Watson and Wendy Edelson is based on the classic story by Clement Clark Moore, however this is about how the mice prepare and spend Christmas.  It is a bright and vibrant story of family and friendship and the joy of the festive season.  There are echoes of the Brambly Hedge stories and you can see this especially in the highly detailed and energetic illustrations.  This is definitely one that should be a classic read.

“Santa’s Stolen Sleigh” (Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton  sees our two heroes, Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam back in action.  When Santa’s elves become ill, a polar bear called Flo offers to help with toy making, but then she steals Santa’s sleigh, so she can have a ride.  Luckily things turnout well in the end and Flo is very remorseful.

“Grace and the Christmas Angel” by Lucinda Riley, Harry Whittaker and Jane Ray is a beautiful and timeless story of Christmas, family and the sense of community that is found in fishing villages around the world.  When Grace’s father does not get home for her Christmas concert she worries about his boat, out in a tempestuous sea.  Luckily she has a guardian angel, called Hope, who answers the call and guides the vessels back to port. The illustrations are yet another triumph form the magical Jane Ray and they really add to the joy in te book.

“The Twelve Green Days of Christmas” by Barry Timms and Sian Roberts is another version of the 12 Days of Christmas, however this time it has Santa as the main character and looks at what he sees when he is flying with his reindeer.  The theme is about caring for our planet and being more green about the way we behave.  It is a great and humorous story but with a strong eco message.

“Croc O’Clock” by Huw Lewis Jones and Ben Sanders  is a decidedly modern take on the concept of the 12 days of Christmas, but mixed with the Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Feeding time at the zoo is exciting as Croc gets increasingly larger meals, until he finally is ready to burst, but of course he doesn’t and his keepers put him on  vegetarian diet for a while.

“The Toys’ Christmas” by Claire Clement and Genevieve Godbout is about a young boy called Noah and his toy elephant called FanFan.  when the latter can’t be found on Christmas Eve, Noah is worried and finding it hard to go to sleep.  But FanFan is on his annual secret mission, together with lots of other toys; they meet up with Santa and let him know what their child would like for Christmas.  This means that everyone gets a present that they wanted and of course on Christmas morning Noah finds his faithful friend is safely home. 

 

Middle Grade Stories

“The Christmas Pig” by J K Rowling and Jim Field.  This is a delightful Christmas story from one of the world’s best known children’s authors.  When Jack’s favourite toy Dur Pig (DP) is thrown out of a car window, he is distraught and even a replacement pig does not help.  This is a totally magical story of lost toys and the love that a child has for a favourite toy.  It is also a story about families, as Jack’s dad has gone and his mum is just beginning a new relationship; however, the daughter of the new friend is not happy and she is the one who threw DP out of the car.  The twin elements of the story are all about accepting change and understanding that there can be new loves, even though you never forget the old.

“Diary of a Christmas Elf” by Ben Miller  tells the story of a young Elf called Tog, who really wants to become one of the toy-makers for Father Christmas.  When things start going wrong and toys are being stolen, can Tog do anything to help solve the mystery, with the help of Santa’s daughter Holly?  This is a great read for the 7-9 age group and will definitely bring on the Christmas spirit.

Clara Claus saves Christmas by Bonnie Bridgman and Louise Forshaw .  When Santa is taken ill just before Christmas, it is up to his children, but especially his daughter Clara, to try and save the day, by making sure all the presents are delivered.  This is a delightful and very funny story for the young confident reader

“How Winston came home for Christmas” by Alex T Smith is the gorgeous follow up to the star |Christmas book from last year.  Once again we have the story told in 24 chapters, so that you can read one for every day of Advent.  This time, Winston is on the hunt for a missing mouse and has lots of adventures on the way.  The book is full of recipes, craft ideas and that magical something that we all want from a Christmas story.  A totally glorious read.

The Christmas Carrolls by Mel Taylor-Bessent and Selom Sunu  shows us a family who take their love of Christmas to the extreme.  They celebrate it throughout the year and can’t understand those who just celebrate in December.   When they move house and Holly starts at a new school, they find they are definitely meeting a lot of “Bah Humbug” feelings, so can they change people’s minds?  A brilliant look at what ‘being different’ can mean and how we can stay true to ourselves, whilst understanding the different views of others.

“The Christmasaurus and the Naughty List” by Tom Fletcher and Shane Devries  is the third adventure featuring this totally unique dinosaur and his friends.  When Santa does his annual weigh-in of the Naughty and Nice lists, he discovers that there are far too many children on the naughty list.  If not enough children receive presents then Christmas cannot take place, and that would be a disaster!  The Christmasaurus decides to intervene and get children moved from naughty to nice.

“The Santa List” by Kieran Crowley is another story about the naughty list.  |this time, the siblings, Aisling and Joe have been playing tricks on their new babysitter and she has sent a letter to Santa, putting them on the naughty list.  Can the children redeem themselves and get on the nice list; that is, if they can recover the list, which they have managed to lose!  A brilliant read for the festive season.

“A Mouse called Miika” by Matt Haig and Chris Mould is the latest story set in the world that Matt Haig created around “A Boy called Christmas”.  This time the hero is the small mouse, Miika,  who faces moral dilemmas when he wants to be friends with the only other mouse at the North Pole, but they are not as honest as he is, so eventually decisions have to be made.  With the release of the film version of “A Boy called Christmas“, this new story set in the same world is bound to be a hit.

“The Night train” by Matilda Woods and Penny Neville-Lee.  This is a magical story that follows a group of characters as they board the night train, which will take them to a place where their dreams can come true.  However, they have to reach their destination by midnight, otherwise they will not dream;  unfortunately on this night there is an obstruction on the track and everyone has to work together to make things right.  It is a great story for younger readers, with lots of bright and atmospheric illustrations that bring the story alive.

“Winter Story” by Jill Barklem invites us to join the mice of Brambly Hedge as they celebrate the coming of snow and the excitement of preparing for a ‘Snow Ball’.  The preparations are magical; from carving out a huge ballroom in the snow, to everyone baking and cooking a huge feast for everyone to share.  this gives a warm and cosy feel to the reader.

“Wishyouwas” by Alexandra Page.   It is the lead up to Christmas 1952 and Penny Black has been sent to stay with her Uncle Frank, who runs a small post office in central London.  Penny’s mother is a pilot for the Royal Mail and flies post to Europe and back; but Penny is hoping that she will be back home in time to celebrate Christmas.  What Penny does not expect, is to discover what she initially thinks is a rat, but turns out to be something very special indeed.  This small creature speaks English and says his name is ‘Wishyouwas’; he is a ‘Sorter’ and this group of creatures have made it their purpose to try and retrieve lost post and make sure it finds its rightful recipient.  However, the Sorters are under threat from the Royal Mail Rat Catcher and Penny finds herself trying to save them and prove how useful they would be to the service.  This is a wonderful story about friendship, family and also being open to new ideas and accepting others who are very different.  Alexandra Page has created a new Christmas classic and I know it will be a firm favourite for children and adults alike.

“A Night at the Frost fair” by Emma Carroll and Sam Usher  is a wonderfully evocative time slip adventure in which the young Maya finds herself transported back to the Frost Fair of 1788, where she meets a young boy called Eddie.  She thinks he is being kidnapped, but finds that he has run away from home, because he is being treated as an invalid and not allowed any freedom.  How Maya helps him and also makes changes to lives in the present day, makes for a perfect Christmas tale.

“The very Merry Murder Club”, edited by Robin Stevens and Serena Patel is a collection of murder and mystery stories, written by some of our most talented writers for Middle Grade readers.   The stories range from dead bodies to stolen treasures and each of them gives the reader opportunities to use their “little grey cells”.  This has kept me happily engrossed over several days waiting to collect someone in my car.

 

Real life heroes

“Youthquake” by Tom Adams and Sarah Walsh is a book that I first came across when it was nominated for the Information Book Award.   It is aimed a Middle grade readers, as well as those in KS3 and focuses on 50 young people throughout history who have had a lasting impact on the world that we live in.  This is a book that is divided into themes, so that creative arts are under the heading “Create and Dream”, while sport is called “Lead and Triumph”.  It is a book to dip into, as well as to learn more about specific people.  Many of the names are now well known, but there are also many who are just receiving their first acknowledgements.  It shows how people an overcome multiple challenges if they are determined to achieve.

“Just like Me” by Louise Golding, Melissa Iwai and Caterina Delli Carri is a collective biography of a range of individuals who are neurologically and physically diverse.  It is aimed at the Middle Grade age range, even down to age 7 years according to the publishers.  It is great to see a title that allows young children to understand that we are a world of wonderfully diverse people.

“I am not a label” by Cerrie Burnell and Lauren Baldo is another collection of biographies from the past and present.  All of the people represented are disabled in some way and this book focuses on their achievements, rather than on the disability.  There are quite a few names that I am not familiar with, so it is wonderful to see people from across the world who have overcome many obstacles to achieving their ambitions.

We are the Beatles” by Zoe Tucker and Mark Wang  AND “We are the Supremes” by Zoe Tucker and Salina Perera. These two titles are the first in a new series from ‘Wide Eyed Editions’ and aimed at KS1 readers. The author is beginning to make a name for herself with the range of biographies for young people that she has written, so it is great to think that we have another talent to depend on for many years hopefully.  The stories are told very simply and have underlying themes of friendship, equality and teamwork.  There are some exciting titles in the pipeline and I am really looking forward to the books on NASA Scientists and also the Apollo 11 crew, which are due out this autumn.

“Fearless” by Gattaldo  tells the story of a Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was well known for her expose of injustices in her country.  I first heard about her a couple of years ago when there was a TV documentary about her life and an investigation into the bomb  attack that killed her.  This book is aimed at younger readers and emphasizes her belief in freedom of speech and civil rights, it does not cover the horror of her death.  It is supported by Amnesty International and shines a light on the fact that all countries seem to have dark areas in the way they are run and in the way that people are able to live their lives.

“The Fog of War” by Michelle Jabes  Corpora and  Amerigo Pinelli,  AND “Queen of Freedom” by Catherine Johnson and Amerigo Pinelli are both titles in the best selling series “True Adventures” from Pushkin Children’s books.  The range of subjects is extremely broad.  The former title is about Martha Gellhorn an American journalist who managed to be part of the D-Day landings, something that her then husband, Ernest Hemingway, did not manage.  The latter title is about the Jamaican freedom fighter Queen Nanny who led  the revolt of the Maroon people against the British colonial authorities and slave owners in the late 18th century.  All of the books in this series tell us about people that struggled against oppression, stereotypes and colonialism among other issues.  They bring all of this home to the reader in a straightforward and understandable way.

Little people: BIG DREAMS” is a wide ranging series of biographical books aimed at very young readers. Written by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara they have a range of  illustrators , however they do follow a ‘house style’ that most people will recognize.  This links in to the small format of the books and also the age range that they are aimed at, which is in the 5-8 years range.  the characters portrayed range from people such as Alan Turing and Martin Luther King, to Captain Tom Moore and Marcus Rashford.   there are also multiple books about famous women, from Mary Anning to Frida Kahlo and Coco Chanel. One of the latest that I came across is about the iconic figure of Iris Apfel, who at the age of 100 is still a major figure in the fashion world and an example to us all.   Hopefully some of these titles can be found in every school and library.

Surviving lockdown

The last couple of months have seen huge changes in my ability to see forthcoming titles.  First we had London Book Fair cancelled and then the wonderful Federation of Children’s Book groups Conference.  This month I should have been attending the School Library Association Conference, but that is now online.  All of this has meant that I could not meet up with the fabulous friends in publishing and look at the amazing books that they bring to the various exhibitions.  However  I will say thank you to the many publishers who have kept on sending review copies when requested, it is greatly appreciated.  It has also been great to keep up with those books that appear as e-galleys on Netgalley and Edelweiss, this means that I am able to still read and promote the books that I think everyone will enjoy.

I am starting off with this look at some titles for younger readers and I hope they will enjoy this small group of titles featuring ghouls, vampires and witches.

Guppy Books, 9781913101060

“Ghoul Scouts, Welcome to Camp Croak!” by Taylor Dolan is the first in a new series about Lexie Wild, who finds herself at a summer camp called ‘Camp Croak’, because her grandma took a wrong turning on the road.  Finding herself sharing a cabin with a ghost, a zombie and a werewolf definitely was not what she expected, but turned out to be great fun.  This is a fast and furious story of a truly evil teacher and how the girls foil a plot to take over and then sell the camp.  I loved the amazing illustrations, they are totally weird and wonderful.

Egmont, 9781405293921

“Amelia Fang and the Lost Yeti Treasures” by Laura Ellen Anderson is the latest adventure of everyone’s favourite vampire and her assorted friends.  When they are all invited to the 350th birthday party of Florence the yeti’s great grandmother they did not anticipate that there would be a thief about, but finding the perpetrator and saving the Yeti mountain from collapsing will take all their ingenuity and see them facing great danger.

OUP, 9780192773579

“Victoria Stitch, Bad and Glittering” by Harriet Muncaster is not due for publication until September but it brings us a new heroine from the author of the ‘Isadora Moon‘ series; in fact we get two for the price of one, because Victoria Stitch has a twin sister called Celestine.  Victoria thinks she should be in line of succession to the throne of Wiskling Wood but finds herself in all sorts of trouble, especially when a strange girl called Ursuline offers to help her.  This is a delightful story about two girls who discover that, in general, people are a mix of good and bad and they just need to have the right motivation.  the author has produced some wonderful illustrations that have a truly witchy and gothic feel.

David Fickling, 9781788450522

“King Coo, the Curse of the Mummy’s Gold” by Adam Stower  is the second adventure for young Ben Pole and the unlikely hero King Coo who lives in the woods near his house.  When an ancient treasure is stolen from the local museum Ben’s mother is under suspicion as she is a security guard; so it is up to Ben to try and find the real thieves and save the day.  Yet again we have a hysterical tale of intrigue and adventure, where the totally incredible King Coo helps in their own inimitable way.  This is definitely for those who love to laugh their way through their adventures.

Piccadilly, 9781848127654

“Beatrix the Bold and the Curse of the Wobblers” by Simon Mockler introduces us to an exciting and feisty young heroine called Beatrix.  She has spent her life cooped up in a castle with her aunt and uncle, neither of whom seem the least bit interested in her.  She know that there is some mystery surrounding her but doesn’t know what, so eventually she decides to leave the castle and discover who she really is. Of course we have all guessed the secret well before Beatrix cottons on to being the QUEEN; the problem is her aunt rather enjoys running the country and Beatrix soon finds that she is in danger.  This is a funny fast paced and very enjoyable read for adventurous young people.

Andersen Press, 9781783448388

“Mermaid School, the Clamshell Show” by Lucy Courtney and Sheena Dempsey joins the surge of titles that have mermaids as their central characters.  this series is aimed at younger readers and centres around Marnie Blue and her two best friends as they get used to attending mermaid school.  This title tells us what happens when they are all auditioning to take part in a show, but then a new girl appears on the scene who wants the starring role by fair means or foul.  This is great fun and also is a good way to help young people understand the dynamics of school life.

Gecko Press, 9781776572717

“Hattie” by Frida Nilsson and Stina Wirsen is the story of a young Swedish girl and her first year at school.  It shows a very different life from that in the UK but the challenges of finding friends and learning about the wider world seem to reflect issues found around the world.  This is a charming look at a young person just finding their feet as they start school.

Usborne, 9781474972178

“Unipiggle, Unicorn Muddle” by Hannah Shaw tells the story of how Princess Pea (Peony) has to choose a unicorn to become the Royal Unicorn.  But Pea would rather be out playing and getting muddy instead of being dressed up in all her finery and sitting on a stage with her parents.  Things take a hilarious turn as a pig joins the parade of unicorns, but he also has a horn, and most importantly he seems to have a great sense of fun.  Of course Princess Pea decides that this creature, she calls the Unipiggle, has to become her companion.  What follows is a lot of humour and the beginning of a delightful relationship between the princess and her magical pig.

Five Quills, 9781912923045

“Bug Belly, Babysitting Trouble” by Paul Morton is definitely a hilarious story for those just beginning to read alone.  The main character is a frog called Bug Belly, who is called upon to look after his large number of nephews and nieces (tadpoles and froglets) whilst their parents are off at a frogspawn conference.  The story follows his adventures as he tries to avoid numerous enemies whilst also moving the young offspring to a safer lower pool after he accidentally created a hole in the upper pond.  Not only is this a great adventure but it also enables young children to understand some of the dangers that frogs encounter.  There are  great illustrations and lots of fun.

Piccadilly, 9781848127753

“Hotel Flamingo” by Alex Milway tells the story of young Anna Dupont who finds herself the owner of the Hotel Flamingo; unfortunately the hotel is rundown and the animals who are running it have run out of energy.  They are also facing competition from the hotel on the hill, called “The Glitz”  This is a great story about friendship, sharing and creating a sense of community.  There are some delightful characters and charming illustrations that bring the story alive.

OUP, 9780192773630

“Mickey and the animal spies” by Anne Miller is a fabulous story for those who like mystery, spies and some very unusual characters.  Mickey is a great fan of codes and spies and longs to follow in the footsteps of her hero Hildegarde L McTavish, so when she discovers a code taped to a bus window she just has to investigate.  Cracking the code leads her to a mysterious office where she discovers a spy unit  consisting of animals and called Cobra.  Further adventures follow as they try and save the pet of a famous pop star as well as preventing a jewel robbery.  This is an excellent first children’s book by the author and I was lucky enough to attend the book launch in London earlier in the year.

I do hope that you find some books in here that you would like to share with young readers.  At a time of such uncertainty it is good to have books that we can really enjoy and which take us away from the restrictions that we have to face.  I sincerely wish that we all have a happy and peaceful summer and that we can return to a new normal in the near future.

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.

 

 

 

Snow is all around

Faber & Faber, 9780571348985

“The Great Reindeer Disaster” by Kate Saunders and Neal Layton is a brilliantly funny look at what happens when a young and accident prone reindeer called Percy lands on the Trubshaw family’s roof.  We meet the villainous Krampus and the various teams of reindeer who make sure that all presents are delivered on the great day.  There are thrills and laughs as young Jake and Sadie Trubshaw try and save Christmas from being ruined.  This is a great read for those who are just beginning to read with confidence and will make a great present.

OUP, 9780192767455

“The Santa Surprise” (Winnie and Wilbur) by Laura Owen and Korky Paul  once again has the hilarious Winnie the Witch and Wilbur preparing for the festive celebrations, but then Winnie wonders  ‘who gives presents to Father Christmas?’  she and Wilbur hatch a plan to prove Santa with a surprise and of course all sorts of things go wrong before finally they get sorted out.  This is one of the stories intended for the young reader of chapter books and is full of Korky Paul’s delightful and energetic illustrations.

Walker, 9781406379648

“Angel on the Roof” by Shirley Hughes  is a magical and hopeful story about a young boy called Lewis Brown and what happens when he finds a golden feather floating down from the roof of the flats where he lives.  The setting is quite bleak as everyone lives separate lives and there are frictions all around in the community.  Lewis is often bullied by other young people because of a weak leg but things might just be about to get better.  When he climbs to the roof of the flats he discovers an angel and begins to talk to him, thus beginning a new friendship.  gradually over a few days the presence of the angel has an impact on people, even though they are not aware of his existence.  this is a beautiful story about developing friendships and not judging people; it has lessons for all of us.

Nosy Crow, 9781788000314

“Rose Campion and the Christmas Mystery” by Lyn Gardner is the third and final story in the series about the young Rose Campion, who had been left as a baby outside the doors of Campion’s Music Hall.  There is danger and deception as the performers prepare for Christmas and the pantomime season.  Murder and mayhem follow as the criminal called ‘The Duchess’ sets her sights on stealing a precious emerald necklace from a friend of Rose.  Eventually all is revealed, and this includes the secret of Rose’s parents, but will it be a truly happy Christmas for everyone?

Simon & Schuster, 9781471170454

“Snowflakes, Silver and Secrets” (Seaview Stables Adventures) by Tracey Corderoy  is the third in a series of books about the pony-mad Bryony and her collection of friends.  There is a Christmas fair and a pantomime but in the middle of this some silver goes missing from the home of Bryony’s arch-nemesis Georgina Brook.  It is up to Bryony and her friends to find out what has happened and to stop others from being blamed for something they didn’t do.  A perfect gift for those pony-mad members of the family.

Puffin, 9780241338520

“The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch” by Tom Fletcher and Shane deVries follows on from the original ‘Christmasaurus’ and this time the young hero Will discovers that Christmas itself is under threat.  Children are beginning to lose their belief in Christmas and when they all do this then the festival itself will cease to exist; not only that, but the reindeer, elves and Father Christmas will also disappear.  Will needs the help of his step-sister Brenda and his friend the Christmasaurus to go back in time and save Christmas from being banned.  What a glorious way to start the holiday season; this book is full of joy but it will have you sitting on the edge of your seat, just in case the villains actually win.  It is a great book for any middle grade reader (and the adults in their lives).

I hope that you will find something here to enjoy over the holiday and that many of them will become firm favourites over the coming years.  Happy Christmas everyone.

Amazing Information: books to inspire and inform

Words & Pictures, 9781786038890

“The Race to Space” by Clive Gifford and Paul Daviz.  The author has been writing information books for young people for a long time and is recognized as an important part of the non-fiction book world.  This book looks at the chronology of the race to put men into space and then on to the Moon.  The illustrations are absolutely stunning, with a somewhat retro-style, reminiscent of 1950s soviet art at times.  The colour palette is very bright, although there is a flatness to the tones that reflect older methods of printing.  This is definitely a book to sit and browse through.  It is very much a book that will appeal to the artists as well as to the historians and scientists and it should be in all primary libraries.

Wide-eyed editions, 9781786030917

“When we walked on the Moon” by David Long and Sam Kalda is yet another book that has been produced to commemorate 50 years since man landed on the Moon.  It looks at the missions, from Apollo 11 to Apollo 17, all of which had astronauts land on the surface of the Moon and undertake a series of experiments, as well as playing golf etc!  This is a simple introduction that deals with the main characters  and I particularly like the sketches of the crews, together with facts about missions, that are found at the back of the book.  The illustrations once again hark back to the start of the space race, but they are much brighter than in some other titles and there is a greater use of a white background.

Usborne, 9781474950848

“The Usborne Book of the Moon” by Laura Cowan and Diana Toledano has a much wider look at the moon and is aimed at the bottom end of KS 2.  It covers everything from the space race to mythology, as well as astronomy and  geography.  As you would expect from the publisher there are some brilliant illustrations and a lot of information, given in small bite sized chunks that will work well with the intended audience.  This has a good index which makes it particularly useful for schools, although I think a lot of young enthusiasts will just enjoy dipping in to this lovely book.

Macmillan, 978509824090

“The Darkest Dark” by Chris Hadfield and the Fan Brothers.  This is a picture book based on the childhood o the astronaut Chris Hadfield; it tells of his fear of the dark and how seeing Apollo 11 helped him realize that the darkness of space could be fascinating and inspiring rather that frightening.  As a story, this can be read as a straightforward tale of space and imagination, or it can be used as a starting point when learning about space and the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings.

Nosy Crow, 9781788003391

“2019 Nature month by month” by Anna Wilson and Elly Jahnz  has been written for the National Trust and takes a look at the fascinating things that are going on around us throughout the year.  Anna Wilson is well know as a writer of fiction for children, but she is also keen on nature and wild swimming, so this is close to her heart.  This is an absolute treasure trove of information and covers things such as festivals, food, events and crafts relating to many of these activities.  The book is beautifully illustrated but perhaps the most striking part of my copy was the fluorescent orange end papers to the book, which made me want to hunt out my sun glasses.  I look forward to seeing if there is a new book for 2020.

Andersen Press, 9781783447435

“Stubby” by Michael Foreman is another in his retelling of true stories set in the First World War.  This recounts the story of  of how American troops, sent to the front in 1917, made a mascot of a little stray dog they named Stubby.  Miraculously the dog and his human carer survived the war and Stubby lived until 1926.  This is a beautifully illustrated story with very simple text and it will make an excellent introduction to the subject of the war.

Pavilion, 9781843653745

“Adventures in Space” by Simon Tyler is a stunningly illustrated book about space and about man’s attempts to leave the Earth and explore our neighbours.  The first half of the book looks at astronomy, the planets and the wider universe, so that we get a clear and well explained explanation of what is out there.  The second half of the book gives a brilliant timeline of how space exploration was achieved and what each major power produced as its space craft.  The information is truly up to date and even looks at prospective launches in 2020 and beyond.  There is also information about satellites and the International Space Station, making this a perfect start for anyone who loves space.  Unusually the pages are black, with white text, but the images tend to have been brightly coloured, so they stand out against the page.  Definitely recommended.

WhatonEarth Books, 9781999802820

“Absolutely Everything” by Christopher Lloyd, illustrated by Andy Forshaw, Justin Poulter and Will Exley is the sort of book that I would have loved to have received as a child.  It tells the history of the world in a chronological way, but with overlaps as we look at different parts of the world and what was happening in different civilizations.  The illustrations have a feel of the 1950s but with a bit of a modern twist.

“Mary who wrote Frankenstein”, (originally called “Mary and Frankenstein”) by Linda Bailey and Julia Sarda is a beautifully told introduction to the life of Mary Shelley (as she became) and how she came to write one of the most enduring stories in English Literature.  The illustrations are a tour de force by Julia Sarda and the sophisticated and highly stylized images really bring the text to life.  This would make a really good introduction to the young reader who is about to read the story itself; it also works as a good basis for learning about ‘Gothic tales’ and their popularity at the beginning of the 19th Century.

“Wild facts about Nature” by Andy Seed and Scott Garrett is yet another brilliantly funny and informative book by this author.  It is written under the auspices of the RSPB and is full of facts, jokes and stories all about nature.  This is definitely one of those books that young readers will keep dipping in to and will become a favourite for quizzes, long journeys and sharing with friends.  This is highly illustrated and definitely one for those who love books such as “Horrible Histories” etc.

Bloomsbury, 9781408889935

“The Silk Roads” by Peter Frankopan and Neil Packer is a truly delightful book bringing a fresh look at the developing history of the world; told through the development of trade routes along the silk roads and then wider trade routes.  The original book was written for adults but then this junior version was created.  The cover can only be described as sumptuous, with its blue and gold images and lettering.  The illustrations throughout are complex, colourful and based on the artistic style of the civilization being discussed. This brings the history of the word into one book and helps us to understand the links between different countries and their development over the centuries.  We often forget that history is a blending of all the influences that are in play at any given time and this book helps bring it all together.  I really loved this and I look forward to reading “The New Silk Roads” which looks at these relationships as they are today.

There has been a real resurgence in the publishing of information books, mainly led by the rise in general interest books rather than in those  intended for the curriculum.  The winning of the Kate Greenaway medal by “Shackleton’s Journey” gave a real boost to this sector and there have been several new and innovative publishers who have revitalized the market.  From this small selection you can see that there has been a swell in the number of titles looking at space and the moon, particularly as we reach the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.  However there are plenty of books out there if you love, history, nature art and a whole range of fascinating subject, just go out and enjoy the delightful buffet of books.

 

Some Spring Gems

It has been a while since I wrote about some of the latest middle grade fiction that have appeared recently.  There has been a continued interest in all things crime related as well as mythical beasts, alternate worlds and of course witches.  In fact we have all been spoilt for choice, with not just some brilliant new books, but also continuing adventures from some of our favourite authors of the moment

 

Nosy Crow, 9781788000260

“Dragon in the Library” by Louie Stowell, illustrated by David Ortu.  Well anything about a library is going to get me interested and this is no exception.  When Kit and her friend visit the local library to get hold of a book by his favourite author something strange happens.  Kit starts reading an information book and suddenly finds herself transported into the pages of the book; the librarian Faith Braithwaite see all of this and brings Kit back, they then try and find out why this happened.  It turns out that Faith is a wizard and the library and some of the books in it act as portals to travel to other magical libraries, but best of all Kit and her friends find out that there is a dragon called Draca sleeping under the building.  When an unscrupulous developer Hadrian Salt tries to buy the library they will all have to find some way to thwart his plans and save the library and the dragon.  This is a really great story and I hope that there will be more, so that we can follow Kit and her friends as they get more involved with wizards.

Kelpies, 9781782505556

“Guardians of the Wild Unicorns” by Lindsay Littleson is a fantastic story from Scotland and is published by the wonderful Kelpies.  Lewis and Rhona are on a school trip staying in the highlands, far away from their homes in Glasgow, when Lewis sees what appear to be unicorns he thinks he is imagining things, but what if they are real?  The two friends find themselves trying to save these wild unicorns from people who see them as a way to make money, but they find that the task is not as easy as they hope.  The unicorns in this book are not at all like the glittery and colourful ones you find in younger age books; these are wild ones in the same sense that those in Harry Potter are and it brings an added fascination and sense of reality to the theme of the story.  Behind all of this we have the stories of two young people who are each coping with major issues at home and are not telling anyone, but by the end of the story they have realized that sharing problems can have a positive effect.

Piccadilly, 9781848127616

“Potkin and Stubbs” by Sophie Green, illustrated by K.J.Mountford, is a crime thriller but with a decided difference.  Lil has always wanted to be a reporter and because she lives in a city where schools have been closed and her mother is out at work, she has opportunities to follow her ambitions.  One evening she sees a young boy at the bus station cafe and offers to buy him a drink because he looks cold and hungry, however the truth is much stranger than that; Nedly is a ghost and Lil decides to try and discover where he had lived and how he died.  The story gets darker and more dangerous as they get closer to the truth and they find that there are citywide crimes that need to be resolved.  This is a fantastic story for those who love crime stories, with that little added twist of the supernatural.

Stripes, 9781788950220

“The Star-spun Web” by Sinead O’Hart and illustrated by Sara Mulvanney, is a magical tale of parallel worlds that should not connect, but where someone has created a machine to travel between them.  Tessa suddenly arrived on the doorsteps of an orphanage as a baby, but  there were some strange circumstances, such as the snow on her blanket, even though it was not winter.  The story picks up when she is twelve and is claimed by a man purporting to be a relative.  What happens next is strange, as she sees a boy through a mirror in the summerhouse and eventually  she is able to transfer to this alternative world.  It is still a version of the city of Dublin, but  one where there is a war and it seems that someone wants to bring bombers through the gateway in order to conquer her own peaceful version of the city and country.  Sinead O’Hart has a wonderful imagination and has created a group of characters full of caring and friendship on the one hand and some dastardly villains on the other hand.  It is a story that leaves you with a great big smile at the end.

Scholastic, 9781407191553

“Wildspark” by Vashti Hardy (illustrations by George Ermos and Jamie Gregory) is one of those books that you know will leave an impression and you will probably want to read again.  It is set in a world where the spirits of those who have died are able to be transferred into the bodies of animals.  It is also a world where robots are used to do a lot of the work and being mechanically talented is a real skill.  Prue lives on her parent’s farm and is a great engineer, but she has one ambition and that is to try and find the ghost of her brother and have him brought back to this second life.  When she is chosen (or rather her dead brother is) to become an apprentice in the main city of Medlock, she thinks that her opportunity has come.  This is a beautifully written story about what it is to be human, the love of family and the way we use technology and I really recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy, steampunk or books of extraordinary imagination.

Quercus, 9781786540782

“A girl called Justice” by Elly Griffiths is definitely one for those who love books by Robin Stevens, Laura Wood, Katherine Woodfine and Fleur Hitchcock among others.  After the death of her mother, Justice  (because her father is a criminal barrister) is sent to boarding school and soon finds an opportunity to use her super sleuthing skills.  One of the school maids has gone missing and Justice suspects foul play.  As she gradually settles into the strange world of a girls’ boarding school and makes friends, she also investigates the mysterious goings on and whether they have any links to a death from the past.  This was a great read for those who love this mix of school and crime and I can’t wait for further adventures from this absolutely ‘spiffing’ heroine.

Nosy Crow, 9781788004503

“No Ballet Shoes in Syria” by Catherine Bruton.  This is an amazing, heart breaking and yet very hopeful story of Aya, a young refugee from Syria and her mother and young brother.  The main part of the story deals with their struggle to be allowed to remain in the UK and the hope that one day they will find Aya’s father, who was feared drowned as the crossed from Turkey to Greece.  The other part of the story is about her love of ballet and the people she meets in a ballet class at the centre where they go to meet the case worker helping them.  We are given parallels between Aya and the ballet teacher Miss Helena, who had come to England on one of the last Kinder transport trains  and there is a lesson to be learnt about honouring those we have lost by achieving the potential that they believed we have.  There is so much hope in this book but it is laced with much sorrow and I really suggest you have a box of tissues at the ready; also don’t read it on the bus or train!

Macmillan, 9781509874217

“Kat Wolfe takes the Case” by Lauren St John, illustrate by Daniel Deamo is the second story about young Kat and her friend Harper as they are caught up in more adventures on the Jurassic coast where they live.  When a dinosaur is found by Harper’s father and his team (they are paleontologists), it leads to theft and possible smuggling by a gang trying to find “Dragons’ teeth” which are supposed to cure those suffering from incurable diseases.  Once again Kat needs the help of her grandfather (the Minister of Defence) and begins to know him better as a person.  This is a great story that mixes geology, animals, mystery and also friendship and family.  It is an ideal story for some adventure and crime fighting.

“Malamander” by Thomas Taylor is a tale of mystery and monsters set in a world similar to ours, but with some major differences.  Young Herbert Lemon works at the Grand Nautilus Hotel as a ‘Lost and Founder’, but he did not expect that he would be asked to find two people who had disappeared 12 years before.  Their daughter, Violet Parma thinks that it is linked to a monster called the Malamander that is said to inhabit the wreck of an old vessel in the bay.  This is a fabulously creepy yet funny book with amazing characters (and that is just their names) and a bookshop that every town should want.  I look forward to further adventures from this intrepid pair of children.

Simon & Schuster, 9781471178733

“Sea-ing is Believing” by Steven Butler and Steve Lenton, is the next episode in the goings on at yet another weird and wonderful seaside hotel; only this time the hotel is for non-human guests and I don’t mean it is a pet hotel.  This hotel caters for yetis, mermaids, and other such unusual clients.  In this adventure Frankie’s great grandfather reappears as a ghost during the celebration of his 175th birthday.  However something is not quite right and it is up to Frankie and a cast of incredible friends to save the hotel and all of those in it.  As always these two Steves have produced a hilarious and very quirky story that will have everyone in stitches and longing for more of the same

OUP, 9780192771605

“The last spell-breather” by Julie Pike takes us to a place where magic still happens and spells are created and then breathed over the recipient.  Rayne is the daughter of a spell breather, who protects their village from an undefined plague that has ravaged the country.  When her mother disappears it is up to Rayne to keep everyone safe, but unfortunately she is not very good at spells and the results leave her running for her life.  Her aim is to go to the city where her mother trained as a spell breather in the hope that she will find her mother and reverse the problems that she has created.  Along the way she meets several new friends, but not all of them are what they seem and there is also a dark and sinister villain who brought the original disaster to the country.  This is a beautifully conceived story with a frustrating young heroine who battles to do the best for everyone, but because she doesn’t always know the full facts, she gets things wrong.  It really is a lesson in communication, listening, trusting people and the importance of family and friends.

Barrington Stoke, 9781781128558

“The Disconnect” by Keren David is a new story from Barrington Stoke and is aimed squarely at the young teen reader, especially those who are attached to their smart phones.  Esther’s year group at school have been asked to do without their phones for six weeks and the winners will each get £1000 and the opportunity to be on a panel looking at the use of social media.  Many of the young people decide not to take part, many fall at some point during the trial but Esther and her friends are determined to win.  This is a fascinating look at how people depend on social media and what it means to be cut off from it.  It is also about fake news and making sure that we understand the consequences of believing anything we read without checking.  This is altogether a very timely book from one of our top authors for young adults.

Andersen Press, 9781781783448043

“The Bolds go Wild” by Julian Clary and David Roberts.  Once again we join our wonderful family of urban hyenas in Surbiton; however this time they get a surprise visit from Fred’s mother Imamu and she is very definitely a WILD hyena.  Whilst the children, Bobby and Betty are delighted by the visit they nearly give away the family secret when they are seen by their headmistress, with their tails showing below their clothes.  However all is not lost, as Mrs Dobson, the head, has her own secret; she has a son who wants to become a chimpanzee.  So the next thing is for the Bolds to help him achieve his ambition and then get him and Imamu back to Africa.  You can always guarantee that there will be zany goings on with this family, but beneath it all there is a real sense of caring about letting people and creatures find their own place in the world.

I do hope that you will find something here that you will enjoy.  We really are so lucky that there are some splendid books being published for this middle grade range and many of them deal with some quite serious subjects but in a very understated way, so that the reader is carried by the story line, rather than feeling they are being lectured.  This is just the start of a much bigger selection that I hope to bring to you in the next month or so.  Happy reading!

 

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.

 

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.