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!

 

London Book Fair

This visit to the London Book fair seems to be turning into an annual pilgrimage for me.  For those who have never been to it, this is the biggest event for publishers in the UK.; it is also a showcase for publishers from around the world and one of the most prestigious events of its kind. It takes place over 3 days in April and there are a huge range of workshops, launches, showcases and parties (if you are lucky enough to be invited).  The main reason for the fair is to promote publishers, sell rights to other countries and buy rights from overseas concerns.  Teachers and Librarians are not the central audience but there is still plenty for them to enjoy and learn from.

This year the focus was on the Baltic states, so there were sessions about publishing in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as well as the broader issue about translation.  There was also a wonderful exhibition of illustration from these states, which showed the sophistication and skill that is being used in their picture books and even books for an older audience.

There were so many sessions that I wanted to attend, so I stayed in London and visited the fair on two days.  On the Tuesday, the day started off with a discussion panel comprised of

Speaker Sarah CrossanAuthor Peter KaluAuthor Emily DavidsonYoung AmbassadorInclusive Minds Heather LaceyAmbassador for InclusionInclusive Minds Alexandra StrickCo-FounderInclusive Minds Nikki MarshCommittee MemberIBBY UK”  who were talking about “MInd the Gap: celebrating authentic inclusion”  There was an additional member of the panel, but I did not catch her name unfortunately. This was a fascinating discussion about the way disability in particular is represented in children’s and YA fiction and it really made the audience think about what is acceptable as both a writer and as an audience.  In the afternoon I sat in on the first part of a long session about Illustration in which art directors and designers shared their insights into becoming a published illustrator.  As someone who is not good at art this was of great interest and helped with understanding the broader picture (sorry about the pun).

On Wednesday I had arranged to meet up with a couple of friends during the day, but I started off by having a wander around the Children’s hub and also the larger stands on the ground floor which had children’s elements; these included Bloomsbury, with some amazing pictures from Chris Riddell, Hachette, Penguin/Random House and Scholastic.

At lunchtime I went to the launch of a new book at the Firefly stand; this is a really great Welsh publisher which has produced some fantastic books.  The one we were celebrating at the Fair was called “Dog Town” by Luize Pastore, a young writer from Latvia.  I was also able to meet up with the lovely Tricia Adams and the author Saviour Pirotta for a good chat.  Also there were Megan Farr from Firefly and authors Miriam Halamny and Eloise Williams.

The highlight of the afternoon was the publishers presentations, where about 13 publicists tried to woo us with their up and coming big   titles.  I must admit that I came away with several pages of titles that I want to read.  There were several titles from Michael Morpurgo, a new book from Jacqueline Wilson and follow ups from Cressida Cowell Kieran Larwood, P G Bell and Philip Reeve among many.  I am particularly looking forward to a new book from Emma Carroll, Patrick Ness  and the team of Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve.  It looks  as if we are in for a bumper crop of great titles with a wide range of themes ranging from WWI (to commemorate the end of the conflict), Christmas, fantasy, witches and science fiction.  Definitely something for everyone.

 

 

 

By the time I got home at about midnight I was feeling exhausted and yet very happy with the events I had attended, the friends I had met and the book suggestions I had received.  All being well I will be going back next year.

A Christmas Wreath of books

This has been an amazing year for Christmas books and this is just a small selection of those that are available

“A Tree for Christmas (Winnie the Pooh)” written by Jane Riorden is a charming little story about how Christmas came to the Hundred Acre Wood, with a little help from Christopher Robin and the wonderful animals in the wood.  It is in a miniature format which is disappointing but it is still worth reading to the young ones in your life.

“A Newborn Child” by Jackie Morris is a totally wonderful, magical retelling of the Christmas story.  the author has created the most sumptuous illustrations and the text is short but totally reflective of the images.  The name Jackie Morris always means quality and she has maintained her high standards with this book.  It is a real classic.

“Bah! Humbug” by Michael Rosen and Tony Ross is another way of re-telling the story from “A Christmas Carol”. Harry is playing the role of Scrooge in the school play and desperately wants his dad to attend, but that is beginning to look very unlikely.  There is a very poignant and yet uplifting contrast between the plot of the play and the everyday life that harry is having to cope with.  Yet another one to add to my Christmas shelf.

“One Christmas Wish” by Katherine Rundell and Emily Sutton is a beautifully written and illustrated story about young Theo who has been left at home on Christmas Eve while his parents are both still at work.  When he thinks he sees a shooting star he makes a wish that he could have some friends for company and that is when the magic starts.  The book is  truly lovely object and has a feel of the 1950s about it;  the paper is thick and creamy, the illustrations are of the period and the colour palette is bright but without the harshness that is often found today.

 

“The Girl who saved Christmas” by Matt Haig is the final part of his trilogy about how Father Christmas took on his role.  A fantastic ending and a reminder that we have to ‘believe’ if we are to keep the magic of Christmas

“I killed Father Christmas” by Anthony McGowan and Chris Riddell is a very funny story of what happens when people misunderstand what they hear. This is a delightful story from Barrington Stoke with matching colour illustrations from our previous Children’s Laureate.

“The Midnight Peacock” by Katherine Woodfine is the really great finale to her series about Sinclair’s Department Store. Our heroines Sophie and Lil find themselves spending the holiday at Winter Hall but danger and intrigue seems to have followed them.  A cracking read and thankfully there is a hint that the girls will be back for more adventures in the future.

“Jingle Bells” by Tracey Corderoy and Steve Lenton is a collection of stories about Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, with the first one being about their attempt to save Santa’s sleigh after it is taken.  This is great fun as always.

“The untold story of Father Christmas” by Alison and Mike Battle with Lauren A Mills is another version of how this mythical character became the person we know today.  The cover is sumptuous and the illustrations are beautiful, with soft and glowing colours and a feel of Scandinavian scenery.  This is for KS2 children probably, but is a great read for telling to younger ones.

“Let it glow” by Owen Gildersleeve is a charming look at what a child sees around him on his way hoe from the town and with a very precious package.  The illustrations are based on very intricate paper collage and this gives a 3-D effect.There is also a battery at the back of the book, which provides lights  at different points in the story.  The very young children will love this.

“The Nutcracker (The story of the orchestra)” illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle  is one for those who love their ballet.  This is a very straightforward re-telling of the story but with the magical addition of small excerpts of music; you press the relevant button and are transported to the performance.  It would make a wonderful gift for someone about to attend their first performance.

 

I know that this is late for the festive season but it will give you a head start for the coming year!  have a wonderful time reading and talking about books.

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.

2016-12-03-15-47-43

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.

2016-12-18-10-21-00

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.

2016-12-03-15-43-59

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.

2016-04-05 12.05.23

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).

2016-06-21 16.54.06

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.