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A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Award-winning writers for adults, Zadie Smith and Nick Laird have now created a perfectly crafted picture book that is simple in its telling and strong in its message. When Maud arrives as a surprise for Kit’s birthday she is treated with great suspicion by the pets who are already in residence. Since she is not like them - a cat, a bird or a pug dog - they are swift to deem her to be a weirdo. Briefly, Maud tries to fit in before taking herself on a life-changing adventure in which she soon discovers that being yourself is far, far more important than fitting in. Magenta Fox’s gentle illustrations are the perfect foil to this punchy celebration of individuality.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Ruffles hates his red coat and refuses to put it on when he goes out to play – even when it is raining. His friend Ruby has a blue coat. And she loves to wear it. When the two friends jump and splash in puddles Ruffles gets wet and cold and wants to go home. But Ruby is dry inside her coat and wants to play still. Clever Ruby gets Ruffles his coat. Ruffles love Ruby more than he hates his coat so, after a vigorous struggle to get into it, he proudly joins her for some more play! David Melling’s simple illustrations of the two gorgeous little dogs carry all the emotion of this almost wordless picture book perfectly.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Framed by a lyrical, mythological story of the Great Sky Wolf and every mother-dog’s desire to protect her pups (“she cannot know what lies ahead…when they are taken from her, into the world of man”), Gill Lewis’s A Street Dog Named Pup is a poignant tale of survival, and the lifelong, life-changing bonds that can be formed between humans and dogs. Brimming with empathy and understanding, it’s a thrilling and deeply moving novel that will be adored by animal-lovers and fans of adventure fiction alike. From the off, the special human-dog bond sits centre stage when Pup, “a dog with a big heart”, lovingly refers to “his boy, who held him tight and told him that one day he would grow into his big puppy paws.” But something isn’t right. Pup’s boy isn’t there, and in his place is a big man who abandons him in Dead Dog Alley, where the Street Dogs take him under their paws. Among them Frenchi, a French bulldog, imparts the wisdom that in order to survive, you need shelter and food, but “Pup wanted his boy. He wanted him more than ever.” While this desire to be reunited grows deeper each day, and no one else will do, hope fades as time passes. What’s more, Pup and his new-found canine crew have other pressing problems to attend to. At times gritty, and always gripping, this has all the hallmarks of an animal adventure classic - a story with the power to move readers in every possible way.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Abandoned by their original owners, cats Pasha and Poop (yes, really) find forever homes with the lovely Wilde family. But the cats of their new neighbourhood are terrorised by the pawful Scaredy Cat. With flashing eyes, and an ability to walk through walls, he forces everyone to follow his cruel rules for cat behaviour, and woe betide those that try to resist. Pasha is determined to stand up to the bullying, but can he persuade Poop and the other cats that they have nothing to fear but fear itself? Typically for Patterson, the story races along, the cats taking turns to narrate, and it’s a perfect mix of excitement, adventure and comedy. It comes to a wonderful climax in a pet cemetery of all places, and amongst the fun there are important messages about finding the strength in yourself to do what’s right.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2021 | Poppy Anne Field loves ants and spiders and ladybirds and butterflies and dragonflies. Watching them for hours while deep in the countryside she feels entirely at home in their company. But when she is with people, she is overcome with shyness and does everything she can to blend into the scenery – rather as her beloved insects do to keep themselves safe. How Poppy’s love of nature helps her to overcome her shyness is conveyed gently and in a way that will reassure all those who are equally shy.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Two true stories inspire this warm, positive, uplifting story: the real-life adventure of Pickles, the dog who found the World Cup, and the amazing achievements of Fara Williams, the women’s football superstar who was winning on the pitch even while she was homeless. Like Fara, Elsie is football mad, as is her dog Pickles, who narrates for us. In the story, the world cup trophy is stolen, which means Elsie will miss her chance to play in a half-time match at Wembley. That opportunity has been sustaining her through difficult times as she and her dad (and Pickles), also like Fara Williams, have lost their home and are living in a noisy, dingy hostel. Fortunately, Pickles is as good a detective as his famous namesake… Publisher Barrington Stoke specialise in books for dyslexic or reluctant readers, and there’s lots of page-turning action packed into a short extent. The book is big on emotions too though, making clear just how devastating it is to lose your home, while showing how love, family and hope can get you through just about anything. It also reminds us that football – playing, watching, being a fan – is life-enhancing. A winner! Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+
When Finney the fox proudly announces he’s written a book, his friend points out it’s all there, except the story. Finney is sure he’s full of stories though, and he is – the only trouble is, they’re all old favourites. Fortunately, the two friends work out that we’ve all got one, very unique story to tell – our own! Finney’s tale will intrigue and entertain children who will understand, better than adults, that their own story is one of the best. Finney and his friend are jolly little characters and the illustrations a feast of bold primary colours and inky black shapes.
March 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2021 | A heart-warming and magical story of a very special relationship between a child and a polar bear which will inspire readers of all ages to realise that they, like April, can make a difference in the battle against climate change. When animal loving April arrives on Bear Island in the Arctic Circle where she will live for the next six months while her father runs the scientific operations she is told that, despite the island’s name, there are no bears on it. The melting ice caps mean that the polar bears can no longer arrive from the nearest mainland near Svalbard. But April soon finds out that there is one bear left. And April needs to do everything she can to keep him alive. Confident of her ability to communicate with the bear and to feed him, April nourishes the bear and even plans his return to safety. Beautifully illustrated by Levi Pinfold, The Last Bear invites readers to care about the science behind the fate of an endangered species and to believe in one girl’s magical solution to the problem. **The images and illustrations in this extract are subject to copyright © Levi Pinfold and may not be used without permission.
With bold illustrations and energetic storytelling, Wolfboy perfectly captures the big feelings that come with being very hungry! Engaging, original and perfect for reading aloud, this funny and fresh picture book is a must-have for anyone who's ever been impatient for their food.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Gill Lewis is contemporary children’s literature’s nature writer par excellence, telling moving stories of human encounters with wild animals that powerfully connect readers with the natural world. Swan Song tells the story of Dylan, expelled from his school and struggling with depression until he moves with his mother to her family home in a tiny Welsh village. In the peace and quiet of days on his grandfather’s boat, Dylan begins to find himself again, but it is the discovery of an injured Whooper swan that is life-saving, and shown to be literally so. Written for dyslexia specialist Barrington Stoke, this short novel will be accessible to all readers and its message of the healing power of nature and community more important now than it’s ever been. The LoveReading LitFest invited Gill Lewis to the festival to talk about Swan Song, and green reads for kids with fellow author Konnie Huq. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see them in conversation with Paul Blezard, you won't be disappointed. Check out a preview of the event here
February 2021 Book of the Month | Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | 10-year-old Opie Jones is smart, but otherwise pretty ordinary. She doesn’t much enjoy her school, St Francis of Assisi, until seriously cool Jackson takes her under his wing anyway. But there is one really remarkable thing about Opie and that is she can read animals’ minds and communicate with them. Before you can say, ‘Call Chris Packham’, she’s working with a team of secret superheroes to thwart a dastardly villain whose plans for domination include closing down St Francis by forcing its pupils to misbehave, via telepathy. The story that follows is as funny as you’d expect from author, stand-up comic Nat Luurtsema, especially the frequent interjections from assorted animals, who have their own views on what’s going on. The climax comes at London Zoo, which gives you an idea of the levels of fun and games to expect. It’s book one in a series and I for one cannot wait to hear more from Maine Coon cat Margot and guinea pig Malcolm. One to recommend to fans of David Baddiel’s children’s books.