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What a great little book and a wonderful way of explaining democracy and the intricacies of the voting system: Perfectly timed for the American Presidential Elections. What was so clever was Valdez’s ability to explain whilst still maintaining an interesting and fun children’s story. There were also other messages running through the story, such as loyalty to one’s friends and peer rivalry within a classroom. I also liked learning about Mexican cookery with the odd baking tip thrown in for good measure! Managing to explain the freedom of information, fake news and what a boycott is to such young children is quite a feat. I think her quote, ‘never a perfect candidate in an election. How could there be? People aren’t perfect’ was particularly poignant. I think my favourite message however was ‘read, question, think’ – a message for life for all of us. A clever informative book with some great illustrations by David Roberts.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Katherine Rundell’s brief introduction which explains why hope is so important and why we should look for it in stories and illustrations sets a context for the wonderful range of very short stories, poems, thoughts and illustrations which will certainly give hope as well as laughs and surprises to readers of all ages. Perfect for dipping into, the anthology is a treasure trove of story treats starting with Michael Morpurgo’s uplifting ‘A Song of Gladness’ and ending with Rundell’s own ‘The Young Bird-Catcher’. Lauren Child, Axel Scheffler, Chris Riddell and Jackie Morris are just some of the wonderful artists whose black and white illustrations light up the pages of this hand this handsome volume. Dedicated to all the workers in the NHS and with proceeds going to NHS Charities Together, The Book of Hopes will certainly bring hope to all.
Rob Ramsden is an exciting new arrival on the picture book scene and We Planted a Pumpkin is a really lovely book, just the thing to get young children excited about nature, eager to plant seeds and see them grow. It stars two very young gardeners and follows them through the process of planting a pumpkin seed, from watching and impatiently waiting for it to grow as the seasons change. The children bring liveliness and action to every scene, but there’s always lots going on – new shoots appearing, mini-beasts flying in and out. Though it feels beautifully simple, it’s actually chockful of information and opportunities for learning. A gorgeous book to share with the young and likely to be the start of many adventures in the garden.
August 2020 Book of the Month | Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Laura Dockrill packs a really big story into this compact little book and though she tackles some big issues too, she keeps them specific to her set of characters, so that even quite young readers will understand. Sequin’s mum is a dressmaker, sewing gowns and fabulous outfits for the stars. She never takes any credit though, preferring to stay in the background and in fact, she’s literally hiding herself away in the family’s flat at the top of a tower block. When Sequin does a school presentation about her mum, no-one believes her. It makes Sequin angry with her mum, but then a terrible danger threatens them and they both have to face their real fears. It’s a story that readers will absolutely love, with a twist that they’ll want to return to again and again. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+
Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 | From acclaimed author Eve Ainsworth comes this new novella that packs a powerful punch in its openhearted, honest account of a teen girl trying her hardest to cope with her mum’s alcoholism. Violet has always seen her mum as being “strong, funny and in control”, as a “pretty, glamorous and confident” person who firmly believes, “You have to give a good impression at all times.” In contrast, Violet is “the quiet one …I’m the worrier who can never be confident.” But since her mum’s boyfriend left, Mum’s “it’s just one glass” of wine is starting to have an affect on their family life, with Violet increasingly having to pick-up caring for her little brother when Mum’s too hung-over to get out of bed. As Violet finds more empty bottles around the house, and finds herself having to lie to cover her mum, matters come to a scary head and she knows she has to be brave and seek help. Truly brilliant at capturing Violet’s conflicted feelings – an excruciating pull between love and anger – this compelling, moving story will engross fans of true-to-life fiction, while casting sensitive light on a tough subject. And, since this is published by the ever-brilliant Barrington Stoke, this book is especially suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers, with its expert attention to vocabulary, layout, font and paper.
Having super-powers is not necessarily all that – well, super – if you are 9 ¼ years old and coping with a new school and no friends, not to mention an annoying super-powered little sister. That’s Pizazz’s situation and, as she describes her life, we see just how frustrating it would be if you have to keep breaking off from things you’re enjoying to go and thwart an evil genius’s wicked plan. Her super-powers don’t help her make new friends, nor, when she’s made eco monitor at school and trying to save a local park from developers do they help there either – at least, not initially. Sophy Henn’s story is great fun, narrated at super-hero speed and in a wonderfully direct and distinctive voice by Pizazz, who is exactly the kind of super-hero we all want to be with right now: funny, honest, self-aware, and able to tell a really good story. I can’t wait for more from Pizazz and expect that she’ll soon have legions of fans. Sophy Henn’s artwork is snazzy and comic and absolutely on the ball, just like her new character. This is a series to recommend to fans of Clarice Bean or Sibéal Pounder’s Bad Mermaids.
Wayside School | The inimitable Louis Sachar has done it again in this new Wayside School caper. Sachar totally gets Primary age readers - sees the world through their eyes, speaks to them in a wry voice that rings with understanding and funny details. What’s more, the bitesize chunks of plot (essentially inter-connected vignettes that form a satisfying whole) keep readers hungry for more, while the off-the-wall (yet believable) comic characters are guaranteed to induce gaggles of giggles. As a new year begins, Mrs Jewls’s pupils have a big bunch of stuff on their plates. An Ultimate Test looms ahead of them, while a Cloud of Doom looms overhead, growing bigger and more powerful each day. Back in class, the pupils are tasked with collecting one million nail clippings to get a sense of just how massive one million is, while Mrs Jewls’s paperclip appreciation is taken to crazy heights (“she marvelled at the magnificent metal masterpiece”) when she’s revealed to keep a secret stash of them in a locked room. Then there’s Mrs Surlaw the librarian, who has a GIANT stuffed walrus and arranges books according to their length, and the author’s cameo appearance as Louis the yard teacher (fun fact - the author actually used to be Louis the yard teacher). Perfectly complemented by Aleksei Bitskoff’s wittily detailed illustrations, this is clever, comic joy. You might also love The Worst Class in the World from Joanna Nadin or the Middle School series from James Patterson.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | August 2020 Debut/Book of the Month | Warm-hearted and mysterious The Unadoptables is a wonderfully entertaining adventure with a cast of fascinating characters set in a brilliantly evoked old-world Amsterdam and the surrounding countryside. Following the clues from the only possessions she was left with when she was abandoned as a baby and guided by her ‘Book of Theories’, the imaginative Milou leads her four friends – the least adoptable children in the very horrible Little Tulip Orphanage – to her family home where she is sure she will find her parents. Travelling through a freezing night the children arrive at their destination. But there is not the welcome they had expected. Where are Milou’s parents? And what is the mystery they need to solve? The creative ways in which the five children manage first to escape from the evil clutches of their matron and her evil accomplice Rotman and then to make a new life for themselves bamboozling neighbours and unravelling the mystery is vivid and captivating.
August 2020 Book of the Month | From the author of exceptional YA novels like What Momma Left Me and Piecing Me Together comes this beautiful bighearted story for 7+ year-olds – a true treasure about everyday family life, being yourself and making the best of things, with an unforgettable African American heroine at its luminous heart. Keen cook Ryan and her family live in Portland, Oregon, and she’s not best pleased when they have to move to a smaller house as a result of her dad’s new job paying less than the one he lost a while back. But Ryan’s not the kind of girl to complain for long, or to let anything get her down. She’s one of life’s thinkers and doers, whose loving parents have infused her with a life-affirming sense of self-worth and pride in her heritage: “I remember what Mom always tells me, how she named me Ryan because she wanted me to feel powerful, to remember that I am a leader every time someone calls my name. Dad is always telling me our people come from royalty, that my ancestors lived in Africa and were kings and queens and inventors and hard workers. Mom tells me their strength is running through my veins.” Told through manageable interlinked vignettes, this soulfully illustrated gem - the first in a series - sits in the tradition of Judy Blume’s young fiction and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series, but it’s also refreshingly unique. The pitch-perfect evocation of Ryan’s grace and warmth, and her positive perspective will entertain and inspire young readers, while helping them understand the world and handle change.
August 2020 Debut of the Month | Oooh, there’s so much for young fans of adventure stories to enjoy in Alex English’s new book! It stars eleven-year-old Echo, who has grown up in the court of the king of Lockfort. It’s a gloomy and frankly repressive place and the king is very strict with Echo, who was left at the castle gate as a baby. She’s always been told there’s nothing beyond the kingdom’s borders – literally nothing at all – but suddenly, a challenge to that drops out of the sky, and with it the chance for Echo to explore a new world of adventure and to look for her mother. The story is full of fantastic scenes and packed with wonderful characters and English has created the sort of world that envelops young readers from the very first chapter. A glorious summer read! This is one to recommend to fans of Abi Elphinstone, Vashti Hardy and Jamie Littler.
Are you ready to meet the worst parents ever? Sure, some parents are embarrassing – but they’re NOTHING on this lot. These ten tales of the world’s most spectacularly silly mums and deliriously daft dads will leave you rocking with laughter. Pinch your nose for Peter Pong, the man with the stinkiest feet in the world… jump out of the way of Harriet Hurry, the fastest mum on two wheels… watch out for Monty Monopolize, the dad who takes all his kids’ toys… and oh no, it’s Supermum! Brandishing a toilet brush, a mop and a very bad homemade outfit…