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December 2020 Book of the Month | Congratulations to Konnie Huq and co-author James Kay who with illustrator Rikin Parekh have taken the best-loved fairy tales, shaken them up, and brought them uproariously into the 21st century. All your favourites are here, recognisable, but turned into something fresh, new and very funny (often with a pointed message or moral). Thus Sleeping Beauty is now Sleeping Brainy, a maths-mad princess who grows up to be the most successful Chancellor of the Exchequer in history, while simultaneously inventing the computer, the internet and Wikipedia (‘all in a good nine thousand six hundred and eighteen days’ work’ she concludes, happily). Pity the three bears who here have to put up with Mouldysocks, a boy too busy playing computer games to tidy up or wash, but cheer for The Pickled Mermaid, who puts her blog out on Plaicebook, Finstagram and Snapperchat, thereby reaching millions of readers and effecting real change on pollution in the oceans. Then there’s Robin Hoodlum and his boss, the Baron of Bottybum; Spinocchio, a TV news anchor; and a surprisingly familiar looking, bad-tempered little orange man called Trumplestiltskin … The stories are told with real dash and energy and will have children and parents alike roaring with laughter.
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.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Featuring animal adventures by top writers for younger readers - among them Guy Bass, Holly Webb, Penny Dolan, Malachy Doyle and Narinder Dhami - this anthology of winter warmers is a delight to snuggle up with as a treat before bedtime. Here we encounter little Pip the Penguin, prickling with excitement ahead of taking part in the Penguin Parade - can he step up when Santa needs help? Then there’s Bigfoot who gets lost in a sparkling, snowy wood, and Chookie the husky pup who must overcome her nerves to pull a sledge for the very first time. Fans of wilder animals will especially love Narinder Dhami’s Tiger in the Night, a peril-packed adventure featuring a trio of mischievous Siberian tiger cubs. With ten tales in all, this is perfect for reading aloud to little animal lovers, or for newly-independent readers to enjoy alone, with Alison Edgson’s evocative illustrations enhancing the wintry wonder.
Opening the pages of this eerie anthology is akin to creeping through creaky doors to explore a haunted house. To wander corridors and halls, rooms and chambers that have been darkly decorated by a host of hallowed writers. Here readers will encounter the skulking terrors of Joseph Delaney’s timeless, gripping The Castle Ghosts. The clever, contemporary creepiness of Robin Jarvis’s The Beach Hut. Then there’s Philip Reeves’s long-lingering, translucently lyrical The Ghost Wood. There are eleven tales in all, each written by a truly top-class writer, among them Matt Haig, Derek Landy, Susan Cooper, Mal Peet, and Jamila Gavin. Some tingle with menace. Others are outright scary. Some are modern, others infused with the terrors of traditional Gothic tales. And all of them are exquisitely executed. Perfect for reading aloud as the nights draw in, the stories here also make excellent introductions to a fine set of writers.
September 2020 Book of the Month | Cally and Jimmy are twins but more different people it would be hard to meet. Cally is generally quiet and well-behaved, while Jimmy is anything but (his ADHD doesn’t help). It’s Cally who narrates the four separate stories contained in this very enjoyable new book, and she gives us a really good idea of what it’s like to live with the most-annoying-brother-in-the-whole-wide-world, describing the many times he gets them both into trouble, but she absolutely captures the fun they have together too. There’s a starring role for their wonderful grandma, or Yiayia as they know her (Mum is Greek) and just a lovely sense of this family. Recommended reading and hopefully there’ll be more adventures to come for the twins.
Blimey, but can Anthony Horowitz pack huge amounts of tension, excitement and humour into his short stories! He shows off a breath-taking ability to conjure adventure out of the most unlikely beginnings, and in his hands even a trip to the dentist turns into a full-on, peril-laden caper. There’s everything in this collection that makes the Alex Rider novels so addictive: dangerous situations, daring escapes, gadgets galore. And of course, there’s Alex himself – super-smart, super-resourceful, super-cool. Irresistible, unbeatable reading. LoveReading4Kids Loves Alex Rider! Find out more about Alex Rider in our Series of the Month feature.
It’s more than 150 years since the publication of Alice in Wonderland and it is delighting today’s readers as much as it ever has. Both a tribute to and a celebration of Lewis Carroll’s story, this collection includes new adventures by eleven favourite contemporary children’s authors, each of whom has been inspired by Alice. With such an extraordinary set of characters and scenes to take as starting points, the stories are wonderfully varied. Pamela Butchart chooses to write about the Queen of Hearts in a follow up story, while Swapna Haddow picks the Mock Turtle. There’s an environmental message in Lauren St John’s lively story ‘Plum Cakes at Dawn’, while Robin Stevens puts the real Alice into her Oxford set story. Together they make for a sparkling collection, one well worth tumbling back down the rabbit hole to enjoy.
Book Band: Brown Ideal for ages 7+ | Polly Ho-Yen’s story presents readers with big questions about life and what’s really important to us. Mae suffers from severe asthma and often needs to make frightening dashes to the hospital with her parents. It’s on one of these occasions that she notices a strange black hole opening – it leads to a parallel universe, one where she doesn’t have asthma. That’s not the only thing that’s different however, and Mae has a decision to make about whether being asthma free is worth the other things that would change. In the new Bloomsbury Readers series, this story is written specifically for children growing reading confidence and understanding, with short chapters and frequent illustrations. The telling is simple, effective and guaranteed to catch and hold children’s attention, while the issues the story raises are complex and important, certain to prompt discussion (and there’s a list of questions to put to children at the end to help with this).
Book Band: Lime Ideal for ages 6+ | Dylan dreams that he’s living in a jam jar, cut off from his family, in a silent world. In fact, he’s losing his hearing and that brings all sorts of issues. He doesn’t like how loud the world is with his hearing aids in, doesn’t like the way the others in his class treat him differently now; and he feels that without sound to anchor him he’s somehow floating away. It takes a hair-raising experience, and the quick-thinking and love of his dog Pluto to bring him back down to earth. In the new Bloomsbury Readers series, this story is written specifically for children just growing reading confidence and understanding, with short chapters and illustrations on every page. Nonetheless, the story is subtle and moving, with lots to prompt discussion and reflection. There are questions to share with children at the end to help them get the most from the story. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
Book Band: Dark Red Ideal for ages 10+ | Catherine Johnson writes terrific historical novels, and this story of the adventures of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas is more thrilling by far than most fiction. Thomas-Alexandre was the father of writer Alexandre Dumas and believed to have provided the inspiration for his classic, The Three Musketeers. We follow him through his childhood, a mixed-race child growing up in Haiti, sold into slavery as a teenager by his aristocrat father to pay off gambling debts; bought back and trained in swordsmanship, before joining the Dragoons. Johnson brings him vividly to life, a man driven by a passion for equality and liberty, and ready to fight for it. In the excellent new Bloomsbury Readers series, this story is written specifically to help children grow reading confidence and understanding. A separate ‘Reading Zone’ section at the end suggests activities to do while and after reading, and includes a quiz to test your knowledge. .
Book Band: Grey Ideal for ages 8+ | Maxx the alien is sent to earth to study humans and specifically to learn about their feelings. His education comes on in leaps and bounds when he makes a human friend, Jibreel. The two have fun together, but there are real worries and sadnesses in Jibreel’s life too – he’s a refugee and is separated from his mother, and to a group of boys in his class, he’s the ‘alien’. Fortunately, Maxx is there to apply his other-worldly logic to the problem. Zanib Mian has a real gift for comedy and dialogue too and this is extremely funny, while at the same time it makes some very serious points. In the new Bloomsbury Readers series, the story is perfect for children growing reading confidence and understanding, with short chapters and frequent illustrations. A separate ‘Reading Zone’ section at the end lists discussion points and also encourages readers to think about the book’s narrative structure.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Natasha Farrant's original stories are set in different times all around the world, blending modern and traditional storytelling with glowing full colour illustrations by debut artist Lydia Corry in a glorious gift book.