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The third book in Cressida Cowell’s new Wizards of Once series is full of magic – magical adventures and magical creatures, and it overflows with the magic of great storytelling. Our heroes, Wish the young Warrior girl and Xar the boy wizard, are continuing their dangerous quest to defeat the witches they accidentally freed in book one and which threaten both their worlds. They travel on a magic flying door, accompanied by their friends – sprites, a giant, snowcats, a werewolf and Bodkin, Wish’s young bodyguard – and come up against some awesome enemies. In hot pursuit are their parents, Xar’s father King Encanzo the enchanter and Wish’s mother, Warrior Queen Sychorax, both terrifying, both determined their children will do as they are told. Who will succeed? Can Wish and Xar change the course of history and write their own happy ending? We don’t know yet, but readers of all ages will be wishing with all their hearts that they can. Cressida Cowell’s invention and ambition for her characters is boundless, and this unputdownable story is as full of ideas and intelligence as it is of excitement.
This is a superb example of an information text, ostensibly for younger children, but with multi-age and multi-curriculum uses. It is also a thing of beauty, printed on high quality paper doing full justice to the stunning illustrations, with the author’s expressive brush work, clever layout and a palette filled with watery blues and greens and the white and grey of rain, fog and snow. A little girl notices the role of water all around her—a sprinkler, a tap, a stream, a lake. She also notices that water sometimes tries to hide, or change state, and that water is part of every living thing including her. The book concludes with four pages of beautifully clear explanations of water forms (liquid, solid and gas), the water cycle and the all-important conservation of water. There are some excellent suggestions of how to play and learn about water and true or false questions to check understanding. These are very well suited to older children too, as indeed the book is, as a model of writing and the effective use of figurative language. Poetic descriptions make this an enjoyable read-aloud and the larger font labels that identify the source of the water on each page (including Zoe the narrator) are perfect for vocabulary building for the youngest child. A really well thought out and brilliantly executed early science picture book that deserves a place in every school.
This book offers a fun and quirky introduction to famous artists, writers and scientists, via their pets. We learn a great deal about Sigmund Freud for example through the story of his beloved chow chow Jofi, who was present in his owner’s famous treatment rooms for seven years. Similarly, it’s much easier to identify with Isaac Newton once you know about his little dog, Diamond, or Henri Matisse as you learn about his cats Minouche, Coussi and la Puce. Some of the pets of course are interesting in their own right too – the crocodiles Dorothy Parker kept in her bath, or Charles Dickens’ talking raven Grip, who stars in Barnaby Rudge and also inspired Edgar Allen Poe’s poem The Raven. There are full page illustrations of each pet and owner and opposite a page of lively, accessible information about the pair and their relationship. Unusual, handsomely illustrated and inspiring.
April 2020 Debut of the Month | Margaret Sturton announces herself as a major picture book talent with her debut. Little rabbit Herbert loves foxes. Indeed, he loves them so much he wants to be one, making himself a pair of fox ears and a tail. At first his mummy is amused, then angry when he messes up the living room with red paint and cuts up her dress to make a tail. When she sees him out playing as a fox, despite her instruction to be a ‘good little rabbit’, she is cross again, until she suddenly realises how important it is to Herbert to be a fox. The story is full of comic moments and the little rabbit family will be recognisable to all readers. It’s also a wonderful story about identity and love, delivered lightly but most effectively. Highly recommended.
Translated by Rachel Ward | The world needs a smart, resilient, lucky little hero right now, and Nibbles the mouse fits the bill perfectly. At the opening of the story, Nibbles is living quietly but happily with his family in Munich but redevelopment means they have to move somewhere a lot less comfortable and when Nibbles gets the chance to hop on a train to Switzerland (aka mouse heaven) he takes it. All sorts of adventures follow – he even finds himself performing in a circus – and his travels take him to France and England too before he makes his way home to his family. Nibbles is a great storyteller and his adventures are both comic and thrilling, while he meets some wonderful characters on the way. The telling is enlivened further by Axel Scheffler’s colour illustrations which are a perfect match for Nibbles’ plain but heartfelt narrative. Thoroughly charming, this is a great little book and perfect for shared or solo reading.
April 2020 Book of the Month | Lyla might live in a hi-tech future world in which the moon is colonised and robots a big part of daily life, but the things that really matter are the same they’ve always been: friends, family and learning how to treat them properly. It’s very exciting when Lyla is chosen to look after one of three top-of-the-range cyborg children joining her school and at first Clara 2.2 seems the perfect friend, telling Lyla just what she wants to hear. But real friends do more than pay you compliments, and Clara 2.2’s disregard for anyone other than Lyla soon leads to a fall out with Lyla’s best friend Bianca and then – much worse – puts Lyla’s little brother in danger. There’s lots of fun and humour in the story, but some real tension too and it cleverly delivers a message about what friendship really means, and the importance of kindness.
This bright, inspiring information book shows just how fascinating bugs are and will convince even the most die-hard creepy-crawly-phobe that they’re lovable. Lively double-page spreads feature a range of familiar insects including bees, worms, ants, spiders and grasshoppers and then via attractive cartoon-style illustration and integrated text tells us all sorts of facts about their bodies and lives. Some of it is vital statistics-stuff but there are some amazing facts too. Did you know that worms have up to five hearts, or that snails are deaf? Children will absorb a great deal of information and the bugs themselves are given real character by Matt Robertson in his illustrations. Fun, informative and a great introduction to non-fiction books.
Wherever we live, there are birds all around us and this beautifully illustrated book will enable readers to identify them and is also full of facts and information about the way our native birds live. It features 140 different birds, each one is illustrated in colour and alongside a paragraph of text are fact boxes with bullet point information on size, habitat, food and the bird’s song. It’s a good size to pop into a bag on a trip to the country or local park, or even to take out into the garden, but will make for many happy hours of browsing indoors too. Just the sort of book to inspire a life-long interest in birds. Congratulations too to Kate McLelland whose screen print illustrations of the birds are stunning.
Full of bravery, hope, dreams and humour this is a wonderfully doggy adventure as Paolo escapes from his confinement in a hairdressing salon and enjoys everything that is on offer in the stunning city of Rome. Paolo knows that Rome is full of beauty and magic but how will he ever be able to get out and see it? Seizing his moment when the salon door is left open, Paolo embarks on a whirlwind and dangerous adventure full cats, dogs, statues and even opera. Claire Keane’s fabulous illustrations create a glorious evocation of Rome – mostly from a dog’s point of view!
The hardback edition of this book was published ahead of the 30th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Every Child A Song is a poignant celebration of children everywhere and a reminder that EVERY child must be protected by the articles laid out in the UNCRC. | Nicola Davies celebrates the forthcoming 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in this beautifully illustrated picture book. Using the metaphor of each child being a song, she explores some of the 54 rights it sets out, from the right to education, to freedom of thought and expression, to the rights of child refugees. Short, lyrical sentences of text will start discussion and conversation and Marc Martin’s rich water-colour illustrations, whether of children, scenes or vegetation, add movement and drama. A book to inspire children to think about the world and their place within it.
Lucky Isadora – she’s won a holiday in the sun for herself and her family in an art competition. At first everything seems perfect – a bit bright for her vampire dad but he loves the hotel spa – but a surprise meeting with her mermaid friend Marina shows Isadora what her mum suspected: the sea is full of litter. Fortunately, working as a team, fairies, mermaids and vampires can clean up the mess and persuade the humans to change their ways too. This is another lively and engaging story in this excellent series, mixing a fun adventure with an important message, deftly delivered. Half-vampire, half-fairy, Isadora is 100% brilliant especially for those growing in reading confidence.
Interest Age 5-8 | When Norman the Norman from Normandy’s dad, Great Big Norman, is killed in a fight (with ten Bretons from Brittany), Norman swears to visit every one of this dad’s three graves (long story) to pay his respects. He sets off with this dad’s HUGE sword on his not-very-wild boar Truffle and, without meaning to, indeed often without even noticing, avenges his father’s death. If that sounds quite bloodthirsty, it sort of is, but more than that, in the hands of this gifted comedy partnership, it’s just very, very funny. Part of Barrington Stoke’s excellent Little Gems series, this packs more laughs and entertainment into its short extent than books three times the length. High quality cream paper and a special easy to read font ensure a smooth read for all.