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Young children will find lots to laugh at in this jolly story of a little dragon who can’t help losing his temper, and they’ll learn ways to manage their own anger too. When Fergal gets cross, he really gets cross, and being a dragon this results in burned buns (he couldn’t wait to eat them), scorched suppers (he didn’t want the veg), goalposts burned to cinders (he really didn’t want to play in goal). It upsets his friends and it’s making him unhappy too. Fortunately Mum has a useful suggestion – take a breath and count to ten. It works, while Fergal’s friends have helpful tricks of their own too. Robert Starling’s illustrations are full of life and character, and this is very good for sharing.
What a special person Marcus Rashford is, on and off the pitch. With a focus on his football, this excellent little biography also gives readers a good idea of his life and how he’s got to where he is today. The stats of course speak for themselves, he’s a brilliant footballer and the book provides some analysis of why he scores so many goals. It also tells us about his early football games, playing in his tiny back garden with brothers Dwaine and Dane, before joining the youth academy at Manchester United (born in Wythenshawe, he’s always been a fan). No matter how successful he’s been, he’s never forgotten the community he grew up in as the book explains, and its final stat, after all those goals, penalties and assists, is the money he’s raised for charity FareShare: £20 million. Author and illustrator write with all the enthusiasm of real football fans, peppering the pages with jokes and extra football facts, making this very appealing and super-readable. There’s a quiz at the end to test the reader’s memory and a useful glossary too.
Fairy tales vibrantly updated for the 21st century by Blue Peter legend Konnie Huq | 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 November 2020 | Perfect for all readers who love the world of ballet, A Dancer’s Dream is an inspiring story of a Stana, a young student at the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg, who is chosen to dance the role of Clara on the very first night that the new ballet, The Nutcracker Suite, is performed. Stana’s luck in being picked for the part and how much it matters to her is cleverly interwoven to a touching family story about her very ill sister. Drawing on the true story of the origins of the now much-loved Nutcracker Suite and including a charming introduction to Tchaikovsky who composed the ballet’s music, A Dancer’s Dream is a delightful mix of fact and fiction.
The setting is a wintery wood, beautifully depicted in Marc Boutavant’s detailed illustrations; our companions, a little girl and her dog, plus the host of animals she encounters. These are all welcomed with an invitation to ‘come home’, the bushy tail (squirrel), strong beak (woodpecker), long ears (hare). Elegant four-line verses describe them and their night-time houses, until at last the little girl (‘brave trailblazer, bright stargazer’) comes home and snuggles into her own cosy bed. Her journey through the wood works perfectly as a story, each page bringing a new animal friend, and the verse is a delight to read aloud. A book that will leave readers reassured, happy and ready for bed, but looking forward to new adventures in the morning.
Bertram and Alan are best friends and live next door to each other. Bertram is very tidy whilst Alan lives in a bit of a mess! Bertram feels there is something missing in his life and decides to get a cat. Pierre is a very superior cat – one that Bertram feels will fit in his life perfectly. The only problem is that Pierre has other ideas! He is not keen on eating out of his special bowl – and likes to go next door and eat Alan’s scraps, curl up on Alan’s old coat, and cuddle up with Alan whilst he watches the TV. So, Alan gives Bertram his old coat, and Bertram starts to leave Pierre scraps on the table - but there is still something missing! The two neighbours come up with an ingenious solution – illustrating that friendship can overcome even the contrariness of cats! A tale of friendship and cooperation illustrated in a lovely free-flowing style, full of colour. The double spreads of the book illustrate the difference between the two friends – with the spick and span Bertram’s home on one side and the mess and disorganisation of Alan’s on the other! The comparisons will keep children studying the pictures for a long time. There is a great deal to see in all the spreads, and readers will enjoy the many different things they can pick out!
Deep beneath the waves it’s Christmas Eve and no-one is busier than Shelly the shark. She’s making a very special Santa’s Grotto and inviting in all the little fish. They’re wary though, and think she’s full of tricks so the only visitor is a squid named Sid, who can’t wait to meet Santa … Is Sid safe. Or were the other fish right to keep their distance? Don’t worry, this fishy Christmas tale is full of good cheer and with Sid’s help Shelly really does play Santa Jaws, delivering presents across the ocean floor. For all the silliness there’s a real festive message here about love and trust and finding the best in people. It makes a real change to spend Christmas underwater and the illustrations are full of details while the rhyming text bobs along swimmingly. Fishy, festive fun for all!
Meg and Ash, two magpies, build a cosy nest in the tallest tree for their four bright blue eggs. But they then start to get worried ‘their nest/ Needed more stuff to make it the best.’ Written in rhyming verse, we stare in amazement at all the things the magpies collect to add to their nest – until there is no hope of seeing the nest, and we can only see the teetering heap of things that have been added on top! Disaster strikes as the tree gives way! Happily, all the animals around help to clear the mess – and create useful homes and shelters out of all the rubbish! A gentle, funny and very beautifully illustrated poem, with a little frisson of anxiety when the tree collapses, about waste and recycling – a good way to introduce children to the idea of recycling useful things. As ever with Emily Gravett – there is a great deal going on in all the illustrations – lots to see and talk about, all beautifully laid out across the double-page spreads. The end papers are particularly fun, containing adverts for some of the items in the book – and also an advert for libraries! I particularly liked the 4 ‘R’s of Recycling right at the back of the book! This will become a class and personal favourite for many people – children and adults alike – and could provide the basis for class projects on recycling, too.
How many adventures will be started by this quirky activity book? With all of us currently spending more time in our homes than we ever expected, it’s perfect for now, full not only of interesting facts about our houses and furniture (from information on the first bed to Le Corbusier’s ideas), but also with activity ideas inspired by the place where we live. These range from making architectural plans to designing a chair (with a nod to Bauhaus), to creating a board game à la Cluedo. Attractively designed, fun and fact-filled, this will expand the walls of your home and make it a place of quiet adventure for children – perfect.
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.