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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.
Big, bold and bright, this picture book tells the tale of the red Spots, who live on one side of the hill and avoid at all costs the scary blue Dots who live on the other side of the hill. Wait a minute though, turn it round and it’s actually the tale of the blue Dots, who live on one side of the hill and avoid at all costs the scary red Spots who live on the other side of the hill… Both stories meet in the middle when two babies – a Spot and a Dot – get lost and meet up, only to discover that everything their parents and grandparents believe is wrong. Layout, illustrations and the deliciously clever structure of the story as it proceeds from two different starting points – and two different ends of the book – to reach exactly the same place, serve to point out the absurdity of the Dots’ and Spots’ position. Even the youngest readers will understand exactly what the moral of it all is (once they’ve stopped laughing). Helen Baugh’s rhyming text is perfect in its conciseness and Marion Deuchars’ illustrations a triumph, each spot and dot a character of its own. This is one to shelve with other ingenious picture books that entertain and delight while imparting wisdom such as Jon Agee’s The Wall in the Middle of the Book, Smriti Prasadam-Halls’ The Little Island and David McKee’s Tusk Tusk.
Dedicated to his own ‘utterly bonkers’ grandma’s and demonstrating his relish for all things Christmas related, Alex T Smith and Macmillan have lovingly produced this top-notch seasonal offering. In a lovely author note at the end we are told he started humming the tune and could not remember all the words and started making them up and so the carol starts traditionally up to five and from there things get more outlandish than even the original. I cannot decide which is my favourite: the eight bears a-balancing or the eleven penguins parping! Set firmly in the Edwardian era, when the original lyrics were first set to music, allows for gorgeous detail to pore over in the costumes worn by our increasingly amazed black heroine, Eloise Jingles, and the eponymous overgenerous grandma we meet at the end. But even more delight is found in all the lovely postage and packaging detail that we see before the contents are revealed. The Each Peach Pear Plum Home Orchard Co and Ms Trudy Truelove’s Lovebirds of Distinction can be easily matched with the gift, but it is the Extra Large Parcel Company’s huge box that holds the laugh out loud conclusion. This could inspire lots of creativity in making up your own versions of the song and designing your own stamps and packaging. A real delight for any home or classroom.
This festive activity book for little children is full of Christmas scenes to decorate. Dress the dolls for a Christmas market, ice skating, building a snowman and lots more. With over 200 stickers of festive outfits and Christmas decorations.
This enchanting reinvention of a Natural History of Fairies written by botanist Professor Elsie Arbour in the 1920s glows with timeless charm and the magic of nature. What’s more, author Emily Hawkins’s message about protecting fairies’ natural habitats has important real-world resonance, such as this: “human actions are putting fairies’ habitats at risk. When forests and woodland are cut down to make space for farmland…then fairies’ homes are destroyed.” Fairy enthusiasts will delight in the detail of the softly-radiant illustrations that present fairy anatomy and life cycles in the manner of natural history books, replete with labels and descriptions. Throughout, the book is suffused with a thrilling feeling that fairies might be found - if you know what you’re looking for, and where to look. The section on language and secret scripts will undoubtedly inspire young readers to write their own fairy codes, while coverage of a huge range of habitats - from meadows, gardens and woodlands, to mountains, marine environments and jungles - gives a satisfying global feel. Alongside providing fairy-lovers with much fodder for exploration, this coverage of habitats, and information on the likes of leaves, plants and animals, might also spark a wider love of nature. Sumptuously presented, with a silk bookmark, and gold edging and cover foil supplementing Jessica Roux’s illustrations, this book’s style is every bit as charming as its content, which makes it a gift to treasure.
September 2020 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | This is a non-fiction book with a difference! Using his amazing ‘tranimalator’ machine, which, he tells us, translates animals’ sounds into words, author Andy Seed ‘interviews’ a horde or scary animals, including a tiger, a fierce honey badger and a snow leopard. He asks them some really interesting questions too and we learn all sorts of things – why humans are scared of wolves, how a massive animal like a giant anteater survives eating teeny little insects, what lionesses think of male lions (not much actually!). It’s quirky and lots of fun – some of these animal celebs have wicked senses of humour – but genuinely informative (I had no idea that jaguars eat caimans, or that giant armadillos build new dens every couple of days, or that sloths have mould growing on them!). It reminds us how many of these animals are threatened too and what we can do to help. The illustrations match the tone and it’s bright and engaging throughout. This is a book that children will be keen to share and to return to.
If you’ve ever looked at a furry ball of purry cat asleep in the sunshine and wondered what they are getting up to in their dreams, then you’ve got something in common with Philip Ardagh. In these exciting, comic and purr-fectly written little adventures, he imagines his feline star, Furry Purry Beancat exploring one of her other eight lives while asleep. In the first story, she finds herself on a pirate ship, a pirate ship’s cat. She arrives at a particularly exciting moment too as the ship is under attack from fellow pirates. With her captain locked up in his cabin, things look bleak, but Furry Purry Beancat soon discovers that the ship’s rats are a resourceful bunch and together they turn the tide in favour of their own pirate crew. It helps that one of the opposing pirates, a huge chap called Ten-Tun, falls for Beancat, but really, who wouldn’t? The little story is packed with incident and adventure as well as some gloriously comic moments thanks in the main to the young rats. It’s irresistible reading, made even more so by fabulous black and white illustrations by Rob Biddulph. All in all, this is a real treat, and it’s great to know that there will be eight more Furry Purry Beancat stories to come.
Children have been through a lot this year and this lovely book, bursting with hope and reasons to look forward, provides the comfort and reassurance they’ve been needing, plus a sense of the joy that’s been missing for too long. It stars a young sister and brother, plus their sometimes frazzled parents, and describes the creation of a rainbow image for their window. Painting the rainbow brings back good memories as well as some sad ones, but ultimately reminds them of the really important things in life – family and friends – and that “we’ll still have each other/when this rainstorm ends!” Michelle Robinson’s rhyme is on the beat throughout, seamlessly mixing realism, understanding and optimism, while Emily Hamilton’s illustrations have a sense of companionship and energy that makes everything feel better. A great book to read and to look at, and a really useful and important one to share with children.
There are lots of reasons for getting yourself a copy of this lively, charming picture book! Not only is it a bright, fun way to tell children about different animals, it’s also a bright, fun way to get children moving, stretching and enjoying themselves. Pages of information about animals, from flamingos to chimpanzees, are matched by illustrated encouragements to copy their movements – stretch out your wings like a flamingo, scuttle sideways like a crab, wiggle your bottom like a bee! The text is great for reading aloud with a bouncy rhythm and the pictures are just as full of life. This is guaranteed to get everyone jumping up and joining in!
Even among lovable children’s book characters, Furry Purry Beancat is in a class of her own. A beautiful, beautifully furry little pussy cat with the pinkest nose and the fluffiest tale, she has some very exciting adventures. Sometimes you see, when Beancat goes to sleep, she’ll wake up somewhere completely different and in another one of her nine lives and that’s when she knows an adventure is about to happen. In this story, she’s a railway cat – what could be better? And she’s arrived at the station in very interesting times – there are unscrupulous thieves targeting the passengers and they’re in cahoots with enemy spies up to no good. Fortunately, Beancat is not one to panic and with the help of a great supporting cast, including Yorkie the talkative cockatoo, she’s able to save the day and the life of her new friend, Polly. It’s beautifully told for young readers, a mix of excitement and charm and the illustrations by Rob Biddulph are purr-fect too. Funny, exciting and thoroughly charming.
Radiating warmth through words and pictures as it lays bare wonders of the world, this extended picture book was inspired by the author’s meetings with children from around the globe as a supporter of UNICEF and Save the Children. Framed as a letter to interplanetary guests (“Dear visitor from Outer Space, if you come to Earth, here’s what you need to know”), it takes in the big and the small with huge heart and wisdom. The whole of life is here, from recognising and celebrating human difference (“Each of us is different. But all of us are amazing. And, together, we share one beautiful planet”), to portraying the animals of the sea, land and air that grace Earth. It also shows how we communicate through words, signs, music and art, and gently points out that while we sometimes hurt each other, “it’s better when we help each other.” And the mysteries of existence are touched on too - “There are lots of things we don’t know. We don’t know where we were before we were born, or where we go when we die. But right this minute we are here together on this beautiful planet.” What a wonderful gift-to-treasure this will make - a delight to read aloud and share thoughts about.
Where do pebbles come from? How were they made? This book tells the story of a pebble, from its origins in a fiery volcano 480 million years ago to a busy, modern landscape. Readers follow the processes of rock formation and erosion that create new pebbles all over the world.