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A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | Everyone is welcome at Spooky School! Everyone who likes to be scared a bit! Open the pages of this fun board book and join the pupils as they learn how to fly like a witch on a broomstick and to howl like a werewolf. Or join in a dance for skeletons. And, don’t forget, spookiness can be caring too. There’s loads of fun on the Halloween theme. But just watch out for spiders….
There are thrills galore in this stylish lift-the-flap book. Each page features a different creature – fish, bat, spider snake – and each looks pretty innocuous until you pull open the elongated flap then, good heavens, what horrors are revealed! The fish is no guppy, but a piranha with a gaping mouthful of sharp teeth (and a smaller fish about to be eaten)! Pull up the flap for the octopus and discover what’s inside – it’s not a pretty sight! Each flap reveals something more gruesome and revolting than before until the final image of a pumpkin, which turns out to be concealing some very creepy surprises. Young children will revel in these opportunities to be shocked and disgusted, and will shriek with glee at each new ghastliness revealed. The illustrations and bold colours are very striking and add just the right amount of humour to the horror. Nasty but nice!
The multi award-winning past Children’s Laureate demonstrated, with her best-selling Charlie and Lola series, that she has an exquisite touch in depicting family dynamics, sibling relationships, how children’s minds work and how they talk to each other. In this brilliant new book, her unerring eye might even cause a little discomfort in some families and classrooms. Caregivers and teachers may recognise that they have unconsciously developed a certain narrative about certain children. Chirton Krauss is a very good child by inclination and his kind nature. His sister Myrtle is never described as good and in a self-fulfilling prophesy, continues not to be good. Her behaviour has consequences (not invited to any parties) but generally she ‘gets away’ with it so that others can have a quiet life. But the glances and body language of the siblings that Child captures so well, show us very clearly that this is not the whole story. Chirton begins to question the unfairness of this situation since he really, really does not like broccoli (I love how Child captures in many of her books the heightened significance we have given vegetables in our children’s lives). The consequences of his acting out mean that Myrtle gets a chance to be good (and attend a party for a child, new to the neighbourhood, who does not know her reputation) and in delicious irony gets given a Goody Bag! We realise that Myrtle has been unjustly compartmentalised just as much as Chirton has a reputation to live up to. This clever and amusing tale will prompt plenty of discussion about behaviour and fairness and it absolutely defends the rights of the child to be themselves and not just our vision of them, as befits a book written by a Unesco Artist for Peace. Find out more about Lauren Child, her books, characters and inspirations in our Guest Editor feature.
November 2020 Book of the Month | Michael Morpurgo is the consummate storyteller and this little tale, perfectly illustrated by Polly Dunbar, reveals how even as a child he had storytelling at his fingertips. The narrative is based on his own memories of childhood and of performing in the school’s Christmas production of Edward Lear’s poem The Owl and the Pussycat. Michael loved the poem and was chosen to play the Owl. Excitement rises as the performance approaches especially as Belinda, his first love, is chosen to play the Pussycat. Adults will appreciate the book’s delicate sense of memories of past life, while children will love it for the humour, the drama and the sheer joy that comes from calamity turned to triumph. It is quite beautifully told, and Polly Dunbar’s illustrations exactly capture all that readers will find in the story. If it inspires you to read Lear’s poem, as well it might, there are picture book versions gorgeously illustrated by Ian Beck and Charlotte Voake, while Julia Donaldson has written a glorious sequel also illustrated by Voake. Read more about Michael Morpurgo, our Guest Editor for September 2020, here.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | Beautifully presented, this is a fabulous anthology of poems greatly enhanced by wonderful illustrations and a sumptuous binding – including a very useful marker ribbon! Subtitled “An animal poem for every day of the year”, it includes poems which introduce a huge range of animals from around the world. Some are familiar but most are refreshingly new. Some examples I loved are: May 1st, Song about the Reindeer, Musk Oxen, Women, and Men who want to show off, an Innuit song and September 7th The Manatee by Jack Prelutsky – “I’m partial to the manatee,/ which emanates no vanity./ It swims amidst anemones/ and hasn’t any enemies.” This anthology really does include something for everyone!
This comic picture book cleverly demonstrates the dangers of being swayed by popular opinion. New boy Peter is quickly branded the baddest boy in school and it does indeed seem that he’s given to doing naughty things. So when the school’s pet rat goes missing from his cage, everyone assumes Peter is responsible. Only one person knows the truth, and that Peter’s bad behaviour is not what it seems either. The book explores the dynamics of any classroom while also showing us that strange or different doesn’t equal bad and that categorising people on assumptions is never a good idea. Peter is a very charming little character, with his cape, fangs and lacy collar, and the story is beautifully told by its mystery narrator. Original, memorable, and lots of fun.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | Mission impossible – the terrific Super-Cats are back for another adventure in the mad-cat world! When Tagg and Sugarfoot see their old enemy appear on a TV show to discuss Super Cats they know they will have to take action. Dr Specs, a nasty looking cat with markings that made him look as if he wears human glasses, is bad news. He has only just been released from prison. Now he is an evil scientist who is accusing super cats of doing all kinds of bad things. He even claims to have invented a deadly weapon that can remove super powers. Tagg and Sugarfoot know that something must be done to stop him. And quickly! A fun-filled, wild-cat adventure in which anything – and almost everything – can happen.
There are life lessons galore for young readers of this hugely appealing picture book. Little dragon Fergal is a bit anxious about going off to summer camp – he’s never been before – and when he arrives, he’s so determined to make his mark that he doesn’t notice he’s being a bit selfish and upsetting the other little dragons. Fortunately, the camp leader can sort things out and give Fergal some useful advice: he needn’t be best at everything, he just needs to relax and be himself and everything else will follow. It’s an important message for all young children and it’s fun to learn it with Fergal and his little friends, as colourful and companionable a group as you could hope to meet. Look out for the first Fergal story too, Fergal is Fuming, which is just as good at prompting conversations about feelings and behaviour.
Robert Starling’s little dragon Fergal has lots of fans and no wonder. His adventures are wonderfully accurate representation of everyday family life and will be recognisable to every toddler and parent. In this story, Fergal has become a big brother but the arrival of baby Fern is making him anxious, unsettled and angry. Things come to a head when a trip he’s been looking forward to has to be cancelled. Fortunately, Dad encourages Fergal to talk about how he’s been feeling and after that everything gets better. There’s a very useful message here and as ever Starling delivers it with charm, humour and sensitivity. This is another excellent book to share and absolutely essential if you’ve got a toddler and new baby.
Interest Age 5+ Reading Age 5 | Sally Gardner has a unique imagination and a special ability to create fresh, sparkling fairy tales for today. This new series introduces us to the utterly delightful little Tindims who, like the Borrowers, make their home out of things we humans – or Long Legs as they know us – throw away. ‘Rubbish today is treasure tomorrow’ is their motto, though from their floating home of Rubbish Island, they do worry just how many plastic bottles they can recycle. In this episode they are preparing for their Brightsea Festival, when Ethel B Dina is swept away. They save her of course – the Tindims are always going to find their happy endings. Children will love them and their recycled world, and these stories are beautifully accessible and perfectly illustrated by Lydia Corry. Printed in dyslexia-friendly font with pictures on every page and perfect for the reluctant reader.
60 Poems to Boost Reading and Spelling | What an ingenious idea! The B on Your Thumb combines two seemingly unlikely bedfellows – grammar and poetry – and to excellent effect. Jolly verses, frequently comic and lots of fun to read aloud, are cleverly full of useful spelling and phonics tips. Struggle spelling ‘necessary’ or ‘separate’? (Shh – I do!) You won’t after you’ve read this book and the two little poems that make their spellings so memorable. Also made fun and simple via fun rhymes are letter sounds, sh, ee, ou, ch and so on. Tor Freeman’s illustrations are as bright and welcoming as the verses and it seems that this author illustrator duo have succeeded in making spelling fun.