Each week our team of book lovers choose a selection of books they have loved and think deserve an extra shout out. Everyone fights to get theirs on the list. Here are this week’s faves...
February 2010 Book of the Month | Treasure, tropical islands, shivering timbers – everyone loves a pirate story and this one is particularly fun, especially for newly confident readers. The crew of the Golden Earring are a rum bunch, from grumpy Captain Halibut to hapless cook Cannonball. Their antics are observed by the animals on board – Cutlass the parrot, Patch the ship’s cat and Monty, the ship’s monkey. When a treasure map is discovered, only the animals know how dangerous finding it will be – how can they keep the humans safe? It’s all lots of fun, a jaunty, thoroughly satisfying story full of incident and humour. Illustrations by Kate Pankhurst make this as fun to look at as it is to read. Ooo-arrrs all round!
February 2019 Book of the Month | Here’s another inspiring, information-packed picture book in what’s becoming something of a series (see also Great Women Who Made History and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World). It tells the stories of pioneering women who achieved amazing things, often in the face of prejudice or downright hostility from society. There are familiar names – Rosalind Franklin is included – plus lots that are lesser known, but just as fascinating: balloonist Sophie Blanchard for example, and Sarah Breedlove, beauty entrepreneur. Their stories are told through lively, engaging text and pictures, it’s a treat to read. Kate Pankhurst is something of a fantastically great woman herself, and there’s lots for all readers to marvel at and enjoy in this book.
February 2019 Book of the Month | This is book ten in this excellent series which recounts – via email exchanges – the escapades of young Eddie Smith-Pickle and his eccentric Uncle Morton, dragon aficionado and explorer. In this episode, Eddie’s first email to his long-suffering mother is entitled Confession and gets straight to the point: he’s not in Glasgow as mum believes, but 4,329 miles further away. Uncle Morton has persuaded his nephew to accompany him to Mongolia to witness the legendary Great Dragon Battle Ceremony. The trip turns out to be every bit as exciting as you’d expect, and it’s only the arrival of Uncle Morton’s own dragons, Ziggy and Arthur, that prevents Eddie ending up as a dragon’s dinner. The email format ensures the stories are told with the utmost economy, but they’re also full of humour and wit. This is sophisticated storytelling in a really accessible format, no wonder the series has now reached number ten.
February 2019 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2019 | What better present can a princess receive than a pudding making machine! Soon puddings and cakes of all sorts are spilling out of the machine as the young Princess Hannah takes control of her fabulous birthday present. But the present has an unfortunate impact on the princess; it reveals that she has never had to share. Luckily, her friends take matters into their own hands and soon they too are pulling the levels and turning the wheels and together they all make the most fabulous puddingly treats – including a giant meringue. The moral is well mixed into this bubbly tale which is vibrantly told in verse by Sally Duran.
This high-octane, high-stakes London-set thriller is a fast-paced read with contemporary resonance about kids who get caught up in gang culture as a result of being forgotten by government and overlooked by adults. Orphan Ollie’s life is turned upside-down when his guardian is captured and attacked in front of him and he discovers The Haven, a secret subterranean organisation of kids and teenagers who look after and educate each other with no adult intervention. “We’ve come to realise that grown-ups don’t always have kids’ interests at heart,” explains one of The Haven’s leaders. This stimulating set-up is propelled by a gripping race against time to find a missing kid, the murderous menace of a woman bent on destroying the city, and the threat that The Haven itself might be dying as a result of diminishing incomers and depleting donations from former members. The compellingly thought-provoking concept is deftly delivered through accessibly snappy writing and, as such, I’d recommend it to reluctant readers and those with shorter attention spans as well as devoted fans of teen thrillers, providing as it does an instant hit of action, intrigue and narrative energy. What’s more, this is the first in a series, and readers will no doubt be left eagerly awaiting the second instalment.
February 2019 Book of the Month | This is a delightful, newly-minted fairy tale (three sisters, a quest, a witch, a moral) and thoroughly satisfying. The Widdershins sisters – Fliss, Betty and Charlie – live with their granny on the island of Crowstone, a miserable, end of the line kind of place, all damp, and marsh and mist. It’s not somwehere you’d want to live but as the story unfolds, we discover that because of an age-old curse, the girls can never leave. When breaking the curse becomes a matter of life or death, the three girls will have to work together – despite their sometimes spiky relationships – and at least they have a pinch of magic to help. This is an ingenious and compelling story and like the age-old tales that are its inspiration, pitches love, generosity and forgiveness against human cruelty. Superb! There are some great fantasy adventures for young readers at the moment – look out too for The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle and The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson.