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A Circle of Life Story | Life is everywhere, we read at the close of this exceptional picture information book, and every page prior is brimming with it, so vividly depicted in Daniel Egnéus’ illustrations that you can almost hear the yapping and gekkering of the fox cubs, their mother’s barks, and all the constant bustle and hum of the natural world. Even in death we see there is life: the mother fox is hit and killed by a car but immediately tiny creatures get to work. As the seasons roll round and winter turns to spring, new life grows again and the particles that made up the fox become something else. Text and illustration together explain the circle of life with an extraordinary clarity while retaining a sense of the sheer wonder of it all. Share this with children who want to know what happens when something dies, or who just want to understand our world better.
October 2020 Book of the Month | Raw, lingering and stirringly lyrical, October, October had me hooked from opening to end. Conjured in language that crackles and smoulders like an autumn bonfire, this is a book of bones and bark, of frost and flame, captivating in the manner of Skellig or Stig of the Dump as it undulates towards a wondrous homecoming of the heart. “We live in the woods and we are wild… Just us. A pocket of people in a pocket of the world that’s small as a marble. We are tiny and we are everything and we are wild.” October has everything she wants living in the woods in the house her father built. Her mother left when October was four and she’s adamant that, “I don’t want her. She’s not wild like we are.” This year October’s euphoria at the onset of autumn is sullied when she discovers a dead owl and a motherless baby owl: “my heart won’t stop bruising my ribs.” So, she rescues the baby, names it Stig and declares it her first ever friend. Calamity strikes when the woman “who calls herself my mother” arrives as a birthday surprise - her beloved dad breaks his spine after falling from a tree and October must stay with this woman – her mother – in London while he recuperates. In the chaotic city, October is a bird with clipped wings. Torn from her wild world, she implodes, becomes a “firework of fury”, until she strikes up a bond with a boy named Yusef and discovers mudlarking, which makes her once more “a wild animal skulking and prowling for food”, “a pirate hunting for treasure.” An unforgettable story, an unforgettable heroine – it’s no exaggeration to hail this a future classic.
Wolves, wildness and freedom are at the heart of this thrilling story. Wolf wilders are employed to reintroduce wolves unfortunate enough to be brought up as pets in rich households back into the wild, and they’re easy to spot: they’ll be missing a piece of finger, the lobe of an ear, a toe or two. Feo and her mother are wolf wilders, content deep in the forest, at least until the arrival of General Rakov and the imperial army. Rakov treats their wolves with the same brutal contempt he shows to the peasants, and despite her reclusiveness, Feo finds herself fighting alongside her neighbours for what is right. ‘Wolves, like children, are not born to lead calm lives’ we are told and this a marvellous adventure, original, beautifully written, and full of scenes and ideas that will excite and inspire young readers.
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.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | There’s a very high level of cuteness in this book, in the shape of Noodle, the excitable but lovable little dog who becomes a special member of Wigley Primary. The children of Mr Reed’s class can hardly believe their luck when he’s introduced and his exploits certainly liven up the school day, not to mention their trip to the seaside. It’s not just that Doodle brings fun and silliness though, his presence helps Lou feel more confident, and brings all the children of the class together. Jonathan Meres clearly understands children as well as he understands dogs (Noodle is based on his own dog), and young readers will very much enjoy sharing Noodle’s adventures. Published by dyslexia specialists Barrington Stoke this is super readable and Noodle will be everyone’s friend.
This awesome, rawsome, rhyming picture book chomps through gender stereotypes with wit, vitality and a whole lot of dinosaur dynamism – it’s a cautionary tale with swashbuckling twists in its T. Rex tail. And the message? Boys – beware of mansplaining dinosaurs to girls. “Dinos are for boys,” claims Ed, Maisy’s less than enlightened brother as he refuses to share his toys with her. But Maisy knows that’s simply not true. And besides, she doesn’t even need Ed’s toys because she knows T. Rex’s sister, who’s big, bright and every bit as fierce as boy dinosaurs. “My dinosaurs are mean, for sure/And boy, oh boy, can these girls ROAR!” she asserts with convincing glee as Deborah Allwright’s pounce-off-the-page illustrations depict a range of rollicking, roaring, rock ‘n’ rolling dinosaurs in gargantuan glory. As Maisy’s passion gathers apace, so Ed asserts his expertise on the matter, resulting in an uproarious down-to-earth-with-a-bump ending, and an excellent final twist. For more books with girl-power take a look at Work It Girl - Inspiring and Informative Books on Feminism for All Ages
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | Penny, the notorious dog-napper, has a host of dogs already but there is one very special dog she is determined to get her hands on. Quick, clever, a master of disguise and very good at problem solving, he is the dog she wants. And he is covered in spots so should be easy to find. Penny’s assistant Pat sets out to find the dog. Can the dog-nappers catch their prize or will they be outwitted by the super-smart dog? Emma Lazell’s energetic and vivid illustrations inject this simple story with great energy.
The Umbrella Mouse was one of the stand-out debuts of 2019 and scooped the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Award. Now Pip, the Umbrella Mouse, hero of the secret animal resistance is back in a new wartime adventure. Her aim is still to reach Italy and the umbrella museum in Gignese where her family are from. But the war is not over, and she is still a fierce defender of liberty, willing to do anything she can for her friends and allies in the fight against Hitler. Courage and that love for her friends sees her through but her adventures have moments of tension and danger aplenty, certainly enough to keep readers absorbed, while the idea of these extraordinary things happening to the smallest of creatures will enthral and inspire them. Sam Usher’s evocative black and white line drawings add to the atmosphere and deep sense of camaraderie.
General Jack and the Battle of the Five Kingdoms is an interesting anthropomorphic adventure which reminded me a lot of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion King. This adventure story is told in reflection by Miaow, the chief of cats, who befriends a ten-year-old explorer, Jack, who manages to unite the kingdoms in order to overthrow the despot Lions and larger ruling cats. This fantasy adventure is complemented throughout with black and white illustrations. The narrative focuses on a number of teachable lessons for younger readers such as the positives of teamwork as well as having a more traditional good vs evil tale to enjoy. I liked the anthropomorphised animals although I would have liked to have some of their animal qualities maintained in the wording. For example, the description of the lions “ruling with a firm hand”, I would have preferred the phrasing to be ‘with a firm paw’. I also thought I spotted and enjoyed the play on the word kingdom, the subtle nod to not only the traditional geographical definition but also the taxonomic ranks which classify every animal. Like The Chronicles of Narnia, I could see that the plot of General Jack shares connections to stories in the Bible, although I think that this book could be an entertaining read for any young fantasy fan. As Miaow tells this story, which is his own redemption and self-discovery as much as the larger animal revolution, it is easy to become attached to the chief of the cats and his family, and I read hoping that my favourite characters survived unscathed. I think that this would be a very good story for middle grade readers and above, and teaches them that you’re never too small to make a difference.
A hungry little mouse strolls through very prettily illustrated countryside scenes, reminiscent of favourite folk tales, and is lucky enough to discover four juicy apples. So far, so good, but then she runs into a bear, a bear who holds that might is right and who refuses to share. Undeterred, the clever mouse finds a way to eat her apples and to persuade her new friend of the joy of sharing. Written in rhyme this is particularly pleasing to read aloud and children will love the story of a lesson learned and friendship formed.
There are lots of things Bear loves, and he tells us all about them in this charming picture book. From playing with friends, to reading with Daddy, to wearing his underpants on his head (surely to be a favourite image with readers!), all is described through a jolly rhyming text and accompanying lively illustrations. Even when he’s giving in to the naughty little voice in his ear and playing tricks, Bear still looks cute as a button, like any toddler. This will be a lovely book for grown-ups and children to share, with so many scenes and activities they’ll recognise.
Milo is a mouse who wakes one morning and can smell something! he sniffs and sniffs until he finds the source of the smell and is delighted when it's cheese. There's a problem though and just when it looks like he is about to make a terrible mistake, a lucky sneeze saves the day! This book is a delight from start to finish. There are lovely illustrations to accompany the story and along each illustration is a 'sniff, sniff' that children reading it themselves or reading along with an adult would enjoy joining in with. The story is simple and enjoyable and should occupy a place in every child's bookcase and every key stage 1 class book corner. I will be buying this book for sure. Nikki Telling, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Join the little pirate bunnies on a seaside treasure hunt, and help them find ten golden coins cleverly hidden under flaps. Together you can splash, splosh, splish through the shallows, swoosh, swoosh, swish with the dolphins and squawk, squawk, screech with the parrots before doing it all in reverse running back to the beach. The story follows the classic structure of the bear hunt, but here the scenes are seaside, seashore and tropical forest, the sea sparkling beautifully in Laura Hughes’ gorgeous illustrations. Children will love joining in with the rhyming, onomatopoeic text and they’ll relish the thrill of finding the coins too. All the fun of a day by the sea!
June 2020 Book of the Month | Check your bookshelves, everyone. We bet they’re full of books about bears, yes? Well it’s time to make room for books about alpacas, starting with this one about alpaca Alfonso! Alfonso loves a good story and when he realises that all his favourite books star bears, but don’t feature any alpacas at all, he sets out to change things. He persuades his friend Colin – a bear – to help, but succeeds only after energetically demonstrating just how great alpacas are. This has to be one of the liveliest picture books of the year, and Alfonso’s passion, enthusiasm and determination gleam from every page. While it makes for wonderful reading, it’s also saying something very important: everyone should see themselves represented in books, and all our reading experiences will be the better if they do. We were lucky enough to ask Emma a few questions about her wonderful picture books..find out more!
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