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June 2021 Book of the Month | Young readers who like animals and dream of exciting outdoor adventures with just a touch of magic, will love Alex Milway’s new series. Rosa doesn’t know what to expect when the tiny plane drops her off at her Grandma Nan’s house on Big Sky Mountain. It’s deep in the wilderness, about 200 miles from the shops, and the nearest neighbour is a moose called Albert. Albert is a talking moose in fact and Rosa quickly makes friends with a whole host of other animals, all perfectly able to have a chat. Adventures come thick and fast, and Rosa finds herself relying for help on these capable animals. It’s great wish-fulfilment stuff, who wouldn’t want to live with animal friends and an unflappable grandma in the middle of such beautiful countryside. The animal characters provide lots of humourous moments and beneath it all there are important messages about the environment too. Wild, and gently wonderful.
'Tiny Polly: The story of a brave chicken' is a little book with a big message. Written by Jinan Samman and beautifully illustrated in watercolour by Evgeniya Kozhevnikova, it can be shared with young children but is also simple enough to be tackled by beginner readers on their own. Polly lives on a farm with other chickens but because of her small size, she is not included in any of their activities. Desperate to be like the others, she tries to make herself grow but to no avail. It takes a serious occurrence when the farmer is away at market before the flock realises that Polly is more than worthy of their respect and friendship and that differences are to be praised not condemned. Her courage and ingenuity win acceptance in the end and her self esteem is really boosted. Children will more than likely pick up on the bullying by the bigger chickens and relate this to their own experiences, so the story is an excellent way to encourage the sharing of any concerns. Even if this is not a problem though, young children will surely appreciate the lesson the chickens learn in this delightful picture book and will read it again and again. Drena Irish, A LoveReading4Kids Amabssador
Jamie Smart’s exceptional, exuberant comics are an addictive riot of fun and hilarity, and perfect for reluctant readers. This is the third volume in the newly formatted, chunky, pocket-sized series. Since he crash-landed to Earth in a rocket, Monkey has been causing absolute mayhem! Bunny and the gang (Squirrel, Pig [the Pig], Action Beaver, and Skunky the Inventor) have almost had enough. Monkey’s eternal struggle for world domination is getting more ridiculous every day, and it’s impossible to predict which bizarre plan he’s going to put into action next… The pint-sized friends must face a giant robot whale, a pig cannon… oh, and the actual end of the world!
Will Jakeman is extraordinary! As a tiny baby, he was sent across galaxies in his little i-cot, invented by his mother, to escape interplanetary space pirates attacking his home. Landing on planet Urf he was adopted by a kindly old couple, also coincidentally inventors. With such an amazing background, how could Will be anything else other than an inventor, and as for his inventions – wow! There’s the self-making bed, suction shoes so that you can walk up walls, but most amazing his mechanimals, fabulous mechanical creatures just the thing to take if you’re going on an adventure, or to have at your back if you’re being terrorised by a rampaging raptor. The story is interspersed with wonderful diagrams of these amazing creations, the chemical powered Crustacean Hover-sub for example or, best of all, Steel-Skull, a robotic hydrogen-powered metal gorilla. They all have special parts to play in Will’s adventures and the book is perfect for those who want their reading imagination-packed and out of this world! As an added bonus there’s lots to encourage you to sketch your own wonderful creations too.
May 2021 Debut of the Month | There are two central characters in Roderick O Grady’s book, and we see the story through their eyes, the same incidents from their different perspectives. One of these is Minnie, who has recently lost her mother and is struggling to reset her relationship with Dan, her mother’s partner. The other is Kaayii, a young Sasquatch, or Yeti or Bigfoot as they’re often known. Kaayii and his family have been forced into close proximity with Minnie and her neighbours due to forest fires and he too is trying to find a new way to live. Their stories combine and Minnie is able to learn new ways of being from her (enormous) friend and protector while Kaayii finds peace too. The setting for the story is the wild forests and mountains of North America and they’re beautifully described, an exhilarating breath of fresh air for UK readers, and the relationship between Minnie and Kaayii is full of the compassion, shared understanding and awareness of nature that characterises the best of these kind of stories (think The Butterfly Lion or The Scarlet Ibis). A story full of heart and wonder.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Award-winning writers for adults, Zadie Smith and Nick Laird have now created a perfectly crafted picture book that is simple in its telling and strong in its message. When Maud arrives as a surprise for Kit’s birthday she is treated with great suspicion by the pets who are already in residence. Since she is not like them - a cat, a bird or a pug dog - they are swift to deem her to be a weirdo. Briefly, Maud tries to fit in before taking herself on a life-changing adventure in which she soon discovers that being yourself is far, far more important than fitting in. Magenta Fox’s gentle illustrations are the perfect foil to this punchy celebration of individuality.
May 2021 Book of the Month | Framed by a lyrical, mythological story of the Great Sky Wolf and every mother-dog’s desire to protect her pups (“she cannot know what lies ahead…when they are taken from her, into the world of man”), Gill Lewis’s A Street Dog Named Pup is a poignant tale of survival, and the lifelong, life-changing bonds that can be formed between humans and dogs. Brimming with empathy and understanding, it’s a thrilling and deeply moving novel that will be adored by animal-lovers and fans of adventure fiction alike. From the off, the special human-dog bond sits centre stage when Pup, “a dog with a big heart”, lovingly refers to “his boy, who held him tight and told him that one day he would grow into his big puppy paws.” But something isn’t right. Pup’s boy isn’t there, and in his place is a big man who abandons him in Dead Dog Alley, where the Street Dogs take him under their paws. Among them Frenchi, a French bulldog, imparts the wisdom that in order to survive, you need shelter and food, but “Pup wanted his boy. He wanted him more than ever.” While this desire to be reunited grows deeper each day, and no one else will do, hope fades as time passes. What’s more, Pup and his new-found canine crew have other pressing problems to attend to. At times gritty, and always gripping, this has all the hallmarks of an animal adventure classic - a story with the power to move readers in every possible way.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Ruffles hates his red coat and refuses to put it on when he goes out to play – even when it is raining. His friend Ruby has a blue coat. And she loves to wear it. When the two friends jump and splash in puddles Ruffles gets wet and cold and wants to go home. But Ruby is dry inside her coat and wants to play still. Clever Ruby gets Ruffles his coat. Ruffles love Ruby more than he hates his coat so, after a vigorous struggle to get into it, he proudly joins her for some more play! David Melling’s simple illustrations of the two gorgeous little dogs carry all the emotion of this almost wordless picture book perfectly.
If you missed the first book about Walker, here’s a quick catch up: Walker is dog mad, but can’t have one as Mum is allergic. When he sets up as a dog walker, he realises something amazing: he can talk to dogs and they can talk to him. In this episode he and his growing band of dog best friends find themselves up against a ruthless, if not very bright, band of crooks, after money hidden away by corrupt landowner Arlington Wherewithal. Together Walker and the dogs should be able to outwit the baddies but it’s touch and go, and they’ll still have to work out where Arlington hid his ill-gotten gains. The story is action packed, enormously satisfying, and absolute heaven if you love dogs. The book features Rayner’s illustrations throughout and the final pages show you how to draw Walker and Stella the spaniel, an added treat.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2021 | Poppy Anne Field loves ants and spiders and ladybirds and butterflies and dragonflies. Watching them for hours while deep in the countryside she feels entirely at home in their company. But when she is with people, she is overcome with shyness and does everything she can to blend into the scenery – rather as her beloved insects do to keep themselves safe. How Poppy’s love of nature helps her to overcome her shyness is conveyed gently and in a way that will reassure all those who are equally shy.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Abandoned by their original owners, cats Pasha and Poop (yes, really) find forever homes with the lovely Wilde family. But the cats of their new neighbourhood are terrorised by the pawful Scaredy Cat. With flashing eyes, and an ability to walk through walls, he forces everyone to follow his cruel rules for cat behaviour, and woe betide those that try to resist. Pasha is determined to stand up to the bullying, but can he persuade Poop and the other cats that they have nothing to fear but fear itself? Typically for Patterson, the story races along, the cats taking turns to narrate, and it’s a perfect mix of excitement, adventure and comedy. It comes to a wonderful climax in a pet cemetery of all places, and amongst the fun there are important messages about finding the strength in yourself to do what’s right.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Two true stories inspire this warm, positive, uplifting story: the real-life adventure of Pickles, the dog who found the World Cup, and the amazing achievements of Fara Williams, the women’s football superstar who was winning on the pitch even while she was homeless. Like Fara, Elsie is football mad, as is her dog Pickles, who narrates for us. In the story, the world cup trophy is stolen, which means Elsie will miss her chance to play in a half-time match at Wembley. That opportunity has been sustaining her through difficult times as she and her dad (and Pickles), also like Fara Williams, have lost their home and are living in a noisy, dingy hostel. Fortunately, Pickles is as good a detective as his famous namesake… Publisher Barrington Stoke specialise in books for dyslexic or reluctant readers, and there’s lots of page-turning action packed into a short extent. The book is big on emotions too though, making clear just how devastating it is to lose your home, while showing how love, family and hope can get you through just about anything. It also reminds us that football – playing, watching, being a fan – is life-enhancing. A winner! Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2021 | Gaspard the Fox is back for a third wonderful adventure and this time he takes a trip right across London and finds himself on the stage at a concert in Hyde Park! From his hiding place on a number 38 bus, Gaspard gives a wonderful commentary on the sights he sees. There’s the delicious smells of China Town, the bustling crowds of Piccadilly Circus and the beautiful windows of Fortum and Masons. Gaspard loves it all but he can’t let himself be distracted as he has to get off the bus with his friends Honey and Finty. He almost misses the stop but gets off just in time to find himself having a starring role in the Proms in the Park! This foxy fantasy is full of good humour and cheer as well as being a wonderful musical celebration.
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