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July 2019 Book of the Month | It’s more than 150 years since the publication of Alice in Wonderland and it is delighting today’s readers as much as it ever has. Both a tribute to and a celebration of Lewis Carroll’s story, this collection includes new adventures by eleven favourite contemporary children’s authors, each of whom has been inspired by Alice. With such an extraordinary set of characters and scenes to take as starting points, the stories are wonderfully varied. Pamela Butchart chooses to write about the Queen of Hearts in a follow up story, while Swapna Haddow picks the Mock Turtle. There’s an environmental message in Lauren St John’s lively story ‘Plum Cakes at Dawn’, while Robin Stevens puts the real Alice into her Oxford set story. Together they make for a sparkling collection, one well worth tumbling back down the rabbit hole to enjoy.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2019 | The much-loved author of The Tiger Who Came to Tea has written and illustrated a delightful new story that is perfect for all the family. When lonely Mr Cleghorn adopts Charlie, an orphaned seal, after a visit to the seaside he has no idea quite how difficult it will be to look after him! Luckily, his neighbour Miss Craig loves animals too and is more than willing to help him! Together, the pair do everything they can to keep the little seal pup happy. And keeping the little seal pup happy makes them very happy too in this touching and funny story. A new gem and a classic in the making from Judith Kerr to delight readers young and old.
All of Joyce Lankester Brisley’s Milly-Molly-Mandy stories start Once upon a time … and always what follows are charmingly described, detailed little domestic adventures, such as being sent on an errand, riding Grandad’s pony Twinkletoes or playing in the puddles in the lane. The stories are just the right length for newly independent readers, and will prove as enchanting to children today as they did when they were first published way back in the 1920s, though modern readers might need to consult their elders for explanations of strange things such as kippers, grocers and threepenny pieces. Milly-Molly-Mandy’s world is safe and wonderfully reassuring, Lankester Brisley’s ingenuous, warm-hearted storytelling still a treat and it’s lovely to see these attractive new editions with the author’s own illustrations carefully coloured up.
Milly-Molly-Mandy first burst onto the scene way back in the 1920s and Joyce Lankester Brisley’s stories, now reissued as very pretty little hardbacks and with her illustrations newly coloured, have retained all of their charm. This book contains seven individual stories, each of which details a little domestic adventure, the kinds of things that would be very familiar to children at the beginning of the last century – picnics, family parties, playing out with friends – but which for modern readers will convey a distinct and fascinating sense of youthful freedom and security. Milly-Molly-Mandy and her associates little-friend-Susan and Billy Blunt have lots of fun in a world that is wonderfully safe and reassuring, and these cosy stories are just perfect for newly independent readers.
Adapted from one of Tove Jansson's classic Moomintroll stories, this funny tale of misunderstanding is perfect Christmas reading. The Moomintrolls are all tucked up in bed, sleeping their long winter sleep when the Hemulen falls into their attic and tells them they need to get ready for Christmas. With no experience of Christmas, the Moomintrolls are a bit rattled, but manage to prepare everything in time – tree, presents, a feast. They share it with the little creatures of Moominvalley, who appreciate it all very much indeed. Funny, cosy and reassuring, this will put everyone in the mood for Christmas.
A small bear goes on a big adventure when he is left behind on a train one day in the charming tale of The Most-Loved Bear. This story, which spans the lifetime of little Mary Rose, is one of Sam McBratney's personal favourites. Based on a real-life teddy bear which has been owned by Sam’s wife Maralyn since the 1940s, the story of The Most Loved Bear is sure to steal your heart this winter.
Cinderella, Rumpelstilstskin, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk: these stories are in our DNA, says Michael Morpurgo in his introduction to this gorgeous new collection. They are told by some of our best authors for children and each story is illustrated in full colour with pictures that match its mood (Ian Beck’s illustrations for The Pied Piper of Hamelin, retold by Adele Geras, are particularly rich). Morpurgo himself has chosen to tell the story of Jack and Beanstalk and, typically, it’s a first person narrative, Jack addressing the reader directly, keeping us breathlessly attentive from the opening line to the happy every after. An excellent collection to share with children.
Sisters Imogen and Isabel Greenberg make brilliant use of the comic book/graphic novel format to tell stories of Athena, probably the most appealing of all the Greek goddesses, weaving different myths into one coherent adventure. It starts as Athena springs from Zeus's head fully armed and 'ready to do battle in the world'; next is the story of her relationship with Athens and, more crucially, rivalry with Poseidon, then interventions in human lives with Perseus and Arachne (the latter a good learning experience for the goddess), before the lead up to the Trojan war and finally the wanderings of Odysseus. The stories are unbeatable and text and illustrations do them full justice. A terrific introduction to the world of Greek mythology and a great bit of storytelling.
October 2018 Debut of the Month | Awarded the Amnesty CILIP Honour commendation from the Carnegie shortlist 2018 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018 | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | In a Nutshell: Fighting for Justice | Black Lives Matter | | Stunning, vital wake-up call of a novel about racism, social inequality and not giving up told through the eyes of an incredible, unforgettable sixteen-year-old. Starr straddles two very different worlds. She has one foot in Garden Heights, a rough neighbourhood ruled by gangs, guns and dealers, and the other in an exclusive school with an overwhelmingly wealthy white student population. One night she’s at a party when gunshots are fired and Khalil, her friend since childhood, takes her to his car for safety. Khalil is unarmed and poses no threat, but he’s shot dead by an officer right in front of her. It will take a lot of courage to speak to the police, and to face the media who choose to highlight that Khalil was a “suspected drug dealer”, while omitting to mention that he was unarmed. But, with their neighbourhood under curfew and a tank on the streets, Starr risks going public. Danger escalates as the hearing approaches (and beyond), but Starr isn’t about to give up fighting for Khalil, and for what’s right. Alongside the intense struggles and conflicts faced by Starr’s family and community, there are some truly heart-melting moments between Starr and her white boyfriend Chris (their shared love of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is super cute), and also between Starr and her parents. Complex, gripping, stirring and so, so important – I can’t recommend this remarkable debut enough. ~ Joanne Owen
Good news for anyone who likes exciting mystery stories starring children: the Secret Seven are back in new adventures specially written by Pamela Butchart. Older fans of the series (hands up if you had your own Secret Seven inspired club as a kid – I did) will be reassured to know that the essence of the series is unchanged – the gang are as jolly and go-getting as ever, clearly smarter than the adults they encounter, and the (many) descriptions of tea-time feasts are simply delicious. This episode concerns strange goings-on in the grounds of a hotel – why are the new owners digging such a big hole in the garden, could it be something to do with buried treasures? Pamela Butchart understands as well as Enid Blyton how to write page-turning adventure, and just what young readers want in their fictional heroes. Hoorah for the new Secret Seven!
Shakespeare's timeless tale of tragic romance comes to life in this graphic retelling for kids. When Romeo and Juliet meet, it's love at first sight. But their families, the Montagues and Capulets, are locked in a deadly feud, and the teens' feelings could lead to disaster. Can the two find a way to be together without risking their love, and their lives? With extra background on the original play and its author, plus discussion questions and writing prompts, it's easy to introduce young readers to this dramatic literary classic.
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