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The books in this section all have a theme of conservation, raising environmental awareness and/or championing green issues.
With the pizzazz and humour that make his Dragonsitter books so popular, Josh Lacey tells the story of one girl’s efforts to save the planet. Like many ten-year olds Hope Jones is worried about the state of the environment, and about plastic pollution in particular. Her dad is always saying if you want something done, you have to do it yourself, so she sets about doing what she can. Her adventures are recounted via her lively blog and we get a ringside view of her peaceful protest outside the local supermarket, interactions with local businesses, and conversations with neighbours, friends and parents of friends. As her campaign reaches more and more people, Hope realises that we can all make a difference, if we’re determined enough. There are great illustrations throughout, and it all makes for a fast, entertaining and positive read. Hooray for Hope Jones!
So, so readable, Of Ants and Dinosaurs with the lightest and brightest of touches, made my brain itch with its creativity and klaxon alarm. Perfect for readers from young adult on, this sets itself as a “satirical fable, a political allegory and ecological warning”. In a time long long ago ants and dinosaurs joined forces to build a magnificent civilisation, when doom threatens will the dinosaurs listen to the ants? Cixin Liu is China’s number one science-fiction writer and his The Three-Body Problem was the first translated novel to win a Hugo award. I just love the cover, and the ants marching across the chapter pages had me smiling. As soon as I started to read my attention was well and truly caught. The prologue sets the scene with wonder and I read and believed without a moments doubt. While portraying the ant and dinosaur alliance, there is very much a warning to the human race here. Deceptively simple and brilliantly clever, I simply adored it.
April 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s a classic painterly feel to this picture book but its message is very contemporary. Clem loves exploring along the seashore and collecting treasures in her bucket. These include shells and pebbles and pieces of glass, as well as brightly coloured plastic lids, bottles and netting. She befriends a little crab, caught up in a bit of netting and it hitches a ride home with her. Clem knows the crab belongs on the beach, but will he be safe there? Then a trip to the aquarium inspires her class to protect the ocean and together they clean up Clem and Crab’s beach. It’s a lovely story, and an important one, told so effectively in Fiona Lumber’s carefully chosen words and beautiful illustrations.
A Jack Courtney Adventure : with Chris Wakling | Young readers who want to be gripped, challenged, informed and entertained – this exciting new adventure series is just what you’ve been waiting for. Fourteen-year-old Jack is on a safari holiday in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with his parents, the wealthy founders of a conservation charity. His friends Amelia and Xander are on the trip too – so far, so idyllic (though he could do without his arrogant cousin Caleb), but then his parents are kidnapped by mercenaries. Jack has already experienced one family tragedy, he’s determined he’ll prevent another. This is a taut, tightly plotted thriller which puts young people firmly in the driving seat, but there’s lots about family and relationships too. Moreover, the authors will inspire a fascination about the wildlife of the region in readers, and alert them to the threats facing it. Fast-moving adventure with heart and a message. Jack is as appealing a hero as Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider, but the books will also appeal to fans of Gill Lewis’ animal adventures, Gorilla Dawn and The Scarlet Ibis. ****Read a Q&A with Wilbur Smith on his inspiration behind Cloudburst and the different challenges of writing fiction for children.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2020 | March 2020 Book of the Month | The wonder of nature and in particular the growth cycle of a tiny seed are beautifully captured in Britta Teckentrup’s luminous illustrations and simple text which, more widely, celebrates finding your own way in the world whoever you are. What happens when one tiny seed takes a long time to get growing? It soon discovers that the faster growing seeds have taken all the space and light. Undaunted, and guarded first by ant and ladybird and later by more and more creatures of the woodlands, the tiny seed begins its own journey seeking out spaces that enable it to flourish and fulfil its potential. It’s a joy to dwell on the illustrations and to let message sink in.
Following the success of The King Who Banned the Dark, Emily Haworth-Booth has created another timely, beautiful and enthralling fable. As the best stories do, it starts ‘Once upon a time …’ A group of friends looking for somewhere to live choose a peaceful forest, but the longer they live there, the more trees they cut down, and the loss of the trees leads to all sorts of problems. Fortunately, the children of the settlement choose to quietly protect the last tree, and from there rebuild a caring and happy society for themselves and their parents. The artwork, mostly retro green and black, feels timeless and deliberately child-like, but the story is urgent, contemporary and thought-provoking, and will speak direct to readers of all ages.
February 2020 Debut of the Month | Debut novelist Nicola Penfold has talked of inspiration from reading about what author Richard Louv called “nature-deficit disorder”. Her strong belief that humans need a connection with nature to be truly happy shines through this powerful story and the creation of the nightmare world that Juniper and her little brother, Bear inhabit. They live with their grandmother in a walled city from which nature has been banished, following an apocalyptic tick-borne disease released by ReWilders willing to sacrifice humans to save the planet. Fifty years on nature flourishes beyond the walls. Within them humans struggle to artificially create what they need to live. Juniper and Bear have always known they have a resistance to the disease, just as they know that their parents are still living in the wild. Juniper always planned their eventual escape, but they must leave urgently when the authoritarian regime reveals a dangerous scheme to farm their blood. What follows is a thrilling and utterly convincing escape and a perilous journey. The rigours of outdoor living and survival are not glossed over- the reader really fears for these characters and feels every setback. Success is won through bravery and persistence and the sibling relationship is beautifully conveyed. Bear is a very recognisable six-year old boy who both frustrates and astonishes his sister. There are no easy solutions to problems and no miraculous happy ending. This is powerful and believable storytelling which will keep readers gripped and inspire lots of discussion about the vulnerability of nature and what humans are doing to the planet. An outstanding debut, beautifully written and utterly compelling.
Michael Foreman’s dazzling watercolours bring the beauty of the natural world into readers’ hands in this outstanding picture book, reminding us all how precious our planet is, and how we need to care for it. A little girl watches the sun rise and then the moon as it follows, and thinks of all the creatures under the sky. With her brother, she explores the seashore and together they create a mini-world in a rockpool. This shows them just how fragile nature is, and the threat it faces from pollution. Together brother and sister clean the pool and determine to ask other children to help. First published thirty years ago, One World is recognised as a classic, and its message is even more important today. A beautiful, inspiring and timely book.
Most people like good, but Sofia likes better. When her Abuelo (Grandad) hurts himself on a mountain of rubbish outside their local landfill site, she determines to take action and turn ‘Mount Trashmore’ into a park. It’s not easy, and she needs all her courage to enter City Hall and put her ideas to the grown-ups in charge. With the help of friends and neighbours, Sofia proves that everyone has the power to change their world. It’s another uplifting and positive story in the thoroughly excellent The Questioneers series, and go-getter Sofia is a wonderful role-model for us all. Credit to David Roberts for his typically stylish and action-packed illustrations too.
Set in a flooded future world, Tom Huddleston’s book is a thrilling adventure, in which two young people are caught up in a world of pirates, gangsters, power struggles and corruption. Kara and Joe live in a floating slum on the edge of what is left of London after rising seas have drowned our civilisation. They’ve always been told that the Mariners, gangs who live entirely at sea, are terrorists. But then Joe’s life is saved by a Mariner, who entrusts him with a secret map. It’s a story that poses questions about our future, individual responsibility and the morals of political activism. Timely, thought-provoking, and action-packed.
Naomi Howarth’s beautifully expressive pictures have seen her twice nominated for the Kate Greenaway medal and shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Book Prize and she is renowned for bringing the wonders of the natural world to life for young readers. In this picture book, which would be a perfect resource for Cold Places topics, we first meet Magnus the Ringed Seal woken from his slumbers by a loud rumbling noise. What could it be? Neither he nor any of his friends- the Arctic Hare, the Snowy Owl, the Arctic Fox and the Polar Bear can identify the source of the noise. It’s not the wind nor the ice breaking or trees creaking. But when they reach the sea, wise Walrus has an idea. Magnus is told to dive for juicy pink shrimps, and he brings back a feast for them all to share. Suddenly they realise the noise has stopped and it was Magnus’s hungry stomach all along. In a delightful denouement, when they all try to sleep, another loud noise wakes them and this time it is Magnus’s snores! The animals are realistically depicted in their glorious Arctic settings but are simultaneously real characters that children can engage with. The end papers have key facts about all the animals featured. This is an enjoyable repetitive tale and a lovely introduction to the animals of a threatened habitat.
Poems to help you change the world | Highlighted as a recommended read for National Poetry Day (3rd October), three of our best poets for children come together in this excellent new anthology with a challenge for their young audience: go out and help change the world. Alongside poems on the many threats to the environment and the natural world are poems that pose ‘tricky questions’ about how we choose to live. There are poems to make children laugh, to inspire them and inform them; above all here are poems that will provoke a reaction. It might be something practical, like deciding to change the contents of your lunchbox, or it might mean making a change to the way you understand the world. It ends with Liz Brownlee’s quiet but powerful poem ‘Snow’, a beautiful example of how the smallest things can effect change.
Ash’s story is “probably the same as anyone else’s, more or less, just perhaps with more gas masks and a goat.” The goat is a Tennessee Fainting Goat named Socrates who lives with the isolated Canary community deep in the Arizona desert. The gas masks Ash mentions are needed by the Canaries on account of them suffering from debilitating environmental illnesses that doctors deny the existence of. And so begins a thoroughly thought-provoking novel that tackles huge health and environmental issues. Ash journeyed to the community in search of his missing stepbrother, Bly. The folk here cannot live in towns or cities due to all the chemicals and smells and electrical fields that trigger incapacitating Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. When Ash gets sick himself he discovers firsthand how it feels to have your symptoms rebuffed by medics who decide, “This is all in your head”, and pretty much declare, “I can’t cure you so you must be mad.” His frustration and pain is tangible. Indeed, Ash’s narrative is brilliantly compelling throughout. He’s a born storyteller whose voice chimes with authentic cadences and detours. Ash and Bly’s poignant family story is intertwined with much food for thought about a diverse spread of subjects - genetics, bacteria, antibiotics and human shortsightedness and greed. As former scientist Finch comments, “We are filling the world full of chemicals that we have precisely no idea about, and one not-so-fine day the chickens will come home to roost. With the canaries.” Ash comes to some sharp realisations too. Under the warm, wise tutelage of Mona, he furiously states that, “one day, doctors are gonna finally realize that there ain’t no god-dang difference between the body and the mind anyhow”. This remarkable novel is underpinned by its acute portrait of fractured folk forging an existence in a fractured world that seems on the brink of end times. But “maybe there’s time for one final chance,” Ash wonders, which will leave readers with a glint of hope and plenty to ponder.
July 2019 Book of the Month | Characteristically, Gill Lewis skilfully conjures a vivid sense of landscape and wildlife in a story starring a character driven by her love of wild things and determination to achieve justice for them. Bobbie lives on a sheep farm in the Scottish Highlands with her parents and strong-willed, somewhat eccentric grandma. In a shocking opening chapter, Granny’s little dog dies suddenly and horribly, poisoned by bait intended to kill a magnificent young golden eagle. Bobbie and her granny know that the local landlord’s gamekeeper is responsible, and that he’s a threat to all birds of prey in the area. Can they prove it, and protect the eagle? Readers will be gripped by the story and quickly come to understand Bobbie’s love for the eagle and her passion to stand up for it and all wild birds. It’s a terrific story, told with real impact, one for all animal lovers. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2019 | Interest Age 5-8 | Pirates ahoy! This is a lively, swashbuckling story with great characters and a pacey story – all vibrantly illustrated in an attractive and easy-to-read, small size book. Barbarous Bertha is a fearsome pirate as well as the guardian of a wide stretch of emerald green sea and the Purple Shell Islands which are home to both people and special animals and birds. It is no surprise therefore that her daughter Molly Rogers is never going to stand for anyone who threatens to invade the islands or destroy their inhabitants. When reports come of Captain Firebird doing damage to Monkey Skull Island, Molly Rogers enlists all of her best animal and bird friends – including Kracken the octopus – to chase down Captain Firebird and to make sure he never does anything so dastardly again.
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