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Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month
Each month Julia Eccleshare, a leading authority in children's literature, chooses a small selection of her favourites from the month. They will be generally new releases but occasionally she may select a new edition of a firm favourite and we will list them here. All are highly recommended with Julia's seal of approval.
October 2020 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Award-winning Oliver Jeffers will capture the hearts and minds of children and adults alike with this story of a father and daughter making plans to build a world that will keep them safe in the future. Brimming with hope but not ignoring the possibilities that the world and what happens next in it will present challenges, What We’ll Build is founded in the mundane (almost!) as the father and his daughter assemble building tools including a hammer, saw and drill – and a pig! What they go on to build including a place to store love, a hole to hide in, a wall to keep enemies out and a gate to let them, a tunnel to anywhere, a road to the stars and much more and the reasons why they may need them it is summed up in the briefest of texts and Jeffers magical, vividly coloured story- telling illustrations. Inspired by becoming a father, What We’ll Build is a childhood classic that will be shared over and over again.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Imogen’s life at home is not all perfect so it’s no surprise that she follows the strange silver moth that arrives from nowhere – even when it leads her through a door in a tree! And there’s no stopping her little sister Marie from following…Like any magic opening, the door leads the two girls into an extraordinary world where almost anything can – and will – happen! As in the best traditions of children’s stories, Imogen and Marie meet a wealth of larger-than-life characters including a spoiled prince and a dancing bear as they journey through a richly-imagined world of possibilities. Chris Riddell’s illustrations bring the magic to life perfectly.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Starting with a timeline that stretches from the ‘Big Bang’ to ‘The Modern Age (1940- the present day)’ this is a largely pictorial history covering physical and social developments in big, bold outlines which convey the main messages which are then fleshed out in much greater depth through detailed, fact-filled captions. The topics covered in each of the double-page spreads include ‘Our Home in Space’, ‘The Dinosaur Age’ , ‘Cities, Civilizations and Empires’ and ‘Technology’. The illustrations that convey them determinedly simple which gives the book a welcome, distinctively different look. Find out more about Anna and another of her books, The Mermaid Atlas, in this Q&A.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Swirling magic, cascading invention and a welter of invented folklore traditions propel this headlong fairy tale story from its opening moments. Brought up in huge castle that was once home to her Royal relatives, and much influenced by her grandmother who is a great believer in old magic, Olia has always known that she also has the gift of believing in magic and so making it work. When the old palace is under threat from a violent force, it is Olia who must find the magical doorway that will take her into another land. Olia needs courage, imagination and the power of her love for her family and everything in their world to embark on her roller coaster adventure. Full of surprises and fuelled by love this is an exciting and heart-warming story.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Have you ever wondered how a forest gets started? With huge trees growing up close and dense undergrowth covering the ground, their scale is so mighty that it is hard to think that they could ever have been small. Are they man made? Did an enormous giant or a massive business enterprise put them there? In a gentle and elegant story matched by simple, evocative illustrations Who Makes a Forest? helps children explore the multi-faceted ecosystem that sustains the many forests that cover so much of the earth’s surface. From the soil, made from the decay left by tiny clinging plants such as lichen and the insects that feed on them, through the first flowers that grow in that soil and the butterflies and bees and birds that feed off them to the massive trees and shrubs that we see today all stages of forest growth are covered. The book ends with 5 pages of useful facts about forests.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | A celebration of the unspeakable bond between humans and animals that will warm your heart and take you on an adventure you will never forget. From bestselling Sarah Lean, author of A Dog Called Homeless, with illustrations by award-winning Fiona Woodcock.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Katherine Rundell’s brief introduction which explains why hope is so important and why we should look for it in stories and illustrations sets a context for the wonderful range of very short stories, poems, thoughts and illustrations which will certainly give hope as well as laughs and surprises to readers of all ages. Perfect for dipping into, the anthology is a treasure trove of story treats starting with Michael Morpurgo’s uplifting ‘A Song of Gladness’ and ending with Rundell’s own ‘The Young Bird-Catcher’. Lauren Child, Axel Scheffler, Chris Riddell and Jackie Morris are just some of the wonderful artists whose black and white illustrations light up the pages of this hand this handsome volume. Dedicated to all the workers in the NHS and with proceeds going to NHS Charities Together, The Book of Hopes will certainly bring hope to all.
Perfect for all readers who love the world of ballet, A Dancer’s Dream is an inspiring story of a Stana, a young student at the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg, who is chosen to dance the role of Clara on the very first night that the new ballet, The Nutcracker Suite, is performed. Stana’s luck in being picked for the part and how much it matters to her is cleverly interwoven to a touching family story about her very ill sister. Drawing on the true story of the origins of the now much-loved Nutcracker Suite and including a charming introduction to Tchaikovsky who composed the ballet’s music, A Dancer’s Dream is a delightful mix of fact and fiction.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | Cleverly blending an upbeat story of a girl who loves Superman comics and is determined to be a super sleuth in the style of Lois Lane and a contemporary story of a child being trafficked and held in slavery, The Invisible Boy is a fast-paced read with a strong message. When Nadia’s dog is rescued by a boy she has never seen in the neighbourhood before, she immediately labels him ‘The Invisible Boy’ and is determined to find out who he is. Influenced by the comics she reads Nadia is used to making up dramas, often jumping to the wrong conclusions! How Nadia pieces together the real story of her new friend is a well-crafted drama. Nadia’s shock and horror is powerfully conveyed.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | Loveable Elmer is back for a new adventure in the land of the elephants. And, as ever, he keeps one step ahead of his friends! Elmer sets off on a long exploring walk with his cousin Wilbur and three other elephants. Elmer’s exploring leads him to finding an amazing palace hidden in the jungle. It’s full of amazing mosaics and wall paintings, it has a huge hall full, a wealth of statues and several fountains. While Elmer and Wilbur admire it all the other elephants are busy playing some very secret games. What are they up to? And who will find the Lost Treasure?? David McKee’s elephants are as delightful and full of character as ever. Visit our Elmer the Elephant feature to find out more about the Elmer books!
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.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | Beautifully presented, this is a fabulous anthology of poems greatly enhanced by wonderful illustrations and a sumptuous binding – including a very useful marker ribbon! Subtitled “An animal poem for every day of the year”, it includes poems which introduce a huge range of animals from around the world. Some are familiar but most are refreshingly new. Some examples I loved are: May 1st, Song about the Reindeer, Musk Oxen, Women, and Men who want to show off, an Innuit song and September 7th The Manatee by Jack Prelutsky – “I’m partial to the manatee,/ which emanates no vanity./ It swims amidst anemones/ and hasn’t any enemies.” This anthology really does include something for everyone!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | Emotionally rich and full of the kind of questions that need discussing and answering, Britta Teckentrup’s beautiful picture book explores the complicated relationships and emotions that are commonplace for every child in any school. The soft focus illustrations capture the different moods of the characters perfectly and are well- supported by brief stories which provide some background which, in turn, throws up a raft of questions: Why are some children bullied? Why does no one stand up for them? How can it be right that a teacher can put a student off a subject by being mean to them? How can you help someone who is lonely? Why do some children exert power over others? Children will enjoy this on their own but it will work best as a spur for important conversations.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | When Abi’s newly forged family moves to an eccentric new home which is totally covered in ivy, strange things begin to happen to her and to her step-brothers Louis and Max. With their parents either away or too busy to notice, Abi finds herself falling into the books she is reading – she can feel the damp of the sea and taste the salt on her fingers - while Louie tempts an unusual and dangerous animal companion into his bedroom from the ivy. Can Abi and Max help Louie get rid of his dangerous new friend and will things get back to normal when their parents come home? Hilary McKay’s storytelling is vivid; she makes magic seem real while also showing why believing in it is so important.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | Noah and Hatty are thrilled when they discover their Uncle Lofty owns a zoo. But Uncle Lofty is no longer able to look after the animals and has decided he needs to get them back to their own homes. Although he has a boat, he has a boat but he needs helpers! Soon Noah and Hatty, together with their Aunt Smiley who looks after them while their parents do their special work far from home, and a lively group of animals including the very lively Monkey Robertson, are off round the world finding out a lot about animals as they do so!
August 2020 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | When best friends Betty and Maud have a sleepover in a teeny weeny pop up tent in the garden, Duck and Penguin have to go too. But while the girls are expecting to have loads of fun, Duck and Penguin are not! They don’t like each other, they don’t like sleepovers, they don’t like the onesies the girls dress them in and they especially don’t like sleeping in a teeny weeny tent. When the girls hurry back to the house, Duck and Penguin are left alone to face the scary dark and the creatures in it. How will they manage? Luckily, all ends happily and Duck and Penguin are even converted to camping – almost! Lovely illustrations of this atmospheric night time adventure which blends reality and make believe in a most engaging way.
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.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | August 2020 Debut/Book of the Month | Warm-hearted and mysterious The Unadoptables is a wonderfully entertaining adventure with a cast of fascinating characters set in a brilliantly evoked old-world Amsterdam and the surrounding countryside. Following the clues from the only possessions she was left with when she was abandoned as a baby and guided by her ‘Book of Theories’, the imaginative Milou leads her four friends – the least adoptable children in the very horrible Little Tulip Orphanage – to her family home where she is sure she will find her parents. Travelling through a freezing night the children arrive at their destination. But there is not the welcome they had expected. Where are Milou’s parents? And what is the mystery they need to solve? The creative ways in which the five children manage first to escape from the evil clutches of their matron and her evil accomplice Rotman and then to make a new life for themselves bamboozling neighbours and unravelling the mystery is vivid and captivating.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2020 | Meesha loves making things. And she is good at it too. But the one thing she doesn’t know how to make is friends. It seems to be easy but for Meesha it isn’t! When Meesha tries to share her ideas with other children they are just confused or uninterested. So instead of playing with other children, Meesha makes some wonderful friends of her own. Snipping and sticking she soon has a lovely crowd of chums she can enjoy being with. But a real friend would be nice and when Meesha meets Josh she finds exactly the friend she has been looking for. Soon Meesha and Josh are busy making more friends together. In both words and pictures Tom Percival tells a gentle and touching story about the importance of friendship and how to develop it.
Julia Eccleshare has spent her working life to date within children’s books as a critic, an editor, an author and a commentator. Apart from her current role with Lovereading4kids as Editor-at-Large and as one of our editorial expert reviewers, she is the children’s editor of the Guardian and Head of Policy at the Public Lending Right.
She has co-edited and is the author of a number of books including the Rough Guide to Teenage Literature, the fascinating and insightful Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter: Portraits of Children’s Writers, which is a celebration of a century of children’s literature, as well as Treasure Islands: the Woman’s Hour Guide to Children’s Books. She also spent some considerable time as a children’s fiction editor in UK publishing.
She has been a selector to the Children’s Books of the Year, a guide to the best books published annually, a member of the advisory board of a children’s book club and for some while was children’s books editor of The Bookseller. In addition, she regularly appears as a judge or Chair of judges on some of the major children’s book prizes.
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