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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.
March 2021 Book of the Month | Catherine Doyle brilliantly weaves together magic and mythology and friendship and weather in a story that blows the reader along with the Storm Keepers themselves. Can Fionn Boyle keep Arranmore safe from the Morrigan and her brothers? Will the magic in the last candle be enough? Catherine Doyle is a gifted story teller. While she conjures up enough terrifying dark moments as the battle against the forces of darkness rage to give a real sense of fear she is also warm hearted and has the lightest of touches. The result is the creation of a magical world that will captivate readers.
March 2021 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2021 | A wonderful introduction to how a modern place somewhere in the UK will have been created over the centuries, this beautiful picture book cleverly records the history of a place as it would look from the perspective of an oak tree. Oaks are famous for the exceptional number of years that they live and their permanence makes an interesting contrast to how frequently humans change the landscape. “I first was an acorn, so tiny and round,/I fell from a branch and sank into the ground./ Then as I grew up, I turned into a tree…/ over hundreds of years! So, what did I see?” Taken together, the simple rhyming text matched by beautiful and carefully detailed illustrations offer a delightful history lesson. The book ends with a useful timeline: "What was happening in the world while the oak tree grew?". It comes right up to the present with the spreading of the Covid-19 virus!
March 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2021 | A heart-warming and magical story of a very special relationship between a child and a polar bear which will inspire readers of all ages to realise that they, like April, can make a difference in the battle against climate change. When animal loving April arrives on Bear Island in the Arctic Circle where she will live for the next six months while her father runs the scientific operations she is told that, despite the island’s name, there are no bears on it. The melting ice caps mean that the polar bears can no longer arrive from the nearest mainland near Svalbard. But April soon finds out that there is one bear left. And April needs to do everything she can to keep him alive. Confident of her ability to communicate with the bear and to feed him, April nourishes the bear and even plans his return to safety. Beautifully illustrated by Levi Pinfold, The Last Bear invites readers to care about the science behind the fate of an endangered species and to believe in one girl’s magical solution to the problem. **The images and illustrations in this extract are subject to copyright © Levi Pinfold and may not be used without permission.
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.
Filled with curious and intriguing illustrations and with an original text filled with unusual and fascinating facts, this handsome, large format picture book takes a completely new look at vegetables. Accompanying each vegetable, or sometimes a pair of vegetables as with a carrot and a parsnip which are similar although they are described as ‘an odd couple’, there is an elegant text telling something of the history of how each one comes to be on our tables, something of how each one grows and something about the traditions about how we eat them. The delights in this book are perfect for sharing for all ages.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2021 | Join Luna as she throws herself into all the fun of the day. Dressing up as her favourite character (a unicorn), joining all her friends in a great storybook adventure and making her own mini character. Above all, Luna loves buying her World Book Day book, meeting the author and illustrator and getting her book signed. Having done all of that she knows she has had a perfect World Book Day! Fiona Lumbers’s wonderfully warm and busy illustrations capture the magic of World Book Day perfectly.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Thinking that her daughter Rabunzel’s very, very long ears would make her the object of too much attention from the hungry-eyed creatures that lurk in the deep, dark forest, Mrs Rabbit locks her up high in a tall, tall tree. Rabunzel is bored stiff in her prison and, despite all her mother’s best intentions, it is not long before her amazing ears attract attention. While it is Flash Harry the Hare who releases Rabunzel it is soon clear that she needs no champion: her ears prove to the ultimate weapons against all comers!
What happens when Mum and Dad can no longer rely on technology to keep them informed? Following a nationwide collapse in everything technical, Stella’s family sets off to visit Grandma on the other side of the country because they can’t reach her on Skype. It’s a road trip with a difference – no phones, no sat nav, no paying for a meal with a credit card. Stella makes a great narrator as she watches her father, shorn of his usual helping tools, navigate this new situation. In doing so she lightly reveals the pitfalls that would beset us all if all the screens went blank while also gently leading readers to see that there could be some benefits.
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 February 2021 | Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | February 2021 Debut of the Month | Both touching and funny this is a brilliant story about being brave, being different and learning that being you is what really matters. Billy likes nothing more than making and performing jokes and dreams that one day he will be a famous stand-up comedian. But Billy has a stammer and it can be hard for him even to get a joke out quickly enough. Just now, Billy has a problem which will strike a chord with many: he is about to start secondary school and knows that it will be all too easy for him to become a target for bullies. Especially because of his stammer. Billy thinks of all kinds of schemes to avoiding speaking while also knowing that staying silent goes right against who he really is. How can Billy show his tremendous inner strength and especially his great sense of humour if he never dares to speak? Luckily Billy makes some good friends, meets a great teacher and, drawing on the support of his family and the work of his speech and language therapist, manages not only to survive but also to succeed!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2021 | A mysterious and deeply touching story woven through with serious themes, The Shark Caller is packed-full of adventure, old magic and, above all, friendship. Vividly set in Papua New Guinea with its landscape of sea, sun and beach it gives a glimpse into a way of life dominated by the natural environment. Blue Wing lives in a hut on a sandy beach. She has little formal learning but she knows the ways of the sea and, because she lives with the local shark caller, the ways of the sharks which swim off shore in particular. When a plane arrives with visitors, an American academic purporting to investigating coral in the region and his daughter Maple, Blue Wing’s life is turned upside down. Initially full of hostility towards each other, the two girls quickly discover that they are as alike inside as their lives are different outside. Forging a strong friendship they unravel the mystery of what Maple’s father is really looking for and, in doing so, help Blue Wing uncover her own mystery. A gripping and inspiring read.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2021 | Best-selling Francesca Simon‘s new characters Hack and Wack, a pair of outrageously badly behaved Viking twins, will delight all Horrid Henry fans. Although still young, the tearaway twins are deemed to be the very worst Vikings in the village – a title that makes them and their parents very proud. Against a snowy and watery Viking background, Hack and Wack run amok at Elsa Gold-Hair’s birthday party, have a scary adventure with some trolls, and steal a boat and take their friends Dirty Ulf, Twisty Pants and the dog Bitey- Bitey off on a raid of Bad Island. Hack and Wack are truly terrible and their madcap adventures are fast, furious and always hilariously funny. Read more about the Two Terrible Vikings from Francesca Simon, our Guest Editor this month.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2021 | How the Beast overcomes his loneliness is a touching story about friendship of all kinds. Despite his name, the Beast, and all other Beasts, are gentle creatures who love gardening and cake baking. The Beast travels across the world to share his friendship with all those he meets: he is loved for his gentleness and kindness. But still the beast is lonely; what he wants most is to be friends with another Beast. Glorious illustrations of the Beast as he makes friends all over the world bring this story vividly to life.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2021 | The story of the brilliant scientist Marie Curie, the chemist/ physicist who made life saving discovery in medicine and won the Nobel Prize for her work has long been an inspiration to all budding scientists. Marie Curie overcame much prejudice against women scientists to succeed as she did and, in doing so, opened the doors for future generations of women. But Marie Curie had another important role as an inspiration to future generations: she was the mother of two scientists who also grew up to become women scientists in their own right. This rounded life of Marie Curie and her daughters is beautifully realised in words and pictures by sisters Imogen and Isobel Greenberg in a book that will encourage all readers to take bold steps in life.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2021 | Children are experiencing sadness to a far greater degree than is usual but how can they best manage that and how can they describe it? Anne Booth’s gentle text explores how a little boy creates a shelter for his sadness giving it a place where it can take on the many different shapes and moods it may arrive in. Having a safe place where he can engage with the sadness helps the boy to deal with the wide range of moods it may release in him. It also helps him to prepare for a time when he and the sadness may no longer need a shelter but can step out together into a better world. Inspired by the words of Holocaust survivor Etty Hillesum, A Shelter for Sadness is rich in emotion all of which is beautifully realised in David Litchfield’s illustrations. We have more books on this theme in our collection, Books to Explain Death to Children & Help them Grieve.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2021 | There’s lots of laughs here! An elephant on a bus, a whale on a bike, a hippo in a hot air balloon – none of these is a good idea as soon becomes clear in the attractive and bouncy rhyme of this witty picture book. The catastrophes that lie in store in each case such as the bus toppling over when nudged by the elephant, the enormous whale teetering on a tiny bike and hippo on a collision course with a chimney pot are wittily illustrated by David Tazzyman, much loved for his illustrations for Andy Stanton’s delightfully disgusting Mr Gum.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2021 | Who likes bath time? Certainly not Little Owl. He thinks bath time is boring. How can Mummy Owl persuade him that having a bath does not ever have to be dull? What about if she makes bath time include a trip to Bubble Mountain? And throws in some dangerous towelly-gators for good measure? Mummy Owl’s ideas may be helpful for all those trying to make bath time more exciting – they certainly do the trick for Little Owl! A welcome addition to an excellent and reassuring series about everyday toddler experiences.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2021 | Global best-selling author/ illustrator Tony Ross’s I Want My Potty! celebrates its 35th anniversary this year with a new edition of a classic title. Launching the now much-loved Little Princess series, the hugely enjoyable I Want My Potty! is the perfect introduction to the sometimes tricky subject of toilet training. When the very determined eponymous heroine decides that ““Nappies are YUUECH! There must be sometime better” the Royal household set about providing a number of suitable potties. The Little Princess has strong and not always favourable views about the Royal potty but gradually she gets the hang of it! Timeless fun for all toddlers and their parents.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2021 | A celebration of the wonder of reading! Mabel HATES books. She gets given loads of them but has no interest at all in reading them. But, one night, the books piled up in her room come alive. The stories jump out of their covers and off the pages so that they can show Mabel their story worlds. She is intrigued by a detective adventure, excited by the chance to board a spaceship and take a trip to the moon, delighted by the thought of accompanying a knight on his quest to seek castles and to duel with dragons. But, there is no way she can find out what happens next in these stories unless she begins the read the books! An entertaining celebration of why reading is such fun. We were lucky enough to ask Emma a few questions about her debut picture book..find out more!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2021 | Award winning Eva Ibbotson’s poignant and beautiful last book celebrates a boy’s passion for a dog. All Hal has ever wanted is a dog but his parents refuse to contemplate the idea. A dog would mess up their beautiful house and disturb their busy routine. When they discover East Pets, they hire Hal a dog for a weekend thinking that will do the trick. But they don’t know Hal! Hal takes matters into his own hands. Soon Hal and all the dogs he has released from Easy Pets are out on the road – with a price on their head. How Hal makes his escape is both thrilling and moving as it marks his growth from sadness to great happiness.
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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